Walk through the medieval Alcantara and its Roman bridge in Cáceres

Roman bridge of Alcantara in Cáceres in Extremadura

The cultural festivals which are organized in numerous places in Spain during the summer are an activity for the enjoyment of those who are spending a few days on vacation in them.

But they can also become an invitation to a getaway to, on the occasion of some cultural event, take advantage of knowing a corner of our geography.

That was my case a couple of summers ago, when on the occasion of the celebration of its classical theater festival, I had the opportunity to discover Alcantara.

Conventual of San Benito in Alcántara in Cáceres in Extremadura

It is a town west ofEstremadura with a long history, which you will surely have heard about his famous Roman bridge.

Alcántara Classic Theater Festival

He Alcántara Classical Theater Festival It is held every year at the beginning of August, and during it there have been performances of classics such as Hamlet or Don Juan Tenorio.

In my case the pretext to approach Alcantara it was the opportunity to see the great Rafael Alvarez The Warlock, in the very entertaining interpretation of his own work Mysteries of Don Quixote, more interesting if it fits to coincide with atrip through La Mancha.

Corner of Alcantara in Cáceres in Extremadura

This festival has gained its prestige over the years, especially when in the nearby Merida in the months of July and August the important one also takes place International Classical Theater Festival.

As a complement to the festival, other cultural activities are also carried out, such as parades or nightly theatrical visits.

In a first approximation, visit Alcantara It presents the same problem as a large part of the Community of Estremadura, with a situation somewhat isolated by its geographical location and the lack of high-speed train.

Located in the province of Cáceres, next to the border with Portugal, if, as is my case, you like to drive and car breaks, the truth is that, for example, from Madrid you arrive in Alcantara in just over three hours.

But after my recent getaway I can tell you that it is really worth it.

Palatial house in Alcántara in Cáceres in Extremadura

Alcantara history

With its origins in the megalithic era, of what remains as a testimony the presence of a menhir and several dolmens in the surroundings of the town, to Alcantara the Romans arrived in the second century BC.

Later it was the Arabs who built a first fortification, specifically, a small fortress.

Then after the reconquest by Christians in 1213, the king Alfonso IX yielded to the Calatrava Order the defense of the town, but shortly after it was founded and established what was important at that time Military Order of Alcantara.

From then on, and during the following centuries, it was a time of great boom in which the nobles belonging to that order of knights were building numerous palatial buildings, of which you have testimony in the historic center of Alcantara.

Roman bridge of Alcantara in Cáceres in Extremadura

Roman bridge of Alcantara

It is certainly his now famous Roman bridge the great monument that will focus your attention during your visit to this town of Extremadura.

It is an impressive engineering work that was built in a deep cut of the Tagus river during the time of emperor Trajan to facilitate the transport of metals such as lead and gold.

Completed in 85 AD, when you arrive at the bridge, you will be surprised by its majesty, consisting of five robust pillars and six semicircular arches.

In the center of it rises a arc of an honorary character, 14 meters high, which was subsequently completed, in the year 106 A.D.

The architectural complex is completed with what was a small roman temple.

Roman bridge of Alcantara in Cáceres in Extremadura

Something that may surprise you is how the roman bridge has remained standing to the present day.

In this regard you should know that there is evidence that the bridge remained intact until the thirteenth century, when during the Reconquest The first arch was destroyed.

It was not rebuilt until the 16th century, and then during the War of succession from the 18th century between Spain and Portugal, one of the arches was seriously damaged.

In the Independence War with the Napoleonic troops the second arch was destroyed, and it was not until the time of Isabel II when it was definitely restored.

What to see and do in Alcantara

In addition to the Roman bridge, you getaway to Alcantara It has other attractions, such as walking through the narrow streets of its historic center.

Conception Arch in Alcántara in Cáceres in Extremadura

Located the village on a hill from which you can see the Roman bridge, of the Alcantara walls there are hardly any sections left.

Arch of the Conception in Alcantara

But to access its historic center you must cross under the now known as Conception Arch, which historically was the main access of Alcantara.

Alcantara It is a town with a marked historical environment that, in front of other places already very tourist, preserves the virtue of authenticity.

It is from those villages where on your walk you will hardly meet anyone, and if you do, before your possible look of surprise, you will feel the obligation to greet.

From the heritage point of view, you will see that most of its palatial houses They are in a state of semi-abandonment, although in both the street signs and in these houses you will find instructive information panels.

Conventual of San Benito in Alcántara in Cáceres in Extremadura

Conventual of San Benito in Alcántara

He San Benito Conventual It is the main monument of historic center of Alcantara, and the place where the aforementioned classical theater festival is celebrated outdoors.

Building built at the beginning of the 16th century, it was the headquarters of the aforementioned Military Order of Alcantara.

The architectural ensemble mixes three different styles, starting from a Gothic cloister with a square floor plan.

The Conventual church It is of Plateresque style and was not finished, which you see when you see the large interior dimensions of the beginning of the three ships, with the striking crossings of the vaults.

Outside the one known as Carlos V Gallery Renaissance style, at whose feet in summer the stage of the theater festival is located, and which consists of three superimposed galleries.

Gallery of Carlos V in Conventual de San Benito in Alcántara

Now you will find a building that was confiscated and almost abandoned, leaving only the architectural structure of the church.

He San Benito Conventual you can meet him duringfree guided tours to which you can join in the Tourist Office of Alcantara, which you find not far from the Portugal square.

During your walk through the historic center you will also see the Parish Church of Santa María de Almocóvar, built on the space occupied by the Arab mosque and with a beautiful Romanesque cover.

Church of San Pedro de Alcántara

In front of it is the church of San Pedro de Alcántara, baroque style.

Church of San Pedro de Alcántara in Alcántara in Cáceres

And as you arrive to the wall area where an old access door to the town is located, you will see the set that form the Convent of the Nuns Commander and the Church of the Ancient Incarnation, from the XV century.

There it is worth looking out at lookout from which you have one panoramic views over the roman bridge.

Jewish Quarter in Alcantara

You should not stop walking through the narrow alleys of what was the Jewish Quarter, with lovely corners like a passage with a semicircular arch.

You can also see the building of the ancient synagogue of Alcantara from the 14th century, now converted into a cultural center.

Jewish Quarter of Alcantara in Cáceres

Hospedería Conventual de Alcántara

Facing you accommodation in Alcantara, I recommend the hostel located outside the urban center, in the old building of the Convent of San Bartolomé, headquarters of the Franciscans from the late fifteenth century until the confiscation of 1835.

The Hospedería Conventual de Alcántara now it is an establishment of the network of tourist lodges of the Extremadura joint, in which the modern and comfortable facilities are combined with its historical atmosphere.

And if you like Arabic-style sweets, you should try the mormenteras, homemade elaboration with almond and honey that you find in the establishmentPepi, next to the access arch to the historic center.

Cruise on the Tagus River in Alcantara

During your stay in Alcantara you can also sign up for a cruise by the great reservoir of Tagus river, in the known as Alcantara boat.

Alcantara boat in the Tagus river reservoir in Cáceres

With a little more than an hour and a half, during the very placid tour you will meet various curiosities about this geographical enclave and its fauna.

I will tell you that it is an area of ​​special protection for birds of the Natural park of the International Tagus where you can see vultures, eagles or storks.

Also also close to Alcantara, you can bathe in the quarry, an artificial lake of spring waters created by the extraction in its day of the material to build the Alcantara Dam.

Now it is a popular bathing area where several species of raptors nest in the walls of the old quarry.

How to get to Alcantara

Alcántara is located west of the province of Cáceres in Extremadura, and from that city it will take you an hour. If you travel from Madrid, it will take three and a half hours, and somewhat less from Seville.