One of the largest cities in the northwest of Spain, Valladolid is the capital of the province of the same name and at the centre of the autonmous community of Castile and León. While not one of the country's top tourist cities, it does have an interesting history and served twice as capital. It is the city where Miguel de Cervantes completed Don Quijote and where Christopher Columbus spent his final years. It has a quaint historical centre, several museums, excellent food and wine and some great festivals going on throughout the year.
You should make sure you take a stroll around the city's most famous park, the Campo Grande, with its fountains, waterfall and aviary. There are several major events too throughout the year in Valladolid. Perhaps the most famous is the SEMINCI, an annual international film festival which is one of the oldest on Europe and has brought to light the work of many a famous director. It usually takes place in October. Another important event, this time in November, is the tapas competition which pits the city's tapas bars against one another. Also hugely important for the city is Holy Week, when huge processions take to the streets of Valladolid with emotional displays of impressive sculptures. The spectacle of art, music and tradition is quite something.
One of the city's major landmarks is the unfinished cathedral, Catedral de Nuestra Señora de la Asunción. Designed by Juan de Herrera under King Philip II when Valladolid was the capital of Spain, funds for the Michelangelo-inspired house of worship were cut once the capital moved back to Madrid. Although never completed as planned, it is still a major attraction housing art and tombs. There are a number of other churches in the city to visit including those of San Pablo, Santa María La Antigua and San Benito. The Santa María la Real de las Huelgas convent is also open to visitors. The Plaza Mayor is at the centre of the old city and from here you can visit many of the historic attractions such as the Royal Palace and the Palace of Los Pimentel. Also of note are the museums dedicated to sculpture (Museo Nacional de Escultura), de Cervantes (Casa de Cervantes) and Christopher Columbus (Casa Museo de Colon).
Getting to Valladolid fro the UK is simple and will usually involve a stopover in Madrid. Prices can be as low as just £100rtn pp at times so it pays to shop around. Alternatively, you could get the ferry over from the south coast to a number of destinations. You could go to Santander from Plymouth, Portsmouth or Poole, Bilbao from Portsmouth or to Gijon from Poole.
Valladolid is a pretty safe place to travel, and does not have a particular reputation for crime. That said, be sensible and avoid showing off any expensive camera kit or jewellery and make sure you do not carry around large amounts of cash on your person lest you do fall prey to a pickpocket.
The major specilaity of the city is lechazo, a kind of suckling pig which has very specific characteristics and which is cooked in a wooden oven. You will be able to find this throughout the city. Also eaten in the area are several wild mushroom dishes and stews made with various pulses. The area is also known for its sweet tooth, having several well known pastires and biscuits, amognst which is the mantecado de Portillo, a biscuit often eaten at Christmas. There are a number of very good wines produced in the region too, the most famuos being Ribera del Duero. Cigales and Rueda are also excellent varieties.
Aside from some souvenir photos of the historial centre, the best thing to bring back from Valladolid is some local wine. The most famous wine comes from the Ribera del Duero region which is one of several designated a denominación de origen. Other fine regions include Rueda and Cigales, both designated as quality regions.