Cordoba Province - Baena

Baena boasts many fine monuments and produces superb olive oil
Baena boasts many fine monuments and produces superb olive oil

Located approximately 62km southeast of Cordoba beyond Castro del Río is the handsome town of Baena, which boasts many fine monuments and has long been famous for as Andalucia´s foremost producer of superb, high-quality olive oil. It is also an excellent base for exploring the Sierras Subbéticas Natural Park to the south. (Try to get the CNIG 1:500,000 map Parque Natural Sierras Subbéticas if you fancy walking in these sierras.)

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There are several olive oil presses situated around the town which are open to the public where you can buy excellent olive oil straight from the press. Exhibitions on how olive oil was produced historically are on display at the Museo Arqueológico (Archaeological Museum) on Calle Henares.

Although the town dates back to Roman times, it was most important during the Moorish period. There is little left, however, from this period, aside from a former mosque whose minaret is now the tower on the impressive 16th-century church of Santa María in the town centre.

Other sights include the 18th-century arcaded almacén (warehouse) on the Plaza de la Constitución, which houses a magnificent mansion converted into a tapas bar, the Mesón Casa del Monte, serving some of the best tapas in town. Near the archaeological museum is a 16th-century Mudéjar convent, the Madre de Dios, which has an impressive Renaissance choir, with the added perk being that the nuns here sell delicious convent biscuits and magdalena cakes.

The town is also well-known for its Semana Santa celebrations when rival teams of hundreds of drummers compete in the noise they can make, creating the ear-splitting sound of up to 2,000 drums being struck simultaneously. To find out more about this remarkable ritual, visit the Museo de Semana Santa, housed in the same building as the archaeological museum.

Places to stay include the Hotel Rincón, Calle Llano del Rincón 13 (957 670 223) and the Hotel Iponuba, Calle Nicolas Alcalá 9 (957 670 075), while most of the better restaurants and bars are centred around the attractive Plaza de la Constitución.