HOT Properties Magazine Archive
HOT Attractions - Baeza - Under the Influence
Every corner of enchanting southern Spain offers a delicious element of surprise, from the simplicity of its clustered white-washed villages, to the splendour of its castles and cathedrals. But the ancient city of Baeza - where Andalucía's cultural traditions unusually blend with the essence of a Castilian village - is perhaps one of the region's best-kept secrets of all….
If the breathtaking countryside or sun-kissed Mediterranean coastline were not enough to satisfy your appetite, why not take a trip to the province of Jaén, heading slightly off the beaten track to the city of Baeza which, together with the neighbouring town of Úbeda, was declared a UNESCO Historical and Cultural Site in 2003. No more than a three-hour drive from Marbella, Baeza is brimful of Renaissance jewels and is considered to boast some of the finest examples of XVI century architecture in Spain. In addition, the surrounding area is abundant in wildlife and dramatic natural wonders, thanks to its proximity to the well-known Cazorla National Park.
Dating back to Roman times, Baeza, at 750m above sea level, dominates Jaén's stunning Guadalquivir Valley region and is one of 12 municipalities to make up the Comarca de La Loma, where the production of olives is key to the area's economy. Historically, although Baeza also one ruled a Moorish mini kingdom, some of the most striking monuments are XVI century. Indeed, it is fair to say that Baeza does not have one particular historical centre, rather the entire city gives you the feeling of travelling back in time.
The origins of Baeza go back as far as the Bronze Age, when it is believed that the city played a major role in the so-called Algar culture. However, it was not really until the arrival of the Romans that historians are able to fully establish the importance of Vivatia, as it was then known. Following the Romans, with the occupation by the Moors, Vivatia was renamed Bayyasa, and because of its fertile lands and strategic location between the regions of Andalucia and Castilla, Baeza became the capital of what was then known as the Moorish Reign of Taifas, which extended throughout most of the province of Jaén. From 1212 onwards, the city was lost and regained on numerous occasions by the Christian troops, although it wasn't until 1227 that it was finally conquered by Spain's Fernando ||| 'El Santo' and given the name Baeza. After their defeat, the remaining Moors moved south towards the province of Granada and there established Albaicín. Baeza prospered from then on, but it was during the XV and XVI centuries that it truly flourished, the testimony of which, among other landmark events, was the construction of its University (which today still preserves intact the classroom where the great Andalusian poet Antonio Machado once taught French).
Baeza is a maze of winding cobbled streets and alluring plazas. Entering the city's quiet back streets along the Camino Real, you'll find yourself in the heart of the Plaza del Pópulo, where appropriately the Tourist Office is housed. A well-preserved Renaissance square, the Plaza del Papulo offers one of the finest images of Baeza. Behind the square the ancient area of the city rises up to the top of the hill where the cathedral stands. A rich mixture of Gothic, Italian Renaissance and Mudejár styles, Baeza's cathedral, designed by Andrés de Vandelvira, is the crowning glory of the city's Plaza de Santa Maria.
However, perhaps one of the most impressive examples of architecture that Baeza has to offer is the beautiful XV century Jabalquinto Palace, with its magnificent patio and famous baroque staircase. Opposite the Palace stands the noble romanesque Santa Cruz church. No tour of Baeza would be complete without a visit to the city's various symbolic fountains, the most noteworthy of all being the one outside the tourist office, which is said to have been sent from the Roman town of Cantulo and is impressively adorned with four imposing statues of lions.
Aside from sightseeing, there is plenty more to be discovered. For lovers of typically Andalusian cuisine, there are a number of excellent tapas bars and restaurants to be enjoyed in the city. And, for those who might like to venture beyond the city itself, there are several pretty villages well worth exploring. The largest — Rus - is famous for its popular Los Mozos fiesta which is held in early autumn. Canena is home to one of the best preserved castles anywhere in Andalucia, while the quaint village of Ibros is worth a visit for its beautiful parish churches of San Pedro and San Pablo.
With the province of Jaén only a short drive from the Coast, a visit to Baeza during the enviably mild winter climate of southern Spain is a fascinating opportunity not to be missed.
Baeza Tourist Office: Plaza del Pópulo, Baeza Tel: (+34) 953 740 444 Useful websites: wvwv.baezarnonumentalcom wwwandalucia.org http://whc.unesco.org
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