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

Facebookmail
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.