Great Food and Top Things to Do in Cáceres, Spain

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Plaza de Santa Marìa outside the Cathedral is a gathering place to begin exploring the medieval walled city of Cáceres.

The first time we visited Cáceres, in 2015, we basked in sunny and shady corners of the medieval city’s plazas and delighted in unexpected sips of delicious soup and bites of local jamón. Beyond photographing a couple churches, we didn’t dig too deep into this UNESCO World Heritage Site city.

On our recent stay, we toured the Old Town, explored the Jewish quarter, revisited some of Cáceres’ landmarks, and again were surprised and impressed with the world class cuisine coming out of this city. Now we can’t help but plan our next visit.

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History of Cáceres and Extremadura

Cáceres is the capital and largest city in the province of Cáceres in the autonomous region of Extremadura. Extremadura might be the least visited region of Spain, yet it holds remarkable history and extraordinary cuisine.

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The city was founded by the Romans in 25 BC. Vestiges of Roman roads, walls, and projects can be spotted in and around town. Visit nearby Mérida to see an incredible array of finely preserved Roman ruins from what was the more important Roman city of its day. Both Cáceres and Mérida are located along the Roman road, Via de la Plata, which conveyed soldiers and goods from Sevilla to Gijon, from Andalucía through Extremadura and Castille y Leon to Asturias and the Bay of Biscay.

After the fall of the Romans, Visigoths settled in to rule until the area was conquered by Arabs in the 8th Century, and eventually taken by Christians in the 13th Century. At this time the Jewish quarter flourished, too, until the expulsion of Jews and Arabs in 1492. Spain’s network of Caminos de Sefarad is well marked in Cáceres.

Cáceres’ walled Old Town contains the medieval city, still charming with its cobblestone streets and blend of Roman, Moorish, Renaissance and Gothic architecture. Primary monuments include Islamic towers, churches and palaces. Many of the latter were established by Spanish nobles during the era of discovery of the Americas.

Plaza Mayor Caceres
From Plaza Mayor, the entrance to the walled city with the Bujaco Tower and Arco de las Estrellas.

Thirty Moorish towers still stand in Cáceres, of which the Torre del Bujaco is the most famous. Marks of the Jewish Quarter are also still evident. Cáceres was declared a UNESCO World Heritage City in 1986. Although not designated a World Heritage Site, the nearby Caves of Maltravieso, discovered in the 1950s, are thought to hold the oldest cave paintings known, estimated to be more than 67,000 years old.

The Secret of Extremadura Cuisine (An Interview)

With only two nights and three days in Caceres, we can’t pretend to report in detail on the top ten restaurants. But with nearly a week in Extremadura, we had several great dining experiences and managed to chat with one of the city’s top chefs.

According to Chef Francisco of Restaurante Madruelo, the secret to the region’s fine food is in the land itself. (Note: Francisco’s remarks are translated here from his emailed responses in Spanish.)

“Extremadura is a very fortunate area of Spain: large, sparsely populated, and with little industry. Its greatest economic engine is the countryside and livestock.”

This landlocked section of Spain, bordering Portugal in the west central part of the Peninsula, enjoys a mild climate within the Mediterranean-Atlantic ecosystem. It features the dehesa, the prime grazing meadowlands dotted by oak forests. For centuries, these resources have been used for breeding cattle, Iberian “pata Negra” pigs, and merino lamb for their natural, high quality products now recognized around the world.

Besides the meat products, Extremadura is a major producer of tomatoes, native peppers (source of the extraordinary La Vera paprika), rice and olive oil.

What we didn’t know is that Extremadura, with its abundant swamp land around the dehesa, has the largest inland coastline in Spain. “In fact,” added Francisco, “it has blue flag bathing areas!”

Francisco and his partner Ana are from La Pesga, a small town about an hour and a half north, still in Cáceres province, where their families operated olive groves. In the restaurant they’ve been operating for 18 years, they use their own olive oil (Mancanilla Cacereña) plus all sorts of seasonal fruits, mushrooms, and vegetables sourced from their family property.

Beef cheeks with 3 ancient mustards
Tender beef cheeks with three mustards, Restaurante Madruelo.

Of course the proximity to Spanish and Portugese coasts facilitates a wide selection of fish and seafood to add to the menu. Francisco considers all these factors as his inspiration and source of success.

“The region’s fresh and natural products are the essence of Extremadura gastronomy [which is] based on traditional dishes balancing the influences of the cuisine of the north of Spain (heavier and stronger), with the lightness of the Mediterranean cuisine and the freshness of our garden produce and olive oil.”

Francisco says it is “easy to cook here” and his creative approach reflects his love of the fresh and natural products of his homeland. “With the best fresh, seasonal ingredients at your fingertips and a traditional recipe book, it’s easy to interpret, adapt, and elaborate to discover a perfect harmony of flavors and sensations.”

We concur he’s succeeded at that. See our Restaurante Madruelo tasting menu notes below. Also, a recipe we begged for from another restaurant on a previous visit is included at the end of this post, though that restaurant is, sadly, “temporarily closed”.

Selection of Cáceres Top Restaurants

Restaurante Madruelo

Just a couple blocks from Plaza Mayor, El Madruelo’s peaceful dining room first impresses with its original art, all created by owners Francisco and Ana. (Seriously, I’m thinking of commissioning a piece.)

From the complete menu, it wasn’t hard to decide on sharing the Classic Madruelo Tasting Menu so that we could sample house specialties. At €33 per person (prepared for minimum two people), it is another great culinary bargain. (Spain is full of them.) Even with wine of the region, Habla Del Silencio, sparkling water and bread, our total bill came to under €100. OK, that’s not counting the Gran Duque de Alba brandy we ordered for ourselves and friendly guests at the next table.

Cod Restaurante Madruelo Caceres
Cod with local grown rice, mushrooms, olives, and the bright addition of La Vera paprika. Restaurante Madruelo

The menu:
Appetizer. Patatera Morcía (sausage) with sweet paprika, honey and sesame. We learned “patatero” sausages were developed here by the Jews in medieval times, inserting potatoes in their sausages to hide the fact they weren’t using pork.
Carpaccio de retinto con foie. A lovely, tiered arrangement of thinly sliced carpaccio beneath dressed micro greens, topped with curls of melt-in-your-mouth foie. The ‘retinto’ refers to the dark brown color of the carpaccio coming from those encina holm oak forests in the dehesa.
Bacalao ensalsa de boletus. Cod in a mushroom sauce served with Extremadura rice. The earthy, creamy mushrooms and deep dark olives are sparked by Paprika.
Solomillo de Iberíico a la mostaza Antigua. Beef with three types of mustard from sweet to sharp.
Tarta de chocolate. Yes.

La Minerva

As soon as we’d checked into our hotel on a busy Sunday afternoon, we wandered over to Plaza Mayor and were lucky to find a table in the shade to enjoy a midday meal at La Minerva. (Thanks to our Palacio de Oquendo hotel for the many good restaurant recommendations.)

Don’t be fooled by its location on the popular Plaza Mayor, this tapería and restaurant focuses on high quality seasonal fare. The chance to enjoy the sights from your table is simply a bonus.

Again we selected a tasting menu to broaden our culinary horizons. We ordered the Menú Degustación de Tapas (the tapas tasting menu, €30) with a side of irresistible white asparagus, a daily special cooked with truffles and topped with thin strips of Parmesan.

Restaurants Caceres
Seasonal white asparagus with truffles and a paper-thin slice of Parmesan, from La Minerva.

The menu:
Green salad. with slivers of apple, charred red peppers, and goat cheese.
Patatas Bravas
Pulpo Gallego a la Llama. Exquisite octopus in a creamy potato with La Vera paprika sauce. This is among the best octopus I’ve ever eaten, so I was pleased to discover after returning home that La Minerva’s dish – and the famous La Vera paprika – were covered in this article from Plate magazine.
Carrillera Ibérica. Beef cheeks served over truffled puree of cauliflower sprinkle with toasted hazelnuts.

Tapería Yuste

In the NH Hotel Palacio de Oquendo on Plaza de San Juan, Tapería Yuste is an appealing stop for wine and tapas whether you are a guest or not. Find friendly conversation or a quiet corner with fine wine and food selections for any time of day appetites.

Figón de Eustaquio

Across the street from the NH Hotel, and recommended by them, find Figón de Eustaquio. Sit outside at Plaza de San Juan, a quieter, leafier cousin of Plaza Mayor found just down the Gran Vía street. Family-owned and known for typical rustic, hearty cuisine of Cáceres.

Also recommended

Also recommended, but without our firsthand experience:

Atrio Cáceres Restaurante. Here’s a Michelin three star restaurant by chef Toño Perez (also behind Torre de Sande and Palacio Paredes Saavedra). Self-proclaimed “gastronomic luxury” in the beautifully designed Atrio Hotel.

Parador de Caceres. We’ve always found the restaurants in the national Parador hotels to be outstanding and well grounded in local ingredients, though a bit pricey. Restaurant specialties include the typical and tasty dish, Zorongollo Confitado, a salad of roasted peppers.

Torre De Sande. Part of the Atrio experience, Torre De Sande uses the Palacio Paredes Saalvedra backdrop, with its courtyard beneath a vine-covered tower, to create a more relaxed vibe and menu. Find the entrance off Plaza de San Mateo.

La Cacharrería. Right in the center of the Old Town, La Cacharrería draws locals and visitors with its modern cocktails and wine list. Stay for the tapas and another round.

Caceres Museum
From the Cáceres Museum, a stone sculpture from the 4th-2nd Century B.C.

Things to Do and See in Cáceres

First impressions of Cáceres are usually wrapped up in the multitude of stork nests and towers. A closer look reveals the many houses and palaces built from the middle ages up through the Renaissance, when Spain’s noble families settled here during the period of discovery of the Americas. Cáceres became capital of the province in the 19th Century.

An easy way to explore the Old Town and learn more is to join one of the regular guided walking tours, departing from PLaza Mayor in front of the tourist office (but not associated with that office). For €10, you can spend an hour or hour and a half with an English or Spanish speaking guide. Well worth it to get a better sense of Cacerés and its place in Spain’s history.

Plaza Mayor. Large open plaza where all ages gather. Enjoy people watching and looking up at the Torre of Bujaco and the stairs, city wall, and medieval buildings of the Old Town.

Shopping. From Plaza Mayor, follow Calle Pintores find assorted boutiques where you can shop for tasty souvenirs like olive oil soap, La Vera paprika, extra virgin olive oil, and more. A couple of ice cream shops are conveniently located for your pleasure.

Arco de las Estrella. This is the entry gate from the plaza to enter the Old Town. Once you’ve passed through, be sure to pause and look back up at the niche with Madonna and Child. Constructed in 15th century, it was remodeled in the 18th Century, adding a coat of Arms and expanding the little intersection. Does it look familiar? Think Game of Thrones, scenes filmed here.

Tower of Bujaco. Next to the Arco de Estrella gate, the Moorish-style tower was built atop Roman stones. The name comes from the Caliph Abu Ya’qub, honoring his conquest of the city in 1173. It was later known as the Clock Tower (16th – 18th Centuries) and now houses the Three Cultures Visitor Ccenter. Climb the tower for a panoramic view or to access the walk along some sections of the upper wall.

Cáceres Museum (formerly Casa de las Veletas) Up in the San Mateo neighborhood at Plaza de las Veletas, this history and archeology museum resides in the former Casa de los Caballos and Palacio de las Veletas. Among the treasures is the Arab cistern preserved here.

santiago matamoros caceres cathedral spain
Santiago Matamoros–Saint James the Moor Slayer–in the Cathedral of Cáceres.

Co-Cathedral of Santa Maria. One of Caceres’ oldest surviving buildings, from the 15th Century. The Cathedral has a particularly strong image, carved in wood, of Santiago Matamoros. Tom described this imagery after our 2015 visit, and its worth revisiting:
One of the most pervasive religious images in the churches of Spain is that of Santiago Matamoros–Saint James the Moor-slayer. According to legend, Saint James appeared to the Christian forces fighting the moors at the Battle of Clavijo on May 23, 844, where the Christians launched the Reconquista–the 700-year process of retaking the Iberian peninsula from conquering forces of Islam that had overwhelmed the Christian residents in 711.

Santiago Matamoros is all over Spain, and is featured prominently in the cathedrals of, for example, Burgos, Córdoba, and, of course, Santiago de Compostela. There was a movement about ten years ago to remove the statue from the Cathedral of Santiago as a gesture of reconciliation with Muslims. However, after the terrorist bombings of the Madrid suburban train system in 2004, public opinion led to a scrapping of the plans to remove the statue.

This Matamoros image is part of the altarpiece of the Cáceres Cathedral, and ironically, is right next to another carving on the alterpiece of more benign image of Santiago the Pilgrim, which also decorates nearly every church in Spain.

Carvajal Palace near Cathedral. This residence built in the 15th Century and burned in the 19th Century, is notable for its round tower, perhaps of Arab origin. Though privately held still, the interior courtyard is open to the public.

Palace of the Golfines de Abajo. Just off the Plaza de Santa María near the Cathedral, check out the coat of arms of the Catholic monarchs on the Palace exterior. Queen Isabel stayed here at the invitation of the family who desired to solidify their standing via a royal marriage. It worked.

Casa Museuo Yusuf Al Burch House. Restored in the 1960s to showcase the features of a Almohad home: tea room, courtyard, harem, hammam

For more information on things to see and do in Cáceres, visit the helpful Spain tourism site.

Caceres Extremadura Spain Museum
The medieval Arab cisterns are viewed from the Cáceres Museum.

Where to Stay in Cáceres

NH Collection Caceres Palacio de Oquendo

We’re big fans of the NH Collection hotels throughout Spain, and this Caceres Palacio de Oquendo Hotel is a fine example. Small enough, excellent location (easier to manage than choices up in the restricted Old Town), fine breakfast service and bar/restaurant, and all the room features we appreciate, like the clearly labeled bulk bath products in the shower. Most of all, we liked the nifty map with their restaurant recommendations overlayed with key tourist attractions.

Atrio Caceres Hotel

The Atrio Hotel aims high. By the Relais & Chateau hospitality group, this upscale hotel with restaurants uses its location in the center of the walled city to its advantage, layering modern sensibility atop historic buildings and courtyards.

Parador de Caceres

Like many of the Paradores in Spain, the Parador de Cáceres place is considered a destination unto itself. In the historic Old Quarter, the Parador is rebuilt from several combined homes and palaces. And like the best of its kind, it includes a top-notch restaurant on site.

When to Go

It can be mighty hot in Cáceres in the summer, with average highs in the 80s or 90s from June through September, which means actual highs over 100 aren’t uncommon. October through April suits us fine. Festivals in Cáceres include Easter week celebrations, an annual theater festival in June, and the WOMAD Festival (World of Music Arts and Dance) started by Peter Gabriel and focusing on world rhythms.

While You Are in the Area

Mérida. We spent three wonderful days in Mérida discovering more Roman ruins in much better condition than we expected. It’s a cool city that incorporates its Roman and Moorish cultural heritage into today’s living. And we found some tasty food in Mérida, too.

Via de la Plata. Read a bit more about the ancient North-South route through Spain, and consider planning your itinerary around it.

Parque Nacional de Monfragüe. Right in the center of the Province of Cáceres is this biosphere reserve. The park’s natural landscape is known for its rivers, oak and cork forests, rocky cliffs, and excellent bird watching.

Bonus Recipe

We picked up this recipe on our previous visit to Cáceres, at the restaurant Jardín de Ulloa in front of the towering San Francisco Xavier Church at Plaza de San Jorge. We discovered in April 2024 that the restaurant was closed, though it’s uncertain if that’s a temporary or permanent closure. But of course we don’t want to lose track of this delicious cold asparagus soup.

It’s billed as Gazpacho Extremeño. My notes say we ordered at around 10 p.m.: a plate of Iberian Jamon Bellota to share, plus this gazpacho and a small orange salad tossed with cod shavings and black olives.

The gazpacho was an eye opener: a fresh faint green color, garlic aroma, and completely distinct from the tomato based version from Andalucía to the south. The menu describes the gazpacho as “Extremadura style with garlic, egg, and tempura style asparagus.” The restaurant’s chef kindly shared the recipe. Your guess on quantities is as good as mine. Let us know how it works in your kitchen!

Gazpacho Recipe
Gazpacho Extremeño from Cáceres, Spain

Gazpacho Extremeño

Olive Oil
2 eggs
5 cloves of garlic
1 liter water
Wild Asparagus (fresh green asparagus)
Bread (2 slices)

1. Fry the cloves of garlic in the oil and then remove and save the garlic
2. With the same oil, fry the eggs, reserving the oil
3. Blend together the fried garlic, fried eggs, water, reserved oil, vinegar, salt and bread
4. Meanwhile prepare the fresh asparagus pieces: lightly breaded and fried tempura style. Add to gazpacho.

Chill and serve! Delicious.

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