Most foreigners will most definitely not have heard of Úbeda, so let me quickly tell you about it. Úbeda is located in the Andalusian region of Jaén, right to the north of beautiful Granada. The region is known for being a crossroad where many historic battles of the utmost importance have taken place, deciding the fate of the nation. It is also the country's greatest olive-oil producer, so if you've ever had Spanish olive oil, it almost definitely came from Jaén (especially if it was good).
Úbeda is one of the most famous and beautiful towns of the region. Despite the fact that it only has 40,000 inhabitants it attracts a large number of Spanish visitors who do tourism within their own country. What's good about it is that it's not as hot in summer as other Andalusian regions (like Seville, or Granada). It is also yet to catch the eye of mass-tourism, so it remains a tranquil place to visit, with very affordable prices, amazing food and inspirational architecture.
You've definitely heard about Úbeda if you've studied Art History or if you're interested in Spanish architecture. The Renaissance, as you know, was an artistic and cultural movement that developed in Florence and quickly spread out to Spain and France. Thanks to the genius of Andrés de Vandelvira and Deán Ortega, a wonderful artist and architect, and a rich and tasteful patron, Úbeda witnessed the building of marvels such as the El Salvador chapel in the 15th and 16th centuries, which you can see in the picture above. Those were indeed the years of greatest splendor of the city, which is no more than 8km away from Baeza, another beautiful Renaissance town I will soon be writing about. Both are simply full of charm!
Úbeda has two main squares with loads of beautiful monuments, buildings, gardens and fountains to enjoy. One of these is right next to an old Renaissance palace that was turned into a Parador (a famous chain of high-quality Spanish hotels). It is in fact not the only palace in Úbeda that was turned into a hotel, and maybe not the most beautiful one. Right next to these squares you'll find a wonderful mirador with a fountain in the middle from where you'll be able to view the landscape of the region for miles. Úbeda, just like Baeza next to it, are cities that were placed as strategic defensive enclaves. From this mirador you'll see the Guadalquivir Valley, Sierra Mágina and the Sierra de Cazorla - beautiful natural parks that are counted amongst the greatest glories of the region.
So here comes the favourite part for us all. Jaén is one of the few remaining places where the true concept of the Spanish tapa still goes on (by ordering a beer or a soft drink you get a good-sized plate of, of jamón, salchichón, tortilla, or some sandwich, not just a few olives). That alone makes it worth visiting the city right? Jaén, because of its olive-oil, its tapas and the quality of its cuisine is undoubtedly a region that will not leave you gastronomically down. I suggest you visit Casa Juanito, a great restaurant/hotel located between Úbeda and Baeza, which has a 4**** rating on TripAdvisor (yet deserves more). Just as it says on the link, they serve a degustation (tasting) menu that you will appreciate (it includes a typical dish that is known as "old clothes" made out of meat, potatoes and legumes; it tastes much better than it sounds!).
If you ever pass by Úbeda, make sure you don't miss out on loads of great possibilities it offers... so check them out right here below, enjoy!
Cover picture © Credit to iStock/fotomicar
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