The lovely province of Jaén sits in the North of the region of Andalusia, Spain, where I live. While many tourists who find themselves in Spain opt to visit places like my home of Granada, Malaga, Sevilla or Cadiz, Jaén should not be overlooked. If you are a fan of history and castles, you will definitely want to add Jaén to your lists of stops throughout the wonderful region of Andalusia. El castillo de Santa Catalina sits just above the city of Jaén, the capital of the province. The city is a mid-sized city worth a visit for a weekend or a few days.
Last Saturday, my friend Sharifa and I had a nice little visit to the castle. The views were absolutely breathtaking and I’m now planning to see as many castles as I can in Europe. It’s my new mission.
How to get there
So a majority of tourists will not have access to their own car, much like us. If you do, you can drive right up and park in the lot of the hotel, the Parador de Jaén. If not, you basically have two options: taxi or walking. There are no buses that go up there. It would take you about an hour to walk and much of it is both uphill and without sidewalks. Walk at your own risk, I suppose?
We opted for a taxi and it cost us about 7 euro. Protip about taxis in Spain: there are stands all over town with taxis waiting to take you wherever you want. Since the castle is up the hill, it’s smarter to go to a stand perhaps near the cathedral rather than the Corte Ingles since the cathedral is a bit more on the way. You’ll probably save a few euros this way. When you are finished seeing all you want to see, you can simply pop over into the hotel reception and ask them to call you one to take you back down.
The castle in Jaén
El castillo de Santa Catalina is divided up into 12 different parts. When we arrived, we were met by a lovely tour guide named Javier who could speak both English and Spanish. As I always love to practice my Spanish, we spoke mostly in Spanish. He was so excited to tell us all about the castle and it’s history.
The southern region of Spain used to be inhabited by the Moors, an Islamic people group. Thus the castle was built during this time period to look over the city and protect it. According to wikipedia, in 1246 King Ferdinand III of Castille captured the fortress and took it under construction. Things like a chapel were added. More work was done to the castle under the rule of kings Alfonso X and Ferdinand IV. There was also some occupation by Napoleon and the French. They left around the year 1812.
Now the atop the hill you can tour the castle, visit the cross and visit the hotel.
The perk of traveling with buddies is that you can take candids of them … and you can bug them to take your photo.
Torre de Homenaje and Torre de las Damas
Basically, where the warden lived and where the women lived. The Torre de las Damas had a very striking view of all around. You could see the city and the olive fields that stretch and stretch. Jaén is known for olives and the production of olive oil.
We went down and explored the old prisons of the castle. So apparently they were one of the first prisons to better the conditions for their prisoners, according to their information displays. That’s good, right? They didn’t completely or always treat their prisoners like crap.
I had fun preceding I was in there …
More shots around the castle
I just could not stop taking pictures of the castle and surrounding area. It is just so breathtaking. There’s also this cross that you can walk out to.
As mentioned before, upon entering the castle, we were met with the most kind and friendly tour guide (or whatever his official title was). He could tell we were American and spoke some English with us. However I love any chance I can get to practice my Spanish, so we quickly switched to Spanish. He was so nice and helpful telling us all about the castle.
On our way home, we ran into him again and saved $$ on our cab fare. He happened to be heading towards the city center anyway and offered us a ride. How much! I just love how far speaking Spanish takes you here. I am still by no means a perfect speaker, but the locals always seem so flattered when you make a good effort to speak their language. I feel like more than anything, it conveys to them a respect for their culture and an openness to learn about their customs.
Also he insisted upon taking my photo in front of the sign:
Well that’s all folks …
Have you toured any castles of Europe? What were some of your favorites and favorite parts?