The legend of Guadalupe says a shepherd found an image of the Virgin of Guadalupe hidden on the mountain. The shepherd built a small hut on the spot that he was said to have found the virgin, and this later was expanded and built upon to become a chapel, then church and finally the Royal Monastery of Guadalupe. The pretty village was built up around the monastery.
The Monastery is now a UNESCO world heritage site. Here is a related article showing all 39 World Heritage Sites in Spain.
Views of the valley from Guadalupe
Driving to Guadalupe is an experience all in itself. As it is up in the hills (the Spanish call them mountains, but being from the Canadian Rockies I can’t quite bring myself to use the word mountains) the road up is narrow and winding. The view is spectacular as you are approaching the town and almost worth the visit just to feast your eyes on the vistas. Depending on which side you approach, you can get a fabulous view of Guadalupe even before you get into the town.
Guadalupe isn’t that big, so as soon as you hit the town limits you should start looking for parking.
There is almost no parking in the centre and if you don’t take a spot as you are approaching the downtown you will have the same fate as us—which is that you will go through the centre, gasping at the monastery and quaint surrounding streets only to find yourself driving past everything and not finding another parking for a kilometre on the far side of the main square.
What to see in Guadalupe
The Monastery of Guadalupe
The main square, or Plaza de Santa Maria, is where you get the best view of the entrance to the Monastery. If you are interested in art and architecture a tour of the monastery is a must. As it wasn’t all built at once, but rather added on to in sections, there are a number of different architectural styles—from Mudejar which is well known in Andalucia, Gothic and Baroque.
The most impressive part of the complex, in my untrained non-artistic opinion, is the Cloister. It is a large open patio inside the complex. Manicured gardens are in the centre and large bright walkways with intricately carved archways surround the patio.
Explore the town of Guadalupe
The town of Guadalupe itself has plenty to explore beyond the Monastery. From the Plaza de Santa Maria you can see parts of the original walls and gates that people had to pass to get to the town’s centre. The gates were put in place to collect taxes from pilgrims who came to visit the Monastery more than to be protection for the city.
Guadalupe is known as a centre of artisans in the province of Extremadura. Many of the shops offer artisan crafts in copper, ceramics, wickerwork, embroidery, lace and wrought iron crafts. So if you are interested in picking up a souvenir that doesn't have a “made in China” tag on it, this is the place to browse around.
Where to eat
Higher end option, with guaranteed quality
There is a Parador just across the street from the Monastery. Parador hotels are always an excellent option for getting a quality taste of the local region. The Parador of Guadalupe has a beautiful interior patio with orange and lemon trees that makes for a very restful dining experience. The Parador is pricier than most of the local restaurants, but you can expect excellence in food, preperation, service and atmosphere.
Where: Parador of Guadalupe
Address: C / Marqués de la Romana, 12, Telephone: +34 927367075
Quality on a budget
The town square is full of restaurants that all claim to have the best home made food from the region. However, as in most tourist areas, the town square tends to be pricier than anywhere else in the village. Once you leave the square, you will notice a drop in price—but not in quality—of the restaurants. If you want to enjoy the view from the plaza, take in the atmosphere of the town and people watch then pick any one of the restaurants in the main square and enjoy the food with your view.
As pilgrims aren’t famous for being heavy spenders on-route, the food in Guadalupe tends to be very reasonable. We found a little restaurant just off the main square that was very clean, boasted of local home-cooked food from the region and had reasonable prices. (On their web page they quote 8.90 Euros per person, the day we were there it was only 7 Euros) It was called Meson Cerezo. The staff was welcoming and they have an English menu if you ask for it.
Plaza Santa Maria, 33, Telephone: (34) 927 154 177
How to get to Guadalupe:
Guadalupe is only a little over 2 hours from Madrid. Take the A5 from Madrid until Navamoral de la Mata. Then take the EX118 and follow the signs to Guadalupe.