Located in the south-western region known as Extremadura, Cáceres is a truly hidden gem of Spain. With thousands of years of history, and some of the best cuisine in the peninsula, the city has something for everyone!
Dating back to 25BC, the city of Cáceres has a rich and full past. It has changed hands and even names various times. Originally known as Caesarina during the Roman occupation, and Hizn Qazriz under the Arab rule, the city fell into the hands of the Christians during the Reconquista in 1229. It was then that it was given the name it boasts today, which still contains clear connection to the city’s extensive history. During the period of history in which Spain as a country flourished greatly, the discovery of America, Cáceres also saw an influential period of growth. Many families who returned from their voyages to the New World used their newly found fortunes to build homes and small palaces there.
The city has various interesting and notable museums and sights that will certainly hold an allure for anyone with an interest in history. For only 2.50 Euros, you can get a ticket to go up into the Torre de Bujaco, located directly off the Plaza Mayor. From there, you will get amazing views of the Plaza and landscape surrounding the city.
For an additional 50 cents, you can get a bundled package to also visit the Torre de los Pozos, located in the Jewish Quarter of the city. The views aren’t as good as those from the Torre de Bujaco, but the museum is interesting and educational. There is also a free museum located near the Jewish Quarter, the Museo de Cáceres, which outlines the complex and interesting history of the city itself.
However, if you don’t feel that spending your days walking through museums and monuments is something you find interesting, just taking a simple stroll through the winding streets will still leave you saying “whoa!” The breath-taking Casco Antiguo has been declared a UNESCO world heritage site, and is well worth the praise. When walking through the old zone, it’s hard not to feel that you’ve been transported back in time. There is absolutely no graffiti to be found, and the very low number of tourist shops and stalls keeps the authentic feel in the air. If it weren’t for the cars which pass by occasionally, you may find yourself actually believing you’ve been sent back to the 15th or 16th century.
Some of the prettiest places in the city are the Plaza de Santa María and the Plaza de San Jorge.
No trip to Cáceres would be complete without sampling the amazing and renowned cuisine. Like many Spanish cities, Cáceres has its very own tapa culture. It’s unlike any that I’ve experience before. While in cities such as Bilbao, where the tapa scene is still famous and delicious, you will find that tapas are generally small, and it’s expected that you will bounce around from one place to another sampling little portions of lots of things as you go. However, in Cáceres, the tapas are huge, and it’s true that they cost more (on average 5-6 euros each), but if you go with other people and each order something different you’ll easily and happily be able to share. As a warning, these places fill up quick, and it’s a good idea to go ahead of time, get your seat saved, and fill up in one place! And make sure you’re aware of what time it is when you go. Most places don’t start serving lunch until around 1:30pm, then close the kitchen around 4pm, and don’t open again for dinner until 8 or 8:30 that night.
I could give a long list of wonderful places to eat, but wandering into somewhere new and discovering it for yourself is half the fun. But, I will mention two places that I personally think shouldn’t be missed.
The first is Restaurante Tapería Ibérico. (Be careful, a lot of places have the name “tapería”. This is more a way of letting you know they’re a tapas place, so be sure if you want to go to this one, you check the name twice.) It’s located in the Plaza de San Juan, and the food, service, and atmosphere are all top notch. The downstairs is a bar, but upstairs you can be seated in a quaint and small dining area, where you will be waited on by friendly, enthusiastic waiters dressed in suspenders and bowties. Here, my hubby and I tried the typical Extremeño dish “Migas”. “Migas” means “bread crumbs” and that’s essentially what this dish is, except a million times better. They are warmed and cooked with little pieces of chorizo, and melt in your mouth. We also tried a Brocheta de Pollo (chicken skewers) and had a glass of wine each, and total spent13 Euros.
Let me take a moment and go back to speaking to the history buffs. While Cáceres is a historical adventure in itself, if you’re looking for an easy way to fill a day, a quick trip to the nearby city Mérida is right up your alley. This city boasts some of the most remarkable Roman ruins in Spain, and while the old zone isn’t as impressive as that of Cáceres, the experience is still awe inspiring. Visitors have the option of choosing different types of tickets which will give you access to anything from everything to just the important basics. Being that we didn’t have more than a few hours to spend in the city ourselves, we got the basic entrance. We were able to see the Teatro and Anfiteatro. For free, near the train station, you can also find the remains of an old aqueduct. It’s nowhere near as well preserved as that of Segovia, but it’s still an impressive sight.
The Anfiteatro, constructed during the 1st Century AD, is where the ancient Romans held their entertainment which took place in the form of gladiator battles.