The Hanging Houses are thought to have been originally built in the 15th, but were slowly added to, up until the 18th century. Renovations also took place in the 1920s. There were many of them built around this time period, but today only a few remain. The three that can be visited are the most iconic, with wooden balconies clinging to the edge.
The Hanging Houses are so amazing as they appear to defy gravity, clinging to the edge of a vertical cliff, over the Cuenca Gorge. Standing over the ravine like ancient skyscrapers, some stand at around seven stories high. If you stand on one of the balconies, you’re essentially floating over the gorge itself.
The Hanging Houses are located in the Spanish region of Castilla La Mancha, famed for being the setting of Miguel de Cervantes’ novel, Don Quixote (1615). As well as dramatic clifftops, ravines and gorges, the region is famous for its old windmills.
UNESCO has inscribed the historic city of Cuenca on its list of heritage sites, not only because of the Hanging Houses, but also because of its old city wall, medieval fortress, Spain’s first Gothic cathedral and other pieces of religious architecture from the 12th to the 18th centuries.
One of the Hanging Houses today houses the Spanish Museum of Abstract Art. It displays a collection of paintings and sculptures by Spanish artists from the abstract generation of the 50s and 60s. Artists whose work features here include Antoni Tàpies, Eduardo Chillida and Fernando Zobel.
Head inside the Hanging Houses and you get one of the most incredible views of the Cuenca Gorge, the Puente de San Pablo bridge and the dramatic rock formations around. Conversely, if you want the best view of the houses themselves, the best view is from the Puente de San Pablo bridge.
Look around the city of Cuenca and you’ll find many other interesting buildings built into the cliffside – more ancient tower blocks, some over 10 stories high. Today around 55,000 residents still live in these buildings.