Valladolid has a bewildering array of churches, statues, palaces, and plazas. I started in the Plaza Mayor, built after a fire in the 16th century. The buildings are all painted in a rich red colour, including the Ayuntamiento or City Hall, which takes pride of place on the northern side. This plaza was the first of its kind in Spain and formed the model for similar squares in Spain and most of South America.
Heading due south through an area of shops including the department store El Corte Ingles, you come to the area called Campo Grande, on the far side of which is the railway station. The Campo Grande is a park, with shade-giving trees containing a small lake with a jet of water. On the southern side is the Oriental Museum and the Iglesia de San Juan de Letran. The Museo Oriental has the largest collection of Oriental art in Spain.
The Augustinian Fathers christianised the Philippines and then headed to China and Japan. As they worked in these countries, they collected the best art they could find and sent it back to Spain. These items, including ceramics, sculptures and paintings, form the basis of the collection in the eighteen rooms of the museum. My fellow tourists in the museum were impressed and said so loudly.
To the east of the museum is the Plaza de Colon with a large statue of Christopher Columbus. Heading north again, I came to the Casa del Principe, the house of the prince, a residential building built in 1906 and an outstanding example of art nouveau architecture. The tower sits above the front door, has five storeys, and is topped by a dome. To the east is the Casa de Cervantes where the writer stayed between 1604 and 1606 during his time in the city. The inside attempts to recreate the atmosphere of a house inhabited by a seventeenth century Spanish nobleman.
Close by on the Plaza de Espana is the colossal facade of the Iglesia de Nuestra Señora Reina de la Paz, completed in 1963, which can’t be missed because of the large parabolic arches that reach high on the facade. I will leave it up to you to decide whether or not the arches are ugly.
Heading up Lopez Gamez Street brings you to the area near the Cathedral. Before visiting the cathedral, head right along R Hernandez to the Convento de las Salesas with behind it the Casa Colon. Christopher Columbus died in this house in 1506. The museum is over four floors and has many interactive exhibits. There are old maps that take you on a journey through Christopher Columbus’s trips to the Americas. The top floor describes Valladolid in the days of the great explorer.
Around four hundred metres north of the cathedral is the Iglesia de San Pablo. If you see one church in Valladolid, make sure it’s this one. I say this because of the carvings on the south-western facade, which are elaborate, beautiful, and many. Cardinal Juan de Torquemada commissioned the church between 1445 and 1468. The cardinal was the uncle of Tomas de Torquemada, Spain’s first Grand Inquisitor. The church was extended and refurbished until 1616 with various sponsors and notables asking for additions to the facade. They baptized King Philip II and King Philip IV of Spain in the church.
The facade of San Pablo is not the finest in Valladolid, though. From San Pablo, fifty metres along the street called Cadenas de San Gregorio is the entrance to the Museo Nacional de Escultura, housed in the former Colegio de San Gregorio. This facade was produced by the workshop of the master craftsman Gil de Siloe and contains children in the branches of a pomegranate tree, crowned lions, and coats of arms. It’s stunning and I can see why they housed the National Museum of Sculpture here.
This museum is on two floors, arranged around a courtyard, and houses works from the 13th to the 18th centuries, mostly from central Spain, though art from Italy and Flanders is included. The major works of art include A Raising of the Cross by Francisco del Rincon, the Adoration of the Magi by Alonso Berruguete, Lamentation of Christ by Juan de Juni, and an amazing Penitent Magdalene by Pedro de Mena dating from 1663-64. This last piece is remarkable. Mary’s hair is in a modern style and her loose dress made me think of 1964 than 1664. There is also the complete set of choir stalls from the church of San Benito de Valladolid. During the Holy Week in Valladolid the national museum of Sculpture provides one hundred and four items from their collection to the brotherhoods for their religious processions.
The main city market, the Mercado de Val, is due south of the museum and just north of the Plaza Mayor. The building is one hundred and twelve metres long and houses several gastro cafes where visitors like me can take a break from their shopping, eat some snacks and choose from a variety of drinks. Just outside the market are some recycling bins for public use where I could discard certain items with no one taking too much notice. I had bought their replacements earlier in my tour around and I felt safer and less likely to be recognised.