Trujillo Spain: Birthplace of Conquistador Francisco Pizarro

Trujillo is a small town in the Extremadura region of western Spain which is a place of great historical significance. It was here, in the 15th century, that Francisco Pizarro was born. Pizarro was a conquistador who played a pivotal role in the Spanish conquest of the Inca Empire in South America. As I was planning to move to live in Peru for a few years it seemed imperative that I pay a visit the Pizarro’s birthplace in Trujillo before leaving Spain.

The walled town of Trujillo stands on a hill overlooking the surrounding countryside between the Tagus and Guadiana rivers. If you’re arriving by car you’ll spot it from miles away. On arrival, it’s a good idea to park on the outskirts of the historical centre as much of the town is restricted to traffic and parking is discouraged. The town’s Plaza Mayor is the logical starting point for a visit to Trujillo. This main square is home to the 16th century Iglesia de San Martín and a huge equestrian statue of Francisco Pizarro, Trujillo’s most famous (or infamous) son.

Who Was Francisco Pizarro?

Francisco Pizarro was a Spanish conquistador who was born in Trujillo (Extremadura) in 1478. Not a lot is known about his early life other than he grew up in poverty and had little formal education. Attracted by the promises of untold wealth in the New World he joined an expedition with Nicolás de Ovando in 1502 to Hispaniola (modern-day Dominican Republic/Haiti).

Trujillo Spain: Statue of Francisco Pizarro
Statue of Francisco Pizarro in Trujillo’s Plaza Mayor

Apparently, the statue of Pizarro you see above was actually meant to be Hernán Cortés, but the Mexicans said, “no way, Jose!” and refused to take it. Can you blame them? So, instead, the statue was gifted to Trujillo, but not without a little facelift first – Cortés was magically transformed into Pizarro! Talk about a historical makeover!

His next move was to the Gulf of Urabá (modern-day Colombia) onto the mainland of South America. In 1513 he joined an expedition led by Vasco Nuñez de Balboa to cross the Isthmus of Panama. For a number of years he served as mayor of what we know as Panama City before moving further south.

In 1532, Pizarro landed on the west coast of South America and established the first Spanish settlement in Peru. He took advantage of a weakened Inca Empire, sickened by diseases brought by the Spanish, and set a trap for Inca Emperor Atahualpa. Pizarro held him for ransom and despite delivering the gold and silver, executed him anyway. Pizarro then conquered Cuzco, looting the city of its treasure and went on to establish Lima as the new capital of Peru.

Pizarro had an ongoing dispute with fellow conquistador Diego de Almagro who he had executed in 1538. However, Almagro’s supporters led by his son, Diego de Almagro II, assassinated Pizarro in his home in Lima on June 26, 1541. Despite his controversial legacy as a conqueror, Francisco Pizarro played a significant role in the Spanish colonization of the Americas and the establishment of a Spanish-speaking presence in modern-day Peru.

Other Spanish Conquistadors

ConquistadorHometownBornDiscovered* or Famous For
Hernán CortésMedellín (Badajoz)1485Aztec Empire (Mexico)
Francisco PizarroTrujillo (Caceres)1478Inca Empire (Peru)
Francisco de OrellanaTrujillo (Caceres)1511Amazon River
Diego de AlmagroAlmagro (Castile)1475Conquest of Peru
Juan Ponce de LeónSantervás de Campos, (Valladolid)1474Florida (United States)
Vasco Núñez de BalboaJerez de los Caballeros (Badajoz)1475Pacific Ocean (Panama)
Hernando de SotoJerez de los Caballeros Badajoz)1500Mississippi River (United States)
Francisco Vázquez de CoronadoSalamanca1510Southwest United States and Mexico
Álvar Núñez Cabeza de VacaJerez de la Frontera1490Gulf of Mexico and Southwest United States
Gonzalo PizarroTrujillo (Caceres)1510Explored Peru
Pedro de ValdiviaVillanueva de la Serena (Badajoz)1497Chile
*Please note that these conquistadors were associated with numerous discoveries and conflicts on a wide scale

A Brief History of Trujillo

Romans, Visigoths and the Moors had settled in the town before the Christians reconquered it in 1232AD. One of the outstanding features of the city is the 10th century castle which was built by the Moorish armies on Roman foundations. The castle stands in the upper town offering great views across the plains below.

In spite of its rich history it was not until the discovery of the Americas and the expansion of the Spanish Empire that Trujillo really became famous. The town’s most famous resident was Francisco Pizarro, one of Spain’s great explorers and the man who both conquered Peru and found Lima. However, he is not the only famous son, all around the city you’ll see dedications to the likes of Francisco de Orellana who discovered the Amazon and Garcia Paredes who founded the Venezuelan city of Trujillo.

Trujillo During The Roman Era

Trujillo has a rich history dating back to the Roman era when it was known as Turgalium. The town was an important centre for trade and commerce due to its strategic location on the banks of the Tagus River. Turgalium was known for its wool production and trade, and it became an important hub for communication and transportation during the Roman Empire.

Trujillo During The the Reconquista

Trujillo played a pivotal role in the Reconquista, the centuries-long struggle to retake the Iberian Peninsula from the Moors. During the 12th century, the town was captured by Alfonso VIII of Castile, who established it as a frontier town against the Moors. Trujillo was heavily fortified during this period, with the construction of walls, towers, and a castle.

Trujillo During The Age Of Discovery

Trujillo flourished during the Age of Discovery, a period of European exploration and colonization of the Americas. Francisco Pizarro, the Spanish conquistador who conquered the Inca Empire, was born in Trujillo in 1478. Many other conquistadors and explorers came from Trujillo, and the town became wealthy and influential as a result of their exploits. Trujillo’s Plaza Mayor, which was built during this period, is considered one of the most beautiful in Spain and is a testament to the town’s prosperity during the Age of Discovery.

Iglesia de San Martín on the Plaza Mayor in Trujillo
Iglesia de San Martín on the Plaza Mayor in Trujillo Spain

What to See in Trujillo

Plaza Mayor

Trujillo’s main square, Plaza Mayor, is one of the most beautiful and well-preserved in Spain. The square is surrounded by impressive Renaissance and Baroque buildings, including the Palace of the Orellana-Pizarro family and the Town Hall. It’s a great place to relax, people-watch, and enjoy the town’s lively atmosphere.

Trujillo Plaza Mayor
Plaza Mayor in Trujillo Spain

La Iglesia de San Martín

Construction of La Iglesia de San Martín began in the 14th century and took more than a century to complete. As a result it is not only a true masterpiece of Gothic architecture but also displays Renaissance style from its later years of construction. This is one of the must-see attractions in Trujillo.

Trujillo Castle

Trujillo Castle is an impressive fortress that dominates the town’s skyline. The castle dates back to the 9th century and has been expanded and modified over the centuries. Visitors can explore the castle’s towers, walls, and courtyard, which offer stunning views of the surrounding countryside.

Santa María la Mayor Church

Santa María la Mayor Church is a beautiful Gothic church located in the heart of Trujillo. The church dates back to the 13th century and is known for its impressive stained-glass windows, Renaissance altarpiece, and ornate Gothic architecture.

Trujillo Church
La Iglesia de San Martín

Casa-Museo Pizarro

Casa-Museo Pizarro is a museum dedicated to the life and exploits of Francisco Pizarro, the Spanish conquistador who conquered the Inca Empire. The museum is located in the house where Pizarro was born, and it features exhibits on his life, as well as artifacts and artwork from the conquest of the Americas. It’s a must-visit for anyone interested in the history of Spanish exploration and colonization.

Other Tourist Attractions

Some of the other places you should try and visit whilst in Trujillo are the Bullring, the Carmelita monastery that offers a delicious selection of biscuits and cookies and the Costume Museum.

Top 3 Places to Stay in Trujillo

Parador de Trujillo

This elegant hotel is housed in a restored 16th-century convent, and its historic architecture and decor create a charming and unique atmosphere. The hotel’s courtyard, with its beautiful orange trees and fountain, is a peaceful oasis in the heart of the town. Rooms are spacious and comfortable, and the hotel also features a restaurant serving traditional Extremaduran cuisine.

Palacio Chaves Hotel

This boutique hotel is housed in a beautifully restored 16th-century palace, and its elegant rooms and suites are decorated with antique furnishings and artwork. The hotel features a peaceful courtyard and terrace, as well as a cozy bar and lounge area. Its location in the heart of the old town makes it a convenient base for exploring Trujillo.

Hotel Izan Trujillo

This modern hotel is located just a short walk from Trujillo’s historic centre, and its sleek and contemporary decor provides a stylish contrast to the town’s traditional architecture. Rooms are spacious and well-appointed, and the hotel also features a restaurant serving local and international cuisine, as well as a rooftop terrace with panoramic views of the town and countryside.

Dining in Trujillo

Whilst Trujillo has a number of excellent restaurants and tapas bars I have to give a special mention to Mesón La Troya on Plaza Mayor. This rustic venue serves up a selection of typical local dishes such as Caldereta Extremeña (a hearty, meat stew) and Cochinillo Asado (roast suckling pig). For a more upscale experience you should try Restaurante La Alberca which offers modern takes on classic Extremaduran cuisine.

Other local produce to look out for include Torta del Casar cheese and jamón ibérico, which is cured ham made from acorn-fed pigs. Excellent local wines are produced by the Bodega Habla vineyard whilst Martin de Prado olive oil is of the highest quality. You should finish off your meal with a dessert called Floretas de Extremadura which is a typical, local pastry. If you’re there in early May check out the Feria del Queso de Trujillo which is a very popular cheese festival.

3 thoughts on “Trujillo Spain: Birthplace of Conquistador Francisco Pizarro”

  1. I really love reading anything about Spain, and “Spanish fiestas” provides richly interesting and informative pieces. I studied in Madrid in 1974. I also visited Andalusia. I took students to Barcelona too. I did not know anything about Extremadura, but this article was so interesting. Keep them coming!

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