Everyone I talked to about my trip to Jerez de la Frontera this summer asked me the same two questions: ‘Where is it?’ and ‘why Jerez?’ Then came a laundry list of why I should go to Sevilla and Granada instead and skip Jerez on my trip itinerary in favour of more glamorous destinations.
Perhaps because true beauty is usually hidden, Jerez is often overlooked by many tourists to the Iberian Peninsula.
But every Hispanophile knows that this small town in the province of Cadiz (in Spain’s southwestern corner) encapsulates the best of Andalusia. And that its real appeal goes beyond its status as a picture-perfect location.
Jerez is the cradle of flamenco, the home of Sherry wine and the birthplace of the Carthusians – Spain’s most prestigious line of horses.
There are things you can experience nowhere else but in Jerez, from culinary delights to equestrian ballet shows. It’s worth a visit just for the sweet scent of orange blossoms and its bubbly taverns. But if you want to get an authentic, immersive and one-of-a-kind experience of Andalusia that might turn your stay into the trip of a lifetime, here is a list of the top ten things to do in Jerez:
- Visit the Royal Andalusian School of Equestrian Art Foundation
- Take a step back into the past at the Palace of Time Museum
- Try the most famous Andalusian spirits at Bodegas Fundador
- Watch the authentic flamenco show at Tabanco el Pasaje
- Discover traditional Andalusian flavours at La Carboná
- Treat yourself to a fancy dinner at Tea 22
- See the world’s finest horses at the Yeguada de la Cartuja Hierro del Bocado
- Wander around the flamenco neighbourhoods of Santiago and San Miguel
- Go on a stroll around the Old Town
- Have a glass of wine at El Gallo Azul
Visit the Royal Andalusian School of Equestrian Art Foundation
If you’ve never seen horses dance before, the Royal Andalusian School of Equestrian Art Foundation is the place to go.
Take a seat in the Picadero (indoor riding arena) to watch one of the daily training sessions of purebred Spanish horses. Their graceful performance of dressage exercises to the sound of classical music is nothing short of impressive.
You can also watch a choreographed equestrian ballet show or go explore the school’s facilities, including an eclectic 19th-century palace designed by Charles Garnier, the stables, the tack room and the horse-carriage museum. There is no better way to learn about Andalusia’s rich equestrian culture.
To book your tour of the Royal Andalusian Equestrian Art Foundation, click here
Take a step back into the past at the Palace of Time Museum
Head to the Palace of Time Museum to see how people measured time before the advent of digital watches.
The museum, housed in a neoclassical-style palace and surrounded by historical heritage gardens, has an exceptional collection of over 300 clocks and mechanical watches from the 17th and 19th centuries.
Your senses will be stirred as you listen to the background Baroque music and stroll through the hallways lined with rhythmically ticking clocks. Most of them were designed by acclaimed clock makers such as Frodsham, Le Roy and Berthoud and are in perfect working order.
Take a guided tour to hear some juicy stories about the most remarkable clocks and their makers; learn about clock technology and the evolution of clock design over time.
For more information about the Museum of Time in Jerez, click here
Try the most famous Andalusian spirits at Bodegas Fundador
Just like you shouldn’t leave Paris without seeing the Eiffel Tower, you shouldn’t leave Jerez without sampling the best Andalusian brandy and sherry produced solely in the region of Jerez.
Bodegas Fundador, the oldest winery in the region, offers these two spirits in abundance. Dating back to 1730, it provides a one-of-a-kind brandy and wine experience.
Before indulging in your drinks, you can take a tour of their award-winning 16th-century cellars to learn about ancient wine-ageing techniques, the artisan process of brandy and sherry production and the importance of the wine industry in the area.
Look out for barrels signed by King Alfonso XIII or other prominent figures, such as Spanish flamenco singer Lola Flores.
For more information about Bodegas Fundador and their tours, click here
Watch the authentic flamenco show at Tabanco el Pasaje
‘A true flamenco is a feeling’ my tour guide explained during my first visit to Jerez. ‘If it doesn’t make you feel, it’s not a true flamenco’. Avoid tourist traps and visit a bar with a flamenco show that will tug at your heartstrings.
Founded in 1925, Tabanco el Pasaje is the oldest tavern in Jerez and offers regular flamenco shows and its famed fish tapas paired with sherry in an intimate and cosy setting. Colourful art accents like eye-catching portraits of flamenco artists, vintage bullfighting posters and wine barrels add to its distinctive character. It’s a tiny space, so it’s best to make a reservation ahead of time.
For more information about Tabanco El Pasaje and to make reservation, click here
Discover traditional Andalusian flavours at La Carboná
Located in the Old Town district, La Carboná restaurant will not disappoint even the pickiest food connoisseurs. Everyone who appreciates classic delicacies with a twist will find something here to suit their appetite.
The restaurant offers impeccable service and exquisite meals of meat and fish paired with sherry. Each dish is carefully crafted with fresh regional ingredients and infused with the traditional flavours of Andalusia.
La Carboná is famous for its degustation menus. You can choose anything from white gazpacho with almonds to red-fruit sorbet with sherry vinegar and meringue.
You should come here not just for the food but also for the unique dining location. La Carboná is housed in a former sherry bodega and is renowned for its rustic, yet classy, interiors. The wooden-beam high ceilings, whitewashed archways, wood-burning cooking stove and rural furniture give the restaurant a warm and cosy appeal.
For more information about La Carboná and to make reservations, click here
Treat yourself to a fancy dinner at Tea 22
Add even more glamour to your day by treating yourself to a dinner or cocktail at Tea 22. The restaurant is located in one of Jerez’s most elegant hotels – Casa Palacio de Maria Luisa.
It serves bespoke seasonal menus in opulent surroundings. The attention to detail, from the way tables are set to the exquisite Sherry wine list and menu design, is what makes dining here exceptional.
The cuisine proposal featuring seasonal and local products is as tantalising as the setting – a 19th-century historical palatial house. With intricate plasterwork, gilded ceilings and luxurious furnishings, it was once home to Jerez aristocracy and a casino. Its elegant outdoor terrace with a garden is a perfect spot for unwinding with an after-dinner cocktail.
For more information about T22 and Hotel Palacio Maria Luisa, click here
See the world’s finest horses at the Yeguada de la Cartuja Hierro del Bocado
Whether you are a keen horse rider or not, the Yeguada de la Cartuja stud farm will wow you with the world’s best-known stock of Carthusian horses.
They will steal your heart with their grace, elegance and huge, lively eyes.
The stud farm, which is dedicated to the preservation and improvement of the Carthusian breed, provides a rare chance to see the Carthusian horses up close and learn about their breeding history.
Every Saturday at 11am, it offers equestrian shows that include dressage exhibitions, free-running colts, mares and stallions and even equestrian driving.
If you wish to improve your horseback riding skills, take a private riding class. As actor Juan Llamas Perdigo said once: ‘When a man mounts a Carthusian horse, he imagines himself in heaven, without leaving earth’. Enjoy the bliss!
Book your visit of the Yeguada de la Cartuja Hierro del Bocado here
Wander around the flamenco neighbourhoods of Santiago and San Miguel
No trip to Jerez would be complete without a visit to the legendary Roma neighbourhoods where flamenco music originated. It’s not uncommon to hear flamenco singing behind houses’ closed doors when you meander through the historic streets of both neighbourhoods.
San Miguel, with its palm-fringed main square Plaza del Arenal and lined with vibrant cafes and taverns, is a great spot to watch the world go by with a glass of sherry.
Santiago can’t be missed for its 15th-century Centro Andaluz de Flamenco, a museum that documents the history of this traditional dance style and displays monuments of prominent flamenco artists.
Go on a stroll around the Old Town
Jerez’s Old Town is worth a visit if only to get lost in the maze of narrow, cobblestone streets. It’s where you can experience the city’s rich Islamic past.
The Old Town is partially surrounded by walls and has several gates, including one that leads to the Alcazar.
It’s one of the largest fortifications in Europe built by the Moors in the 11th century and the oldest monument in the city. It boasts Arabic-influenced gardens, baths and a mosque. From there, you can make your way to the 17th-century Jerez Cathedral and climb its bell tower for magnificent views of the city.
To book a guided tour to the historic centre of Jerez, click here
Have a glass of wine at El Gallo Azul
Relax with a glass of wine and traditional tapas at El Gallo Azul (Blue Rooster), an architectural icon of Jerez. The six-floor building, regarded as one of the greatest achievements of the Mudejar style, has a history that dates back to 1929.
Following years of restoration, it houses a Parisian Art Deco style bistro where you can take a rest on one of its intimate balconies that overlook the city’s commercial and financial districts. Soak up the evening view of the illuminated Calle Larga – one of the best shopping boulevards in Jerez.
For more information about El Gallo Azul, click here
For more information about Jerez De La Frontera and the Andalucia region, visit Official Andalucia Tourism Website