Valladolid began to become important from the 11th century, when Count Ansúrez came to govern the city in the name of Alfonso VI. It reached its peak during the reign of the Catholic Monarchs (15th century), when the university became one of the most important in the country. And, playing a leading role in key episodes in Spanish history, Valladolid has twice been the capital, firstly with Carlos I (16th century) and later with Felipe III (17th century).
The capital of Castella-León preserves an important heritage of monuments in its old quarter, especially aristocratic houses and religious buildings. Outstanding among them is the unfinished Cathedral. The architect Juan de Herrera was commissioned by King Felipe II to design the original scheme in the 16th century. The death of both left the church unfinished and its central body was not opened until 1668. Years later, in 1730, Master Churriguera finished the work on the main front. Inside the cathedral, the great chapel houses a magnificent reredos made by Juan de Juni in 1562.
Other interesting churches are the Gothic church of Santiago, with an important reredos depicting the Adoration of the Magi, created by Berruguete in 1537, and the church of Santa María la Antigua, with its unusual pyramid-shaped Romanesque tower.
The 16th-century Plaza Mayor, presided over by a statue of Count Ansúrez, is right in the heart of the city. On one side of it stands the City Hall, a building crowned by the clock tower. In the nearby streets are many large houses and palaces. The Palace of Los Pimentel, today the seat of the Provincial Council, is one of the most important, as King Philip II was born in it. The 16th-century Palace of the Marquises of Valverde, and that of the banker Fabio Nelli - a building with a Classicist stamp built in 1576 - should also be pointed out. The Museum of Valladolid occupies this complex, exhibiting a collection of furniture, sculptures, paintings and ceramic pieces.
The University, whose Baroque façade is decorated with various academic symbols, and the Santa Cruz College, which as well as housing a valuable library forms one of the first examples of the Spanish Renaissance, say much about the cultural importance of Valladolid.
The city preserves houses where great historical characters once lived, like the Casa de Cervantes, where the author of Quijote lived with his family between 1603 and 1606. As a curiosity, it was in this house where the writer gave his masterpiece the finishing touches. A visit to the house-museum enables you to get to know the way of life of a noble family in the 17th century through possessions and furniture from the time. You can also visit the Christopher Columbus House-Museum, where the navigator spend the last years of his life. Nowadays the palace exhibits various pieces and documents related to the discovery of America.
From 19th century Valladolid, the house where one of the provincial capital's most illustrious characters - José Zorrilla - was born is preserved. The house, which is open to the public, brings together various personal possessions, furniture and documents that belonged to the Romantic writer.
As a city that has experienced notable urban growth in the last few decades, Valladolid offers a wide range of leisure and cultural opportunities: cinemas, theatres and museums, like the National Sculpture Museum, at its site in San Gregorio College. This splendid Flemish Gothic style building - one of the most outstanding buildings in the provincial capital - is important for its exhibition of polychrome carvings made by artists like Alonso Berruguete or Gregorio Fernández. The Museum of Contemporary Spanish Art, located in the Herreriano Courtyard, one of the cloisters of the former Monastery of San Benito, preserves more than 800 paintings and sculptures from the 20th century.
An important event is the Seminci, the International Film Festival, one of the events not to be missed in the Spanish cinema calendar.
Valladolid's province is revealed through different tours like those along the Red Wine Route and the Knight's Route, which lead to the "Alma de Castilla" and the "Tierra de Campos".
To tour this whole area you can stay in the excellent facilities of the Parador de Turismo at Tordesillas. It is also a good place for trying Valladolid cuisine, where the roast lamb and suckling pig are famous. Castilian soup, cod with garlic and game dishes are also famous. To accompany these recipes there is nothing better than the wines with Denomination of Origin from the province: Ribera del Duero, Cigales, Rueda and Toro.