Zamora © Ayuntamiento de Zamora
Iglesia de San Juan de Puerta Nueva
The city of Zamora in Castella-León, preserves in its old town an important legacy of Romanesque art, which has earned it the declaration of Historic-Artistic site. Set on the banks of the River Duero and right on the Via de la Plata (Silver Road) route, its medieval importance has left a mark in the shape of walls, palaces and churches. To get to know the history and art of the province better, there is nothing better than looking round one of the towns on the Duero Route or the Via de la Plata. You can get to know it in more depth through its cuisine and traditions, like the celebration of Easter, declared to be of International Tourist Interest.
The Puente de Piedra (Stone Bridge) that crosses the Duero takes you into the city with a strong medieval imprint, known as the City of Romanesque. Its buildings effortlessly take you back to the Middle Ages, a period when the city withstood sieges and attacks. Known as "the Well Protected", because of its triple defensive ring, it preserves the first of these walls almost entirely. Among the stretches of wall, three gates - the Portillo de la Traición, the Puerta de Doña Urraca and the Puerta del Obispo - are outstanding.
Dominating the whole layout are the Castle and the Cathedral.
Surrounded by the Castle Park is this fortress of Arab origin which still preserves its Keep, gate and the moat. Beside it stands the tower and dome of the Cathedral of Zamora, which are undoubtedly its most characteristic elements. The gadroon dome and roof with flakes of stone, in Byzantine style, were built in the 12th century; while the Romanesque tower that accompanies them dates from the 13th. Inside the church, the wrought iron screens and pulpits, the bas-reliefs of the choir stalls and the Neoclassical cloister, which houses the Cathedral Museum, are the outstanding features.
On your way to the Plaza Mayor, through narrow cobbled streets, you can admire a fine set of Romanesque churches, like those of San Ildefonso, La Magdalena or San Cipriano. Vaults with Gothic arches, apses and doorways decorated with plant motifs and the oldest reliefs in the city are some of the jewels that you will encounter in this lovely walk among the monuments. It is worth stopping amid the capitals and archivolts of all the Romanesque churches you will find on your way.
In civil architecture, we should point out some emblematic buildings of Renaissance design: the Hospital de la Encarnación, seat of the Provincial Council; the Old City Hall, ordered to be built by the Catholic Monarchs; the Palace of the Momos, nowadays the seat of the Provincial Courts; and the Cordón Palace, which houses the Museum of Zamora. Another jewel of Renaissance architecture is the Palace of the Counts of Alba de Aliste (15th C.), nowadays a Parador de Turismo. In it you can relax on a canopied bed, admire its courtyards and try the region's culinary specialities. Zamora-style rice, stuffed hake and custard with almonds are some of the suggested of a varied menu centred on products of Castile and León. However, if what you want to do is to follow the customs of this place you should go to the area around Calle Herreros, which you will be served wine from the Toro Denomination of Origin (chato) accompanied by a slice of bacon or fried pork (a tapa).
The best time for coming to Zamora is during the Easter celebrations, a Festival of International Tourist Interest; or in summer, when visitors can walk around the city guided by the medieval legends of the Romancero, which are staged in the most charming corners of the city.
The province of Zamora has interesting historic places set in countryside of great landscape and natural value, which you can get to know through some of the best-known tours of this region. The Vía de la Plata route that links Seville with Oviedo has passed through here since Roman times. On it, you will discover the treasures preserved in Benavente, Valparaíso, and La Hiniesta. The other great spine route through this landscape is the Ribera del Duero. Among its scenery you will find many castles as, in the 10th century, it was the frontier with the Muslim world.
Toro, covered in vineyards, and Arribes del Duero are other points of interest. Lovers of natural areas have the opportunity to go to the Lago de Sanabria Natural Park, where they will find, among lovely mountain landscape, the largest lake in Spain. Its Interpretation Centre shows the best paths for walking around the area.