Mérida is a small city with an abundance of restaurants, tapas, cafes and bars which really comes to life at night. (NB lunchtime is from 2:00pm – 6:00pm, restaurants do not open again until 8:30pm.) All attractions (well sign posted) are within easy walking distance of each other.
As we walked up the orange tree lined Calle Jose Ramon Melida, towards the amphitheatre, we turned right into a narrow side lane and there in the middle of modern buildings was the Temple of Diana, we nearly walked right passed it, you really wouldn’t be expecting an ancient ruin in such a place. Temple of Diana is the only religious building remaining on its original place in Mérida. It’s well preserved with 6 columns and statues still intact, you can’t go into the Temple but standing outside the railings you can still appreciate how majestic it is. There are plenty of information boards telling you all about this building plus it’s free, (spend about ½ hour).
We then walked for a couple of minutes to Termas Romanas – Roman baths, where you could see the locations of the different pools and exercise rooms. Again, there is plenty of information to get a good understanding of this site. (spend about ½ hour).
After visiting Termas Romanas, we went back to the main street passing shops selling artefacts, local breads, Olive Oil and Jamón ibérico (Iberian ham) you really get a sense of the real Spain but at the same time being surrounded by so many Roman ruins you could be forgiven for thinking you might be in Rome (but without the hustle and bustle of the crowds).
On reaching the top of the street to the left is the Museum and in front the Amphitheatre.
It’s hard to imagine that you are in rural Spain when you enter the amphitheatre which is still intact, and in its day, could seat 15,000 spectators. We followed the well sign posted route which took us around the top of the grandstand, through corridors where the animals and battlers were kept, through alcoves and the gladiators quarters until we reached the battlefield. As we walked out it was hard not to imagine the roar of 15,000 people and battle commencing, it was time to channel our inner gladiator!
As we left the Amphitheatre we walked across into the Roman Theatre, this truly is spectacular, it’s been well preserved and features Corinthian columns, several inscriptions and marble statues, it really is breath-taking. The Theatre is still used throughout July and August for concerts including include Greek dramas, tragedies, comedies, musicals, and dance shows, this would be amazing to see. (Spend ½ day).
After leaving the Amphitheatre, we walked a couple of minutes back to the Museo National de Arte Romano. This is an excellent, well organised museum with actual artefacts from the ruins stored here and there is a superb display of mosaics. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to spend a lot of time here, you would probably need ½ a day to really do it justice. NB, a lot of the information boards are only in Spanish.
Other things to do:
As we left the Museo National de Arte Romano, we noticed a road tourist train stopped outside the Amphitheatre, which stops at all the attractions, including the Aqueducto Los Milagros, or Aqueduct of the Miracles and the Roman Bridge.
We had a fascinating day in Mérida and would highly recommend it to anyone interested in archaeology and history. (Suggest 2 days)