900 years of the most beautiful village in Guadalajara

The town of Sigüenza is an open-air museum of the Middle Ages, where time is sheltered in its travesañas. A favourite rural destination for its beauty and unexpected gifts, it is celebrating its 900th birthday this year (although it has been around long before that).

© Jesus Angel Gomez Vazquez / Shutterstock

The great emblem of Sigüenza is its castle. As you approach the town it is impossible not to see it, perched on the top of a hill, imposing and announcing the history that permeates here. The name of this town refers to its victories, to the success it had in remaining here over time, and this fortress only reinforces this. Once intimidating, this castle is now a magnet for visitors craving the charm of the Middle Ages and the intricacies of nobility and royalty.

It has existed since the 12th century, but was built on the foundations of the citadel that provided defence during the Muslim domination, of which no trace remains. What is there now is this postcard of Sigüenza, with its iconic fairytale barbican, with its flags flying from the top of the towers.

El castillo de Sigüenza.

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Although the adjective for this town is always "medieval", and it celebrates its ninth centenary in 2024, the reality is that this town - which now has around 4,500 inhabitants - has been here since much earlier. The Romans, back in the 1st century BC, already spoke of this town and its importance, and even before that, this area in the heart of the Iberian Peninsula was privileged by human settlement. Sigüenza has been here for more than two thousand years.

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Historic-Artistic Site

These historical evidences are collected as you go down from the castle to discover the narrow streets, narrow passages and doorways. The houses, almost all of them white and with reddish gabled roofs, are all at the foot of the fortress. But this is not its only monument; it also has the Cathedral, the Plaza Mayor and the Church of Santiago, which was left in ruins after the bombardments of the Civil War and is now an interpretation centre dedicated to the hermitages and temples of the area. Recent discoveries in the area include the foundations of a defensive tower, which turns out to be the only Muslim remains.

The reality is that Sigüenza has no shortage of things to see. Its squares, small squares, doorways and gates, where time has left its mark and charm, make a walk through this town a delight. It is not for nothing that the town was named a Historic-Artistic Site in 1965. A good example is the Plazuela de la Cárcel, which has terraces under its arcades where people sit to have a vermouth. There is also the museum inside the Casa del Doncel, a 15th century Gothic building in honour of the town's most famous figure, Martín Vázquez de Arce, who was not really a doncel at all but became very famous because of the Gothic statue of him in the town's cathedral.

Martín Vázquez de Arce, el docel de Sigüenza.

- © Francisco Javier Diaz / Shutterstock

In its house, the museum, the most remarkable thing to see is the architecture, which, between labyrinthine corridors, contains Mudejar decorations that show the Muslim influence. But above all, it is worth seeing the towers that crown the cathedral of Santa María de Sigüenza.

Al fondo, la Catedral de Sigüenza.

- © Jon Chica / Shutterstock

The most beautiful village in Guadalajara

Through the door of the cathedral you come out onto the Plaza Mayor, another of the main attractions of Sigüenza, which is not only architecturally beautiful, with its portals and façades that show the ochre-coloured stones with which they are made. It is also a sign of changing times, as its creation, in the late Middle Ages, symbolised the passage from times of war to times of exchange and trade. Here they placed the market, surrounded by houses that were given to the aristocratic clergy to combat the humble neighbourhoods that were forming between the castle and the river Henares. Now these mansions are, above all, hotels.


The Alcuneza Viewpoint

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Vista aérea a la plaza mayor y la catedral.

- © Jon Chica / Shutterstock

All the surrounding streets are charming. In shades of cream, ochre and reddish, the streets follow one after the other vertically, going down from the castle to where Sigüenza ends and the surrounding hamlets and pine forests begin. Almost all the way down is the Alameda, a park that is more like an impeccable French garden, surrounded by more monuments that emphasise the town's recognisability: the hermitage of El Humilladero, the** Monastery of Las Ursulinas**, and the*gothic churchof Santa María de los Huertos*, which is often ignored during visits, but is a late Gothic jewel built on the site of an ancient hermitage.

The personality of Sigüenza is complex: at the same time it has been there almost longer than our historical capacity can collect, and yet it is not a ruin, it does not lack life; that is where it draws vitality to renew itself without fail in its rural, calm and authentic spirit. It is a charming place, with many things to do and streets to walk through, excellent for a weekend of leisurely rhythms.

Las callejuelas medievales de Sigüenza.

- © Juan Enrique del Barrio / Shutterstock
by Sofia Viramontes
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