Cáceres, town of conquistadors and bell-towers

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Cáceres is a town in the Extremadura region of Spain – the region where many of the conquistadors, those adventurers eager for fame and power but most of all gold, came from. It can be reached from Madrid in about four hours by train. Like so many parts of Spain not on the Mediterranean coast, you will find the town quite tranquil, not at all overrun by tourists.

The old town of Cáceres is still enclosed within its ancient walls and preserves its medieval feel: no modern buildings to be seen anywhere but plenty of narrow alleys and lots of bell-towers to climb – the view over the town and the countryside makes this worthwhile. There’s more than one way to enter the old town but perhaps the nicest is going from the Plaza Mayor, up the steps and through the Arco de Estrella.

One of the most memorable places in the old town is the Palacio de las Veletas which serves as a museum. It has a renaissance style courtyard and a truly impressive aljibe – underground cistern – surviving from 11th or 12th century when there was a Moorish Alcazaba (fort) on the site. Some of the dozen or so columns of the aljibe are even older than that, being Roman in origin. There is also a quirky little Arab house tucked away in a back street: the privately owned building is from the Moorish period and is stuffed with Arabic furniture, swords, clothes, etc., giving you a feel for what an Arabic house must have been like. The patio is a particularly pleasant spot, with high walls and lots of plants, cool even in summer heat. The owner is very friendly and will proudly show you around for free although it’s only polite to leave a donation afterwards.



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