Miranda del Castañar.
Passing through one of the village-gates of Miranda del C. gives the sensation of being thrown back in time for at least five ages. One moment you are sauntering on the sun-drenched Plaza de Armas, one of the oldest bullfight-squares in the country, the next moment you plunge into deep shadow. Wide overhanging roofs, rickety balconies and very narrow alleys make sure there is a lot of shadow in this village that sits otherwise unprotected on a hilltop. There is a wall going around it with (the ruins of) a castle, build in it.
This is historically the heart of the Sierra de Francia and it hasn't changed much since the middle-ages. The village architecture is very interesting and a lot of houses with long histories are still there.
Going straight through it, at the other end there is the Puerta de la Señora and the sun is back again, baking the western slope going down to the river. At half distance below there is the Ermita (hermitage) de "La Virgen de la Cuesta", Miranda's patron saint, as in the distance you see the Peña de Francia.
Parque Natural Las Batuecas / Sierra de Francia
The villages in this area of which Miranda was historically the centre, show a mixture of Christian, Moorish and Jewish elements. Every village has its very own atmosphere. To mention some aspects:
San Martin del Castañar with its lovely village-square and fountain, its interesting cemetery and its rustic Roman churra.
La Alberca, with its very special Plaza Mayor and its characteristic fronts, is a rather touristic place.
Mogarraz, a beautifull village with its typical outdoor-stairs and a nice 17th century church.
From the top of the Peña de Francia (1723 meter) you can have a wonderful view over the green hills of the Sierra and the mostly yellow and brown highlands around it. The Dominicans build here a monastery in which you can admire a very special Byzantine statue of the Holy Virgin.
In the valley of Las Batuecas more than 4000 year old wallpaintings testify of a long history of human activity.
A medium-size University-town, is Cultural Capital of Europe in 2002 and showpiece of Spanish renaissance and plateresque architecture. The pre-roman settlement fell in the hands of Hannibal in 217 B.C. In the baroque-period it was a centre of fine arts and crafts. Amongst many others there were the Churriguera brothers living there. Their work can be admired in the many 'golden coloured' houses. The town's main-square, the Plaza Mayor, is famous for many reasons. It's charms are hard to be put into words, but it is said to be one of most beautiful squares in Europe.
Of course there are the two Cathedrals, the University building (13th century) and much more 'history in stone'.
A fortified town near the Portuguese border, with a wall all around the medieval centre. The Duke of Wellington besieged the town during the independency-war in 1812 and the tower of the Cathedral with its wounds is still there to testify. Within the walls there are many other historically interesting buildings worth a visit.
The old centre of this provincial capital is surrounded by a most well preserved medieval wall, with a length of more than 2 km. Many of the ancient churches and cloisters refer to Saint Theresa.