This Flourishing Flamenco and Sherry Town Is the Beating Heart of Spain
There’s more to Andalusia than just Seville.
Flourishing for centuries within the subtropical climes of southwestern Spain, Jerez is awash in exuberance. Its full name is Jerez de la Frontera—on account of its historic positioning along the frontier between Moorish and Christian Spain—but you can just call it the hidden gem of Andalusia. Surely this place doesn’t get the tourist attention of some of its higher profile neighbors in the region. However, we see that as a feature rather than a flaw. If you love sherry, horses, medieval fortresses, and flamenco music, you might just see it the same way.
We’ll get to that stuff in a second because this is, after all, your ultimate guide to Jerez. So first, you’ll want to know how to get here… and when. Aeropuerto de Jerez (a little more than five miles outside the city center) is a small airport, and you’re not going to find any direct flights from the US. American travelers will typically connect by way of Madrid or Barcelona. It’s less than a 90 minute flight from either.
If you’re exploring the greater Andalusian region (and you should), this spot is an easy day trip from Seville—only 50 miles to the north—and a scenic 30 minutes by car from the coastal enclave of Cadiz. Arrive in February and you can soak in some of Carnival while there.
Thanks to that aforementioned subtropical distinction, there isn’t really a terrible time to explore, weather-wise. Though, we do recommend avoiding the inland city in July and August, when temperatures can top out in the high 90s. Even then, there are ample ways to cool down around here. From drinking in centuries-old bodegas to learning some dance moves, here’s what to do in Jerez, Spain.
Travel back in time via sherry bodegas
Jerez occupies one of the vertices of the so-called “Sherry Triangle”—along with Sanlúcar de Barrameda and El Puerto de Santa María. The famed fortified wine of Spain was popularized in this 192-square-mile region sometime after the Moors brought distillation to Spain in the 8th Century. It wasn’t until 1932, however, that a protected denomination of origin was applied by the government. Since then, any liquid bearing the name “sherry” must be derived from the Triangle. And it was Jerez, originally known as Xerez in old Spanish, which lends the wine its name.
Sherry is produced in bodegas. Far removed from the industrialized feel of modern booze-making, these are romantic locales strewn about the landscape. They reek of sweet nectar and the barrels often age upon earthen floors, as they have for generations. As for how the drink is produced, well, we’d need a book to properly explain all the details. The short answer is that sherry comes from native grapes and can be expressed in a breadth of styles and flavors ranging from the driest finos to the sweetest PXs. Inside, you’ll discover plenty of samples to sip along with indelible charm.
Kick things off with a tour of Tío Pepe, the region’s most famous producer. A two hour experience walks you through sherry making, both figuratively and literally. You’ll see vineyards and saunter across ancient cobbled streets before arriving in the warehouse to better understand the drink’s distinctive aging process. Ultimately it offers sightseeing along with knowledge and, of course, a pair of drinks. Tours begin at 12 pm each day and can be booked ahead of time online for €18.
The bodega also hosts an eponymous festival, which takes place every year from the middle of July through the middle of August. It includes a nightly assortment of singers and dancers at various venues and wineries across town.
A tour and tasting at Bodegas Tradición is also a worthwhile experience. It’s a relatively young operation, started in 1998, but owner Joaquin Rivero is already bottling some breathtaking wines. Plus, he also houses one of the country’s most impressive private art collections. Reserve a €50 booking and you’ll get a guided sampling of both fine sherry and Spanish painting from the 14th through 19th centuries.
And you certainly don’t want to sleep on Lustau. The 127-year-old bodega is synonymous with spectacular sherry and maintains meticulously-manicured grounds, which afford the opportunity to portal back to the turn of the 19th century. A €20 tour includes five sherry selections to enjoy, along with a single pour of the brand’s popular vermouth.
Follow the sounds of Flamenco
Flamenco is a captivating art form combining guitar, song, and dance. And Jerez is its spiritual home. Wander these vibrant streets at night and you’ll hear it wafting out of seemingly every barroom window. That’s why the evening is a perfect time to stroll the Old Town and get lost between one historic plaza and the next. Simply go where the music takes you. If you require a bit more structure, however, head to Tablao Flamenco Puro Arte, a dedicated dance hall offering nightly dinners and shows. If you want something a touch more intimate, check out La Guarida del Angel several blocks east of the city’s prime scenic destination: Alcázar de Jerez. The Moorish fortress was originally constructed in the 11th Century and provides a stately backdrop to alfresco revelry.
Come at the end of February and you can absorb the wonder of the area’s famed Flamenco Festival. You can even learn a few dance moves yourself by booking a class at Jerez Puro, a dedicated flamenco company and school of art. Though we understand if you’d rather watch the professionals.
Watch horses dance
Sherry and flamenco aside, Jerez is probably most famous for its Palomino horses. The particular breed is recognized by its gold coat and white mane. Their stunning beauty attracts equine enthusiasts from across the globe.
But you don’t have to be even remotely into horses in order to appreciate the performances at Real Escuela Horse Show. Here you’ll get to enjoy an equestrian ballet set to Spanish music and costumes borrowed from the 18th century. The nightly show, aptly titled “How the Andalusian Horses Dance,” is 90 minutes long including intermission. Tickets start at €24.
Eat your fill of tapas and seafood in Tabancos
The traditional taverns of Jerez are known locally as Tabancos. The term is believed to be a 17th-century contrivance, combining the Spanish word for tobacco with “estanco,” which were small shops where the substance was sold. Whatever the origins, today they are most certainly where you come to enjoy terrific tapas and endless pours of sherry. Tabanco El Pasaje is a sensational representation of such. It’s relatively easy to find in the heart of town and it even offers live nightly flamenco performances for good measure. So essentially, the best of Jerez all under one roof.
For more of a focus on tapas, crawl over to Tabanco San Pablo, just a four minute stroll south. But definitely save some room for the heavenly bites at La Cruz Blanca in Plaza del Arenal: the grilled octopus and patatas bravas are like whoa.
If you want something more upscale for dinner, Jerez holds an embarrassment of riches. Mantúa in Plaza Aladro is a standout showcase of modern Andalusian cuisine. Chef Israel Ramos is plating some mellifluous magic here, rendered through one of two daily tasting menus. It all highlights the local bounty from land and sea, such as sea anemone in fritter form, under an aioli of Manzanilla sherry. LÚ Cocina y Alma is another high-minded affair, this one incorporating more of a modern French approach. Both restaurants recently earned Michelin Stars.
Admirably splitting the difference between new and old, La Carboná is a colorful dining option built into an old sherry bodega. Under the high wooden ceilings of this historic space, you can enjoy a spate of artfully presented proteins paired alongside pours from an expansive wine list.
And if you’re not afraid of more travel, you should give serious thought to an experience at Restaurante Aponiente in El Puerto de Santa Maria. This is a three-Michelin-Star shrine to seafood. Executive chef Ángel León is a legend of Spanish cuisine, so you’ll have to secure your reservation well in advance. Take the train here direct from Jerez; it’ll take you 40 minutes and the restaurant is steps away from the station in downtown El Puerto.
Cool off in hotel pools
Historically, Jerez has offered little by way of high-end lodging. In recent years, though, that’s beginning to change. Hotel Bodega Tío Pepe opened in 2020, and it’s adjacent to where they’re making all that sherry. The four-star accommodation holds spacious rooms, a pool and terrace under the shadow of iconic Catedral de Jerez, and one of the best rooftop bars in town. Rooms start at $140 per night. And even if you’re not overnighting here, make sure to grab lunch at the Restaurante Pedro Nolasco.
If you don’t mind being a bit further outside of Old Town, Hipotels Sherry Park is a dependable choice on Avenida Alvaro Domecq. It’s not a luxury hotel by any means, but the rooms are well maintained (and priced at $70 per night), and the sizable pool on property will cool you down on those sizzling Andalusian afternoons. It’s about a 20 minute walk from here to the center of downtown Jerez.