Things to do in Cuenca: How to spend 48 hours in Cuenca, Spain

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Roman ruins, Gothic towers, and hanging houses — there are just a few things to do in Cuenca, Spain. Perched atop a craggy cliff face halfway between Madrid and Valencia, the Medieval Spanish town of Cuenca is a fascinating place to spend a day or two with kids.

Things to do in Cuenca: How to spend 48 hours in Cuenca, Spain-cliff-fortified-town-in-spain

Things to do in Cuenca: How to spend 48 hours in Cuenca, Spain color-walls

Things to do in Cuenca, Spain

Best accessed by train or car, Cuenca really feels like somewhere you should enter on horseback. The fortified walls and cobblestone streets make it clear that this town has been here for a while. Most residents now live in the “new” part of town downriver, which helps the old city retain the feeling of stepping back in time. Toledo has this feeling too. However, its closer proximity to Madrid means more day trippers, resulting in more tourist shops and bars with pop radio and large screens showing the night’s football matches.

In Toledo, you don’t have to walk far to remember what year you’re in. Not so in Cuenca. Walk the quiet streets at night and often the only sounds you’ll hear are birds in the valley below.

The Moors built Cuenca in the 12th century, much of it is preserved well enough to become a UNESCO World Heritage site in the 90’s. It has been the backdrop to many cinematic efforts due to its authentic Medieval atmosphere.

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Things to do in Cuenca: How to spend 48 hours in Cuenca, Spain cliff-parador

Things to do in Cuenca: How to spend 48 hours in Cuenca, Spain cliffs lookout

Things to do in Cuenca: How to spend 48 hours in Cuenca, Spain walls-door-family-portrait

Things to do in Cuenca: Day 1 in Cuenca, Spain

While I might not recommend spending a week in this town, there are enough things to do in Cuenca to keep you engaged and entertained for several days. Based on our experience there and further research, here is how we would suggest spending 48 hours in Cuenca.

Wander Around the Walled Town

This is a fortified city on a cliff, with several beautiful lookout points the further up you walk. Some of the most beautiful spots, however, are the small stone alleyways here and there in town, and the colorful shops near the main Cathedral.

Things to do in Cuenca: How to spend 48 hours in Cuenca, Spain-cliff-fortified-town-in-spain-cuenca-lookout cuenca-sunset

Things to do in Cuenca: How to spend 48 hours in Cuenca, Spain

The Cuenca Cathedral

Things to do in Cuenca: How to spend 48 hours in Cuenca, Spain Cuenca Cathedral Catedral de Santa María y San Julián de Cuenca

Things to do in Cuenca: How to spend 48 hours in Cuenca, Spain Cuenca Cathedral Catedral de Santa María y San Julián de Cuenca

Things to do in Cuenca: How to spend 48 hours in Cuenca, Spain Cuenca Cathedral Catedral de Santa María y San Julián de Cuenca

Things to do in Cuenca: How to spend 48 hours in Cuenca, Spain Cuenca Cathedral Catedral de Santa María y San Julián de Cuenca

One of the main things to do in Cuenca for some people are to visit the many ancient churches, convents, and other religious sites. If that’s what you enjoy, then you may need more than 48 hours in Cuenca.

If you only want to make time for one house of worship, make it the Cuenca Cathedral, otherwise known as la Basílica de Nuestra Señora de Gracia (the Basilica of Our Lady of Grace). This is Spain’s first Gothic cathedral and it’s really impressive.

Casas Colgantes (Hanging Houses)

Things to do in Cuenca: How to spend 48 hours in Cuenca, Spain Casas Colgantes (Hanging Houses)

With origins as far back as the 15th century, these are like early versions of your back porch, only hanging off a cliff hundreds of meters above a river. This is part of what gives Cuenca its UNESCO status, and it’s cool to see, but it takes all of three minutes.

Museo de Arte Abstracto Español

Things to do in Cuenca: How to spend 48 hours in Cuenca, Spain Casas Colgantes (Hanging Houses) Museo de Arte Abstracto Español Abstract Art Museum of Spain

This very modern space is (ironically?) housed in the same building with the Hanging Houses mentioned above. The place has a slight labyrinthian feel, in that there are stairs and rooms that lead in unexpected directions. Along the white walls, there are over 100 large paintings and sculptures from some of Spain’s titans of abstract art.

Will you like the work on display? Will your children? Well, it depends on personal tastes and your children’ appreciation of this kind of thing. My daughter and I loved it. My son and wife…well, they were finished in 15 minutes but then waited patiently for the girl and I.

Puente de San Pablo (Saint Paul Bridge) & the Parador de Cuenca

Things to do in Cuenca: How to spend 48 hours in Cuenca, Spain Parador de Cuenca

Things to do in Cuenca: How to spend 48 hours in Cuenca, Spain Puente de San Pablo (Saint Paul Bridge) & the Parador de Cuenca

Overlooking the gorge on the other side of the river from Cuenca is the Parador, a very nice hotel built in a former monastery. It’s a beautiful building and will be one of our recommendations for where to stay in Cuenca, but another reason to visit is simply the path to get there.

The Saint Paul Bridge may agitate any acrophobic readers. For everyone else, it’s a small thrill. Originally built in the 16th century, it’s been through some renovations, but it’s still fairly old bridge high above the river below, and the kids and I loved walking across. You’ll pass the Hanging Houses mentioned above on your way to the bridge, as well.

Museo de Cuenca (Museum of Archaeology)

Things to do in Cuenca: How to spend 48 hours in Cuenca, Spain. Museo de Cuenca (Museum of Archaeology) Ancient Roman Coins

We are interested in Roman history, and so this was a great spot to stop for about half an hour. The kids don’t swoon over pottery sherds, but the large amounts of old Roman coins piqued their interest.

Museo de las Ciencias de Castilla-La Mancha (Cuenca Science Center)

If you want to step away from the history, you can visit the city’s Science Center, which has interactive exhibits (Spanish & some English displays) and a planetarium (in Spanish only).

The Cuenca Science Center Facebook

Things to do in Cuenca, Spain — Day 2: Outside the City

You can certainly spend several days wandering around this walled city on a hill, but there is much more to see beyond its walls. We didn’t get a chance to do everything — including some hikes and nature tours in the area, but here are two things to do in Cuenca that require getting out of the city.

Segóbriga

Things to do in Cuenca, Spain — Day Two: Outside the City - Segóbriga Archaeological Park site

There are so many historical things to do in Cuenca, but it you want more, then  head to the Roman ruins of Segóbriga about 45 minutes away by car.

Ciudad Encantada

Things to do in Cuenca, Spain — Day Two: Outside the City - Ciudad Encantada

Things to do in Cuenca, Spain — Day Two: Outside the City - Ciudad Encantada

Things to do in Cuenca, Spain — Day Two: Outside the City - Ciudad Encantada

For interesting geological formations, drive to Ciudad Encantada (“Enchanted City”). Here the karst limestone formations give massive stones interesting shapes and fun photo opportunities. Las Majadas is a site with similar formations about another 45 minutes’ drive away from Cuenca.

Where to Eat in Cuenca

We had a few meals, but the only place we should recommend is El Secreto. We liked this place so much we returned the next day. Quality ingredients, huge portions, great service. I had deer filets with blackberry sauce, Keiko’s steak that was the size of a book. The star dish, however, for us was an amazing salad with shrimp and Spanish ham. Fantastic desserts, too.

Things to do in Cuenca: How to spend 48 hours in Cuenca, Spain. Where to eat in Cuenca El Secreto dessert

Where to Stay in Cuenca

Hospederia de Cuenca

We stayed at Hospederia de Cuenca and had a great experience. It’s along the main road through the old town, which makes it easy to walk downhill to the Cathedral or (not very far) uphill to the lookout points.

Parador de Cuenca

Our friends stayed here and spoke very highly of it. The views here are hard to beat, and you’re just one short walk into the old city. Of course, that walk is across the bridge I mentioned earlier. It’s a much larger facility and give young kids more room to run around safely.

Things to do in Cuenca: How to spend 48 hours in Cuenca, Spain-cliff-fortified-town-in-spain-cuenca-lookout

Things to do in Cuenca: How to spend 48 hours in Cuenca, Spain-cliff-fortified-town-in-spain-cuenca-lookout

Know any good things to do in Cuenca, Spain?

Do your kids like museums and historical sites? Do you? If someone asked you about things to do in Cuenca, what would you tell them? Share your insight in the comments, or tell us where you’d like to go!

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Things to do in Cuenca-How to spend 48 hours in Cuenca Spain PIN 1

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links. This means, at no extra cost to you,  we might receive a small commission if you make a purchase or book using those links. My opinions are my own and I only recommend places/services that I believe will genuinely help your travel.
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