Set on a high, impreg­nable hill, sur­round­ed by the Hucar and Hué­car rivers, Cuen­ca is an out­stand­ing exam­ple of a medieval for­ti­fied city. The city is well pre­served, so it can still be enjoyed today. The emer­gence of the city of Cuen­ca, the cap­i­tal of the Span­ish province of the same name, dates back to the con­quest of the Iber­ian Penin­su­la by the Moors in 714.

Cuenca house

Entry relat­ed to loca­tion: Spain

Real­iz­ing the strate­gic impor­tance of this unin­hab­it­ed place, the Moors built a fortress here. In the 12th cen­tu­ry, the city was con­quered by the Chris­t­ian king Alfon­so VIII. He enact­ed new laws and a peri­od of pros­per­i­ty fol­lowed dur­ing which a num­ber of his­toric build­ings were built, includ­ing Spain’s first Goth­ic cathe­dral.

The old city of Cuen­ca is locat­ed on a hill­top, at an alti­tude of about 950 meters above sea lev­el, sur­round­ed by the gorges of the Jucar Riv­er and its trib­u­tary Hué­car. The Moor­ish ori­gin of the city is still evi­dent.

Cuenca

The Hang­ing Hous­es of Cuen­ca, also known as “Casas Col­gadas”, are a com­plex of build­ings lit­er­al­ly hang­ing from a cliff. The his­to­ry and exact ori­gins of the Hang­ing Hous­es are unclear. Some believe that these well-pre­served archi­tec­tur­al mar­vels are of Mus­lim ori­gin, oth­ers believe that they were built in the Mid­dle Ages (14th-15th cen­turies).

Inter­est­ing selec­tion: The most beau­ti­ful cities in Spain

Over the cen­turies the hous­es have served dif­fer­ent pur­pos­es, being used as pri­vate dwellings and coun­cil hous­es. It is believed that they were orig­i­nal­ly a sum­mer vaca­tion spot for roy­al fam­i­lies.

How­ev­er, there is evi­dence of their exis­tence in the 15th cen­tu­ry, when the Flem­ish topog­ra­ph­er Anton van den Wyn­gaerde, who cre­at­ed panoram­ic sketch­es and paint­ings of cities, includ­ed them in his won­der­ful panoram­ic view of Cuen­ca from the east. The hous­es reach a height of three or four sto­ries, but some have up to 10 sto­ries inside where they are built into the side of a ravine. Such hous­es in the past were com­mon along the east­ern bor­der of the ancient city.

See also
Vibrant Nature by Kevin McNeil

hanging house

Only a few remain today. The most famous is a com­plex of three hous­es with wood­en bal­conies. One of them, La Casa de la Sire­na (Mer­maid­’s House), has a tra­di­tion­al restau­rant. The art muse­um is locat­ed in Las Casas del Rey (Hous­es of the Kings). The Span­ish Muse­um of Abstract Art was opened in 1966 by Fer­nan­do Zobel and Gus­ta­vo Thorner and is the first muse­um of its kind in Spain.

See also: 25 famous attrac­tions in Spain

Cuenca architecture

They have been ren­o­vat­ed many times over the years. The most recent ren­o­va­tion took place in the 1920s. Here vis­i­tors can see paint­ings and sculp­tures by a num­ber of famous Span­ish and for­eign artists such as Rue­da, Anto­nio Tapies, Sem­pere, Mil­lares, Saura, Fer­nan­do Zobel and Gus­ta­vo Torner. When vis­it­ing the muse­um, vis­i­tors actu­al­ly enter and exit three dif­fer­ent build­ings.

The muse­um itself is a work of art and con­tin­ues to be a pop­u­lar tourist attrac­tion in Spain. In 1980, the Coun­cil of Europe rec­og­nized the muse­um as the Euro­pean Muse­um of the Year.

cuenca spain

Thanks to its rich col­lec­tion of impres­sive 12th-18th cen­tu­ry archi­tec­ture, the his­toric walled city of Cuen­ca was inscribed on the UNESCO World Her­itage List on Decem­ber 7, 1996. The city is also known for its charm­ing 13th cen­tu­ry town cen­tre.