The Unofficial Guide to Martos

Well, it’s actually the only guide to Martos.

We know that many of our readers will never have a reason to pass through Martos. Even prospective tourists might think twice. After all, it is firmly located in the less interesting part of a less interesting province, sandwiched on either side by Cordoba and Granada.

But eventually someone is going to find themselves in this neck of the woods, and they are going to want some information. They might be tourists, prospective immigrants, or they could be fellow Auxiliares. So this post will be geared towards both people who want to live in Martos, and people who want to visit Martos.

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That being said, we loved Martos. It might not seem like there is a whole lot to do here at first glance, but once you dig into the area and its history you will be hooked.

Let’s start with some basic information.

Martos has a population of 24,000 or so, and sits at an elevation of 753m (2503ft). The people here are called Marteños/Marteñas, Or Tuccitanos/Tuccitanas (in reference to the old Roman name for Martos).

It became the first city to ever produce olives and olive oil on a large scale when the Romans brought olive trees with them. They take great pride in their association with olives and olive oil.

The province of Jaen also has the distinction of having the highest concentration of castles of in all of Europe. And Martos is smack dab in the middle of a lot of them. Some cities have made their castles tourist attractions, and they are great to visit. But many more are ruins sitting out in the sea of olives, waiting for more adventurous travelers.

Weather

The summers are hot, around 40C, but cooler in the evenings and mornings. The exception is in August when the nights only cool down to 27C. Summer is also incredibly dry, and apparently it is not uncommon to go months without seeing so much as a single cloud.

The winters get surprising cold around January, around 11C on average , and you can expect near daily rains in February/March. It can snow here, but it’s rare and light. My wife and I each brought heavy winter jackets, but we only needed to use them once.

Spring is for sure the most comfortable time to be here (March – May), and if you want to do any hiking I suggest doing as much as you possibly can during this time.

Getting Here

No matter what kind of transportation you take, it is quicker and easier to first get yourself to Jaen.

By Car- Martos is about 20 minutes from Jaen with a car on the A-316.

By Bus – The bus station in Martos is very poorly connected to the outside world. You can take a bus to Jaen, with stops in Torredonjimeno and Torredelcampo, that takes 45-60 minutes.

If you are landing in Malaga, it IS possible to take an Alsa bus straight here without transferring. We did this once. It took 5 ish hours, but it was super convenient and we got to see all the villages between Martos and Malaga.

I would post the bus schedules, but that would be an exercise in futility. The schedule changes with the seasons (fewer trips in the summer), and neither the Martos bus station, the Jaen bus station, or the website for the bus company can seem to agree on which schedule is correct. Generally there is a bus every hour, but with large gaps in the schedule that can last up to three hours. The company that runs this route is La Sepulvedana.

By Taxi –  From Jaen it costs either 30 or 35 euros to get to Martos. The price should be fixed, so I am not sure why we’ve been charged two different prices. The trip takes about 20 minutes. Taxis can be found at the Jaen bus station, or at the Jaen train station. There are some taxis in Martos, and they typically hang out at the bus station.

Things to do

La Peña-

When traveling towards Martos, La Peña will be the first thing you see by a long shot. We’ve already talked extensively about how it is the “Third Pillar of Hercules“, and about hiking to the castle that sits atop it. How long it takes depends on whether you have a car or not. If you do, you can drive up to the trailhead, park your car, and hike to the top in 30-45 minutes. If not, you have to walk up to the trailhead which takes an additional 25-30 minutes from the bus station.

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El Castillo de la Villa / Torre del Homenaje

The entire old town of Martos was at one point entirely surrounded by walls. Atop the highest hill (apart from La Peña) sat an impressive castle called “El Castillo de la Villa“. The city walls are mostly gone, but can still be seen in some places, as well as some of the towers that used to line the walls. Of the castle, only the Torre del Homeanje (main keep) remains. You can enter this tower, and learn about the history of the knights who used to live here, and also get a fantastic view of the old city. But be warned, the tower has some funky opening times. In the summer, the tower is only open from 11 to 14, and only on Saturday and Sunday. Also, all of the information is in Spanish.

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La Via Verde de Aceites

“The Green Way of Olive Oil”. There are many “Via Verdes” spread throughout Spain, most or all of them on old disused train lines. This one starts in Jaen, and goes for a total of 120km (74mi). It’s popular with long distance bikers, trekkers, and people just out to walk their dogs. It’s also a great place to get a morning or afternoon jog in. It’s a really interesting way to see just how extensive the olive groves truly are.

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The City Pool

The one thing everyone has told us to visit is La Picina Municipal (the public pool). There is one public pool in Martos, and people treat it like it’s the beach. It costs 3.00 euros to enter and there is a cafe/bar as well. If you are the kind of person who needs to swim in the summer time be sure to pay this a visit. Here is a little video to show you what it’s all about.

Casa de la Cultura – The House of Culture

This beautiful building also doubles as a library. They have a great selection of books, DVDs, and CDs. They have a small selection of books in English and German, but not a whole lot. I liked to get graphic novels here to help practice my Spanish.

You can get a library card here pretty easily, and once you do your library card will work ANYWHERE in Andalusia.

This should be your go-to-place when getting started on your life in Martos. Besides books they offer a free language exchange program (starts in September), and they offer tons of information on the goings on in Martos such as festivals, education programs, plays, etc.

Churches

Like any good Spanish village, Martos is chock full of churches. The main church that you can see looming over the city is the “Santuario de la Virgen de la Villa“. There used to be a church there back in the day, but since it sat in the grounds of the castle it was relatively small. It was burned down during the Spanish Civil War, and rebuilt in the 1940s. It’s front “patio” gives decent views of the city. The tower standing infront of the church is actually a left over from the medieval city walls.

Also interesting is the “Monasterio de la Santísima Trinidad“. It was probably built in 1595. During the civil war a band of soldiers passed through town and killed a nun who lived here. Her un-corrupted body is allegedly on display inside the church. I’ve seen it, but I thought it was a porcelain figure.

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Hiking

Martos sits just outside of a vast series of sierras separating Jaen city from Granada, so it’s in a good position for people who like to hike mountains. Additionally, Martos sits on the coast of the sea of olives, the endless expanse of olive groves stretching all over Andalusia. The sea of olives contains many hidden wonders such as ruined farmsteads, castles, medieval battlefields, canyons and lakes. To avoid the heat your best time to hike would probably be in late February or early March.

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Here is a list of hikes we have taken, linked to the original post.

La Peña

La Grana

Los Baños de Agua Hedionda

El Cortijo del Alamillo

El Pico

Three Medieval Sites

An abandoned city built on the ruins of a castle

Treasure!

 

Eating

The only food in Martos that can be considered “international” is kebab (which is delicious). Well, there is a Chinese restaurant, but as we’ve learned, every country has their own version of “Chinese” food, and they are almost always bad (unless you grew up eating it). But if you are looking for typical Andalusian food you will not be disappointed.

La Tiza – Lunch or dinner. We recommend trying “Patatas a la Tiza”, which are french fries covered in kebab meat, cheese, and taziki sauce, it’s always great. The tapas here are delicious and extravagant, and they serve a slightly fancier version of the typical tostada for breakfast.

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Vida Park – This is our go to place for a Menu del Dia. It costs 9 .50 euros and is more than enough food for one person. They also have a great selection of sandwiches.

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Try the Berenjenas Con Miel, or check our recipe!

Charlotte – This is the go to local joint in Martos. Every time we even think about going, it’s packed with people. Their location is a bit strange (basically in an apartment complex) but every single person in this village recommends it.

Sierra Sur – They have a great menu del dia, great service, and a large patio. They are known for their generous tapas which are usually slider-sized hamburgers.

Shopping

If you want to buy clothes in Martos, but you aren’t a 60+ year old Spanish grandma/grandpa, then you are out of luck.

The best shopping is in Jaen, either near Plaza de la Constitucion or in the shopping mall, Centro Comercial La Loma. La Loma has every kind of cool clothing store you could ever want. Jaen also has a Corte Ingles, which is a large chain department store common all throughout Spain. Their clothing is wicked expensive, but very high quality. They also have a great selection of electronics and appliances.

Groceries

There are 5 large grocery stores in Martos.

Mercadona – I think they are have the cheapest groceries in town. They barely have anything in the way of international food, but you can find tortillas (Mexican), baked beans (British), bacon and cheddar cheese very easily. Location.

They are open for siesta.

Carrefour – They have more high quality items than Mercadona, but they’re more expensive. Their beer and wine selections are the best in town, as are their cheese and meat selections. Location.

They are open for siesta.

Mas Y Mas – More big brand names than any other store int own, with moderate prices. We like to go here sometimes just because their stuff is nice. They also have a decent bakery. Location.

They are closed for siesta.

Dia Express– A small selection of the most common items. Decent selection of wine, vegetables, and deli meat. Location.

They are closed for siesta, and they are also assholes. I don’t know why.

Dia Maxi – A bit further away from town, but worth looking at. Weirdly, the only things I think this place has a great selection of is candy and cereal. Their parking lot is also easy to maneuver in, so if you have a car that could be reason enough for you to shop here. Location.

They are open for siesta.

There are tons of Fruterías (fruit stores) and Carnicerías (butchers), and Panaderías (bakeries) in town. Just about every block has one. Most people just shop at the nearest one, and as far as I know they are all more or less the same.

Hotels

There are three hotels in town, and sometimes  they do not show up on websites like Booking.com.

Hotel Hidalgo is closest to the bus station, but a bit pricey. It’s location is the best for most of the restaurants in town.

Fernando IV is in the north of town, and is the cheapest. Charlotte, the most beloved restaurant in town, is just around the corner from this hotel.

And Hotel Ciudad de Martos is in the South East, and is moderately priced.

Don’t forget to check airbnb.com. There are about 20 different properties, and it’s a great way to meet local people. If you use our link to register with Airbnb, you get a discount (and so do we).

 

Are you moving to Martos?

There is a real estate agency in the bus station, and another at Aveinda de la Paz, 16 . I recommend going to both of them, since they have different listings. The website for the office on Avenida de la Paz is the one we used, the people there are nice, if a bit in-your-face. Caution, the website is more or less useless. They are not prompt at replying to emails, and they don’t update their listings very often. If you prefer not to use an agency, you can walk around and look for “Se Alquilar” signs, or use these websites:

This town has a steady stream of factory workers constantly moving in and out, and as a result has a decent supply of open apartments. There are dirt cheap apartments for rent in the old town, as well as brand new (and more expensive) apartments and houses in the new town.

My wife and I really got to know and appreciate this little town. If you find yourself living in Martos, or even just visiting, and you have a question please do not hesitate to leave us a comment. We would love to help anyone out with anything Martos related!

 


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