High above the city, atop cliff-girt Cerro de Santa Catalina, this fortress's near-impregnable position is what made Jaén important during the Muslim and early Reconquista centuries. At the end of the ridge stands a large cross, on the spot where Fernando III had a cross planted after Jaén finally surrendered to him in 1246; the views are magnificent.
The Moorish fortress here was revamped after the Christian conquest. What exists today is only about one-third of what there was – the rest was demolished to make way for the adjacent parador (state-owned luxury hotel) in the 1960s. Inside, the displays in English and Spanish give a good sense of the castle's history.
If you don’t have a vehicle for the circuitous 5km drive up from the city centre, you can take a taxi (€7), or you can walk up in about 40 minutes from the cathedral via Calles Maestra, Parrilla and Buenavista. At the top of Buenavista, go 50m to the right along the Carretera de Circunvalación, then take the track up to the left and walk up through the trees.
If you aren't staying at the parador, drop in for a drink to see the extraordinary vaulted, decorative ceilings in the main salon and restaurant.