|(Source: Wikimedia Commons)|
I’ve put together this static page to bring together all of the blog posts I’ve written over the past two years about Jaén, to serve as both a reference and a point of inspiration for anyone curious about this unique part of Spain.
|Interior, Jaén Cathedral|
Spanish architect Andrés de Vandelvira was the main man responsible for designing a large part of the monumental works in Úbeda and elsewhere in the province. Without him, it’s hard to say whether the Italian Renaissance would have ever come to southern Spain! By the 21st century, Úbeda’s outstanding architecture had been recognized by UNESCO, which named it and neighboring Baeza a World Heritage Site in 2003. A petition is currently underway to add the soaring cathedral in Jaén capital to the list.
When I lived in Úbeda, I only had the chance to visit half a dozen of the myriad of castles this province holds. Most are within walking distance of major city or village centers, but a few are in isolated mountain towns that are difficult to get to without cars. Still, public buses can take you from major hubs like Jaén, Úbeda, or Linares to most of the pueblos that are proud of their castles to this day.
For amazing views of the city of Jaén and the olive-grove-studded countryside, hike up the imposing Santa Catalina Hill to the castle of the same name, or if the mountains are calling your name, hop over to Cazorla for the hilltop fortress called the Castle of La Yedra. You can find one of the oldest fortifications in Spain in Baños de la Encina—the Castle of Burgalimar, a Moorish stronghold, dates back to the Caliphate of Córdoba. And Sabiote, right outside Úbeda, has recently restored a large, Renaissance-era palace-castle.
|Stragglers from the olive harvest|
When eating at restaurants, you’ll most likely be given a free tapa of marinated olives in addition to the standard tapa you receive with your drink; if not, make sure to request a little bowl of them, as every place has their own marinade. A handsome glass bottle of extra-virgin olive oil makes a unique souvenir, but if you’re worried about the glass breaking, grocery stores often sell the exact same oil in sturdier aluminum tins.
|Panorama of Cazorla|
What to eat
|Arab Baths, Jaén|
If you do end up visiting Úbeda, I’ve also written up a post about the best places to eat in town.
|The Sierra de Segura|
Beyond the olive groves and fields of almond trees that grow in the valleys, the town of Cazorla is not to be missed. Set right up against the foothills of the mountain range of the same name, this cozy place has a castle (I think we’re seeing a trend here…), the ruins of a huge Renaissance-era church, and even a tunnel they diverted a river into in the 1500s. Whoa.
How to get around
|Úbeda bus station|
Start with the company ALSA (which also runs under the brand Alsina Graells), and if you don’t have luck with their website, do a Google search of “[origin] [destination] autobuses” or “estación de autobuses [city]” and see what comes up. Sometimes you can buy your tickets at the counter in the station, but a lot of times you simply pay the driver as you board the bus. Don’t forget to ask when the bus goes back to your point of departure, or you might get stuck in the middle of nowhere!
A suggested itinerary
|Úbeda at night|
A typical Day One might involve exploring Úbeda in the morning: its churches, palaces, and museums. After lunch, catch the bus to twin-sister Baeza and spend the afternoon checking out the cathedral and the town’s charming alleyways. Make sure to go out for tapas before you catch the late-night bus back to Úbeda.
Your second day in the province could take you an hour southwest down to Jaén proper, the provincial capital. After waking up with a café con leche and toast with tomato and olive oil, admire the monumental Renaissance-era cathedral and then hike up the hill to take in the views from the medieval castle. Back down at ground level, get lost in the quiet, winding La Merced neighborhood. Once you’re found again, have lunch in the taverns of the old town, some of which date back to the 1800s. In the afternoon, cool off in the Arab Baths, the best-preserved in Spain. On your way out of town, stop by the provincial museum for your local art and archaeology fix.
|Sabiote at sunset|
Have you ever heard of the province of Jaén before? What on this appeals to you the most? Would you consider stopping off in the area the next time you’re in Andalucía? Tell me your thoughts in the discussion below—and if you have any questions, fire anyway!