Ronda is famous for its mighty ‘New Bridge’ spanning the deep gorge below, yet this stunningly appointed Andalusian town has much more to offer than its most iconic structure. Read on for our pick of the 20 must-visit attractions in Ronda.
The Puente Nuevo (‘New Bridge’) was completed in 1794 and is one of the reasons why this town is the third most-visited destination in Andalusia. Spanning the frightening 120-metre (394-foot) deep gorge that splits Ronda
in two, it took 40 years and the lives of 50 workers to build. The small chamber at its centre contains a museum about its construction and history.
Puente Viejo (‘Old Bridge’) is the more notable of the two crossings that the gigantic Puente Nuevo was built to improve upon. Comprising a single stone archway, this early 17th-century structure is reached by strolling down through the beautiful Jardines de Cuenca, and from its centre, there are some spectacular views
of the countryside beyond Ronda.
El Tajo canyon
At 120 metres (394 feet) deep, the canyon that quite spectacularly splits Ronda
in half is an acrophobe’s worst nightmare. There are two ways to enjoy this breathtaking natural phenomenon: either admire it from the centre of Puente Nuevo, or trek down to the bottom and goggle at the town high above you (the path starts from Plaza Maria Auxiliodora
). The best approach, though, is to do both.
Jardines de Cuenca
Named after Ronda’s twin Spanish city, these stunning gardens are staggered down the eastern side of Puente Nuevo,
leading to that famous crossing’s older and smaller brother. Best visited either during the morning, before it gets too hot, or at sunset, they offer jaw-dropping views of El Tajo canyon, Puente Nuevo and the fertile landscape south of Ronda
Alameda del Tajo
Andalusia’s most stunning park
is located just behind Ronda’s historic bullring. Particularly beautiful during spring and autumn, the Alameda del Tajo features several viewing platforms that hang over the cliff edge; hilariously, Spaniards call these coño
being a versatile Spanish swearword that you may well want to use upon looking down.
Ronda’s elegant stone bullring
was opened in 1784, when it was the setting for Spain’s first ever corrida de toros
(bullfight). Partly for this reason, and partly because it has served as the ‘home ground’ for bullfighting’s two greatest dynasties
, it is considered the birthplace of this divisive spectacle
. Visits cost €7 ($8.60) and will take you into the structure’s most secret and fascinating corners.
Ronda’s bullring is home to one of the best bullfighting museums
in southern Spain. Visitors here can get to grips with the history and customs of this little-understood spectacle, as well as marvel at the elaborate costumes worn by bullfighters. Also explored is the role that Ronda’s Romero and Ordoñez families have played in developing the Spanish bullfight.
The only museum of its kind in Spain, Ronda’s quirky and fascinating Museo del Bandolero
is a must-visit. It explores the rich legacy of banditry attached to the town and surrounding countryside; indeed, armed highwaymen were such a problem in the Serrania de Ronda throughout the 19th century that the Guardia Civil was founded in 1844 to try and eradicate them. Entry costs €3.75 ($4.60).
Located just beyond the old city walls are some of the best-preserved Baños Arabes in Spain. Ronda’s Arabic Baths were built during the 10th and 11th centuries, during the high point of the town’s Moorish period, and consisted of three rooms maintaining cold, warm and hot temperatures. Star-shaped vents in the ceiling formed a miniature cosmos through which light and air passed.
House of the Moorish King
The gracefully ageing Casa del Rey Moro clings to the western cliffs of El Tajo and is a spectacular sight from the other side of the gorge. It dates from the 18th century and, although the building itself is closed, the tiered gardens are well worth a visit. From these, the 200+ steps of Ronda’s medieval Water Mine take you down to a Moorish fortress and the bottom of the canyon.
Grazalema Natural Park
Less than half an hour’s drive west of Ronda
is the beautiful and wild Sierra de Grazalema Natural Park. Definitely worth a visit if the length of your visit permits, this rugged protected area is home to some epic natural features such as incredibly deep canyons – scars in the landscape four times the height of the gorge that splits Ronda in two. Best explored by bike or on foot.
Las Nieves Natural Park
About a 45-minute drive east of Ronda is the Sierra de las Nieves
Natural Park. At its centre is the 1,909-metre (6,263-foot) Mount Torrecilla, while other notable natural features include one of of the deepest potholes in Europe, at 1,098 metres (3,602 feet). The park’s largely uninhabited expanses are also home to birds of prey, mountain goats and continental Europe’s largest spider.
Bar El Lechuguita
Bar, Spanish, $$$
For fast and cheap tapas surrounded by locals, El Lechuguita is your place. Nestling on a sidestreet just off Plaza España, this hugely popular joint flings out bite-sized treats for as little as 80 cents, while the more ‘expensive’ tapas will set you back two or three euros. It’s traditional fare – think grilled meats and tortilla – and it’s very small, so arrive early to avoid disappointment.
Building, History Museum
Ronda’s elegant Palacio de Mondragón dates from the early 14th century and was once a residence for the town’s wealthy Moorish rulers. At the close of the 15th century, the building was extensively remodelled by a distinguished family from Seville, who were given the palace for their efforts during the Catholic reconquest of Spain. Nowadays, it houses the Municipal Museum
, where you can learn about the history of Ronda.
Meson El Sacristán
Restaurant, Spanish, $$$
Don’t leave Ronda without treating yourself to a meal at Meson El Sacristán
, one of the town’s stand-out restaurants
. Its USP is a gorgeous old wood oven, in which a variety of mouthwatering, locally sourced meat dishes are cooked. Star platos
here are the roasted suckling pig, the baby goat chops and the stewed bull’s tail, a Rodeño classic. The restaurant is also famous for its world-class cured jamons
and its homemade desserts.
Restaurante Casa Maria
Restaurant, Spanish, $$$
Casa Maria likes to surprise its clients. You don’t order off a menu here: you simply take your table, order the drinks and let the kitchen staff serve you several courses made from whatever was freshest at the market that morning. This ingredient-driven approach to cooking has made Maria’s House extremely popular, so be sure to book in advance. Order the fabulous lemon cheesecake for dessert.
The Lara Museum
The wonderful Museo Lara
takes its name from local collector and founder Juan Lara Jurado. Jurado bought the historic building in 1993 and six years later opened its doors to what has been called the best private collection in Spain; it spans human endeavour over the centuries, from science to weaponry, including artefacts such as pistols, cameras and instruments of torture used during the Spanish Inquisition.
Come early September, Ronda throws itself into its annual Pedro Romero festival. Named after the legendary 18th-century Ronda-born bullfighter who is credited with inventing modern bullfighting, the fair takes over streets and squares in the Mercadillo area, converting them into a giant open-air party. Food and drink stands appear on every corner and ceilings of balloons and paper lanterns provide shade for revellers. The feria
culminates with a bullfight in the town’s 18th-century bullring
The “newer” part of Ronda
is located on the northern side of El Tajo and is referred to as El Mercadillo (‘the little market’). Abounding in charming whitewashed townhouses, pretty squares and romantic cobbled streets, this part of town richly rewards aimless meandering. Start from Plaza España, perhaps after refreshments at Hotel Don Miguel
, and take any street off this central square: within minutes, you’ll be in the heart of the barrio.
The oldest part of Ronda sits on the northern side of the gorge and is simply called La Ciudad (‘the town’). Its tightly packed sugar cube houses and narrow lanes mostly date from the city’s time under Moorish dominion, which lasted from the 8th to the late 15th centuries. La Ciudad is home to many notable buildings, including the Mondragón Palace and House of the Moorish King, and the most hauntingly beautiful spots in the city. You can also walk to the bottom of El Tajo via a path that starts at Plaza Maria Auxiliodora