37 Best Sights in Extremadura, Spain

Cáceres Museum

Fodor's choice

The Casa de las Veletas (House of the Weather Vanes) is a 12th-century Moorish mansion that is now used as the city's museum. Filled with archaeological finds from the Paleolithic through Visigothic periods, the museum also includes an art section with works by El Greco, Picasso, and Miró. The highlight is the superbly preserved Moorish cistern—the aljibe—with horseshoe arches supported by mildewy stone pillars.

Ciudad Monumental

Fodor's choice

Travel back a few centuries in Cáceres's Ciudad Monumental (aka "casco antiguo" or "ciudad vieja"), one of the best-preserved medieval quarters in Europe. It's so convincingly ancient that Game of Thrones used it as a filming location. There isn't a single modern building to detract from its aura, a testament to the fact that Cáceres became a backwater plagued by war after Spain's Golden Age. It's virtually deserted in winter and occasionally dusted with a light coating of snow—a fairy-tale sight. Most of the city's main monuments are located here, but of Cáceres's approximately 100,000 residents, fewer than 400 reside within this tiny enclave.

La Villa

Fodor's choice

This is Trujillo's old town, enclosed by restored stone walls. Follow them along Calle Almenas, which runs west from the Palacio de Orellana-Pizarro, beneath the Alcázar de Los Chaves, a castle-fortress that was converted into a lodge in the 15th century and hosted dignitaries including Ferdinand and Isabella. Now a college, the building has seen better days. Continue west along the wall to the Puerta de San Andrés, one of La Villa's four surviving gates (there were originally seven). Views from the hilltop are particularly memorable at sunset, when spotlights illuminate the old quarter.

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Monasterio de San Jerónimo de Yuste

Fodor's choice

In the heart of La Vera—a region of steep gargantas (ravines), rushing rivers, and sleepy villages—lies the Monasterio de San Jerónimo de Yuste, founded by Hieronymite monks in the early 15th century. Badly damaged in the Peninsular War, it was left to decay after the suppression of Spain's monasteries in 1835, but has since been restored by the Hieronymites. Today it's one of the most impressive monasteries in all of Spain. Carlos V (1500–58), founder of Spain's vast 16th-century empire, spent his last two years in the Royal Chambers, enabling the emperor to attend mass within a short stumble of his bed. The guided tour also covers the church, the crypt where Carlos V was buried before being moved to El Escorial (near Madrid), and a glimpse of the monastery's cloisters.

Morería Archaeological Site

Fodor's choice

Mérida's Roman teatro (theater) and anfiteatro (amphitheater) are set in a verdant park, and the theater—the best preserved in Spain—seats 6,000 and is used for a classical drama festival each July. The amphitheater, which holds 15,000 spectators, opened in 8 BC for gladiatorial contests. Next to the entrance to the ruins is the main tourist office, where you can pick up maps and brochures. You can buy a ticket to see only the Roman ruins or, for a bit more, an entrada conjunta (joint admission), which also grants access to the crypt of the Basílica de Santa Eulalia and to the Alcazaba. To reach the monuments by car, follow signs for Museo de Arte Romano. Parking is usually easy to find.

Museo Helga de Alvear

Fodor's choice

After a day spent meandering through medieval passageways and marveling at ancient churches, this contemporary art museum, presided over by one of Europe's great modern art collectors, is a breath of fresh air. Highlights include sculptures by Ai Weiwei and Dan Graham and paintings by Josef Albers and John Baldessari. A much-anticipated renovation by Tuñón Arquitectos (of Atrio fame), finished in 2021, added soaring galleries and multimedia spaces to house the gallerist's entire collection. If visiting on a weekend, be sure to reserve entry in advance online.

Museo Nacional de Arte Romano

Fodor's choice

Across the street from the entrance to the Roman sites and connected by an underground passage is Mérida's superb Roman art museum, in a building designed by the Spanish architect Rafael Moneo. Walk through a series of passageways to the luminous, cathedral-like main exhibition hall, which is supported by arches the same proportion and size (50 feet) as the Roman arch in the center of Mérida, the Arco de Trajano (Trajan's Arch). Exhibits include mosaics, frescoes, jewelry, statues, pottery, household utensils, and other Roman works. The crypt beneath the museum contains the remains of several homes and a necropolis that were uncovered while the museum was being built in 1981.

Museo Vostell Malpartida

Fodor's choice

The first thing that grabs your attention at this museum—located 14 km (9 miles) outside town—is the landscape that surrounds it: the Los Barruecos nature reserve. Spanning 800 acres, the park's otherworldly landscape comprises rolling grasslands, lakes, and enormous, peculiarly shaped boulders, which you can explore on foot. These curious natural forms inspired Wolf Vostell, a German artist of the Fluxus and Happening movements, to turn a defunct yarn factory within the park into a museum. Today you can still take in his bizarre, thought-provoking work—including a Cadillac surrounded by dinner plates and a wall of rusty Guardia Civil motorcycles.

Parque Natural de Monfragüe

Fodor's choice

At the junction of the rivers Tiétar and Tajo, 20 km (12 miles) south of Plasencia on the EX208 and 60 km (37 miles) southwest of La Vera via the EX203, lies Extremadura's only national park. This rocky, mountainous wilderness is known for its diverse plant and animal life including lynxes, boars, deer, foxes, black storks, imperial eagles, and the world's largest colony of black vultures, attracting bird-watchers from around the world. Bring binoculars and head for the lookout point called Salto del Gitano (Gypsy's Leap), on the C524 just south of the Tajo River—vultures can often be spotted wheeling in the dozens at close range. The park's visitor center and main entrance is in the hamlet of Villareal de San Carlos.

Plaza Mayor

Fodor's choice

One of the finest plazas in Spain, this Renaissance gem is dominated by a bronze equestrian statue of Francisco Pizarro—the work of American sculptor Charles Rumsey. Notice the Palacio del Marqués de la Conquista, the most dramatic building on the square with plateresque ornamentation and imaginative busts of the Pizarro family flanking its corner balcony. It was built by Francisco Pizarro's half-brother Hernando.

Real Monasterio de Santa María de Guadalupe

Fodor's choice

Looming in the background of the Plaza Mayor is the late-Gothic facade of Guadalupe's colossal monastery church, flanked by battlement towers. The (required, Spanish-only) guided tour begins in the Mudejar cloister and continues on to the chapter house, with hymnals, vestments, and paintings including a series of small panels by Zurbarán. The ornate 17th-century sacristy has a series of eight Zurbarán paintings, from 1638 to 1647. These austere representations of monks of the Hieronymite order and scenes from the life of St. Jerome are the artist's only significant paintings housed in the setting for which they were intended. The tour concludes in the garish late-baroque Camarín, the chapel where the famous Virgen Morena (Black Virgin) is housed. Each September 8, the virgin is brought down from the altarpiece and walked around the cloister in a procession with pilgrims following on their knees. Outside, the monastery's gardens have been restored to their original, geometric Moorish style.

Alcazaba

To get to this sturdy square fortress, built by the Romans and strengthened by the Visigoths and Moors, continue west from the Museo Nacional de Arte Romano, down Suárez Somonte toward the river and city center. Turn right at Calle Baños and you can see the towering columns of Templo de Diana, the oldest of the Roman buildings. To enter the Alcazaba, follow the fortress walls around to the side farthest from the river. Climb up to the battlements for sweeping river views, or go underground to see the aljibe, or cistern.

Basílica de Santa Eulalia

Originally Visigothic, this basilica marks the site of a Roman temple as well as the alleged place where the child martyr Eulalia was burned alive in AD 304 for spitting in the face of a Roman magistrate. The site was a focal point for pilgrimages during the Middle Ages. In 1990, excavations revealed layer upon layer of Paleolithic, Visigothic, Byzantine, and Roman settlements. The popular €16 sightseeing combination ticket sold at the tourist office includes entry only into the underground crypt of the basilica; it's €2 to visit the main structure.

Rambla Mártir Santa Eulalia, Av. de Extremadura 3, Mérida, 06800, Spain
92-430--3407
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Cabezuela del Valle

Full of half-timber stone houses, this is one of the valley's best-preserved villages. Follow N110 to Plasencia, or, if you enjoy mountain scenery, detour from the village of Jerte to Hervás, traveling a narrow road that winds 35 km (22 miles) through forests of low-growing oak trees and over the Honduras Pass.

Casa del Deán

This striking Renaissance palace, built by the wealthy Paniagua family in the 17th century, isn't open to the public, but it's worth a drive-by to see the outside. The ornate corner balcony, supported by neoclassical and Corinthian columns, is an excellent example of Spanish ironwork from that era.

Catedral de Plasencia

Plasencia's cathedral was founded in 1189 and rebuilt after 1320 in an austere Gothic style. In 1498 the great architect Enrique Egas designed a new structure, intending to complement or even overshadow the original, but despite the later efforts of other notable architects of the time, such as Juan de Alava and Francisco de Colonia, his plans were never fully realized. The entrance to this incomplete, and not wholly satisfactory, addition is through a door on the cathedral's ornate but somber north facade. The dark interior of the new cathedral is notable for the beauty of its pilasters, which sprout like trees into the ribs of the vaulting. You enter the old cathedral through the Gothic cloister, which has four enormous lemon trees. Off the cloister stands the building's oldest surviving section, a 13th-century chapter house, now the chapel of San Pablo, a late-Romanesque structure with an idiosyncratic, Moorish-inspired dome. Inside are medieval hymnals and a 13th-century gilded wood sculpture of the Virgen del Perdón. The museum in the truncated nave of the old cathedral has ecclesiastical and archaeological antiques.

Colección Visigoda

An abandoned 18th-century church contains this easily digestible museum compiling some of the most important Visigothic artworks on the Iberian Peninsula. It's a branch of the Museo Nacional de Arte Romano, in a separate location north of the Plaza de España, in Mérida's old town.

Concatedral de Santa María

This Gothic church, built mainly in the 16th century, is now the cathedral and the city's most important religious site. The elegantly carved wooden reredos (dating to 1551), left unpainted according to Extremaduran custom, is barely visible in the gloom. Follow the lines of pilgrims to the statue of San Pedro de Alcántara in the corner; legend says that touching the stone figure's shoes brings luck. A small museum in the back displays religious artifacts.

Iglesia de San Mateo

Construction on this church began in the 14th century, purportedly over the ruins of a mosque, and took nearly 300 years to finish. The interior is austere, with a 16th-century choir and walls lined with the tombs of prominent Cáceres citizens. The church opens at 10 most mornings, but check with the tourist office in case of changes.

Pl. de San Mateo, Cáceres, 10003, Spain
92-724--6329
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Iglesia de Santa María La Mayor

Attached to a Romanesque bell tower, this Gothic church is the most beautiful in Trujillo. It's only occasionally used for Mass, and its interior has been virtually untouched since the 16th century. The upper choir has an exquisitely carved balustrade, and the coats of arms at each end indicate the seats Ferdinand and Isabella occupied when they came here to worship. Note the high altar, circa 1480, adorned with great 15th-century Spanish paintings. To see it properly illuminated, place a coin in the box next to the church entrance. Climb the tower for stunning views of the town and vast plains stretching toward Cáceres and the Sierra de Gredos.

The optional audio guide is worth the €1 fee.

Pl. de Santa María, Trujillo, 10200, Spain
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Museo de la Coria

Near the Puerta de la Coria and occupying a former Franciscan convent built in the 15th century, this museum's exhibits on Spain's conquest of Latin America are similar to those in the Casa Museo de Pizarro but with an emphasis on military achievements. If you can get past the colonial propaganda, the museum is worth visiting if only for a look inside the old convent's two-tier central cloister.

Museo del Pimentón

Tucked away in a 17th-century row house, this quirky museum tells the history of the locally made paprika, dubbed "red gold," for which Jaraíz de la Vera is best known. The three floors feature audiovisual presentations and examples of grinding tools and recipes. The museum is the centerpiece of the village's annual pepper festival, held in August.

Palacio de Carvajal

This palace has an imposing granite facade, arched doorway, and tower, and the interior has been restored with period furnishings and art to look as it did when the Carvajal family lived here in the 16th century. Legend has it that King Ferdinand IV ordered the execution of two brothers from the Carvajal family, whom he accused of killing one of his knights. Thirty days later, the king was sued in the Court of God. Judgment was postponed until after the king's death, when the Carvajal brothers were declared innocent.

Calle Amargura 1, at Pl. Santa María, Cáceres, 10003, Spain
92-725--5597
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Palacio de los Golfines de Abajo

Wander the halls of one of Cáceres's great noble homes on a memorable guided tour (English available). Begun in the late 15th century and finished in the late 16th—hence the sumptuous plateresque facade—the palace bears the insignia of the Catholic Monarchs, who greatly enriched the Golfín family. See if you can also spot the coat of arms of the Golfines, situated beneath a gothic double window on the top floor.

Palacio de los Golfines de Arriba

After you pass through the gate leading to the old quarter, you'll see this palace, dominated by a soaring tower dating to 1515. Only three of the four corner towers remain, adorned with various coats of arms of the families who once lived here. Inside, there are classical colonnaded courtyards with Renaissance details, but they're no longer open to the public. During the Civil War, soon-to-be-Caudillo Francisco Franco declared this building the seat of his nationalist government before moving it to Burgos and, ultimately, Madrid. Until 2019, the facade bore a plaque memorializing the dictator, but it was removed as part of a larger effort by the city to scrub Cáceres clean of fascist propaganda once and for all.

Palacio de Orellana-Pizarro

The Palacio de Orellana-Pizarro, renovated by the conquistador Juan Pizarro himself in the 16th century, is now a school and has one of the most elegant Renaissance courtyards in town. The ground floor, open to visitors, has a deep, arched front doorway; on the second story is an elaborate Renaissance balcony bearing the crest of the Pizarro family. Miguel de Cervantes, on his way to thank the Virgin of Guadalupe for his release from prison, spent time writing in the palace.

Palacio del Capitán Diego de Cáceres

The battlement tower of this palace is also known as the Torre de las Cigüeñas (Tower of the Storks) for obvious reasons. It's now a military residence, but rooms are occasionally open for exhibitions on the weekends.

Pl. San Mateo, Cáceres, 10003, Spain
92-762--9760

Parque de los Pinos

Walk southeast from the Plaza de San Vicente Ferrer to get to this park, home to peacocks, cranes, swans, and pheasants. Full of waterfalls and animals, this is a great spot for children.

Av. de la Hispanidad, Plasencia, 10600, Spain
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Pizarro House Museum

The Pizarro family residence is now a modest museum dedicated to the connection between Spain and Latin America. The first floor emulates a typical home from 15th-century Trujillo, and the second floor is divided into exhibits on Peru and Pizarro's life there. The museum explains the "Curse of the Pizarro," recounting how the conquistador and his brothers were killed in brutal battles with rivals; those who survived never again enjoyed the wealth they had achieved in Peru. Glaringly absent from the museum is any mention of what Pizarro's conquests wrought: mass murder of Incas, feudalism and enslavement, forced conversions to Catholicism, and so on.  The museum closes from 2 to 4.

Calleja del Castillo 1, Trujillo, 10200, Spain
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Plaza de España

Mérida's main square is lively day and night. The oldest building is a 16th-century palace, now the Hotel Ilunion Mérida Palace. Behind it stretches Mérida's most charming area, with Andalusian-esque white houses shaded by palms, in the midst of which stands the Arco de Trajano, part of a Roman city gate. It's a great place to people-watch over tapas at sunset.