Ávila is a small city located in the Castilla y León region in central Spain, roughly 100 km (80 mi.) north of Madrid.
This quaint enclave is famous for its well-preserved Old Town and its majestic medieval walls, both UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Although it is a provincial capital, Ávila still retains a small village feel. The Old Town area can be easily navigated on foot and its charming windy streets feel like they have stayed the same for hundreds of years (which for the most part is true).
The Castilian city is also renowned, particularly among Roman Catholics, for being the birthplace of Saint Teresa of Jesus and in fact, many Ávila city landmarks are related to her life, work and death.
Being so close to Madrid and having excellent train connections to the Spanish capital, Ávila is one of the top day-trip destinations for travelers who visit Madrid and want to get a taste of the “real Spain”.
So take a look at this post where we’ll be revealing the top things to see in Ávila.
Tours Activities and Fun Things to Do in Ávila, Spain
Accommodation in Ávila, Spain
Although, as mentioned above, Ávila is seen as a day-trip destination from Madrid, if you choose to stay in Ávila for a couple of days you will see there’s much more to it than meets the eye.
Sample the cuisine, stroll around its wonderful medieval quarter and take in the beauty of Ávila at your own pace by staying a few days and you won’t regret it.
Plus, it’s much cheaper than staying in Madrid!
Top Things to See in Ávila, Spain
Whether you’re staying a couple of nights or on a day-trip from Madrid, these are the must-sees you cannot miss while in Ávila.
1. Cathedral of Ávila
The Catedral de Ávila is the most prominent building in town.
Located within the city walls, and actually partly supported by them, the Ávila Cathedral was designed to serve both as a place of worship and a fortress.
Although there’s no official record as to when the church was commissionated or its construction began, it is estimated that it is at least 1,000 years old.
Its solid external walls and robust appearance are consistent with its status as a defensive building.
Although Romanesque in origin, as the years went by and construction continued, the cathedral adopted a Gothic style. In fact, the Cathedral of Ávila is considered one of the first examples of Gothic architecture in Spain.
Its portico and some of the interior chapels are adorned by Reinassance bas-reliefs.
For a taste of Spanish medieval art go inside the Cathedral and stroll around its Gothic naves. Entrance fee is €6 (includes audioguide). If you happen to visit during the weekend, do climb the bell tower for stunning views over Ávila!
2. Medieval Wall of Ávila
Ávila’s location atop a prominent hill in the central part of Spain and in the crossroads of several trade routes made it an important market town in the Middle Ages.
You could say Ávila was one of the wealthiest cities on the peninsula during the Middle Ages, but for Ávila, this meant that rival kingdoms would always be trying loot or conquer it. This is especially true when you consider Spain’s tumultuous history.
This meant that Ávila needed to protect itself from foreign invasions, and so authorities decided to build a wall around the city.
The walls of Ávila were built in the 11th century, presumably on the remains of previous Roman and Moor fortifications.
Today, Ávila is the only major city in Spain with preserved and intact (although partly reconstructed) medieval walls around it.
The walls of the monumental city of Ávila are a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
You can visit the walls and walk along its towers and battlements. They offer impressive views over town and the surrounding fields. Tickets are €10, although most organized tours include it. Book your organized trip here.
3. Cuatro Postes lookout
Yes, the walls and the cathedral’s bell tower offer some amazing views over Ávila, but what’s the point of views if you can’t see the city’s two most iconic landmarks.
The humilladero de los Cuatro Postes is located 1 km (0.8 mi.) from the city’s western gate Puerta de la Alaja and it offers some of the most breathtaking views over the entire walled city.
Like most things in Ávila, there’s a legend relating this spot with Santa Teresa de Ávila:
According to tradition, it was here that, as children, Teresa de Jesús and her brother Rodrigo were stopped by their uncle when they planned to travel to the land of infidels (under Moorish control) to die as martyrs and where the saint, taking off her sandals, pronounced the famous phrase “From Ávila, I don’t even want the dust”.
Mysticism apart, Cuatro Postes is a great selfie spot when visiting Ávila.
4. Basílica de San Vicente
Avíla’s Basílica de los Santos Hermanos Mártires, Vicente, Sabina y Cristeta, better known simply as basílica de San Vicente is one of the most beautiful Romanesque churches in Spain.
It is located right outside of the city walls, not far from Puerta de la Catedral (Gate of the Cathedral).
Its most iconic features are the decorated western and southern gates.
In the interior, you must see the cenotaph of Vicente, Sabina and Cristeta, made in stone and considered one of the best examples of Romanesque sculpture in Spain.
The church is open during the summer months (Easter to October) from 10:00 am to 18:30. Otherwise it opens during mass services on Sundays.
5. Church of Santa Teresa of Ávila
This beautiful church from the seventeenth century was built (arguably) where Santa Teresa’s birth house use to stand.
Finished in 1636, this Baroque-style church holds a replica of Teresa’s birthplace.
Right next to it is the Relic Room, which treasures artifacts belonging to Santa Teresa herself, including the mummified index finger of her right hand (yikes!).
6. Santa Teresa Museum
Yet another Santa Teresa related landmark.
This museum is located right under the aforementioned church of Santa Teresa.
Inside the museum, you can see original letters and manuscripts by Teresa, as well as a replica of the room she used to sleep at the convent.
Entrance fee is €2.
7. Plaza del Mercado Chico
The Plaza del Mercado Chico (Small Market Square), also referred to as Plaza Mayor, is the main square of Ávila.
It is located in the middle of Ávila’s Old Town. It is a rectangular square with arcades on three sides, slightly reminiscent, although at a much smaller scale, of Madrid’s Plaza Mayor.
It is believed that this square is located at the spot where the Decumanus and Cardo streets of the Roman city met.
This lovely plaza is home to Avila’s City Hall and San Juan Bautista church.
Around it, you can find lots of restaurants and shops.
8. Plaza de Santa Teresa de Jesús & Puerta del Alcázar
This is the last Teresa-related item on the list, we promise!
Plaza de Santa Teresa, formerly known as del Alcázar, stands where the large market area used to be in medieval times, just outside the city walls.
The main attraction in this area is Puerta del Alcázar (Gate of the Alcázar), one of the most important points of access to the Old Town.
To the east side of the square lies the Iglesia de San Pedro, a Romanesque and Gothic church with sturdy walls and a beautiful rose window.
9. Ermita de San Segundo
The church of San Segundo, located on the banks of the Adaja River is a small parish church dating back to the thirteenth century.
This quaint little hermitage maintains some early Romanesque elements.
Tradition has it that it was here, in 1519, where a burial site with the remains of San Segundo (the legendary first bishop of Ávila) was found.
This church is usually not open for tourists, it usually only opens during the main local festivities.
10. Old Jewish Tanneries
The old Jewish Tanneries of Ávila are the ruins of a medieval industrial complex dedicated to the tanning of leather.
They are located near San Segundo Church, in the vicinity of the river Adaja, as water was indispensable for the type of work that took place there.
The tanneries opened in the fourteenth century and were still in operation until the late seventeenth or the eighteenth century.
11. Lienzo Norte Convention Center
Lienzo Norte is located north of the Ávila walls.
It is an award-winning congress and convention venue and one of the very few examples of modern architecture in the Spanish city.
It is also Avila’s main venue for cultural events and concerts.
Ávila: Useful Information
From Madrid, take the M30, direction A Coruña, before taking the A6 (direction still A Coruña). Before long you’ll see signs for Ávila. Find a cheap rental car.
MD Trains (Renfe Media Distancia) to Ávila depart from Madrid Chamartín station around 12 times a day.
There is no commercial airport in Ávila, you need to get to Madrid and from there continue by train or rental car to Ávila.
Find out more
You can check specific opening times and get more information on attractions on Avila’s Official Tourist Website.