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The land of castles

Castilla y León by train

The land of castles

Just outside Madrid awaits a land dotted with fairytale castles, culinary delights and eight UNESCO World Heritage sites. Known as the ‘the land of castles’ Castilla y León is surprisingly easy to explore by high-speed rail. This is Spain, just a bit different!

Explore the region

Countless castles, historic cities and breathtaking views

With a surface area of 94,147 km2, Castilla y León is a diverse region. A huge advantage is that this area is still undiscovered by mass tourism giving you a taste of authentic Spain. The AVE high-speed train connects Madrid to all cities. Plan a circle tour or make Madrid your home-base for day trips into the region. We have highlighted six of the area's beautiful cities for you.

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Guy Vanderelst


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Segovia

Cinderella's magical castle

Segovia is less than thirty minutes by train from Madrid. This city is full of beautiful churches, romantic gardens and a breathtaking fairytale castle. Built in the 12th century, the Alcázar de Segovia served as the inspiration for Cinderella's castle in Walt Disney World, Florida. Pink walls, a draw bridge and elegant towers: the only thing missing is the prince on a white horse.

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But Segovia features another impressive monument: the Acueducto. This Roman aqueduct stands in the heart of downtown. From the 2nd to the 19th century, this structure brought water from the Río Frió into the city.

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Salamanca

Culinary delights in the ‘Golden City’

Salamanca is the capital of the same-named province and has the feel of a small village. Its compact size makes it perfect for exploring one of the cosiest cities in Spain on foot. This lively student town is nicknamed the Golden City because of its many buildings which are made of shiny sandstone. The Plaza Mayor is the city's vibrant heart. Here you will find the Old Cathedral built from two side-by-side cathedrals, and the intriguing Casa de Las Conchas that is completely covered in scallop shells.

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Visitors often come to Salamanca for the history, but end up staying for the food. The surrounding landscape produces some of Spain's finest food products, such as pata negra (Iberico ham) and the delectable sheep's milk cheese Hinojosa de Duero. Also make sure you sample the local speciality ‘hornazo de Salamanca’, a savoury pie stuffed with chorizo, lomo (pork) and Spanish ham.

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Valladolid

City that breaths history

Hop on a train in Madrid and one hour later you get out in Valladolid. For centuries, this city was ruled by the Moors and every stone exudes history. Thanks to the university and large student population, Valladolid also has an irreverent and youthful side. The capital of Castilla y León really seems to have it all: great looks, numerous cultural treasures and authentic Spanish ambiance without busloads of tourists.

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This is the perfect destination to wander aimlessly, letting serendipity be your guide. But if you want a destination, make it the Pasaje Gutiérrez. This covered gallery from the belle époque houses numerous boutiques and restaurants.

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Approximately 40 km outside the city stands the impressive Castilla la Mota, an 11th century castle.


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Palencia

Small but delightful

Not to be confused with the other Spanish city Valencia, Palencia is an hour and a half by train from Madrid. Picturesque squares, historic cities and a majestic Gothic cathedral dominate the urban landscape. Palencia's lifeline is the Calle Mayor. This car-free shopping street traverses the city north to south and is lined with beautiful facades, fun boutiques and bustling cafés. Palencia is also the perfect starting point to explore ‘Palencia's Roman route’, an itinerary through the province that showcases medieval churches, green valleys and authentic villages.

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But the city offers more than culinary entertainment. Famous architect Gaudí also left his mark outside of Barcelona. León is the proud owner of one of his creations: the Casa Botines from 1892, inspired by León's Gothic cathedral. This delightful city is only a two-hour train ride from Madrid.

León

Free tapas and Gaudí

León is famous for its streets lined with tapas bars that serve free tapas with your drink. Barrio Húmedo, which literally means ‘wet neighbourhood’ is the place to go. A great ‘tapas crawl’ goes like this: you enjoy a free bite with each drink you order. Then you continue to the next bar and repeat the process.

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Zamora

Romanesque open-air museum

Keep your camera ready: Zamora is home to the highest number of Romanesque churches in Europe. The city is practically an open-air museum for 12th and 13th century architecture. Cross the magnificent bridge Puente de Piedra bridge across the mighty Duero River to access the city centre. During Easter, Zamora draws large crowds that come to watch the unique collections of pasos (religious art works) that are displayed during the holy week's processions.

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