Fascinating Badajoz: its most beautiful villages

The province of Badajoz, in Extremadura, is a place that exudes history, art and tradition. With 12 municipalities catalogued as Historical Sites, the Vía de la Plata and its Mudejar and Sephardic legacies, a route through the most beautiful villages in Badajoz will give the visitor an idea of the treasures of this unique province.  Gastronomy lovers can take advantage of this gastronomic destination with six Designations of Origin. A complement to the monumental things that go from the Iberian pig to the cheeses, the oil or the wine.

Alburquerque

Castillo y pueblo de Alburquerque

Castle and village of Alburquerque. | Shutterstock

This small village in Sierra de San Pedro preserves vestiges of a Jewish population in a synagogue located in the Medieval Quarter or “Villa Adentro”, within the walled enclosure. It also shows different defensive towers such as the Clock, the Cabrera or the Rocha. The monumental complex also includes several temples. The most outstanding is the church of Santa María del Mercado and its Renaissance altarpiece from the 16th century. Also worth a visit are the Parish Church of San Mateo from the 16th and 17th centuries, the convent of Madre de Dios with a Churrigueresque main altarpiece from the 18th century and the hermitage of Nuestra Señora de la Soledad from the same period.

But in Alburquerque the Castle of Luna stands out above all. It still has important defensive elements, such as access ramps and four entrance doors that converge in the parade ground. The church of Santa María del Castillo and the watchtower of the Keep are located here.  This was built by Don Álvaro de Luna for the wars in favour of Juana de Castilla, called “La Beltraneja”. Meanwhile, the tower of the Cinco Picos and a drawbridge of more than 10 metres complete the complex.

Azuaga

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Azuaga. | Wikimedia

This beautiful village in Badajoz, Azuaga, is located on the edge of Sierra Morena, within the Campiña Sur region and on the border of the Andalusian provinces of Seville and Cordoba. Curiously, its name comes from a Berber tribe, the “zuwaga”, who settled in the area during the Al-Andalus period. It was reconquered and reincorporated into the kingdom of Castile and León by a Master of the Order of Santiago, Pelayo Pérez Correa. Its most important building is undoubtedly the Castle of Miramontes, despite the fact that it is now in ruins.

The Mudejar hermitage of San Sebastian y los Santos Mártires dates from the 15th century. Somewhat later is the Parish Church of Nuestra Señora de la Consolación, declared an Asset of Cultural Interest. This is one of the most important Gothic temples in the whole area due to its decoration. In fact, in size it is only behind the Cathedral of Badajoz. The typical houses show clear Andalusian influences. At the same time, the large noble houses have facades with baroque and neoclassical influences.

Burguillos del Cerro

Vistas desde el castillo de Burguillos del Cerro

Views from the castle of Burguillos del Cerro. | Shutterstock

Located halfway between Zafra and Jerez de los Caballeros, Burguillos del Cerro was populated by different cultures throughout its history. Among them are the Celtic, the Roman, the Visigoth, the Muslim, the Jewish and finally the Castilian. The town, coming from the different “burgos”, was initially settled on the hillside near the castle located at the top of the hill. However, it later decided to expand into the plain.

As in most towns in the province, religious buildings play a major role. In this case, the church of Santa María de la Encina stands out. From the 13th century, it is now the Visitors’ Centre for Popular Architecture. The churches of San Juan Bautista from the 14th century and the Franciscan Conceptionists from the 16th century should not be overlooked. To finish with the sacred art, there are the hermitage of El Cristo and the monastery of Las Llagas de San Francisco from the 16th century. Following the monumental route, it is time to go to the Plaza Alta. There you will find the Casa del Corregidor and Cárcel Real from the 16th century, which houses an archaeological exhibition, as well as municipal archives from the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries.

Feria

Panorámica de Feria

Panoramic of Feria. | Shutterstock

Feria is located on the southern slope of Sierra Vieja and has been declared a Site of National Historical Interest. Philip II granted the Señorío de los Suárez de Figueroa the title of Counts of Feria, later Dukes, which gave the town its name. Remains of Celtic, Roman and Muslim settlers have been found. The latter are attributed with the construction of a primitive fortress in the place that today occupies the castle of Feria. It is at the top of the village, with a quadrangular tower with rounded corners, 40 metres high.

Streets with slopes adapted to the topography of the land and whitewashed houses make up a beautiful postcard. A square with Mudejar-style arches serves as a link between the Casa del Concejo and the parish church of San Bartolomé. In it, the Renaissance Evangelio façade stands out. At the beginning of May, Feria de la Santa Cruz, of regional tourist interest, is held. Nearby is the dolmen of the Casa del Monje, with a chamber made up of seven large slate stones and a corridor.

Fregenal de la Sierra

Fregenal de la Sierra

Fregenal de la Sierra. | Shutterstock

This municipality is located at 572 meters above sea level in the middle of Sierra Morena. In the centre of Fregenal de la Sierra you will find its castle, with seven towers, a market square, a bullring and even a church. However, once again, this place of worship is not the only one. The village also boasts the parish church of Santa María la Mayor, with a main altarpiece from the 18th century; the church of Santa Ana, with a main altarpiece by Roque Balduque, and the 15th century church of Santa Catalina. In the latter, we should pay attention to the two Roman capitals of the extinct city of Nertóbriga. Both support water basins. Also worthy of mention are the chapels of the Virgen de la Salud, in whose honour the festival of the “danzadores” is celebrated.

The patron saint of Fregenal, the Virgen de los Remedios, also has her own tribute in the small hermitage located in the middle of the pasture. A walk through the streets of the municipality allows you to enjoy the popular architecture, with whitewashed houses, decorated with balconies and grilles. But also the noble architecture, with linteled houses with coats of arms. As in Burguillos, the building of the old prison is located in the main square. The International Festival of La Sierra, a Festival of Regional Tourist Interest, is held in August.

Fuente del Maestre

Calles de Fuente Maestre

Streets of Fuente Maestre. | Ayuntamiento del lugar

Fuente del Maestre is located in the Sierra de San Jorge, about 45 km from Merida, and also holds the title of “Asset of Cultural Interest”. The village’s name comes from the 16th century Fuente del Corro, which is located in the Plaza del Gran Maestre. During the Middle Ages it was one of the biggest fortresses of the time thanks to the walled enclosure and moat that surrounded it. Of the 13th century wall, a canvas of about 200 metres has been preserved in Calle Cava.

Once again the religious buildings are very important and among them all the Candelaria Parish Church built on top of an old church with a Mudejar style tower from the 15th century. It is worth mentioning the combination of three architectural styles: the tower in Gothic-Mudejar style, the nave in Gothic-Catholic style, and the transept in Renaissance style. The Gothic Perdón door, the main door and the altarpiece of the high altar, considered one of the best in Extremadura, are also outstanding.

As far as civil construction is concerned, there are several spaces to look at. For example, the palace of El Gran Maestre from the 14th century and Mudejar style. The town hall, on the other hand, is of neoclassical and 18th century style. Later, from the 19th century, is the palace of Gómez-Jara. Other monuments to visit are the Temple’s house-palace, the Quintanos’ house, the Marqués de Lorenzana’s palace and the Ovando’s house. As a curiosity, the mosaic that occupies the Plaza de España has characteristic elements of art deco.

Jerez de los Caballeros

Jerez de los Caballeros

Jerez de los Caballeros. | Shutterstock

Located in the foothills of Sierra Morena and very close to Portugal, this monumental village in Badajoz with a Templar past has much to tell. Jerez de los Caballeros, Ceret, for the ancient Phoenicians, preserves many archaeological remains of various settlements. It is also the birthplace of Vasco Nuñez de Balboa; an explorer and the first European to see the Pacific Ocean. From the 12th century onwards, its Arab fortress was consolidated and the Order of the Temple built the walled enclosure. The wall has six gates: Alconchel, Burgos, Nueva, Santiago, Sevilla and La Villa.

As far as religious temples are concerned, the church of Santa Catalina, dating from the 15th century, has a Baroque style façade and tower. Another well-known temple is that of San Bartolomé, as well as the parish church of Santa María de la Encarnación. There are also many convents such as Nuestra Señora de Gracia, Madre de Dios and San Agustín. As for noble buildings, the palaces of Las Cigüeñas, Juan Martínez de Logroño del Boillón and the Marqués de Rianzuela should be admired. Not to be missed are some of their celebrations such as the Templar Festival or Holy Week.

Llerena

Llerena

Llerena. | Shutterstock

At the foot of Sierra de San Miguel is Llerena, in Badajoz; a prominent artistic centre during the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries. So much so that it came to be called “the little Athens of Extremadura“. As in so many other villages in Badajoz, there are archaeological remains. In this case, the “Idol of Llerena” from the Bronze Age is worth mentioning. The main square with its porticos is in the Mudejar style.

Meanwhile, the church of Nuestra Señora de la Granada and the convent of Santa Clara, with its wonderful nun’s sweets, are outstanding examples of local religious architecture. The Zapata Palace, seat of the Inquisition, the San Juan de Dios Hospital and the Episcopal Palace are other important buildings in the village.

Magacela

Antiguo cementerio de Magacela

Old cemetery of Magacela. | Shutterstock

Located in the region of La Serena, Magacela goes back to prehistoric times. Good proof of this are the dolmen from the 3rd millennium B.C. and the cave paintings that can be found in the shelters of the Peña del Águila, in quite a good state of conservation. The megalith is shrouded in mystery. Legend has it that you can see lights at dusk that disappear under a rock with ancient engravings. Tradition says that the remains of San Aquila and his wife Santa Priscila were there. Also very important is the Bronze Age warrior’s stele, which today is kept in the National Archaeological Museum.

With respect to its name, Magacela comes from the Muslim town of Umm-Gzala. The most important monument from the historical period is the pre-Roman fortress. It is also possible to enjoy the church of the castle, the hermitage of San Antonio, the hermitage of Los Remedios and the hermitage of Los Santitos. Finally, in the town hall it is possible to observe four granite sculptures of lions from the Middle Ages.

Olivenza

Olivenza

Olivenza. | Shutterstock

This is the first village in La Paz to join the exclusive group of “Spain’s most beautiful villages. Olivenza, located next to the Guadiana river in Badajoz, belonged for years to the Kingdom of Portugal. The accent, the sweets and its architecture bear witness to that Portuguese past. Its most important monuments are the medieval citadel and the fortress, inside which is the “González Santana” Ethnographic Museum. In the town hall you can see the Manuelino gate and the Clock Tower; dating from the end of the 15th century. Once again it is a small village of whitewashed houses. The Church of La Magdalena, with its blue tiles, the sailor’s knots and the ropes is a tribute to the sea in the middle of the border between Spain and Portugal.

Puebla de Alcocer

Cigüeñas en la Puebla de Alcocer

Storks in Puebla de Alcocer. | Shutterstock

La Puebla de Alcocer is located in the Sierra de los Lares and is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful villages in Badajoz. It was formerly called “Aldeavieja” and in the Middle Ages was ceded to the Order of Alcantara after the reconquest. Its buildings exude those Arab influences that are the result of years of occupation. In fact, the name of Alcocer may derive from the word Al-Qusayr which means “walled city“. Outside, the most interesting remains are those of the “old castle”, dating from the Carthaginian period, and the Roman site.

However, the castle-fortress of La Puebla de Alcocer, built on an old Templar fortress, is the most characteristic monument of the village. Built in the 15th century, it contains many Mudejar elements. Fortunately, its keep is in perfect condition. Other emblematic buildings are the hermitages of San Antón and San Isidro, the palace of the Dukes of Osuna which is currently the House of Culture or the different ancestral homes in the town centre. The proximity of reservoirs such as La Serena or Orellana, as well as a very frequented lagoon in the summer season, are also worth mentioning.


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