On Part 2 of our Camino Trilogy, along the Via de la Plata and Camino Mozárabe, we head from Córdoba to Salamanca via two of Extremadura’s scintillating cities. Cáceres is a foodie’s heaven as well as beautiful on the eye.
The tiny region of Extremadura nestles against the Spanish border with Portugal. It is overflowing with natural beauty, history and a cuisine that reflects nature’s abundance. As we wend our way through the region on part 2 of our Camino Trilogy tour, we spend one night based in an historic property just outside the old city walls.
History of Cáceres
The history of Cáceres stretches back to prehistoric times, with remains found in La Cueva de Maltravieso and El Conejar.
Founded as Norba Caesarina in 34BC by the Romans, you can still see a city gate, Arco del Cristo, from that period which forms part of the city walls. And it is within those walls that a medieval town stands, seemingly untouched. It is no wonder many television shows and films – including Game of Thrones – are shot there.
The honey-coloured stone of the buildings looks magical both in daylight and at night. Wend your way through narrow streets before small squares open in front of you. A blend of Roman, Moorish and Italian Renaissance architecture with crenelated towers form the labyrinthine old town.
Thirty of the towers date to the Islamic period, which lasted from the 8th to 13th century; the most famous is the Torre del Bujaco. The Christians reconquered the town in 1229, and during this period there was an important Jewish quarter. However, the almost 140 Jewish families were expelled in 1492 by the Catholic Kings.
During the Reconquista and the Discovery of the Americas, Cáceres flourished. Influential Spanish families and nobles built homes and small palaces there. And in the 19th century, Cáceres became the capital of the province, its period of growth halted by the onset of the Spanish Civil War.
In 1986, UNESCO declared Cáceres a World Heritage Site.
Plaza Mayor and the Old Town
Plaza Mayor sits outside the Old Town walls and dates back to the 13th century when the expelled Jewish community set up their new homes there. The site of the annual fair, their businesses becoming the commercial centre of Cáceres.
From Plaza Mayor, the 18th century Arco de la Estrella (Star Arch) leads into the Old Town and the Plaza de Santa Maria. Here the co-cathedral of Santa Maria rubs shoulders with the Palacio de la Diputación Provincial and Palacio de los Golfines de Abajo.
Beyond is Plaza de San Jorge and the Church of Saint Francisco Javier whose bright white façade stands out from the crowd of sand coloured stone. Saint George (Jorge) was of particular relevance to the Christians as it was on April 23rd in 1229, they reconquered Cáceres from the Moors.
For cheese, wine and meat, Extremadura is at the top of the tree in Spain. In 2015, Cáceres was named the Spanish Capital of Gastronomy. Home to Jamón Iberico and the most delicious fruity red wines (personal recommendation – Paiva Crianza), it’s a top destination for travel foodies.
The pigs graze in acorn woods and you’ll also find a bellota-shaped (acorn) dish is the receptacle for many a local meal. The bellota jamón, when perfectly sliced, melts in the mouth. Extremadura’s cuisine is simple flavours prepared rustically with top quality ingredients – elevated farm-style food – and well worth the
Plaza San Juan is an ideal location for an evening nibble with the church lit up and a quiet pulse to the square. Similarly, a stroll through the Old Town when the moon is highly is atmospheric. The moonlight reflects off the stones in the plazuelos in contrast to the narrow streets cast in shadow.
Cáceres is a wonderful base on your Camino Trilogy along the Via de la Plata. Don’t miss out – enquire about your tour today.
Read about our other Camino base in Extremadura, Mérida: a Roman treasure trove.