Cuenca is in the Cuenca province of the Castilla La Mancha region of Spain. It sits in the craggy countryside of Castilla La Mancha and the city almost looks like another of the rocky outcrops. It is famous for its gorge and the fabulous 'hanging houses' which overhang the gorge. Cuenca is about 160 kilometers from Madrid.
Cuenca occupies a dramatic position surrounded on three sides by the gorges of the rivers Huecar and Jucar. Overhanging these gorges are the tall, balconied 'hanging' houses for which Cuenca is famous. One of them has been coverted into an excellent Museum of Abstract Art. This gives you a chance to enter one of the Hanging Houses as well as to admire the exhibits. As well as the 'Hanging Houses' many other very tall houses stand right on the edges of the gorges.
Cuenca is a fortified city which is so well preserved that it has been given UNESCO World Heritage status.
The Hanging Houses, 'Casas Colgadas' were originally summer houses for the royal family. The two houses are 15th century buildings with balconies hanging over the cliff face. One is now the Museo de Arte Abstracto, the Museum of Abstract Art. Works by Antonio Tapies and Fernando Zobel amongst many more are here. It is one of Spain's best Abstract Art collections. Go to the bridge of San Pablo for the best pictures of the houses.
The Ciudad Antigua is the old quarter of Cuenca and is a steep climb up narrow streets. At its centre is the Plaza Major, a delightful square and an excellent spot for a recuperative drink. The square is entered through the Baroque town hall (ayuntamiento) which is built over arches.
Also on the Plaza Major is the magnificent Gothic cathedral - the first built in Spain.This has some later additions and inside has a number of interesting features including a Plateresque arch, and various carvings. There is a museum attached to the cathedral which includes paintings by El Greco.
At the edges of the Ciudad Antigua quarter enjoy the views over the gorges. Also to visit are the Mangana Tower which is thought to be the remains of an Arab fortress. You can climb to the top to get views of the town. Also the San Miguel church has a lovely Mudejar ceiling and views over the Jucar gorge.
On the opposite side of the gorge from the Casa Colgadas hanging houses is a lovely parador hotel housed in a lovely 16th century convent. The Parador de Cuenca is beautiful and has a charming cloister enclosed in glass that is now a lovely cafe. It also has great views over Cuenca.
Places to Visit nearby
Not to be missed in the Cuenca area is the 'enchanted city' - an area of limestone outcrops shaped by wind and rain into extraordinary shapes. You might recognise the landscape from the film 'Conan the Barbarian'. This area is about 30 kilometers from Cuenca.
Also close by is the source of the River Cuervo (Nacimiento del Rio Cuervo) with its attractive waterfall and the very unimpressive start of the mighty Tajo river.
Alarcon with its castle, now a lovely parador, and its medieval gateways and streets is well worth a visit.