Jerez de la Frontera (or simply Jerez) is Andalucia’s fifth largest city with a population of just over 210,000. Having visited a few times now it still, to me, has a small town feel particularly in the old town around Plaza del Arenal and the impressive cathedral and Alcazar.
Jerez makes up one of the points on the Sherry Triangle (the others being Sanlucar de Barrameda and El Puerto de Santa Maria) and is popular as a day trip from Seville. However, it definitely deserves more than a few hours on a whistle-stop tour so I would highly recommend staying longer, if you can, to be able to fully appreciate all it has to offer.
With its tree lined streets and quiet squares with the scent of orange blossom hanging in the air, these are some of my favourite things to do in Jerez. Hint – there’s so much more to Jerez than sherry!
A note about Covid. Make sure you check opening times as many attractions, plus bars and restaurants, are operating on reduced hours.
Take a Bodega tour
Given that Jerez is the home of sherry (indeed, the Spanish word for sherry is Jerez) it’s only fitting that you should spend some time touring a bodega, whether in the city centre or further afield.
There are plenty to choose from – we went to probably the most famous of them all, Tio Pepe, which is part of the Gonzalez Byass empire. It’s ideally located near the Alcazar and cathedral and has several options of guided tour, all of which include some sherry tasting.
On the tour you not only learn about sherry and how it’s made (from Palomino grapes which grow in the chalky soil of the vineyards which surround Jerez) but you’ll be taught about the different types of sherry. Not forgetting, of course, the all important tasting experience.
To many British people sherry has a bit of a fusty reputation. It was commonly seen as an old person’s drink and, growing up in the 1970s and 80s, most families I knew had a bottle of Harvey’s Bristol Cream that was dusted off every Christmas before being put back in the cupboard for another year.
However, there’s actually a lot more to this fortified wine, and by the end of the tour you’ll know what type of sherry you prefer from a fino (the driest and clearest) through manzanilla, amontillado, and oloroso, to the sweeter and darker Pedro Ximenez. You’ll also learn the story of the Tio Pepe mice who have a little glass of sherry left out for them every day.
If you have a few days in Jerez, I’d recommend a sherry tasting as one of the first things you do so that you know exactly what type you prefer when you’re later enjoying the food and drink scene.
Entry fee to Bodega Tio Pepe depends on the tour you opt for (and the number of sherries you want to taste) with prices starting at €18.00 per person.
Bodega Tio Pepe, Calle Manuel Maria Gonzalez 12, Jerez de la Frontera
Other bodegas in Jerez which offer guided tours include Sandeman, Bodegas Tradicion and Bodegas Fundador – all are centrally located to maximise your visiting time.
Alcazar de Jerez
While not as big as its more well-known counterparts in Seville and Cordoba, the Alcazar in Jerez shouldn’t be missed.
Built by the Moors in the 11th century there have been several restorations to the fortress over the years and, as well as the patios, gardens and defence towers, the complex now houses an olive oil press, an old pharmacy, and Arabic baths. There is also a Camera Obscura in the tower of the Villavicienco Palace.
Entry to the Alcazar is €3.00 and to the Camera Obscura is €5.40.
Alcazar de Jerez, Calle Alameda Vieja, Jerez de la Frontera
If you’re a lover of bric a brac then it’s worth heading along on a Sunday as Alameda Vieja, the area outside the Alcazar, is transformed into a huge flea market.
In spring, you won’t be able to miss the beautiful smell of the azahar (orange blossom) from the many trees in the Alameda Vieja.
The building of Jerez Cathedral began in 1695 but wasn’t completed until 1778 which has left the impressive building with a mix of Baroque, Gothic and Neoclassical architectural styles. It wasn’t until 1980 that it was actually recognised as a cathedral.
As ornate inside as it is outside there’s a small peaceful orangery at the rear and, behind the main altar, you can view a collection of silverware and artwork.
The bell tower is located just across the square.
Entry to the cathedral is €6.00 which includes an audio guide. A combined ticket for the cathedral and bell tower is €7.00.
Catedral de Jerez, Plaza Encarnacion, Jerez de la Frontera
Visit a Tabanco
Tabancos are the local bars, unique to the area, that are scattered throughout Jerez and which, not surprisingly, specialise in sherry. If you’re after an authentic experience and the chance to try out a few of Jerez’s signature tipples then it’s worth tracking some of these down. There’s an official Ruta de Tabancos (Tabancos Route) map which you can pick up in the Tourist Information Centre on the corner of Plaza del Arenal.
Tabanco Plateros on Calle Algarve is always busy but, if you can get a table, make sure to try the gouda al pesto verde (pesto gouda) and the sardinas ahumadas (smoked sardines). Delicious!
Just a short walk away is Tabanco El Pasaje on Calle Santa Maria. This is the oldest tabanco in Jerez and, as well as a selection of sherries and tapas (don’t miss the payoyo con mebrillo (payoyo cheese with quince jam)), they also have two excellent flamenco shows each day (at 2pm and 9.30pm). We’ve had a couple of fantastic evenings here – standing at the bar, trying out the sherries and watching live flamenco. It doesn’t get much more Andalucian than that!
It’s free to watch the flamenco but it does get very crowded so, if you want to be sure of an unobstructed view, I’d recommend reserving a seat ahead of time. You can also book a table to enjoy some tapas with the show.
Watch a flamenco show
Jerez is said to be the birthplace of flamenco so it would definitely be a shame to miss a performance when you visit.
If you can’t get into Tabanco El Pasaje then there are plenty of other options and you’ll find flamenco performances every day in the many peñas dotted around Jerez. The Flamenco de Jerez website has details of all the peñas in the city.
If you want to learn more about the history of flamenco in Jerez the Andalucian Flamenco Centre, in the Santiago neighbourhood, is worth a visit.
Centro Andaluz de Flamenco, Plaza de San Juan 1, Jerez de la Frontera
Mercado de Abastos
I’m a sucker for a traditional Spanish food market and there’s nothing better than a morning spent seeing where the locals shop. The market in Jerez is small compared to the market in Cadiz but was buzzing with activity on the day we visited.
Outside the building temporary stands had been set up to sell the local delicacy of caracoles (snails), while inside are dozens of stalls selling everything from fruit and veg, meat, cheese, olives, and herbs and spices, not to mention sherry on draught. At the centre of the building are the fish sellers where you can choose your catch of the day, have it prepared for you and, if you’re not self-catering, there are restaurants right outside who’ll cook it for you.
Mercado de Abastos, Calle Doña Blanca, Jerez de la Frontera
Explore Jerez old town
I always think you get a good feel of a place by simply wandering around the older neighbourhoods and Jerez is no different. From Plaza del Arenal, with the equestrian monument at its centre, there are narrow streets leading in all directions and an aimless wander will throw up some surprises whether it’s a small square, a fountain, a church, a shaded courtyard, or a pleasant tapas bar.
Barrio de Santiago is famed for its flamenco, and you’ll hear the sounds of music and dance being practiced behind closed doors as you walk through the streets here.
If you have time to walk a bit further afield Jerez has a bullring on Calle Circo and further out of the city towards the railway station there are some good examples of street art to be found.
Run the Sherry Marathon
If you’re feeling energetic you could always time your visit for April and take part in the Sherry Marathon (there’s a half marathon and 10k too). It’s now a regular fixture in our household although I don’t think I’ll ever get used to the hills!
The race starts near the Royal Andalucian School of Equestrian Arts, winds it way through the vineyards where refreshment stands offer sherry and tapas as well as the usual water, before finishing in Alameda Vieja in front of the Alcazar. Once over the finishing line there’s a party atmosphere as many of the bodegas have set up stalls offering glasses of sherry to all finishers. It’s a fantastic experience although not a race to achieve a personal best!
Join my Facebook group ‘Explore Andalucia‘ – a private group for anyone who loves all things Andalucian.
More things to do in Jerez de la Frontera
I’ve now been to Jerez four times but still feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface of all this enchanting city has to offer – these are just some of the things still on my to do list.
Royal Andalucian School of Equestrian Arts
Jerez is home to the famous Andalucian ‘dancing’ horses which are trained at the School of Equestrian Arts, one of the four most prestigious classical riding academies in the world.
There are several different tours of the school available with a full visit including the opportunity to watch the training sessions and see the school facilities. You will also get to visit the saddlery, state rooms, and carriage museum, plus the stables and tack room.
Most people who visit do so to watch the show ‘How the Andalucian Horses Dance’ – a demonstration of equestrian ballet accompanied by traditional Spanish music and 18th century costumes. Make sure you book your tickets in advance so you don’t miss out.
Fundacion Real Esquela Andaluza del Arte Esquela, Avenida Duque de Abrantes, Jerez de la Frontera
Motorsport fans won’t want to miss the MotoGP which takes place every April/May in Jerez.
With the bikes racing around the 4.4kms of track, the average speed is over 160 kms per hour and the lap record stands at 1 minute 37 seconds.
Coming from the Isle of Man, which is famous for the annual TT races, the Jerez MotoGP is something to add to my bucket list.
MotoGP, Circuito de Jerez, Jerez de la Frontera
Feria del Caballo
The annual horse fair began in 1284 as a livestock market but has evolved into a celebration of all things equestrian.
The showground in Gonzalez de Hontoria Park is filled with horses and carriages, there are show-jumping and dressage competitions, livestock auctions, plus marquees where you can drink sherry and sample other local delicacies. There is also music and dancing until the early hours to make for a typical Andalucian fiesta atmosphere.
Feria del Caballo, Gonzalez de Hontoria Park, Jerez de la Frontera
Day trips to Jerez de la Frontera
If you only have time for a day trip to Jerez these are easily booked and usually include hotel pick-up and drop-off. Get Your Guide has a good selection with both group and private tours available.
Don’t forget your guide books!
Where to stay in Jerez de la Frontera
On our first visit to Jerez we stayed at Hotel Bellas Artes which is right across the road from the Cathedral and has great views from its rooftop.
On our subsequent visits we’ve stayed at Hipotels Sherry Park. It’s a modern hotel with lovely grounds, including indoor and outdoor pools, and although it’s further out of town, it’s still only an easy 15 minute walk to the historic centre with the added bonus of free parking.
Hipotels Sherry Park, Avenida Alcalde Alvaro Domecq 11, Jerez de la Frontera
If money’s no object, why not book a stay at the Hotel Bodega Tio Pepe with its rooftop pool overlooking the Cathedral? It’s one for my bucket list!
Where to eat in Jerez de la Frontera
There’s no shortage of places to eat in Jerez whether you prefer standing at the bar eating tapas with the locals or you’re into fine dining.
For breakfast, head to Calle Doña Blanca where, in front of the Mercado de Abastos, you’ll find a selection of churrerias. You can order your churros (by weight) to take away if you wish – tempting though it was I’m not sure even I could manage a kilo of churros, although I’d certainly give it a good try. Alternatively, there are bars where you can eat your churros con chocolate with a good strong café con leche.
Churros Plaza de Jerez, Calle Doña Blanca, Jerez de la Frontera
For a healthier start to the day, there are numerous places around the city serving the traditional pan con tomate. We ate at La Concha II – the serving sizes were good (no scrimping on the tomato at this place), the coffee was strong, and the views (and opportunities for people watching) were excellent. Not bad for €5 for both of us.
Restaurante La Concha II, Plaza del Arenal 7, Jerez de le Frontera
For tapas you’ll be spoilt for choice – we’ve eaten at many places in Jerez but by far my favourite is Val de Pepe. It’s so good we actually went twice on our last visit. It’s just under 2kms from the historic centre of Jerez but if, like us, you stay at the Hipotels Sherry Park, it’s less than a ten-minute walk.
The menu is small, with an additional choice of daily specials, but the tapas on offer have been elevated beyond the standard fayre. We haven’t quite eaten everything on the menu yet, but we gave it a good go – prawns and mussels in puff pastry, squid curry, and crispy prawn bao with kimchi sauce were my favourites.
Val de Pepe, Calle Paraiso 3, Jerez de la Frontera
If you fancy a trip to Jerez, here’s all the practical information you’ll need.
Getting to Jerez de la Frontera
Jerez has a small airport, less than 10kms from the city centre, which is currently served by 12 airlines flying to 18 destinations within Europe, as well as daily domestic flights.
Alternatively, Malaga and Seville airports are within driving distance (around 2 hours 30 minutes from Malaga and half that from Seville) and flying into Gibraltar is also an option, with the onward drive to Jerez taking around 90 minutes.
If you’re driving from Malaga the easiest route is the A7 (or AP7 toll road) along the Costa del Sol before turning onto the A381 just after San Roque. The A381 is also the route if you’re coming from Gibraltar, and from Seville you follow the A4.
Once you arrive in Jerez you’ll need to find a parking space. There are several 24-hour secure parking lots in Jerez, including Parking Centro and Mercado Centro both within easy walking distance of the main sights.
You might also be lucky enough to find some ‘on street’ parking but be aware that, if you park within the blue lines, you’ll have to pay and there’s likely to be a maximum stay of 2 – 3 hours. However, if you’re in Jerez on a weekend these spots are free from Saturday at 2pm until Monday at 9am.
Jerez has regular trains to/from Cadiz and Seville (both under an hour away) as well as daily services that include Cordoba, Granada, Malaga and Ronda plus further afield to/from Barcelona, Madrid, and Valencia.
The railway station is a ten-minute walk from the city centre (or there are plenty of taxis available).
Estacion Jerez de la Frontera, Plaza Estacion Ferrocarril, Jerez de la Frontera
If you arrive by train (and car from some directions), you can’t miss the huge statue of El Minotauro as you come into Jerez.
El Minotauro, Plaza Minotauro, Jerez de la Frontera
Getting around Jerez de la Frontera
Its easy to get around Jerez on foot but make sure you wear some comfy shoes as you’re likely to be on your feet a lot, and most of the streets in the old town are cobbled.
There are also horse drawn carriages which will take you on a loop of the old town. You can find these outside the Alcazar.
Weather in Jerez de la Frontera
Summer in Jerez is hot and arid while the winters are cold and often wet (perfect conditions for all that grape growing). Average temperatures in July and August are around 25°c while, during the winter months, the average temperatures are around 10°c. November is generally the wettest month.
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Get Your Guide offer a range of tours and excursions in and around Jerez de la Frontera.