Things to do in Cuenca Spain — How to spend 48 hours in Cuenca Spain

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Roman ruins, gothic towers, and hanging houses — these are just a few things to do in Cuenca Spain. Perched atop a craggy cliff face halfway between Madrid and Valencia, the Medieval town of Cuenca Spain is a fascinating place to visit. Most people pop in for a day trip from Madrid, and that can be great, but we’re here to tell you that there are more things to do in Cuenca than fit in a day. Let’s double that. Here’s what to do in Cuenca Spain over 48 hours.

48 hours in cuenca

Things to Do in Cuenca Spain

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, close 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, and much of it is preserved well enough to become a UNESCO World Heritage site in the ’90s. As a result, Cuenca Spain has been the backdrop to many cinematic efforts due to its authentic Medieval atmosphere.

I’ll start with my list of things to do in Cuenca Spain, along with recommended Cuenca tours. Then I’ll give you some day trip options and end with our favorite restaurant and tips on Cuenca Spain hotels. 

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Cuenca travel tips

What to Do in Cuenca Spain: Day One

While I might not recommend spending a week in this town, there are enough things to do in Cuenca Spain to keep you engaged and entertained for several days. Based on our experience there and further research, here is how we would suggest spending the first 24 hours in Cuenca Spain. 

Take a Cuenca Walking Tour

One of the best things to do in Cuenca upon arrival is to take a walking tour or have some sort of guided walk to get yourself orientated. Cuenca isn’t a large town, but we find taking a walking tour early on helps us understand the city better and make more of the rest of our visit. 

From Madrid: Cuenca Cathedral and City Tours

Cuenca Guided Tour with Optional Lunch From Madrid

Wander Around the Walled Town

Things to do in Cuenca collage

This is a fortified city on a cliff, with several beautiful lookout points the further north your 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.

The Cuenca Cathedral

cathedral what to do in Cuenca

One of the main things to do in Cuenca Spain for some people is 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. However, if you only want to make time for one house of worship, then 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)

The hanging houses of Cuenca spain

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. Just keep in mind that it may take all of five minutes.

Museo de Arte Abstracto Español

Museo de Arte Abstracto Español - Museums in Cuenca Spain

This very modern space is 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. For my daughter and I, it was one of the best things to do in Cuenca. As for my son and wife…well, they were finished in 15 minutes but then waited patiently for the girl and me.

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

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

Puente de San Pablo (Saint Paul Bridge) Cuenca Spain

Overlooking the gorge on the other side of the river from the hanging houses is the Parador de Cuenca, a very nice hotel built in a former monastery. It’s a beautiful building and one of the best hotels in Cuenca Spain, 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 a fairly old bridge high above the river below, and the kids and I loved walking across. 

Museo de Cuenca (Museum of Archaeology)

Museo de Cuenca (Museum of Archaeology) - Things to do in Cuenca Spain

We were reading a lot about Roman history during our last visit to Cuenca Spain, and so this was a great spot to stop for about half an hour. My kids don’t swoon over pottery sherds, but the large amount of old Roman coins piqued their interest.

Things to Do in Cuenca Spain — Day 2

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 some things to do in Cuenca Spain that require getting out of the city.

Ciudad Encantada (The Enchanted City)

Enchanted City Tours in Cuenca Spain

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.

Guided Tours of Cuenca’s Enchanted City

If you’re driving, then you can reach the Enchanted City on your own. Alternatively, you could take a guided tour, which provides transportation and insight into how the rock formations came to be. 

Excursion to the Enchanted City from Cuenca

Enchanted City and the Birth of the Cuervo River: Tours from Cuenca

Day Trip to Cuenca and the Enchanted City from Madrid

Other Things to Do in Cuenca Spain

Finished the essential things to do in Cuenca Spain and looking for more? From Roman ruins to raging rivers, here are a few more suggestions of what to do in Cuenca Spain.

Segóbriga

what to do in Cuenca Spain Segóbriga Archaeological Park site

There are so many historical things to do in Cuenca, but if you want more, then head to the Roman ruins of Segóbriga about 45 minutes away by car. One of the top things to do in Cuenca Spain for history nerds. 

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).

Canyoning in Cuenca

Cuenca tours and other historical Cuenca attractions can be really interesting. That said, if you’re looking for more adventure, then canyoning is what to do in Cuenca Spain. Unfamiliar with canyoning? It combines rock climbing, rappelling, and white water rafting…without a raft. We loved canyoning in Galicia, and trying it here would a great thing to do in Cuenca.

Canyoning in Cuenca

Getting to Cuenca

  • Barcelona to Cuenca / Cuenca to Barcelona: Trains take about 5 hours while driving yourself take 5.5 hours at least (if you don’t make any wrong turns). Bu is also an option but you should count on 9 hours. 
  • Madrid to Cuenca / Cuenca to Madrid: Around an hour by train, or two by bus or car.
  • Valencia to Cuenca / Cuenca to Valencia: Less than an hour by train. Around two hours by car or three by bus. We’ve always gone from Valencia to Cuenca by train.
  • Seville to Cuenca / Cuenca to Seville: Expect over 6 hours with many stretches of curvy roads. The alternative is a train which transfers in Madrid (3 hours). Or you could fly to Madrid, Barcelona or Valencia and take a train from there. 
  • Zaragoza to Cuenca / Cuenca to Zaragoza: Trains transfer in Madrid and take 3.5 hours. Cars take a little longer. Buses take over 6 hours. 
  • Bilbao to Cuenca / Cuenca to Bilbao: You can make it Bilbao to Cuenca via car in around 6 hours, but that’s a long day of winding roads. A train or bus is easier but slower (7.5 – 8.5 hours). 
  • San Sebastian to Cuenca / Cuenca to San Sebastian: Trains from San Sebastian to Cuenca take around 7 hours, transferring in Zaragoza and Madrid. Cars take around 6 hours (traffic notwithstanding) while busses take over 9 hours. 

Transfer Madrid to Cuenca

Another option for getting to Cuenca to Madrid is by private transfer. Most cars can fit up to six people plus luggage. 

Private Transfer from Cuenca to Madrid

Day Trips to Cuenca from Madrid

If your Spain travel itinerary doesn’t allow for 48 hours in Cuenca, then you could consider one of several day trips to Cuenca from Madrid. These Cuenca tours usually include driver, while come also include a guide, your lunch or both. 

Day trip to Cuenca and the Enchanted City from Madrid

Cuenca Cathedral and City Tour From Madrid

From Madrid — Cuenca Guided Tour w/Optional Lunch

Where to Eat in Cuenca

Where to Eat in Cuenca Spain - El Secreto - Cuenca Restaurants

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 was the size of a book. The star dish, however, was an amazing salad with shrimp and Spanish ham. Fantastic desserts, too.

Cuenca Spain Hotels – Where to Stay in Cuenca

Posada de Cuenca what to do in Cuenca

Day trips from Madrid to Cuenca are common and work well for travelers on a tight schedule. However, we recommend staying overnight, and there are some great hotels in Cuenca for a variety of budgets. Here are a few hotels in Cuenca Spain that we recommend. 

Parador de Cuenca – Cuenca Spain Hotels

One of the top hotels in Cuenca Spain by far. 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 gives young kids more room to run around safely. Where to stay in Cuenca for location and history.

Check Availability: Parador de Cuenca at Booking.com

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Hotel Torremangana – Hotels in Cuenca Spain

Positioned in “new” Cuenca, the Hotel Torremangana is a modern alternative to many of the small and rustic Cuenca Spain Hotels offered here. Rooms are larger and the bathroom contemporary.  You can walk to the historic district in less than 30 minutes, but expect stairs and inclines. A public bus leaves regularly for the old town from a few blocks away.

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Read: What others say about Hotel Torremangana

Hospederia de Cuenca – Cuenca Spain Hotels

We stayed at Hospederia de Cuenca during our last visit and had a great experience. Homey, charming and warm. 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. We enjoyed this hotel in Cuenca Spain very much, but anyone over 6 feet tall be mindful of some of the doorways. 

Check Availability: Hospederia de Cuenca at Booking.com

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Read: What others say about Hospederia de Cuenca

Posada de San José – Hotels in Cuenca Spain

Built into a 300-year-old monastery, Posada de San Jose is one of the most atmospheric hotels in Cuenca Spain. Some of the rooms and tables at its restaurant have views of the Huécar Gorge. Breathtaking. Some rooms have private bathrooms. Some do not. Rooms with private bath also have a balcony. Reserve a table at the restaurant when you arrive.

Check Availability: Posada de San José at Booking.com

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Read: What others say about Posada de San José

Alizaque Lodge – Cuenca Spain Hotels

Settled on the north side of the old town, Alizaque Lodge is close to the Mirador Barrio del Castillo, one of the best views in town. These apartment rentals are furnished and come with the kitchen and appliances to make it like home. This is also where to stay in Cuenca if you drive there, as the best/cheapest parking is here. The old town and all that comes with it is a 5-10 minute walk downhill.

Check Availability: Alizaque Lodge at Booking.com

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Hospederia Seminario de San Julián – Hotels in Cuenca Spain

Want to sleep in an actual seminary? Then this is where to stay in Cuenca Spain. Rooms are spartan but clean. There is no TV or minibar in the room, but the old city is at your fingertips. Good homemade breakfast. 

Check Availability: Hospederia Seminario Conciliar de San Julián at Booking.com

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Read: What others say about Hospederia Seminario Conciliar de San Julián

Posada Tintes – Cuenca Spain Hotels

This is one of the best hotels in Cuenca Spain for budget travelers. Located next to the river. Rooms are basic but clean and the owners are quite friendly and accommodating. Walls are not soundproof. Breakfast is cheap and filling. The Cathedral is 15 minutes away (uphill). 

Check Availability: Posada Tintes at Booking.com

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Read: What others say about Posada Tintes

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

Know More 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 Spain, what would you tell them? Share your insight in the comments, or tell us where you’d like to go! If you know what to do in Cuenca, or know some good hotels in Cuenca Spain, please let us know!

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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 any hotels in Cuenca Spain using those links. My opinions are my own and I only recommend places/services that I believe will genuinely help you find what to do in Cuenca Spain and the best hotels in Cuenca Spain. 

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