From cinema to Paradores: discover the connection between Napoleon and our historic buildings
13 de December 2023
Alejandro Medina Rojo

Napoleon Bonaparte is once again more fashionable than ever thanks to Ridley Scott's film that revisits the life of the former French emperor. The life of this famous character is marked by his conquests and his historical relevance. Will you join us on a journey through some of the places linked to this leading figure? The truth is that some of our brand's establishments were witness to the protagonist's exploits. The War of Independence between France and Spain took place in some of our castles. Are you ready to travel back in time?


Parador de Ciudad Rodrigo: a key place to land on Portuguese soil


Our first stop is none other than the Salamanca region of Ciudad Rodrigo, witness to the exploits of Napoleon Bonaparte. The ambitious French emperor, aware of the power of the Spanish army, signed an alliance with the Castilians in order to destroy trade relations between Portugal and Great Britain. Bonaparte's adventures came to fruition and the French army finally managed to enter Portuguese territory on 30 November 1807. That moment marked the start of the division of the territory between the two partners.

Gradually the bond between France and Spain deteriorated. The final straw came with the installation of Joseph Bonaparte on the Spanish throne. For the Castilians, this grotesque act led to the famous War of Independence. Britain cleverly took advantage of the breakdown in Franco-Spanish relations to wrest Portugal away from the power of the French. Spain collaborated with the British led by Arthur Wellesley, the famous Duke of Wellington. This new alliance succeeded in defeating the French at the Battle of Vimeiro in 1808.

In a spirit of optimism, far removed from any sense of defeatism, Napoleon Bonaparte's powerful France decided to renew the dispute for control of Portugal. To do so, Napoleon knew that, given its strategic position, it would be necessary to seize Ciudad Rodrigo. For this very reason, he demanded the surrender of the military governor of the town, Andrés Pérez de Herrasti. The governor’s refusal to yield ended with the bombardment of Ciudad Rodrigo in 1810. The capitulation to the French troops, signed by Wellington in the Alcazar Hall of the Parador, facilitated the return of France to this enclave. Its splendour continued until 1812, when Ciudad Rodrigo was once again besieged, this time by Wellington and his Spanish allies. Together they managed to expel the French from the territory on 19 January of the same year.



Parador de Jaén: the sturdy fortress that captivated Napoleon


The Parador de Jaén was also a clear protagonist of the War of Independence. Following the entry of the Napoleonic troops in the 19th century, the Castle of Santa Catalina underwent modifications by the French. They destroyed the fortress and the cistern with the intention of creating an impressive building to house their weapons. They constructed rooms for use as stables, the governor's quarters and an office area. In addition, the French power was aware of the robustness of its walls. Given the severity of the conflict, they saw a unique opportunity to hold insurgents under arrest beneath these foundations. This is why dungeons were built in the basements of the building to imprison political prisoners, guerrillas or opponents of the regime.

The defensive value of the current Parador de Jaén is something that still causes surprise today. A walk around the building will not only suffice to see its heavy artillery; you will also find a spectacular vault, the imprint of the Andalusian Renaissance and, of course, the essence of the Middle Ages. From the fort’s elevated position, you can look across at the beautiful panoramic view of Sierra Morena and Sierra Mágina. 



The key to survival: Parador de Argómaniz


The noble French emperor, aware of the need to rest and plan his guerrilla strategy properly, stayed at the Palacio de los Larrea, now the Parador de Argómaniz. Napoleon Bonaparte is said to have kept his quarters on the first floor of the building. But his amazement at the palace went beyond the richness and comfort of the rooms. He was aware that buildings of this style had granaries on their upper floors, accounting for 80% of a soldier's food supply. Given its importance, protecting this fortress became his main priority. This is the reason why today we are able enjoy a place not only to rest, but also to delve into our recent history.

Argómaniz is the ideal place to explore Napoleon's life at first hand. For example, from the balcony of the Parador you can see the plains of Vitoria, the place chosen by the French troops in the prelude to the battle. In addition, our restaurant Aletegui, located in the former granary, is the largest and best preserved in Alava. Apart from offering the fantastic cuisine of the Parador, the restaurant contains a coffered ceiling without metal anchors, one of the treasures left by the Bonaparte brothers as an inheritance. The surrounding villages are also worth a visit. The French travelled through these with considerable difficulty, as many soldiers got stuck in the mud. In fact, it is believed that more people died here than in the war.



The Parador de Lerma was a magnificent refuge for Napoleon Bonaparte.


The Parador de Lerma also played host to Napoleon during the War of Independence. The French emperor stayed in the Duke of Lerma's quarters, in the southern part of the building, the warmest part of the architectural complex. Today this space is reserved for serving breakfast. A parade of local cured meats and typical regional sweets to start the day is another good reason to stay at the palace. It is also known that room 313 was the place chosen by Bonaparte to set up his office. 

It is not surprising that Napoleon decided to disembark in the town of Burgos. Everything around the Parador exudes beauty. The Mirador de los Arcos viewpoint offers a spectacular panoramic view, especially if you come to see the sunset. On the other hand, the primitive historic quarter is striking. Undoubtedly, it is an epicentre that is an apology for medieval town planning. Walking through the picturesque streets of "La Paloma", "Santa Caliopa" or "Zorilla" is synonymous with travelling back in time.



The Snail Tower of the Parador de Benavente survived the French siege


In the town of Zamora, the 'Carrera de Benavente' is well known. This historical event narrates the flight of the British army towards A Coruña. The Napoleonic troops pursued their enemies closely, but without success. As they passed through Benavente, they destroyed the city's rich artistic heritage, including its churches and convents. The Snail Tower of the  Parador de Benavente survived the French invasion. An architectural work that combines the beauty of the Renaissance with the robustness of the Gothic style. Before the arrival of Napoleon's troops, it was part of the Pimentel fortress. Today it is a hallmark of our iconic establishment. It still hides a Mudejar coffered ceiling and a period bar. Its beauty reaches another level with the surrounding gardens, from where you can see the valleys of the Tera and Órbigo rivers.

The Castile and Leon region is a recommended journey through history. In the past, it was a strategic point, perhaps because it was the main crossroads of Spain. In fact, you can follow the Pilgrims' Route to Santiago de Compostela from the Parador: Camino de Oriente, Camino de Valladolid, Camino de Asturias, Ruta del Valle del Tera or the Vía de la Plata. As you will surely appreciate a real gastronomic delicacy to help keep your desire to delve into history going, in our restaurant you can taste some of our specialities. These include fried eggs with pork loin and chorizo, a salad made from the peppers of the Valley or roast suckling lamb.