First of all, I just want to say it is really unfair to do “top” posts of something, but especially for Merida Spain. We really see it as a special city and it is… I love to lose myself through the city in my walks. I had some weeks to explore the city but I just remember how the city surprised me in the first weeks: everywhere I walked I had an encounter with history!
It is true, almost in every street you can find a ruin of the old glorious times. And not only on the street! It can also happen when you go to the library or to a restaurant! And bang! You are visiting as well pieces of history 🙂 More is to say that you can walk anywhere in Mérida, it is a friendly city for walkers and bikers.
Clover was called for a last minute project in Mérida, Spain, and we packed our bags without knowing that much about the city. Mérida was really a wonderful surprise in terms of quality of life, places to discover and place to live in.
Moreover, Mérida is a cheap city to visit as you can buy just one ticket for 15,00€ that includes visiting the main monuments such as the Roman Theatre and Amphitheatre, the Roman Mitreo House and Columbaria Archaeological site, the Alcazaba, the Santa Eulalia Crypt, the Roman Circus and the Morerias Archeological Area.
Additionally, you can also visit the Visigoth Art Museum for free and the National Museum of Roman Art for 3,00€ or for free on Sundays. You really have no excuses to miss exploring this wonderful city, considered by UNESCO a World heritage centre.
Here are our top 7 selection of places to visit in Merida.
1. Roman Theatre
Without a doubt, I would assume almost everyone has the Roman Theatre as their favourite spot to visit in the whole Mérida. It is really priceless! One of the things that amazed me the most was to know that almost all of the pillars standing there are the original ones (only two or three of them needed to be substituted).
This monument from the year 15/16 B.C is just magnificent! It is amazingly well preserved, result from abandonment after the decline of the Roman Empire and, as being in a slope, centuries after centuries it became more and more covered by dirt until the point it was actually hidden for centuries. And it had to be hidden for centuries and centuries so that we can now look at all its amazing beauty!
The excavations to bring the Theatre to its glory only started in 1910 and the reconstruction in 1964.
Moreover, the sculptures in the Theatre are all replicas but the original ones can be appreciated at the National Museum of Roman Art (MNAR). As well, a lot of the seats and other elements are a reconstruction so we can have an idea of the Theatre on its times of glory.
Since 1933 takes place in the Roman Theatre of Merida the Festival of Classical Theatre, usually held in July and August. It must be such a blessing to be able to watch the plays there. We hope we can have the opportunity to do that!
2. Roman Amphitheatre Merida Spain
The Roman Amphitheatre and the Circus were the favourite places of public events for the inhabitants of Augusta Emérita, as the Roman Theatre mainly held Greek tragedies that most Romans were not able to understand. Only later comedies also started to be played in the Theatre.
Inaugurated in the year 8 B.C., you can imagine the spectators fervently cheering the gladiators. The fights could be between gladiators, gladiators and local animals or between animals.
3. Roman Circus Merida Spain
The first highlight from the Circus is its size, it is huge! In fact, it is one of the biggest Roman Circus in the world (an arena with 400 meters length and 115 meters width). 30.000 people would fill the circus cheering for their colour or for their preferred charioteer. The charioteers were the equivalent to the “Cristiano Ronaldo’s” and the “Messis” of our time, dragging thousands and thousands of people to the stadium.
The car runs pulled by two or four horses and with the charioteer commanding, started to perform in the circus on the I century. Oh, how it must have been really exciting!
Even with part of the premises destroyed along centuries due to the construction of the main road across the Circus, or with the main field being used to grow crops until the beginning of the XX century, it still has its charm.
At the interpretation centre of the Circus, we can have a look at a mock-up of how the Circus probably looked like and we can also watch a video in Spanish about the famous charioteer from Lusitania Caio Apuleio Diócles. Caio Diócles was probably like a hero at the time for winning so many battles and also for being from the region. He probably started his career at Augusta Emérita (Mérida) but had so much success that became a star also in Rome, the headquarters of the empire.
A visit to the Circus during winter gives it a special touch with all the green in the central arena, pinched with the colours of little flowers that sprout all around.
4. Aqueduct of Miracles
The Aqueduct of Miracles is, for sure, an important landmark in Merida’s landscape. Made from granite and brick and with 25 meters high and 35 meters wide, it is one of the most beautiful places in the city. There is a Park surrounding the Aqueduct so it is a wonderful place for a walk or for a picknick.
This Aqueduct is from the final of the I century B.C. – I century, being updated along the years. The water system back at that time and how it all worked is really impressive. The Romans channelled the water from the Proserpina Dam, around 8km from Mérida to the city using the Aqueduct.
This is such a beautiful aqueduct as you can see by the images.
If you are in doubt about visiting the Alcazaba, I can ensure you it is totally worthwhile, if not for other reasons, just because of the view you have from the top of the walls over the Guadiana river, the Roman bridge, the Lusitania Bridge and the peaceful park around them.
Going down to the water cistern, underground, is another magical moment, the stairway is gorgeous. Gives you the idea you are reaching a mysterious place.
The Alcazaba is an impressive building in a strategic place and, by visiting it, we can understand why having the power over the Alcazaba meant conquering Merida. The Alcazaba has a perimeter of approximately 550 meters, walls 2,70 meters tick and 10 meters high.
Merida Spain was ruled by the Arabs since 713, which also marks a time of decline of the city before it was a centre of political, social and religious power during the Romans and Visigoths. Finished in the year 835, the Alcazaba is the only Arab preserved building in Merida Spain.
6. Roman Bridge Merida Spain
Crossed by the Guadiana river, Merida is reconnected by this amazing piece of Roman engineering. This is a spot you must include in your walks through Merida, allowing you to visit the Parks underneath and on the other side of the margin.
It has 12 meters high and 792 meters of extension and after the inauguration of the Lusitania Bridge, it is a bridge only for pedestrians. The actual appearance is due to the last restoration works in the XIX century.
7. Diana Temple Merida Spain
I have never seen a temple so well preserved, it is really impressive. As you walk through Merida and you encounter the temple, a big “wow” is pulled out from you. I do not know about you, but I was staring and walking around it for a great couple of minutes.
This temple from the I century B.C/ I century, built from granite, was used for imperial cult. And was located in the “Foro”, a public central plaza of Augusta Emérita. It is believed that it had statues of the imperial family, statues that were found there.
In the XVI century a Templar, the Count of Corbos, built a renaissance palace on top of the ruins and that is probably one of the main reasons why we can still find this monument in such a great state of preservation.
There are so many other wonderful places in Merida Spain not mentioned now in this article… Therefore I will write following posts about the gorgeous Augusta Emérita (Roman name of Mérida). Stay tuned!