Badajoz: The Complete Guide

Badajoz
Badajoz is the capital of the Province of Badajoz in the autonomous community of Extremadura, Spain. Located near the Portuguese border on the left bank of the Guadiana River, it had a population of 151,565 in 2011. Originally known as Civitas Pacensis, Badajoz was settled by Romans and Visigoths before being conquered by the Moors in the 8th century, becoming the Taifa of Badajoz. After the Reconquista, the city was contested between Spain and Portugal for centuries, leading to several conflicts including the Spanish War of Succession, the Peninsular War, the Storming of Badajoz, and the Spanish Civil War. The city’s rich history is evident in its architecture and landmarks.

Badajoz is the seat of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Mérida-Badajoz. Before merging with the Diocese of Mérida, it was the see of the Diocese of Badajoz from its inception in 1255. The city is notable for the ruins of a Moorish castle that overlooks the Guadiana River and the heavily fortified San Cristobal fort. The Badajoz Cathedral, built in 1238, resembles a fortress with its massive walls, reflecting the city’s tumultuous past.

Badajoz is also home to the football clubs CD Badajoz and AD Cerro de Reyes, as well as the AB Pacense basketball club. The city is served by Badajoz Railway Station and Badajoz Airport, providing essential transport links.

History of Badajoz

Badajoz, the capital of the province of the same name in Extremadura, Spain, has a rich and complex history that spans several millennia. Here’s an overview of its historical development:

Ancient and Roman Periods

The area around Badajoz has been inhabited since prehistoric times, with evidence of early settlements. The city itself, originally known as Civitas Pacensis, was occupied by various civilizations, including the Romans, who established it as a significant settlement due to its strategic location near the Guadiana River. The Romans developed infrastructure and built roads, enhancing its role as a local hub.

Visigothic Era

After the decline of the Roman Empire, Badajoz came under the control of the Visigoths. During this period, the city continued to be an important regional center. However, little is known about specific developments during the Visigothic era, as it was overshadowed by the subsequent Moorish conquest.

Moorish Conquest and Taifa Kingdom

In the 8th century, Badajoz was conquered by the Moors, who renamed it Batalyaws. Under Moorish rule, the city flourished, becoming the capital of the Taifa of Badajoz, an independent Moorish kingdom. This period saw significant cultural and architectural advancements, including the construction of the Alcazaba, a large Moorish fortress that still dominates the cityscape today. Badajoz became a center of learning and culture, attracting scholars and artisans.

Christian Reconquista

Badajoz was reconquered by the Christian forces of King Alfonso IX of León in 1230 during the Reconquista. The city was incorporated into the Kingdom of León and later into the Kingdom of Castile. Following the Reconquista, Badajoz became a crucial border town due to its proximity to Portugal. Its strategic importance led to the construction of new fortifications and the transformation of existing structures, such as the Alcazaba, to defend against invasions.

Conflict and Warfare

From the late Middle Ages through the early modern period, Badajoz was frequently caught in conflicts between Spain and Portugal. The city was a battleground during the War of the Spanish Succession, the Peninsular War against Napoleonic France, and the Portuguese Restoration War. One of the most notable events was the Storming of Badajoz in 1812 during the Peninsular War, where British and Portuguese forces besieged the city, leading to significant destruction and loss of life.

Modern Era

In the 19th and 20th centuries, Badajoz continued to play a strategic military role. During the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939), the city experienced intense fighting and significant political turmoil. After the war, Badajoz, like much of Spain, underwent a period of reconstruction and modernization.

Contemporary Badajoz

Today, Badajoz is a vibrant city that balances its rich historical heritage with modern development. It is an important cultural and economic center in Extremadura, with a population that has grown significantly over the years. The city’s historical sites, such as the Alcazaba, the Cathedral of Badajoz, and the remnants of its ancient fortifications, attract tourists and history enthusiasts.

Key Historical Sites

Alcazaba of Badajoz: This massive Moorish fortress is one of the largest in Spain and offers stunning views of the city and the Guadiana River. It remains a symbol of Badajoz’s Moorish heritage.

Cathedral of Badajoz: Built in 1238, the cathedral resembles a fortress with its thick walls and defensive features, reflecting the turbulent history of the region.

Plaza Alta: A historic square in the heart of the old town, surrounded by colorful buildings and arcades, representing the blend of Moorish and Christian architectural influences.

Puerta de Palmas: A grand city gate and one of the most iconic landmarks of Badajoz, built in the 16th century as part of the city’s fortifications.

In summary, Badajoz’s history is marked by its strategic location, which made it a focal point of numerous conflicts and cultural exchanges. From its ancient Roman roots to its role in the Reconquista and beyond, Badajoz has evolved into a modern city that honors its diverse and storied past.

Visiting Badajoz for the first time and wondering what are the top places to see in the city? In this complete guide, I share the best things to do in Badajoz on the first visit. To help you plan your trip, I have also included an interactive map and practical tips for visiting!

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Best Time to Visit Badajoz

Spring (March to May)

Spring is an excellent time to visit Badajoz. The weather is mild and pleasant, with temperatures ranging from 15°C to 25°C (59°F to 77°F). This season is perfect for exploring the city’s outdoor attractions, historical sites, and enjoying local festivals. The blooming flowers and greenery make it an ideal time for walking tours and sightseeing.

Summer (June to August)

Summer in Badajoz is characterized by hot and dry weather, with temperatures often reaching 30°C to 40°C (86°F to 104°F). This is the peak tourist season, and while the heat can be intense, the lively atmosphere and numerous events, such as the Feria de San Juan in June, make it a vibrant time to visit. It’s best to plan activities for the cooler mornings and evenings.

Autumn (September to November)

Autumn is another great time to visit Badajoz. The temperatures start to cool down, ranging from 20°C to 30°C (68°F to 86°F), providing a comfortable climate for outdoor activities and sightseeing. The summer crowds have usually diminished, allowing for a more relaxed experience. The harvest season also brings various food festivals and local culinary delights.

Winter (December to February)

Winter in Badajoz is mild compared to other parts of Europe, with temperatures ranging from 5°C to 15°C (41°F to 59°F). This season is ideal for those who prefer a quieter visit with fewer tourists. While it can be cooler, it is still suitable for exploring indoor attractions such as museums and historical buildings. Winter is also a good time to experience the city’s cozy cafes and traditional Spanish dishes.

Average Temperatures in Badajoz

  • January 16°C 5
  • February 19°C 6
  • March 21°C 7
  • April 28°C 5
  • May 31°C 3
  • June 35°C 1
  • July 40°C 0
  • August 38°C 0
  • September 33°C 3
  • October 29°C 7
  • November 20°C 7
  • December 17°C 7

How to get to Badajoz

Traveling to Badajoz can be done through various modes of transportation depending on your starting location. Here are the main options:

By Air

Badajoz Airport (BJZ): The most convenient way to reach Badajoz by air is to fly into Badajoz Airport, located about 14 kilometers east of the city center. The airport has regular flights from Madrid and Barcelona, making it accessible from major Spanish cities.

From the Airport to the City: Once you arrive at Badajoz Airport, you can take a taxi or rent a car to reach the city center. The taxi ride takes about 20 minutes.

By Train

RENFE: Badajoz is connected by train services operated by RENFE, Spain’s national railway company. You can take a train from Madrid or Seville, with the journey from Madrid taking approximately 5 hours. The train station in Badajoz, Estación de Badajoz, is located close to the city center, making it convenient for travelers.

By Bus

ALSA and Other Bus Companies: Several bus companies, including ALSA, operate routes to Badajoz from various cities across Spain. Buses are a cost-effective and comfortable way to travel, with frequent services from Madrid, Seville, and Lisbon. The main bus station, Estación de Autobuses de Badajoz, is centrally located.

By Car

Driving to Badajoz: If you prefer to drive, Badajoz is easily accessible by road. The city is well-connected by highways, making it a convenient destination for those traveling from other parts of Spain or Portugal.

From Madrid: Take the A-5 highway west, which will lead you directly to Badajoz. The drive takes approximately 4 to 5 hours.

From Seville: Take the A-66 and then the A-5 highway north, which will take you to Badajoz in about 2 to 3 hours.

Car Rental: Renting a car is a flexible option if you plan to explore the surrounding regions. Car rental services are available at major airports and in the city.

By Bicycle

Cycling: For the more adventurous, cycling to Badajoz can be an option if you are traveling from nearby regions. The city has some cycling paths and the surrounding countryside offers scenic routes.

Local Transportation

Taxis and Public Transport: Once in Badajoz, you can use local taxis and buses to get around the city. The public transportation system is efficient and covers most of the city’s main attractions and neighborhoods.

Walking: Badajoz is a walkable city, especially in the historic center where many of the attractions are located close to each other.

Bicycles: There are bike rental services available in Badajoz, which can be a convenient way to explore the city.

Choosing the best mode of travel to Badajoz depends on your starting location and personal preferences. The options above provide various convenient ways to reach and explore this historic city.

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