This month the BRIGHT team are taking you on a tour around the historical Andalucían city of Jaén. The capital city of its province (also named Jaén) is steeped in heritage, monuments, landmarks and boasts the most incredible landscape. Join us as we scope out the top sights and must-sees of this charming Spanish location.
Article by Victoria Wood
One of the most visited sites in Jaén are the famous Arab Baths. These baths are the largest in the western world at a staggering 450m2 of historic Hammam draped in history. The 11th century building was once a public bathing centre during the Muslim era. The architecture alone is worth your attention with its grand archways, decadent halls, hot, cold and warm rooms all accurately preserved and representative of such spas of the time.
The Arab baths are situated in the basement of Palacio de Villardompardo, a truly stunning palace dating back to the 16th century. Now also a cultural centre, the palace hosts a museum of arts and local traditions and culture. A truly stunning example of historic Spain that you simply must see when in town.
The cathedral in Jaén is an iconic landmark of the city not only for its combination of architectural styles, the Santa Iglesia Catedral de la Asunción de la Virgen is one of the most important cathedrals in Spain from the Renaissance period. Head to the central Plaza de Santa Maria to admire this famous relic that has become a reference point for cathedrals all over the world. A famous rumour goes that the painting hanging inside the cathedral ‘The Holy Face of Jaén’ depicts the actual face of Jesus Christ himself.
The Castle of Santa Catalina is another hot spot in Jaén, a symbolic defensive fortress that is utterly worth the climb up to the cross to view the panoramic grandeur of the city from the cross at the top. Its strategic positioning adds to its glory as it stands as one of the most iconic landmarks of the region.
The old Jewish quarter is a delightful area to take a stroll through to soak up some local medieval history. Currently known as the Barrio de Santa Cruz this beautiful part of Jaén offers us the Callejón del Gato, Plaza de los Huérfanos, and the Capilla de San Andrés all must-stops on your tour through the neighbourhood. Wander around, get lost, find all of the nooks and niches and, of course, stop for some tapas (look up La Manchega, Taberna Alcocer, El Gorrión or La Barra for some great examples of traditional Spanish fare).
Every city has a museum but the Museum of Jaén is one that stands out for its beauty and range of artistic items as well as that it is divided into the Fine Arts and Archaeology sections. Here you will find fine arts, archaeological pieces, eastern Mediterranean artefacts from various eras, sculptures, paintings, and local relics. On top of all this it has pone of the biggest, most valued collections of Iberian art including artists from the city itself.
The village of Segura de la Sierra stands at a wapping 1.1km above sea level. A stunning mountain range in an impressive mountain range of natural beauty. This municipality has several small villages, which will charm you with the beauty of their scenic surroundings. If you like nature, you cannot miss a visit to the Sierras de Cazorla, Segura y las Villas Nature Reserve.
This village is also considered a Historic-Artistic Site. Its architectural heritage includes the Casa de Jorge Manrique, from the 16th century, and its castle, founded in the Islamic period. With a long history behind it, including several restorations, it is now an interesting museum and information centre.
The 13th century parish church of San Lorenzo is sadly no longer, however the Arch of San Lorenzo survived the test of time and offers an incredible national monument and another must-see site on your tour of Jaén. Note the original ceramics, and read all about the local legends surrounding this landmark of the city.
The next stop takes us on a rural turn as we visit the Vía Verde del Aceite; once a railway line lining the Linares with Puente Genil used previously to transport oil (hence the name). Jaén is sometimes referred to the World Capital of Olive Oil. Still now, the province of Jaén, with 550,000 hectares of olives, represents over 25% of the Spanish olive grove surface and 42% of the Andalusian, producing around 45% of the national olive oil. There is a stunning 128km of luscious landscape featuring thirteen 19th century viaducts. Grab a bicycle to fully immerse yourself in the beauty of Jaén’s countryside.
If you have the time the neighbouring town of Cazorla is yet another absolutely worthwhile stop on the list. Soak up the nature as well as the archtiecture as you roam the olive groves with the impressive Sierra de Jaén mountains as its backdrop. Clamber up and down the old cobbled streets and discover all the historical sites including the Castle of Yedra, the Palaces of Las Cadenas and La Vicaría, the Plaza de Santa Maria as well as the churches – San Francisco, El Carmen, and San José. Cycle or hike the Sierras de Cazorla, Segura and las Villas Nature Reserve.
All in all, Jaén is a truly impressive city and its surrounding countryside absolutely adds to its charm and allure. At only a two-and-a-half hour drive from Marbella Jaén is definitely possible to experience as a day trip, however you may wish you had spent the night to fully immerse yourself in the extensive sights and sounds of the city.