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The little-known Roman city of Sagunto, just outside Valencia on Spain’s sunny east coast, is more than just a day trip destination. With a sandy beach, gorgeous architecture and a history stretching back almost three millennia, it’s full of curiosities. Here’s our round up of the best experiences in town.
The walls of this ancient fortification stretch for a kilometre (0.6 miles), draped around the hillside above Sagunto. The walk along the walls is pleasant and gives incredible views over the town and out to sea. As you walk you’ll find different styles of architecture and additions from different settlements, including the Romans, Visigoths, Arabs and Christians. It was declared a National Monument in 1931.
Sagunto Castle can be divided into seven squares, each with a different story to tell. The most important and interesting of these is La Plaza de Armas. In the oldest part of the castle, it includes the remains of the Roman forum, columns and a cistern carved out of the rock.
The Town Square, or Plaza Mayor, was the centre of medieval life in many Spanish towns, and Sagunto is no exception. Around the square you can see the Municipal Palace and the remains of the Temple of Diana, a National Monument, and the only building that was spared from destruction by Hannibal.
Though Sagunto’s beach and port area is separated from the town by a strip of countryside, it’s easily reached along an arrow-straight straight Roman road. The beach itself is a wide strip of clean, inviting golden sand. It’s relatively quiet, except for in August, when a lot of Valencian people spend their holidays at summer homes here. You could easily while away a whole day, with plenty of bars, shops and cafes to choose from.
Foodie visitors will want to try the local cuisine, and this is a great place to sample an authentic paella, the most popular dish in town. You can also take your pick from all kinds of Valencian specialties, including various other rice dishes, such as arrós negre (rice coloured black with squid ink).
See the city’s important collection of artefacts uncovered during excavation works around the town, castle and surrounding countryside at this atmospheric museum, housed in a 14th-century Gothic building. One of the most important pieces here is the Toro Ibérico, a limestone sculpture from the 4th century BC.
At the foot of the hill on which the castle sits you’ll find Sagunto’s semi-ruined yet still impressive Roman theatre, which had a capacity of 8,000. You can still enjoy performances here today, as a program of events is held during the summer Sagunto on Stage Festival.
Sitting on the site of the former Murviedo mosque, this unusual Gothic-style church is one of the oldest in the region. Work started in 1334 under the orders of King James I of Aragon. It was declared a National Historic-Artistic Monument in 2007.
Sagunto celebrates various festivals throughout the year, but the most impressive may be its Holy Week. The traditions go back to the 15th century and include dramatic processions filled with striking costumes and sculptures. Don’t miss the live representation of the Passion of Christ, and the Procession of Silence. On Good Friday events start at dawn and the whole town seems to get involved.
A gorgeous Gothic palace dating from the 14th and 15th centuries, this building is worth seeing for its architecture alone. It also houses various temporary exhibitions and, usefully, Sagunto’s Visitor Reception and Interpretation Centre.