The no.1 thing to see and do here is to walk on the city walls. From here you have the most beautiful views of the medieval town.
Jorge Sanchez (Spain):
I was coming by bus from Madrid. The bus station is at about ten minutes walking to the walls.
It was early in the morning. The first thing that I did when I entered the downtown was to buy in a bakery the famous Yemas de Avila, a delicious sweet that is cooked by the nuns of the convents in Avila.
Then I looked for a hostel.
There are many old palaces, very pretty, within the walls that today are used as hotels.
Some friends in Madrid told me that Avila, a town of scarcely 60.000 inhabitants, can be visited during one day, without spending the night there. But I did not agree; a city with such a rich past and beauty as Avila deserves at least two days.
Once I left my small bag in my room, I went out to discover that historical and beautiful Avila. I bought a ticket to the walls and during two hours I could enjoy the wonderful views over the town.
The wall is the main wonder of Avila. It has about 2500 meters of perimeter, 9 gates and over 80 towers. I could almost surround the walls on foot in its totality.
The religious buildings are another highlight in Avila, especially the cathedral, called Salvador de Avila, and also the Convento de San Jose, founded in the XVI century by Santa Teresa de Jesus (also known as Santa Teresa de Avila, because she was born in that city), one of the dearest saints in Spain, apart from writer. She founded that convent of the Carmelitas. She died not far from Avila, in Alba de Tormes (Salamanca province), a lovely small town that I would visit a few months later, during another of my journeys around Spain.
There is even a statue devoted to her in the Plaza de Santa Teresa, close to the Puerta de Alcazar.
Late in the evening, the second day of may stay in Avila, I returned by bus to Madrid.
Date posted: July 2013 Ian Cade (England):
I think I caught Avila on a bad day. It seems that a Monday morning in November doesn’t show this city in its best light.
Being a Monday in continental Europe most of the main sights were closed, however I was surprised to find out was that this also included the town walls, meaning I didn’t get to stroll along one of the highlights of the town. I did however get to visit the cathedral, which was pleasant enough. The church in the convent of St Theresa was rather standard, and most of the other churches were locked. I did like the charming Romanesque church of St Vincent outside the walls though.
There was a lot of construction/ restoration going on in the town as well which again limited access; one success story of this though was the charming restored palace just inside the city walls. I also enjoyed walking around the new central market looking at the incredible selection of offal, and having a friendly greengrocer increase my Spanish vocabulary in regard to fruit and veg. On the food side, I’m afraid I can’t agree with Frederik on Yemas de Santa Teresa. I found them far too sickly and they were a distinct failure in the office taste test; consigned to the lower ranks of my foreign treats alongside the likes of Korean ginseng candy and Croat spicy fig cake.
I could see that Avila could be a worthwhile destination, however strolling around its closed city centre on a grim Monday in November it didn’t capture me, but then perhaps I wasn’t doing it justice and a repeat visit in the summer may show it in a better light.
[Site 5: Experience 3]
Date posted: December 2012 John Booth (New Zealand):
The walls, towers and elaborately carved stone gateways to the city of Avila are indeed majestic. And while others have commented on the churches outside the walls, my favourite is the Hermitage of San Segundo, a small building nestled beside the Adaja river. From here I crossed the river and walked up to the Four Posts monument, from where there is a panoramic view of the city walls from the west. From the lookout bus #7 goes back to the station.
Date posted: March 2010 Philip T.K. (Canada):
While its religious monuments are worthwhile sights, the main attraction in Avila are the walls that surround this city. My dad and I arrived from Segovia (see my review) quite late in the afternoon so I did not have time to see too much. Besides the magnificant walls, we managed to visit the interior of the San Vicente Basilica (under restoration but cheap admission and even comes with a free postcard) and the local cathedral (also under restoration but contains beautiful tombs). While walking on the walls was pleasant and a great way to see the surroundings, I have to concur with Frederik Dawson that the walls look a lot better from the ground. Avila's walls, along with their numerous churches, make this place a great WHS and one definitely worth visiting.
Frederik Dawson (Netherlands):
From all six world heritage sites near Madrid, Avila is my favorite site better than Toledo or Segovia in my opinion. Situated on high hills northwest of Madrid, Avila is well known for its cool climate and the holy story of Santa Teresa. Santa Teresa did not make Avila to be a pilgrimage place, that put this town on travelers map, liked Santiago de Compostela, but its city wall is the reason that put Avila on the top list of every tourist’s mind. Avila’s medieval wall is considered as one of the best preserved city wall in Europe, and maybe one of the most beautiful I have ever seen.
Walking around the old town to see the wall is just great activity for me especially on the eastern side. The wall is really picturesque and contains some element of mystery of medieval age that made this place so charming. I do not recommend you to walk on the wall as the feelings are so different and I personally preferred to walk on the ground which I think this way is better to make you appreciate this place. I have to say I really enjoyed the wall and seem to ignore another part of world heritage – the extramuros churches. But if you come to Avila, your eyes will directly gaze to the wall not the churches which are just next to the wall liked me. However, the churches are really nice and deservedly to get your time.
Avila is really well connected by train with Madrid and can be combining with the trip to Salamanca. When you are in Avila don’t forget to try its special delicacy – Yemas de Santa Teresa (a sweet made with egg yolks and sugar) a really great plus for the visiting.
Francesca Moore (USA): Avila was the most amazing place, but recently they have destroyed so much of the town and it has lost much of its charm. The new building in the Plaza Major is horrid, as is the new Plaza Major. It is very sad. I spent almost every summer of my life there and my mother lives in Avila. Our entire family is very upset at the horrible things they are doing to our once favorite place.
Have you been to Old Town of Avila with its Extra-Muros Churches? Share your experiences!