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Ciudad Real's fascinating history begins in the 13th century, when it was founded by King Alfonso the Wise. Throughout most of its history its diverse population comprised Christians, Muslims and Jews, and these mixed influences are visible still in the city. Little remains of the four kilometres of walls that once surrounded the city, protected by 130 towers, but remnants of those times can still be found scattered around town, the most notable example being the famous Puerta de Toledo. Looking at a map, the historic centre is still clearly identified, marked by where the walls once stood, and the modern city radiates from that centre. It is a small and walkable area, but it packs a punch when it comes to things to see, with beautiful buildings, pleasant squares and labyrinthine alleyways.
Ciudad Real is a city of churches and cathedrals, each more impressive than the last. We have listed below some of the most noteworthy, but there are many more to discover. Be sure to also walk through the winding alleys in the historic centre, and gape in awe at the imposing Puerta de Toledo, a remnant of the ancient city walls.
The best of Mediterranean cuisine is on offer at Ciudad Real's great selection of restaurants, cafes and bistros. Meat dishes feature heavily on menus, as does some seafood, and a slew of creative fusion dishes. If you're looking for a light snack, tapas bars are ubiquitous and offer small bites on a budget. Of course, no meal would be complete without a bottle of the region's finest vintages.
Most cafes in Ciudad Real double as full restaurants or bars, and are thus worth visiting at any time of day or night, and their offering goes well beyond just coffee and pastries. That said, be sure to try a homemade dessert or churros dipped in thick hot chocolate at one of the city's many establishments for a memorable experience.
The best place in Ciudad Real for nightlife is without a doubt Plaza Mayor, around which can be found a slew of restaurants, bars, cafes and nightclubs. Many establishments host regular live music and support local artists, so be sure to check out a show while you're in town.
Ciudad Real is a great literary city, being a centre for Cervantes culture and scholarship, and as such visitors will find many fine bookstores around town. There is also great shopping to be found in the area around Plaza Major, where many fashion boutiques are located. Be sure to also pick up some regional specialities to take home with you.
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