Úbeda has a long and colourful history dating back to pre-Roman times and has been inhabited at one time or another by cultures as diverse as the Romans, the Visigoths and the Moors. Its heyday came in the 16th century when a number of important Renaissance palaces and churches were built. These have been preserved to this day, earning Ubeda along with the neighbouring town of Baeza, the title of World Heritage Site in 2003.
The town has a population of about 35,000 people and is the administrative hub for the surrounding region so it is quite busy during the day as many people from nearby towns and villages come to do their shopping and official business. There is a large weekly street market on Fridays where you can find everything from traditional ceramics to cheap clothes. The nightlife is also lively for a town of this size with most of it revolving around the bar and tapas culture. Here the tapas are some of the best in Andalusia and of course, are all free. There is also a wide range of excellent restaurants, nightclubs, a theatre, multi-screen cinema, exhibition centre, sports centres, art galleries and museums.
Ubeda is host to a number of important festivals and, in fact, the academic year begins in September with the annual fair – a week long party celebrating the patron saint of the town, San Miguel. People let their hair down during carnival around February and then there is the culmination of the festival calendar at Easter with the processions of thousands of devotees from religious brotherhoods dating back to the 15th century. “Semana Santa” in Ubeda has been declared of “national touristic interest” and is an amazing spectacle that has to be seen at least once. There is also an international Music and Dance Festival staged throughout May and June, attracting big names from both classical and contemporary music.
The town is well situated for those who wish to travel, being no more than 3 hours from Madrid, Seville and the Malaga coast. It is as little as an hour and a half from Cordoba and the ski-fields of Granada and is on the doorstep of two of the largest National Parks in Spain, the Sierras de Cazorla, Segura and Las Villas and the Sierra Magina, where you can enjoy all types of outdoor sporting activities.
The cost of living is quite low compared to larger cities: monthly rents range from €300 for a modern one-bedroom apartment to €400 for a 3-bedroom flat to yourself. A beer and tapa costs €1.60 and a cinema ticket is €6.