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Old Town of Cáceres*
UNESCO World Heritage Site

Panoramic of the Old Town as seen from the Bujaco Tower.
State Party  Spain
Type Cultural
Criteria iii, iv
Reference 384
Region** Europe and North America
Inscription history
Inscription 1986  (10th Session)
* Name as inscribed on World Heritage List.
** Region as classified by UNESCO.

Cáceres is the capital of the same name province, in the autonomous community of Extremadura, in Spain (see map). Its 2007 census population was 91,606 inhabitants (88,245 in 2004 and 90,750 in 2006). The municipio has a land area of 1,750.33 km² (675.806 sq mi) and is the largest in geographical extent in Spain.

There have been settlements near Cáceres since prehistoric times. Evidence of this can be found in the caves of Maltravieso and El Conejar. The city was founded by the Romans in 25 BC.

The old town (Ciudad Monumental) still has its ancient walls; this part of town is also well known for its multitude of storks' nests. The walls contain a medieval town setting with no outward signs of modernity, for which reason many films have been shot there. The Universidad de Extremadura, and two astronomical observatories are situated in Cáceres. The city is also a seat of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Coria-Cáceres.

Cáceres was declared a World Heritage City by UNESCO in 1986 because of the city's blend of Roman, Islamic, Northern Gothic and Italian Renaissance architecture. Thirty towers from the Muslim period still stand in Cáceres, of which the Torre del Bujaco is the most famous.

Cáceres is one of the cities competing for recognition as the European City of Culture in 2016. The town's cultural highlights include various traditional dances such as flamenco and the blue lycra jig which is unique to Cáceres. Chief of Police Jose Martín, who is leading the city's bid, can regularly be seen performing the jig in the main square (La Plaza Mayor).

Contents

History

Maltravieso Cave.

The origins of Cáceres go back to prehistoric times, as evidenced by the paintings in the Cuevas de Maltravieso (Maltravieso Caves) which date back to the late Paleolithic period. Visitors can see remains from medieval times, the Roman occupation, Moorish occupation and the Golden age of Jewish culture in Spain. Cáceres has four main areas to be explored: the historical quarter, the Jewish quarter, the modern center, and the outskirts.

The first evidence of humans living in Cáceres is from the Late Paleolithic era, around 25,000 BC. Cáceres as a city was founded as Castra Caecilia by Quintus Caecilius Metellus Pius and started to gain importance as a strategic city under Roman occupation, and remains found in the city suggest that it was a thriving center as early as 25 BC. Some remains of the first city walls built by the Romans in the 3rd and 4th centuries still exist, including one gateway, the Arco del Cristo.

La Paz Hermitage.

After the fall of the Western Roman Empire, the city was occupied by the Visigoths, and entered a period of decline until the Arabs conquered Cáceres in the 8th century. The city spent the next few centuries mostly under Arab rule, although power alternated several times between Moors and Christians. During this time, the Arabs rebuilt the city, including a wall, palaces, and various towers, including the Torre de Bujaco. Cáceres was reconquered by the Christians in the 13th century. During this period the city had an important Jewish quarter: in the 15th century when the total population was 2,000, nearly 140 Jewish families lived in Cáceres. The Jewish population was expelled by Queen Isabella and Ferdinand of Aragon in 1492, but many remains of the Jewish presence of the period can still be seen today in the Barrio San Antonio.

Cáceres flourished during the Reconquista and the Discovery of America, as influential Spanish families and nobles built homes and small palaces there, and many members of families from Extremadura participated in voyages to America where they made their fortunes. In the 19th century, Cáceres became the capital of the province, marking a period of growth which was halted by the Spanish Civil War. Today, the headquarters of the university as well as several regional government departments are to be found in Cáceres.

San Francisco Javier Church.
Los Golfines de Abajo Palace.
Concatedral de Santa María.
Tower of the Las Cigüeñas Palace.
Las Veletas Palace.
La Estrella`s chemin de ronde in the Monumental City.

Main sights

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Cathedrals and churches

  • Church and convent of San Pablo (15th century)
  • Convent of la Compañía de Jesus, in Baroque style, today used for art exhibitions
  • Church of Santa María, cathedral built in the 13th century, in Gothic style
  • Iglesia de San Mateo, a 15th century church built on the site of a former mosque
  • Iglesia de San Francisco Javier (18th century), in Baroque style
  • Iglesia de San Juan, large majestic church built between the 13th and 15th century
  • Hermitage of San Antonio Iglesia de Santo Domingo
  • Hermitage de la Paz
  • Church of Santiago

Wall

  • Torre de Bujaco (12th century)
  • Arco de la Estrella (18th century)
  • Torre de Sande (14th-15th centuries)
  • Torre de los Púlpitos
  • Torre de la Hierba
  • Arco de Santa Ana
  • Torre del Horno
  • Torre del Postigo
  • Torre Redonda
  • Torre Desmochada
  • Arco del Cristo
  • Arco del Socorro

Palaces and stately homes

  • Palacio de los Golfines de Arriba
  • Palacio de los Golfines de Abajo. Queen Isabella I of Castile and King Ferdinand I lived here
  • Palacio del Comendador de Alcuescar
  • Palacio-Fortaleza de los Torreorgaz, today a Parador hotel
  • Palacio Episcopal
  • Palacio de Carvajal (1th century)
  • Palacio de Godoy
  • Palacio de Mayoralgo
  • Mansión de los Sande
  • Palacio de las Veletas
  • Palacio de los Cáceres-Ovando
  • Casa del Mono
  • Palacio de los Toledo-Moctezuma
  • Casa del Sol
  • Casa Mudejar
  • Casa de Carvajal y Ulloa

Museums

  • Museum of Cáceres - ALJIBE - housed in La Casa de las Veletas y la Casa de los Caballos in the historical quarter.
  • La Casa-Museo Árabe, between the Plaza San Jorge and the Arco del Cristo. Arab culture, art and remains.
  • Museo Concatedral de Caceres, in the Plaza Santa Maria. Religious art.
  • Museo Piedrilla - Guayasamín

Natural parks and rural tourism

  • Monfragüe Natural Park: Encompasses 85 square kilometers or 17,852 hectares and contains the following villages: Torrejón el Rubio, Serradilla, Malpartida de Plasencia, Toril, Serrejón, Jaraicejo and Casas de Miravete. The park contains one of the largest forests in Spain with over 1,400 different species of trees. A favorite with birdwatchers, the park has the world's largest colony of black vultures and imperial eagles, and is also home to colonies of black storks, eagle owls, black-shouldered kites and many grassland birds including great bustards and sandgrouse. Camping is not allowed in the park.
  • Monumento natural Los Barruecos, 14 km away from the city. It contains unusual rock formations.
  • Los Llanos de Cáceres y Sierra de Fuente, a protected habitat for birds.

Festivals

  • The Festival of the Martyrs (La Fiesta de los mártires) is held in January.
  • Carnival, The Festival of the Candles ( La Fiesta de las Candelas) and Fiesta de San Blas are held in February.
  • The Easter Festival Semana Santa is held during the week before Easter Sunday. Processions wind through the narrow streets in the historical center.
  • Music Festival Extremúsika, held around March-April.
  • Music Festival del Oeste, a pop, rock and heavy music festival, around first days of July.
  • The San Jorge Festival, held on the 22–23 April, involves a dragon being burnt in a bonfire in the town square (La Plaza Mayor), accompanied by a fireworks display.
  • WOMAD music festival is held at the beginning of May.
  • Ferias de San Fernando is held at the end of May.
  • Fleadh Cáceres is a new cultural event that occurs between October and November. The idea comes from fleadh cheoil na hEireann which is an Irish music event that happens every August in Ireland.
WOMAD music festival 2009, in the Plaza Mayor.

Shopping and cuisine

A street of the center of Cáceres.

The small streets in the historical center have lots of small shops selling typical products. The convents sell homemade sweets and pastries. Wines from Extremadura are affordable, full-bodied red wine. Local liquors include cherry liquor made with cherries from the nearby Jerte valley, or other original liquors such as chestnut or blackberry. Other produce in the province include sheep cheese (Torta del Casar, is not made of goat milk, but with milk from merino sheep), fig cake, chestnuts, hams and other pork products, lamb, olive oil, and paprika (pimentón de la Vera).

Salt-cured ham and red wine are produced locally and are officially recognized by the Spanish government. Both goat and sheep cheese are produced by traditional methods and renowned throughout the country. Cáceres is also famous for its stews, roast meats (especially pork, lamb and game), fried breadcrumbs (migas), trout, pastries and honey.

Partial view of the Plaza Mayor.
Nocturne view of Plaza Mayor in Cáceres.

Education

The University of Extremadura (founded in 1973) has a campus in Cáceres. It comprises several schools:

  • Polytechnic School (offering studies in Computer Engineering, Architecture, amongst others)
  • Nursing and Occupational Therapy School
  • School of Sports Science
  • School of Teaching
  • School of Business and Tourism
  • Veterinary School
  • Philosophy and Letters School (offering studies in Literature and History, amongst others)
  • Law School

The university has another three campuses in Badajoz, Mérida and Plasencia.

Gallery

External links

Coordinates: 39°29′N 6°22′W / 39.483°N 6.367°W / 39.483; -6.367


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