Badajoz Extremadura Spain | Portugal Visitor
Badajoz (Extremadura, Spain)
Badajoz in Extremadura is just 4 km from the border with Portugal. In fact, this frontier town on the Guadiana River is closer to Lisbon than it is to Madrid.
From the town it is easy to drive over the border to nearby Elvas, then on to Estremoz and the UNESCO World Heritage city of Evora in the Alentejo region of Portugal.
Located in Badajoz province, west central Spain, the city has a population of over 150,000 inhabitants making it the largest city in Extremadura ahead of Cáceres, Mérida and Plasencia.
Badajoz is known for its Moorish and medieval architecture in particular the Alcazaba (the Muslim citadel) as well as its often violent history.
Badajoz’s strategic location has meant the city has been fought over for centuries and the city’s history has been turbulent to say the least.
Archeological excavations have uncovered evidence of human settlement in the area since the Stone Age. During the Roman period the city was called Civitas Pacensis and had connections with Emerita (present-day Mérida).
The city was taken by the Moors in the 8th century. During the period of Islamic control of the Iberian Peninsula, Badajoz was a Moorish kingdom, the Taifa of Badajoz. Ibn Marwan is an important figure in the city’s Muslim history. He made the city his base and also built Marvão Castle in Marvão in the Alto Alentejo region of neighboring Portugal.
In 1230 the city fell to the Christians and soon after construction of the fortress-like cathedral began.
Thereafter the city was periodically attacked and occupied by the Portuguese. According to the Treaty of Badajoz signed in Badajoz between King Alfonso X of Castile and King Afonso III of Portugal in 1267, the Guadiana River became the border between the two kingdoms. It remains so today. At this time the town of Ayamonte at the mouth of the river reverted to Castile.
During the Peninsula War (1807-1814) the city was besieged by Arthur Wellesley (the future Duke of Wellington). The French garrison of around 5,000 men fell and what followed was disastrous for the local population. Drunken British troops went on an orgy of murder and rape that lasted for 3 days before they could be brought under control.
During the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939), worse was to follow. The town fell to the Nationalists in 1936, troops under the command of Juan Yagüe, the “Butcher of Badajoz,” then executed around 4,000 people in the city’s bullring in Plaza de Toros.
The main attraction in Badajoz is the Alcazaba, the former Moorish citadel that once included the medina, mosques, baths and dwellings. The 30 meter-tall Torre Espantaperros stands here as a symbol of the city.
Also within the Alcazaba is the Museo Arqueológico Provincial (Provincial Archaeological Museum) with exhibits from Neolithic times, as well as the Roman, Visigothic, Islamic and medieval Christian periods.
The 582 meter-long Puente de Palmas bridge over the Guadiana River was first built in the 16th century and restored in the 19th century. It leads into the city through the Puerta de Palmas, which was once the main gate in the city’s walls. Several other bridges also span the river including the more modern Puente de la Universidad and Puente Real downstream.
The cathedral (Metropolitan Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist of Badajoz/Catedral Metropolitana de San Juan Bautista de Badajoz) dates from the 13th century and has a fortress-like design and square tower. The highlights of the interior include the rich woodwork of the choir and the Baroque altar.
The adjacent Museo Catedralicio exhibits religious art and artifacts from Spain and overseas.
The Museo de Bellas Artes de Badajoz (MUBA) displays a collection of around 1,400 paintings, drawings, engravings and pieces of sculpture by more than 350 artists including Dali, Picasso and Velazquez.
The Museo Extremeño e Iberoamericano de Arte Contemporáneo opened in 1995 and is housed in a modern building. The museum has a collection of art works including painting and sculpture by Spanish, Portuguese, and Latin American artists.
Close to the Hotel Cervantes, the Museo Taurino (Bullfighting Museum) displays costumes, posters, photographs and swords from the world of bullfighting.
Located on Plaza de la Libertad, the Museo del Carnaval de Badajoz is dedicated to the elaborate, annual Carnival celebrations in the city, some of the most impressive in Spain. The other big festival is in June, the Feria de San Juan.
The Museo de la Ciudad Luis de Morales displays paintings by the artist Luis de Morales (1509-1586). Highly religious in theme his paintings can also be seen in The Prado in Madrid and also in Salamanca.
The Real Monasterio de Santa Ana is home to a beautiful cloister decorated with wall paintings and some fantastic religious art in the monastery’s church. The Franciscan convent was built in the 16th century.
The Convento de San José dates from the 12th century. Badly damaged at the time of the Peninsular War it is preserved inside the Convento de las Madres Adoratrices Esclavas del Santísimo.
The Convento Nuestra Señora de la Merced aka Convent of Las Descalzas is a simple, classical building on Calle Jose de Gabriel Estenoz.
The Jardines de la Galera have been restored and provide a pleasant space to wander in the Alcazaba. They get their name from the fact prisoners condemned to the gallows in Sevilla could first find repose here. There are orange, lemon and laurel trees in this lovely green space.
The main squares in the city are Plaza de España and Plaza Alta.
Located next to the cathedral Plaza de España was laid out in the 1920s. It contains the pleasing 19th century Ayuntamiento (Town Hall).
Close to the Torre Espantaperros and buildings of the University of Extremadura, Plaza Alta was the former center of the city.
The city has a range of hotels, guest houses and pensions.
The Hotel Badajoz Center is close to the bus station and offers an outdoor pool and terrace.
North of the river, the five-star NH Gran Hotel Casino Extremadura houses the Gran Casino de Extremadura. Facilities include a bar and restaurant.
The Gran Hotel Corona Sol is a 10-minute walk from the city’s Plaza Mayor and offers good rooms close to many of the city’s bars and restaurants.
Other places include Hotel San Marcos offering pleasant and pastel-shaded 2-star accommodation.
Hotel Condedu is also two-star not far from the Convento Nuestra Señora de la Merced.
See a listing of hotels in Badajoz
Badajoz is connected by train and bus to other parts of Spain. There are rail connections to Alcázar de San Juan, Madrid-Atocha, Cáceres, Mérida, Montijo, Villanueva de la Serena, and Puertollano.
There are trains from Badajoz Station to Entroncamento in Portugal, with connections from there to Lisbon and Porto.
Buses operated either by Alsa or Avanza run to Cáceres (1 hour, 20 minutes), Trujillo (2 hours), Mérida (1 hour), Madrid (5 hours), Sevilla via Zafra (3 hours), and Lisbon.