Between the brightness of Barcelona and the fame of the Costa Brava, those who visit Catalonia do not tend to pay much attention to Lleida. And it is a mistake because you are about to see that this city has so much to offer.
More than two thousand years ago, in the times of the Ilergetes, there was plenty of fights around here. By all means, the Romans were in the area and ended up defeating the Carthaginians and the local tribes, so it was time to be Romanised. And some centuries later, with the arrival of the followers of the Prophet, it was time to be Islamised.
But it is not much what remains of that distant past because in 1149 Ramón Berenguer IV would arrive, and, with the help of the Knights Templars, would take the population to Christianity. Almost everything you see here today would be built from that moment.
The support of the Order of the Temple in the conquest of the place was not paid with a simple “thank you very much for your help,” as you can imagine. Part of the land was ceded to the monks-soldiers, and in one of the hills of the lot, they built the Templar Castle of Gardeny, which is one of the things you should see here.
However, the monument par excellence of Lleida is its Old Cathedral, Catedral Vieja or Seu Vella. It dominates the surroundings from the top of a hill since the thirteenth century, showing a style that is between the Romanesque and the Gothic. By no means miss its cloister because it almost justifies, by itself, the trip to this city.
On the same hill is the Castle of La Suda, an ancient Arab fortification that was thoroughly enjoyed by the Christian kings as a palatial and residential complex. Ramón Berenguer got married here in 1150, and here too, it is said, Jaime I the Conqueror was crowned.
All this awaits for you in the hill, but do not think you won’t find interesting things when you go down to the historic town. To start with, another cathedral which they call La Nueva, The New, because it was built at the end of the eighteenth century with the help of Carlos III and his enlightened friends. And to continue, an endless pedestrian street full of shops which you probably didn’t expect in a city of these dimensions.
Do not forget to visit the Church of San Lorenzo or Sant LLorenç, with its wonderful bell tower, and the Paeria Palace, a beautiful thirteenth-century building whose basements have a dark past. It is in there where La Morra was, a jail in which the prisoners sentenced to death awaited their turn.