Cáceres Extremadura Spain | Portugal Visitor
Cáceres (Extremadura, Spain)
Cáceres in Extremadura is 120 km east of the Portuguese hilltop town of Marvão in the Alto Alentejo region.
The historic core of Cáceres (Ciudad Monumental) is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site with numerous churches, mansions, museums, plazas and towers with nesting storks among its twisting, narrow, cobbled streets. Indeed, the Old Town (Parte Antigua) has no modern intrusions and to walk here is to step back in history.
In many ways Cáceres is similar to nearby Trujillo but is a larger and more lively place and home to the University of Extremadura and its students and faculty.
Located in Cáceres province, west central Spain, the province as a whole has a population of over 96,000 inhabitants. However, the town of Cáceres itself is much smaller with around 26,000 people.
Cáceres is known for its mix of Roman, Moorish and medieval architecture, much of the latter built with wealth plundered from South America.
In May a 3-day edition of the world music festival WOMAD takes place here.
The area that now comprises Cáceres province has a long history. It has been inhabited since as far back as the Neanderthals. This assessment is based on the cave art found in the Maltravieso cave (Cueva de Maltravieso).
During the Roman period the city was called Castra Caecilia about 70 km north of Emerita (present-day Mérida). Part of the third and fourth century walls still exist including the Arco del Cristo.
Following the demise of the Roman Empire and the coming of the Visigoths the city declined in importance until it was taken by the Moors in the 8th century.
During the period of Islamic control of the Iberian Peninsula, Cáceres (now known as Hizn Qazris) increased in wealth and power. The Moors built walls, palaces and a number of towers, including the most famous example, the Torre de Bujaco.
In 1229 the city fell to the Christians and in the 14th century Cáceres was home to a Jewish quarter until their expulsion by the “Catholic Monarchs” – Queen Isabella I of Castile and King Ferdinand II of Aragon – in 1492.
Thereafter the city prospered as great wealth was ploughed into the local economy in the forms of construction and consumption by returning local Conquistadors from South America.
Cáceres has a large number of historical places to see. Around or close to Plaza Mayor are the Torre de Bujaco, the Palacio de Moctezuma and the Concatedral de Santa María de Caceres.
The Torre de Bujaco dates from the 12th century and was built over Roman foundations as part of the city’s defences. There is a small interpretation centre within the tower which has amazing views from the top.
The Palacio de Toledo-Moctezuma was first built in the 15th century though the building we see today is the result of later restorations after it fell into disrepair. The name comes from one of one of Moctezuma’s daughters (Tecuichpo, later baptized as Isabel Moctezuma) and because the building was owned at one time by the Toledo family. Married and widowed five times before she was 21, Tecuichpo/Isabel eventually settled in Cáceres with one Juan Cano Saavedra, a follower of Hernán Cortés.
The mainly Gothic Concatedral de Santa María de Caceres in Plaza de Santa María has a lovely interior noted for its rich paintings and sculptures. Of particular interest is the painting known as the “Black Christ” in the Capilla de los Blázquez.
The cathedral’s chapter house has a museum of religious art including more paintings, vessels and vestments.
Adjacent to the cathedral is the Palacio de Mayoralgo built on Roman foundations, which have been discovered during recent renovations. The Mayoralgo family were granted land in the city after its reconquest from the Muslims.
The grand Arco de la Estrella was built in the city walls to allow access from the main commercial center of Plaza Mayor to the old city and its mansions in the 18th century.
The Museo de Cáceres is housed in two connected buildings with a garden with outdoor sculptures in between, the Casa de las Veletas and the Casa de los Caballos. The museum displays archeological finds, Roman mosaics, a cistern from Islamic times and a collection of 20th century Spanish art.
The Casa Museo Árabe Yusuf Al Burch opened in 1976 and was a labor of love by its owner, José de la Torre Gentil, who bought the property in the 1960s and restored it. Moorish in origin the house includes a harem and hamman (bath).
The Museo de Arte Contemporáneo Helga de Alvear exhibits the private collection of owner Helga de Alvear. The diverse collection includes not just painting but also sculpture, photography and video. There are works by Goya, Kandinsky, Klee, Robert Motherwell, Picasso and Ai WeiWei on display.
Located some distance northeast of the center, the Museo de Historia de la Computación is dedicated to the history of computing and has a large collection of mainly Apple computers. Altogether there are over 300 computers on display. Visits are guided by an expert.
The city does not lack for churches with over 20 altogether. The Iglesia San Francisco Javier (Iglesia de la Preciosa Sangre) is a Jesuit church dating from the 18th century. The painting over the altar of San Francisco Javier is a highlight.
The Gothic Iglesia de San Juan Bautista dates originally from the 13th century. It has been much changed over time, however. Inside the Capilla de las Reliquias (Chapel of the Relics) has plateresque carvings of cherubs.
The 16th century Iglesia de San Mateo is dedicated to Saint Matthew and is known for its beautiful altar made from pine. The clock on the side of the church was transferred from the Torre de Bujaco.
The restored Ermita de las Candelas is a 16th century hermitage that now serves as the center of the annual Fiesta de las Candelas celebrated in February.
Areas of green space are found mainly on the outskirts of the city.
These include the Paseo de Cánovas, the larger Parque del Príncipe, and Parque del Perú.
Within the old city, the Jardín Cristina de Ulloa was created in the 1960s. It is named after the wife of a mayor who was killed in a tragic accident at the time. This lovely, small space has cypress, orange and Japanese plum trees along with stone benches and a water feature.
The city has a wide range of hotels, guest houses and private rentals to suit all budgets.
The NH Collection Cáceres Palacio de Oquendo in Plaza de San Juan has a fine restaurant and is close to all the main attractions.
The four-star Parador de Cáceres is housed in a building, parts of which date back to the 14th century. Facilities include a highly-recommended restaurant serving local cuisine.
The Gran Hotel Don Manuel is a short walk from the city’s Plaza Mayor and offers good rooms and a restaurant.
Other places to stay include Hotel Alfonso IX offering affordable 2-star accommodation.
Hotel Don Carlos Cáceres is also two-star not far from the cathedral.
See a listing of hotels in Cáceres
Cáceres is connected by train and bus to other parts of Spain. There are rail connections to Madrid-Atocha, Madrid-Chamartín, Badajoz, Mérida, Sevilla-Santa Justa and Zafra.
Buses operated either by Alsa or Avanza run to Trujillo (40 minutes), Mérida (55 minutes), Madrid (4-5 hours), Salamanca (3 hours) and Sevilla via Zafra (3 hours, 40 minutes).