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Andalucia Itineraries - Almería City Tourist Info

Of strategic significance due to the important role that its port has played in mercantile activities for many centuries. Almería's squares, buildings and monuments retain the vestiges of the various civilizations which have left their deep imprint on this city founded by the Muslims. A stroll through its streets is like reliving its past.

The Andalusí Legacy

Almería lived its golden period under the Muslims, who also left an invaluable legacy which is to be found inside the wall enclosing the old medina founded by Abd al- Rahman III in 955. The boundaries of this primitive part of the town ,which still retains its original layout with narrow and winding streets, stretched up to the site today occupied by the Nicolás Salmerón Park , which contains remains of walls dating from the period of the Caliphs, The old Main Mosque of the city, today the Church of San Juan, still retains the wall of the quibla and the recess of the mihrab. This building ended at the Plaza de San Antón, next to the symbol of Andalusí al Mariya: the Alcazaba.

The Alcazaba

This mOnumental Complex which stands on a hill and was constructed in the 10th century is considered to be the largest Muslim fortification in Spain. It includes three precincts: two arab and one Christian. Acces to the first precinct, which was commissioned by Abd al Rahman III and has beautiful gardens, is via the Puerta de la Justicia (Justice Gate). The second precinct, includes water cisterns, houses,baths, a Mudejar shrine and a wall belonging to the Palace of Al Mutasin. The last precinct jealously guards a Christian castle whose construction was ordered by the Catholic Monarchs and includes a large parade ground and three towers

Around the Medina

Economic prosperity led to the expansion of the medina which was soon protected by two new quarters: El Aljibe or Al-Hawd, which is today the picturesque quarter of La Chanca, and La Musalla or Del Oratorio. In the latter stood the market, now Plaza Vieja, and the Puerta de Pechina (Pechina Gate), which the Christians called Purchena.

However, its most idiosyncratic constructions are undoubtedly the Arabic Aljibes, or water cisterns, whose construction was ordered in the 11th century by Jayrán, the King who gave his name to the wall which links the Cerro de San Cristóbal, a fort constructed by the Templar Knights of Alfonso VII de León, with the Alcazaba.

The Christian Legacy

The Christian conquest in 1489, after 8 centuries of Muslim domination, brought considarable changes in the appearance of the city. In the historic centre, numerous churches and convents were built, in many cases over the Moorish buildings. Near the Puerta de Purchena stand the Churches of san Sebastián , and Santiago declared an Artistic Historic Monument, and the Covent Church of Las Claras from the 18th century. Towards the centre , the churches are closer toghether, housing numerous works of great interest such as the beautiful frescos in the neoclassical Church of San Pedro. There are also examples of more modern architectural trends which are reflected in the features of the Churches of El Sagrado Corazón de Jesús and La Virgen del Mar. A kind of via crucis which leads to the most unusual and emblematic religious construction in Almería, its Fortress- Cathedral.

Fortress- Cathedral

Its construction was rdered by Bishop Fray Diego Fernández de Villalán in the district of La Musalla after the primitive cathedral , which was built on the site of the main mosque and is today the Church of San Juan , was destroyed in 1522 by an earthquake. Its interior, in late gothic style, contrast starkly with the austerity of its external appearance, with its solid walls, buttresses, towers and bastions. Visitors will be captivated by the doorways, the Choir and the Sacristy which were designed by Juan de Orea in renaissance style, the marble and jasper altarpiece in the space behind the choir , the small temple which occupies the centre of the main altar, or the chapels of the rotunda.

The Mudejar tower adjoining the baroque façade of the Convent Church of Las Puras marks the end of this ri¡oute through the city's religious buildings, which finishes with a visit to the Shrine of san Antón and the Church of San Roque.

The Splendour of the Bourgeoisie

The 19th century was a turning point both for the future of the city and its urban development.This was a period of economic and demographic growth which led to the enrichment of the upper classes and especially the up and coming bourgeoisie. The aristocrats, influenced by the new European artistic trends, started building grand stately homes and palaces outside the walled medina, in la Musalla. Some of the finest examples which are still standing today include the Palace of the Viscounts of Almansa, the Casa de la Música ( the Music House), the Palace of the Marquises of Cabra, or the Casa de los Puche (House of Los Puche).

After the old walled was knocked down in185, the city started expanding eastwards, and under the auspices of the prosperous bourgeoisie, new public buildings were constructed: the Cultural Casino, the Cervantes Theatre, the House of Don Francisco Jover y Tovar, the Archbishop's Palace, and the Casa de las Mariposas (house of the butterflies). The city was also embellished with squares, gardens and open public areas such as the Nicolás Salmerón Park , the Rambla , or the Plaza Vieja Square- where the Town Hall stands - and the Monument to Los Coloraos.

Also characteristic of this period are iron constructions which reflect the city's prosperous mining and commercial activity, with colossal works such us the old mineral loading bay, the Cable inglés, the Central Market and the Railway Station.

Looking Out to Sea

Almería has a special route of miadores or vantage oints which offer wonderful views of the city 's most attractive and charming sites, with the sea in the background. For example, from the miradores of Barranco de Greppi, Cerrillo del Hambre and the Mirador- Plaza de San Roque there are exceptional views of the painted houses in the quarters of La Chanca and Pescadería, the old Moorish quarter of Al-Hawd.

From the Bastion of El Saliente and the Tower of La Vela in the Monumental complex of the Alcazaba one can make out the narrow winding streets and rooftops of the houses in what once was founding quarter of the medina, and the district of La Musalla, which stretched from the calle la Reina street to the Ramla Obispo Orberá. The latter, toguether with the wall of Jayrán and the Alcazaba are also visible from the Mirador del Cerro de San Cristóbal.

A Delight for the Palate

In addition to its unquestionable artistic attractions, Almería also offers a wide range of traditional dishes which can be sampled in its numerous bars and restaurants , most of which are concentrated in the historical part of the town.

The pescaíto frito (fried fish), shellfish, gurullos, or migas are some of the most popular tapas served in the traditional bars in the old quarter of La Musalla with its emblematic buildings like the Cathedral or the Arabic Aljibes (water cisterns). The Puerta de Purchena (Purchena Gate) is also one of the most popular places for sampling local specialities such as jibia a la plancha.

The Portocarrero Sun

The relief which decorates the east-facing façade of Almería's Cathedral is the symbol and emblem of the city. It is named after Fray Juan de Portocarrero, a friar who is thought to be its author who is also responsible for the tower of this fortress- temple. It depicts a sun with a human face from which emanate numerous undulating rays, surrounded by a garland of flower and ribbons.

A Destination for Cruises

The port of Almería, a landing place of cultures since ancient times, and an important hub of communication with the north of Africa, has become a significant commercial and tourist centre with a sophisticated range of infraestructures. As well as the fishing docks, where large cruise ships regularly moor. Nor must we forget the sports and nautical facilities available in a port area which is near to the old loading bay from the Alquife mines, the Cable Inglés, which ended in the Almadrabillas beach.

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