Jerez de Frontera, though often passed over in favour of more famous Spanish destinations, is one of Andalusia’s most beautiful cities. Here’s our pick of the top ten things to do here, from touring the world’s best sherry bodegas to partying with the locals at the May Horse Fair.
A patio in the Tio Pepe bodegas | A patio in the Tio Pepe bodegas
Arguably the most famous sherry in the world, Tio Pepe is part of the González Byass group that was founded in 1835 by local entrepreneur Manual González Angel. Angel’s uncle, known as Tio Pepe, gave this dry white sherry the name it bears to this day. Tours of the beautiful cellars (bodegas) run three times a day in English, Spanish and German.
Situated directly opposite the Tio Pepe headquarters, the other side of the Alameda Vieja park, is Jerez’s mighty Alcazar. Dating from the 11th and 12th centuries, this was the Moors’ chief defence against Christian invaders, who finally took the city in 1264. Impressively conserved are the Arabian baths, a mosque and the chunky defensive walls and towers.
Originally built as a collegiate church between 1695 and 1778, the San Salvador cathedral only became the seat of a bishop in 1980. Uniquely in Andalusia, its bell tower stands on a separate site, which was previously occupied by a smaller church (and, before that, a mosque); its lower half dates from the 15th century and the top half from the 17th.
A pretty courtyard in the Tradición bodegas | A pretty courtyard in the Tradición bodegas
Founded in 1998 by a descendant of one of Jerez’s oldest sherry dynasties, Bodegas Tradición produces sherries and wines in their purest state, or en rama (without any filtering or tampering). It also houses one of most Spain’s most important private art collections, which contains works by Goya and Velázquez, amongst others.
Every May, Jerez celebrates the Feria del Caballo, or Horse Fair – one of the most enchanting ferias in Andalusia. Traditionally-attired riders parade their magnificent horses around the fairground, stopping at the marquees (casetas) for a glass of fino with friends and family. The joyful celebrations last for a week and include several bullfights.
Enjoy a glass of the local tipple at Tabanco San Pablo | Enjoy a glass of the local tipple at Tabanco San Pablo
Jerez’s local bars are called tabancos and specialise in the region’s sherries and wines. Tabanco San Pablo, located on a bar-lined street of the same name, is one of the best: a wonderfully old-fashioned tapas joint that has barely changed since it opened its doors in 1934, it’s the perfect spot for a few slices of cured jamón and a glass of the local tipple.
The entrance to Tabanco El Pasaje | The entrance to Tabanco El Pasaje
Another of the city’s most loved sherry bars is Tabanco El Pasaje, located just a couple of minutes’ stroll from the stately Plaza del Arenal. Locals and visitors crowd into this cosy joint several times a week for intimate live flamenco; and as you keep the sherries and tapas coming, your bill is etched on the wooden bar in chalk. Jerezano through and through.
Plaza de la Ascunción is one of old Jerez’s loveliest spaces and home to two of the city’s most beautiful buildings: the 15th century Iglesia Dionisio and, right opposite, the former town hall building dating from 1575. The bars here usually put out tables, giving you a great spot from which to soak up the square’s rich history.
PLAZA DE LA YEBRA
Just up from Plaza de la Ascunción is Plaza de la Yebra, another beautiful square and a great spot for tapas. It’s shaded by several tall trees, which lend the square a romantic ambience and provide respite from the strong summer sun. Particularly popular with Jerezanos is La Cruz Blanca, which has a spacious outside terrace and serves excellent local dishes.
Jerez is home to the prestigious Royal Andalusian School of Equestrian Art, which every Thursday stages a show that has become known all over the world. ‘How the Andalusian Horses Dance’ is not misleadingly named: the pure-bred, specially-trained horses that star in these spectaculars are incredible performers. Read our introduction to the equestrian ballets of Jerez here.