Ronda is a spectacular and ancient town in the heart of Andalucia
Ronda is a unique mountain town located in the heart of Andalucia built on an isolated ridge of the Sierra Ronda, the town is split in half by a gaping river gorge, El Tajo, which drops a sheer 130 meters on three sides. Still more spectacular, the gorge is spanned by a stupendous eighteenth-century arched bridge, the Puente Nuevo, while tall whitewashed houses lean from its precipitous edges.
Much of the attraction of Ronda lies in this extraordinary view, or in walking down by the Rio Guadalquivir, following one of the donkey tracks through the rich green valley below. Bird-watchers should look out for the lesser kestrels nesting in and launching themselves from the cliffs beneath the Alameda park, lower down you can spot crag martins and other bird species.
Top historic and cultural sites to visit
Ronda is divided into three parts: on the near (northwest) side of the gorge, is the largest modern Mercadillo quarter, across the bridge is the old Moorish town, the Ciudad, and further south is the San Francisco suburb. The town has retained its Moorish heritage with many buildings still intact as well as a number of fine Renaissance mansions is used today.
Make your way across the Tajo bridge along with Calle Santo Domingo, also known as Calle Marques de Parada, which winds round to the left. At no. 17 you will find the Casa del Rey Moro, an early eighteenth-century mansion built on Moorish foundations. The gardens ( but not the house itself ) have recently been opened to the public (daily 10 am-8 pm ;), from here a remarkable underground stairway, the Mina, descends to the river; these 365 steps guaranteed a water supply in times of siege.
Further down the same street is the Palacio del Marques de Salvatierra, a splendid Renaissance mansion with an oddly primitive, half-grotesque frieze of Adam and Eve on its portal. The house is still used by the family who closed it to visitors in 2000, though hopefully visits may resume in the future.
Just down the hill, you reach the two old town bridges – the Puente Viejo of 1616 and the single-span Moorish Puente de San Miguel; nearby, on the south-east bank of the river, are the distinctive hump-shaped cupolas and bizarre glass roof-windows of the old Banos Arabes ( Arabic Baths ). Dating from the thirteenth century and recently restored, the complex is based on the Roman system of cold, tepid and hot baths and is wonderfully preserved; note the barrel-vaulted ceiling and brickwork octagonal pillars supporting horseshoe arches, all underlining the sophistication of the period.
At the centre of the old quarter is Ronda’s most picturesque square, the Plaza Duquesa de Parcent, home of the cathedral church of Santa Maria La Mayor originally the Arab mosque. Externally it’s a graceful combination of Moorish, Gothic and Renaissance styles with the belfry built on top of the old minaret. The interior is decidedly less interesting, although you can see an arch covered with Arabic calligraphy, and just in front of the current street door, a part of the old Arab Mihrab, or prayer niche, has been exposed.
Slightly west of the square on Calle Montero lies the Casa de Mondragon, probably the real palace of the Moorish kings. Inside, three of the patios preserve original stucco work and there’s a magnificent carved ceiling, as well as a museum covering local archaeology and aspects of Moorish Ronda.
Near the end of the Ciudad are the ruins of the Alcazar, destroyed by the French in 1809 (“from sheer love of destruction”, according to Richard Ford), and now partially occupied by a school. Once it was virtually impregnable – as indeed was this whole fortress capital, which ruled an independent and isolated Moorish kingdom until 1485, just seven years before the fall of Granada.
The principal gates of the town, the magnificent Moorish Puerto de Almocabar, through which passed the Christian conquerors (led personally by Fernando), and the triumphal Puerta de Carlos V, erected later during the reign of the Hapsburg emperor, stand side by side to the southeast of the Alcázar at the entrance to the suburb of San Francisco.
The main focus of interest is a remarkably preserved inn where Miguel Cervantes once slept, the sixteenth-century Posada de las Animas ( also known as the Hogar del Pensionista ) in Calle Cecilia, the oldest building in the quarter.
The other is the eighteenth-century Plaza de Toros , close by the Plaza de España and the beautiful cliff-top walkway from which you get breathtaking views of the old and new bridges. Ronda played a leading part in the development of bullfighting and was the birthplace of the modern corrida (bullfight). The ring, built-in 1781, is one of the earliest in Spain and the fight season here is one of the country’s most important. At its September festival the Corrida Goyesca, honours Spain’s great artist Goya, who made a number of paintings of the fights at Ronda, takes place in eighteenth-century costume. You can visit the bullring to wander around the arena, and there’s a museum inside.
The Puente Nuevo bridge’s bar (now closed) was originally the town prison and last saw use during the Civil War, when Ronda was the site of some of the south’s most vicious massacres. Hemingway, in For Whom the Bell Tolls, recorded how prisoners were thrown alive into the gorge.
If you like exploring every nook and cranny of historic towns on foot, then Ronda is for you. Apart from the Puente Nuevo there is a long list of must-visit places around Ronda including the bullring, the Cathedral, the Minaret of San Sebastian, Mondragon Palace, the prehistoric paintings of the Pileta cave, Arabic Baths, Museo Lara and the Mercado quarter of the town.
And for something different why not walk down ( and up again !) the 365 steps of the Mina stairway which was cut by the Christian slaves in the fourteenth century.
We have compiled a comprehensive Spain travel resources page to help you plan and book a trip or holiday to Ronda and Andalucia which includes a budget-busting hotel search comparison platform, travel insurance, low-cost flights, discount car hire, tours, excursions as well money-saving travel and holiday deals.
Ronda offers plenty of dining options if you are looking for local authentic cooking, there are numerous eateries from budget tapas to more upmarket restaurants. Local dishes include “ajo blanco” a cold garlic soup, “Conejo a la Rodeña” a rabbit and almond soup, “Salmorejo” a thicker type of Gazpacho soup topped off with local olive oil and cured jam.
And for those of you with a sweet tooth you must try “Yemas Rondenas” (sweet egg yolk flans) these are very addictive, “Queso de Almendras” (almonds and cheese) and the oraganic, “Tortitas de Miel” ( large honey biscuits ).
Eating out in Ronda
Bodega Bar Restaurante San Francisco
For some excellent tapas and other traditional Spanish dishes then the Bodega Bar San Francisco is for you. Located in one the oldest neighbourhoods of Ronda it is surrounded by no less than 3 national parks. The restaurant is located in Ruedo Alameda, n° 32.
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This is a small busy restaurant bar frequented by the locals, so you know its good. Serving a large selection of typical Spanish dishes including tapas, cured hams, local game and stews. Try the delicious prawn omelette for under 3 Euros. The bar is located on Calle Comandante Salvador Carrasco 3.
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For a true authentic Andalucian dining experience in the heart of an historic mountain town, it doesn’t get much better than this. This is low cost, loud and proud and they do it so well. Lots of delicious dishes to choose from including tapas, black foot cured ham, snails and tripe sauce. The bar is located on Calle Virgen de los Remedios 35
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Tours & Excursions
Discover the fascination Parador Hotel
Recommended accommodation Ronda
The emblematic Ronda Parador Hotel is a unique 4 star hotel overlooking the Ronda gorge close to the Puente Nuevo. There are 78 well appointed rooms whilst the first class facilities include a rooftop terrace, pool, restaurant and free wifi. The hotel is just a few minutes walk from many of the towns top attractions. Reviewer Rating: 8.9
The charming Hotel El Poeta de Ronda is a popular 4 star hotel built within a traditional mansion. This charming hotel makes for an ideal base to explore the town and surrounding countryside. Recently refurbished, El Poeta de Ronda has 12 elegant rooms, on-site restaurant, bar and sun terrace. Reviewer Rating: 8.0
The 1 star Cortijo Las Piletas boasts a tranquil rural setting a 10 minute drive from central Ronda. Set within a refurbished cortijo ( Traditional Farm House ) the hotel is perfect for nature lovers. The rooms are large and traditionally decorated, there is a nice outdoor pool and sun terrace, perfect for enjoying your breakfast or dinner al fresco. Reviewer Rating: 10.0