The City of Cáceres. The Monumental City of Caceres, one of Spain’s main tourist attractions, has been declared Unesco World Heritage Site since 1986.
The city of Caceres is located in western Spain, in the center of what was in ancient times the Roman province of Lusitania. Today, Caceres is the capital of its province, also called Caceres, in the north of Extremadura.
Caceres has a population of almost 100,000 inhabitants, making up 23% of the province's population. It is the region's second most populous city after Badajoz. Furthermore, the municipality of Caceres is the largest in Spain in terms of area, covering over 1,750 km2.
The European Council declared the Old Town of Caceres as the third Monumental European Ensemble, after Prague and Tallinn, the capitals of Estonia and the Czech Republic. Later in 1986, UNESCO declared it as a World Heritage Site.
Human presence in Caceres dates as far back as one million years ago, as evidenced by the remains found in the cave of “El Conejar y Maltravieso”. Traces of Upper Paleolithic, Neolithic and Bronze Age settlements have also been found here. In the first century, the Romans settled permanently with the Norba Caesarina colony (hence the name of Caceres), along the Via de la Plata, an important road linking the north and south west of Hispania.
Little is known about the city's history between the fifth and tenth century, when it was under Muslim control. In the thirteenth century, the city was permanently taken by Alfonso IX and it suffered from various different internal disputes until the last third of the fifteenth century when Isabella I of Castile eased tensions and established the structure and organization of a new city.
It was in this era that they started to build a number of churches over the ancient mosques and palaces that occupied the site of the former Muslim fortress. These have survived until today to make up the most complete and best preserved Old Town from the middle Ages and Renaissance eras in Spain.
The Old Town of Caceres
The old part of the city is mainly intramural adobe walls built by the Arabs, which remain almost in their entirety. The following figures can give you a rough idea of the monumental splendor and density of this historic center, where you will find: the Cathedral of St Mary, three churches, a chapel and two convents, alongside 11 palaces, 15 noble houses, 7 gates or arches of access to the old town, and 21 defense towers. No other city offers such a great concentration of monuments as Caceres.
Entering the plaza mayor of the city, framed by the town hall, the Bujaco Tower, the Tower of the Pulpits, the Tower of the Grass, the House of “los Ribera” and the Chapel of Peace, you reach the Arco de la Estrella, which is the main gateway to the site of the old city. Head inside for a nice walk around the three neighborhoods where you can pass through the “Barrio Bajo”, (of Saint Maria). Here you can expect to see the Plaza de Santa Maria, home to the Co-Cathedral and Palacio de Carvajal (currently the Tourist Board, where they will have all the information needed to enjoy this magnificent setting). Later, continue through the San Jorge and San Mateo neighborhoods, known as the Barrio Alto, where one will be able to enjoy the Palacio de las Veletas (Museum of Caceres) and the Casa de los Caballos (Fine Arts Museum.)
Continuing along the ramparts and alleys attached to the wall, the tour ends when you arrive back to the Plaza Mayor and the artisan's shops within the plaza's characteristic arcades. Of course after an experience like this you will likely want to take a break, and a great way to do that is by enjoying the marvelous food and wine offerings on hand, like wine “de pitarra” complimented by the Torta del Casar (one of the most unique cheeses that can be found), sausages such as chorizo or lomo and the unique “patatera” (much like Salamanca’s “farinato”). An ideal desert option is cherries from the Valle del Jerte.
Caceres and its old town will leave an indelible mark on your memory.