Mérida

Mérida
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The Archaeological Ensemble of Mérida holds the remains of many public buildings that were the trademarks of a major Roman provincial capital.

Mérida was founded in 25 BC with the name of Emerita Augusta. The city became the capital of Lusitania province, and one of the most important cities in the Roman empire.

Mérida preserves more important ancient Roman monuments than any other city in Spain. They include:

  • Guadiana bridge
  • Amphitheatre
  • Theatre
  • Temple of Diana
  • Arch of Trajan
  • Circus
  • Water supply system
  • Baths
  • Residences
  • Tombs

Some later monuments (like the Moorish Alcazabar and two early Christian churches) are also part of the as world heritage site designated area.

Map of Mérida

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Els

Visit March 2008

Already at Mérida's admission in 1993 there were 20 other (Mediterranean) Roman heritages inscribed on the List. And many more followed, currently I count 28 of them and even last year one was added (Serbia's Gamzigrad-Romuliana). "Ancient Rome" is one of the most common site categories. One just wonders how many is enough? My personal favourites so far have been Rome, Pompeii and the Villa Romana del Casale. Before my trip to Extremadura I wondered what Mérida has to offer that all the others don't.

March 2008

Modern Mérida feels a bit dilapidated at first sight: graffiti, poor housing. I started my tour of the Roman monuments at the amphitheatre and the theatre. For 10 Euros you get an entry ticket to these and the other important sites in town, which can be used over several days. Good value I think. The prize piece is the ancient Roman theatre, which could seat 6000 people and still has the formidable stage with marble columns and statues (although these are replicas).

Close to the theatres is the Roman Museum, which is very much worth visiting. This is were my initial concern faded away. The accomplishments of the Ancient Romans continue to amaze. Remember that the Civilization of Ancient Rome existed really early in history - more than 1000 years before Angkor Wat or Machu Picchu were constructed - and that so much is left, both physical and in writing. There's a well presented exhibition here about the local Roman road system, the Via de la Plata. Entry to this great museum is only 2.40 Euros (and free to minors, seniors and the unemployed!).

March 2008

The numerous Roman monuments of Mérida are scattered around the modern town. Their quality lies in their ensemble: it would be a great destination for a school trip as you can point out every aspect of life in a Roman city. It shows how they lived (how the rich lived anyway), what they did in their spare time (the theatres, the circus), how they travelled and how they buried their dead. So, Yes, Mérida surely deserves its place among the 28 Ancient Roman WHS.

March 2008

 

Community Reviews

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Hubert

Austria - 11-Jan-21 -

Mérida by Hubert

Under the Roman name Emerita Augusta, Mérida was an important centre on the Via de la Plata (Silver Road), the connection between Seville in Andalusia and Astorga in the north. The ancient city had about 50,000 inhabitants, quite large for the time. Today, Mérida is only slightly larger than it was in Roman times, a cosy and leisurely town compared to other sites in Spain.
I visited Mérida in May 2019 on a trip through central Spain, it was the southernmost of eleven WHS on this tour. The WHS consists of 22 locations, most of which are within walking distance of the city centre, only a few are located in the countryside outside of Mérida. The combined ticket mentioned in Els' review now costs 15 euros, still a reasonable price for five sites. The opening hours are also pleasing: from 9 am to 9 pm without siesta break, quite unusual in Spain.

The Roman Theatre (photo) is certainly the most visited monument in Mérida. It is well preserved, though the capitals of some columns and parts of the upper frieze are missing and the back wall is not complete. But you can still imagine how magnificent the structure might have looked in ancient times. Right next to it is the Amphitheatre, built for gladiator fights and struggles between wild animals. In Roman times it was probably more popular than its neighbour, at least it offered more seats for spectators. However, only the lower tiers have survived, the stones of the upper levels were used for later buildings. The Roman Circus, located outside the ancient city walls, is the third in the series of Roman ‘entertainment buildings’.
The Alcazaba fortress was built by the Umayyads in the 9th century. In the courtyard, remains of Roman structures have been excavated: parts of the main road and the foundations of a city gate. But what I liked best was the view from the fortress walls to the Puente Romano, the Roman bridge. It is an impressive structure with 60 arches and a length of almost 800 meters. Fortunately, it is for pedestrians and cyclists only. Traffic rolls over the modern Lusitania bridge, an early work by one of my favourite contemporary architects, Santiago Calatrava.
The House of Mithraeum, with some mosaics and remains of wall paintings, and the Crypt of Santa Eulalia complete the list of locations included in the combined ticket. Both are of minor interest.
Among the freely accessible sites, two are worth mentioning: the Proserpina Dam and the Milagros Aqueduct. Both were part of the city's water supply. The Proserpina Reservoir is located only five kilometres north of the city and is easily accessible by car. The dam is an earthen dam with retaining wall, with a length of about 400 metres. You can walk along the entire wall, information boards explain the structure of the wall and the hydraulic system of the water supply. The water was brought to Merida via the Milagros Aqueduct. A small part of it has been preserved, namely the arched pillars over the Albarregas River.
Like other reviewers, I would highly recommend a visit to the Roman Museum. Almost all the exhibits are from the archaeological sites of Merida. And it's a great building, the brick architecture and the high arches in the main hall are references to Roman constructions. It is one of the best museum of its kind that I have visited so far.

Merida has no outstanding individual monuments. The quality of the WHS lies in the ensemble of the various components, which provide insights into the structure and everyday life of a Roman city. Comparisons can be made with Tarraco. I rated Merida higher because the ensemble is more complete, the sites are better preserved and because Merida has two highlights with the Roman Theatre and the Roman Museum. Tarraco has nothing comparable to offer.


Klaus Freisinger

Austria - 18-Jan-15 -

Mérida was, in Roman times, the capital of the large province of Lusitania, which stretched across parts of southern Spain and most of Portugal. It was one of the most important Roman cities on the Iberian peninsula and today is one of 2 Roman-themed WH sites in Spain. The other is Tarragona on the Catalonian coast, also a former provincial capital. Mérida does have a star attraction - the very well-preserved Roman Theatre and Amphitheatre -, something that Tarragona doesn't really provide, but Tarragona probably has a higher number of different Roman sites and buildings than Mérida has, so if you are interested in ancient history, it may be worth checking out both places. There are a handful of reasonably impressive Roman-era buildings sprinkled throughout Mérida, such as the Arch of Trajan, the Temple of Diana, and the Roman Bridge (which can still be used today, similar to the one in Salamanca), and there are some nicely preserved remnants of aqueducts which housed many storks' nests when I visited in October. And right next to the Amphitheatre, there is an excellent Roman Museum with a fantastic collection of mosaics. So even if Mérida is certainly a bit off the beaten track, it is definitely worth a visit for anyone with an interest in Roman history.


Clyde

Malta - 22-Aug-14 -

Mérida by Clyde

I visited this WHS in August 2014. Merida was my first stopover point after a long road trip in Portugal. It was very hot and dry so the free entrance (being a national holiday) to the National Museum of Roman Art was a godsend. It houses several Roman remains and above all beautiful mosaic floors. Next I visited the Temple of Diana, the Arch of Trajan, the crypt beneath the floor of the church of Santa Eulailia, the thermal baths and a couple of Roman residences and tombs. The combined ticket now costs 12 euros but it's quite worth it for what you get to see. The main highlights are the Roman Amphitheatre and Theatre but before leaving town I also visited the Roman Circus, the Guadiana bridge and the aqueduct. On the whole I must say that I prefer Tarragona due to the amphitheatre's proximity to the Mediterranean Sea and the superb aqueduct there. Merida's star attraction to me was the National Museum of Roman Art.


John booth

New Zealand - 31-Mar-10 -

Mérida by John Booth

There were a lot of sites to visit within a small area in Merida. The outstanding features for me were the pristine mosaic floors of ancient houses near the amphitheatre and the necropolis in the crypt beneath the floor of the church of Santa Eulailia, which contained more mosaics.

Besides containing interesting exhibits, the Museo Iberico also provided a selection of tasty meals in its restaurant at lunchtime.


Patricia Harper

England -

I visited Merida in 2003 and thoroughly enjoyed it. Make sure you arrive early to the ruins as it can get very hot and crowded. The museum must not be missed. It is a work of art in itself with many exhibits. I would love to go there again.


Site Info

Full Name
Archaeological Ensemble of Mérida
Unesco ID
664
Country
Spain
Inscribed
1993
Type
Cultural
Criteria
3 4
Categories
Archaeological site - Ancient Rome
Link
By ID

Site History

1993 Inscribed

Locations

The site has 22 locations

Mérida: Los Milagros Aqueduct Province of Badajoz, Autonomous Community of Extremadura, Spain
Mérida: San Lázaro Aqueduct
Mérida: Alcantarilla Bridge Province of Badajoz, Autonomous Community of Extremadura, Spain
Mérida: Guadiana River Dam, Roman Bridge over Guadiana River, Alcazaba Province of Badajoz, Autonomous Community of Extremadura, Spain
Mérida: Roman Theatre, Amphitheatre, the Amphitheatre House Province of Badajoz, Autonomous Community of Extremadura, Spain
Mérida: Trajan's Arch, Concordia Temple Province of Badajoz, Autonomous Community of Extremadura, Spain
Mérida: Sta. Catalina Basilica Province of Badajoz, Autonomous Community of Extremadura, Spain
Mérida: Casa Herrera Basilica Province of Badajoz, Autonomous Community of Extremadura, Spain
Mérida: Sta. Eulalia Basilica: Interpretation Centre, Temple of Mars Province of Badajoz, Autonomous Community of Extremadura, Spain
Mérida: The Roman Circus Province of Badajoz, Autonomous Community of Extremadura, Spain
Mérida: The Mithraeum House - The Columbaria Funerary Area Province of Badajoz, Autonomous Community of Extremadura, Spain
Mérida: Church of Sta. Clara and Visigothic Art Collection Province of Badajoz, Autonomous Community of Extremadura, Spain
Mérida: Cornalvo Dam Province of Badajoz, Autonomous Community of Extremadura, Spain
Mérida: Proserpina Dam Province of Badajoz, Autonomous Community of Extremadura, Spain
Mérida: Local Forum Province of Badajoz, Autonomous Community of Extremadura, Spain
Mérida: Roman Wall and Albarrana Islamic Tower Province of Badajoz, Autonomous Community of Extremadura, Spain
Mérida: National Museum of Roman Art Province of Badajoz, Autonomous Community of Extremadura, Spain
Mérida: Sta. Eulalia Obelisk Province of Badajoz, Autonomous Community of Extremadura, Spain
Mérida: Roman Bridge over Albarregas River Province of Badajoz, Autonomous Community of Extremadura, Spain
Mérida: Temple of Diana Province of Badajoz, Autonomous Community of Extremadura, Spain
Mérida: Thermal Baths at Reyes Huertas St. Province of Badajoz, Autonomous Community of Extremadura, Spain
Mérida: Thermal Baths at Alange Province of Badajoz, Autonomous Community of Extremadura, Spain

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Visitors

Community Members have visited.

AP-TW Aidan Coohill Alberto Rodriguez Gutierrez Alessandro Votta Alexander Barabanov Alexander F. Somers Alfons and Riki Verstraeten Ali Zingstra Altacyr Anna Wludarska Antonio J. Argo Artur Anuszewski Atila Ege Bin Binemitz1983 Carlos Garrido ChenMing Chenboada Cheryl Chessjsr Christian Wagner Claire Bradshaw Clyde Corinne Vail Craig Harder DMORMAR Dan Pettigrew Daniel Campos Daniela Hohmann David Berlanda David Pastor de la Orden David Samuel Santos Davied Deambulante Debatecoach Dennis Nicklaus Dimitar Krastev Dimitrios Polychronopoulos Don Irwin Dorejd Els Slots Emilia Enrique Clemente Fabienne Fan Yibo Felicite Fairer-Wessels Femke Roos Filip Murlak Filipacfa Frankwsolak G. ingraham G.L. Ingraham Gary Arndt George Gdanski Gernot Gi Gill Colman Gonçalo Elias Gretell Scott Gustavo Leit Hadrianus Handballrama Hannes Muehlbacher Harald T. HaraldOest Homadism Hubert Hyoga Iain Jackson Inigo Cia Ivan Rucek Jacob Otten Javier Coro Jens Jo Geris Joao Farminhao Joel Baldwin John booth Jonas Hagung Jonas Kremer Jonas Martinsson Jos? Segura Jose Jose Antonio Collar Judith Tanner Junwang111 Jwflorida Kasienka5 Kelly Henry Keqi Klaus Freisinger Kosme Churruca Lara Adler Lauren Lidiane Lloyd Cross Lorenzo Mejino Lucia Luigi Tura Luis Filipe Gaspar Luisfreire M. Huineman de la Cuadra MBennett MH MMM MaYumin Markus Marta Lempert Martina Ruckova Michael Novins Michiel Dekker Miguel Marchi Mikal Ahmet Mike Mikko Miriam laschever Misio_pysio Mitsidis72 Mnikish730 Monika and Rini Naim Y Nan Nihal Ege Nmocosta PabloNorte Pascal Cauliez Patphilly Patricia Schwindt Patrik Philipp Peterer Randi Thomsen Reza Ricardo Silva Roberto Diaz Robin Frank Roger Ourset Roman Koeln Ryan09sb SHIHE HUANG Sabariah Schnitzel Scubarrie Shandos Cleaver Shijie ZHU Sibariam Solivagant Stanimir Stanislaw Warwas Strogan Svein Elias Szucs Tamas Tarquinio_Superbo Thomas Buechler Thomas van der Walt Tonioto Tony0001 Truls Brekke Valeron4ever ValiaVeweth Vanessa Buechler Vanjavod Voyager Walter Walter H. Wang Qin Werner Huber Willem van Altena Wolfgang Hlousa WolfgangHl Xiong Wei Xiquinho Silva Zen Zeng Zoë Sheng