Thea lived in Spain for years and has compiled several helpful articles for first-time visitors, especially those headed to Extremadura.
My husband and I lived in Cáceres for years, and many of the things below are activities that we would do together or with other locals, but usually not with first-time visitors or tourists to the city. If you are staying in Cáceres for a longer time—say, on a study-abroad trip—the following lesser-known things to do in and around the city will help keep your weekends nice and busy.
1. Mercado Franco
On Wednesdays, set your alarm early and head over to La Mejostilla neighborhood for Cáceres’ weekly market called el mercado franco. Here you will find vans upon vans upon vans full of clothes, fruit, vegetables, textiles, shoes, accessories, and second-hand items. Most of the people selling are gitanos, or gypsies, and they are a celebratory and boisterous people by nature. Don’t be surprised if they call you María, even though that’s not your name. They just want to get your attention, and since in Spain a majority of women are named María at least as their first name (and some men as their middle name), they have a better chance of calling someone correctly by their name. Bring cash and small bills, and prepare to haggle or regatear. It’s not dangerous, but watch your wallet. Remember, as a tourist, or guiri, you may be a sore thumb to the wrong type of people.
Just for the record, I have never done this, but Cáceres has an awesome bull ring right on Avenida Hernan Cortes. It is within walking distance of the old city section and frequently hosts bullfighters from October to March, shows, as well as concerts. Check with the box office or online to schedule your entertainment.
3. La Feria
If you are in Cáceres during the last few weeks of May, be sure to make your way to the Feria, or fair. There are all the same rides that you are used to seeing, plus a market area full of African hair-braiders, ecuadorian goods, cheap fashion items, and delicious food stalls. I recommend the stuffed baked potatoes. They may not be full of butter and bacon like ours, but they are still delicious stuffed with ham, cheese, corn, carrots, and olives.
4. Semana Santa
Holy week on the Catholic calendar is the week that commemorates events between Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, or Palm Sunday, and Jesus’ resurrection from the Garden tomb, or Easter Sunday. This whole week there are amazing processions that march (and solemnly drum) their way through the streets. Feel the emotion of the locals as hooded servants stomp their way slowly to the plaza accompanied by blasting trumpets and elaborate, floral displays. Also, be sure to eat some of Spain’s typical Easter foods such as cod fish dishes or torrijas, which I would translate as Spanish toast. It is similar to French toast, but is soaked with infused milk, dipped in egg, then pan fried.
5. Mercado Medieval
In November, the Medieval Market comes to town. Chomp on a turkey leg and drink warm, spiced wine as you watch a show of hawks or a band of fire-eating jugglers. You can buy all sorts of hand-made crafts, as well as experience how Cáceres’ old city must have looked centuries ago. It is not as elaborate as an American Renaissance fair, but it is so beautifully done and fun to experience that I recommend it to everyone for their autumn visits to Cáceres.
6. Parque del Principe
Head to a grocery store and buy some fiambres, or cold cuts, and a baguette and a couple 2-liter drinks. Walk down Avenida Hernan Cortes (Near el caballo statue) and you will find Parque del Principe, or Park of the Prince. There are numerous green areas, shady trees, and relaxing fountains to make your walking, bike-riding, or picnic a total success. This is the most natural park in Cáceres.
If you are visiting in summer, there are several good pools to visit, with my favorite being Guadipark, but you will have to take a taxi or catch a ride to get there because it is on the highway to Sierra de Fuentes. Parque del Principe also has a pay-to-enter pool with a large lawn for sunbathing, and there are cement sidewalk pools in both La Ciudad Deportiva as well as near the Red Cross. Do a quick google search to find which pool is closest to you. Also, there is a municipal pool in our village, Sierra de Fuentes, but I avoid it because I feel odd being scantily clad around my neighbors. (I may be getting old.)
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The movie theater is located right off Virgen de la Montaña road. Eat at the Chinese restaurant above the parking garage called Gran Muralla, then head down the hill to the movies. Prices are generally cheap and movies are new releases, but be prepared to watch them all in Spanish.
9. Salsa Dancing
Even though Salsa was brought to Spain by Latino immigrants, it has become a popular thing to learn and do. Check out the private lessons studio right off Cánovas park.
10. Flamenco Dancing
Flamenco dancing is much more popular in Spain and you will hear it sung in the old city by soloists and bands. If you are unable to locate one of the multiple Flamenco music and dance shows that occur throughout the year either at restaurants or concert venues, why not try to learn it by attending some classes at one of the many academies throughout Cáceres?
The Cáceres Futbol team is CP Cacereño, and their Stadium is located a little beyond the rich and posh Sierrilla neighborhood. Still, bus routes go there, so you should be able to arrive without a problem to watch the local team play a game.
Two of the best spas in Cáceres are the Peru and Hotel las Ciguenas in the village of Malpartida de Cáceres. Peru is at the gym in town, but includes a pool, showers, sauna, ice bath, and jacuzzi as well as muscle-relaxing jets. The Hotel spa was our favorite in Malpartida. We received the stay as a wedding gift and enjoyed the tea they served as well as the individualized treatment. Both places are worth the price, which is much less than what you would expect at a similar place around Europe. I believe we paid around $60 USD per person.
If you are looking for something more cultural and historic to do, do not forget that near Nuevo Cáceres neighborhood is the interpretation site and mini-museum for the cave of Maltravieso, which is a prehistoric, stone-age site where ancient human handprints were found. While you can walk up to the actual cave, you cannot go in, but just knowing people millennia ago were right where you are is eerily exciting. In the interpretation center, you can see recreations of the handprints and drawings found in the cave and learn more about this place.
14. Norba Caesarina
To go a little further back in history, go to Norba Caesarina and learn more about the Roman cities and history of Cáceres. This museum is part of an archaeological site of the ancient Roman city near present-day Cáceres of the same name. There you can see where their walled buildings were, and even look at original Roman sculptures and adornments found at the site. Replicas of other ancient items are available as well, including full period Roman armor from the area.
15. Embalse de Valdesalor
For the perfect picnic day in Summer, don your suits and a chandal, or exercise/play clothes, and take a taxi or car ride to the man-made lake of Valdesalor just a few minutes ride from Cáceres. Here you will be surrounded by beautiful rock formations and shallow, clean water, as well as all sorts of plants and wildlife. You can fish and barbecue, as long as there is not a burn ban which are extremely common in summer dry months. Forest fires are devastating to Spain’s drier southern provinces, so make sure only to grill if the ban is lifted, or if it has rained extremely recently.
Please let me know in the comments of any other fun things to do in Cáceres. It is a city of endless possibilities and limitless knowledge to be gained. Enjoy your stay!
A local Flamenco artist in Cáceres' Old City
A Spanish dilemma. . .
© 2018 Thea Tsayt