The picturesque Plaza Mayor of Cáceres
The Old Town of Cáceres, which was declared a UNESCO Heritage Site in 1986, is one of the best-conserved medieval old towns in the world. Before meandering through the cobble-stoned streets, flanked by centuries-old buildings, you will need to cross through the quaint Plaza Mayor – the gateway to the Old Town.
With more than 500 years of history, the square harbours most of the city’s cultural heritage sites and continues to be an important social and commercial hub. Historical landmarks such as Torre de Bujaco, Torre de los Púlpitos and Foro de los Balbos have stood witness for centuries, looming over the bustling bars and restaurants surrounding the square. Read on to discover the incredible history behind this picturesque square.
The origins of the Plaza Mayor of Cáceres
The first mention of the square dates back to the 13th century when the Jewish community was forced to live outside the city walls of Cáceres. They settled on a small hill, just outside the gate of the city wall, where it had become tradition to hold an annual fair. In this new location, they built their new homes and business places, eventually becoming the undisputable social and commercial epicentre of the city. Over the course of history, the square was used for to fulfill different purposes because of its prime location. In fact, the rectangular square wasn’t always called Plaza Mayor. It had all types of names! Nevertheless, the square always held a social function, where people gathered to attend markets, bullfights, public executions, military parades, Easter processions and most recently music festivals such as the WOMAD Festival.
Barceló Cáceres V Centenario
- Completely refurbished
- Spectacular swimming pool
- Perfect for short breaks
- Meeting and events centre
The historical secrets of Plaza Major
The square is a treasure trove of fascinating historical facts. Start your tour at the Tourism Office, located on the east side of the square. This building is flanked by several centuries-old buildings that were built into the city wall, including Torre de la Yerba, a Moorish watchtower built in the 12th century to protect the city from Christian attacks during the Reconquista; or the adjacent Torre de los Púlpitos, a Christian construction.
Another example of a structure built into the old city wall is the iconic, 25-m high Torre de Bujaco. It was built on the site of ancient Roman ruins by the Moors in the 12th century. It houses an interpretation centre on the history of Cáceres. From the rooftop, you can get stunning views of the Old Town.
From here, head towards Arco de la Estrella, the main gateway to the Old Town. It was named after the Virgen de la Estrella, a madonna whose image peers down from the inner arch.
Head to the southern end of Plaza Mayor to explore Foro de los Balbos, an open space adorned with different types of ornamentations, located beside the 19th century town hall. While the first chancellery meetings were held here hundreds of years ago, today it hosts modern-day music concerts.
Eating out in the Plaza Mayor of Cáceres
Cáceres won’t disappoint with its culinary offering. In fact, it was named Spanish Capital of Gastronomy in 2015 by the Spanish Federation of Restaurants. The region’s simple yet tasty cuisine can be enjoyed throughout the city – there’s simply no better way to fuel up!
The great thing about the Plaza Mayor is the spectacular concentration of bars and restaurant in such a condensed space. Most can be found on the western edge of the square, just opposite of the Tourism Office. The eateries are located where the city’s ancient guilds used to be housed, adding a little history to an already history-laden location.
First up is La Minerva (Plaza Mayor, 26). This elegant restaurant offers much full-course meals and tapas which can be enjoyed out on the terrace or inside in the dining room. The tasting menu includes foie-stuffed raviolis and braised hake, entrecote and a pineapple soup with violet ice cream.
The no-frills tapas bar Tal Cual (Plaza Mayor, 16) is another great option if you are in the mood for something a little lower key. Some of the kitchen’s stellar dishes include fried octopus and braised sirloin steak.