Despite its small size, Guadalupe is one of Extremadura’s most popular tourist destinations, thanks to its Royal Monastery, a Unesco World Heritage Site. It makes a perfect day trip from Cáceres or Trujillo, so make sure you include it on your next visit to Extremadura.
Guadalupe is located in eastern Extremadura (Cáceres province), surrounded by mountains and hills. It’s also within the Villuercas-Ibores-Jara Geopark, a natural protected area popular amongst walkers, hikers and birdwatching lovers.
About Guadalupe and its origins
The origins of Guadalupe are inevitable linked to its Monastery. The story goes that, back in the 13th century, a shepherd found a statue of Virgin Mary on the banks of River Guadalupe River, and a chapel was built in her honour. Later on, it was declared a royal sanctuary and was rebuilt to be transformed into the impressive monastery that is today.
In the 15th century, two important historical events took place in 1492 – the discovery of America and the reconquest of Granada. The monastery grew more and more important as a cultural and research institution, and as centre of pilgrimage. Today it continues to receive thousands of pilgrims that come from every corner of Spain.
The Monastery is located on a hill overlooking the main square and displays a fascinating mix of Gothic, Mudejar, Renaissance, Baroque and Neoclassical styles. Due to its architectural importance and its history, Unesco declared it a World Heritage Site in 1993.
Even if you aren’t a particularly religious person, a visit to the Monastery is highly recommended. The building is pretty impressive inside, and has several cloisters, rooms and museums worth a visit.
However, expect to be a member of a big group, be rushed into the rooms and not have much time left to enjoy walking around taking pictures at your own pace. I know how hard it is to be particularly excited about a guided tour. And you’d be right not to. I’m a massive enemy of guided tours myself, but I have to admit they provide you with interesting facts and stories about the building.
These are the main highlights of the visit:
The Gothic Church, called templo mayor in Spanish, was built in the 14th-15th centuries and has three naves with ornamented vaulting. Entry is free, so you don’t need a ticket to get in.
From the corridors of this arcaded courtyard you can see the beautiful Plateresque-style portal in the centre. The portal is made of clay and moulded bricks, and decorated with tiles and plasterwork. Enormous paintings hang from the interior walls of the cloister, depicting battles, royal scenes and historic figures.
This is one (if not the most) impressive part of the Monastery. It has three sections – an entrance hall, the main room and a chapel. The main room’s vault decoration is absolutely overwhelming, and the walls display rich golden elements, as well as 8 paintings from the famous Extremadura artist Francisco de Zurbarán.
Camarín de la Virgen
A profusely ornamented Baroque octagonal building. On the first floor you can see several paintings by Italian artist Luca Giordano and the statue of Virgin Guadalupe, kept in a throne. The camarín is surrounded by rich gilded elements. So much so, that just thinking how rich and powerful the church was almost made me sick (no pictures allowed, sorry).
During the guided tour you’ll also see the collection of religious outfits and accessories at the Embroidery Museum. Likewise, you’ll visit several rooms with historical books, manuscripts, and sculptures.
Address: Plaza Su Majestad Juan Carlos I, s/n, 10140 Guadalupe
Opening times: Mon-Sun 9.30am-1pm and 3.30-6pm.
The church is free to visit and is open in winter 9am-7pm and in summer 9am-8.30pm.
Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/MonasterioGuadalupe/
Other things to see and do in Guadalupe
Once you’ve visited the Monastery, it’s time to see what else the town has to offer.
The next stop is the Jewish quarter, located south of the main square. Cross the square and walk along Calle Sevilla until you reach the Sevilla gate. This lovely street has good examples of classic Jewish architecture. Take some time to look at the two lines of whitewashed houses with wooden beams and arcades, and blooming pots of plants on the window sills. The street opens up to a square (Plazuela de los Tres Chorros) with a circular stone fountain, a classic in towns of Cáceres province.
Go back to the main square for lunch or just a quick drink and some tapas in one of the many bar-restaurants around. Make sure you try the local delicacy – patatera, some sort of black pudding, accompanied by a local red wine. For dessert, pop by the bakery Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe (located in Avenida Alfonso Onceno, just a few hundred meters from the Monastery). For some classic sweet from Guadalupe, buy muégado, made of flour, eggs, olive oil, sugar and tons of honey.
There’s nothing better to burn the calories after lunch than a walk uphill. Go back to the main square again and follow Calle Marqués de la Romana. On the left hand side, you’ll find the Santísima Trinidad church. Opposite the church there is a big whitewashed building which used to be a former educational centre, but today is the local parador (state-owned hotel located in a historical building).
Take the left turn along Calle Nueva de los Capellanes and right after you go through the gate, take the street on the right (Calle Real). Stop briefly at house number 3, the former Women Hospital, and continue the walk up. Turn right into Plazuela de Gil Cordero for a good view of the Monastery.
Continue your way up Calle Real, paying attention to the little details in the houses – the wooden balconies, the stone benches, the old-fashioned blinds, the flowers… At the end of Calle Real take the street on your right (Calle Barrera del Sol). Keep walking for a few more minutes to enjoy one of the best views of the Monastery and the town set against the mountains.
TIP: for a stunning view of Guadalupe and the surrounding area, drive on the EX-118 (direction Navalmoral de la Mata) for 4.5 km until you see the signpost for Ermita del Humilladero. Park your car, pay a visit to the small chapel and walk back to the viewpoint off the main road.
Guadalupe on a map
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