When traveling in Spain…

May 28, 2008 by

Europe, Places to Go

Editor’s note: Anthony Lye has been traveling around Spain, checking in with us as he goes. His last post was about short breaks in Madrid.

Casa Cervantes - Valladolid Spain
Casa Cervantes in Valladolid, Spain

Set amidst the desolate, sweeping rural plains of Castilla, the small bustling city of Valladolid boasts a population of over 300,000 with an energetic ambience to match. Despite a large student community, the once de facto capital of imperial Spain lies somewhat off the typical tourist trail, a factor that in my opinion only adds to its appeal. With its narrow streets, dozens of tapas bars and a fine sprinkling of top-notch monuments and museums, Valladolid deserves a couple of days’ attention. Here are my picks for Valladolid.

National Museum of Sculpture

El Museo Nacional de Escultura is Spain’s top exhibition of polychrome wood sculpture, housed in the eye-catching former Colegio de San Gregorio (College of St Gregory), a few blocks north-east of the main plaza. The two buildings that make up the museum are very different. One is the memorial chapel, with a relatively simple structure and fine sculptural ornamentation. The other is the Palace of Villena, with its splendid patio enclosed by two levels of galleries linked by majestic staircases.

The best-known works of Alonso Berruguete, Juan de Juni and Gregorio Fernández dominate many of the gallery rooms, their sculptures’ wonderfully detailed facial expressions offering first-rate examples of Spain’s rich plastic art history from the 16th and 17th centuries. Yet these are by no means the only works on offer, and the real highlights of any tour of the museum must include the the magnificent detail of El Belén Napolitano – the room-sized Neapolitan Nativity Crib – and the fantastic collection of Bulls and Bullfighters (Toros y Torero). Opening hours are 10.00 to 14.00, and 16.00 to 18.00 Tuesday to Saturday, and 10.00 to 14.00 on Sundays. Entrance fee €2.40 (€1.20 students).

The Cervantes House Museum

The writer Miguel de Cervantes (author of Don Quijote) was briefly imprisoned in Valladolid, and his house is preserved in a quiet area known as the Rastro de los Carneros, south of the main plaza. Set behind a peaceful little garden, the museum is a quaint reconstruction of how the rooms may have appeared during the writer’s lifetime. Making your way through the corridors and bedrooms, you can imagine Cervantes writing novels such as El licenciado Vidriera (The Glass Graduate) which portrayed the characters and landscapes of local life. Opening hours are 9:30 to 15:00 Tuesday to Saturday, and 10:00 to 15:00 on Sundays. Entrance fee €2.40.

The Columbus Museum

La Casa-Museo de Colón replicates the house in which Christopher Columbus lived before his death in the city in 1506, and is now an interesting museum covering three floors, in which the age of exploration is chartered, with antique maps and a diverse collection of Aztec, Incan and Mayan art all featuring prominently. Be warned that the guide pamphlets are in Spanish only, as are the item descriptions. Opening hours are 10:00 to 14:00 and 17:00 to 20:30 from Tuesday to Sunday. Entrace fee €2.

The Cathedral and surroundings

Although La Catedral is currently under heavy scaffolding and reconstruction, but is still very much worth a visit, if only for the fine alterpiece by Juní. When I last visited, the roof was leaking heavily following a downpour, although I found this strangely added to the interior atmosphere! Nevertheless, it is to be hoped that the cathedral will be fully restored at some point soon. Aside from that, the nearby Iglesia de Santa María la Antigua is a an interesting 14th-century Gothic church with a fine Romanesque tower that looks beautiful when lit up at night time. A couple of blocks east of the cathedral lies the Colegio de Santa Cruz, an early Renaissance structure that features a three-tiered and colonnaded patio, with Fernández’ Cristo de la Luz sculpture dominating the chapel.

Plaza de San Pablo


Campo Grande - Valladolid Spain
El Campo Grande, Valladolid, Spain

Located a few blocks north-east of the main plaza, this picturesque square is sandwiched between the Palacio de Pimentel (birth place of Felipe II) on one side and the church of St Paul (Iglesia de San Pablo) on the other. The church’s façade is an awesome display of Gothic architecture, with the stone finely worked and twisted producing a unique texture. The palace itself features an outstanding tiled mural in the entrance hall, showing scenes from the king’s life.

El Campo Grande

This large park to the south of the main plaza is a nice place to wander around in peace away from the buzzing city centre. With flamboyant peacocks freely roaming amongst the greenery, and a refreshing fountain, the park is a good place to relax and unwind. It also lies opposite El Figón de Recoletos, one of the very best (and expensive) restaurants in Valladolid, renowned for its meat dishes. Expect a meal here to set you back €35.

Valladolid’s Nightlife, Bars & Restaurants

Like most Spanish cities, Valladolid oozes an abundance of bars, cafés and restaurants. The area to the north of the cathedral in particular is littered with attractive joints for sampling local tapas and Spanish drinks. Your best bet is simply to try one and then move along – you’re sure to find a few favourites.

Personally I found two or three nice tapas bars along Calle Prado and Calle San Martín three blocks north of the cathedral, such as Taberna Casablanca and Venta del Fraile. Nearer the centre, Mil Tapas is good for chupitos (shots). Also be sure to check out El Doctorado if you visit the Casa-Museo de Colón. A pretty cool café bar, its walls are adorned with black and white world city scenes, and a coffee costs just a euro.

Las Brasas is a good-quality, relatively inexpensive place to eat if you like your steak and fine wine. Another personal recommendation is Restaurante Zamora, which features friendly service, good wine and decent Spanish food in a pleasant, cozy setting.

For clubs, you could do worse than to just follow the crowds (or even better, just ask them), but Sotobanco is certainly a highly rated indie-oriented hive that is popular with students, while just across from the cathedral is a jazz club that certainly looks worth checking out.

Anthony Lye

Planning a trip to Spain? Browse Viator’s list of tours in Madrid, things to do in Barcelona, Costa del Sol tours, Seville tours & day tours, and activities in Spain. If you need a place to stay, check out Hotels in Spain on Planetware.com.

One Response to “When traveling in Spain…”

  1. Jim montek Says:

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