Although it’s a relatively undiscovered city, Jerez de la Frontera is only 90 kilometres (56 miles) south of Seville, making it a perfect day-trip destination if you’re visiting the Andalusian capital. It’ll take you less than an hour by car (on the AP-4) to reach Jerez and there are also frequent trains that depart from Seville’s Santa Justa Station.
One of the joys of visiting Jerez is that you get the feeling of discovering a hidden gem. Despite (or perhaps because of) its proximity to the more popular Andalusian capital, it remains something of an underdog city, saving its charms for travellers who depart from the beaten track.
Jerez is home to the Royal Andalusian School of Equestrian Art, where some of the finest horses in the world are bred and trained. These magnificent animals can actually be taught to dance, as you’ll see in the school’s spectacular equestrian ballet, ‘How the Andalusian Horses Dance’. Shows are put on every Thursday at noon.
Jerez’s other cultural emblem is sherry. Indeed, the surrounding countryside is the only place on earth where the drink is made from palomino grapes that grow in the loose, chalky soil. To learn about Jerez’s centuries-old association with sherry, take a tour of the cellars (bodegas) of the city’s most famous brand, Tio Pepe.
The old part of Jerez is made up of some of the most enchanting neighbourhoods in all of Andalusia and is best explored by aimless wandering. The historical centre clusters around the cathedral and Alcázar and boasts some great spots for tapas, such as the stately Plaza del Arenal or the cosy, romantic Plaza de la Yebra.
Many flamenco aficionados—and not just those from Jerez—will tell you that the city is the true cradle of flamenco, especially of flamenco singing. Santiago and San Miguel, the city’s scruffy flamenco barrios, have produced many influential artists, including the modern-day stars Lola Flores and José Mercé.
Although Jerez’s main Catholic church was built between 1695 and 1778, it only became the seat of a bishop in 1980, (technically) making it one of the youngest cathedrals in Spain. Its principal bell tower stands apart from the cathedral itself on the site of an older, smaller church.
No less impressive than the San Salvador Cathedral is Jerez’s 11th- and 12th-century Moorish Alcázar, located on the other side of the beautiful Alameda Vieja park. Its strong walls and defensive towers, the Octagonal Tower being the most distinctive, still stand as do rooms that once housed the Arabic baths.
Jerez’s local bars are called tabancos and they specialise in the city’s signature tipple. These are the places to go if you want to taste different types of sherry in a traditional environment. Among the best are Tabanco El Pasaje, which stages superb live flamenco, and the Jerezano institution that is Tabanco San Pablo.
Jerez’s annual ferias are two of the most colourful and inclusive festivals in Spain. The Feria del Caballo (Horse Fair) celebrates the beauty of Jerez’s equine residents in early May, while the Feria de la Vendimia (Grape Harvest Fair) opens with a grape-treading on the cathedral steps on or around September 8.