Jaén – the world capital of olive oil

Jaén is a city and municipality of the autonomous community of Andalusia, capital of the homonymous province (Spain). It is known as the “capital of the Holy Kingdom”.

Due to its location, Jaén has had a great strategic importance, having found in its urban nucleus several of the oldest human settlements in Europe. It also had great importance in the history of al-Andalus and the Kingdom of Castile.

The most important economic activity in the province of Jaén is the production of olive oil, being the world’s largest producer, which is evident under the motto that the city receives, as “World Capital of Olive Oil”. The city has hosted Expoliva every two years since 1983, a world-renowned international fair dedicated to the olive oil sector and related industries, currently held at the Institución Ferial de Jaén. However, the economy is also based on the service sector, administration, the agricultural and food industry, construction, and cultural tourism.

Tourism and main attractions

Saint Catherine’s Castle (Castillo de Santa Catalina) sits on the top of a hill overlooking the city. Previously there had existed a fortress of Arabic origin (Abrehui’s castle), of which some remains still exist. The current construction is of Christian origin, raised after the conquest of the city by Ferdinand III of Castile, called the Saint, in 1246.

Jaén Cathedral is one of the most important Renaissance-style cathedrals. Construction began in 1570 and was completed in 1802. It is dedicated to the Assumption of the Virgin, and it was built to shelter the relic of the Holy Face, or Veil of Veronica, lodged at the major chapel and exposed to the public every Friday.

Due to the length of time in its construction, different artistic styles can be appreciated, the most prominent being Renaissance; Andrés de Vandelvira the most important architect. He is the greatest exponent of the Andalusian Renaissance. It aspires to be listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

The Arab Baths (Baños Arabes) in Jaen are among the largest Islamic bathhouses preserved in Spain. They can be visited under Villardompardo’s Palace (another important monument in the city). These Arab baths had the function in their origins of purifying all the visitors who entered the city of Jaén. However, nowadays they are not in use, being a great tourist and historical attraction.

The Jewish Quarter of Jaén, also called the Santa Cruz neighborhood, is an important set of narrow streets, steep slopes and magnificent examples of the history of the city. The neighborhood grew during the twelve centuries of Hebrew presence in the city, since then numerous historical news, legends and traditions have existed.

The neighborhood is in the process of recovery. In 2005, the city became a full member of the network of Jewish quarters in Spain “Caminos de Sefarad”. In 2011, the “Casa Sefarad-Israel de Madrid” signed an agreement with the Jaén city council to create the headquarters of the first territorial delegation of this body in Andalusia in the city.

Jaén has numerous churches of great cultural interest and architectural beauty located in its old town, we can highlight the churches of Santa María Magdalena, San Juan Bautista, San Bartolomé, church of San Andrés and Santa Capilla, Merced, the Royal Convent of Santo Domingo, headquarters of the Provincial Historical Archive or the old Hospital of San Juan de Dios, currently headquarters of the Institute of Giennenses Studies.

Among other constructions of great artistic beauty – the Palace of the Vilches, the Palace of the Condestable Iranzo, the Palace of the Vizconde de los Villares or the Count-Duque, the Palace of the Museum of Jaén, the Palace of the Torres de Navarra, the Municipal Palace and the Provincial Palace.

The entire old part of the city remained delimited and protected by the walls of Jaén of Roman origin and modified during the Middle Ages, it opened in twelve gates, of which only the Puerta del Ángel and different wall sections are preserved.

Of modernist and contemporary architecture, it is worth highlighting the old Bank of Spain, the work of the architect Rafael Moneo, the church of Cristo Rey, the headquarters building of the provincial delegations of the Councils for the Environment and Innovation and Science of the Junta de Andalucía, the headquarters of the Emergency service, the Infanta Leonor Theater and the future International Museum of Iberian Art, which will exhibit, among others, archaeological remains found in the settlements of Marroquíes Bajos.

Cuisine and best restaurants

The gastronomy of Jaen is very varied, emphasizing local dishes such as the pipirrana (tomato, green peppers, breadcrumbs, garlic shoots, olive oil, vinegar, salt and hard-boiled egg); “spinach a la Jaén” (garlic, croûtons, spiced sausage, bayleaf, egg, orange zest and vinegar); “rice a la Jaén” (very weak), “veal with chopped garlic”, “trout from the rivers of Jaén” (trout, butter, chunks of ham with bacon, parsley, white wine and salt), “ajo blanco a la Jaén” (raw almond, olive oil, eggs, garlic, salt, vinegar and water).

Among the most well-known confectioneries of Jaén is “rice pudding”, “gachas of Jaen” (a sort of porridge), “pestiños”, “gusanillos” and “ochíos”.

Eating tapas is very common in Jaén; There are many bars where, for the price of beer (about 1.50 euros), you can buy tapas, which is a small plate of food for one person.

There are six Michelin list restaurants in the city:

  • Dama Juana, Melchor Cobo Medina 7, 65 – 100 EUR • Modern cuisine, Traditional cuisine (one star)
  • Bagá, Reja de la Capilla 3, 85 EUR • Modern cuisine (one star)
  • Casa Antonio, Fermín Palma 3, 40 – 65 EUR • Modern cuisine
  • Horno de Salvador, Carretera al Castillo, 40 – 60 EUR • Traditional cuisine
  • Yuma’s, Avenida de Andalucía 74, 30 – 50 EUR • Traditional cuisine
  • MangasVerdes, Bernabé Soriano 28, 34 EUR • Modern cuisine

How to get to?

Jaén does not have an airport. The closest airports to the city are Granada Airport and Málaga Airport.

Jaén is served by the Jaén railway station, terminal of the Madrid–Jaén high speed railway line. Jaén is also connected to Cordoba and Sevilla by train.

Distances by car from the main cities of Andalusia and Madrid:

From Granada 1 hr 4 min (93.4 km) via A-44

From Seville 2 hr 53 min (247 km) via A-4

From Malaga 2 hr 8 min (204 km) via A-92 and A-44

From Cordoba 1 hr 28 min (120 km) via A-4 and A-311

From Almeria 2 hr 17 min (225 km) via A-92

From Huelva 3 hr 54 min (342 km) via A-4

From Cadiz 3 hr 41 min (371 km) via A-4

From Madrid 3 hr 25 min (339 km) via A-4

Main information

Area: 424.30 km² (municipality)

Coordinates: 37°46′0″N 3°46′16″W

Population: 113,457 (municipality)

Languages: Spanish

Currency: Euro

Visa: Schengen

Time: Central European UTC +1

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