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The Historic Old Town of Cáceres | Extremadura, Spain (In Pictures)

Remember my family trip to Spain back in late May? Yeah, the one to Spain's mythical Extremadura region. If you've been following my blog (and why wouldn't you be? SUBSCRIBE HERE), you'd know that we started in Madrid, made our way NW over to the spectacular Walls of Ávila, continued 154 km SW to our first stop in Extremadura, the city of Plasencia, and then a short drive south through Monfragüe National Park, the largest and best preserved Mediterranean forest worldwide, and then to the medieval city of Trujillo, a short 40 minute drive south. From Trujillo, we visited the Royal Monastery of Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe (a UNESCO World Heritage site) in Guadalupe, and then drove south to visit the Roman Theatre in Mérida (another UNESCO World Heritage site).

Well, we saved the best for last (and that's saying something). Allow me to present to you the Historic Old Town of Cáceres, the capital of the province of Extremadura.

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, a general who was Roman consul in 80 BC, and started to gain importance as a strategic city under Roman occupation. Remains found in the city suggest that it was a thriving center as early as 25 BC.

After the fall of the Western Roman Empire, the city was occupied by the Visigoths (western branches of the nomadic tribes of Germanic peoples referred to collectively as the Goths) 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 before being passed into Christian hands upon its reconquest by Alfonso IX of León in the early 13th century.

Cáceres flourished during the Reconquista and the Discovery of America, as influential Spanish families and nobles built homes and small palaces there. In the 19th century, Cáceres became the capital of the province of Extremadura, marking a period of growth which was halted by the Spanish Civil War. Because of the city's blend of Roman, Moorish, Northern Gothic and Italian Renaissance architecture, the Old Town of Cáceres was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1986. The Old Town also happened to be our last stop on our journey through Extremadura and boy do I wish we had allowed for more than just a day and a half. This city is truly magical.

We spent the better part of our one full day in Cáceres and we could have been there for three days at least to fully explore the Old Town and the surrounding region. I did have my Lumix GH4 in hand, so here are a few photographs taken around about one-third of the Old Town - enjoy...

PLAZA MAYOR

Old Town of Cáceres

Let's start with the Plaza Mayor and the Torre de Bujaco (Bujaco Tower) on left, an Arabic building that dates back to the 12th century...

Old Town of Cáceres

Up the stairs, we come across the Arco de la Estrella (Star Archway), the main gateway to the walled enclosure since the 15th century, being the best known of the medieval city of Cáceres (more on this later)

LA SANTA IGLESIA CONCATEDRAL DE SANTA MARÍA

Old Town of Cáceres

Old Town of Cáceres

Walking the medieval streets to Plaza de Santa María and La Santa Iglesia Concatedral de Santa María (Cáceres Cathedral), which was erected in the 15th century in a Gothic style, with the main portal following the Romanesque architectural tradition...

Old Town of Cáceres

Old Town of Cáceres

The main altarpiece of the chapel, sculpted in cedar and oak wood, is one of the jewels of the church. Created by Dutch sculptor Roque Balduque and French sculptor Diego Guillén Ferrant, the work was completed in 1551...

Old Town of Cáceres

Old Town of Cáceres

Old Town of Cáceres

The interior has notable artworks and sculptures including a priceless Black Christ sculpture, by an anonymous artist that arrived to Cáceres in the 14th century...

Old Town of Cáceres

Up a spiral staircase takes you to the belltower of the Cáceres Cathedral...

Old Town of Cáceres

Old Town of Cáceres

Old Town of Cáceres

From the belltower, you get some breathtaking views of the Old Town...

Old Town of Cáceres

From the belltower you can see the Palacio de Toledo-Moctezuma, a medieval building of Renaissance style that was built during the fifteenth century although its current appearance is due to the restorations that were undertaken in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth century...

LA IGLESIA DE SAN FRANCISCO JAVIER

Old Town of Cáceres

Our next stop was La Iglesia de San Francisco Javier, a Jesuit church in the Baroque style built in the 18th century by Spanish architect Pedro Sánchez Lobato. It is flanked by two quadrangular towers finished in pyramidal shape...

Old Town of Cáceres

Inside La Iglesia de San Francisco Javier...

Old Town of Cáceres

La Iglesia de San Francisco Javier also has a pair of nifty belltowers which you can go up, as evidenced in the above photograph taken from the belltower of the Cáceres Cathedral (see the young lady waving from the belltower on the left?)

Old Town of Cáceres

View of Cáceres from the belltower...

Old Town of Cáceres

From the belltower of the Iglesia de San Francisco Javier, we saw a wedding letting out of the Cáceres Cathedral and spilling out into the Plaza de Santa María so we went down to take a closer look...

PLAZA DE SANTA MARÍA

Old Town of Cáceres

Old Town of Cáceres

Stylish wedding party outside the the Cáceres Cathedral...

Old Town of Cáceres

Bride and groom pose for a photograph outside the Episcopal Palace of Cáceres, which dates back to the 13th century and is the current residence of the bishop of the diocese of Coria-Cáceres...

ARCO DE LA ESTRELLA

Old Town of Cáceres

Old Town of Cáceres

Remember the Arco de la Estrella (Star Archway) I mentioned in my second photograph? Built by Spanish architect Manuel de Lara Churriguera, it's the traditional entrance to the monumental city of Cáceres and replaced the New Gate building during the fifteenth century. Oh, and it was featured in the upcoming season of Game of Thrones...

Old Town of Cáceres

Iglesia de San Mateo was built upon the ruins of an ancient Arab mosque, which is cited in a document dating back to 1345. It was rebuilt and completed in the 16th, 18th and 20th centuries...

Old Town of Cáceres

El Convento de San Pablo is a convent of Franciscan nuns that dates back to the 15th century...

Old Town of Cáceres

Cáceres is the perfect city to just get lost in. Wish we had stayed a few more days in this truly magical city. Next time for sure. Learn more about the wonderful Extremadura region at turismoextremadura.com (and yes, the site is in English).

One more post on our trip to Extremadura coming up - SUBSCRIBE HERE to not miss it...

ORANGE STRIPE

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