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.

7 Beautiful Cities in Spain You Have To Visit

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Picturesque beaches, towering mountains, rolling vineyards and some of the most elaborate architecture in the world. All of these wonders and more can be found in the country of Spain. Here’s a list seven beautiful Spanish destinations you absolutely have to visit at least once in your lifetime.

Madrid

Perhaps we’re biased, but Madrid, often ignored in lieu of cosmopolitan Barcelona, has something for any style of traveler, whether it be tapas, flamenco, nightlife, wine, architecture, history, fashion or major sporting events. With its quaint, cobblestone streets leading to grandiose squares like the Plaza Mayor or the Plaza Cibeles, you’ll be in awe just roaming around. Plus, Madrileños are passionate about all things edible, so foodies can bask in numerous options for international and Spanish cuisine, food markets and food tours. Of course, we recommend doing one (or more) of the many different food experiences and tailored tours by Insider’s Madrid, like the gourmet tapas tour or a paella and sangria class.

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

San Sebastián

San Sebastián, located in the Basque country is known for its famous seashell-shaped beach, La Concha. Beloved for its fancy pinxtos (these are similar to tapas and can sometimes be found “pinched” with a stick and placed on a baguette slice) dining scene and large number of Michelin-star restaurants, it’s also the last stop on the specialized Textile, Food and Fashion Tour led by Corazón. The city is surrounded by rolling green hills and wild beaches, and the Sagrado Corazon de Jesus statue on top of Monte Urgull keeps watch day and night over the city.

An aerial view of San Sebastian. © Keta / Wikipedia

Bilbao

Also a stop on the  Textile, Food and Fashion Tour tour, the Guggenheim Bilbao is one of the most intriguing art museums in the world. Designed by Frank Gehry, visitors come from around the world to see both the curved stone, glass and titanium exterior overlooking the Nervión River as well as inside of the museum, which features masterpieces by artists such as Willem Kooning, Yves Klein, Andy Warhol and Antoni Tàpies.

The Guggenheim exterior in Bilbao. © VA / Wikipedia

Santiago de Compostela

The final stop on the famous pilgrimage Camino de Santiago, known as the Way of St. James in English, Santiago de Compostela is a welcome site for weary travelers — ones who’ve been trekking for days or even those just getting off a Ryanair flight. The city’s magnificent Romanesque cathedral (which later added on Gothic and Baroque touches), towers above the rest of the city and is said to be the burial place of St. James the Great. The entire historic city center is designated as an UNESCO World Heritage site, so grab your camera and spend the day wandering around.

The cathedral in Santiago de Compostela. © Luis Miguel Bugallo Sánchez / Wikipedia.

Ibiza

This island, part of the Balearic archipelago, is best known for its party scene, but what many don’t know is that the island’s many hidden coves known as calas and secret beaches are some of the most stunning in the world. This is an island made for exploring — so rent a car and start your adventure. We recommend Cala Lentrisca, which you’ll have to walk through a small pine forest when the road ends in Urbanizació Es Cubells.

A cala in Ibiza. © juantiagues / Flickr

Logroño

The gateway city to Spain’s famous Rioja wine region, this city was made for food and wine aficionados, just a short drive way from hundreds of vineyardsThe city is beautiful in a different way, which stems from its very special manner in which both visitors and locals alike can dine: specialty tapas along the famous Calle Laurel. The long, winding street is lined with tapas bars — small bar-style ‘restaurants’ where you’ll often spot more people standing at the bar or around wooden wine barrels that sitting, chattering over one another while sipping a local Rioja variety or beer and their favorite tapa.

Tapas (or pinxtos) along Calle Laurel. © jynus / Wikipedia

Cádiz

This Andalusian gem is one of Spain’s oldest continually inhabited cities, and its historic architecture mixed with its long stretches of sandy beaches that sparkle beneath the sunshine will ensure you never want to leave. The city boasts a few different cathedrals, an ancient Roman theater and an 18th-century watchtower. You’ll be able to see all these delights and more if you sign up for Corazon’s specialized New Year’s Eve Cádiz Tour.

Cádiz. © Anna & Michal / Flickr