Mérida, Badajoz (1)
Crossroads of cultures
Founded in the 25th century B.C., on the banks of the Guadiana River, by order of the Emperor Octavian Augustus, Merida, or as it was then known Emerita Augusta, was during the Roman and Visigoth period an urban centre of vital importance for both civilisations. Its strategic location soon made it the capital of the flourishing province of Lusitania, a fact that facilitated its splendour as a great Roman city, which was one of the most important within the Roman Empire. Proof of this are the archaeological jewels of that period that have reached our days.
The Walk by the Roman Merida allows us to enter in this millennial city, at the same time that we travel in the time and in its history. To visit its theater or the Roman amphitheater is to feel for a moment, while we contemplate so emblematic constructions, in the skin of the gladiators who stepped on its sand. When we contemplate the colossal Roman circus, we are surprised to imagine the deafening noise of the chariots that ran through it. The thermal baths and aqueducts, the temples and archaeological sites are just some of the attractions through which this tour of Merida will transport us, a great open-air museum that presents us, almost at every step, with some of the works that make up its considerable collection.
We begin this Walk by the Roman Merida in one of its most illustrious and well-known monuments, the Roman theater that next to the amphitheater forms a set of invaluable historical and cultural value in addition to giving to who visits it with the special beauty and tranquility that surround this place. The visit to both sites is made in a common way, since they are inside the same enclosure, in whose entrance we will also find one of the tourist offices. Once inside we will have a signposted route that will help us not to miss a single corner of this interesting place. The Roman Amphitheatre, built in 8 BC, was undoubtedly the best possible setting for a variety of popular shows. Roman theater built between 16th and 15th centuries b.C. represents as almost no other construction the importance that Emerita Augusta had within the Empire.
Without a doubt, it is difficult to say goodbye to such a remarkable architectural complex, but we will do it to go along the limits of the amphitheatre through a pleasant walk that will take us to Cape Verde Street, where we will descend in search of the underground passage that will allow us to save the train tracks. As soon as we pass under the railway line, we are struck by several constructions that warn us of our next stop. The San Lázaro thermal baths and aqueduct, on the other side of the street, invite us to visit them and get to know them better, disputing our attention with the nearby Roman circus that awaits us a little further on. We are in front of one of the circuses of the Roman Empire that is in a better state of conservation, which allows us to have a better idea of how much was happening here. Its extraordinary dimensions do not leave indifferent those who contemplate it and it comes to certify even more the importance and prestige that Merida had.
We return to our era, to retrace our steps and go back under the train tracks, although this time we will continue without detours until our next stop the course that marks the Extremadura Avenue, a street where we take the underground passage that we must cross. As we advance, we examine the avenue in search of Roman remains that point to our destination, but instead we are surprised by the silhouette of the Basilica of Santa Eulalia, which at first sight has little or nothing to do with Roman times. Nothing could be further from the truth. We find ourselves in front of an enclave in which right at its entrance the Temple of Mars awaits us, a small oratory popularly known as El Hornito. Santa Eulalia, patron saint of Merida, was a girl from Emerita who lived and was martyred for being a Christian during the years of the empire. Beneath its Romanesque temple awaits the remains of the old Roman mansions that preceded the Christian cemetery at the end of the third century that replaced them.
We say goodbye to the basilica, located not too far from the imposing Los Milagros aqueduct, to go up the Rambla Mártir Santa Eulalia into the city. We advance, leaving behind us the square where this street ends, to continue passing by the tourist office, which we will leave on our right. The narrow Berzocana street leads us without further detours to the vicinity of another Roman era landmark, the Temple of Diana, which awaits us at the end of this street. This is actually a temple of imperial worship, in a reasonably good state of conservation, partly because the Count of Corbos took advantage of it to build his palace. Its aspect and state remind us of other more famous temples placed also in big and important Roman cities that nothing or little would envy in their day Emerita Augusta, because of what has been seen and known up to now.
We continue to follow Romero Leal street which will take us to the Plaza del Rastro where the seat of the presidency of the government of Extremadura is located, occupying the old Santiaguista convent building. Bordering this building we descend to the square that houses the Capitoline She-Wolf. Next to it we find the access to the Arab Alcazaba, erected in the Muslim Merida by the Umayyad Emir Abderraman II in the year 835. This fortress houses remains from the Roman era, as well as an extraordinary cistern. The wall that protected it allows us to enjoy an exceptional panoramic view of the Guadiana River as it passes through the city, at the same time as it reveals the strategic, defensive and control value that this fortress has had throughout its years of greatest splendour. Periods in which each different culture that passed through here contributed their singularities to this architectural complex.
Next to the Alcazaba, which controlled the traffic on the majestic Roman Bridge that crossed the Anas River, the name by which the Guadiana was known at that time and one of the longest built at that time. We are before one of the greatest participants of the importance that Merida had. It was an essential element without which the history of this land could not be understood. We left the bridge behind us for the moment to walk along the pleasant Paseo Roma to the nearby site of Las Morerías, mostly located under the protection of a modern building. Morerías preserves part of the ancient Roman wall as well as other remains, such as houses, roads... although what stands out above all, especially in the eyes of experts in the field, is the evolution of the different constructions and the influence that the different civilizations that passed through here had on them.
We bid farewell to this little piece of Merida's history to return on our steps to the Plaza del Rastro, from where we will continue the route up Graciano Street that runs along the limits of the alcazaba. We advance without realizing that Oviedo Street has taken over to guide us without detours to our next stop. We are in front of a house built outside the city walls, at the end of the first century and beginning of the second century A.D., without a doubt we are in front of a construction inhabited in its day by important characters of the society of Emerita Augusta. The bath, the courtyards and other rooms, together with the careful decoration that adorned the house, make us think so. Next to this house, and nowadays inside the same visitable enclosure, we can find Los Columbarios, a space where we can discover the different types of funeral rites and the different ways that the people of Emerita have had to remember their dead throughout history.
We cross the limits of the enclosure we have just visited, going up Via Ensanche Street to set our next stop. At the end of this street we will continue on our left in search of the promenade that borders the Roman Theatre enclosure from which we started the tour and in front of whose entrance door is the museum. A visit to the museum is a must, since it is located in a building of considerable size that houses one of the largest, if not the most important, collection of Roman sculptures and mosaics in the Iberian Peninsula. Your visit will help us to better understand all those places we have just visited, their functioning and importance as well as the organization and administration not only of a great city of the empire, but also of the province it controlled. Besides, there are surprises waiting for us in the form of temporary exhibitions, without forgetting its crypt that houses the remains of old houses and burials. Here we put point and followed to this Walk by the Roman Merida where without a doubt still they wait for more places and treasures to us to discover.
1-Organize the visits, keep in mind that many of the places are subject to visiting hours so it is interesting to know them in advance.
2-Take advantage of your visit to discover other tourist attractions in Merida, such as its excellent ceramic and pottery crafts and its gastronomy.
3-It is necessary to buy the corresponding ticket to visit most of the monuments, but there is a somewhat cheaper voucher that allows us to access the main ones. It does not include the National Museum of Roman Art.
4-The visit to the city extends considerably its possibilities if we make it coincide with the Holy Week, the September Fair or the months of August and September, the latter coinciding with the well-known classical theatre festivals held in the incomparable setting of the Roman theatre.
5-Heat, especially in the summer months, tends to be an inseparable companion to our visit. Be proactive, hydrate yourself frequently, use your usual sunscreen and leave your visits more exposed to the early hours of the day.
Map of the route
This map is a sketch made as an example of the route, in no case represents the best or the only itinerary to follow. Its development has not taken into account the current rules of circulation or the state of the places through which it passes and that could affect its layout.
Una maravilla de ciudad
Meeting place for art, life, stone and magic
Pedro I I considered her to be one of the safest fortresses in the kingdom
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¿Did you know that...
The Archaeological Site of Merida was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in December 1993 and curiously enough 10 years earlier, although in February, Merida was chosen as the capital of the autonomous community of Extremadura returning to this city some of the splendour it enjoyed in Roman times. So that you can make the most of your visit to Mérida, in this link you will find different guided tours that will help you to get to know its main monuments and a lot of curiosities of the city.
Don't miss out...
The Los Milagros Aqueduct, whose remains you will find somewhat far from the urban centre, shortly before the Albarregas stream flows into the Guadiana, although it is worth getting close. It is a colossal work that brought the waters from the Proserpina reservoir or Charca de la Albuera to the city.
Distance of the route
4,8 Km. This figure may vary depending on the route we follow.
Duration of the visits
5h 00min It is the approximate time that it will take us to make the different visits of the route besides the displacement, can vary according to the time that we dedicate to each place.
Time of year
We can enjoy this route all year round, although in the summer months the high temperatures and the greater influx of people coincide.
Historical, cultural and artistic. This route gives us to know great part of the history and culture of the Roman Merida.
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Route information updated on 19-10-2016. The route may vary greatly depending on the time of year, weather conditions and terrain, as well as the actions of third parties and the evolution suffered in the natural environment where it is located. All opinions, advice and/or assessments made by SENDITUR in their descriptions are for guidance only and are subject to and/or refer to the specific conditions of the specific day of the route, referring to that specific day, taken from trained people, with the appropriate experience and with a high level of physical and technical preparation as a reference, as well as correctly equipped.
All the times are approximate and take an orientative character, the stops have not been taken into account, no matter how small they are. All the information related to the route, texts, images, videos, maps, diagrams, tracks, towns, and places of tourist interest are published as a guide, and may not coincide with the current state of each place. Before undertaking any activity, assess your technical knowledge, your physical condition, find out about the weather and the variations that the route may undergo, equip yourself correctly, be prudent and responsible at all times, and do not exceed your capabilities. SENDITUR is not responsible for any misuse or inappropriate use of the comprehensive guides of its routes and/or publications as well as its electronic guides, nor for any variations in their descriptions for the aforementioned reasons, and recommends that everyone be responsible and prudent in carrying out the activity. We also encourage you to read books and specialised guides to complement the information described above.
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