The wall around the city of Avila is one of the best kept, medieval walled enclosures in Europe. It is two and a half kilometre around and has 2,500 crenellations, a hundred towers, six gates and three openings.
The Gate of Leales, one of the main entrances into the ancient city, leads directly to the cathedral, a temple which resembles a fortress, erected between the 12th and 14th centuries and the apse of "cimorro" is attached to the wall, making it the largest round turret of the whole bastion.
Within the wall, medieval corners such as the Plaza de los Dávila blend with more than a dozen Renaissance houses of noble lineage. But the most remarkable building is the Palace of Davila. It is a severe fortress consisting of four houses, the oldest of which dates back to the 13th century.
Nearby is the Tower of Guzmanes, erected in the 16th century. These are only a few of the more than a hundred mansions and palatial residences that existed in Avila between the 16th and 18th century. The square of Mercado Chico is the city centre and where the ancient Roman forum stood.
There are a great number of churches and convents scattered around the city. In Plaza de Santa Teresa is the convent of the same name, built in 1636 on top of the house where Santa Teresa del Jesús was born. The building, with a Baroque frontage, houses an important collection of carvings made by sculptor Gregorio Fernandez, in addition to a chapel, remarkable for its profuse ornamentation, devoted to the Saint.
Avila beyond the confines of the wall
Beyond the confines of the walled enclosure is the monastery of Encarnacion, erected in the 16th century and where Santa Teresa lived as a nun for more than 20 years.
Another building worth a visit is the Basilica of San Vicente, erected in the 12th century next to the site where three Saints were martyred during times of the Roman emperor Diocletianus. This temple is considered to be the most beautiful example of Romanesque architecture in the city, even though there are later additions. Behind the basilica is the church of San Andres, a Romanesque building that has most important decorated capitals still preserved in the city.
From the Romanesque period is the church of San Pedro, one of the oldest in Avila, dating back to the 12th and 13th centuries, most noted for it's great Cistercian rose window in the front of the building.
Beyond the confines of the city walls, though near the Gate of Leales, is the Palace of the Deans. Originally a monumental sixteenth-century house built to accommodate the consecutive cathedral deans. These buildings currently house the a Museum, which holds interesting collections of archaeology, ethnography and fine arts. In addition, the museum has an annexe - the old church of Santo Tomé the Elder (12th century).
The Isabelline Gothic monastery of Santo Tomás, finished in 1493 during the reign of the Catholic Monarchs, was the summer residence of the Spanish Royal Family. This group of buildings is dominated by a large church with only one nave, orgive vaults and a few side chapels.
Gastronomy and the outskirts
In any of the restaurants in Avila you can taste the excellent regional cuisine. Outstanding are the delicious roasted suckling pig and lamb (asados de cochinillo y cordero), as well as the famous chuleton de ternera, veal T-bone steak from Avila. Also available in Avila are the delicious yemas de Santa Teresa (a sweet made with egg and sugar).
There is a good selection of accommodation available in Avila, from bed & breakfast to the more expensive Parador de Ávila (Avila Inn) which stands on top of the ancient palace of Piedras Albas.
The province also has important archaeological sites well worth a visit, such as Castro de Cogotas, one of the most significant in Spain and Toros de Guisando, which has stone sculptures of Celtic origin.
The Sierra de Gredos Nature Reserve is a worth a visit.