Jaen is one of Andalusian capitals, and it would not be a lie to say that it is the least popular, and as a result the most mysterious… It is situated 230 km from Seville and 335 km from Madrid. It remains in the shadow of the more popular and more visited Andalusian metropolises, full of historical curiosities and monuments. It does not offer the tourists opportunities to rest on golden beaches or at the bank of a great river like Seville and Cordoba do. Therefore, why should you visit Jaen and the local area? What is worth seeing there? I hope that you will be able to find the answer you seek in the post below.

 

A bit of history

The first traces of human settlements come from neolith, around 2500 BC. The most important human settlements, the so called Marroquies Bajos (today’s Bulevar), have been discovered in the northern part of the city and those are the largest European settlements from the Copper Age. The settlements, as the ground sill of the modern Jaen, were concentrated mainly around the slope of Santa Catalina hill during Iberian time (between 800 and 700 BC). Throughout the history, Jaen changed its “owners” and name a few times. Under Carthage rule, Jaen (in Spanish you pronounces J as /h/, so /ha’en/ used to be called Auringis due to its gold deposits. On the other hand, Romans called in Flavia. As a result of Muslim invasion, since 711 AD, the whole southern part of Iberian Peninsula remained under Moorish rule, who gave the land a new and more modern name – Jayyan. They enriched it culturally by building mosques, fortifications, baths and palaces. Due to lush deciduous forests, multiple springs and rivers, Jaen became a place in which ornamental arrases and wooden tools were made and exported to Al-Andalus of the time (it is the Arabic name of the Iberian Peninsula given by its Muslim conquerors after 711 AD) and to Maghreb. 

Batalla de Las Navas de Tolosa, Van Halen

The time of Muslim rule is connected with multiple battles and wars fought on this land. The largest was the La batalla de Las Navas de Tolosa of 1212, during which a Christian army commanded by Castilian king Alfonso VIII (composed of 50 – 80 thousand soldiers) fought against the Muslim army commanded by caliph Muhammad an-Nasir (composed of 90 – 120 thousand soldiers). The battle won by the untied Christian armies started the fall of Muslim presence on the Iberian Peninsula. 

For those who are interested, you can visit the museum of the battle. CLICK HERE TO SEE MORE INFORMATION

 

After conquering Grenada and discovering America, Jaen became one of the most important cities and regions of Castille. The ecomony was mainly based on olive and grain cultivation, craft and tanning industry. In the sixteenth century, they started building one of the most beautiful renaissance and baroque cathedrals of Andalusia. Its façade was ornamented by Pedro Roldan’s sculptures depicting the saints and the important personas of the Church, as well as the conqueror of Jaen – Ferdinand III, whose eyes are looking at what used to be a Moorish fortress – Castillo de Santa Catalina – on the top of the hill. The next centuries brought the collapse of the economy, the decrease of the number of inhabitants, illnesses, hunger, until finally, the nineteenth century brought the beginning of the development of craft, municipal arteries. That is how in 1833 Jaen officially was named the capital of the province. 

In the twentieth century, the Spanish civil war and other social difficulties slowed the development of the region, and only after the death of general Franco, Jaen became the centre of business and education that was open to innovations.

 

A sea of olive trees…

Jaen is mainly famous for the manufacturing of a great quality olive oil and it is one of the leading manufacturers in the world. 60 million of olive trees growing in rows up to the horizon is a fascinating and a little boring landscape… As you drive by, there are trees everywhere…. More trees.. fields and groves… boring ☺… In the sea of trees, there are big and small ones, huge and unusually enormous olive trees. The largest tree can be found in Arroyo del Ojanco (a city in Jaen province) and it is called olivo de Fuentebuena. It is considered to be the largest olive tree in the world! It is 10 m tall, the main trunk spreads into two branches: the diameter of the first is 2,10 m and the diameter of the second is 2,80 m.  It bears around 80 – 120 kg of fruit every year! Of course, the tree is recorded in the Guinness Book of Records. 

 

The word aceite (in Spanish it means olive) comes from Arabic word az-zait which literally means olive juice. Jaen is a great example of how olive groves may affect the development of culture that have been present in the area for thousands of years. At first, the small scale cultivations were started by Phoenicians and the Greeks, but it were the Romans who realized the unending opportunities to use olive oil for, its positive influence on our health, and they were the first ones to cultivate olives on a large scale. Next, Arabs developed methods of acquiring the best quality olive oil. They played with taste, mixed  more and less ripe fruit, and created new recipes and varieties. The most popular varieties in the area are: Picual, Arbequina, Manzanilla and Gordal. 

 

If you want to learn more about olive cultivation and manufacturing, go to Museo de la Cultura del Olivo MORE INFO HERE

 

What is worth seeing in the city

  • Castillo de Santa Catalina Castle – a castle built by the Christians after 1246 on the ruins of Arab fortress. 
     
  • La Pena del Castillo – offers a spectacular view of the city and a part of the territory of the province, from the tops of Sierra Magina to Guadalquivir valley – it is a historical place in which many cultures settled over the centuries. We can plan the trip over the city from here. 
     
  • Jaen Cathedral – designed in the sixteenth century by Andreas de Vandelvir. In the chancel, there are beautifully carved stalls from 1520 (stalls are wooden or stone benches). In Capilla Mayor, there is the most valuable relic of the Cathedral – the Veil of Veronica with the image of Christ’s face. 
     
  • Capilla de San Andres – a mudejar chapel built in sixteenth century and commissioned by Gutierrez Gonzales,  the Pope Leon X’s treasurer. 
     
  • The town hall from the seventeenth century
     
  • Banos Arabes – the remains of the Arabic bath from the eleventh century situated under Palacio de Villadompardo from the sixteenth century. 
     
  • Museo de Artes y Costumbres Populares – offers a very fascinating exposition. 

 

Fun facts
  • Did you know that Jaen is a province with the largest number of tapas bars situated in a square metre? In Jaen, one bar falls 225 inhabitants, and in the whole city there are 2800 bars!
     
  • Jaen also has its own records – in 2009, 13 000 people gathered in Parque del Bulevar to… eat bread with olive oil together ☺ Thanks to it, they managed to be included in the Guinness Book of Records!
     
  • We should not forget to mention a Polish man, Tomasz Franciszek Bartmański. He was an army engineer and participated in the November Uprising. He built roads in various parts of the world. He created the plan to fortify Alexandria and arrived in Spain around 1845. Here, he became famous for creating olive groves in Jaen! He created a watering system and built “olive cathedral” – architecturally beautiful bodega in Hacienda La Laguna!

     
ON A BIKE IN JAEN

If you would like to go on a bike trip, I recommend using the route called Via Verde del Aceite, which is 55 km long and goes through country roads, under 8 bridges and from Jaen up to Guadajoz river. MORE INFORMATION

 
 
Interesting places in Jaen province

There are so many of them that I will be able to mention only a few. If you have some time to spare, you absolutely need to visit:

  • Baeza and Ubeda – situated near each other, charming small towns full of beautiful monuments. Baeza was one of the first places taken back from the Muslims during Reconquista (in 1227). 
     
  • Cazorla – at its feet, there is a Nature Park Sierra de Cazorla. It is a charming white town on the border of olive groves and mountains. You absolutely should find the Balcon de Zabaleta, offering a view of the picturesquely situated Castillo de la Yedra. Cazarola is a perfect point of departure to Cazorola mountain range. 

 

For the fans of wildlife and mountain treks

 

For those of you who like walking, I especially recommend the following:

  • Sierras de Cazorla, Segura u Las Villas Natural Park – it takes 214 300 ha, which means that it is the largest area falling under the protection of law in Spain, and the second largest in Europe. In 1983, it was named the biosphere sanctuary by UNESCO. Picturesque waterfalls, caves, lakes and well-marked and prepared routes make you want to go for a walk. 
 
 
Recommended routes:
  • A route alongside Rio Borosa

 

  • Reaching the top of Pico Cabanas 2026 MASL – the route is long and tiring, it is 20 km long both ways

 

  • Route to the spring of the famous Guadalquivir river

 

There are many of those…

  • Drive through the route A-319 alongside Guadalquivir – amazing views, castles on islands… eh…
  • Sierra Magina Natural Park – another place for people who like to wander around ☺
 
Where to eat in Jaen?

• El Gorrion

• Casa Antonio

• Panaceite

• Taberna La Manchega

• El Pato Rojo

 

How to get there?

Find cheap bus and train transport in Andalusia Busbud

 

 

Maybe you will also find useful the map with attractions of Jaen marked:

 

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