A Quick Guide to Valladolid

Around Spain in 90 days

by Deborah Cater
Valladolid Plaza Mayor
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The historic centre of Valladolid is a Renaissance pearl with emblematic buildings such as the Cathedral, the College of San Gregorio and Royal palaces. A university town, it also hosts a Festivity of International Tourist Interest.

Easter week in Valladolid is something to behold. Declared a Festivity of International Tourist Interest its processions offer a display of religious artworks. However, visiting Valladolid at any time of the year is scintillating.

A Royal stronghold

Valladolid began to gain importance in the 11th century when Count Ansúrez became the governor of the town in the name of Alfonso VI. During the reign of Ferdinand and Isabella (15th century), the Catholic Monarchs, it reached its peak. At that time, Valladolid University was one of the most important in the country.

Pimentel Palace, today the site of the regional government, is where King Philip II was born in 1527. He became the consort of England’s Queen Mary.

On two occasions in Spanish history, Valladolid has been the country’s capital. The first time was under Charles I (16th century) and subsequently when Philip III came to the throne in the 17th century.

Wondering the streets around the Plaza Mayor, you will find a large number of stately houses and palaces. 

Monumental and architectural heritage

The historic centre of Valladolid is important due to its monumental and architectural heritage.

Presided by a statue of Ansúrez, the 16th-century Plaza Mayor is in the very heart of the city. On one side is the town hall, dating from the start of the century.

Adorning the University building is a Baroque façade, decorated with various academic symbols. The Santa Cruz College contains a valuable library and is one of the earliest examples of the Spanish Renaissance.

A 19th-century building is where one of the town’s most illustrious figures was born, José Zorrilla. The house contains several of the romantic writer’s personal effects, furniture and documents.

Exploring the province of Valladolid

One way to explore the province of Valladolid is by taking various itinerary such as the Red Wine Route, the Knight’s Route,  or the route that leads to the “Soul of Castile”.

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The Red Wine Route takes you to the wine-producing country of Quintanilla de Onésimo, Vega Sicilia, Pesquera de Duero and Peñafiel. There you can visit its castle and the Wine Museum, in addition to a number of interesting wineries.

The Knight’s Route extends towards the south. There is mor opportunity to discover the region’s wines at Boecillo. Also take in the Mudéjar architecture of Mojados and Olmedo, and the rich mediaeval heritage of Iscar and Portillo.

Simancas, Valladolid

Historic towns such as Simancas, the site of the General Archive of the Kingdom (above); Tordesillas and Medina del Campo, famous for its markets, fairs and its spa, are all along the route known as the “Soul of Castile”.

Key Places to Visit

Old Royal Palace of Valladolid

One of the rooms in this spacious royal palace in Valladolid, the official residence of the Spanish royal family between 1601 and 1606, was the birthplace of the future Philip IV of Spain.

It was built by the architect Luis de Vega, who designed one of the most important spaces in the complex: the main courtyard. It has two storeys of elegant galleries with elliptical arches, and is decorated with allegorical medallions, coffered ceilings (17th century) and a monumental entrance staircase (18th century).

Casa de Cervantes

The author of Don Quixote lived with his family here between 1603 and 1606. It was in this house Cervantes put the finishing touches to his seminal work. A visit to the house-museum is a chance to see items and furnishings from the period and recreate the way of life of noble family in the 17th century. There are also examples of his writings to see.

Cathedral

The cathedral is in fact unfinished. King Philip II commissioned the original design from architect Juan de Herrera. The death of both men meant the cathedral remained unfinished, and its central section did not open until 1668.

In 1730, the Master Churriguera completed the work on the main facade. Inside the cathedral, the main chapel houses a magnificent altarpiece produced by Juan de Juni in 1562.

Museo Nacional de Escultura

Spain’s premier showcase of polychrome wood sculpture is housed in the former Colegio de San Gregorio (1496). A flamboyant Isabelline Gothic–style building, the exhibition rooms line a two-storey galleried courtyard. Don’t forget to look up – some of the ceilings are extraordinary.

Casa-Museo de Colón

The Casa-Museo de Colón has interactive exhibits, as well as wonderful old maps that take you on a journey through Christopher Columbus’ (Cristóbal Colón in Spanish) trips to the Americas. The top floor describes Valladolid in the days of the great explorer (who died in the city in 1506). Built in the 1960s, it is a copy of the type of dwelling of his nephew, Diego Colón, had in Puerto Rico.

For more inspiration, check out our Travel in Spain section.

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