Mérida has the most outstanding set of Roman ruins to be found on the Iberian peninsula and is thus a World Heritage Site. Especially beautiful are the Theatre and Amphitheatre, which are open to the public (though there is a charge). Surprisingly intact, the two are side by side. Perhaps the best time for a visit is the summer if you can cope with the heat as a Classical Theatre festival is held annually in July and August; the stage and seats are the ruins themselves. I can thoroughly recommend attending a performance, as the surroundings take on a special atmosphere when pieces such as Antigone are enacted late on an summer- if you can cope with the hit- night.

Other Roman (and Arab) ruins are scattered around the city, while the excellent National Museum of Roman Art is located next to the Theatre Complex. City-centre on-street parking is scarce and underground car parks expensive. You might find a space in the residential area round the back of the Theatre, but another excellent option for the lower part of the city is down on the new-town side of the Guadiana River along the river-side park. You can leave your car here for free, before walking over towards the Alcazaba via the pedestrian Roman bridge. The Alcazaba is also interesting to see how the Arabs scavenged rocks from Roman buildings to build their own castle down by the river!

Mérida as a city has undergone a complete transformation over the last few years. Badajoz is the capital of southern Extremadura and Cáceres is the capital of the north, but the capital of Extremadura as a whole is now Mérida . Official buildings have sprung up on both banks of the River Guadiana, and lovely parks have been created there.

Once the trees have matured, the River will become even more of a focal point for the locals' life. Population has grown considerably with the arrival of so many people to work in the regional administration; Mérida is a city on the up, arguably to the envy of other cities in Extremadura!

Possible excursions from Mérida are to the reservoirs at Cornalvo and Proserpina, both of Roman origin. Proserpina has a number of bars and restaurants on its banks, but Cornalvo is completely undeveloped and offers excellent bird watching.


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