Check out the bridges
The best way of introducing yourself to the splendour of Ronda is by standing in the middle of its mighty Puente Nuevo (‘new bridge’), which joins the newer part of town with the old Moorish quarter. This magnificent structure was completed in 1793 after 40 years of construction, and is the principal reason why Ronda is the third most-visited town in southern Spain. It spans the El Tajo gorge, which is 120 metres (394 feet) deep and splits the town in half.
After taking in the dizzying beauty of the Puente Nuevo, head down-river to see its smaller and less well-known predecessor. Ronda’s so-called Puente Viejo (‘old bridge’) is in fact not the town’s oldest crossing: that title rightly belongs to the Moorish Puente San Miguel, further down the river, which was built in the early 17th century.
Walk in El Tajo
Spend the rest of your morning in this stunning place exploring the secrets of El Tajo. There are some lovely walks to be enjoyed in and around the gorge, via pathways that can be accessed from both the older and newer parts of town. The most spectacular starts from Plaza Maria Auxiliadora in the Moorish quarter and takes you right to the bottom of El Tajo, from where you can look up at the ant-like visitors on top of Puente Nuevo. If you’re feeling energetic, climb back to the top using the 200-step staircase of the 18th-century Casa del Rey Moro palace.
Enjoy a traditional Andalusian lunch
After a morning’s exploring, you’ll be ready for a hearty lunch, and there is no shortage of excellent bars and restaurants in Ronda from which to choose. One of the liveliest areas is around Plaza España, and in particular the unassuming-looking La Alacena. This is one of the best traditional Andalusian eateries in town, and it serves wonderful plates of tapas for about three or four euros each, as well as offering a full lunch and dinner menu. The slow-cooked bull tail – rabo de toro – is extravagantly good.
La Alacena, 3 Calle Nueva, Ronda, Spain, +34 952 16 14 79
Bandits and bullfighting
For a fairly small town, Ronda is home to a surprising number of excellent museums, but the two must-visits are those that look at bandits and bulls. After lunch and a siesta, treat yourself to a trip to the Museo de Bandolero, or ‘bandit’s museum’, the only museum of its kind in Spain. Bandits and highwaymen were such a problem in the countryside surrounding Ronda in the 19th century that the Guardia Civil was established in 1844 to try and eradicate them.
After learning about bandits, head to Ronda’s other standout museum, the Museo Taurino. Located within the town’s beautiful 18th-century bullring – itself a key architectural attraction – this fascinating museum looks at the history of bullfighting in Ronda. It was the Ronda-born matador Francisco Romero who first faced bulls on foot in the early 18th century, thus laying the aesthetic foundations of the modern bullfight.
Mueseo del Bandolero, 65 Calle Armiñán, Ronda, Spain, +34 952 87 77 85
Museo Taurino, 15 Calle Virgen de la Paz, Ronda, Spain, +34 952 87 41 32
From the bullring, it’s a pleasant 15-minute stroll to one of Ronda’s best-kept secrets. Beyond the old city walls, you can visit some of the best-preserved Baños Arabes, or Arabic baths, in all of Spain. These elegant, domed caverns were built in the 10th and 11th centuries during the Moorish occupation of Ronda, and maintained hot, warm and cold temperatures for bathers. Remember to look up: star-shaped beams of light pour in from the ventilation holes in the ceilings.
11 Calle Molino de Alarcón, Ronda, Spain, +34 952 18 71 19
Sunset from Hotel Don Miguel
To round off your day in Ronda, head to the spectacularly appointed Hotel Don Miguel, which clings to the side of the gorge right next to Puente Nuevo. There are several outside terraces boasting some of the best views in the town: the perfect spot for an early evening glass of wine or cocktail as you watch the sun set. The food here is superb, too: just as well, as you won’t want to tear yourself away from the amazing views.
4 Plaza de España, Ronda, Spain, +34 952 87 77 22