Three of us took the Intercity train (called the Inter by Renfe) from Atocha station to Cuenca, a pleasant ride of about an hour in tourist class. We left Madrid at 9:50 am and returned on the 6:24 train.
A note on obtaining train tickets. For almost two months, I tried to buy Renfe tickets to Cuenca on line. The tickets to Toledo were no problem - got them on the second try. The tickets to Cuenca were impossible. The message from Renfe was that the tickets had not been released. I finally got them from ACP four days before leaving the US. ACP told me that you have to buy the going and returning tickets separately - even though their site and the Renfe site clearly offer the possibility of return tickets. ACP was to email the tickets to us. They did not arrive. When I called back, ACP told me that the bank had not approved the charge. I called the bank as it showed as pending on my account. My bank had accepted the charge. The woman at ACP told me I would have to order the tickets again for them to release them. We had a disagreement over the phone where she told me the tickets had been sent to the second passenger not to me. I said I had paid for the tickets and I needed the email with them and she finally sent them. (The second person never received an email.)
From the train station in Cuenca, you can take either a taxi at about 12 Euro or a bus at 1.25 Euro to the Plaza Mayor in front of the Cathedral in the Old Town. The bus runs every hour and half hour. It takes 30 minutes to get between the train station and the town.
The tourist office is located near the Plaza and is key to planning a visit because of the limited information available beforehand. The office had maps, suggestions, and a schedule of open hours for the museums. The staff was very pleasant and helpful, but only spoke Spanish. Our taxi driver to the tourist office tried to convince us to do the "tourist circuit" with him for an hour at 30 Euro. We found we were better walking to most of the things we wanted to see such as the hanging houses, the castle, the Parador, and the Abstract Art Museum that is located in one of the remaining hanging houses.
Some notes: If we were to do it again, we would probably do an overnight trip. Most things are closed between 2 and 4pm. Some, like the cathedral, close between 2 and 5pm. There are some interesting things to see outside of town which we eliminated because of time constraints.
We had wanted to visit the Tunnels of Alfonso. It turns out the tunnels are only open on the weekend and Monday or for private groups of 20 or more that book in advance. Wish we had known ahead of time. Perhaps this information is available on the internet, but we didn't find it. We tried to arrange a private, bi-lingual guide for Cuenca in advance, but the one recommended to us was out of town during our visit.
The tourist office is very helpful, but they only provide advice in Spanish. There is not a lot of English spoken in the town. There are guided tours, but in Spanish. Two of us speak Spanish, but it was a bit frustrating for our companion who had to wait for translations.
The old town is very clean and attractive. Many of the "streets" are for foot traffic only. There are steep hills. You can get a taxi to take you up to the castle and then walk down. Wish we had done that instead of walking both ways. The views are wonderful - both the views from
the city to the other side of the gorges and in the city to the attractive, colorful houses.
We really enjoyed the Abstract Art Museum that is in a hanging house that has been renovated specifically for the purpose. The art selections were interesting and well displayed. Cuenca is very fortunate to have the museum and the art works. For some reason, most of the artworks going to the top of the museum are very dark. Coming down they tend to be lighter in color and impact. Not sure if this was deliberate. Since the staircases tend to be narrow, there is one-way circulation. Entry to the museum is free.
The Parador is a converted convent. It has great views toward the city and was enjoyable to walk through. Unfortunately, the casual dining room was closed for a private event. Although they offered to serve us in the lounge area, it was apparent service would be very slow. We walked back to town. The restaurant we had been told about that had existed in a hanging house had been closed.
Most of the tourists we saw were Spanish and traveling in groups. Maybe they don't receive a lot of international visitors.