Boasting a lovely old centre that is largely pedestrianised, cobblestoned lanes lined with fragrant orange trees, and countless plazas boasting fountains, sculptures and alfresco cafés, Jerez is a real treat to explore on foot.
Like its sister Andalucian cities of Seville, Granada and Cordoba, Jerez has an abundance of gorgeous buildings to admire – a Moorish Alcazar with a mosque and Arab baths, the ruins of city walls, gates and watchtowers, a monumental Cathedral with breathtaking architectural flourishes, and dozens of splendid churches with flamboyant facades.
Everywhere you gaze, there are gracious sandstone buildings with intricately decorated portals, elegant wrought-iron balconies, and, concealed within, pretty tiled patios. Turn a corner and you’ll stumble across a whitewashed sherry bodega with arcaded courtyards, tiny vineyards, and, glimpsed through the arches, dimly lit cellars housing old wooden barrels. Charming flamenco peñas, quaint neighbourhood bars, and ramshackle old houses complete the picture.
Kickstart your walk with coffee and churros at La Vega café on Plaza Esteve before doing a lap around Mercado de Abastos next door. Cross over to El Gallo Azul, one of Jerez’s most striking buildings; only note it for now, as you can return here later for a sherry. Follow the main shopping street of calle Lanceria to the end, buzzy with shoppers and buskers on sunny weekends, passing Rotonda de Los Casinos and turning left into calle Torneria.
Cross pretty Plaza Rafael Rivero, lined with several elegant palacios, including Palacio Garvey (now a hotel) and Casa Perez Luna, and tiny bars with tables on the square that get busy in the evenings. Follow the little lane, fragrant with orange blossoms in spring, by the lovely San Marcos church, badly in need of restoration with weeds growing from its fine statues. Along the way, don’t forget to peek into doorways to admire the tiled courtyards with their potted plants and fountains.
Continue along narrow San Marcos, almost all the way to Plaza Plateros, where you should turn right onto skinny Francos, when you see the popular Carniceria Jimenez in front of you. On the way look out for bar Damajuana on your right, where you should return in the evening for a drink, but for now go all the way to the Centro Andaluz del Flamenco; take a quick look at the lovely courtyard here. If you continue straight ahead you’ll come to the old gypsy neighbourhood of Plaza Santiago, home to a couple of notable peñas and the colossal church of Santiago, currently being restored.
Instead, turn left at the Centro Andaluz del Flamenco, passing San Juan de los Caballeros on your left (you should smell the incense before you see it) and at the corner on your right another peña. Here, turn left and amble along calle Santa Maria de Gracia and Juana de Dios, dotted with dilapidated old buildings. Soon after the enormous church of El Carmen, you’re back on Plaza Plateros, lined with several bars and cafés.
Turn right onto the lovely Plaza de la Ascuncion, and admire the elegant architecture here before following the doglegged street down to Plaza del Arroyo, home to the elegant Palacio Bertemati with two elaborately decorated portals and balconies. A right here will take you to the Zoco, a Moroccan-style handicraft markets where artisans work. Cross the plaza for now and you’ll soon arrive at Jerez’s monumental Cathedral, which should take your breath away.
You could stop at the café across the road for a café cortado to take in the extravagant details of the Cathedral façade or continue up the steps and along the lane to the right of the church to Plaza de la Encarnacion, to admire the ornate decoration of the Cathedral’s portal. Pass the Tio Pepe bodega, on your right, to the small square where you get a nice snap of the statue of Gonzales Byass, the founder of the bodega, with the Cathedral dome and rooftop in the background.
Take the stairs up to the park in front of you and you’re at the handsome Moorish Alcázar. Do a lap around the walls and you’ll be on Plaza del Arenal, which was our home during our stay in Jerez. A small arch on the left (west) side of the plaza, leads to Bar Juanito, while the pedestrian lane in that top corner of the plaza leads down to a pretty square and La Cruz Blanca. From this side of the square you should see El Gallo Azul directly ahead again. Now it’s time for you to go have that sherry.