Thursday, 29 December 2016

Segovia Walled City Loop Running Route

Click here for route map
Length 6.6 km (4.1 miles), terrain: hilly, gain of 155 meters

Segovia is one of those hidden gems that are maybe off your radar, but are well worth getting there: beautiful, historic, elegant, scenic, and with lots of tourists, but it hasn't lost its soul to tourism. And if you're working/visiting Madrid for an extended period, as I just did, then plan a day-trip to this great town, with spectacular running terrain all around it.
The Segovia aqueduct and city walls
You can easily get there: it takes less than a half-hour on the bullet train from Madrid's Chamartin station, and only costs about €20, round trip. Tip: at the Segovia-Guiomar train station, run to be early in line at the bus-stop to take the bus 11 into town (costs €2 each way).
View of the old town from the castle, with snow-covered mountains in background
Segovia, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a hilltop town, almost completely surrounded by its old walls, with one of the most scenic castles anywhere, and with a huge, perfectly intact Roman aqueduct. The old town is a maze of lanes and plazas, and the leafy, park-like river valleys below town are a perfect place to do some running out in Castilian nature, with great views of the town and castle from below.

So that's just what this route will do: combine a quiet valley run with a loop up into the old town and castle: packing a lot of scenery into a moderately-portioned run.
Plaza Artillería and the aqueduct
We'll start the run in the spot where all tourists approach Segovia, at Plaza Artillería, the spot where the 2,000-year-old Roman aqueduct spans the valley between the new town hill and the old town hill. The towering aqueduct dominates the scene, and deserves a bit of appreciation before we get started on the run. You can go up the hill along the aqueduct to the south to get a great view of how it heads into the old town.

NOTE: Plaza Artillería is the spot where the buses from the train station dump out the day-tourists.
Along Paseo Guzmán
So, ready to start now? Standing on the east side of the aqueduct, at the bus stops, go to the roundabout and follow the Paseo Santo Domingo de Guzmán as it heads north along the base of the old-town hill, then curving westwards.

You'll be following a sidewalk along this fairly quiet street, heading downhill. You'll see the river valley stretching out down below, to the right, and the dry hills beyond. To the other side, the town walls rise beside you to the left side.

After about 700 meters, you'll see a monastery and its church sitting just below you on the right. Take the steps or the street down to it and turn left to continue just past its grounds. The monastery now houses IE University.
AI University in the old monastery
Pass the parking lot and continue following the cobblestone trail as it heads downhill to the river below.

At the 1-kilometer-mark, you'll cross an old stone bridge over the Río Eresma. The riverside is lined by green parkland. Turn left to head west along the river on the dirt trail, called Calle Cuesta de los Hoyos.
Running along the Río Eresma
Just before the 2-kilometer mark, the trail rises above a dam, where another old stone bridge and the old royal mint provide the foreground for a great view of the castle in the background.
Royal Mint and castle
At this spot, another monastery, Santa María del Parral sits to the right, up the hill to the north. It's worth it to run up the hill a bit and take a look at the buildings, and maybe even take the trail further up the hill to get a better view of Segovia from there.
Santa María del Parral monastery
Now run back down and catch a glimpse of the mint, built 500 years ago to use the water power to roll New World silver and gold into Spanish coins.
Mint mill-wheels
Continue westwards along the same path again, with the river to your left.

You'll run under an old stone road bridge, then the trail will curve to the right as you pass the Alcázar, the castle, above.

You'll then see a wooden footbridge over the river, so cross it and then take the trail to the left -- now heading the opposite direction -- running past the Alcázar along the other side. The castle sits perched on the cliffs at a point where two river valleys merge.
View up to the castle: now this is one scenic route!
The views of the castle throning above are spectacular here. The trail is now winding its way uphill past cliffs, along the west side of the old town.
Trail up to town
When you're past the castle, you'll see a trail branch off next to the cliffs on the left, heading up to the old walled city above you, straight towards the cathedral tower. Take that rather steep trail up and you'll enter town through the gate, Puerta de San Andrés.
Entering Puerta de San Andrés
You'll enter a plaza with half-timbered houses: turn right, right after entering the gate, and follow the street, Calle Martinez Campos upwards, with the wall to your right side.
Entering the old town
You'll come to the cathedral walls, topped a dome adorned with Gothic spires and gargoyles. Continue rounding the back-end of the cathedral and you'll come out into the town's main square, Plaza Mayor.
Plaza Mayor
This beautiful plaza is lined by the town hall, a theater and various restaurants with their outside tables.
Cathedral spires
Circle the plaza to get a good look, then head back to the cathedral and exit the plaza by heading past the main entrance to the cathedral, northwards along Calle Marques del Arco.
Doorway along Calle Marques del Arco
So now you're heading past the typical old-town houses and shops with ancient doorways, and you'll pass a triangular plaza at the San Andres church, then come out to the green square in front of the castle.
Entering the castle park square
The square is open to everyone, so loop the square and take a close look at the castle and take in the views to each side (you're 1,000 meters high!). 

The Alcázar drawbridge
The current gothic castle is 900 years old, built on the foundations of a Roman fort. The Alcázar is said to be an inspiration for Disney's Cinderella's Castle, which I can readily believe.
In the castle park

Now head back out of the little park and head up the street that splits off from Calle Marques del Arco towards the left, Calle Velarde.

Calle Velarde gate
This little lane will take us into the Knights' Quarter, coming out to San Esteban church with its arcade porch, facing the austere facade of the bishop's palace. 
San Esteban
At the palace, run past its right side along Calle Valdeláguila until you come to the next little square with the outdoor café.

Now turn right and at the next plaza (Plaza Potro) turn right again and in a few steps you'll be back in Plaza Mayor.

Run past the Teatro Juan Bravo and exit the plaza on Calle Serafin, the main shopping street in the neighborhood, with cafés and old stores.
Plaza del Dr. Laguna fountain
In a couple of blocks, a green plaza will open upon the right, Plaza del Dr. Laguna, so turn right and run through the plaza and then turn left onto Calle Rodriguez to head downhill back towards the aqueduct, running past the old seminary.
Cats on the aqueduct where it enters the old town
The street ends at Calle Obispo Gandásegui, where you turn left and approach the upper end of the aqueduct. Now just follow the steps down to Plaza Artillería, next to the aqueduct. You'll exit the city walls and stand in the majestic shadows of the aqueduct again.
Aqueduct view from the steps
Now if this wasn't a scenic run, what is?

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