Kickstart your 24 hours in Jerez on its palm-fringed central square, Plaza del Arenal. Once the setting for bullfights and equestrian shows, this beautiful space is now lined with outdoor terraces, making it a great place to start the day with a tostada, fresh juice and strong coffee. The flower beds at its centre come to life spectacularly during the spring months, drawing attention to a statue of Jerez-born Miguel Primo de Rivera, Spain’s prime minister between 1923 and 1930. The square’s notable buildings are the Alhóndiga, which was built as a food market in the 17th century, and the elegant 18th-century courthouse.
After breakfast on Plaza del Arenal, you’re ideally placed to spend an hour or two wandering around Jerez’s old town. Often unaccountably overlooked in favour of cities such as Seville and Granada, Jerez has an understated charm all of its own, and nowhere is this more evident than in its oldest quarter, which centres around the cathedral and Alcazar. Stroll past the lovely little Plaza de la Yebra and onto Plaza de la Asunción, where you’ll find a gracefully crumbling 15th-century church, after which you can duck into a local sherry bar on Plaza Plateros. If time allows, a visit to the city’s 17th-century cathedral is also well worth a little of your time.
Jerez is best known for its horses and sherry, so try and make sure that your visit here coincides with one of the equestrian ballets performed at the Real Escuela Andaluza del Arte Ecuestre (Royal Andalusian School of Equestrian Art). Showcasing the beauty and agility of the Andalusian horse, as well as the technical mastery of their riders, these amazing 90-minute shows are staged every Thursday at 12 pm throughout the year and on at least two other days per week (at the same time) during high season. Before your visit to Jerez, check the school’s event’s calendar, and read our article on this unique spectacle.
For lunch on a sunny terrace, try the bars and restaurants along Calle Lanceria or Calle Larga (Bar Tala is one of the best on this popular stretch). Then, after a post-lunch siesta to avoid the hottest part of the day, visit one of the bodegas that produce the sherry for which Jerez is so famous.
The city’s oldest brand is Gonzalez Byass, named after Manuel Maria González Angel, who founded the bodega in 1835 (his English agent, Robert Blake Byass, joined the business soon after). Jerez’s other most iconic tipple, Tio Pepe, is also a dry white sherry – these wines are called finos in Spain – and is owned by Gonzalez Byass. Less well known but equally fascinating are the Bodegas Tradición. All three offer cellar tours and, of course, tastings. Booking in advance is recommended.
The optimum time for a bodega tour and/or tasting is late afternoon, so that afterwards you can make a seamless early-evening transition to the sherry bars for which Jerez is unique. Called tabancos, these old-school joints serve local sherries, ranging from dry white finos to dark, sweet olorosos, out of giant oak barrels mounted behind the bar, and tend to be plastered in fading bullfighting posters.
Three of the best are within an easy walk of each other in the heart of old Jerez. Tabanco Plateros is a trendy, modern bar that sells Jerez wines and sherries to take home as mementos or gifts; every square foot of the glorious old Tabanco San Pablo oozes Jerezano charm; and at Tabanco El Pasaje – an unimprovable end-of-night spot where your bill is chalked on the bar – the live flamenco is intimate and raw.