Anything But Paella

Albarracin – amazing antique architecture!

Albarracín is one of those places that really needs to be added on everyone’s “to do” list of Spain. Just two hours drive from both Zaragoza and Valencia, and about three and a half from Madrid, it’s far enough away to be considered off the beaten track but not so far as to put you off. It’s the sort of place that you can just wander around and soak up the atmosphere whilst wondering which Bond film or episode of Game of Thrones must have been filmed there. The truth is, other than a recent version of El Cid, nothing mainstream has used this incredible backdrop for their productions.

Most people will reach Albarracín on the road from the regional capital, Teruel. On the way the road passes by the aircraft storage unit at Teruel Airport where hundreds of passenger jets await an upturn in their fortunes. The closer you get to the town, the more sinuous the road becomes and there are some outstanding views along the way. A huge car park is available for visitors alongside the river. From there it’s on foot all the way so bring some suitable shoes!

From the road running by the river there are two options for entering the old town. A gentle but cobbled slope runs up the right hand side, or a series of steep steps takes you directly up to the main square. Both will leave you feeling you’ve had a workout, but your exercise doesn’t stop there! Wandering aimlessly through the narrow streets is a lot of fun, and make sure you stop for some refreshments at one of the many establishments you’ll come across. The Plaza Mayor is as good a place as any, and we really enjoyed La Taberna both for the decor (cave paintings included) and their great service. There are a few museums, some offering guided tours, but on the day of our visit the weather was perfect for outdoor exploration and, no matter how far up you think you’ve already climbed, the old walls are tantalisingly close encouraging you to push on higher!

Several tracks lead up to the highest section of well preserved walls. From there the views are truly breathtaking in every sense of the word. Keep an eye out above for the occasional vulture swooping by for a closer look. There are warnings telling you not to climb on the upper walls, although they are in Spanish only. Despite this, we saw many family groups who clearly know better.

Back in town the narrow streets continue past the impressive cathedral eventually coming to the square tower, the hermitage and the cemetery. It is possible to walk down to the river but it will add a good few kilometres each way onto your ramblings, and remember – what goes down must come back up!

It is also worth the short diversion to see some of the riverside path closer to the car park. The river is a refreshing sight running through the middle and the metal bridge sways as you cross. There is a warning to limit the number of people crossing at any one time but once again the attitude to this safety instruction is lackadaisical at best! The old water wheel is worth seeing, and as you walk alongside the river keep a look out for fish hiding in the shadows. They really do exist, but not everyone can see them!!

Albarracín really is a photographer’s dream. Perhaps it should be a film-maker’s dream too. Enjoy the pictures and make sure you put it on your list.

We stayed at the Hotel Atiana. It was an easy 15 minute walk out of town. The rooms were comfortable and the staff were very friendly. Staying there meant we didn’t have to worry too much about parking which can be at something of a premium the closer to the action you get. One problem we had was eating. It was the tail end of a holiday weekend and all the restaurants were fully boooked! Staying for two nights meant we were able to make a reservation for the second night, but the holiday crowd seemed to have dispersed by then anyway. Places we enjoyed were:
El Molino del Gato where we drank wine, ate a huge block of cheese and a big chunk of chorizo!
Hotel Arabia who served great tapas on their sun-soaked terrace. It’s a former convent.
The Terrace of the Bar Restaurant Casino with its amazing views and delicious local food (mountain and river).

Oh, and by the way, I did find one film that was made (partially at least) in Albarracín. Christian Bale’s The Promise is set during the last days of the Ottoman Empire at the onset of First World War. The scenes filmed here represent an ethnic Armenian village. If you watch it, some of the locations are clearly identifiable as Albarracín once you have visited.

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