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When travelling in Spain, you really come to appreciate how different each part of the country is. Food, landscape, culture – all of these things can change depending on where you are. One thing that I’ve only begun to appreciate later in life is architecture, but it too varies wildly across the regions of Spain. You need only visit Teruel, a brilliant out-of-the-way town, to see that.
Architecture isn’t the only thing to do in Teruel, but it’s a major reason why the town is worth visiting. Unfortunately, not many tourists find their way to this fascinating place in eastern Spain. I only stopped there because it was a convenient option travelling from Zaragoza to Valencia on the coast. It was the perfect example of choosing random places to visit along my route and being delighted by what I found. So you don’t need to stumble across this great place too, allow me to show you why the town is so special with this sightseeing guide to Teruel.
Town of Teruel
Teruel is a mountain town located in the Aragon region of Spain far to the east of Madrid. It’s a relatively small town and a little out of the way for many tourists. The town is the capital of its own province, but maybe get overshadowed by the equally scenic town of Albarracín. But Teruel is definitely worth the journey.
The town is known for its awesome Mudejar architecture, a unique style that combines Islamic influences with Gothic architecture. A common element of the style is ornate ceramic glaze decorating brick structures, which you’ll see plenty of below. In fact, it’s this Mudejar style, that has made many of the town landmarks UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Another interesting aspect of Teruel is its altitude. The town sits at an elevation of 915m, which is much higher than other destinations you might visit in this part of Spain. As such, expect it to be much colder than the coast if you come in winter like I did.
Escalinata del Óvalo
When arriving in Teruel, the first sight you’re likely to encounter is the incredible Escalinata del Óvalo. This grand staircase leads up from the park by the train station into the town centre. Its mix of brickwork and tiles will be your first real taste of the town’s Mudejar style. In a way, the Escalinata del Óvalo is the perfect introduction to Teruel as it shows you why this is a destination that you’re going to enjoy exploring. The staircase is a relatively modern addition, only dating from the 1920s, but that doesn’t take away from its visual impact in the slightest.
Torre de El Salvador
Upon reaching the top of the stairs, you’ll be met by the immediately impressive Torre de El Salvador. Across the town centre there are several gorgeous bell-towers attached to churches and this is one of the town’s best.
This tower will probably be your first real chance to see the Mudejar architecture of Teruel in all its glory and dizzying detail. Unlike the stairs, this is an original Mudejar landmark of the town and is believed to date from the 14th century. The timing didn’t work for me to climb the tower and enjoy its views, but it seems like something worth doing if you can. But really, just seeing the intricate design and trying to take it all in was enough for me.
Plaza de El Torico
It wouldn’t be a trip to a European town without at least one square to visit. There are a few to see in Teruel but Plaza de El Torico felt like the core of the historic centre. Plaza del San Juan may be where you find all the government buildings, but Plaza de El Torico had a far more lively atmosphere. Plaza de El Torico is home to quite a few cafes, a fountain and just a generally grand look. Visiting Teruel in November, I actually got to see the town preparing for Christmas in the square. With the tree going up and Christmas lights strung up around the place, it looked even prettier come nightfall.
Torre de San Martín
The second of the major towers in Teruel you’ll want to see, the Torre de San Martín lies on the western side of town. While the design of Torre de San Martín isn’t too different from Torre de El Salvador, it does have one key difference. Unlike the other tower, you’re able to get a good view of the tower away from surrounding buildings. The tower connects to the Church of San Martín and was first built in 1316. Interestingly, this tower was built before Torre de El Salvador and influence the other tower’s design.
Church of San Pedro
In some places it’s hard to tell what the main attraction is for a destination. That’s not the case here, as place to visit in Teruel is absolutely the Church of San Pedro. This church is an absolute gem and not just because it’s one of the city’s World Heritage sites.
The church is known for The Amantes, or “Lovers of Teruel”, a local love story similar to Romeo and Juliet. Set in the 8th century, the love story follows Juan Diego de Marcilla and Isabel de Segura and the fate of these star-crossed lovers is equally tragic as those in Shakespeare’s play. You can even see statues of the two holding hands over the spot where their bodies are interred.
To me though, the real selling point of the Church of San Pedro is its glorious chapel interior. Stepping inside the lavish interior under its vaulted ceiling overwhelms your senses in the best kind of way. Visits to the church are done with a guided tour, and include the view from the San Pedro Tower, the walkways around the church and the gardens. But honestly, that church interior is worth the price of admission on its own.
The Casas of Teruel
With a town like Teruel I highly recommend allowing some time to just wander its inner streets. That’s because throughout the town centre you’ll find gorgeous Mudéjar and art nouveau buildings to admire. Casa el Torico above on the main square is the easiest to find, but there are several others worth looking for. Casa La Madrileña, Casa Ferran and Casa Bayo are all interesting buildings found in the centre of town and showcase the calibre of architecture that Teruel has.
Aqueduct of Los Arcos
It may not rival the famous Aqueduct of Segovia north of Madrid, but the Aqueduct of Los Arcos in Teruel is still a pleasant sight. The aqueduct, which connects the historic centre with the modern part of town to the north, was built in the 16th century. Visitors are able to walk across the lower of its two levels and see how it merges with the old town walls. The roundabout and road immediately next to it undercuts the atmosphere a little, but I’m always happy to marvel at these historic feats of engineering.
Viaducto de Fernando Hué
At the far end of the town centre to the south you have the elegant Viaducto de Fernando Hué. This is one of two viaducts that span a small valley away from the town centre. Even though it was built in 1929, locals call it the old viaduct due to its relative age to the modern viaduct next to it. The bridge fits the elegant and fanciful style of Teruel to a tee I think. It may not be a major attraction or anything, but I believe it’s worth a moment’s appreciation.
Travel Tips for Visiting Teruel
Hopefully I’ve now shown you both why you need to visit Teruel and what you can hope to see there. To help make that happen, you’re going to need to know a few things.
The easiest places to get to Teruel from are the cities of Valencia and Teruel, thanks to direct train connections with both. I added it to my itinerary for that reason after all. If you don’t decide to go as a day trip, you’ll find a reasonable section of places to stay in Teruel. However, many of them apartments away from the town centre. My choice was Hostal Aragón, which proved to be an affordable and convenient pick just off the main square.
Had you heard of the town before this Teruel Spain blog post? Have you seen Mudejar architecture anywhere else in Spain or Europe? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.
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