Jerez de la Frontera – Stuff to See
I’ve had a long standing obsession with Jerez, particularly for its brandy of which I am an aficionado, but also for sherry (which derives its name from the town) and vinegar. When my employer decided to send me to nearby Cádiz (the provincial capital), I took the opportunity to have three days holiday in this historical town before I started work.
I arrived at the beautiful train station, apparently designed by Gustave Eiffel, he of Parisian tower fame. I didn’t get a good photo but the ceramics on the platform walls are beautiful.
I stayed at the lovely La Fonda Barranco at 12 Barranco www.lafondabarranco.com It’s a renovated old town house with an interior courtyard and characterful rooms, each different to the other. Alejandro the manager is super helpful and very welcoming. He really puts the hours in as I think it’s a bit of a financial struggle to keep the place going. The breakfast is okay but you might want to eat out after a couple of days. Definitely recommended (B+).
Jerez became rich due to its wine industry and proximity to the ports of Seville and Cádiz. Consequently there are many beautiful palaces and churches dotted around the town.
I particularly like the baroque doorway of Palacio de Bertemati in Plaza Arroyo, built in 1785.
Plaza de la Asuncion has some beautiful features.
As does the Plaza del Mercado. The market is no longer here but the square has retained the name.
Whereas there’s not much to see in Plaza del Arenal, the town’s main square.
The modern market, Mercado de Abastos, is in Plaza Esteve and is well worth a visit. Unusual produce I saw included Tagarninas, a kind of plant whose spiny roots are eaten in these parts (please see my post on Eating in Jerez).
I also some of the tiny shrimp used for the regional speciality Tortillas de Camarones where they are mixed into a batter made of chickpea flour (a Genoese influence), deep fried and eaten whole.
The Catedral de San Salvador in Plaza Encarnación www.diocesisdejerez.org is definitely worth a look. It has so many flying buttresses it looks as if it’s about to take off!
Make sure you check out the gargoyles along the sides of the Cathedral.
The Alcazar is what it is, an old Arabic fortress. I didn’t get to go inside as it was closed.
A lot of the time I got intentionally lost and just wandered around the winding streets.
And constantly stumbled upon visual gems.
There’s a fair bit of dereliction around and not much seems to be being done about it.
For example, Plaza San Lucas was supposed to be redeveloped as a centre for flamenco but the money has disappeared due to corruption and the square remains boarded off. Naturally some people aren’t too happy about it. The sign reads ‘We want more flamenco and less speculation’.
I also visited the Museo Arqueológico Municipal www.museoarqueologico.webjerez.com which is in Plaza del Mercado. It opens 10am-2pm and 4-7pm Tuesday-Friday, 10am-2.30pm at weekends. There’s not that much to see (the museum in Cadiz is better apparently) but there are a few nice exhibits.
My favourite pieces were the prehistoric icons that people in these parts once worshipped.
The origins of the city’s name, and perhaps its viticulture, comes from the Phoeneicans who called it ‘Sèrès’ (spelt Xera). This became ‘Sherish’ (spelt Xeres or Xerez) during the Muslim occupation which is the name that ‘sherry’ originates from. It stopped being a border town between the Moorish and Christian kingdoms after the reconquest in 1492 but has retained the name Frontera.