Take Five: Jerez de la Frontera

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The Spanish region of Andalusia has become extremely popular for European and American tourists alike. Historic towns like Granada, Málaga and Ronda and even small fishing villages like Estepona have become top destinations for passionate beach-goers, tapa enthusiasts and extreme sport adventurists. But only one town attracts horseback riding-winos to dance flamenco, and it’s Jerez de la Frontera. This is probably because the town in Cádiz holds worldwide acclaim for its sherry and brandy production, hosts the popular Flamenco Festival of Jerez and breeds its own horse, the Cartujana.

Here are five highlights that have helped give Jerez its reputation.

1. Estación de Jerez de la Frontera

If you have the chance to travel to Jerez by train, take it. This way you get to see more of your surroundings instead of letting it all pass by with your eyes fixated on the road. The railway opened in 1854 and ran between Jerez de la Frontera and Puerto Real. It was the first train line in the region of Andalusia. What’s particularly interesting about this train station is that it doesn’t look like one at all. It bears a lot of resemblance to a public library or even a museum. The building combines Renaissance style elements with the mudéjar art, form which found its origins in the Iberian Peninsula and incorporates Arabic elements. Decorated with an intricate collection of blue and yellow tiles and constructed with majestic pilasters and five towers—one of which is fitted with a large clock—the Estación de Jerez de la Frontera really stands out. As you exit the station, a sunny plaza surrounded by typical tapas bars invites you to embrace the Spanish hospitality and relax with a glass of sherry.

2. La Taberna Flamenca

Now that you’ve arrived in the City of Flamenco, you’d be silly not catch a flamenco juerga (jam) or a formal performance in one of the many tablaos flamencos of Jerez. Some of the most famous flamenco guitarists and singers found their success in Jerez, including the world-renowned Paco de Lucia, who was awarded a special prize at the International Flamenco Competition in Jerez when he was just 12 years old. Flamenco incorporates various art forms including cante (singing), toque (guitar playing) and, of course, baile (dance). Flamenco dancing consists of powerful footwork, palmas (handclapping) and pitos (finger snapping). Situated in San Miguel—one of the most important flamenco quarters of Jerez—La Taberna Flamenca is a typically Andalusian tavern famous for its scrumptious cuisine and powerful flamenco performances. Feast on paella dishes and a refreshing bowl of gazpacho while your ears and eyes soak up the very essence of Andalusia.

3. Bodegas Williams & Humbert

Jerez is internationally known for its production of sherry and a visit to any of the bodegas (wine cellars) will teach you more about its origins, production and aging process. Jerez de la Frontera makes up part of the so-called Sherry Triangle, which also includes El Puerto Santa María and Sanlúcar de Barrameda, and under Spanish law, any wine labelled sherry must originate from one of these areas. A visit to the bodega Williams & Humbert (one of the largest wine cellars in Europe) provides insight into the art of wine making and the culture of Jerez. Enthusiastic guides lead you through the impressive cellars, which also house a barrel signed by The Beatles. The tour includes an equestrian show, tastings (sherry for the grown-ups, fruit juice for the children), a 3D audio-visual presentation and aperitifs of popular Iberian pork products.

4. Fundación Real Escuela Andaluza del Arte Ecuestre

The Royal Andalusian School of Equestrian Art (pictured above) is situated next to the Palacio de Abrantes in Jerez and exudes nobility. The school was founded by Don Alvaro Domecq who was awarded the Caballo de Oro (Golden Horse) trophy by King Juan Carlos I in 1973, for his performance of How the Andalusian Horses Dance. As you walk through the heavy wrought iron gates of the Recreo de las Cadenas, you step into the stunning gardens of the Real Escuela complex. The paths lead you to the Picadero, an indoor show and training area which seats up to 1,600 visitors. The complex houses its stables of world famous horses, its very own harness workshop, the Horse Carriage Museum and a bar. After having explored the vast terrain of the Real Escuela, feel free to go straight back to the Picadero to continue watching the daily training in the hopes of learning from the masters.

5. Cartuja de Jerez de la Frontera

The Late Gothic-style Charterhouse of Jerez de la Frontera is a Carthusian monastery located near the Guadalete River. The structure dates back to the 15th century and is famous for its Renaissance entryway, which is made up of canopies, a glazed ceramic hemisphere, coats of arms and fretwork windows. The group of buildings consists of a Greco-Roman portico, the chapel of Santa María de la Defensión, the Gothic-style cloister and the Courtyard of the Myrtles. The interiors are home to the Coro de Padres choir stalls that date back to 1500. Paintings by Juan de la Roelas are currently on display inside the monastery.

Roxanne Sancto is a freelance journalist for Paste and The New Heroes & Pioneers. She’s the author of The Tuesday Series & co-author of The Pink Boots. She can usually be found covered in paint stains.