Cuenca is known for its historic walled city sitting on top of a rocky bluff between two rivers. Located roughly halfway between Valencia and Madrid, with a stop on the high speed train between the two, it made for an interesting detour between the two cities.
On arrival at the AVE station, we made our way outside to wait for the #1 bus that goes all the way through town. It comes every 30 minutes on the half hour and was on time both ways.
We got off on the second to last stop, most of the way up the hill of the old town. The streets are reasonably steep and curvy up this way.
After dropping our bags in the apartment we went to explore around town. Our first stop was the 16th century Torre de Mangana. The tower was closed, but the view from plaza was nice.
From there we explored some of the side streets and eventually ended up at the Puente de San Pablo, which offers great views of the city, including the famous hanging houses and lots of flowers growing straight out of the rocks.
Next up was the main plaza and a view of the Cuenca Cathedral – nice exterior, but not worth the price of admission for us.
We were a little surprised to find that most restaurants and bars only opened on the weekend.
It was quite warm and sunny, so we went back to the room to cool off. I changed into shorts and then walked down the hill to the river. Between the shade and the water things felt cooler! The valley floor featured some nice views back toward town, and along the river there multiple spots to read and fish. Some people were swimming in the river, and I found a small surprise waterfall as well.
Back up the hill, I collected Leandra and we walked all the way to the northern tower, including a little off pavement hiking too. The views up here were great, especially across the valley.
For dinner we choose Restaurante Recreo Peral down by the river. We never got a response to our emailed reservation, but they had room. Communication was challenging, and the staff seemed flustered by us. For example, they brought out two glasses of red wine after we asked for a wine list! They also didn’t have any reds available by the glass even though glass prices were listed (!), so we eventually just decided to split a bottle of Freixnet Special Brut (note that they were out of the sparkling rose, and no one knew the price of replacement bottle). I ordered crystal bread (light and crispy with cheese and tomato, surprisingly good), eggs potato jamon (egg was light fried, and I unexpectedly did not like their ham), and croquettes (very creamy, nice flavor). Leandra got the morcilla (large size, good value, liked it) and the steak tartar (way too salty, she was disappointed). Overall, it was good but not great.
The next morning I was up early, so I walked back to the bridge for sunrise, and the colorful views were well worth it.
For breakfast we identified two bakeries in the lower section of town, so we made the 15 minute trek down the hill. Surprisingly neither was open at 8:30!? One eventually opened a little before 9am and we got chocolate croissants for 95 cents each.
After breakfast we checked out of the apartment, then grabbed the #1 bus back to the train station and on to Atocha for our final night in Madrid.