For a taste of Spain minus the crowds, Extremadura makes a compelling case
Overshadowed by neighboring Andalusia, this sunny region revels in bucolic charm and medieval heritage, Roman sites, and a well-rounded calendar of festivities, all served with some of the country's best cheese, ham, and olive oil.
The Monumental City
Midway between Lisbon and Madrid, Cáceres is the perfect gateway to Spain's most underrated region. Declared Europe's Third Monumental Complex and a UNESCO World Heritage City decades ago, Cáceres’ recent surge in recognition came courtesy of Game of Thrones. The medieval times depicted in the series seem almost palpable when you arrive at night: sited atop a hill, the city's cathedral stands imposing against the midnight-blue, black birds circling its ancient towers, their squawks breaking the silence. The almost magical ambience fades by dawn, but the city's monumentality does not fail to impress. A stroll around the old town’s back alleys and stone passages and a coffee at one of the terraces spread out along Plaza Mayor are simple ways to relax and let the historical atmosphere sink in.
For those up for a real treat, a table at the two-Michelin starred Atrio offers a spectacle both for the palate and the eyes: the conversion of this former servant’s house by architects Emilio Tuñon and Luis Mansilla won them international acclaim. "It was a difficult, ten-year-long process, but we are already working on a new restoration project. We are passionate about the idea of revivifying old Cáceres," says José Polo, one half of the duo behind Atrio. In the slow but steady efforts to marry medieval charm and modern flair, the city is bound to be stirred up again next year, when the Center for Visual Arts of Helga de Alvear will gain a modern addition by the same architectural team responsible for Atrio. Adjacent to the "Casa Grande," or big house, as the center is known to locals, the striped white concrete building will display more art from Spain's largest private contemporary collection.