Best Things to Do in Cáceres (Extremadura)

Located in the Extremadura region of western Spain, the city of Cáceres is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The city has been home to many civilizations over the centuries including Celts, Romans, Visigoths and Moors. Its Ciudad Monumental in the historic centre of Cáceres is where you’ll find some impeccably preserved medieval and Renaissance architecture. This is a place to visit by day when you can enter the main tourist attractions and by night just to marvel at the illuminated buildings.

Things to Do in Cáceres: Plaza Mayor

Getting to Cáceres

The most popular way to travel to Cáceres from Madrid is by train. There are frequent services from Madrid-Atocha Cercanias to Cáceres train station which lies close to the city centre. The journey takes around 3 hours. Numerous bus services taking closer to 4 hours are available from the capital. Alternatively, you can rent a car in Madrid and drive to Cáceres in around 3 hours and 15 minutes.

Where to Stay in Cáceres

The Cáceres Parador occupies the 14th century Torreorgaz Palace originally owned by one of the conquistadors. The only hotel within the monumental area of the city, it is ideally situated to explore the magnificent old town which is full of both religious buildings and privately owned mansions. The parador itself offers spacious living rooms in soft cream shades and wooden beams in harmony with its location in this World Heritage site.

Where to Eat in Cáceres

There are some touristy restaurants scattered around the edge of the Plaza Mayor with outdoor terraces but the better quality eateries are elsewhere. Restaurante Madruelo (Camberos 2), which is near the Plaza Mayor, serves top notch regional cuisine whist Restaurante Torre de Sande (c/ de los Condes, 3) is a great choice for roast meat dishes served in their stylish courtyard. The Parador’s excellent restaurant is also open to the public.

You can sample some of Extremaduras’s favourite dishes at the traditional tapas bars in Plaza de San Juan. Local specialties include Iberian ham (jamón ibérico), goat’s cheese (queijo de cabra) and lamb stew (caldereta de cordero).

Best Things to Do in Cáceres

Strategically built atop a hill, Cáceres was hotly contested throughout history. Romans, Visigoths, Moors, and Christians left their indelible marks on the city. Here are some of the best things to see on a visit to this captivating living museum:

Explore the Ciudad Monumental

The cobblestone alleys and medieval architecture of the Ciudad Monumental is the main tourist centre of Cáceres. This is a place to wander amongst the ancient walls, elegant palaces and ornate towers. Here are some of the main things to see in the historic centre:

Plaza Mayor: Cáceres’ arcaded main square has been the heartbeat of the city for centuries. It’s ringed by elegant palaces like the Casa del General Preciado, whose Baroque stone facade and coat of arms date to Cáceres’ affluent era under the Kingdom of Castile. For panoramic views over the city’s red-tiled roofs, climb the 150 steps of the 15th century Torre de Bujaco watchtower which was was of Cáceres’ old Moorish fortifications.

Plaza de Santa María: This plaza thrived as an important marketplace in medieval times and is home to the Santa María Co-cathedral which was built in the late 15th century. It is known for its Gothic architecture and exquisite altarpieces. Scale its tower for vistas of the monumental city. Other noteworthy buildings around this historic plaza include the medieval Palacio de Carvajal fortress-residence and the Plateresque-style Palacio de los Golfines de Abajo.

Cáceres' Ciudad Monumental

Plaza de San Jorge: By the 16th century Cáceres was flourishing under Renaissance influences. This charming square displays the wealth of those times, including the striking Iglesia de San Francisco Javier church whose design mixes late Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque details.

Plaza de San Mateo: Today, this plaza hosts the Arms Museum within the 15th century Diego de Ovando Palace. Whilst the Gothic Iglesia de San Mateo is another important sight, it is the Convent of San Pablo which attracts most visitors. That’s because the resident nuns make delicious sweets from traditional recipes which they sell to the public. Add this to your ‘top things to do in Cáceres’ list.

Roman and Moorish Sights

Arco del Cristo: One of the only surviving relics from Cáceres’ Roman past, this 1st century CE archway provides a glimpse into antiquity’s imprint on the city.

Casa Mudejar: With its distinctive Moorish design influences like horseshoe arches and geometric patterns, this building is one of the few remaining buildings exhibiting Moorish architectural influence.

Cáceres-Ovando Palace: Mostly built in the 15th-16th centuries, but its tower miraculously escaped destruction during Queen Isabella’s medieval purges of non-Christian structures.

Other Cáceres Tourist Attractions

Arco de la Estrella: Sadly most of Cáceres’ Roman structures were destroyed when the Visigoths invaded. The Arco del Cristo located along Cuesta de Marques from Plaza San Jorge is one of the only remaining examples of Roman architecture. This stone archway with its eight-pointed star leads into the old town’s labyrinth of lanes and plazas.

Palacio de Mayoralgo: The intricately carved window grilles exhibit master Renaissance stonework at one of Cáceres’ most illustrious 16th century palaces.

Historic Cáceres

Museo de Cáceres: Housed in an 18th century building, this excellent museum provides fascinating insights into Cáceres’ history through prehistoric artifacts, architectural exhibits and displays illuminating the city’s folk culture and dress.

Museo de los Golfines de Arriba: Tour this 15th century palace for a window into aristocratic life during the Middle Ages. Marvel at the lavish period furnishings, decor and Flemish tapestries.

Best Day Trips from Cáceres

Parque Natural de Monfragüe

Located 60km to the north-east of Cáceres, the magnificent Monfragüe National Park is home to spectacular rock formations, castle ruins and diverse wildlife along the Tagus River. With over 300 species of birds, it’s a haven for birdwatchers who can spot rare black vultures, purple bee-eaters and black storks. Other wildlife in the park include roe deer, wild boar, otters, genets and more. Monfragüe is also home to some ancient cave paintings.

Monfrague National Park

Day Trip to Trujillo

The town of Trujillo lies just 45 minutes north of Cáceres, making it an easy and rewarding day trip. This well-preserved medieval settlement was the home of many conquistadors setting out for the Americas in the 15th-16th centuries. Wander the Plaza Mayor lined with Renaissance architecture and see the imposing statue of Francisco Pizarro who conquered Peru. Don’t miss the massive fortress-like church of Santa María la Mayor. Its stone walls seem to erupt from bare rock, blending with the natural landscape. The views from Trujillo’s castle over the Extremadura countryside are also impressive.

Cáceres Excursion to Trujillo

Excursion to Mérida

The ancient Roman city of Mérida, just one hour east of Cáceres, is home to Spain’s most impressive Roman ruins. These include its iconic Roman theatre, amphitheatre, temples and aqueducts. Other highlights include crossing the still-intact Roman bridge over the Guadiana River and exploring the excellent National Museum of Roman Art to see statues, mosaics and artifacts from ancient times.

Take a Day Trip from Cáceres to Mérida

Pilgrimage to Guadalupe

The monastery town of Guadalupe sits about an hour and a half east of Cáceres, making for an easy day trip. This sacred site provides a tranquil counterpoint to Cáceres’ bustling historic centre. Visitors come to visit the Monestario de Santa María de Guadalupe where a shepherd is believed to have discovered a statue of the Virgin Mary here. Dating back to the 14th century, the monastery features a blend of Gothic, Mudéjar and Renaissance architectural styles. Visitors can wander among the monastery’s cloisters and gardens for a glimpse into monastic life centuries ago.

WOMAD Festival in Cáceres

The WOMAD festival is a world music festival which takes place annually in July in the historic city of Cáceres. WOMAD stands for ‘World of Music, Arts and Dance’ and the festival celebrates musical diversity and cultural exchange. The first WOMAD festival was held in 1982 in the UK, founded by Peter Gabriel as a way to showcase and bring together international music, arts and dance.

The Cáceres edition of WOMAD was launched in 1993 and has grown to become one of the most important world music festivals globally. The festival takes place over 4 days, usually in the 2nd or 3rd week of July. It is held in the beautiful setting of the Cáceres Central Park and Bullring, allowing attendees to soak up music against the backdrop of the city’s medieval architecture. The festival attracts over 90,000 attendees each year.