Festivals and places to stay in Cuenca, Spain

colorful buildings in cuenca spain

In Cuenca, Spain, coloful buildings light up the old downtown. Photo by Terri Colby

Cuenca is a great place to visit. Its stone steps, Casas Colgadas and many ancient artifcacts combine with outstanding modern art, cute little restaurants and a colorful town square to make this a go-to destination anytime. But if you need an added incentive, try to come during one of its famous festivals. Of course there will be crowds.  Rooms likely will cost more, but oh the things you will see.

The town’s two biggest festivals are in the spring and fall.

Holy Week is a big deal here, as you might expect. The Holy Week festival features processions through the town, the most famous of which is held at daybreak on Good Friday.

Religious sculptures, most from the mid-20th Century but at least one dating to the 16th Century, are carried through the town in the processions. Celebrated simultaneously is the Religious Music Festival, which each year draws renowned composers and performers of sacred music.

For more information on these festivals check out the Holy Week website or religious music festival website.

Parador in Cuenca

The Parador in Cuenca is a great place to stay or to stop for a traditional meal. Monks lived there as recently as 1975. Photo by Terri Colby

In the fall, the big event is the festival of San Mateo, which celebrates the conquest of Cuenca in 1177 by Alfonso the 8th.  Expect parades, concerts, fireworks and a running of the bulls through the cobblestone and stone-walled streets.

The holiday is celebrated on Sept. 21, a great time to visit this part of Spain, when the weather is still relatively warm but the fall colors add to the palette.

Places to stay:

The Convento de San Pablo, built in the 16th century, is now the Parador of Cuenca, a 4-star hotel, part of a collection of some 90 inns, most with historical significance, run by the Spanish government. Low-season rates begin at 130 Euros per night, including an elaborate breakfast buffet.

This parador, which housed monks until 1975, is a delight, with rooms overlooking the spectacular river gorge and hanging houses, comfortable seating areas and even a bar with an elaborately painted ceiling. The parador serves local wines and cuisine including the morteruelo, a traditional dish using game meat that seemed like a warm pate. Definitely worth a try. Even if you don’t stay overnight at this parador, you should stop for a meal in its fine restaurant where Chef Gines Navarro shines.

Less expensive is the Posada de San Jose, built in the 18th century. It’s a quirky little place with 22 rooms in the heart of the old town.

It offers rooms at less than 90 Euros per night, depending on season. Ask for one with a view. We liked the room with the small balcony.