No sooner has he/she arrived when the traveller will discover that this is a city with one of the longest recorded histories in the Iberian Peninsula. Perched atop a rocky rise on the right bank of the river Águeda, the first Neolithic settlers found it an ideal place to live. Subsequently, the native Celtic tribes (Vettones) fiercely resisted the Romans but were unable to prevent the city of Miróbriga being renamed Augustóbriga in honour of the Emperor Octivius Caesar Augustus. A relic of this time is the local landmark called Tres Columnas, three columns which join at the top to form a triangle, the exact significance of which is not known. The Moors were certainly here, yet the visitor will find little evidence of their stay. In 1110, Count Rodrigo González Girón peopled the city and gave it his name "Civitas Roderici" (Ciudad Rodrigo). In the second half of the 12th century, King Ferdinand II of León completed the repopulation of the area, had the city walled, reconstructed the old Roman bridge spanning the River Águeda and restored the bishopric, a development which in turn led to the contruction of the Cathedral. It was in the 15th and 16th centuries that the city reached a pinnacle, with its best monumental works being erected, repaired or modified in some way.
This frontier city, constantly embroiled in wars, was no exception during the War of Independence (Peninsula War), when a good proportion of its Old Quarter was destroyed. The visitor will nevertheless discover an invaluable artistic legacy. The Spanish saying, "no se puede valorar, lo que no se conoce" (which can be loosely translated as, to know is to appreciate), fits like a glove: Ciudad Rodrigo is the great unknown, outshone only by the dazzle of Salamanca. A wander through the city could do no better than to being at the Cathedral. The fact that the buildings was begun in 1165 and not completed until 1550 means that a succession of styles will be visible to the keeneyed visitor. Outstanding features include the stellar vaulting over the main chapel, most likely the work of Rodrigo Gil de Hontañón, and the magnificent choirstalls which bear the stamp of the maestro, Rodrigo Alemán, date from 1498 and depict singular scenes for a place of worship. The church's interior gives onto its lovely Cloister, starter in the 12th and 13th centuries and not finished until 1525. Close by the Cathedral is the Chapel of the Marquess of Cerralbo, a superb example of classic Herrera-style with a fine interior. Make a point of seeing the three unpainted walnut retables.
From an elevation overlooking the city, the Castle of Henry II dominates the Águeda River valley. Ordered to be built by Henry II in 1372, it is distinguished by its handsome crenellated keep. Nowadays the castle serves as a modern Tourist Parador where travellers can spend the night in charming surroundings and build up their depleted reserves with typical regional dishes, such as chanfaina (rice with diced chorizo and meat) or, fried egg and farinato (a white sausage meat containing breadcrumbs, lards and seasoning).