Merida is the capital of Extremadura. In ancient times it was the centre of Roman culture in southwestern Europe. Because of this, there are still many remains from this era to be found in Merida.
After Rome, Merida is also the city with the most Roman sights in Europe. Mérida also has a modern museum of Roman art where you can get a good impression of the Roman culture of that time. We want to mention the Roman bridge, the longest of its kind over the river Guadiana.
Also, the Roman circus and the hippodrome but especially the Roman theatre is the showpiece of the old Mérida. It is by no means all there is to see, so you can easily spend a whole day here.
Merida, heir of a wealthy Roman past.
The theatre, amphitheatre and temple dedicated to the goddess Diana make this former capital of the Roman Lusitania one of the best-preserved archaeological sites in Spain and has earned it a World Heritage Declaration.
This immense Roman legacy is documented in the National Museum of Roman Art, where you can explore the history of the city through an invaluable collection of objects found in Merida and the surrounding area.
Many cultural activities take place in the capital of Extremadura, such as the International Classical Theater Festival, which takes place every summer and is one of the most important of its kind in Spain.
The history of Merida has close ties with Roman expansion through the Iberian Peninsula. The foundation as a city took place in 25 BC, under the reign of Emperor Augustus, whose first name, Emérita Augusta, was born.
Fired soldiers of the 5th and 10th Legions settled there. Rome rewarded them for their participation in the Cantabrian Wars with lands on the fertile plains of the Guadiana River. At the same time, this starting city had great strategic value, as two different Roman routes met: the Silver Route (Vía de la Plata), which connected Merida and Astorga with the Roman road that connected Toledo and Lisbon.
Mérida was the capital of the Roman province of Lusitania, and it became one of the most thriving cities of the empire. It was also an important religious centre during the first years of the spread of Christianity. Under Visigothic rule, the town remained the centre of the city as the capital of the kingdom. But this title was later assigned to Toledo. With the arrival of the Arabs, Merida became a fortress until the Christian King Alfonso IX recaptured the city in the 13th century when it then became the basis for the Military Order of Saint James of the Sword. Roman legacy The incredible history of Merida can be seen in the monumental and archaeological ensemble that preserves it, one of the best kept in Spain.
The Roman legacy is still present in almost every small corner of the city. The Roman theatre is one of the most typical constructions. Founded in the first century BC, the theatre can accommodate 6,000 people. Two rows of columns, decorated with statues of deities and imperial figures dominate the stage. Also, it is Amphitheater, a scene where gladiators struggled with animals. This building preserves some of its original elements, such as the stands, the coffin and the gallery. Both areas come alive every summer with the celebration of the Merida Classical Theater Festival, one of the most important of its kind in Spain.
You will find The Temple of Diana and the Arch of Trajan in the centre of the town. On the outskirts of the city are ambitious Roman civil projects such as the Roman Bridge, which crosses the Guadiana River. The bridge stands out for its monumental size – 800 meters long, with 60 arches – which at the time made it one of the largest in the empire. It is also worth mentioning the Aqueduct of Los Milagros that crossed the Abarregas River and watered the city from the Roman dam of Proserpina, still preserved. Experience the journey through the Roman era of Merida in the National Museum of Roman Art.
With more than 36,000 objects found in Merida and the surrounding area, plus the visible panels, the district tells the history of the city and its Roman legacy. It shows what daily life was like in a Roman colony. Arab influences In 713 the Arabs conquered large parts of Spain and destroyed Mérida. In 1230, during the Reconquista, the Christian troops under Alfons IX of León managed to recapture Mérida. This domination has also left its mark on the city. Opposite the Guadiana River is the most important of all, the Alcazaba (Citadel). A Roman aljibe (underground reservoir) has been preserved in the interior of the Arab fort, rebuilt and decorated with Visigoth pilasters.
The cuisine from Malaga shares many dishes with the rest of the region, such as the lamb chops (a stew made with lamb, onions, garlic and peppers) and Iberian pork products, especially sausages and ham. Other typical dishes are gazpacho (a cold soup made with tomato, pepper, cucumber, garlic, etc.), Ajoblanco (another can of soup, similar to gazpacho but white, made with garlic, almonds and bread), rabbit and partridge. All bars and restaurants in Merida serve these and many more delicacies, some as starters, such as pork ears, wild asparagus and cheese. To go with the food, Badajoz offers excellent white wines