is the largest province in Spain (21,600 sq. km.) and one of the least densly
Aswell as bordering with Portugal in the West, Badajoz borders with Cáceres in the North, Huelva, Sevilla and Cordoba in the South, and Ciudad Real and Toledo in the East. Today Badajoz's economy is based on farming and, increasingly, tourism.
Because of its location, all the different cultures throughout Spanish history passed through Badajoz, but the province's enjoyed its peak of influence and power during the Roman Empire, when the Romans converted Merida into one of the Empire's most important capital cities. After the Visigod period, the Moors invaded Spain and the Ibn-al-Aftas dynasty established a great cultural and scientific centre. When the Christians regained control under Alfonso IX, many of the explorers who set out to conquer the New World were from Badajoz (Hernan Cortes, Vasco Nuñez de Balboa, Hernando de Soto, Valdivia, Alvarado....).
Badajoz with a population of 140,000 is the province's financial and commercial center, but not its most beautiful as far as monuments are concerned, although the wall surrounding the old city illustrates the fortress it was for many years throughout Spanish history. One big attraction of Badajoz is the friendliness of the people who live there, always ready to help a lost tourist in need! If you do pass through Badajoz on the way to one of the province's more monumental towns, it is worth stopping for lunch because the city has a couple of excellent restaurants and also a selection of bars offering very good tapas.
Hotels in Badajoz: Hotel
Monasterio de Rocamador**** in Almendral. Luxury hotel set in a medieval monastery; Barceló Zurbarán **** in the center of Badajoz, walking-distance
from shops and parks; Confortel Badajoz**** on the outskirts next to a
Hotels in the Province of Badajoz: Zafra Parador**** - outstanding parador, click for full review and photos; Mérida Parador**** in the monumental center of Mérida; Melia Merida Boutique*****, luxury hotel in the center of Merida;
Visitors are advised to take advantage of a visit to Badajoz to buy local wines -D.O. Ribera del Guadiana-; La Serena cheese; serrano ham; Dehesa de Extremadura serrano ham; Monterrubio olive oil and local pastries and sweets. If you visit one of the convents in the city or province, check to see if the nuns sell home-made biscuits and sweets.
Mérida - Capital of the Region of Extremadura
Merida is the only city in Spain which is capital of its Autonomous Region without being the capital city of its own Province. It is a jewel of a city for anyone interested in Roman history and culture, although one can't help wishing that the wealth of monuments were better cared-for. The town has a sense of decay, abandon and potential excessive real estate speculation which needs to be addressed by the local and regional authorities as soon as possible.
In its heyday Merida was one of the most famous Roman capital cities in the Iberian Peninsula, and although like most of Extremadura, Romans, Visigods, Moors and Christians all made their mark on this town, Merida's real attraction lies today in the sheer extent of what are some of the best preserved Roman ruins in Europe, many of them accompanied by remains of Arab art and culture. Merida also has the outstanding National Museum of Roman Art.
When you arrive, our advice is to park your car, get out and walk. You can get a plan in the Tourist Information office (Av. José Alvarez Saez de Buruaga) with a route which indicates the best way to get around all the monuments and places of interest on foot. You really need a couple of days to do justice to this town. See this list of monuments and places of interest in Mérida.
Zafra is a small, sleepy town - 15,000 inhabitants - set in the midst of typical Extremadurian countryside.
It has a beautiful old quarter full of colonial-style buildings, small palaces, several convents, attractive plazas and the impressive 15th-century Palace of the Duques de Feria, today converted into Zafra Parador Hotel (see photo on the right), arguably one of the best hotels of all parador hotels in Spain.
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