Caceres, located in the far western Spanish province of Extremadura, is both one of the best preserved medieval cities anywhere and an off-the-beaten track destination. An easy 2.5 hour drive from Madrid, it is a fabulous place to spend a weekend. Unlike Toledo, another beautiful medieval city next to Madrid, visitors will find many more cultural and dinning options outside the ‘typical’ tourist centers.
Rafa and I recently rented a car and took a weekend to discover this fascinating, 2000-year-old city. We decided to stay at a flat we found online. It was huge, reasonably-priced and above all had a spectacularly-commanding view of the old walled city. Nuria, our half-American-half-Spanish host, was very friendly and helpful with pointing out places to eat at and see.
On our first full day, we decided to take a two-hour walking tour of the old city. At €5 per person, it’s a steal. Our lovely Extremeñan guide Longina did a wonderful job of explaining the history of the city from its Roman beginnings to its Arab renaissance to its medieval family intrigue. We were taken into several ancient homes and also visited a 10th century Arab subterranean cistern. You can find the tour office near the Puerta de la Estrella in Plaza Mayor.
The food of Extremadura is simply amazing. Migas, which is a dish made with bread crumbs and chorizo, is a hearty staple. Any pork cut is also a safe ticket to culinary bliss. Nuria took us out to a bar overlooking Plaza Mayor on our first night called Meson el Encínar. There, we had tostas with jamón, secreto iberico (grilled pork loin) and mollejas (sweetbreads) with the local Spanish red wine Habla en Silencio. A 10/10 in my book.
Caceres is an isolated city in the least-populated region of Spain. As such, there are plenty of bars to visit into the wee hours. The area just
off Plaza Mayor opposite the old city is a happening area as is Calle Pizarro. Rafa and I especially liked a new, modern bar called El Pequeño Gin on Pizarro.
Aside from the Old City, Caceres offers up a surprising wealth of museums and festivals for such a small city. We checked out the excellent Fundación Helga de Alvear museum which offers an ever-changing selection of modern art. The city also hosts several music festivals every year including WOMAD.
Caceres has a wealth of amazing sights and activities. And the best part, 95% of the tourists you’ll see (which won’t be a lot) are Spanish. Unlike Toledo or Segovia, Caceres has yet to become an overrun ‘Disneyland.’ Let’s hope it stays that way.