Jaén, capital of olive oil
Dominated from the hill of Santa Catherine by the Castillo de Santa Catalina, the squares and alleys with their irregular layout of the old town still retain their medieval aspect.
Jaén, self-proclaimed world capital of olive oil, is situated at an altitude of 537 m in the middle of a fertile plain, a sea of olive trees in fact, crossed by the Guadalquivir River.
In front of the town hall and the episcopal palace, on the ruins of an ancient mosque, stands the monumental Cathedral of the Ascension of the Virgin Mary, central point of the historic city.
For a long time on the border of Castellane, Jaén also kept the Moorish baths created in the 11th century by Abd Ar-Rahman II at the Palacio de Villardompardo.
The Castillo de Santa Catalina was designed by successive contributions. A tower was first founded by Hannibal, then Muslims and later Castilians gave it its present form.
The Paseo de la Estación and the Avenida de Madrid, the city’s two main arteries, run along the Plaza de la Constitucíon, in the centre of the old medieval city.
At the other end of the street, Bernabé Soriano de Jaén Street, lined with historic and avant-garde buildings from the 20th century, provides the transition between historic and contemporary cities.
A few steps from the central square, the San Ildefonso district is built around the square and the eponymous church.
It is in the narrow streets of this popular neighborhood that you will find taverns and tapas bars, places that are not to be missed for local gastronomy. Inaugurated in 2011, a tramway network facilitates visits to the city.
Addresses and visits in Jaén
Jaén Tourist Office
Palacio Municipal de Cultural. Calle Maestra, 8.
Opening hours: Monday to Friday from 9 am to 7:30 pm, Saturday from 10 am to 3 pm and 5 pm to 7 pm. Sundays from 10 am to 3 pm, Sundays afternoons and holidays from 5 pm to 7 pm.
Castillo de Santa Catalina
The imposing silhouette of the old castle is perched on the rocky peak of Santa Catalina hill, from where the view overlooks the city and its surroundings.
Of Moorish origin, the castle built in the 8th century, enlarged already in the 13th century by the Nasrid king Al Ahmar, then underwent many transformations after the capture of the city by Ferdinand the Catholic.
Restored in 2010, it now houses a national parador, a luxury hotel establishment, from which the view of the Guadalquivir valley, the nearby foothills of the Sierra and the olive groves are worth taking the path that climbs from Calle Buenavista.
A tourist interpretation centre is located inside, while on the outside a huge cross was erected by order of the king in 1246 to commemorate his entrance into the city.
Access: Carretera del Neveral, 5. The Castle is a little far from the city centre, a bus takes you there every 30 minutes from 9:30 am to 5:30 pm from the Plaza Jaén Por la Paz. Another option is the taxi.
Opening hours: Tuesday to Friday from 10 am to 2 pm and then from 5 pm to 9 pm. From May to October, from 3:30 pm to 7:30 pm in winter. Sundays all year round from 10 am to 3 pm. Admission: 3.50 €, children and pensioners: 1.50 €. Free Wednesday from 3 pm to 6 pm.
Plaza de Santa María.
In front of the Town Hall and the Episcopal Palace stands the imposing Cathedral of the Asunción de Jaén, whose construction began in the middle of the 13th century on the ruins of the city’s former large mosque.
Damaged and rebuilt several times until the XVIIIth century, it was consecrated in 1724. It stands out for its beautiful facade and altarpiece designed by Eufrasio López de Rojas with reliefs sculpted by Pedro Roldán and a balustrade by Blas Antonío Delgado.
Inside there is a relic of the Holy Face: El Santo Rostro in the Great Chapel.
Opening hours: Monday to Friday from 10am to 2pm and 4pm to 8pm, until 7pm on Saturdays, Sundays from 10am to 12pm and then from 4pm to 7pm. The ticket office closes 30 minutes before the end of visiting time.
Admission: €5 with an audio guide, €1.50 for retirees and children from 7 to 16 years old.
Moorish baths. Arab Baños
Palacio Villardompardo. Plaza de Santa Luisa de Marillac.
The Moorish baths of the Villardompardo Palace, classified as a national monument in 1917, date from the 11th century. However, those that are popularly called “baths of Ali” were covered by the construction of the palace of the counts of Villardompardo in the 16th century.
The original Hammam had four distinct rooms: a warm, warm and cold room, which was accessed by a marble vestibule decorated with red arches. The same facilities exist today, complemented by a massage room and a tea room.
Los Baños now houses a cultural centre featuring the Manuel Moral Museum of Naive Art and the Museum of Popular Arts and Traditions. Inaugurated in 2014, the Baños Arabes Cultural Centre offers exhibitions, conferences and concerts.
Paseo de la Estación, 2.
The museum has two themes: fine arts and archaeology. On the ground floor there is a rich collection of Iberian statues from the 4th century BC, furniture from funerary necropolises. On the first floor there are works of sculpture and paintings from the 14th to the 20th century by artists often from the province of Jaén.
Opening hours: Tuesday from 9 am to 8:30 pm, Wednesday to Saturday from 9 am to 8 pm, Sunday from 9 am to 2:30 pm.