In Ciudad Real, a city in La Mancha founded by Alfonso X “The Wise”, in 1255, heritage, history, Quixotic culture and the renowned traditional gastronomy, complemented by the typical tapas, all blend together. At the same time, thanks partly to the boost that came with the arrival of the AVE high-speed train, it is a modern, young city with its streets full of life, a city of constant progress and growth.
Standing out together with its three beautiful Gothic churches, the Puerta de Toledo and the museums, is the figure of Don Quixote, who is to be found in every one of its squares and corners, with a museum devoted solely to him, as well as the Cervantes Library for those who wish to study the author.
In the surrounds, very close to the city, on the banks of the River Guadiana, is the Alarcos Archaeological Park, the origin of the city’s history, in a landscape characterised by the volcanic lakes of the Campo de Calatrava area.
MEETING OF PASSIONS
Easter Week in Ciudad Real has been declared a festival of National Tourist Interest, and it includes an activity that runs in parallel to the religious celebrations, with a gastronomic campaign called “Meeting of Passions” in which the bars, restaurants and bakeries of the city offer tapas, the meagre dishes typical of Lent and seasonal sweets.
A walk through the centre of Ciudad Real will unveil its most significant heritage and, if you have time, you can visit the Alarcos – Calatrava la Vieja Archaeological Park.
Don’t miss the main square, the Plaza Mayor, with its peculiar neo-Gothic town hall, and the Carillon Clock on the Casa del Arco, the former town hall, from which the figures of Cervantes, Don Quixote and Sancho Panza emerge with the chimes.
Another unmissable visit is the “Gothic triangle”, made up of the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Prado (15th century), which was the heart of the Moorish quarter of Villa Real, the former name of the city; the Church of San Pedro (14th century), which marked the boundary of the old Christian quarter; and the Church of Santiago (13th century), once the nucleus of the city’s Jewish quarter.
The gardens and parks offer pleasant walks as well as the opportunity to see some of the emblematic sculptures of the city, such as the “La Talaverana” fountain, and benches with different motifs from Don Quixote in the Gasset Park. The Prado Gardens, opposite the Cathedral, house another example of sculpture representative of local culture, in this case, of the Pandorga festival.
The arrival of the AVE high-speed train in Ciudad Real was a great leap forward in shortening distances – Madrid, the capital of Spain, is now less than an hour away. Both the railway station and the intercity bus station are located within the city, close to the centre, and they connect Ciudad Real with the rest of the region and the country. There are also city bus services and taxis as well as car hire companies to help you move around the city and visit the surrounding areas.
Hiking is one of the main attractions. Ciudad Real is close to areas of natural beauty which offer different walking routes. Among the recommendations are: the volcanic lake at Posadilla, which is on section 4 of the Quixote Route, the Forest Park at Atalaya, the Stork Route on the Sancho Rey Walk and the Poblachuela Greenway, which is section 8 of the Quixote Route.
Festivities are held all year round, including the Carnival, Easter Week, the Mayos, the Alarcos pilgrimage, Corpus Christi, the International Folklore Festival, the Pandorga and the August Fair.
To enjoy the nightlife, visit the area known as El Torreon, where different venues with a variety of styles open their doors at night.
Ciudad Real has inherited a cuisine that has been shaped by the ways of life and the cultures that have inhabited these lands: austere yet varied cuisine, simple country fare, as described by Miguel de Cervantes in his brilliant novel, Don Quijote de La Mancha, Don Quixote. Cheese and wine, both with Designations of Origin, are staples, together with game, both large and small. Partridges and quails, the excellent cured sausages of boar meat and deer are typical of the province.
Lovers of fine food and wine will be interested in the events created to celebrate the gastronomy and enology of the area, such as the celebration of Alfonsi Cuisine, which recreates the dishes and menus typical of the times of Alfonso X “The Wise” (13th century), the Delibo Vinum Wine Tasting event held regularly in the Old Casino, and Tapearte Ciudad Real, an event in which the bars and restaurants of the city compete to make the best tapa, and these little delicacies are offered free with every drink.
The shops of Ciudad Real are full of products with Designations of Origin. Among the olive oils are “Aceite del Campo de Calatrava”, “Aceite de los Montes de Toledo” and “Aceite del Campo de Montiel”. You can also ask for the “Azafran de La Mancha”, saffron with its own Designation of Origin, and the Protected Geographical Indication of such select products as melons (Melón de La Mancha), aubergines (Berenjenas de Almagro) and bread (Pan de Cruz de Ciudad Real).
And, of course, the two products that define and have brought world fame to this land, cheese and wine. The Queso Manchego Designation of Origin guarantees that it is made with the milk of manchega sheep, an autochthonous breed that is also covered by the Cordero Manchego Protected Geographical Indication.
There are two great Designations of Origin for La Mancha wine, “Vino de Valdepeñas” and “Vino de La Mancha”, which have recently been joined by the “Vinos de Pago” Designation of Origin and the “Vinos de la Tierra de Castilla” Protected Geographical Indication.
There are numerous shops and stores in Ciudad Real to buy these products. The busiest streets are General Aguilera, General Rey, Plaza del Pilar, Plaza Mayor, Carlos Vazquez, Paloma, Toledo, Calatrava and Ciruela.