As the capital of the Spanish municipality of Extremadura, Merida is one of Europe’s foremost locations for Roman architecture. Dating back to 25 BCE, the city was formerly known as Lusitania – one of Roman Hispania’s thriving centres. Throughout its history, the region has long been a disputed territory, with the Umayyad Muslim Caliphate conquering the land in the seventh century, while the Napoleonic and Spanish Civil wars once again claimed Merida as an important battleround. Designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1993, the city is home to museums and archaeological sites, the best being the National Museum of Roman Art, where you can see statues and reliefs dating back to the first century.
There’s many different things to get up to during your time in Merida, but the city’s Roman ruins is what attracts visitors year on year. Head to the Roman Theatre, where 6,000 eager spectators once watched thrilling dramatic performances or visit the Portico del Foro, the Temple of Diana, Casa del Mitreo, and a 2,000-year-old aqueduct. Elsewhere, visit the Moorish Alcazar castle before ending your day in the beautiful Plaza de España. Here, you’ll find 19th century architecture like the Church of Santa María de la Asunción, as well as fountains and restaurants serving Iberian cuisine.