Caceres is an often overlooked gem whose cultural and architectural attractions come close to comparison with those of better-known classic cities like Granada and Toledo.
It's located in Spain's westerly province of Extremadura, from where Spain's leading conquistadores (Pizarro, Cortez) set off across the Atlantic to expand Spain's empire in Peru and Mexico. Many of the colonialists who followed them returned rich men and built mansions in Caceres, some of which still stand today. You'll find a number of these imposing buildings inside the city's old quarter, which has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage site. Though its walls are of Arabic origin, the city was also occupied by Romans and Visigoths, and its medieval peak was an important center of Jewish culture.
A surprising number of towers, churches, palaces and museums are packed into the small narrow-laned heart of Caceres, making it a delight to explore on foot. Rooftops and even spires are dotted with the nests of storks. Nearby, the huge granite boulders of the Los Barruecos house a further huge colony of these graceful wide-winged birds. A further attraction for amateur ornithologists is the Monfrague National Park, with its unspoiled Mediterranean woodlands.
The city holds Spanish fiestas from Holy Week to Carnival time; one of the more unusual attractions is the celebration of Saint George in April when an effigy of a dragon is burnt on a bonfire. The following month sees the an annual WOMAD (World of Music, Art and Dance) concert, which draws visitors from far and wide.