In March 2015, Vilafamés joined two other Castellon towns on the official list of Spain’s Most Beautiful Towns. Vilafames, just like both Peñiscola and Morella, who were already on the list, absolutely deserves to be there, as you’ll appreciate as you start to approach the town. It seems to delicately clamber its way up the hill upon which it perches, and sprays off a palate of rustic browns and whitewashed hues, that are mixed with the vibrant pinks, in summer, and a range of whatever flowers that nature has decided are in season, depending on when you visit.
The streets are delightfully throbbing with history and culture, while the views over the surrounding countryside are nothing short of spectacular. Located in the borough of Plana Alta, Castellon, the town of Vilafamés is halfway between the coastal zone of the Orange Blossom Coast (Costa Azahar), and the mountainous hinterland. Its rich heritage can be felt as you wander through the streets, where you can feel the influence of history, culture, gastronomy and the environment.
Vilafamés feels like a boutique town, which has a lovely character that blends the old with the new. Although for a place with a population of under 2000 inhabitants, it has its fair share to see, I would highly recommend heading there with no fixed agenda, just so you can immerse yourself in its beautiful buildings and streets, and the pretty landscape that embraces the town. If you are a photographer or an artist, Vilafames should serve as a suitable inspiration for you. Read on to find out what happened with some artists here in the 1970s.
Wander through the quaint streets of this charming town, and you can’t possibly miss the castle, which crowns the hill and stands guard over the town, just as it has done for many centuries. Vilafamés is thought to have had some occupation, according to archaeological finds from both the town and caves nearby, as far back as 80,000 years ago. Imagine our very distant cousins from such a long time ago, also found the area to be idyllic, as I believe many of you will these days. Why not rest a while by the fountain in the plaza and consider how the unusual morphology of the mountain which stands adjacent to it, makes it a perfect place to set up a town.
The old part of Vilafames is of Muslim origin, dating to around the 11th century. The remains of this period are the foundations of the castle and the enchanting urban layout, of winding, narrow streets. Whitewashed houses are enhanced and highlighted by pretty plants, which contribute to the town’s special ambience.
It didn’t have some kind of special immunity during the dramatic phases in history, and of course, because of its strategic location it has been of importance during the wars. Sadly, in 1938, some of the old town was destroyed by warplanes during the Spanish Civil War. However in the 1970s some painters discovered the town, and promptly fell in love with it, and set about getting it reconstructed to its current glory.
The area normally enjoys mild winters and hot summers. Check the average weather for Vilafames. (The link is for Benicassim which is the nearest place covered by Holiday Weather).
Things To Do
Vilafamés Old Town & Walls
The true highlight of the town is the old part, which is embraced by the remains of the walls, whose construction can be dated back from around 1375. During later periods of history, they were also repaired and rebuilt. You can also see the remains of some towers, which are both quadrangular and circular. The loopholes within the walls tell a story of how the locals adapted them for defensive purposes.
As you stand and immerse yourself in this history, it’s hard not to be impressed with the surrounding views of the mountains and the plains. Some parts of the vista are more rugged than others, as some have been more or less untamed, and others have been cultivated and irrigated. Watch out for century old olive trees, oak trees and Mediterranean Pines.
The historic part of Vilafamés was declared to be a BIC – which is a Place of Cultural Interest by the Spanish authorities in 2005.
The Town Hall & Square
These days the square is called City Hall Square, however it used to be known as Tower Square. The Town Hall building itself dates back to around the end of the 16th century, or the beginning of the 17th century. It’s an elegant building of Renaissance style, with some original elements that can be seen both on the facade and in the interior. It wasn’t used as the Town Hall until the 20th century.
The Abbey House
Also on the same square is the Abbey House, which is another elegant building. It is thought to date from sometime during the 17th century, but it has undergone renovation in the early part of the 21st-century.
It’s an interesting example of private elegant homes that were built for those who are well off enough, from the latter part of the 16th century up until the early part of the 17th century. For example in Abbey House there’s a chapel, which is dedicated to St Anthony of Padua. Originally this would have been a private chapel, although it is suspected that some time during the 18th century, it was opened up to the public. These days it is only open on certain Saints’ days to the public, such as the Saint day of St Anthony of Padua in June, or St Anthony Abad in January.
Sala Quatre Cantons
Just by the square is another beautiful building, which was also built during this period, in the early 17th century. However in 1901 the Sala Quatre Cantons was renovated to become a school for both girls and boys, which included living quarters for their teachers. Later on during the 1960s it was home to a Wine Museum, and then in 2012 some work commenced in order to make it suitable for use again.
The Massive Rock & Its Legend
I have to say that as we passed by the massive, red sedimentary rock, I felt exactly the same as legend has it that the previous inhabitants felt. Known locally as “The Large Rock”, although I’m not sure if that does it justice; it weighs 2163 tons, and seems to sit rather precariously on an incline of 34° with a volume of 832 m³.
The legend doesn’t surprise me at all. Apparently the inhabitants feared that they might be crushed by this massive rock, so they wanted to drag it to the plain. A long rope was tied around the rock, and then the residents began pulling hard. When you see the rock, you won’t be surprised to hear that the rope broke, and the impressive rock didn’t move. The locals all fell onto the ground and got their “culitos” (backsides in Spanish) dirty, and this earned them the nickname of – culrojos – red bottoms.
The shape of the rock is a combination of natural phenomena and human activity. Material has been extracted from it for the construction of houses, and other things. Back in the early part of the 20th century, there was an offer to buy the rock, which luckily was turned down. If it had been accepted the rock would now be kerbstones, lying on the sides of the roads around the region.
The remains of the castle that you can see today, perched on top of the hill, 390 metres above sea level, are most likely from the 14th century. At this time Vilafames was annexed to the order of Santa Maria de Montesa, but during the centuries that followed, circumstances and different uses of the castle dictated that it underwent many changes. One example was during the Carlist Wars, in the 19th century, when the castle was adapted to keep up with new war techniques. The circular central tower was built, which is one of a handful of examples to be found within the Valencia community of Carlist architecture.
Vilafames Parish Church of the Assumption
The construction of the church began in 1594, and it was initially dedicated to the Nativity of the Virgin. The architect Martin Garcia de Mendoza, who was the master of the Cathedral in Tortosa, designed the floor. Juan Palacios was in charge of the work being carried out.
It is believed that the construction was ordered as the old Church of La Sangre, was no longer large enough to hold the congregation. It seems that the same thing happened later on during the 18th century, at which stage, in 1786 the Council gave the go-ahead to enlarge the church. On this occasion it was done by the construction of a new Presbytery and a Communion Chapel, and some other spaces, which amplified the transept. Later in 1806, the dome was removed and rebuilt, as it was in danger of falling.
The church consists of a single nave, which has four sections, in addition to the chapels, transept and Presbytery. There is also a bell tower. Inside the church the main altarpiece is of special interest, which dates from the early part of the 17th century, and was designed by Agustin Sanz, while the sculptor Bernardo Monfort carried out the work.
Church of La Sangre (The Blood)
As you face the Castle, you’ll see the Church de la Sangre on the right hand side. It is thought that this original parish church was built sometime around the 13th and 14th century. It was originally called the Church of Santa Maria, but the council gave it to the Brotherhood of the Christ de la Sangre in 1612, at which stage the name changed.
Also during the 17th century was when it took on more the form that you see today, as Baroque elements were added to it. The church has a single nave, in four sections, an elevated choir, a Presbytery, and side chapels between the buttresses. The most elaborate Chapel is the Chapel of St. Barbara, which is an original piece, beautifully decorated and painted on gilded wood. On the altarpiece in the Chapel you can see the heads of cherubs, fruit and leaves. There’s also a 14th crypt which hs thirteeen arches.
By the way this part of the town that surrounds the church was the original nucleus. Known as the Quartijo, it has narrow, charming streets, which are separated from the rest of the town by an interior wall.
Ermita de San Ramón Nonato – Chapel of St. Ramon Nomato
This is a simple construction which dates back to the 18th-century, although not so much is known about who designed it, although we do know that the work was completed in 1763. It’s instructed and masonry, and has a dome with blue Arabic tiles. It opens up on 31st August which is the Saint’s day, which is celebrated by the local people.
Ermita de San Miguel – Hermitage of St. Michael
Near to a natural spring and around 5 km from the town centre, is the Hermitage of St Michael. This was constructed in 1640 and has two distinctive parts, one dedicated to religion and worship, and the other which was guest quarters for tenant farmers and hermits.
El Museu d’Art Contemporani “Vicente Aguilera Cerni” de Vilafamés – Vilafames Museum of Contemporary Art
Housed in the beautiful Palacio de Batlle, is the Museum of Contemporary Art. Originally the residence of the town’s Royal representative, this elegant Gothic building was constructed during the 14th and 15th centuries. The art critic, Vicente Aguilera Cerní, launched an initiative in 1969, which he conceived of as a collective enterprise.
The provincial council bought the building, and began restoration work to transform it into the Museum. The concept of his initiative was that the town would become a hub where culture was communal. Artistically the aim was to preserve its culture, whilst at the same time raising the profile of the town to enhance the quality of life of its people.
It was this initiative that led to artists discovering the town, as they had work displayed in the Museum. These artists bought and refurbished properties, which previously had been in ruins.
Today you can enjoy a fine collection of art, particular from the late 1970s and 1980s. This is a unique collection, which includes artists or known both nationally and internationally.
The Museum is not open on Monday, 25th December, 1st or 6th January. Below you can find the opening hours.
Tuesday to Friday: 10.00 to 13.30 and from 16.00 to 19.00
Saturday, Sunday and festive days: 10.30 to 14.00 and from 16.00 to 19.00
Website for Vilafames Museum of Contemporary Art
Bodegas Mayo García , Vilafamés
C/ La font nº118 c.p: 12192 Vilafamé, Castellón Phone: 964329312 Mobile: 626 285 394
Efirstname.lastname@example.org – Website: http://mayogarcia.com/en/
Gabriel Mayo talks about how the viticulture tradition can be traced back to his great grandparents, who the family remember making wine for their own consumption around 1912 or so. Gabriel was only 6 years old, when he started helping his grandparents, who were the founding members of the co-operative, to collect grapes and prepare the wine.
This bodega offers visits on Saturday and Sunday at midday. The tour includes discovering the vineyards, and the work involved, visiting the bodega and learning about the secrets involved in the work. Then you will taste the best wine and also see a video that summarises this information. You will also take away a bottle of their best wine.
Cost: €12 – To reserve call the mobile number above, and speak to Gabriel
It would be a shame not to explore the surrounding natural areas of this wonderful spot, for example there are a couple of fountains within a few kilometres distance from the town.
The Fountain of Trisiola can be reached by following the stone path from the town that goes along for about one a half kilometres. The journey is surrounded by Forest.
One of these called the Fountain of Les Piques, is around 3 km from Vilafames, and you can either explore this by yourself it is quite well signposted, or follow the itinerary supplied by the local tourist office – which is called – Water to the very last drop.” This fountain flows into cascades which go into seven basins, and end their journey into the regular pools.