Mérida Visitor information
Mérida is the capital of the Extremadura region in south-western Spain and houses the seat of government of the autonomous community. In 1993 the Archaeological Ensemble of Mérida was declared a World Heritage Site by Unesco, owing to its great historical interest and monumental status.
Mérida retains its roots as a quiet and out-of-the-way city, but functions nonetheless as a capital, which has brought about large-scale economic and urban development. Besides being an institutional point of reference, it has also become an important tourist attraction all over the world, owing to its impressive archaeological monuments. The city houses a great number of structures, which help to keep alive the history of many centuries past, and apart from that, the city is also home to various museums, including the Museum of Prehistory and the Geological Museum of Extremadura which houses an impressive collection of minerals and fossils. The Museum of Water, located in Proserpina, is around 5 km (3 miles) from the city centre, explaining with use of extensive diagrams and video recreations how a Roman city like Mérida obtained water and its use in private homes, industry and agriculture. Mérida’s National Museum of Roman Art offers a large collection of Roman objects discovered at the archaeological site. Your stay in Mérida will help you discover the city’s past and find out what life was like in the ancient times.
Accommodation in Mérida’s student residences
The city’s student residences are all assigned to one of the campuses of the University of Extremadura and several of them offer accommodation to passing guests in the vacation periods. It should be understood that these residences are designed primarily for students and not children or adults expecting a high level of luxury. However, with this in mind, the halls do meet a level of comfort that we expect most visitors to be happy with, and we will welcome any feedback where this is not the case.
Getting to Mérida
The Airport of Badajoz is the nearest to the city and is located around 45 minutes away by motorway. The Mérida train station is located in the city centre and offers direct services to Badajoz, Ciudad Real, Seville and Madrid. The city also has an urban bus service, which links all its different districts. The high-speed AVE train route from Madrid to Lisbon will soon pass through Mérida, which will greatly increase the city’s accessibility.
The city was founded in 25 BCE by the legate Publius Carisius and the order of Caesar Augustus, and was given the name of Colonia Iulia Augusta Emerita. The word “emeritus” meant “retired” in Latin and referred to soldiers who were discharged from the military with high honours. The city was the capital of the Roman privince of Lusitania and it was then that a long period of prosperity began for the city – the theatre, amphitheater, circus, temples bridges and aquaducts are all testimony to this growth. Until the fall of the Roman Empire in the west, Mérida was an important economic, military and cultural centre, as well as one of the most successful and flourishing cities of the time. Ausonius catalogued it in ninth place among the most outstanding settlements in the empire, even ahead of Athens.
In later times, Mérida suffered many attacks by the barbarians until the settlement of the are by the Suebi, who made it the capital of their kingdom in the 5th century. The city was later also the capital of the Visigothic Kingdom, and thus also of Spain. In the 6th century Christianity had firmly taken root. In 1230 the Christian troops of King Alfonso IX of León, reconquered Mérida, but it would not be until the reign of the Catholic Monarchs when the city began to recover politically.
With the territorial reorganisation of Spain, carried out by Philip V in 1730, the city was named capital of the administrative division Intendencia de Mérida. The invasion by the French lead to a tragic loss of a large part of Méridas historic and artistic heritage, however, it would in time recover from these atrocities. The development of the city was back on track in 1983, when it was named the capital of the Autonomus Community of Extremadura. With this political and industrial preponderance, the city became a pont of interest of archaeologists and many national, regional and local institutions, who are dedicated to uncovering the full archaeological richness that the area has to offer. By the decree of 1973, in the period leading up to the celebrations of the city’s two thousand years, Mérida was declared "Conjunto Histórico-Arqueológico", and is to date the only Spanish city to hold the title.