Merida Spain has been an important city in Spain from pre roman times although little is known
of the pre roman city functions as this has been lost beneath the considerable infrastructure built by the conquerors. The strategic location on the main highway between Spain and Portugal
saw Merida grow as a trading post and frontier city until the end of the 18th century. Nowadays
the city offers visitors a glimpse into the past whilst providing all the comforts that a modern
Spanish provincial city is able to offer.
For vistors to Spain wishing to take in nearby Portugal or visit the region of Extremadura Merida offers
an ideal "staging post" with which to break the journey or as a base for exploring Extremadura.
The dry climate of the Extremadura region creates ideal conditions for the preservation of buildings
and as such Merida offers a series of historic and arquitectural buildings that are unique in the Iberian peninsula. In fact the almost perfectly preserved Roman ampitheater is comparable with
examples in Greece or Rome itself.
Continuing the Roman theme Merida Spain has one of the most complete museums of life and commerce
in the Roman empire outside of the major museums in Europe. Especially interesting is the fact that
the excavations for the museum unearthed the main highway and a complete Roman villa which are now
located inside the museum building. Perhaps the most beneficial for those visiting Merida is the fact
that the museum can be accessed at tariffs befiting of a provincial city!
Apart from the historic attractions already mentioned, Merida Spain is a very compact and walker
friendly small city with it being possible to cross the entire city center in just 15 minutes! Although
the typical visitor will take far longer as one explores the winding narrow strrets and stops to admire the historic buildings, enjoy the local
products and explore the shops as well as simply lapping up the culture. Recommended is the plaza in the city center which offers a wide range of restaurants serving excellent traditional Extremeña gastronomy at visitor
friendly prices! For those very keen on walking, the riverbank offers a mapped 1hr walking route taking in the Medieval and Napoleonic bridges.
Shopping & Souvenirs
Whilst being well away from the major Spanish cities Merida enjoys the representation of all the
major Spanish retail chains, banks and services and at the same time very little of the "tacky" and "mass produced"
tourist souvenirs. A few stores offer the typical postcards, calendars and fridge magnets but the real
jewels are the "Artesano" tourist shops. "Artesano" can be roughly translated to handcraft but in this
instance referes instead to handmade and regional articles that can range from produce and meats through to
ornaments and wood carvings. Many Spaniards purchase these practical and regionally typical souvenirs as
instead of being a simple adornement they actually serve a purpose. Typical of the region are
- Wooden utensils,
- Clay or terracota mugs and bowls
- Dried and hollowed gourds
- and imitation Roman artifacts!
One curiosity of Merida Spain is the presence of a large number of antique shops, something one might consider
normal in a town in the UK or USA but not typical in Spain. Located almost exclusively along the route from
the city center to the Roman ampitheater and museum these antique shops offer a mix of genuine and modern reproductions
of just about any type of antique available. A few genuine roman coins can be had for less than €10 but the visitor has to be sure of what he is purchasing as the Roman souvenir trade is intense! Other items range from furniture
to small household objects (metal tins, storage boxes, lamps etc) with the emphasis approximately 90% on Spanish items.
In the final part of this shopping guide it is worth noting that for visitors to Merida travelling by caravan or camping
the city offers the typical supermarket chains as well as small butchers, bakeries and greengrocers selling 100% local meat and produce.
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