Grupo Ciudades Patrimonio de la Humanidad
Plaza Mayor square in Cáceres
Cáceres city walls
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More than ten towers dominate the historic quarter of Caceres, delimited by Arab walls. Cobbled streets marked by medieval, fortified homes and Renaissance palaces make up the most beautiful sceneries in this city, which was declared World Heritage. The local history is closely related to one the historic, peninsular routes: "Vía de la Plata" (the Silver Route), a Roman road that linked Seville and Astorga, used by the pilgrims who were headed to Santiago de Compostela. Pork products and shepherd recipes are the fundamental elements of the rich culinary tradition of this region, the dishes should be served with some of the excellent wines from Caceres.
Originally called Norba Caesarina, the city of Cáceres was founded by the Romans in 34 BC. However,it was not until the arrival of the Moors (12th century) that the city enjoyed its era of greatest splendour. A century later, the city would pass into Christian hands upon its reconquest by Alfonso IX of León. In the 15th century Isabella I brought an end to the continuous power struggles between the local nobles by ordering the cutting-off of the tops of the towers of their respective house-fortresses. Thereafter the city experienced an economic boom, mainly brought about by its active role in the discovery of America. The walled part of Cáceres, the majority of which is Almohad, preserves to this day its Medieval defensive towers such as those of Bujaco, Yerba and del Horno, all 12th century constructions. The gate known as the El Arco de la Estrella affords access to the area of the city enclosed by its wall. This entrance, the work of Manuel de Lara Churriguera, was built in the 18th century to replace the previous Puerta Nueva, which dated from the medieval period. Once inside the medieval quarter, there are palaces and ancestral houses to be seen at every turn, which can be easily identified by the presence of family coats of arms. The Plaza de Santa María is surrounded by several palaces. One of these is the Carvajal palace, which was built between the 15th and 16th centuries, later to be refurbished in the middle of the 20th century. At the centre of its picturesque, Renaissance courtyard there stands a thousand-year-old fig tree. Beside the house stands a 12th century round tower built by the Moors. The palace currently houses the Cáceres Tourist, Craft and Traditional Culture Board. The square is completed by the Mayoralgo Palace (16th century), the biggest in the city, with its interior stone, pointed-arched courtyard and the Episcopal Palace. The latter has two façades, one dating from the 13th century, with a foiled arch at its entrance, while the other Renaissance façade is adorned with bossage arching. The whole is presided over by the 15th century, Gothic Santa María Pro-cathedral. The church is made up of three naves covered by rib vaults. Worthy of special mention is its main altarpiece with stalls, built in the Plateresque style. This work by Guillén Ferrant and Roque Balduque is made of non-polychromed cedar and consists of priceless sculptures and reliefs. Apart from the tombstones and Baroque altarpieces in its side chapels, you should not miss the image of the Cristo de los Blázquez, also known as the Cristo Negro ("Black Christ") which, tradition has it, brought death to all those who looked at, or touched, it. In the neighbouring San Pablo square stands the 15th century Cáceres-Ovando House. Attached to the building stands the Cigüeñas Tower, which is the only tower that Isabella I allowed to preserve its battlements. Notwithstanding, one of the most beautiful examples of Cáceres architecture is the 15th century Golfines de Abajo Palace, with its outstanding 16th century Renaissance façade, not to mention the superposition of Gothic and Mudejar features, as well as its 17th century Plateresque cresting. The Catholic Monarchs, Ferdinand and Isabella are said to have stayed here in this fine building on one of their visits to the capital. The San Mateo square is home to the Paredes Saavedra House, which dates from the 15th and 16th centuries, the House of Lorenzo de Ulloa (15th century), and the House of the Veletas. Built at the end of the 15th century over the old Almohad fortress, this palace was rebuilt at the beginning of the 18th century. Its Baroque façade is one of the building's most noteworthy exterior features, not to mention its pinnacles (colloquially referred to as "weather vanes") that crown its top. An excellently preserved cistern from the old Spanish-Moorish fortress, which could possibly have come down to us from the 12th century, is to be found inside, underneath the courtyard. Today the building serves to house the Cáceres Museum that has a collection of archaeological pieces and ethnographic artefacts on display to enable the visitor to get to know the history of the province. San Mateo church (16th century), which stands in the square of the same name, is built over the city's old main mosque. It posesses an oustanding Gothic façade. Outside the walls, there is a magnificent flight of steps that leads down to the Plaza Mayor, which is notable for its numerous towers and the Balbos Forum. Nearby stands the Godoy Palace (16th century), a Renaissance building with a beautiful corner balcony. Beside it we have the Santiago church, founded by the order known as the “Fratres de Cáceres”, a precursor of the later Order of Santiago. Several other artistic features have been added in the course of time to its original Romanesque structure, from among which the Berruguete altarpiece deserves special mention. On leaving the city, on the highest peak of the neighbouring Sierra de la Mosca Mountains we come across the Nuestra Señora de la Montaña Church, which houses a Baroque altarpiece. Under the church you can visit the cave where the veneration of Our Lady of the Mountain began, who was to become as of 1688, the patroness of the city. To round off the visit, this area provides the visitor with some of the best panoramic views of this monumental city and its outskirts. Gastronomy and the outskirts Cáceres cuisine revolves around pork and its by-products. Shepherd recipes are undoubtedly the most popular traditional dishes throughout the entire province: lamb and goat-kid stew, migas (chorizo sausage, bacon and bread), etc. Other traditional dishes include sopas canas (with milk, bread, oil, paprika and garlic) and “ropavieja” (meat in a sauce with egg and tomato). All of these specialities can be accompanied by a glass of Cáceres wine, the quality of which is guaranteed by the Ribera del Guadiana Designation of Origin label. There is wide variety of desserts on offer, including sheep's, goat's and cow's cheese, not to mention the excellent confectionery, originally a monastery speciality, of which the delicious sweets from the San Pablo convent are an outstanding example. The old Comendador de Alcuéscar Palace, also known as the Marqueses de Torreorgaz Palace has been refurbished and converted into a Parador Hotel, which has seen it become one of the best hotel establishments in the capital. It is one of the most outstanding buildings of the "old", monumental Cáceres, which originally dates from the 14th century, but which was later refurbished in the 15th and 17th centuries. Cáceres province possesses a host of interesting routes to be discovered by the visitor. One of these, called the Vía de la Plata, takes us along the ancient Roman road that joined Sevilla and Astorga, and which later on was used by the pilgrims as they made their way to Santiago de Compostela. On taking this route we can also visit, in addition to Cáceres, Plasencia, the second most important city in the province. Indeed, its city walls conceal an important artistic heritage. The Plasencia Parador Hotel is situated in a 15th century convent in the monumental heart of the city. To the north of the province, in the district of La Vera, we come across Hervás, a town that possesses one of the best preserved Jewish quarters in Spain, and Valverde de la Vera, a site that has been declared to be of Historical-Artistic interest. At Jarandilla de la Vera, beside the Yuste Monastery, you can spend the night at the Parador Hotel, which was originally a Medieval castle-palace. To the east of the capital Trujillo the home of the conquistadors of Latin America is worth a visit. There we can visit the old Santa Clara convent (16th century), which has now been turned into the Trujillo Parador Hotel. Guadalupe is only a few kilometres away. This Historical-Artistic town is home to the Guadalupe Monastery, a Gothic-Mudejar building that has been declared to be a World Heritage site. Guadalupe also has its own Parador Hotel, which is located in the the old facilities of the San Juan Bautista hospital (15th century). Lastly, the Monfragüe National Park is just one of the numerous natural treasures to be found in Cáceres. An area of extremely varied landscape, it has been declared to be a Special Bird-Protection Area.