Spain offers again and again attractions and cities out of the ordinary tourism routes. Badajoz is a city one might not encounter on first time travel itineraries, but it is the centerpiece of the Extremadura region of Spain and a perfect stopover on a road trip between Spain and Portugal.
The city rises from the plains, fields and varied forests of Extremadura in Southwestern Spain. The hallmark of the region is its wild and changeable nature. It is a land of farms, but also oak forests, olive groves and lazy rivers. For the independent traveler it is easy to arrive via, bus, train or by renting a car. All three options are affordable compared to average European prices and a car brings the most freedom to explore the area and move on to Portugal. It is around a four hour scenic drive from Madrid and there are toll roads and non toll roads, each of which are in good condition.
Trains run a couple times a day and the bus companies are the Avanza and Alsa lines that run several routes daily. The city stands out between the hillsides set on a wide plain next to the Guadiana River. The city has a typical historic center which is the tourist attraction but the modern part of town on the West side of the river is where more spacious hotels can be found. This area also has parks, restaurants and shops which would not fit into the compact city center. It is a great place to exercise along the riverbanks and take in scenic views of the landscape. The AC Hotel Badajoz is a good place to stay with good value for cost.
The biggest attraction of Badajoz is the historic fortress around which the center is built and constructed. The fortress is called the Alcazaba, it is a 9th century castle built during the Moorish occupation of Spain. The story that its walls tell is a tour through the ages of this changeable landscape. It is currently the seat of the local university. The city is home to 150,000 inhabitants, but the intimate streets combined with lots of local festivals and tightly packed houses yields a friendly and small town feel.
Like many fortress cities of the region there is an impressive gate leading into the old town, while every neighborhood has churches and market squares to celebrate all sorts of social gatherings. The Metropolitan Cathedral of San Juan Bautista is a the main attraction of this sort. Jardines de la Galeria is also a worthwhile visit. Beyond the city proper with it little novelty stores and corner cafes one can get out into the surrounding countryside to see lots of Roman era ruins and structures.