The UNESCO World Heritage-listed city of Cáceres is tucked away in Extremadura, a Spanish region of wild beauty that is oft-overlooked by visitors. It is a time-traveler’s dream, with its immaculately preserved blend of architecture stretching back over a thousand years.
With contemporary suburbs wrapped around its ancient heart, the focal point of the city is the Plaza Mayor, one of the most striking public piazzas in Spain and home of the Moorish tower of Torre del Bujaco, built in the 12th century by the Arabs to defend their town from Spanish conquistadors. From here the labyrinthine old streets, turreted defense walls, archways and shady, cobbled squares of the Ciudad Monumental (Old City) rise uphill in a jumble of Roman archways, Mudejar towers, gargoyle-smothered Gothic churches and Renaissance palaces. A stroll around the silent streets uncovers townhouses at several stories high and embellished with coats of arms, tiny courtyards crammed with greenery, a miniscule Jewish quarter, and several thoughtfully presented historical museums.
The Avenida de España is a busy boulevard leading visitors back into the 21st century, shaded on one side by the trees of a tranquil park. Today’s modern city is small enough to explore on foot and lively after dark thanks to its vibrant university population. Cáceres also lies on one of the pilgrimage routes to Santiago di Compostela, a journey that passes through landscapes dotted with whitewashed villages famous for producing delicious Iberico hams.