Cuenca or Burgos?

Jan 5th, 2009, 01:42 PM
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Cuenca or Burgos?

Hello all,
So far we have reached the following itinerary
-land in Madrid, pick up car drive to Salamanca for 2 nights
-leave Salamanca and spend 2 nights in either Cuenca or Burgos
-back to Madrid for 4 nights
Since we have 8 nights and only one weekend, we decided to spend the weekend in Madrid to catch the bullfight and do Pedraza as a daytrip
We are both 31, and we are slow travellers who enjoy food, scenery, nice strolls and "street culture" more than museums and castles.

The question is: Burgos or Cuenca, which is a better fit for us, and which accomodation in either.

Can someone also tell me please what kind of weather to expect, is it sunny in this part of Spain in April?
Thanks a lot
lol is offline  
Jan 5th, 2009, 03:38 PM
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So you're going to do this in April. Will it be during Holy Week? There is a great procession in Burgos during Holy Week.

Cuenca is well known for its hanging houses and a few other delights and interesting diversions. (

Burgos (Castilla y León) is well known for its outstanding cuisine and of course the famous gothic Catedral de Burgos is not to be missed. This is where the remains of “El Cid Campeador” can be found.

The weather is April in Burgos should be mild and it will still be cool in the evenings. Cuenca should be a little drier, but one can never tell.

I'm not that familiar with many of the hotels in Cuenca, but there is the Parador de Alarcón and the Parador de Cuenca.

In Burgos we like the AC Burgos, which is near the Catedral. There is also the NH Palacio de la Merced on the other side of the Arlanzón River from the AC.
Robert2533 is offline  
Jan 5th, 2009, 05:32 PM
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Hi lol,
It fits much, much better into your itinerary, since you can make that triangle that we talked about.
I love Cuenca and have family there, but it's a 2 1/2 hr. drive southeast of Madrid (Salamanca is a 2 1/2 hr. drive northwest of Madrid), and that lengthy drive from Salamanca to Cuenca just doesn't make sense logistically. It would be a bad fit.

Are you forgoing Segovia?

Remember that to do Pedraza from Madrid as a day trip, you will need a car (no bus or train), but a car is a headache, a real albatross, to keep in Madrid.

If you plan to be in Madrid just for a weekend, Pedraza will take away one day from that. And you won't want to venture there on Sunday when you plan to attend that bullfight at 6 pm at Las Ventas that we talked about on another thread. Weekend lunches in Pedraza don't wind down until 5 pm or even after. Life moves very leisurely there on weekends, when the town comes alive.

Re accommodation in Burgos:
I like the brand new AC, which has a terrific location and extremely comfortable rooms (complete with robes, slippers, free mini bar for water, juices, soft drinks, San Miguel beer).
And directly across the bridge facing it, I also like NH Palacio de la Merced. There's a smaller, brand new Rusticae property there which is less expensive than those two, the Hotel La Puebla, which I haven't seen. But another Fodorite has stayed there fairly recently.

In early April you can have both sunny and rainy days during April in Castilla-León. The first week of April in Madrid last year, when we were there, it was unseasonably warm, and people were sitting out on the cafe terraces.
You never know.
Maribel is offline  
Jan 5th, 2009, 10:13 PM
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Hello Robert and Maribel,
Thanks for the replies.
I realise that logistically Burgos is a much better fit, Ichecked viamichelin and from Salamanca to Burgos, its; 2.5 hours and opposed to 4 hours to Cuenca. However, I downloaded both guides from (this site is great Maribel, thanks for recommending it) and Cuenca seems a bit more interesting in terms of scenery. Some questions:
Is Cuenca worth the hassle and the extra hour and half drive?
Is there enough to do for two days in Cuenca?
Are there some interesting small towns to visit around Burgos
Is there another place better fitted for these 2 nights than either Cuenca or Burgos.

Maribel, we thought we could go to Pedraza on a Saturday and come back to Madrid and catch the late night flamenco show. On sunday, take the day to sightsee then go to the bullfight. The other two days that we are spending in Madrid are wide open, since I am a bit of a shopping maniac and I hear that Madrid has some good shopping.
We were going to do Segovia when we were planning to spend two nights in Pedraza, but now it's either Pedraza or Segovia as a daytrip from Madrid. My husband is not a big fan of public transportation, he likes to be in charge of his own destiny (as he puts it), so renting a car whenever needed is not going to be a problem.
Wherever we decide to spend the two nights, I would like to spend it in a hotel with dramatic views and a balcony (I am still not over losing Pedraza and Hospederia de Santa Domingo). The right hotel might very well tip the scale in a certain direction.

Thanks a lot

lol is offline  
Jan 6th, 2009, 07:11 AM
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Hi lol,
Thanks for the explanations. Now I understand how your itinerary has evolved.

Although I do love Cuenca and its very dramatic setting high above two rivers and its "hanging houses" clinging precariously to the hillside, I still don't think you should omit Segovia from your itinerary to replace it with Cuenca since this is a first time visit.

Why? I do believe that you would really enjoy pretty Segovia, given your preference for small cities that you can easily explore, it's quite beautiful and it and Avila just fit logically when heading from Madrid to Salamanca. You could spend 2 days in Segovia with day trips to Avila (or the Bourbon Palace and gardens of La Granja) and Pedraza, then go on to Salamanca.

It would be a pity, I think, to make your first exploration into Castilla-León and miss Segovia, which is one of the major highlights of any visit to Old Castile (thinking of your other thread), or any visit to Spain, for that matter.

As you know Cuenca is not part of Castilla-León. It belongs to the region of Castilla-La Mancha and fits much better on a drive to the eastern coast. I know both areas well, and I do think that the Segovia province is just as interesting scenically. Cuenca, the capital, will provide you with a very dramatic setting, but the drive down to it from Madrid (through Tarancón) I don't consider to be particularly beautiful, scenery wise. I've taken this drive many times to a family weekend home just below Cuenca. The scenery becomes prettier to the east of Cuenca in the Albarracín.

If it were my first trip to Old Castile, I would want Segovia, Avila and either Salamanca or Burgos on my itinerary. The Madrid-Segovia-Salamanca loop is certaily a nice one. It seems that Salamanca is your "keeper", that you don't want to give it up, which you shouldn't.

And this would avoid having to rent a car once back in Madrid to do a Segovia day trip, since the pick up and drop off in extremely heavy Madrid traffic, even on a Sat. can be time consuming.

About small towns around Burgos, on your other thread, we had talked about Lerma, Covarrubias and Santo Domingo de Silos to the south.

For your two night hotel stay in a hotel with dramatic views and a balcony, here are some considerations:

In Burgos, the AC has balcony rooms but views are of the river and square, not of the countryside, since it's right in town. Ditto to the NH Palacio de la Merced.

In Pedraza there just couldn't be a more charming lodging than the Hospedería de Santo Domingo and several rooms (in my guide) have those magical sit out balconies with storks' nests directly in front and the bucolic hillsides beyond. Couldn't get much prettier, but it seems that you've given up those 2 Pedraza nights.

In Segovia, in town the Infanta Isabel has balcony rooms facing the Plaza Mayor, which can be a delight. The Parador, outside of town, has balcony rooms with sweeping views of the city.

In Cuenca, the Parador has a dramatic setting across the bridge. Take a look at at both Cuenca and Segovia's paradors-there's a page of pictures of each, inside and out. Salamanca's Parador is quite modern and not in the historic quarter, so it wouldn't be my choice there. In Salamanca there are several lovely properties in the area near the Plaza Mayor and University:

AC Palacio de San Esteban
NH Puerta de la Catedral
NH Palacio de Castellanos

The family-run, boutique Hotel Rector would be another lovely choice that is even easier to reach and with garage, but you'll have an uphill walk to the University buildings.

Hope this helps you a bit to decide.
Maribel is offline  
Jan 6th, 2009, 08:57 AM
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On Sunday afternoons in Pedraza the shops will be open and the town just packed with day trippers from Madrid. Shops don't close until the last day trippers leave, around 8 pm. On Monday, the town is dead as a door nail, so that's a good day make your day trip to Segovia.

On another note:

I forgot to ask-are your dates already set? If so, do they coincide with Holy Week, April 5-12?

If your weekend in Madrid is from Thursday, April 9 to Sunday, April 12, you will have some very impressive Holy Week processions on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday in Old Madrid. We witnessed the two Maundy Thursday processions last year, of Jesús del Gran Poder and the Virgen de la Esperanza, which were equal in beauty to their Seville counterparts, being sponsered by brotherhoods of sevillanos residing in Madrid.

On Maundy Thursday they depart from the Colegiata de San Isidro on Calle Toledo at around 8 pm and spend about 4 hours processing through the streets of Old Madrid.

On Good Friday, the procession of the image of Jesús Padre el Nazareno departs at 7 pm from the Basílica del Cristo de Medinaceli (behind the Hotel Palace) on the Plaza Jesús. It's quite famous, so expect crowds.

If you make your Castilla-León loop Sunday, April 5 to Wed., April 8, you'll have lots of Holy Week pageantry during your two nights in Salamanca.
There's a Tuesday evening procession in Segovia from 8:30 to 10:30 pm, when the floats enter the cathedral.

The Burgos processions aren't quite as elaborate and don't attract as many crowds as those in Salamanca (and Cuenca) which have been designated of International Tourist Merit.

Here are some photos and music from the Semana Santa in Salamanca:

and the daily schedule of Salamanca processions (from '08 but the schedule usually doesn't vary from yr to yr):

If you've decided to visit Madrid and Old Castile earlier (to catch that Sara Baras performance on March 29), please disregard the above!

Just thought you'd like to know a bit about Holy Week in Madrid and Old Castile.

Maribel is offline  
Jan 6th, 2009, 09:03 AM
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Hi Maribel,
The only reason I cancelled Pedraza is because it is, as you describe it, "a sleepy town" during weekdays and most of the shops and restaurants are closed and there isn't much to do. Otherwise, as you know, I would have loved to spend the two nights there with a daytrip to Segovia. Is there absolutely nothing to in Pedraza on weekdays???
Since we are leaving the kids with the grandparents, who are not available two weekends in a row, there is no way around this.
I'll check out the sites you mentioned and come back if I have more questions (I hope you don't mind)

Thanks so much
lol is offline  
Jan 6th, 2009, 09:40 AM
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Another note about Holy Week and crowds-

Pedraza will be chock full of folks on Palm Sunday, April 5 (if that would be your day), and some visitors might decide to stay on another night during Holy Week if on vacation, but on a normal Monday, it reverts to its sleepy state.
Pedraza's castle and medieval jail are only open Wed.-Sun. normally (don't know about their Holy Week schedule).

But again, on Sunday afternoons, to take advantage of those crowds of day trippers up to do the "roast lamb ritual" at the towns' many taverns, the stores are wide open, and they're quite nice-tasteful rather than tacky-touristy.
I especially like the lovely store selling pewter decorative items, Estaños de Pedraza and De Natura, another interior design shop.
Maribel is offline  
Jan 8th, 2009, 09:26 PM
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Hi Maribel,
Sorry for the delay. We haven't fixed the dates yet. We will probably miss Sara B's performance. I am leaning towrds the second half of April when the weather will be warmer, I am not a fan of the cold. I also like to miss the crowds and the festivities.

lol is offline  
Jan 8th, 2009, 10:49 PM
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hi lol,
Sounds fine to me. During the second half you should have nicer weather in Castilla y León. As soon as you know your dates, we can all look for dance performances for you.
Maribel is offline  
Jan 8th, 2009, 10:50 PM
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" Is there absolutely nothing to in Pedraza on weekdays"

Well not too much to "do" but alot to enjoy if you don't need to be busy. But again it is very QUIET. NOt sure about a day trip there unless you are seeing Segovia proper because the town literally goes to sleep. If you don't have a room at the Hospederia there it may not be as pleasant.....

Stores might open around 10 (maybe)
There are only a few not alot of stores.They close for lunch and open (maybe) later...

What to "do" in Pedraza:

1.Walk around the tiny village and admire it's beauty. Repeat.

2. Eat at the mentioned places, drink the wine and buy goodies in the small but yummy bakery shop

3. See the castle/Zuloaga museum. The caretaker is not always on time though. It really neat.

4.Watch the stork couples in their nests.

5. Marvel at the the beauty of the area and the simple life.

6.Listen as the dogs in the distance bark after the javalinas.

7. eat some more

8. Wine again

9. rest or sleep or read while looking at the storks again (They are addicting)

amsdon is offline  
Jan 9th, 2009, 12:13 AM
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Yep another vote for Burgos. The old town of Cuenca is really quaint but I thought the hanging houses were interesting though considerably over rated. If you do stay in Cuenca I highly recommend Posada da San Jose - One night stay in Cuenca should suffice. Happy travels.
worldinabag is offline  
Jan 9th, 2009, 06:17 AM
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Local tapas in Burgos:
- Morro (thin fillet of battered veal snout, a delicacy!).
- Careta (crispy pieces of deep fried pork's face).
- Orejitas de cordero (lamb ears stew).
The tapas lane in Burgos is Calle Sombrerería.
Revulgo is offline  
Jan 9th, 2009, 06:22 AM
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Local tapas in Cuenca:
- Zarajos (deep fried lamb's intestine wrapped around a stick).
- Morteruelo (game mince pie).
Revulgo is offline  
Jan 13th, 2009, 02:05 PM
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Bookmaring - thanks everyone
Bokhara2 is offline  
Jan 13th, 2009, 02:28 PM
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I enjoy a lot this posting because I like very much both cities Burgos and Cuenca.
As usual Maribel has offered lol a lot of useful and wise logistics and choices. lol no doubt will make a good decision if she follows Maribel .( I for one know by experience how good Maribel's recommendations are)
I simply wish to say that I agree with" world- in- a- bag " that the casas flotantes in Cuencia are over rated, great for pictures, but...
Also the Cathedral has been in part re done and of course there is no comparison not only with the magnificent Cathedral in Burgos but with many of the other magnificent churches of all sizes in this city.
We stayed at Posada San Jose and it is a great choice. It has a true authentic , old world charm being from the XVI Century. THe stunning views from most rooms over the Huecar river gorge to the Convento de San Pablo which is lighted at night are
really unforgetable. And it is very reasonable.
In Cuenca thanks to advice from a local friend we had
a great dinner, reservations needed, at Posada Tintes.
This is a small inn, and offers delicious, inexpensive,
menus degustacion. Not to be missed.
Revulgo < I am taking note of all your recommendations for tapas. Thank you.
Burgos has something that has won my heart. Hope you have a great trip.

Graziella5b is offline  
Jan 13th, 2009, 10:33 PM
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To those interested in history I wish to add that in Cuenca very close to the Posada San Jose there is a little hotel which should have similar views but more modern facilities like TV in each room etc, the name is Hotel Leonor de Aquitania.
I know that the Queen of Castile, wife of ALfonso VIII of Castile was Leonor Plantagenet the grand daughter of Leonor de Aquitania. It was Leonor Plantagenet who
Patronized the creation of the Cathedral of Cuenca at the end of the XII Century.
So I was curious when visiting Cuenca why the name of Leonor de Aquitaine and not of Leonor Plantagenet or Leonor of Castile as she is also known.
It has been a mistake they told me....... They confused the names.
I thought it was an honest and peculiar answer.

Actually Leonor de Aquitania that remarkable woman
Went to Castile in 1200 to bring back to France one of her grand daughters to be married with the future King of France, Louis VIII.
She chose Blanca of Castile as the future bride , she was to become one of the most famous Queens of
France, the mother of Saint Louis of France.
But as I was informed in the hotel she was not in Cuenca.
Graziella5b is offline  
Jan 14th, 2009, 01:59 AM
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Sorry I made a mistake, Leonor Plantagenet was the
6 th daughter of Leonor of Aquitania and Henry II, Plantagenet.
Graziella5b is offline  
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