The oldest part of Jaén is dominated by the Arab fortress that stands on Santa Catalina hill. From this height you can enjoy one of the best views of the city and the Guadalquivir valley. The Castle of Santa Catalina currently houses the Parador de Turismo, one of the best options for staying the night during your visit.
At its feet, the oldest districts of the Andalusian city unfold, spread around the churches of La Magdalena, San Juan and San Ildefonso. But the core of this historic quarter is Santa Iglesia Cathedral. It is a monumental Renaissance building from the 16th century, which contrasts with the popular-style white houses surrounding it. As well as the main façade, the chapter house, the main chapel, the choir and the sacristy make good examples of the art of this period.
The streets next to the church are the best for getting to know the area's cuisine. Olive oil with the Sierra Mágina Denomination of Origin accompanies Jaén cooking, one way or another. "Pipirrana" salad (with peppers, tomatoes and garlic), "gazpacho cachorreño" (cold soup made with bread, chorizo sausage, oil, vinegar and salt) or "alboronía" (a vegetable stew whose main features are broad beans, onions and aubergines), make up the starters. As a second course, kid with garlic, cod stew or pie stuffed with vegetables are recommended. To round off the meal you only have to try sweet tarts filled with walnuts or "tocinos de cielo" (custard made only with egg yolk and sugar) with figs.
Continue your tour, looking at Jaén's civil architecture. Here you will find gems like the Palace of San Francisco - today, the Provincial Council building - or Villadompardo Palace. Plateresque façades and columned courtyards with Renaissance staircases are the main common characteristics of this type of building. Some Arab baths - a National Monument - that preserve ceilings with star windows, horseshoe arches and delicate capitals, are inside Villadompardo. There are also the museums of Naïf Art and Popular Arts and Customs.
The key points of the most modern part of the city are Plaza de San Francisco, Plaza de la Constitución and Plaza de Las Batallas. Wide avenues lead to Victoria Park and the Provincial Museum, whose collections preserve one of the most important collections of Iberian art in Spain. It also has Roman and Arab pieces and pictures from the last three centuries.
Tours of the province
The cultural and landscape importance of Jaén means the province offers you various routes. The Renaissance Route goes to the towns of Úbeda and Baeza, in the county of La Loma. Both towns have been declared historic-artistic sites because of the great Renaissance legacy they offer.
Another route takes you to Jaén's natural parks. in Cazorla, Segura and Las Villas the River Guadalquivir is born among rocks and woods. Hornos de Segura and Segura de la Sierra have an interesting heritage of monuments. Meanwhile, the Sierra de Andújar Natural Park extends its Mediterranean woodland among places like Andújar. In the south of the province is the Sierra Mágina Natural Park, where you will find villages like Bedmar, Cambil and Huelma among the olive treesAnd its fourth natural park is Despeñaperros, the natural boundary between the autonomous communities of Castilla-La Mancha and Andalusia.
To the south of the capital stand the Jaén towns standing on the Caliphate Route. This road joins the cities of Córdoba and Granada and runs, in this province, through places like Alcaudete, Martos and Alcalá la Real. Castles of Arab origin, Gothic and Mudejar churches and Renaissance palaces are the points of interest on this route, all of them surrounded by mountains and olive trees.
It only remains for us to go to the north of the province, to the towns of Baños de la Encina, Linares and Vilches. Here popular architecture mixes with jewels of Renaissance and Baroque art, so abundant in Andalusia.