Jaén is certainly one of southern Spain’s most attractive cities. Known for its olive oil production, incredible fortresses, and beautiful architecture, there is so much to love. Heading to Jaén on a day trip is a simple matter when utilising a car rental from Malaga and should definitely be on your to-do list for your next Spanish holiday. There is a whole host of wonderful things to see and do in the city and in this article, we are going to highlight some of the top options available. This is how to enjoy a day out in Jaén.
When wandering around lovely Jaén, you might get a sore neck from looking at all of the beautiful architecture around you. One of the best examples, and a site of historic importance, is the breathtaking Jaén Cathedral. One of the city’s most admired attractions, this Roman Catholic Church is situated on Santa Maria Square, dominating the local skyline. Construction began all the way back in 1249, being completed centuries later in 1724. The exquisite Renaissance architecture is sure to impress, and the cathedral is also home to important relics such as the Veil of Veronica.
Molly, from the travel blog Piccavey, has visited Jaén Cathedral and was impressed with what she saw. Speaking to us about the experience, she said: “The symmetry of the building both inside and outside make it quite impressive. The 100-metre towers tower above you as you try to fit the façade into frame. This grand monument is a little off the beaten path as Jaén is not a busy tourist destination, although it is in Andalucía. Inside the Cathedral the regional archive has documents dating as far back as the 13th century. These valuable historical documents are higher up in the Cathedral in an ancient library room.”
The Arab Baths
Found beneath the Palace of Villardompardo, visitors should make the trip to see the largest Arab baths in all of Spain. Only discovered in 1913, it has a whopping surface area of 450 square metres and dates all the way back to the 11th century. Once an important place of social gathering for the local community, hammams like this were strongly associated with the mighty Ottoman Empire. The palace above it hid this gorgeous treasure from Jaén for centuries but thankfully, it can now be experienced by locals and visitors alike. With four different rooms to visit (the lobby, cold room, temperate room, and hot room), the baths act as a great glimpse into a lost world.
Molly from Piccavey has also visited the baths and highly recommends visiting: “A legacy of Al Andalus, the hammam were important social places in Medieval Andalucia. Today there are several monuments that remain across southern Spain. Granada, Ronda and even the Alhambra Palace all have beautiful examples. As the baths are lesser-known than some of the other Muslim monuments, a visit is highly recommended.”
NAIF Art Museum
Above the Arab Baths, in the aforementioned Palace of Villardompardo, there are some other wonderful attractions to visit. The culture centre inside the palace houses the fantastic NAIF Art Museum – a perfect spot for soaking in a bit of culture during your time in Jaén. Opening its doors in 1990, the museum is the legacy of native artist Manuel Moral Mozas. Here you can enjoy and admire his various paintings and wood carvings alongside a fabulous collection of works from other artists in a similar style. When at the cultural centre, you can also consider visiting the Museum of Popular Arts and Customs which promotes the local traditions of the city.
Castle of Santa Catalina
Impressive fortresses aren’t hard to come by in this part of the world but when in Jaén you can’t leave without visiting the Castle of Santa Catalina. Surveying its surroundings from up high on the Cerro de Santa Catalina, not only will you find a historically impressive building but some truly stunning views of the city. Beginning life as a Moorish fortress in the 8th century, the castle was transformed by the victorious King Ferdinand III of Castile in 1246. There have been dramatic events at the castle ever since, including defensive reinforcements during Napoleon’s invasion in the 1800s. With an engaging historical tour available and the aforementioned views, this is an attraction not to miss.
Trevor from the travel blog Trevor Huxham, has fond memories of Jaén and spoke to us about why he recommends visiting the castle: “The Castle of Santa Catalina is such a great place to visit in Jaén because it offers panoramic views of the entire city as it fans out into the olive groves—it’s one of the best views in all of Andalucía.
“For the best photos and for a magical experience watching all the streetlights come on, I’d recommend timing your visit around the Blue Hour, which lasts 20–30 minutes after sunset. Either hike the 50 minutes uphill to the castle or just take a taxi.”
Enjoy great food
Spain is pretty much synonymous with great food and its no different in the charming city of Jaén. You will surely work up quite the appetite during your day of exploring the many delights the city has to offer, but the good news is that you won’t have to break the bank to do so! The city has the much-appreciated custom of providing free tapas when you buy a drink at its various delightful establishments. Liz from the travel blog Young Adventuress explains: “Whenever you order a beer, a Coca-Cola, or a glass of wine, your servers will also bring out a little plate of munchies—can be potato salad, toast with cured ham, or anchovies. If you’re lucky, you’ll get a dish of preserved olives, just because, in addition to your tapas.”
For one of the best meals anywhere in Jaén, consider heading to Restaurante Tamesis, a restaurant with top reviews on TripAdvisor, serving Mediterranean cuisine at breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Known for great food and service, it’s certainly worth checking out during your visit.
What to do when visiting Jaén
- Jaén Cathedral
- The Arab Baths
- NAIF Art Museum
- Castle of Santa Catalina
- Enjoy great food
There is no question that Jaén is one of southern Spain’s highlights and won’t fail to disappoint. So, if you are planning on heading to the city for a day out soon, make sure to check out some of our above suggestions for a day to remember.
For more great ideas during your time in Spain, check out the rest of our blog.
Image Credit: Miguel Checa