Ubeda and Baeza: the world’s Renaissance treasures
Úbeda and Baeza, in the province of Jaén (Andalusia) have an outstanding ensemble of Renaissance buildings, and have been declared World Heritage Sites by the UNESCO. In both cases the Renaissance heritage is in an exceptionally good state of conservation.
Spain can boast itself the first country to have 37 cultural objects declared World Heritage Sites by UNESCO—a formidable number. To fortified cities, natural spaces and Pre-Romanesque, Mudejar and Modernist constructions must be added the Renaissance Monument Areas of Ubeda and Baeza. Spain is synonymous with World Heritage: Now, Ubeda and Baeza are as well.
Úbeda and Baeza are situated in the very heart of the province of Jaén, and are fine examples of all the grandeur of the Renaissance in Andalusia in the 16th and 17th centuries. They are unique examples of the arrival of Renaissance trends in Spain, as you can see from their streets packed with churches, palaces and stately houses. This is an urban model with clear Italian influences, which Spain in turn gave its own characteristics before exporting it to Latin America in the colonial period. Throughout the region you can enjoy the work of Andrés de Vandelvira, one of the most prestigious architects of the time. Come and visit these Renaissance gems, nicknamed "queen" and "lady" by the brilliant poet Antonio Machado.
Ubeda, the queen
The beauty of Ubeda's townscape is sure to impress you. Green olive groves mark the edge of this historic town, giving way to façades of carved stone amidst whitewashed houses. Plaza de Vázquez de Molina Square is home to the Ubeda's most representative examples of Renaissance architecture. The El Salvador Chapel, Santa María de los Reales Alcázares Church and Las Cadenas Palace will take you back in time to the most grandiose days of Ubeda's history. A spectacular ensemble, in a perfect state of conservation, where you can admire beautiful Plateresque façades, altarpieces by the great artist Alonso Berruguete and patios with arched galleries on two levels. This lovely environment is made complete with other crowning achievements of the Andalusian Renaissance such as the Palace of Marqués de Mancera or the Hospital of Santiago, considered the Andalusian El Escorial. Thus Ubeda is especially noteworthy for the civil character of its buildings.
Baeza, the lady
Neighboring Baeza compares with Ubeda in monumentality and artistic wealth, but here religion is the key element. Baeza is a charming town with an incredible Renaissance heritage, whose most valuable treasures are gathered around the cathedral, a markedly Plateresque building. In its diamond-shaped points, flower ornamentation, braids and pinnacles we see an artistic trend unique in all of Europe. And you will stop before the facades of the Palace of Jabalquinto and the Seminary of San Felipe Neri because of their beauty. The Plaza del Pópulo, formed by the Casa del Pópulo and the Fuente de los Leones fountain, should not be missed, nor the old abattoir. Many other palaces and ancestral homes will guide you through this town, birthplace of nobles and aristocrats.
A paradise for the senses
The popularity of this region ("La Loma") with tourists has meant the creation of an excellent hotel infrastructure. Three and four star hotels compete in quality and comfort with the Úbeda Parador Hotel. This 16th century Renaissance palace (called "Palacio del Condestable Dávalos"), offers comfortable, welcoming rooms and a restaurant specialising in Jaen's regional gastronomy. Olive oil with the designation of origin from the nearby Sierra Mágina Mountains, is a vital ingredient in casseroles and salads such as andrajos (stew with dumplings) and pipirrana (cold tomato dish), typical of Úbeda. Baeza's speciality is peppers stuffed with partridge and stewed kid with pine nuts. Confectionery includes ochios (flour and anisette tarts), walnut tarts and preserves. As if culture and gastronomy were not enough to satisfy you, nearby Canena makes all of its spa facilities available as well: Muds, clays, shiatsu and massage are a few of the treatments you will find here. You can enjoy these treatments before or after improving you par on the Linares golf course, just a short distance from these Renaissance monument areas declared World Heritage Sites. The golf course is a beautiful stretch of green lined with holm oak, eucalyptus and pines, which continue into the Nature Reserves of Despeñaperros, Sierra Mágina and Sierra de Cazorla, Segura and Las Villas (the latter has also been declared a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO). These are unbeatable spots in which to experience the varied Mediterranean ecosystems found in Andalusia and participate in your favorite adventure sports--sports which have a low impact on the environment and bring you closer to the most outstanding features of these natural areas. Ubeda and Baeza await to share their monumental wealth with you, the delicacies of Mediterranean fare and the sea of olive trees that permeates every space. These are singular destinations, just over 300 km from Madrid where you can indulge in culture, nature, leisure and gastronomy. You deserve it. Have a wonderful trip.