Those who aren’t that familiar with Spain will probably never have heard of Ronda. But those who know and love Andalucia, will know that Ronda is a town of understated beauty, balancing perilously on the top of the Tajo canyon, which splits the town in two. Puente Nuevo (the ‘New Bridge’) spans the canyon, towering 120 metres above the canyon floor. It is by far the highest and most dramatic bridge I have seen. A bridge with a dark history, from which enemies have thrown each other countless times and which Hemingway (who spent time in Ronda) documents in his book ‘For whom the bell tolls’ (the town in which is claimed to be based on Ronda).
I’ve been to Ronda three times now, but only this time did I truly appreciate it for what it was worth. Previously, we would drive into town for a good meal of local tapas and too much Rioja, and then drive back to the stunning villa where a group of us stay, one lucky week a year, courtesy of family Wyndham.
This year I came to Ronda three times – once for food shopping and a wander, once for dinner on the main square (and no wandering, just more of that Rioja) and the last time for lunch and a stroll around the canyon, which revealed the most breathtaking views of the surrounding mountainous landscape.
Ronda is really a town to get lost in, to admire the simple whitewashed houses, windowsills spilling with colourful flowers, narrow winding cobbled streets lit by pretty lanterns and lovely shaded squares. I’ve never really noticed or been affected by whatever tourism Ronda might attract.
But be prepared – yes this is a town with the most sensational views because of its high location, but this also means there are plenty of ups and downs and a lot of steps. In the heat which clings to Andalucia, this can at times be trying. Still, Ronda remains one of my favourite places in Spain. One to return to again, and to discover a new part. But always to marvel at the view, which, time and time again, remains something quite awe inspiring.
Ronda’s three Bridges
Puente Nuevo (‘New Bridge’), Puente Romano (‘Roman Bridge’) and Puente Viejo (‘Old Bridge’). They all span the canyon and from which you get the most phenomenal views. Those afraid of heights are not advised to look down. The bridges themselves have their own history and are worthwhile reading about before you go.
The views and the walks
The views are what Ronda are famous for and the more you walk around the town, the more varied the views will be. There are so many lovely squares and cute alleyways to explore, you can easily spend the day getting lost here, once in a while stopping to take in a new view.
Plaza de toros de Ronda – The Bull Ring
Ronda prides itself on having the oldest bullfighting ring in Spain. Built in 1784 int he Neoclassical style, by the same architect who built the Puente Nuevo. It is definitely worth a visit.
Almocabar €€ – for an authentic Spanish dinner
5 Barrio San Francisco, Ronda
I’ve had dinner at this cute and very traditional restaurant three times now. While it looks fairly basic, this is truly an authentic place, much-loved by locals and unknown to tourists. The food is very Andalucian, nothing fancy, but well cooked and good value. Some dishes are better than others; I’d strongly recommend the Iberico ham, egg and truffle or the squid with truffle as a starter, while for mains I would recommend the duck or the lamb. They always make an effort with the presentation. While the food can take a while to come (we are usually a table of 12+, so it is understandable), I think the staff are very friendly here and really make an effort to make sure you’re happy. We usually sit outside on the small square overlooking the Almocabar Moorish Gate to the old town, but this year we sat inside because it got chilly. It’s also worth coming here for their famous ‘Gin Tonics’, ask for the one in the glass ‘goblet’ with berries. Delicious.
NB Book ahead and this place is always heaving.
Carmen la de Ronda € – for a perfect tapas lunch
Plaza Duquesa de Parcent, nº 10, 29400, Ronda,
952 87 87 35
This is one of my favourite lunch places in Ronda. I love coming here and eating on the beautiful Plaza Duquesa de Parcent, where we have had many languid lunches, shaded under large umbrellas. The tapas here is excellent – a wide selection of dishes, from Iberico ham, to wonderful risottos and octopus. Despite always eating and drinking to our hearts’ content, we have never paid more than about €30 per person. Book in advance as you don’t want to end up at a table inside (which is small and quite cramped).
De Locas Tapas € – for refined tapas with an international twist
Arquitecto Pons Sorolla 7, 29400
We came here for lunch for the first time this summer, with rave reviews from our host’s parents. We were not disappointed. This tiny restaurant looks fairly nondescript from the outside, but has a charming terrace in the shade of the old city walls. The owner (we weren’t sure if he was, but he was charming any way) spoke fluent English (makes a change in Spain) and recommended a vast selection of beautifully presented tapas. If you’re looking for typically Spanish tapas, don’t come here. We really enjoyed the fois gras with passion fruit ice cream, the mussles with rice in a light tomato sauce, the mint chicken and the carpaccio. The only down side? No locals to be seen, only tourists. This, I found out later, was because it is actually number 1 on Trip Advisor. So that’s what you get. Definitely book in advance.
The Parador Hotel, Ronda
Plaza de España, s/n, 29400 Ronda
+34 952 87 75 00
I’d stay here for its location alone. This four star hotel, formerly the Town Hall, is situated right next to the Puente Nuevo Bridge, on the edge of the Tajo Canyon, so most of the guests rooms have a stunning view across the canyon. Apart from the views and the good location, there is also a lovely swimming pool which is great for a cooling swim after a day of sightseeing.
Ronda is not a real party place. But if you are looking for a place to drink and dance, head towards Marbella and Puerto Benus (about 1.5 hours drive). Nikki Beach Marbella is the perfect place for some beach time and a day party. Don’t head here if you’re travel on a shoestring though!