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Located in the mountainous Aragon region of eastern Spain, Teruel is a captivating and exciting city known for its unique Mudéjar style. Despite not yet being on the radar of many international tourists, Teruel is packed with fantastic things to see and do. From UNESCO protected architecture to tragic love stories and exciting annual festivities, there are plenty of reasons to visit this hidden gem in Spain.
Teruel is the capital city of the province of Teruel and makes a great base for exploring the surrounding Moorish towns, such as charming Albarracin (one of my favourite places in all of Spain).
Thinking about visiting? These are all of the top things to do in Teruel, Spain…
See the World’s Greatest Mudejar Architecture
Famous as the “town of Mudéjar”, the number one thing to do in Teruel is to see the city’s world-renowned Mudéjar architecture.
So what exactly is the Mudéjar style?
Mudéjar is an art and architectural style that developed on the Iberian peninsula around the 12-century.
After the Christian ‘Reconquista’ of Spain from the Muslims (Moors), many Muslims remained in Christian territories such as Aragon. These Muslims were called the Mudéjars.
Many Mudéjar workers, such as ceramic and brick artisans, began to work for Christian patrons. These workers would integrate their faith and traditional Islamic artistic styles, such as geometrical decorations, into their work. The style became very fashionable among Christians. And this is how Mudéjar was born.
The Mudéjar style developed from Christian and Muslim cultures existing side by side. Mudéjar can be seen as the reinterpretation of Western styles through Islamic influences.
Mudejar Architecture in Teruel
Teruel is home to one of the greatest concentrations of Mudéjar architecture in all of Spain. The architectural importance of the city even led to it being granted UNESCO World Heritage status in 1986. If you want to experience the beauty and uniqueness of Mudéjar, Teruel is the place to go.
Climb the Escalinata del Óvalo
If you’re entering Turuel from the train station or main car park, the first thing you’ll come across is the stunning Escalinata del Óvalo. The grand Mudejar-style staircase leads up to the historic city centre.
But despite its Mudejar appearance, the staircase is nowhere near as historic as the rest of the city’s most famous Mudejar architecture. It was actually built in the early 1900s to connect the station and the old town.
Regardless, the staircase is a beautiful introduction to what awaits you in Teruel.
Compare El Salvador and San Martín’s Towers
Can you spot the difference between these towers? Don’t worry if you can’t. Teruel’s two most striking Mudejar towers were designed to be pretty much identical.
The legend goes that in the 14th century there were two Muslim architects who worked in Teruel – Abdalá and Omar. Local Christians wanted two Mudejar towers built onto the churches of San Martin and El Salvador. Abdalá and Omar were commissioned as the master builders for the project.
At this time, the two men had also both fallen in love with the same Moor maiden and were trying to win her heart. She liked them both and could not make up her mind. So her father suggested a competition; they would each build one of the towers and whoever finished in the shortest time would win his daughter’s hand.
Omar completed the Tower of San Martin the quickest. However, when he presented his tower, it was leaning slightly forward and was deemed not good enough. So Abdalá won the maiden’s hand. Heartbroken, Omar climbed to the top of his tower and jumped to his death.
It’s a sad story. But an important Teruel legend all the same.
Climb the Towers for Views Over Teruel
While El Salvador and San Martín’s Towers are definitely most impressive for their exteriors, with detailed green and white glazed ceramics, you can also head inside of either.
The towers are each home to small but interesting exhibitions on Mudejar architecture and the history of Teruel, split over several floors.
If you climb the narrow winding staircase to the top of either tower, you can see the working bells and take in the beautiful views across the city and out to the surrounding countryside.
Entry to either of the towers is €2.
Visit the Mausoleum of the Lovers of Teruel
If you enjoyed the tale of the towers, you’ll also be interested in the tragic story of the Lovers of Teruel (Amantes de Teruel).
The Ledgend of the Lovers of Teruel
Taking place in Teruel in 1217, 350 years before Shakespeare wrote Romeo & Juliet, the legend surrounds two important families – Marcilla and Segura.
Juan Diego Garces de Marcilla (aka Diego) and Isabel Segura were childhood friends who fell in love and wanted to marry. But Diego’s family had fallen on hard times and Isabel’s father forbade the marriage.
Diego made an agreement with Isabel’s father that he would leave Teruel for five years to build his fortune. If he did, he could marry Isabel.
Five years to the day, Isabel’s father married Isabel to another man from Albarracin. But right after the wedding ceremony, Diago returned a rich man.
Diago snuck into Isabel’s room that night. He told her he was dying without her love and that he needed a kiss from her. But Isabel would not deceive her new husband and refused the kiss. Diago died at her feet.
The next day, Diago was to be buried at the local church. Isabel turned up in her wedding dress, walked to the front of the church and kissed Diago. In doing so, Isabel also died and fell into his arms.
Isabel and Diago were buried in tombs side by side, and their story quickly spread all across Spain. In the 16th century, the supposed mummies of the lovers were exhumed and put on public display.
Visiting the Mausoleum of the Lovers of Teruel
Today, you can visit the intricately designed tombs in the Mausoleum of the Lovers of Teruel, in the church of San Pedro de Teruel. The tombs depict the couple reaching out to each other in death.
The church offers a guided tour of the ‘Lovers Complex’ of San Pedro. However, this is only in Spanish at the moment. If you don’t speak Spanish, it’s easy to visit on your own. Especially now that you already know the story of Isabel and Diago.
Plus, don’t miss the Torre de San Pedro, which makes up the trio of important Mudejar towers in Teruel along with San Martin and El Salvidor.
The entry ticket to the San Pedro church complex and mausoleum is €9.
Marvel at Teruel Cathedral
It’s hard to miss Teruel Cathedral, with its colourful domes and spires towering above the city skyline.
Catedral de Santa María de Mediavilla de Teruel was originally built in the 12th century in a Romanesque style. In the 13-14th centuries, the church received a Gothic-Mudejar makeover to transform it into the unique piece of architecture you can see today.
The cathedral is stunning from every vantage point, so make sure to take a walk around and admire the grand building from every angle.
See the “Sistine Chapel” of Mudejar Art in Teruel Cathedral
Visiting the inside of the cathedral is another must-do in Teruel.
The cathedral is decorated with many important religious paintings and has a 16th-century wooden Baroque altarpiece. But the most important aspect of the church has to be its beautiful Mudejar ceiling.
Designed by Mudejar artists in the 13th century, the 32-metre long vaulted ceiling has intricate carvings and paintings depicting medieval scenes and figures, with notable Islamic influence.
The remarkable ceiling is often referred to as the “Sistine Chapel” of Mudejar art. You can admire the ceiling from the church floor or climb to the upper balconies to get a closer look.
A ticket for the cathedral is just €3 and includes entry to the Museum of Sacred Art nearby.
Visit a Museum
There are several different museums in Teruel for you to pick from.
Museum of Sacred Art
If you visit the cathedral, it’s definitely worth popping into the Museum of Sacred Art (Museo de Arte Sacro) next door as entry is included in the ticket. The museum sits inside the impressive former Bishop’s residence (Diocesan Palace)and is home to many pieces of religious art and sacred items.
Provincial Museum of Teruel
The Provincial Museum of Teruel is the city’s most important museum, located inside a beautiful 16th-century Renaissance palace. It is home to many archaeological finds from the province, as well as ethnographic pieces depicting local life in the region across its history.
Museum of Bullfighting
Finally, El Museo de la Vaquilla (the Heifer Museum) is a small museum dedicated to the bullfighting tradition in Teruel. The unusual museum features photos of the city’s historic bullring, costumes and bullfighting gear, bullfighting festival posters, and life-size replicas. The museum is located on the outskirts of the city, on Plaza de Toros where the current bullfighting ring also sits.
Explore Underground Medieval Cisterns
Accessed by a small unsuspecting glass building on street level, the Aljibe Medieval de Teruel are a set of three underground vaults that were used to store drinking water for Teruel’s rich during the Medieval period.
The ancient underground system is fascinating to learn about and see for yourself. However, the information boards are all in Spanish, so make sure you have your translation app at the ready.
A ticket to the cisterns costs just €1.20 for an adult.
Climb the Ancient City Walls
The 13th-century Muralla de Teruel once surrounded the entire city of Teruel, with 40 towers defending the provincial capital. Most of the towers and much of the wall has been knocked down or renovated. However, there are some parts of the wall that still remain today.
On a visit to the Muralla de Teruel, you can explore a well-preserved section of the ancient wall. There’s also a small exhibition of siege war machinery from the 14th-century.
Tickets cost €1.20. You can also get a combined ticket for the walls and cisterns for €2.20.
Cross the Viaducto de Fernando Hué
The Viaducto de Fernando Hué is an impressive bridge in Teruel and one of the most important engineering works of the early 20th century in Spain.
The bridge connects the historic centre, surrounded by the old city walls, to the newer part of the city. It was built during a period of huge growth in Teruel.
Not only is the bridge impressive to look at, but it’ll also lead you to a part of the city not often uncovered by tourists. For a more local experience of Teruel, cross over and explore the residential neighbourhood on the other side. The area has lots of grand villas, lovely spacious parks, and one of the best viewpoints in Teruel (see below).
Discover a Hidden Viewpoint
This Teruel Viewpoint is my personal favourite in the entire city.
Surrounded by lush greenery in a quieter residential neighbourhood, the viewpoint offers amazing panoramic views over the orange rooftops and Mudejar towers of Teruel. There are benches to sit on and it doesn’t get too busy so your view won’t be obstructed.
If you can stay until sunset, this is when you’ll get the best views of Teruel!
Address: Rda. de la Liberación, 4, 44001 Teruel.
Soak up the Atmosphere in the Main Squares
Once you’re done exploring everything there is to see and do in Teruel, or you simply need a break, there are several bustling squares where you can sit and enjoy a meal or a few drinks.
Plaza del Torico is the most popular public square in the heart of the historic centre, filled with cafes, restaurants and shops. The square is fairly small and surrounded by tall buildings that tend to block out the sun in areas. You’ll notice that people gravitate towards different restaurants based on the rotation of the sun throughout the day.
Plaza San Juan is a much larger public square that is home to many of Teruel’s political and civil institutions. There are also a couple of cafes on the square with spacious outdoor terraces for enjoying a coffee in the sun.
Order Delicias de Teruel
Any regular readers will know that any travel article of mine isn’t complete without a mention of food!
So, what should you eat in Teruel?
A dish called Delicias de Teruel (delicacies of Teruel) is a must-try. The simple dish can be ordered as a starter or a snack to accompany a glass of local wine. It features locally produced slow-cured Jamón de Teruel D.O. – one of Spain’s most prestigious white hams – with warm toasted bread and a fresh tomato preserve.
Attend a Local Festival in Teruel
If you love experiencing local traditions and events, there’s plenty going on in Teruel throughout the year. Below are the most famous festivities to keep an eye out for.
La Vaquilla del Ángel
La Vaquilla del Ángel (the Angel’s Heifer) is the most popular and important festival held in Teruel each year. It is dedicated to the Holy Guardian Angel, patron saint of the city, and commemorates the legendary foundation of Teruel by Aragonese knights who were led by a brave bull.
The festival is celebrated annually on the Friday-Monday closest to 10th July. Across the four days, there are many musical and dance performances, large processions, massive street parties, plenty of food, bullfights, and the traditional running on the bulls.
Of course, bullfighting isn’t to everyone’s taste. In which case, it’s best to avoid the city at this time of year. Bulls and bullfighting are deeply routed in Teruel’s history and culture.
Las Bodas de Isabel de Segura
Las Bodas de Isabel de Segura (the wedding of Isabel of Segura) is another popular festival that takes place in Teruel around the third weekend of February each year, close to Valentine’s Day.
During the festival, actors recreate the story of the Lovers of Teruel in various productions over three days. The entire city also transforms back to the Middle Ages, with people dressed in traditional attire, food stalls, exhibitions, demonstrations of trades, and flea markets.
How to get to Teruel, Spain
One of the easiest ways to reach Teruel from wherever you’re coming from is by car.
Driving times to Teruel from nearby destinations are:
- Albarracin to Teruel: 38km / approx. 35 mins
- Montanejos to Teruel: 99km / approx 1 hour 10 mins
- Valencia to Teruel: 145km / approx. 1 hour 30 mins
- Zaragoza to Teruel: 176km / approx. 1 hour 45 mins
- Madrid to Teruel: 300km / approx. 3 hours 30 mins
If you prefer public transport, you can take to take the train to Teruel from some of the bigger nearby cities. Although, Teruel is the only provincial capital in mainland Spain without a direct train link to the capital, Madrid.
- Zaragoza to Teruel: 2 hours 30 mins / €30 return
- Valencia to Teruel: 2 hours 30 mins / €30 return
Where to stay in Teruel, Spain
Looking for hotels in Teruel? These are my top recommendations…
- Sercotel Torico Plaza – Sat right on central Plaza del Torico, you really can’t beat this hotel on location. The rooms are spacious with great views over the square, and a varied buffet breakfast is available daily.
- Hotel Palacio La Marquesa – A beautiful, modern 4* hotel sat inside a historic palace, right in the heart of the city, with private parking, a restaurant, bar, and fitness suite.
- Tirwal Suite – For more space, this 3 bedroom appartment is a great value choice. The charming apartment can sleep up to 8 people and has a fully equipped kitchen and a washing machine.
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