6 Reasons To Explore the Ancient Roman City of Mérida, Spain

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Spain’s Extremadura region is a hidden gem, relatively unknown to tourists. Often overlooked in favor of charming Andalusia or cosmopolitan Catalonia, Extremadura is the perfect place to have a real retreat, soaking in all the most wonderful parts of the Spanish (and ancient Roman) culture like traditional foods, unpretentious wines and immeasurable amount of history.
Aqueducto Los Milagros in Mérida. ©Esteban Viso via Flickr

It’s the Capital

All of Spain’s regions have a capital, and Mérida is the capital city of the region Extremadura. The city was founded as Augustus Emerita in 25 BC to resettle veteran emeriti soldiers from two and was named capital of the Iberian Roman province of Lusitania.

It’s Full of Roman Ruins

The city of Mérida has more Roman ruins than any other city in Spain, including the world’s longest surviving bridge, aptly named the Roman Bridge. At 790 meters long, it’s also the longest bridge ever built in Spain by the Romans. Besides this, you can check out the Roman theatre and amphitheater, the acclaimed National Museum of Roman Art, the Roman circus and more. There’s even a towering Roman aqueduct, the acueducto de los milagros, that dates back to the 1st century A.D.

The Roman Bridge in Mérida. © A stray sheep via Wikipedia.

And Moorish Ruins Too

The Romans weren’t the only ones to inhabit Mérida. Plan to visit the site of the Alcazaba, a Muslim fortress that dates back to the 9th century, later inhabited by the Christians when they took over the city. Make sure to take in the views from the walls, admiring the river Guadiana, the Roman Bridge and beyond.

It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site

We think Mérida is pretty epic, and UNESCO seems to agree. Mérida’s historic center has been deemed UNESCO World Heritage site since 1993, thanks to its eclectic collection of Roman, Spanish and Muslim sights.

You Can Still Enjoy Events at the Roman Theater

The Roman theater is still in use, meaning visitors can enjoy theater and concert events inside. While it’s often used for opera or classical concerts, some big-name acts have played there in the past. We’re pretty certain the acoustics are on point.

The Roman theater. © Tomás Fano via Flickr.

All. The. Delicious. Ham.

Mérida (in fact, all of Extremadura) is known for their delicious Iberian meats. A region where ham curation is practically an art form, Extremadura’s climate is especially ideal for growing acorns and oaks, which are what many of the prized pigs are fed. Two main categories of ham come from the Mérida area: Cebo de Campo ham, where pigs are fed with both acorn and grain, and the Ibérico de Bellota ham, where pigs are fed with acorns during their final period. This ham also has a longer curation period (typically about 36 months). Three areas around Mérida are famous for their ham: Serena, Montanchez and Llanos de Olivenza, meaning that if you love high-quality pork, you’ll be spoiled when visiting this region.

Interested in spending a day in Mérida?

Corazon Travel offers a trip here as part of their Insider’s Gourmet Tour. You’ll have the opportunity to sample “Gladiator” wine at the Viña Santa Marina and explore the ancient Roman ruins of Mérida. After visiting the Roman bridge and touring the Roman theater and the amphitheater, you can enjoy a relaxing cup of coffee followed by a guided tour through the National Museum of Roman Art developed by architect Rafael Moneo.

The Perfect Packing List For Visiting Madrid, Spain

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When packing for a trip to the Spanish capital, organizing your suitcase is important. You don’t want to pack too much, too little or forget any of the key items listed below. Packing right will help you blend in seamlessly with the locals and not look like a tourist. Here’s a list of things you shouldn’t forget to put in your suitcase when visiting Madrid.

Learn how to pack right for the Spanish capital. © Madrid Destino y Cultura

Sunglasses (and an Umbrella)

Madrid sees 300 days of sunshine a year, and the blue skies are usually bright and cheerful. The sun is strong, even in winter, so bring along a pair of shades to protect your eyes. While it doesn’t rain often in Madrid , having an umbrella in case the weather changes is key – walking in the rain in Madrid without one is no fun.

Cash

Cash is king in Madrid. While most hotels, restaurants and shops do take credit cards, if you’re sitting at an outdoor terrace sipping a 2 euro glass of wine, using your card for such a low amount may not always be an option. Most restaurants and bars have minimums (usually hovering around 12 euro). While this may not be a problem in other cities or countries, drinks and tapas are often so reasonably priced in Madrid that you may not always meet the minimum. Not all taxi drivers have their card terminals working and occasionally visitors complain that the metro machines reject foreign cards. Waiters at some of the older restaurants may huff and puff when it comes to splitting the bill on several cards. So pack some euros, or simply take them out of the ATM upon arrival.

Don’t forget to have some cash on you. © Reynermedia via Flickr.

Comfortable Shoes

Madrid is a walking city. Flip flops and stiletto heels are not ideal, especially when walking on cobblestone streets or rushing down the stairwell to catch the metro. Instead, you’ll find locals wearing trendy gym shoes, wedged espadrilles and cute, flat sandals or oxfords. Cooler temps bring ankle and knee high boots, usually flat, with a solid sole. Once you’ve lapped the city, you’ll thank us for this expert packing tip.

A Scarf

Besides being a fashion statement, a scarf is the perfect accessory – and one that the locals use too. It can double as a shawl or beach cover up or keep your neck and shoulders toasty. Weather in Madrid can drop and rise dramatically when the sun comes or goes, so having an extra layer in the city is essential. A scarf can even double as a picnic blanket if you want to lounge on the green grass at the Retiro Park and partake in a quick afternoon siesta.

Jazz up an outfit with a colorful scarf.

An Adaptor

Remember, Spain uses EU plugs, so bring an adaptor if you’re coming from countries the UK or USA. While larger hotels will have them for loan, smaller spots or Airbnb rentals won’t, and with the number of electronics we travel with these days, you’ll be glad you remembered to stow this item in your suitcase

Cute Day-to-Night Outfits

Madrileños don’t wear sweats and leggings outside of their home or the gym. You’ll notice that locals put a good amount of effort into their appearance, so leave your old jogging pants at home and instead bring along jeans, trousers, dresses and tops that can be worn to wander the city by day and look elegant at night.

If you happen to forget any of the above key items, consider taking an Insider’s Madrid shopping tour to pick up these missing items — and more!

7 Spots For A Romantic Honeymoon In Spain

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Spain is one of the most romantic countries in the world for a honeymoon. Imagine intimate dinners by candlelight, passionate flamenco dancing and long riverside strolls at dusk with your one and only. But with so many magical cities to visit, where do you even start? Read on to discover to some of the most idyllic spots to celebrate your post-nuptials.

Seville

With a thriving tapas culture and the blissful gardens of the Alcazar palace, Seville is definitely one of the sexiest cities in Spain. In fact, the whole southern region of Andalusia is sultry and inviting, and you can’t go wrong with an intimate evening ride in a horse-drawn carriage or a walk through the magnificent Plaza de España at sunset. Exploring a nearby white village such as Arcos de la Frontera is a perfectly picturesque day trip.

Plaza España in Seville. © Lori Zaino.

Menorca

Once of Spain’s hidden gems, the tranquil island of Menorca is a serene beach getaway perfect for couples wanting to get away from it all. Rent a car and explore the island, discovering rocky coves and beautiful sandy spots — you may just find yourselves completely alone to relax in the sunshine. Evening walks through the port and past the old British houses of Máhon are a peaceful way to unwind, and this island is truly a place for you to bond with your new love.

Cala Galdana in Menora. © Ben Salter / Wikipedia.

Madrid

Such a large city may seem imposing for a honeymoon, but with a growing number of boutique hotels as well as 5-star luxury properties, you can bask in the very best in Spain’s capital when it comes to accommodation. With day trips to nearby charming villages like Segovia and Toledo, getting out of the city is just a hop, skip and jump away. Madrid has endless cultural adventures, and the city is full of eclectic art, live music and dance, gourmet restaurants, cozy bars and boutique shopping.Remember, Insider’s Madrid can always help you to book tours — we’ll curate the perfect food, shopping, art or fashion tour with newlyweds in mind!

Plaza de la Villa in Madrid. © Madrid Destino Cultura Turismo y Negocio.

Granada

The Arabic influence on this southern Spanish city creates a special ambiance perfect for couples. Enjoy panoramic views of Granada, the Alhambra Palace and beyond as you and your honey take in a sunset at the Mirador San Nicolás, the city’s most coveted viewpoint. Once the sun sets, there’s nothing more romantic than soaking in that post-wedding bliss by admiring gypsy flamenco deep in a mountainside cave while sipping on sangria.

Granada and beyond. © Lori Zaino.

La Rioja

Close your eyes and picture you and your partner sipping red wine paired with savory Iberian ham and exquisite cheese, all to the backdrop of medieval villages and rolling vineyards. If this sounds like a dream, head to the Rioja region of Spain, one of the most popular areas in Spain for wine tasting. The charming towns of Logroño and Haro can be explored by two on foot after a delightful day of tasting and touring the nearby vineyards and villages.

A small town in the Rioja region of Spain. © cenobio / Wikipedia.

Marbella

Beach-loving couples looking for a sophisticated, glamorous honeymoon should head to Marbella. Spend your days frolicking with your plus one on long streches of sandy beaches lined with palm trees or unwinding at one of the many spas. Once the sun sets, treat yourselves to elegant dinners and cocktails at fashionable beach bars.

Port Banús in Marbella. © Tomas Faro / Wikipedia.

San Sebastián

Foodie couples should immediately head to San Sebastián, famous for its incredible eats, including a number of Michelin-star restaurants. But going beyond the fancier food scene, you’ll discover a whole other layer of dining — pinchos — which is really a way of life. These small tapas, often ‘pinched’ with a stick, can be found at most bars and restaurants, so grab your partner and start sampling. If you’re too full to do anything else, walk hand-in-hand along the city’s most famous beach, La Concha.

La Concha beach in San Sebastián. © Keta / Wikipedia.