Once famous for its lead mines, Berja now offers visitors an abundance of historic and artistic heritage, and is an ideal destination for hiking enthusiasts and those seeking sun and beaches. It has about 12,400 inhabitants.
Berja is thought to be of Iberian origin. Its Roman heritage is more assured, having been the Vergis of Roman Betica, from which period the remains of the Villavieja amphitheater stand out. The Romans left other artistic vestiges including the early Christian sarcophagus of Alcaudique (currently exhibited in the National Archaeological Museum). The Roman occupation of the area was followed by that of the Arabs, who stayed here for eight centuries and brought Vega de Berja to its maximum splendor, thanks to silk that was appreciated throughout the world. More>
THINGS TO SEE
Iglesia de la Anunciación
In its 500-year history, this religious site has undergone substantial change. Once a temple built over a former Arab mosque, and later a church destroyed in an earthquake in 1804, the current church was funded by the economic boom brought about through mining. It is an exceptional work of Neo-classical style, featuring a basilica plan, with three naves separated by large Tuscan stone columns. The central nave is covered with a half-barrel vault and the lateral ones with lowered vaults. In its façade, the twin towers that frame the central body with a portico stand out, also with columns and topped by a limestone pediment, from the former quarry of Cerro de Buenavista (Los Cerrillos neighborhood) . Located in Plaza de la Constitución.
Torre de los Enciso
The tower was built in the sixteenth century in the Mudejar style, with masonry drawers interspersed with rows of bricks. Its defensive nature meant there were no openings or gaps in the construction, apart from the drawbridge entrance that connected with the adjoining house, which is no longer present. Such fortresses were common additions to homes because of tensions between the Moorish and Christian populations, and were designed to provide refuge in the event of a siege. This tower is the only one preserved from the time, which belonged to Celedón de Enciso, the town’s clerk, who took refuge in it during the Moorish Uprising of 1568, managing to escape persecution. Today, the tower has been restored as a Museum about local sixteenth-century history, the Moors and the Christian repopulation. It is also home to the town’s Tourist Office. Located on Calle Agua.
Tel: 950 49 21 82
Museo de la Semana Santa
This Museum is dedicated to the Brotherhoods and the history of popular religion in the town dating back to the fourth century. There is also a space for Easter performances and an exhibition hall in which the parades are shown. Located in Plaza Porticada.
Tuesday-Saturday, 10:30-13:30hrs and 17:00-20:00hrs
Sunday and Holidays, 11:00-14:00hrs
Tel: 950 49 21 82
This is the only portico square in Almería, which was recently refurbished to its current state using local materials such as black marble from the Balsaplata quarries. After the opening of Avenida Manuel Salmerón in 1860, some families donated this space to install a food market here. Initially, the stalls were set up in the morning and packed up in the afternoon, but eventually two permanent pavilions were installed from 1927 to 2007. Presiding over this square are the fountains known as “Fuentes del Macho” and “de La Hembra” .
The Town Hall was built by the architect Francisco Quintillán y Lois at the end of the eighteenth century, and its façade was modified in 1839; it is of symmetrical composition and almost 29m wide. The hall contains a wide gallery of arcades, separated by pilasters, and crowned by a pediment in its central body, leaving the construction flanked by two corner crenellated towers, symbols of municipal power. Located in Plaza de la Constitución.
Molino del Perrillo
This stately home was built in 1865 by the wealthy miner Gregorio Lupión Escobar. The best materials were used for its construction, including fine plasterwork, marble stairs and columns and artisanal forged iron bars. It is one of the first local examples of a traditional sloped roof being replaced by a flat one. The building, although private, served some public functions, housing a water mill for grinding corn, wheat, barley, etc., which remained in operation until quite recently. There was also a water source on the property, called Perrillo after its bronze spout in the shape of a small dog. This feature is no longer present in the house. Located on Calle del Agua.
Plaza de Toros
The passion for bullfighting and the various festivals in its honour have been documented since the first years of the seventeenth century. Berja’s bullring was erected in just 40 days, and was inaugurated on September 9, 1956. It has capacity for 4,200 spectators, and is one of the most important and traditionally styled bullrings in the province of Almería, where the most applauded right-handers of the national bullfighting community have fought. Located on Avenida Los Oficios.
Chocolates La Virgitana
This is the home of the first chocolate craftsmen in the province of Almería. The factory makes a variety of products and is open to visitors. Located in Polígono Industrial La Tomillera, Calle 1, Los Celtas.
Tel: 950 10 91 98
THINGS TO SEE OUTSIDE THE VILLAGE
Ermita de Nuestra Señora de Gádor
This Chapel was founded in 1588, and is one of the most important pilgrimage centres in the diocese of Almería. Its interior space features a nave covered by a half-barrel vaulted ceiling with lunettes, which appears divided into four sections by pilasters that support a continuous cornice supported by arches. Its most notable element is the dressing room, where the Baroque icon of the Patroness is housed, decorated with paintings, which was made around the middle of the eighteenth century. Located on Calle Fuente del Oro, north east of Berja.
Ermita de San Tesifón
This Chapel dates from the seventeenth century and has Mudejar characteristics, made up of a single small rectangular nave, with walls formed by rammed earth on masonry foundations. Its interior consists of a single space where the presbytery is marked by a slight elevation. It has a flat roof made of reed and plaster divided into rectangular panels by wooden beams. Located 6km north of the town, in the Castala neighbourhood.
Ermita de las Mercedes
The main façade of this Chapel presents the entrance door beneath a semicircular arch, with a line of imposts marked with an inscription from 1853, a molded cornice and a gable with a belfry with a semicircular arch between a gabled roof and pilasters. Located on Calle las Mercedes, northeast of the town of Berja.
Baños Medievales de Benejí
Of the three baths that existed during the Middle Ages, today only the ruins of one are preserved. Located at the entrance of the Benejí neighborhood, south of the urban area of Berja, it is possible to continue along a private path that leads to a vaulted nave, a simple work that is over a thousand years old.
Cerro de Villavieja
The archaeological site consisting of a Roman amphitheater, turrets, murals and crowned by the Alcazaba (medieval fortress), are the remains of the Roman municipality of Vergi (2nd century). Declared a Site of Cultural Interest in 1985. There is also evidence of a Copper Age occupation.
Necrópolis Musulmana del Portón de Villavieja
Located to the south-west of the urban core of Berja, this necropolis constitutes an important Almohad-era cemetery that was discovered recently. Approximately 112 graves have been counted, located at half height, that are shown organized through two sets of tombs that are estimated to date from the twelfth century.
One way of getting to know the entire village is to go on the so-called Ruta de las Fuentes. This will allow you to see everything that has been mentioned, as well as almost thirty water springs spread out across the municipality, the main ones being the Fuente del Toro and the Alcaudique spring. Those who love hiking must walk the different routes of the Sierra de Gádor and visit the Parque Periurbano de Castala. Those who enjoy the sun and the beach should visit the Playa de Balanegra.
Parque Periurbano de Castala
The Castala Park is located in the foothills of the southern slopes of the Sierra de Gádor. Owned by the Andalusian Government, and with an extension of approximately 14ha, this former nursery of the State Forest Heritage has been used since 1977 for recreational purposes by the inhabitants of urban centers from Almería’s west and from the capital itself. Most of the farm has been repopulated with Aleppo pine since 1941.
Being a popular place for tourism due to its rich historic and cultural heritage, Berja has a few accommodation options, including some hotels located in the town:
Featuring a rustic atrium with a skylight, Hotel Don Miguel Plaza is set in Berja’s historic centre in Plaza del Mercado Square. Air-conditioned rooms and suites have a minibar and free WiFi.
Those who want to taste the best of the local gastronomy in Berja must try dishes like choto al ajillo (garlic goat), sopa de ajo (garlic soup), gachas colorás (fish stew) and migas con tropezones (fried breadcrumbs with pork). Sweet treats include pan de higo (fig bread), leche frita (fried custard), buñuelos (doughnuts) and merengues (meringues).
Popular festivals in Berja are Feria de Agosto, Fiesta de la Parva, San Marcos and San Tesifón. More>