Mérida was formerly known, when it was capital of the Roman province of Lusitania, as Emérita Augusta. It is situated in the middle of Extremadura of which it is the capital.
From its cultural and artistic Roman past, Mérida
has the privilege of boasting one of the best preserved archaeological
groups in Spain and it amply deserves the title of Mankind Heritage,
which it received in 1993.
The visitor can come across theatre, amphitheatre, circus, aqueducts, bridges, temples, and forums from the Roman period in any part of the town. A few kilometres away we can even visit some well kept Roman reservoirs from where water was brought to the town thousands of years ago.
Due to the Visigothic invasion Mérida became the centre of Visigothic culture in the peninsula until Toledo became the Capital city of the kingdom. This meant the construction in Mérida during these centuries of some buildings of great artistic and archaeological interest such as the “Basílica de Santa Eulalia”.
The arrival of the Arabs equally brought moments of great military and cultural splendour being the imposing Alcazaba (Fortress), where Roman, Visigothic and Moorish artistic and archaeological remains can be found being one of the best examples.
Leon and Castille kingdoms chose this town as a strategic point for the securing of the advancement of the Christian troops towards the South of the Peninsula and later on was Order de Santiago's, of which we have a great artistic exponent in the “Conventual Santiaguista”, building adjoining the “Alcazaba” and at present “Presidencia de la Junta de Extremadura”. Despite the passage of centuries and due to thorough, continuous restoration, the state of the rich historical and artistic heritage is excellent.
This artistic and historical heritage was incremented by the construction by Rafael Moneo of the National Museum of Roman Art, an authentic architectonic as well as didactic example of how to exhibit the artistic Roman legate; the Visigothic Art Museum, with one of the most important collections in Spain and as a complement the Interpretation Centre of Santa Eulalia Church and its archaeological excavations, great example of how to show the visitors the rests found in the “Santa Eulalia´s Basilica” and Church. Similarly Mérida offers magnificent examples of the Extremaduran gastronomy in its numerous restaurants and taverns.
In summer time Mérida holds one of
the most important theatre festivals, the Festival de Teatro Clásico
(Festival of Classical Theatre), whose settings are the Roman
Theatre and Amphitheatre. Its “Feria” and Fiestas
in September and its original Holy Week are particulary attractive.