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HOT Attractions - Set in Stone

Spain has the distinction of boasting more magnificent Unesco World Heritage Cities and Sites than any other country, and Caceres – the capital of the province of the same name – is without doubt one of the most impressive examples of ancient architecture of all...

Report: Carolyn Mowlem

With its wealth of exquisitely preserved monuments dating from the Roman period to the XIX century, the magnificent city of Caceres is an open-air museum in its own right, its winding cobbled streets framed by an architectural tapestry where Renaissance courtyards, medieval fortresses and Gothic churches rub shoulders with plateresque palaces, baroque facades, Romanesque convents and Mudejar towers, yet despite their astounding diversity somehow contriving to co-exist in sublime harmony.

Set in Stone - Cáceres

Just over 500 kilometres north of Marbella and less than a five-hour drive, Caceres forms part of the Autonomous Community of Extremadura, adjoining Portugal to the west, Andalucía to the south, Castilla-La Mancha to the east, and Castilla-Leon to the north. A land of spectacular contrasts, Extremadura extends across more than 40,000 square kilometres, and Caceres is the region's second largest city.

On the outskirts of town, the Maltravieso Cave - whose walls are replete with early symbolic drawings and paintings, and where human and animal remains have also been found - is evidence that the area was already settled some 25,000 years ago during the Late Palaeolithic period, while the city itself was founded by Roman, Lucio Cornelio Balbo in 25 BC.

Known as Norba Caesariana, it was a strategic stopping off point for merchants travelling the important Vía de la Plata (Silver Route). The famous Roman road stretches from Sevilla in the south to Astorga in the north, and over the centuries has also been trod by thousands of pilgrims en route to the Cathedral in Santiago de Compostela which is believed to be the resting place of the Apostle St James.

Set in Stone - Cáceres

After the fall of the Roman Empire, Caceres was occupied by the Visigoths and it was not until the XII century that the city, then occupied by the Moors who named it Hizn Qazris, really began to take shape. The crumbling Roman walls were rebuilt and work began on a chain of defence towers of which the Torrres Bujaco, Yedra and Horno still remain intact. In 1196 Caceres was taken by Fernando II of Leon, and three years later the Fratres de Caceres Order of Knights (the forefather of the Order of Santiago), was formed to defend the town. In 1173, it was once again in Moorish hands under the leadership of Abú Ya'qub and was finally seized by Spanish monarch Alfonso IX and incorporated into the Kingdom of Leon on 23 April 1229 — the Dia de San Jorge (St George's Day).

Caceres prospered during the Spanish Reconquest and Columbus's Discovery of America. A significant number of enterprising citizens of Extremadura sailed to the New World in seek of their fortunes, subsequently returning to Caceres to build palatial homes, while many influential families and noblemen from the region followed suit. The city became the provincial capital in the XIX century and today has a population of 90,000, although the Old Town itself is surprisingly compact and actually smaller than Marbella's own Casco Antigua.

Set in Stone - Cáceres

The city walls - a favourite nesting spot for storks - and the dozens of magnificent monuments within have been so carefully preserved that they are a location manager's dream and consequently many major movies have been filmed in and around Caceres where no satellite dish or television aerial detracts from the magical views. And it is because of its plethora of awe-inspiring monuments faithfully reflecting its more than 2,000 years of turbulent history that Unesco granted it the prestigious status of a World Heritage City in 1986. Currently, in common with Málaga, Cáceres also has its sights set on winning the coveted European Capital of Culture title in 2016.

Some of the most beautiful medieval buildings line the Plaza de Santa Maria and Plaza de San Mateo, while the Barrio San Antonio is the charming Jewish Quarter. Other principal areas of interest include the gracious Plaza Mayor presided over by the iconic Torre de Bujaco, and Plaza de San Jorge dominated by the twin white towers of the church of the same name. You can walk the city walls and ramparts, parts of which were built by the Romans during the III and IV centuries, and for the most unforgettable of spectacular city panoramas, climb to the enchanting Santuario de Nuestra Senora de la Montana, beneath which lies the cave which in 1668 was the starting point for the lengthy process of venerating the patron saint of Caceres, St George.

Tourist Office: Plaza Mayor 3, Caceres, Extremadura
Tel: (+34) 927 010 834
Fax: (+34) 927 010 836
Spanish Tourist Board Website:

Please note: Every effort was made to check the accuracy of the information contained within our archived HOT Properties Magazine articles at the time of originally going to press, but may well have been superseded over the ensuing years. They are now made available as historical archival information only. The said information has not been reviewed subsequently for present day accuracy nor has it been updated and we expressly disclaim any duty or obligation to do so. VIVA cannot accept responsibility for any errors or omissions, nor for the authenticity of any claims or statements made by third parties. We therefore strongly recommend that readers of these archived articles make their own thorough checks before entering into any kind of transaction. Prices were correct at the time of publication but may now vary due to circumstances beyond our control. The views and opinions of editorial contributors do not necessarily reflect those of VIVA .

HOT Properties Magazine Issue 65 - 2007

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