Since Roman times, Segovia has been a city of commerce and one monument from that historic era is the Aqueduct, a Roman construction designed and built to supply the city with fresh water from the mountains.
The Romans left behind many examples of engineering and architecture across Europe, but the Aqueduct of Segovia holds a special place in the heart of Spain for its beauty and usefulness – the structure was maintained and operational until the mid-19th century. Today, this structure and the rest of the historic town is a top tourist destination, especially since all its wonders are a short, hour-long drive from Madrid.
A place in history
At first glance, the Aqueduct looks like a bridge, but it’s much more than that. The Romans had a complex system of engineering, and this structure was used to bring water from the Frio River in the mountains to Segovia during the Roman occupation in the 1st century A.D.
Even the caches where figures of Hercules were once rumoured to sit as they protected the waterway still exist, although now those spaces are occupied by Saint Stephen and the Patroness of Segovia.
Overall, it’s one of the very few Roman projects still relatively intact, and it holds a place of honour as a UNESCO World Heritage Site as well as many world historical site lists. The two-level structure is now a beloved icon of the city, and is even depicted on the city’s official coat of arms.
How it survived
Aside from bringing an essential service to the old city, the Aqueduct is a feat of superior planning and construction. Built from native granite, the structure spans approximately 18 kilometres and is approximately 29 meters high. No mortar joins the massive stones; it was all constructed with amazing precision by stonecutters, including the numerous arches on each level which assist in supporting the structure.
Even in ancient times, the city leaders knew its value and pursued a course of careful conservation through the centuries. The Aqueduct has undergone occasional restoration projects, most notably in the 15th century and the 20th century. Interestingly, it has been most threatened by the elements in our modern times, as the air and sound pollution from cars, trucks and parking lots abound. Out of seven aqueducts built by the Romans in Spain, only three survive and the one in Segovia is the best preserved.
Beyond the Aqueduct
The Aqueduct of Segovia leads directly into the historical district of the city. While the Aqueduct may be the oldest point of interest in this section, there are still many breathtaking historical sites, including the Alcazar, also known as the Castle, built in the 12th century, and the 16th century cathedral, a building contrary to the Gothic style and filled with light from massive windows.It was the last Gothic church built in the country.
Inside, the cathedral also has areas constructed in the Medieval and Renaissance styles, along with artworks by such noted artists as Van Eyck and Morales. In the historic district are several more must-see churches, including Iglasia de la Vera Cruz, a church founded in 1208 by the Knights Templar, and the Church of St. Millan, a Spanish Romanesque structure built in the 12th century and housing many items and artworks.
Lodging options near historic Segovia include the Parador Hotel, which offers some of the best views of the town, including the castle and the Aqueduct; the Hotel Condes de Castilla, a historic hotel conveniently in the middle of the district; and the Acueducto Hotel, which is located within a couple of minutes walk to the Aqueduct itself.