Xàtiva (Valencia)


What you can do and see in Xàtiva

Xàtiva surprises travellers in many ways. The first one is clearly the castle, one of the most emblematic on the whole Way of El Cid. Its views are fascinating.

The most interesting for El Cid travellers is the view towards the south, where a range of mountains can be spied. One of them is Benicadell, on whose crags stands the fortress now called Carbonera Castle, a stronghold and important starting point for El Cid’s attacks in Almoravid territory. The main centre in this territory in the last decade of the 11th century was Xàtiva, a veritable ‘hot spot’ at that time.

Xàtiva Castle is in reality a fortified complex with two different castles: the Larger and the Smaller, connected along a ridge by a wall that formed part of the town’s defensive belt. The town walls date back to the 11th century, but they were reformed in later centuries. 

Although the castle has also undergone numerous modifications, its current appearance takes visitors back to the 14th and 15th centuries, while displaying elements from both older and more modern times. Several elements correspond to the Muslim period, such as the elbow-shaped doorways and the water tanks.

After visiting the castle, you can go down, following the town wall, to St Felix’s Church. Located at the foot of the castle, it is the oldest church in the town. It was built over the old Visigothic basilica after the conquest and completed in 1269. It still preserves some very late Romanesque elements, like the door, which is a sign of the diversity in Spain because at that time, in the Hispanic Christian lands, Gothic architecture predominated and the construction of the large cathedrals had begun.

From this church, you can enter the old town, designated a Historical-Artistic Centre. The secular importance of Xàtiva has resulted in a centre full of monuments, where religious and civil buildings succeeded one another in different centuries and artistic styles: towers, churches, fountains, palaces and mansions can be seen on several tours organised by the Tourism Office. One of them takes you to the birthplace of Pope Alexander VI. Travellers should not forget that Xàtiva was the home town of two Borgia popes: Callixtus III (from 1455 to 1458) and Alexander VI (from 1492 to 1503). You can see their bronze statues at the entrance to the Collegiate of St Mary.

The Gothic heritage of the town is really admirable and includes both religious buildings (Hermitage of St Anne, the Royal Monastery of Santa Clara, and the churches of St Francis, St Peter and St Dominic) and civil constructions (the old municipal hospital and the aqueduct between Bellús and Xàtiva, on the way out of the town).


You should not miss

  • The Museum of L’Almodí or El Almudín. This 16th century Renaissance building, used for several centuries as the corn exchange, now holds the archaeological and fine arts museum. The archaeological section contains some interesting Iberian, Roman and Visigothic artefacts, but most of all some outstanding objects from the Muslim period: coffering, arches, tombstones, ceramics and even some toys, but especially an 11th century basin in pink marble sculpted on its four sides with different scenes that might recreate idealistically the life of the governing classes in the Taifa kingdoms before the arrival of the Almoravids. It is not easy to see anything like it on the Way of El Cid, especially for travellers coming from Castile. The exuberance of these reliefs contrasts with the austere Romanesque art of the re-population.
  • The August Fair. This is an ancient fair that sinks its roots in the 13th century, thanks to a privilege granted by King James I allowing a livestock fair to be held in Xàtiva. It is now a multitudinous event that attracts attention far beyond the regional boundaries. In takes place between the 15th and 20th of August and in 2001 it was designated a Festival of Spanish Tourist Interest.

Rev.: JGG 23.09.21

Useful information

Rev. (JGG) 18.1.16