As far as relatively easy day trips from Madrid, there are quite a few great options for those looking to make the most of their time. Most of the highlights in Segovia, Toledo, and Chinchón can be explored in a day or two. However, if you have a little time (and really, why rush when in Spain?) you should make time to explore Caceres. Located in the western Extremadura region (about three hours outside of Madrid,) Caceres makes for an great weekend getaway, especially for anyone who loves history and nature.
The walled city of Caceres was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1986 and for good reason. As a former trade route city, it dates back to Pre-Roman times before being occupied by Romans, Arabs, Jewish, and, lastly, Christians. Although the city may not have many iconic monuments or even an awe-inspiring cathedral so typical of Spanish towns, the city is full of subtle landmarks that pay homage to its long and diverse history.
Caceres will definitely surprise, in many different ways. Strolling its narrow, winding paths under the shadow of the muslim-period towers will take you back to medieval times. However, lest you get caught daydreaming in the Spanish sun as you wander, the crisp lack-a-lack-a-lack sounds coming from the local stork population, which nests on every single tower, turret, and pinnacle found in the area, will certainly wake you up from your stupor.
The Plaza Mayor
Like most Spanish cities, the heart of Caceres can be found in its Plaza Mayor. A wide open space lined with some great and not-so-great restaurants, the plaza is also home to the city’s most famous tower, the Bujaco Tower. The tower is one of the city’s oldest, dating back to the 12th century.
To enter the old town from the Plaza Mayor, visitors will pass under another landmark, the “Arco de Estrella”. The Star Arch is considered to be the most important gate in the walled city because it was where the Catholic Monarchs were received by the Council and swore in the City Charter in 1477.
Located in what is now the Museum of Caceres, the Aljibe Cistern is certainly a landmark with a long history. The Arabic cistern is the only remaining part of the original Almohade citadel, which was built sometime between the 11th and 12th centuries.
Apart from its historic relevance, Caceres is also known for its large population of feathered friends. Nesting storks love the city’s many imposing towers and, in return, the locals treat the birds as beloved neighbors. In fact, on our recent visit in May, the town was celebrating the annual Festival de las Aves (Bird Festival) paying homage to the local bird population.
If you have never seen storks up close, watching them glide through the sky to their nests is really something else. And of course, you can’t miss the distintive sound of their knocking beaks as you explore the city.
Caceres really is a wonderful weekend trip while visiting Spain. It’s one of those places where you can breathe in the history, but you’re not overwhelmed with the need to see endless landmarks, museums, etc. It’s a strolling city, and one that is especially mystical at night as you wander through the cobblestone streets.
More day trips from Madrid:
- A weekend of wine and wandering in Toro, Spain
- How to take a day trip to Toledo, Spain
- Tips for taking a day trip to Segovia
- Visit Girona to explore the city and take charming day trips
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