In 2015, the medieval walled town of Cáceres has been designated the Capital of Gastronomy in Spain. But it’s a delicious destination any time–especially if it includes a stay at the Parador de Cáceres in the historic heart of this UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Considered one of the most popular of Spain’s Paradores (the government-run hotels often located in historic buildings that have been turned into exclusive lodging for travelers), Parador de Cáceres is set in an intriguing combination of 14th century Gothic era buildings that were originally two-plus palaces.
The main entrance, off one cobblestoned street and up a short flight of stairs leads into an atrium-like check-in area lit from two stories up with an arched skylight. English speaking desk clerks are welcoming, helpful, quick to offer assistance with luggage–and share information and history about the Parador.
“You know that little magician from the U.K.?” the friendly desk clerk asked me as she loaded my luggage into a tiny 2-person lift. “Harry Potter?” Yes, Yes! “This Parador is similar to that castle. There are stairs everywhere,” she said, smiling, and then quickly added, “Oh, but no ghosts!”
Later, as I wandered around the Parador, I discovered what she had tried to describe: the place is a warren of twisting hallways, steps up to a tiny arched doorway (where does that lead?), a stairway down, passageways with arches, and wider hallways with windowseats at the ends.
Basically, it’s a fascinating labyrinth where you will also find leaded glass windows, coffered ceilings, even a couple of medieval Knights’ suits of armor tucked around a corner here and there–which are rather alarming to bump into if you’re out in the hallway late at night, with a few glasses of Spanish wine in you (there’s a bar in a courtyard-like atrium in the middle of the palaces).
Opened as a hotel in l989, the Parador was completely updated inside in 2011—which explains today’s spacious rooms with sitting areas, mirrored luggage holders, huge bathrooms with stylish sinks and tubs, toilet, bidet. Plus it’s all wired, wired, wired. And wif-fi is free in the rooms and available throughout the entire place.
My room was on the 2nd floor—and one of only 39 rooms (Parador de Cáceres is also one of the smallest of the Paradores). The twin and double rooms have similar décor (nothing fancy), but each are configured a big differently, due to the nature of the ancient architecture. My room was not only large by European standards; it was grand by American hotel ideals as well.
I liked the entry way into the room–especially because when the door opened into the room, the bed was not the first thing you saw.
My twin beds (that make into a King bed) are the usual in many hotels in Europe. I loved that both sides of the bed had several outlets –along with more outlets on the desk area below the flat screen t.v. (You can never have enough outlets in this travel techie day and age.)
My Juliet- styled windows opened to a narrow balcony just above the pedestrian-only cobblestoned street –but my view across was simply onto another stone wall. Still, it’s nice being able to open the shutters at night for fresh air; even in November this year, the weather was mild.
The bathroom was lovely, stylishly simple and spotless—with good lighting, two sinks, toilet, bidet, bathtub/shower plus nice amenities, hairdryer, huge towels and even a wall telephone (not quite so necessary these days of the iPhone).
The Parador also has a nice outdoor terrace (in summer time, meals can be eaten there) with its own piece of history. Cáceres does not have a river, the desk clerk explained to me the first night I checked in—so in ancient times, all the palaces had a well to catch the rainwater. Amazingly this one is still there.
But the highlight of this Parador for me was its restaurant. Situated next to the terrace, the restaurant cooks up regional specialties from the Extremadura region where it’s located. Incorporating the region’s cuisine into its menu offerings is typical of all of Spain’s Paradores. But, unfortunately, it’s not always accomplished successfully. At Parador de Cáceres, however, every meal I ate was delicious and presented beautifully. Lunch my first day consisted of tender lamb kabobs with a tasty couscous; dessert was a flaky pastry filled with a creamy custard.
Dinner another night was variations of the famous Iberian ham. Breakfast included local cheeses like the fantastic Torta del Casar cheese, more Iberian ham, and sweet pastries made by nuns from the nearby convent just up the cobblestone street.
Along with a well-made caffeinated cortado, it made for a heavenly way to start the day in this gastronomically delectable and history-rich town.
Rates for standard rooms start at approximately $165. But Paradores also offer discounts for Golden Days (+55) and Young Getaways (under 30s).
Review and photos by Donna Tabbert Long whose stay was provided for by the Tourist Office of Spain (Chicago)