Úbeda and Baeza, monumental splendour between natural reserves
San Francisco convent, Baeza (Jaén)
Going back to the period of chivalrous knights in Renaissance Spain without giving up any of the pleasures of the XXIth century is possible in Úbeda and Baeza, two unique historical monuments which have been declared World Heritage sites by UNESCO. Towns of extraordinary beauty, located in the vicinity of three nature reserves, Úbeda and Baeza are a magnificent choice that enables the combination of a good rest on the splendid Andalusian beaches and the enjoyment of Mediterranean gastronomy and culture.
Úbeda, together with neighboring Baeza, only separated by an eight-kilometre distance, constitute the only two examples of what was once the splendour of the Spanish Renaissance of the XVIth and XVIIth centuries. The cultural wealth of their streets and plazas, replete of churches, palaces and stately buildings that were once home to nobles, will leave an impression on the visitor, who will also be captivated by the beauty of the surrounding landscape, full of green olive trees in inland Andalusia.
Although it is this impressive historical patrimony, declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2003, that constitutes the main cultural attraction of Úbeda and Baeza, certainly it is not the only one. The unique personality of its landscape is complemented by an exquisite gastronomical offer and the proximity of three natural reserves, whose pine forests, ideal for excursions, are full of an autochthonous fauna that includes wild boar and deer.
To be able to know and to enjoy your stay at Úbeda, there is nothing better than a ride in a horse-drawn coach, at trotting pace, beginning from the Vázquez Molina Plaza. The most representative samples of the Renaissance are gathered in this urban, aristocratic precinct of monuments. The sacred el Salvador Chapel, the Santa María de los Reales Alcázares Church and the las Cadenas Palace will take you back to the days of maximum splendour of the town.
The contrast between the noble façades in carved stone and the white colour of the popular houses is another aspect of the charm of this enchanting old part of the city, which is complemented by some of the masterpieces of the Andalusian Renaissance, such as the Marqués de Mancera Palace or San Pablo Hospital.
And while Úbeda stands out because of the civil nature of its constructions, Baeza is outstanding in the religious touch of its monuments and artistic wealth. This is a charming town with a simple but marvellous Renaissance heritage, whose most valuable jewels are located around the Cathedral, markedly plateresque, a unique artistic variety in Europe. The Jabalquinto Palace or the San Felipe Neri Seminary will make you stop in your tracks with the beauty of their façades.
An interesting spot that should not be missed in Baeza is the Pópulo Square, which includes the Pópulo House, the Leones Fountain and the old Slaughterhouse. Numerous palaces and stately houses will guide you around this town, once the birthplace of nobles and aristocrats.
Gastronomy, golf and spas
The touristic weight of this area, known as La Loma, is complemented by excellent communications by road and lodging infrastructure. Three and four star hotels compete in quality and comfort with Úbeda's Tourist Parador, a Renaissance palace of the XVIth century, located in the Vázquez de Molina Square itself.
The olive oil, with guarantee of quality from nearby Mágina mountains, is the most savoury ingredient of the stews and salads that characterize local dishes, amongst which we can name bull’s tale in red wine, partridge-filled sweet peppers or nut-filled young lamb. Confectionery includes ochios (flour and anisette pies), nut pies and preserves.
And if culture and gastronomy were not enough to satisfy all your desires, the nearby town of Canena puts the facilities of its spa at your disposal. You can enjoy different treatments, including mud, clay, shiatsu and chiromassage, before or after improving your par at Linares golf club, at little distance from these historical monuments. The field is a beautiful panorama composed of holm oaks, pines and eucalyptus trees which continues through the natural reserves of Despeñaperros, Mágica Mountains and Cazorla Mountains, Segura and Las Villas, the latter declared Biosphera Reserve by UNESCO. These are areas unequalled for the practice of adventure sports and other activities of low environmental impact, such as bicycle touring, horse riding and four-wheel vehicle driving.
In a nutshell, Úbeda and Baeza await you to partake of all their monumental wealth, the best delicacies of Mediterranean cooking and the omnipresent sea of olive trees. It is a unique destination, slightly over 300 kilometres away from Madrid, located in a strategic enclave between Córdoba and Granada.