While largely overshadowed by fellow Andalucían cities Seville and Granada, Jerez de la Frontera is an alluring Spanish city in its own right. Jerez, whose name was adapted from the Arabic word for sherry (sherish), is the alleged birthplace of fortified wine. It’s also the epicentre of flamenco and it’s well known for its horse culture. Additionally, with its food, history and proximity to attractive towns and the sea, Jerez has mucho to offer.
Jerez can look a little lacklustre on arrival, particularly on the outskirts where the buildings appear rundown. Getting towards the city centre, Jerez’s charm is more evident. There’s a number of pleasant plazas in the town centre, along with handsome cobblestone streets, old cathedrals, a fortress and the overall vibe is friendly and unassuming.
A few favourite things
Santiago – the Gypsy quarter
Jerez’s Gypsy quarter, Santiago, is a must-visit. The city claims this quarter is the true home of flamenco, and the peeling paint and ashen streets will offer you a sight apart from the city’s sherry sipping, horse riding toffs. If you’re going to watch flamenco, this is the place to do it. There’s also a number of good bars and restaurants here and it’s an interesting place to get lost.
Jerez’s Santiago quarter is home to many famous artists, such as singers Lola Flores and José Mercé.
A sherry tour
Jerez de la Frontera is the centre of Spain’s famous sherry triangle and visiting a bodega (winery) here is a real highlight. I went with the biggest and most famous tour, Tío Pepe, which you can read about in more depth in my post here. Learning more about the city’s sherry is part and parcel to understanding the culture, history and passion behind life in Jerez de la Frontera, Spain.
Tip: Ask for a Ruta de los Tabancos (map to old-style sherry bars).
The Cathedral of San Salvador
The Cathedral of San Salvador is an impressive 17th-century edifice that’s the church of Roman Catholic Diocese of Asidonia-Jerez . Located near the city centre, the cathedral was built in a mixture of Gothic, Baroque and neo-classicist styles. Inside, you’ll find a 15th-century Gothic crucifix and a painting of the Virgin Mary by 17th century Spanish painter Franciso Zuburán.
Eating out in the plazas
Jerez de la Frontera is renown for its food and wine, although like anywhere, you’ll need to know where to go to enjoy the good stuff. I had a few hits and misses during my four days there, although dive in and chances are you’ll have a superb experience. It’s fun sampling the varieties of sherry in Jerez’s evening ambience, which is generally more modest than either Seville or Granada – something I really enjoyed.
Tip: visit Jerez’s Mercado de Abastos (market) for some of the best fish in Andalucía.
Alcazar of Jerez de la Frontera
While not as impressive as the Alcazar in Seville, the Alcazar of Jerez de la Frontera is well worth a visit. Built in the 11th century, the Alcazar features sights such as an octagonal tower, the city’s only remaining mosque, the 14th-century tower of Ponce de León and the fortress baths.
Jerez de la Frontera is very well-situated, lying close to many interesting cities and attractions. Jerez also has a traditional, down to earth feel and it would have been my permanent base in Andalucía had I not moved to the north of Spain.
Firstly, it’s a 30-40 minute train ride from the ancient port city of Cadiz, while Sanlucar de Barrameda – home of the famous sherry finos – is a mere 30 minute bus ride to the north-west. Arcos de la Frontera is another striking town that was united with Jerez in the middle ages that lies 30 minutes to the north-east. Jerez is also close to the sea, El Puerto de Santa Maria, the attractive whitewashed town of Vejer de la Frontera and the growing expat haven of Tarifa.
Better still, Jerez is just an hour train ride from Seville. It’s also an eclectic place full of tradition, where history, shopping malls, shabby alleys and palm trees coexist. And while I missed out on experiencing a flamenco show in town, visiting a sherry bodega was one of the best things I did in all of Spain.