Trujillo is one of Extremadura’s main tourist destinations. Located in Cáceres province, south of Monfragüe National Park and east of the city of Cáceres, it’s the place to stop, if you’re travelling from Madrid. Even if you don’t plan to stop there, you’ll probably change your mind as soon as the city’s skyline becomes visible. It will lure you into getting off the A-5 motorway, and it will be worth it.
Trujillo throughout history: 5 facts
- Settled on a prehistoric granite batholith, Trujillo became a place of relevance during Roman times, when it was known as Turgalium.
- The Arabs arrived in 900 and they built the castle, cisterns and part of the fortress. Trujillo was an important commercial city belonging to the Mérida administrative area.
- Trujillo is closely related to the colonization of the Americas. It’s the birthplace of Francisco Pizarro (conqueror of Peru), Francisco de Orellana (the first European to navigate the entire length of the Amazon River), and Vasco Núñez de Balboa (the first European to cross America to the Pacific), among others.
- By the 16th century, Trujillo expanded beyond its walls. The fortunes made in the Americas by many locals played a major role in the city’s development. Palaces, chapels and hospitals were built, old buildings were restored.
- Despite the efforts made for over a century, a train line is yet to arrive to Trujillo.
What to see in Trujillo
Plaza Mayor (main square)
Trujillo is known for having one of Spain’s most beautiful squares. This is where visits usually start and end, where the Tourist Office is, and where some of the local festivities and celebrations take place.
The square is dominated by the equestrian statue of Trujillo-born Francisco Pizarro and arcades. Walk around taking in stately details in imposing noble palaces such as Palacio de los Marqueses de la Conquista –built in a Rennaissance style by Hernando Pizarro, Francisco’s brother – and the plateresque façade of Palacio de San Carlos.
San Martín Church
Located on the northeastern side of the square, this church was built in over a century, its construction being completed in mid-1500s. That’s why its architecture includes elements of both Gothic and Renaissance styles.
Look up to see the (usually many) white storks who have nestled on the church’s bell tower and clock tower. Once inside, you can visit different areas, such as a Baroque choir upstairs and a wide balcony with lovely views of the square.
This Gothic tower is one of the most characteristic symbols of the city and the coats of arms of two notable local families can be seen on the upper part. I thought it would have nice views over the main square and I was quite disappointed to find out the views are blocked (the windows are covered with wooden panels with tiny little holes). The little exhibition about the history of the city is worth visiting.
The origins of this small temple date back to the 12th century, although many parts of the church have been restored afterwards. Highlights include Romanesque vaulted ceilings, a 14th-century Jesus Christ statue and good views from the tower.
Aljibe (cistern) Altamirano is located just a short walk from Santiago church. It was built in the 10th century to provide the local population with fresh water and is 10m deep.
Santa María la Mayor Church
Built on the remains of a former mosque, this late Romanesque-Gothic church has a beautiful interior, with quite an imposing main altarpiece. That said, what I think makes this place special isn’t inside but at the end of the stairs, on the tower.
Except for the views from the castle, this church’s bell tower has the best views of Trujillo and beyond. Each of its four sides offers a different perspective of the city and the surroundings: the square, the city walls, the castle or the pastureland. It’s hard to choose a favourite angle!
FUN FACT: in 1972, during some reconstruction works of the tower, the stonemason in charge carved the emblem of his favourite football team (Athletic Bilbao) on one of the capitals. Despite the huge controversy which naturally followed, it’s still up there.
Pizarro House Museum
On the way up to the castle is the Pizarro family’s house-museum – a two-floor house with a patio. The ground floor is a representation of how local people of a certain social status lived back in the 15th century; the first floor is dedicated to conqueror Francisco Pizarro’s life in the Americas.
The castle was built between the 10th and the 11th century atop a hill known as cabeza de zorro (‘fox head’) and it has an almost military look due to its many defensive towers. Inside the main walled area, you can see the remains of two Arab cisterns and a little chapel. A second walled area (albacara) was built in the 15th century, attached to the main fortress. Walk around the walls at your own pace, enjoying some great panoramic views and try to spot all places visited so far. It’s a good idea to leave the castle for the end of the day, so it’s not too hot and you have the perfect light for sunset pictures. If you visit Trujillo in winter, look out for the snowed-capped peaks of Gredos mountains in the distance.
When to go to Trujillo
Originally a pagan spring celebration, Chíviri acquired religious connotations over time and today takes place on Easter Sunday. And, because it’s a Sunday party and this is Spain, celebrations start on Saturday night. The goal is simple – to gather at the main square, to eat, drink, and dance for as long as you can bear. A stage is set up, and a band plays popular songs all day long. Restaurants and bars set up bars outside to better serve the masses, but many people bring their own ice-box full of drinks to keep it cheap. People come in the thousands (often over 15,000) from all corners of Extremadura and even from other Spanish regions. It’s common to wear a red bandana, and many people wear the traditional Extremadura costume. It’s not a party just for the young; you’ll see families with children, teenagers, middle-aged couples and even locals well past their retirement age having fun.
National Cheese Fair
Despite being a massive cheese fan, I haven’t made it yet to Trujillo’s Feria Nacional del Queso. The first week of May, you can taste and buy several hundred types of cheese. Apart from stalls, there is a competition and several cheese-related workshops and activities. To top it up, local restaurants create special cheese-based menus for the occasion.
Distance: 46km from Cáceres, 94km from Mérida, 150km from Badajoz, 256km from Madrid.
How to pronounce 'Trujillo': troo-HEE-yoh.
Address: Plaza Mayor
E-mail: [email protected]
Opening times: (winter) Mon-Sun from 10:00 to 13:30 and from 16:00 to 19:00; (summer) Mon-Sun from 10:00 to 13:30 and from 17:00 to 20:00.
Guided tours: the Tourist Office organises guided tours at 11am and 5.30pm. They cost €7.50 and include entry to the Arab castle, Pizarro House Museum, Santiago Church, the Arab cistern, and Santa María Church. Although tours are in Spanish, the staff told me recently that tours in English can be arranged in advance, so get in touch before your trip, if you’re interested. You can also visit these monuments separately (€1.50 each).
Trujillo on a map
Places not too far from Trujillo you may want to visit:
- For cool street art: Romangordo (44km from Trujillo).
- For a UNESCO site: Cáceres (46km from Trujillo).
- To see pig houses: Torrequemada (51km from Trujillo).
- For birdwatching: Monfragüe National Park (55km from Trujillo).
- For birdwatching in a GoT filming location: Los Barruecos Natural Park (63km from Trujillo).
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