Almeria City

The city of Almeria stands at the centre of the bay of the same name, surrounded by mountain ranges that help shelter it from the north winds and give it a certain appealing isolation. It has approximately 155,000 inhabitants, spread around the city centre and the different districts. Thanks to its location on the coast, the people of Almeria and its visitors can enjoy the great number of beaches around the area of the city itself and its suburbs.

Taking a stroll through the streets of Almeria, one can see at a glance the mixture of modern constructions and those buildings erected in previous eras. In spite of the sometimes uncontrollable hasty urban development, Almeria still conserves its typical corners, old streets and pleasant squares. One of the most outstanding historical constructions is undoubtedly the Moorish Alcazaba (citadel), standing on a hill overlooking the city. Its construction began in 995 under Abderraman II, at the time of the Caliphate of Cordoba, and it was completed under Hairan, petty king of Almeria in the 11th century. It is divided into three sections, and has such important features as the Keep, the Towers of Justicia and Los Espejos, the Espolon bastion, and the Christian constructions of the Hermitage of St. John the Evangelist and the Tower of La Vela. Thick walls with large towers spread away from the citadel across the valley of La Haya as far as San Cristobal hill. Work began on the Cathedral in 1524, after the previous one was destroyed in an earthquake in 1522. Its unusual appearance of a cathedral-cum-fortress is due to the continual attacks by berber pirates. The façade has four towers made from large blocks of stone, and even the apse is in the shape of a polygonal tower. It was built in the Renaissance and Gothic styles, although there is also a mixture of Baroque and the Neoclassical. other important features include the two portals, the transept, the sacristy, the main altar and the different chapels, as well as the choir and the retrochoir. The cloister was built in the 18th century in the Neoclassical style, and the cathedral itself contains valuable paintings and sculptures by important artists from the 16th - 18th centuries.

In Almeria one may also visit the Churches of San Juan, St. James the Elder, San Sebastian, San Pedro and the Shrine of Santo Domingo. The Church of San Juan was built over the main mosque (whose mihrab is still conserved), located in the La Almedina area, and its portal is made of dressed stone. The Church of Santiago was built towards the middle of the 16th Century and has a Plateresque portal and a Romanesque tower which rises to a height of 55m. Construction began on the Neoclassical Church of San Sebastian towards the latter half of the 17th century, and the Church of San Pedro was begun a century later. The Shrine of Santo Domingo also dates from the 17th century and conserves the image of the "Virgen del Mar", the city's patron saint.

The Churches of the Convents of Las Puras and Las Claras are also interesting to visit. The former has a Mudejar tower, a Renaissance portal and Baroque altars (17th C), whereas the latter has a Baroque lantern and a Plateresque portal (18th C). The Provincial Hospital was built in the middle of the 17th Century, and more recent constructions include the Circuito Mercantil (Trade Centre) and the façade of the Town Hall.

Apart from the previously mentioned monuments, Almeria has some beautiful areas within its old town. The area of La Almedina offers its typical narrow Moorish streets, and one can enjoy the peace and tranquillity of the squares of Bendicho, Careaga and Campomanes, all located close to the Cathedral, not to mention the Old Square (now known as the Plaza de la Constitucion) which has archways and colonnades. A trip around the city would be incomplete without a visit to Las Tiendas street, the Purchena Gate, the Paseo de Almeria the Nicolas Salmeron Park. In La Hoya, behind the Alcazaba, there is the "Rescue Centre for Fauna in the Sahara", an experimental estate set up by the Department of Scientific Research so as to protect those species of animals that are in danger of extinction in their own habitat. The city also has some interesting libraries, as well as the Provincial Archaeological Museum. The latter, located in the Carretera de Ronda, is composed of four large rooms which contain, amongst other things, prehistoric remains found at Cueva Ambrosio and Los Millares, objects from the Iberian, Greek and Punic cultures, and finds from the time of the Moorish domination.

As far as entertainment is concerned, apart from a great number of pubs and night clubs, Almeria has a great deal of bars offering a wide variety of "tapas", thus enabling the visitor to try a large selection of local dishes. One of the most important times of the year is the celebration of the Almeria Fair, held in the last two weeks in August. There are sporting events, religious acts and bullfighting, as well as Andalusian music and dancing which takes place in the numerous "casetas" (tent-like pavilions) set up in the fairground. Other interesting events include the Carnival celebrations with disguises, street bands and processions; the Holy Week festivities, again with processions; and the "Cruces de Mayo" (May Crosses), held during the first three days in May.

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