Castillo de Sagunto

Top choice in Valencia Province

Sagunto's castle is majestically located, with stone walls girdling a twin hilltop for almost 1km. Its seven rambling, mostly ruinous sections each speak of a different period in Sagunto’s history. The fortress could do with a bit of care and is currently best for a stroll among the ruins, appreciating the magnificent vistas along the coast, rather than gaining a detailed understanding of its long, long history. Don't expect interpretative panels, but the downloadable Tour Sagunto app has audio-guide content.

Its fabulous history began with a thriving Iberian community (called – infelicitously, with hindsight – Arse) that traded with Greeks and Phoenicians. In 219 BC Hannibal besieged and destroyed the town, sparking the Second Punic War between Carthage and Rome. Rome won, named the town Saguntum and set about rebuilding it. The Moors gave the castle its current form; it was later embellished by the Christians and fought hard over in the Peninsular War.

The entrance is on the eastern hilltop, where the Roman town was located. Around the excavated ruins of the forum you can see the stairs and foundations of a Republican temple – a column capital and some stone lettering remains. This area is the Plaza de Armas that formed the heart of the medieval castle. From here, the Puerta de Almenara leads to the fortified eastern compound.

The western hilltop was the site of the original Iberian city, but what you can see here is mostly later fortifications from the 18th and 19th centuries, with one particularly sturdy bastion the most impressive sight. Views are stirring.

Between the two hilltops, the Museo de Epigrafía is a collection of engraved stones found on the site. There are Latin funerary and honorary inscriptions, some column capitals and a few stones inscribed in Hebrew from the medieval era. There's some quite interesting information on Roman customs, but it's only in Spanish and Valenciano.

Below the castle you can visit the Roman theatre. An overzealous restoration has resulted in a gigantic stage building and marble seating no doubt great for staging performances, but devoid of any historical atmosphere.

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