Olivenza is a beautiful white town in Extremadura on a Portuguese flavor. The whitewash of the rustic but modern houses contrasts with the bare stone of the medieval remains. It is undoubtedly a quiet place along with a strong local character, drawn through the centuries by the vicissitudes of its surprising history.
Olivenza is a municipality that was founded by the Order of the Temple in the 13th century. Because it is on the Spanish-Portuguese border, it has changed sides on some occasions between those two countries. This fact has provoked some diplomatic confrontations between them in the past. Nowadays, there are still irredentist movements that through propaganda and cultural activity try to move the Portuguese authorities to claim the territory of Olivenza from Spain.
A little history of Olivenza
In 1143, King Alfonso I of Portugal and King Alfonso VII of León and Castilla set the initial boundaries between the two kingdoms in Zamora. Later on, Portugal’s Treaty of Badajoz in 1297 established that the Algarve belonged to the Portuguese kingdom and was separated from the crown of Castile by the Guadiana river.
Ferdinand IV of Castile ceded Olivenza to his sister Doña Beatriz after her marriage to Alfonso of Portugal. In 1657, the Duke of Saint-Germain captured it, but a year later it fell back into the hands of the Portuguese by the Treaty of Lisbon.
In May 1801, the War of the oranges took place and the Spanish took over a dozen Portuguese towns, including Olivenza. By the Treaty of Badajoz of that same year, all those towns were returned except Olivenza and Vila Real. The border was once again naturally established at the Guadiana river.
What can we expect from Olivenza?
Olivenza is in between Extremadura and Alentejo. In it you learn about the diversity of Spain, listening to its countrymen and their accents. We visited Olivenza on a cloudy winter day, where the first drops of a brief storm were beginning to fall. People ran to get into the church for the mass at twelve while we looked for a bar to drink coffee. Finding it, I stopped just before entering to look across the street. The Portuguese design of the town hall door captivated me, even more for being in Spanish territory than for the undeniable beauty of its Portuguese style. Petrified, I began to take pictures outdoors while the rain intensified. A neighbor came up to ask me if I was Portuguese with a plastic bag on his head as an umbrella. And he shrugged when I told him no, I’m Spanish.
It was a little later when I realized about the mosaic-shaped decoration on the sidewalks, the stone moldings in the shape of a Lisbonese marine rope on Magdalena Church façade and the tiles in the Hermitage of the Holy Spirit, worthy of Porto itself.
Due to Olivenza’s border situation, the town has been an important historical enclave since 1801, with unique examples of civil, military and religious architecture in the Spanish and Portuguese styles. During the 19th century, Portuguese was widely spoken in this territory and, although currently the Oliventino dialect has been lost, it is estimated that it was very much alive until the 1950s.
What to see in Olivenza?
In a walk through the center of Olivenza, we will be able to discover beautiful examples of the popular architecture of this area of Extremadura, such as Neo-Mudéjar buildings such as the Plaza de Abastos, the new classicist buildings, such as the Casa de los Mazares, or public spaces such as the Plaza of Spain or the Largo de San Francisco. Nevertheless, there are some must you should not miss and about them you can read below.
Olivenza Castle is a very beautiful castle. It was built in the 12th century and it is one of the oldest castles in the region. The castle boasts impressive architecture and stunning views of the surrounding countryside. Visitors to Olivenza Castle can explore its large halls, patios and terraces. They can also take advantage of the many activities available, such as guided tours and educational programs. Visitors should note that admission to Olivenza Castle is free, but it is recommended to check their website for opening hours and times before visiting.
The walls of Olivenza are a popular tourist attraction in Extremadura, Spain. The walls have been standing for centuries and are a great example of the region’s rich history. Visitors can explore the walls and appreciate their beauty and grandeur.
The walls built in the Vauvan style have some interesting gates, such as those of Alconchel, Los Angeles or Calvario. All of them are sheltered by solid walls. The walls form a star-shaped oval perimeter surrounding the city and include nine bastions.
Olivenza Town Hall
Olivenza Town Hall is a must-see spot in Olivenza. It stands out for its beautiful architecture and historical significance. The entrance to the town hall is free and it is open to visitors throughout the year.
If you are planning a visit to Olivenza Town Hall, it is important to check the opening hours in advance. The town hall is usually open from Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. with some exceptions on public holidays. In addition, guided tours are offered that give visitors the opportunity to learn more about the history of Olivenza Town Hall and appreciate its beauty up close.
Chapel of the Holy Spirit
The chapel is possibly of Portuguese origin, from the 15th century. The interior of the current chapel responds to reform works from the 18th century. It has a single nave, with a barrel vault. The choir is supported by two marble pillars and two semi-pillars. This is a good place to admire Portuguese Baroque art, through the tiles and altarpieces.
González Santana Ethnographic Museum
The González Santana de Olivenza Ethnographic Museum is a must-see destination for anyone wanting to explore the rich cultural heritage of the region. Located in the heart of Olivenza, this museum offers visitors the opportunity to discover the unique traditions and customs of this area through its extensive collection of artifacts, documents, photographs, and more. Not only does it provide an opportunity to learn about the history and culture of Extremadura, but it also provides an insight into how people lived in this region centuries ago. Visitors can also enjoy a guided tour of the museum, as well as take advantage of its convenient opening hours and entrance fees.
Church of Santa Maria del Castillo
The Church of Santa María del Castillo de Olivenza is a beautiful and historic church located in the town of Olivenza. It is a great place to visit if you are looking to explore the history and culture of this region. The Church was built in the 16th century and features impressive Baroque-style architecture. It is also home to some amazing works of art, including paintings, sculptures, and frescoes. Visiting this church will give you an insight into the rich history of Olivenza and its people.
Church of Saint Mary Magdalene
The Church of Magdalena Olivenza is a must-see destination for anyone wishing to explore the region’s rich cultural heritage. The church is a stunning example of Gothic architecture, with its intricate stone carvings and grand entrance. Visitors can explore the impressive interiors of the church and admire its beautiful sculptures and paintings. The church also offers guided tours that provide a more detailed insight into the history of the building and its significance for Extremadura.
Big Walk and Small Walk
Both are pedestrian avenues in Olivenza. The Paseo Grande, also known as Paseo de las Palmeras, and the Paseo Chico, both covered by mosaics of black and white cobblestones and tiles, in a style known as Portuguese cobblestone.
The Arteaga de Olivenza Palace was built in the 16th century and has been declared a Monument of Cultural Interest by the Spanish government. It is one of the few remaining examples of traditional Spanish architecture from this period and features an impressive mix of Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque styles. The palace is also home to a museum displaying artifacts from its long history, making it an ideal spot for those interested in learning more about Spain’s (and Portugal’s) past.
Where to sleep in Olivenza
In Olivenza there are some tourist apartments and houses managed by individuals and a simple hostel where you can stay. Click here to see the accommodation options in Olivenza.
Useful information about Olivenza
Is Olivenza in Spain or Portugal?
Olivenza is in Spain, the Autonomous Community of Extremadura and the province of Badajoz.
How do you get to Olivenza?
Olivenza is reached from the Ex-107 highway, also known as Carretera de Portugal. From Badajoz the journey is 30 minutes.
Enjoy our discounts in Olivenza
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