On a recent trip to Spain, Katie Roberts visited Jerez de la Frontera (Jerez), an out of the way Andalucian city famous for its sherry, flamenco and horses. Wide streets lined with palms and jacaranda trees, beautiful squares and a history dating back thousands of years make this south-western Spanish city an interesting place to visit. Here’s 10 things to do in the laid-back city.
1. First things first. Take a horse drawn carriage tour of the city for a leisurely peak at the atmospheric old town. Sunset is a great time, as the streets are filled with people, with the lights just turning on. The importance of horses in Jerez is well known and there’s a lot of respect shown as people make way for the carriage. You feel a bit like royalty.
2. The Royal Andalusian School of Equestrian Art is world famous for its classical horse dancing show. Held twice a week (four times in high season) in a purpose built 1600-seat indoor arena, it’s a treat for horse lovers. The talented riders are kitted out in classic blazers, jodhpurs and felt hats and must train for at least three years before performing. The hour-long show flaunts Andalucia’s celebrated equestrian heritage.
3. While it sounds tedious, the unique Clock Museum is a treat. The private collection of 302 clocks is located in a gorgeous mansion and is fun to visit, especially at midday when the clocks chime, although not in unison. There are valuable, decorative clocks dating back to the 17th century, with one weighing in at 100kg! Just one clockmaker maintains the inner clock workings and keeps them all in time.
4. Inside the 12th century Alcazar is an ancient Arab bath house, a restored mosque, traditional gardens and other ancient treats uncovered in archeological excavations. Jerez has been occupied for thousands of years and the Romans, Moorish, Greeks, Venetians have all added to the cultural melting pot. Climb to the top of the tower for a fantastic view over the city.
5. Ole! Catch a flamenco performance in the city, which has a long tradition of dancing and boasts some famous performers. Find a tourist brochure which details two flamenco walking routes for an insight into the origins, history and guide to bars and clubs. Finish up in a secluded corner with a glass of local sherry, taking in the flamenco spirit and passion.
6. The beach is just a 10-minute drive away and a popular destination for thousands of northern European visitors in summer every year.
7. Jerez is world famous for its sherry. Learn about its production process – pressing, ageing and mixing – at Lustau Bodega, one of 100 sherry producers in the sherry triangle. After a walk through the aptly-named wine cathedrals, or cavernous cellars, taste the amazing range of flavours produced in thousands of oak barrels. Some are aged up to 30 years.
8. Hammam Andalusi is a traditional bathhouse offering bath and massage experiences in a traditional, atmospheric setting – replete with candles, scented exotic oils and numerous bathing pools.
9. There are reputedly over 50 churches in Jerez, and when the city is viewed from the Alcatraz tower, it is almost impossible to count the church spires. There are numerous religious festivals and celebrations across town, including an annual street procession of the brotherhood order of priests. The town is understandably quite conservative.
10. Tapeo is Spanish for bar-hopping, and Jerez is a place to enjoy this infectious pastime of pairing good food with wine. Rub shoulders with the locals and soak up the atmosphere. Peak times are the most exciting, between 1pm and 2pm and 8pm and 10pm. Some of the classic tapas dishes to try are olives, calamari, fried whitebait, croquettes, cheese, Iberian ham and prawns.