The oldest towns in Spain

Throughout its history, the Spanish territory has not stopped witnessing the emergence and arrival of new civilizations. Its position at the western end of Europe made the Iberian Peninsula as legendary as it was strategic. As a result, towns and cities were founded from ancient times, some of which have survived to the present day. We bring you a few getaways to get to know some of the oldest towns in Spain, from Cádiz to Navarre and La Rioja.

Adra, Almería (8th century B.C.)

Phoenicians were responsible for establishing the first Spanish towns. The south of Spain was their favourite place to establish colonies. Huelva, Cádiz or Málaga are clear examples of this. Also Adra, in the province of Almería. Based on the local Iberian population, they created the town of Abdera in the 8th century BC. Its economy was powerful thanks to the tuna fishing. It was used to make garum, a strong-tasting sauce that delighted the Mediterranean communities. Famous Roman historians such as Pliny the Elder made their quality clear.

Murallas en Adra, uno de los pueblos más antiguos de España

Adra. | Shutterstock

In the 4th century BC the Carthaginians took over local control, which later passed into Roman hands. This transfer took place during the Second Punic War, led by the mythical Hannibal and Publius Cornelius Scipio. With the fall of the Roman Empire and the arrival of Byzantines and Visigoths, its importance was greatly reduced. With the Arabs, its port became so important that it is said that Boabdil, the last king of Granada, left his kingdom for it. Today it is once again living off fishing, supported also by its beaches and by being one of the oldest towns in Spain.

Coria, Cáceres (8th century B.C.)

This town in Cáceres is perfect for a getaway. It has a beautiful cathedral, the castle of the Dukes of Alba, some Roman walls… No wonder, since it is 28 centuries old. The first inhabitants were the Vetons, a Celtic people from the west of the peninsula. They managed to remain independent until the first century BC, when the Romans subjugated them. After a period in which they retained some independence in exchange for paying taxes, they were integrated into the Roman Empire.

Catedral y puente en Coria, uno de los pueblos más antiguos de España

Coria. | Depositphotos

Caurium was the name of the municipality. It was an active recruitment enclave, as the light cavalry of Hispania was highly valued. The walls are one of the great Roman legacies that Coria has. Likewise, its Diocese was one of the first to have Christianity. Already in Visigothic times, it was dependent on Toledo. Fortified by the Arabs, it passed from one hand to another for several centuries. Later, several of its citizens participated in the expeditions to America. The hand of the Duchy of Alba is also remarkable. Without a doubt, the place has managed to preserve the essence of its long past.

Torrejoncillo, Cáceres (3rd century B.C.)

Just 13 kilometres from Coria, crossing the river Alagón and also in Cáceres, you will reach Torrejoncillo, another of the oldest towns in Spain. The Celtiberian vestiges allow us to locate its origin in the 3rd century B.C., while remains of different types testify that there was a Roman settlement. In any case, none of them were of great importance. The Arabs were responsible for giving entity to the village.

Fiesta de la Encamisá en Torrejoncillo, uno de los pueblos más antiguos de España

Horsemen in La Encamisá, Torrejoncillo. | Wikimedia

Around the watchtower that gives its name to the place grew the nucleus around which the current population is structured. It is one of the things to see in Torrejoncillo, next to several temples and crosses. Be that as it may, Christian domination was positive for the place. Until the 19th century its cloth industry flourished. Today it is known for its La Encamisá festival. On the eve of the Immaculate Conception, a banner of the Virgin Mary is carried, protected by horsemen, amidst smoke, bonfires and gun salutes. Its origin is not clear, although some theories point to the local Iberian past or to local feats in the battles of Pavia or Flanders.

Calahorra, La Rioja (187 B.C.)

There are few places in Spain that have maintained their preponderance for so many centuries as Calahorra. The Roman records do not make it clear whether it was a Vascon or Celtiberian settlement. It was known as Calagurris. In any case, it surrendered to Rome in the 2nd century B.C., as a result of the 2nd Punic War. However, its moment of greatest renown came in the form of heroic resistance. In 72 B.C., during the civil war between the rebel Sertorius and the Roman Republic, it sided with the former. The resulting siege and the death of their leader did not make them give up. Despite the defeat they obtained a glory that was worth for their warriors to be highly valued later.

Vista con arcoiris de Calahorra, uno de los pueblos más antiguos de España

Calahorra, one of the oldest towns in Spain. | Depositphotos

Likewise, its mint minted coins for hundreds of years, even after the fall of the Roman Empire. Visigoths, Arabs and Christians took care of the city, in a strategic enclave. That is why it is still the head of the Diocese today. As a curiosity, the efforts to take the seat of the prelate to Logroño almost caused Calahorra and Santo Domingo de la Calzada to go to the province of Soria. Today, it retains much of its Roman heritage in the form of monuments and traditions, such as that of its patrons St. Celedonius and St. Emeterius, local Roman soldiers martyred by Rome itself upon their conversion to Christianity.

Olite, Navarra (621 A.D.)

One of the most beautiful medieval locations in the country is also one of the oldest towns in Spain. You have to go back to the Visigothic period to see its origins. These come from the hand of the mighty Suintila, the Gothic king. The aim of creating Olite was to fight the Basques who were pressing from the north. There was already a small Roman fortification where today the Palace of the Teodobaldos is located. In the Middle Ages, it obtained the Fuero de Estella from the Navarrese monarch García IV. The relationship with the kings of that kingdom was very rewarding for the town, materializing in the beautiful Palace of the Kings of Navarre built by Charles III the Noble during the 14th century.


Olite Palace.

Tarifa, Cádiz (711 A.D.)

The next in our oldest towns in Spain review was among the first to be established by the Muslims during their invasion of the peninsula. Under the name of Al-Yazirat Tarif, it emerged shortly after Algeciras, the first Spanish Arab settlement. As the southernmost point of the peninsula, its Isla de las Palomas served as a base for spying on the Visigothic forces.

Imagen nocturna de Tarifa, uno de los Pueblos más antiguos de España

An image of Tarifa at night, one of the oldest towns in Spain.

It is precisely this proximity to North Africa that would shape its history. It would lead to its being fortified by the Arabs, becoming a centre of Almoravid counter-invasion and, once in Castilian hands, a control centre for the Strait of Gibraltar. With the English takeover of the Rock it became a key military issue, as it has been in all subsequent conflicts up to the present day. Fortunately, Tarifa is today an active tourist centre famous for its excellent conditions for water sports. Thanks to this, it Is a first-class getaway for sea lovers.

Brañosera, Palencia  (824 A.D.)

Many consider Brañosera to be officially the oldest town in Spain. Although, like many others have been inhabited for a thousand years, it was the first to be granted a village charter. This document was the predecessor of the fueros, which in turn are considered the ancestors of municipal legislation. The Town Charter of Brasoñera established a series of rights for the inhabitants of the place before their feudal lord. In this way they obtained certain competences that allowed them to act without the need of lordly intercession. Therefore, it is the oldest city council.

Brañosera, ayuntamiento más antiguo de España y Europa

Brañosera. | Brañosera Town Hall

Its location in the mountains of Palencia makes Brañosera a perfect place to relax and enjoy its ancient atmosphere. The Romanesque churches of Santa Eulalia and San Miguel and the Roman bridge in the district of Valberzoso stand out.

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