The region of Extremadura in Spain, which is west of Madrid and close to neighboring Portugal, is proud of the charming towns and villages that offer interesting urban walks. These are magnificent corners to discover that offer architectural and cultural jewels that compete with the famous monuments of the region.
The Capital of the Alagón Valley, Coria, has a historic center that has been declared of Cultural Interest. A peaceful walk around palaces invites us to ramble around the Roman Wall and discover all the ancient gates that were the entrances to the medieval city. Once in the intramural location we are invited to submerge ourselves in the winding streets and to photographs winding corners loaded with personality.
A few meters from the “Plaza España” the Convent ”Madre de Dios” (Mother of God) gives off the special aroma of the handmade sweets made by the cloistered nuns. This is a special treat for any one that has the fortune of walking along this site. It is also a must to see the “Museo de la Carcel Real” (the Royal Jail Museum), that preserves its rooms the way they were originally planned. The Castle of the “Duques de Alba” (Dukes of Alba) and the Cathedral of “Santa Maria de la Asunción” are symbols of the noble past of Coria. The museum of the Cathedral is proud of the Chapel were it exhibit important relics, among them is the tablecloth of the Sacred Supper. After the visit to the Cathedral it is advisable to take a few moments to contemplate the views of the meadow of the Alagón River.
The beautiful plazas of Zafra
The town of Zafra, in Extremadura is a charming place that combines History, tradition, and gastronomy with the friendliness of its people. The “Plaza Grande” and the “Plaza Chica” is constantly boiling with people, both locals and tourist. It is a great place to meet people. The arcaded architecture of these plazas is very beautiful and offers a unique atmosphere in the historical center of the city. The monumental complex of the Center of town has been declared “Patrimonio Historico-Artistico” (Historic-Artistic Heritage) and its white houses, with ornate railings and balconies crowned with flowers make a clear reference to the grace of the city.
Zafra was in the past and continues to be an important crossroads and meeting point for artisans and religious institutions. The XV century buildings amaze us with their majesty we recommend a visit to the church of the “Candelaria” and to the “Monasterio de la Encarnación”. The Islamic domination left an imprint on the old fortress, which preserve its exterior medieval aspect. This is the Alcazar of the dukes of “Feria”, which is now converted into a five star hotel, part of the Spanish chain “Parador Nacional de Turismo”.
The unique wall of Galisteo
Halfway between Coria and Plasencia, there is the town of Galisteo that welcomes us with its tall and robust Islamic Wall, constructed with the pebble of the Alagón River. The care that was spared to protect this village during the Arab domination of the peninsula is a sign of the strategic importance of the place. Galisteo makes an amazing vantage point for all the surrounding valley and mountains.
Inside the fortified city the old whitewashed houses remain attached to the protecting Wall and their uniqueness made them obtain the title of “Bien de Interés Cultural” (Legacy of Cultural Interest). Inside, the palace-castle “La Picota” is located at foot of the River Jerte. After its restoration it is known as the Palace of the Marquis of Lara. One of the interesting architectural elements is the bell tower that end with an octagonal pyramid and stands on the wall, separate from the Church to which it belongs.
This is the Church of “La Asunción”, another important building which tells about the past importance of this town. We cannot leave Galisteo with out climbing and strolling along its Wall and enjoying the landscape of an eminently agricultural region. Also, it is worth strolling along the 16th century medieval Bridge and enjoying the meadows of the Jerte River.
Olivenza and the merger with Portugal
This town in Extremadura, Olivenza, has long been a conflictive point between Spain and Portugal. Its turbulent history is reflected through in the fortification of the city, seen in the thick Wall that protects the medieval citadel, the narrow street and the Castle.
The city of Olivenza is surrounded landscape of oak and cork trees that provides one of the most rewarding visits of Extremadura.
The Portuguese heritage is obvious in the street of Olivenza catalogued as a “Conjunto Historico- Artistico” (Historic-Artistic Ensemble). Under the Portuguese domination, Olivenza was made into and important villa with cobblestone floors, important squares and buildings with arcades. One of the most important Portuguese styles in the city is the decoration with tiles as seen in the chapel of the “Casa de la Misericordia” (House of Mercy). The names of the streets are in two languages: Spanish and Portuguese.
While walking through the street one can feel the living struggles and conflict of me that fought over this land. It is a place where religious buildings are kept in perfect condition. We cannot miss a visit to the Church of “Santa María del Castillo” and also, the Church of “La Magdalena”, chosen the best corner in Spain by the Repsol guide.
Hervás, the charming town
Among the urban centers of Extremadura with more spells we find Hervás. A privileged enclave at the foot of the Pinajarro and irrigated by the River Ambroz. Surrounded by endless chestnut woods and oaks that clothe the streets and corner. You will believe you are in a Fairy Tale.
The old Jewish quarter is one of the trademarks of this medieval city. Wood, tiles, adobe and granite were the construction elements of the houses and they remain in perfect condition, they are witnesses of the Jewish settlement of the XV century.
Among its network of narrow streets and corners it is essential to take a walk on the “Travesia del Moral”: the narrowest street in Spain with only about half a meter wide.
For the route map of our visit to Hervás we recommend a climb to the church of Santa María, an old Templar Castle, with view toward the mountain range and the old town. The walks in Hervás are always a delight, discovering surprises with every step: as an exhibition hall inside an old telephone booth or the tasting of sweets of Sephardic origin.
Jerez and its Templar past
The streets and alleys of “Jerez de los Caballeros” (in the photograph that heads this report) hide all kinds of secrets, from stately palaces, traditional houses, to religious monuments. The historic complex of Jerez brings together the Mudejar, the Gothic, and the Baroque styles and merges the legacy of the Order of the Temple and the Order of Santiago into a single stage.
The superb walls of the city impose on travelers a visit to the Templar fortress and a walk though the medieval citadel. The wall still has two of its gates, from the original six gates. The streets speak for themselves with a large religious legacy plagued with hermitages and convents.
The names of the old nobility of Jerez can still be seen in the porticos of palaces and building with names such as the “Casa del Sol” (House of the Sun), which was the house of the Counts of Berrona or the palace of Guzman Sotomayor.
The very noble city of Trujillo
One of the most important historical centers in the region, the city of Trujillo captures visitors from the time of their arrival. The discovery of the American continent gave universal fame to the so-called birthplace of the discoverers.
Its important past is felt in the Palaces that surround the monumental squares presided by statues of Francisco Pizarro. On these sites, during the XVI Century, houses for the most important Spanish lineages were built, such as the Orellana and the Chaves.
In a visit to Trujillo time must be set for a visit to the Almohade Castle and to walk its walls and towers for captivating photographs. The cobbled street of Trujillo leads us on path of palaces and noble houses exhibiting shields and coat of arms. We will also see balconies and fireplaces that look like they have been drawn from a movie set.
The walk through Trujillo will awaken our appetite and it is at the pubs surrounding the “Plaza Mayor” the ideal place to quench our thirst with the rich local wines seasoned with tasty cheeses that are famous in this city. The best will be available at the national fair, during the month of May.
La Llerena, the Majestic
The historic complex of LLerena astonishes visitors by the beauty of its architecture and by the rich heritage, where art has the leading role. The noble houses and mansions have imposing facades that compete in beauty with old Convents and Hospitals. The “Montemollin” gate is the only one of the four gates, which is still preserved.
The Church of “Nuestra Señora de la Granada” (Our Lady of the Pomegranate) and its unique tower preside over the “Plaza Mayor” (Main Square), which is arched and is of a Mudejar style.
Among the gastronomic specialties to take from Llerena are the “Corazones de las Monjas” (Heart of the Nuns). Which is a typical sweet that is made by the nuns in the Convent of Santa Clara. And we must also try their famous wines, as the people of LLerena claim that their countrymen, Pedro Lopez de Cazalla, treaded the first wine made in America, after the conquest.
The Puebla of Guadalupe
At the foot of the “Sierra de Villuercas” and “Altamira” sits “Guadalupe”. The cobble stones of the street of this town and the traditional architecture frame the most valuable monument of the place: the sanctuary of the monastery of our “Lady of Guadalupe”, which was declared a World Heritage Site.
A unique and single building groups a mixture of styles that go from the Gothic to the Mudejar, touching the Renaissance and the Baroque. In the interior of the monastery works of great value are being kept. During a visit to the monastery it is important to walk through the Mudejar Cloister, the Chapel, the Chapel Hall, the Chapel of the Virgin and the Chapel of Saint Jerome, with painting by Zurbarán.
The grandeur of the Monastery is in contrast with the humility of the traditional streets of Guadalupe. The “Serrana” type architecture is common through the town arches and arcades that frame popular balconies.
A good place to walk in the old Jewish quarter where you could find the “Plazuela” and the fountain of the “Tres Chorros” (Three Streams). Other important buildings are Church of the Holly Trinity, of Baroque style, the “Colegio de Infantes”, and the old Hospital of Saint John the Baptist, which is now a five star hotel of the Paradores de Turismo Chain.
Medellín and the Roman Theater
The town that gave birth to Hernán Cortes preserves an important monumental heritage. The maximum representation of this legacy is the Roman Theater recently restored. Located on the slope of a medieval Castle offers an impressive view of the Guadiana River and its XVII Century Bridge.
The historical and archaeological treasures of this town make Medellin an important place to visit and enjoy. In fact, the place where the Castle and the Roman Theater is located is one of the most complete archeological sites in Europe and offers us a real journey through time.
In addition to the importance of the archeological site, through the street of Medellin we find a wealth of popular architecture and unique remains, such as part of an Almohade wall or the ruins of “Porta Caeli”. Also, the bridges of Medellin require a special chapter, as is the case of the Roma Bridge of Cagánchez, which is four kilometers from town, the Bridge of the Asturias and the Bridge over the Ortigas River.
Visiting Medellin is also to enjoy the Guadiana River: the sound of the water during winter nights peacefully cradles and refreshes hot summer evenings.
Original article by Ainhoa Miguel
Translated by Susana Windt
Published in December, 2016