Cuenca is a city built on a mountainside in eastern-central Spain. Founded by Moors, the city still retains its steep cobbled streets and medieval castle ruins. While you might not have heard of this smaller-sized city, it is actually famous for its well-preserved “Casas Colgadas,” or Hanging Houses. The hanging houses are cantilevered over the gorge giving the impression that they almost magically cling to the side of the cliff.
I describe Cuenca’s Casas Colgadas as an incredible architectural feat that mixes the feeling of magic from Harry Potter with the enchantment and mysteriousness of Studio Ghibli’s Howl’s Moving Castle. Come nighttime, an eerie purple glow sweeps through the house making it look as though spirits may be roaming the inside. I don’t know the exact source of the light. With the way the houses seemingly levitate right over the gorge, I half expected one to just slide the rest of the way off and continue to float over the water at night.
Cuenca and The Casas Colgadas
Having already heard so many stories about Cuenca from Jorge and his family who have relatives from the same province, I was captivated to go and see it for myself. The city was all new to me since I hadn’t made it there during my previous visit to Spain. My knowledge about Cuenca was limited to what his family had told me about it. By visiting Cuenca during this trip, I’d get to experience a whole new part of Spain while also meeting Jorge’s grandparents for the first time!!! Wow!
The Cuenca Cathedral
In Cuenca, I was constantly in a state of awe everywhere we went. Nature. The architecture. The colors. Unbelievable! While the Casas Colgadas were a remarkable sight and reason enough to visit, the fact of the matter is that they were actually but one of many other astounding things you can see and do while experiencing Cuenca.
At the center square, you can find the Cuenca Cathedral. The gothic-style architecture is something seriously impressive to behold. As the sun sets, the Nuestra Señora de Gracia Cathedral is illuminated and radiates back the glow from the sun as though it were constructed from precious yellow gold. I’ve never seen anything like it before in my life.
Don’t Confuse It With Cuenca, Ecuador
Funny story: I posted a photo of the Cuenca Cathedral on social media and my friend commented, “Rocky! You’re in Cuenca? My family lives there!!!” I couldn’t believe it! Talk about a small world! I felt a bit confused though because I specifically remembered her telling me her family was from South America. After a bit of discussion, we realized there is also a Cuenca in Ecuador and supposedly, they have a somewhat similar-looking Cathedral there as well.
It may not exactly be gothic-style architecture like the one in Cuenca, Spain but I can definitely see how you could confuse the two at a glance. What a crazy coincidence!
Sunsets in Cuenca
Speaking of cathedrals and sunsets, can we take a moment just to appreciate how stunning this view is? A short walk away from the Cathedral is an overview that looks out toward the mountains where you can watch the sky shift in color as night approaches.
During the day from that same spot, you can see one of the most gorgeous landscapes in the world. Cuenca’s mountains are lined with trees. Nature there is mostly untouched with only a small road indicating any sign of human existence in the nearby area. Seeing the mountains (almost*) true to the way they were meant to be was refreshing in a way I can’t even put into words. Here was my attempt to capture it in a photo.
The Hills Have Eyes – Literally
Barrio Del Castillo
The San Pablo Bridge
Near the Casas Colgadas, there is a tiny bridge you can cross that is suspended overtop a deep void. The entire bridge is caged in and illuminated at night. It is very skinny and long with only a tiny bit of support holding it in place. I’m not going to lie, I’m not even scared of heights but I was terrified to step foot on it.
Still, if you can muster up enough courage to cross the bridge, it is totally worth it. Not only is crossing the rickety bridge an experience on its own but from the other side of the gorge, you can enjoy an even nicer view of the Casas Colgadas.
The Streets of Cuenca
The trek to get to the most historical and tourist-friendly part of the city is quite scenic. This picture of the colorful buildings was taken at Calle Alfonso VIII, Cuenca. You’ll definitely want to wear comfortable shoes because you have to do a lot of uphill walking which includes taking a number of stairs.
Construction on the mountains can be so beautiful. The uneven ground on which homes are built becomes quite apparent given the steep drop offs and hills at the end of a leveled property.
Learning About Cuenca From the Locals
This is a painting of the most famous Hanging House that Jorge’s grandparents still have in their home. As you can see, the Casas Colgadas are a very important piece of Cuenca’s history. While I had the amazing opportunity of learning about Cuenca’s history from people who have actually lived there, the city offers a number of guided tours for visitors who also want to learn about Cuenca’s history.
Cuenca was a wonderful city in Spain. I’m beyond grateful to have had the opportunity to visit it with people who know the city inside and out. Cuenca, Spain may not hold the same touristy appeal that larger cities like Madrid and Barcelona have but the history and views of nature were so captivating, I will never be able to forget what I saw there.