A Weekend in Ronda, Spain: Why to go & how to get there

A few years ago, I saw a photo of this bridge and the surrounding area in a travel brochure. Before I knew where it was, I decided I had to go there. I had to see for myself this incredible little town that seemed to be built on rock cliffs.

It turned out this place was Ronda, in Spain. It’s one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been to, and it’s constantly overlooked because of bigger tourist towns like Barcelona, Madrid, Seville and San Sebastian. We found there was so much more information on all of those other places than there was on Ronda online, so I wanted to put together a bit of a guide for others who are travelling to Spain. Because Ronda is very much worth visiting while you’re over there!

 

HOW TO GET THERE:
By train – cheap and easy.  The best airport to fly into is Malaga, and you’ll be able to catch a direct train from there, which takes 2 hours each and cost us around AUD$35.00 per person.

You’ll be able to book online a month or two before travel, and the best website we found to book with was on Loco2, which has a really user-friendly booking system. Their website will advise you if your tickets can be downloaded to your phone, if they need to be printed, or if they are paper tickets that must be posted to you, and you can create an account so that you can access your trips easily.

 

WHERE TO STAY:
We stayed at the Hotel Colón, which I couldn’t recommend more highly. Its a basic hotel (we’re not fancy-hotel people), but in a great location that’s within walking distance of everything you’ll be wanting to see, lovely staff, 24 hour reception, free Wi-Fi, and a huge complimentary breakfast served in their restaurant.

 

WHAT TO DO IN A WEEKEND VISIT:

Day 1:
– Go for a morning walk through Alameda del Tajo Park
This gorgeous 19th-century park is full of enormous trees, wide walking avenues and park benches. It also has an absolutely insane view out over the gorge, if you’re not too bothered by heights.

– Keep walking on to the Ronda Bullring
Built in the 18th century completely out of stone, this was the heart of the city for a very long time. You can head in and check it out from the inside for around €7.00 per person, or just have a wander around the outside. Be sure to check out some of the gift stores around the bullring selling hand-painted ceramics.

– Check out the Puente Nuevo bridge over El Tajo gorge
Yup, the bridge in the first photo. Built in the mid to late 1700s (it took over 3 decades to complete), this is one seriously impressive feat of engineering.

– Take a break for lunch
Visit Casa Quino on Calle Nueva for a platter of Iberian cured meats, cheeses and a jug of sangria. There isn’t a better lunch in Ronda.

– Visit the Jardines de Cuenca
The gardens are gorgeous, even when we visited in winter, but it’s also one of the best places in the city to visit for a killer view of the Puente Nuevo.

 

Day 2:
– Get an early start with a hot air balloon ride
Hands down one of the best experiences of my life was driving down to the bottom of the gorge and rising up over the town of Ronda in a hot air balloon at sunrise. We went with Glovento Sur, and they were fantastic, even bringing us to a local eatery for breakfast after the ride.

– Make your way back into town and visit the Arab Baths
Similar to the design of Roman bath houses, the Arab Baths in Ronda are believed to have been the main public baths for the Moorish population back in the 11th century. It’ll cost you around €8.00 per person to walk through the remains, and there’s a great little film playing in there to show you how the baths would have operated.

– Stop for lunch, again
Keep heading south and order from the hand-written tapas menu at De Locos Tapas – the patatas bravas are especially delicious. And more sangria, obviously.

– Climb up to look down
After lunch, look over your table and across the plaza, and you’ll find some steps up to a wall – climb on up to burn some of those lunch calories and you’ll also get a great view.

– Visit Mondragon Palace
Once the palace of a Moorish ruler, it’s now a little natural history museum. It’ll cost you around €4.00 per person for entry, and is well worth it – a lot of the ceiling and tile details are well-kept originals, and the garden is completely magnificent.

From my travel journal: Barcelona, 2017

To kill a little more time, we walked to the Mercat de la Concepció for a light lunch. We found a decent food market with a cute little corner stall with a little counter, again run by a sweet little older couple. We had beer + wine, with some potato tortilla & albondigas (meatballs) – absolutely phenomenal food! I’ll take those cute little lunch counters over a fancy restaurant any day. And it was a local market, no tourists = even better!

Top 10 Things To Do in Barcelona

1. Get stuck into the markets!

Where? There are SO many! Try Mercado de Santa Caterina (Av. de Francesc Cambó, 16), Mercat de la Concepció (Carrer d’Aragó, 313-317), and of course La Boqueria (La Rambla, 91).
Why go? Because there’s no better way to get to know a city than by visiting the markets! You can get a taste of the food, the people and the culture all in one hit, as well as some more unique souvenirs than what you’ll find in stores.
How long will you need? As long as you can spare! At least an hour per market is ideal.
Cost? Depends how much you’re planning to eat and buy! They’re pretty well priced, though, so you won’t have to blow a heap of cash to come out with a full belly.
Read more:
– La Boqueria food market, Barcelona

 

2. Stroll La Rambla with a gelati in hand

Where? La Rambla, a large pedestrian walking street.
Why go? Back in the ‘old’ days, people used to go out and promenade of an evening; basically, walk up and down the street, seeing who else was out, enjoying the fresh air. La Rambla is perfect for an afternoon or evening promenade, because not only is it beautiful and always busy, but there are lots of little gelati stalls lining the walk.
How long will you need? How much gelati can you eat?
Cost? A few euro will be more than enough for a gelati.

 

3. Enjoy a Gaudí day

Where? There are perfectly preserved sites all over the city – a few favourites are Park Güell, Casa Batlló, Casa Amatller, Casa Milá, Casa Vincens
Why go? You don’t need to know anything about architecture to appreciate Gaudí’s work. These sites are all magnificent, all marked by that distinct, colourful mosaic tile work people so often associate with Barcelona. Walking through these places feels like a stroll through a movie set, and while the designs all have similar elements, they all feel so different. Maybe you’ve heard of Gaudí before, but after you visit, you’ll get why he’s such a big deal.
How long will you need? At least 2 hours for the bigger sites that require tickets.
Cost? Anywhere between free for places like Casa Amatller, where you can admire the façade free of charge, to around  €25 person for a fast pass entry to Casa Batlló.

 

4. Explore the Gothic Quarter on foot

Where? Stretching out from La Rambla to Via Laietana.
Why go? This is the best part of the city, for my money. The streets twist and wind in no real order, and there is SO much to see if you’re ready to spend the time getting lost there.
How long will you need? Spend at least half a day wondering the Quarter. But once you’ve been there, you’ll want to head back again.
Cost? Walking and window shopping are always free!

 

5. Eat tapas and drink sangria at Mesón del Café

Where? Carrer de la Llibreteria, 16
Why go? Tucked away in the heart of the Gothic Quarter, this is the perfect place to indulge in one of the best Spanish pastimes – the tapas are freshly made and the sangria is the best in the city.
How long will you need? Spend at least an hour to slow down and enjoy the time out.
Cost? About  €5 for a glass of sangria and a few euro per tapas plate.
Read more:
– Eat here: Mesón del Café

 

6. Get an education at the Barcelona City History Museum

http://ajuntament.barcelona.cat/museuhistoria/en/
Where? Plaça del Rei
Why go? Not only is this an incredible museum with fantastic exhibits, it’s also set in a palace. And it’s a palace that contains the remains of one of Europe’s largest Roman settlements below ground level, which are all part of the exhibit and open for you to see!
How long will you need? A couple of hours to see it properly.
Cost?  €7 per adult.

 

7. Do a little people watching in one of the parks or squares around the city

Where? There are more options than you’ll cover in a few days, ranging from the big, popular ones like Plaça Reial and Plaça de Catalunya , as well as lots of smaller and quieter ones like Montjuïc and Parc de la Ciutadella.
Why go? There’s a lot to do in Barcelona, so it’s nice to take a step back, sit in one of the beautiful public  spaces and take it all in!
How long will you need? As long as you need to rest and recharge.
Cost? Free!

 

8. See the Sagrada Família, inside AND out

http://www.sagradafamilia.org/en/
Where? Carrer de Mallorca, 401
Why go? I’m not a religious person, but this building took my breath away. While it may never be finished,  what is there is the most spectacular building you’re ever likely to see.
How long will you need? A good 2 hours.
Cost? Basic tickets start at  €15 per person.

 

9. Visit Camp Nou

https://www.fcbarcelona.com/tour/buy-tickets
Where? Carrer d’Aristides Maillol, 12
Why go? Even if you’re not a football nut, the team means a lot to the city, and it’s a pretty impressive stadium and museum. It’s also really well set up for non-football fans, so even if you don’t know the first thing about the game, it’s still worth the visit!
How long will you need? Half a day.
Cost?  €25 per adult.
Read more:
– Visitng Camp Nou

 

10. Take in some shopping & architecture on Passeig de Gràcia

Where? between Avinguda Diagonal and Gran Via de les Corts Catalanes
Why go?  If you’re a shopper, you’re going to love this area. Ditto if you love some good architecture – buildings like Gaudí’s La Pedrera are on every corner!
How long will you need? Spend a few hours exploring and looking and shopping.
Cost? Free.

Eat here: Meson Del Cafe, Barcelona

Meson Del Cafe
Carrer de la Llibreteria 16, Barcelona, Spain

Photograph © Jess Carey 2014

We stumbled (literally, those cobblestones look cute, but they’re not always easy to walk on!) upon this place in the middle of the day, at that point where you’ve been on your feet since 7.30am, it’s now around 12pm, you’re getting hungry and therefore a little grumpy. You know that time? Where you’re in love with that new city you’re visiting, you’re loving being a traveller, but if you don’t eat soon, bad shit it gonna start happening. Yeah. That’s the time we found this place.

We were both starving, husband and I, but we’re also both foodies. Which means that, even if we are starving, if our only option is Maccas or something equally as crappy looking, we’ll starve a little longer until we find something good. Thankfully, this place was teaming with Spaniards, which we figured meant it’d be pretty decent.

We were only in Barcelona for 3 days, and we found this half way through our second day. We returned twice more before leaving the city. It was warm, wooden, homely, without being over-the-top friendly, which we actually really liked! They didn’t drop everything to fawn over the tourists, they just kept going about their business. You want something? Come to the bar and order it. You don’t know what it is? Bad luck, just try it anyway. I like that in a foreign place. It just felt comfortable.

Photograph © Jess Carey 2014

We devoured a plate full of tapas on our first visit – they were fresh out of the kitchen, being brought out to the bar as we were walking in, and they were damn good!

Our second visit entailed more tapas and seafood paella. I’ll be honest here, I didn’t love the paella. It was gritty, like the sand hadn’t been entirely washed out of the seafood yet. The bits without the grit though, were delicious.

Photograph © Jess Carey 2014

Visit number three, our final one before leaving, was the best. A cup of hot chocolate with a few fresh, hot churros. The chocolate wasn’t overly sweet – it still had this tang to it, this cocoa taste. It was also thick enough to coat a spoon. Or a churro. That’s what made them perfect together – the bitter chocolate over the sweet churro = happy days for me!

Photograph © Jess Carey 2014

Yeah, the food was pretty good, but it wasn’t the food that made it for us. It was the atmosphere. It was relaxed and comfortable, homely but different. People came in and out, mostly locals, which made for wonderful people watching. It was one of those times I just sat back, took it in, and thought “wow… here I am.” And that felt pretty damn good  : )