Ávila is a fairly underrated travel destination. It is a fortified city located in the community of Castile and León, not far from the capital Madrid. Since 1985, Ávila has been a UNESCO World Heritage site, and it is a city full of interesting sights and attractions.
Here is a travel guide that covers everything you need to know about Ávila in Spain.
Facts about Ávila
Community: Castile and León
Elevation: 1.132 meters above sea level
Postal codes: 05001-05006
Famous for: Walls, cathedral, architecture, movies
Ávila is a relatively small city, although one of the most important cities in the autonomous community that it is part of. Unlike other areas of Spain, there is just one language being spoken in Ávila, which is the normal Spanish dialect (Castilian).
The city is located quite a bit above sea levels and is surrounded by several mountains. It is an old city, one of the oldest in central Spain, and it used to be an important fortress. For the same reason, Ávila is a walled city, and it has many old attractions.
There are many great anecdotes about Ávila. Several movies have been shot here, particularly Spanish movies, but also international ones. A good example is Chimes at Midnight, one of Orson Welles’ most important films. Welles himself stated that Ávila was the city in the world that appealed the most to him, and that he would have liked to live here.
History of Ávila
Ávila was inhabited in pre-Roman times. Earliest sources are from the 5th century BC. At this time, Ávila was called Obila, meaning high mountain. It is believed that Ávila was also known as Abula, one of the more important Iberian cities named by Greek and Roman historians. Apparently, it was one of the first cities to turn to Christianity.
It was a typical Roman city during Roman times. Several parts of the architecture still have clues back to the Romans, along with the shape of the city itself.
However, the main parts of the wall were not built until later. After the fall of the Roman Empire in the West, the Visigoths took over in Ávila, and it later got into the hands of the Moors. During this time, the population decreased, but the city was heavily repopulated after the Spaniards took it back. Then, the walls were built in the 12th century and are still standing to this day.
It became an important religious city, and Ávila still has its cathedral. Due to the close proximity to Madrid, Ávila has managed to stay relevant in recent years, despite being in a different community than the capital. It has seen a rise in tourism during the recent years, just like many other cities and towns in Spain.
What to do in Ávila
Ávila is the ideal city to visit if you are into exhaustive sightseeing. It really has a lot of historic attractions, and that’s the main reason to visit it. Nobody visits Ávila for the weather – the climate is quite brutal, being too hot in the summer and too cold in the winter. It has no beach, but it does have some nice scenery, as it is basically located in the mountains.
We recommend checking some of the classic attractions and taking a lot of pictures.
Here are the most important sights in Ávila:
- The walls of Ávila
- The cathedral
- San Vicente church
- San José convent
- Guzmanes tower
- Museum of Ávila
- Santa Teresa convent
- University of mysticism
- Los cuatro
- Palace of Don Diego del Águila
If you are into museums, you will find several nice ones to visit. There are also many churches – Ávila is famous for its incredible amount of different churches since it has a history of being a very religious city.
Aside from typical sights, there are also many nice places to eat, and some bars that are actually quite nice!
Price range in Ávila
Prices are generally cheap in Ávila. It is not the cheapest city in Castile and León by any means, but it is definitely cheap compared to the largest cities in Spain and to other popular tourist destinations.
You will be able to find hotels in Ávila for very little money. It is generally quite affordable. The same can be said for most of its restaurants, along with the stores in general.
It is certainly a lot cheaper than Madrid, for example.
How to get to Ávila
Ávila does not have an airport, so you need to drive a car, take a bus or a train.
If you’re driving from Madrid, the route is fairly simple: Just head northwest by A-6, AP-6 and AP-51. Then you should get there in just a little over an hour.
With the bus company Alsa, you will find routes every day to Ávila from cities such as Madrid, Salamanca and Segovia. It usually costs less than 15 euros, so it is a very affordable ride. There are other bus companies that drive these routes as well. And you can generally expect them to be cheap.
You will also find trains from Madrid to Ávila, costing roughly 10-15 euros, departing every day from the Chamartín station. It’s a faster option than taking the bus.
On top of all this, there are several tours from Madrid that go to Ávila. You can literally book a guided tour to Segovia and Ávila during the same day – or just to Ávila. The prices vary, but remember that this will simply be a one day trip where you are part of a group. But it can certainly be considered.
Ávila is definitely worth visiting. Especially if you are already visiting Madrid, Segovia, Valladolid or any other city that is close.
While you won’t get a big city experience or a beach holiday, you will certainly see some interesting historic sights. You will also get a very good feeling of how daily life works in a pure Spanish city. In many ways, Ávila feels stuck in the past, but not in any bad way. It has an intense mood and gives a vibe of how things used to be like.
We hope this guide has been helpful and that you will enjoy your trip to Ávila!