Sunday, 29 April 2012



Jerez de la Frontera is a municipality in the province of Cádiz in the autonomous community of Andalucia, in southwestern Spain, situated midway between the sea and the mountains. As of 2010, the city, the largest in the province, had 208,896 inhabitants; it is the fifth largest in Andalucia. It has become the transportation and communications hub of the province, surpassing even Cádiz, the provincial capital, in economic activity. Jerez de la Frontera is also, in terms of land area, the largest municipality in the province, and its sprawling outlying areas are a fertile zone for agriculture. 

There are signs of human presence in the area from the upper Neolithic, and Jerez has been inhabited by humans since at least the Copper or Neolithic Age, but the identity of the first natives remains unclear. The first major protohistoric settlement in the area (around the third millennium BC) is attributed to the Tartessians. 

Later it was a Roman city, under the name of Asta Regia. After the fall of the Western Roman Empire, it was ruled by the Vandals and the Visigoths, until it was conquered by the Arabs in 711. In the 11th century it was shortly the seat of an independent taifa. Some years later it was united to Arcos by 'Abdun ibn Muhammad, who ruled both c. 1040-1053. In 1053 it was annexed to Seville. From 1145 to 1147 the region of Arcos and Jerez was briefly an emirate under dependency of Granada, led by Abu'l-Qasim Ahyal. Later the city was conquered by the Almohads. In the 12th and 13th centuries Jerez underwent a period of great development, building its defense system and setting the current street layout of the old town.

The Discovery of America and the conquest of Granada, in 1492, made Jerez one of the most prosperous cities of Andalucia through trade and its proximity to the ports of Seville and Cadiz. Despite the social, economic and political decadence that occurred in the seventeenth century, towards the end of the Habsburg rule, the city managed to maintain a reasonable pace of development, becoming world wide famous for its wine industry.

Modern Jerez boasts all the shopping facilities you would expect from a sizeable city. It is pleasant to walk around the city, much of which is pedestrianised. A shopping experience in Jerez is an opportunity to enjoy the city itself, stopping occasionally to people watch or enjoy a tapa. The main shopping streets are located between Plaza Romero Martinez and Plaza del Arenal. The open air shopping centre, Jerez Centro Comercial Abierto, where many shops and businesses of all types are brought together is also worth a visit.

Jerez has always been an important trading city in which the most traditional products and ancient crafts can be found (barrel-making, wicker work, items related to wine or flamenco, saddling, etc.), with the many boutiques and companies where you can find the most exclusive of these products.

Jerez holds worldwide acclaim for its sherry and brandy production. The word Jerez is derived from Arabic and has now become synonymous with the English word ‘sherry’. The city is equally famous for its fine horses as well as Flamenco music and dance. 

Jerez is also the site of Circuito de Jerez, formerly called the Circuito Permanente de Jerez, where the annual Motorcycle Grand Prix is contested. The race course is a prime destination for Formula One teams who wish to perform off-season testing; it also hosted the highly controversial 1997 European Grand Prix. 

The town possesses a charming old town, casco antiguo, with beautiful palm lined squares. The 11th century Moorish fortress, or Alcazaba, has been partially restored. Of special interest is its church, originally built by the Arabs as a mosque. The Sacristy of the Cathedral del Salvador is home to a lovely painting by Zurbarán, The Sleeping Girl. Today the city of Jerez has a remarkably aristocratic air with wide streets, squares and magnificent rows of jacaranda trees during spring.

Jerez enjoys the very best of fresh local produce, to which is often added the world famous sherry, brandy and vinegar of Jerez. These are used as main ingredients in many recipes, thus allowing Jerez to provide a surprisingly varied cuisine of the highest quality. Shellfish and fish from the coast, meat and game from the hills, along with salads and traditional stews are staple dishes to be found in this region. They are often served "al Jerez" or "a la Jerezana", enhanced with Fino sherry, Amontillado, Oloroso or Pedro Ximénez, Brandy.

The restaurants in Jerez are generally of very high standard, having improved in quality over recent years. Many restaurants offer traditional Jerez cuisine of the highest level, prepared by professional chefs with long standing experience. The main restaurant area is located along the C/Constitorio and Plaza Vargas. In Spain it is unusual to eat an evening meal before 9.00pm. and Spaniards are often to seen arriving to eat as late as 11.00pm. Lunchtime too, begins later than in many other countries and diners can arrive as “late” as 3.30 or 4.00pm.

                                                        Jerez’s Top 5:
  1. The Cathedral of San Salvador is the cathedral church of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Asidonia-Jerez. It was declared Bien de Interés Cultural in 1931. Built in the 17th century, it is a mix of Gothic, Baroque and Neoclassicist style. It was elevated to the rank of cathedral in 1980. The church is on the central plan, a nave and four aisles of uneven height, supported external by normal and flying buttresses; in correspondence of the crossing of the transept is a dome. The interior houses a Virgin Mary by Francisco Zurbarán, and a late 15th century Gothic Crucifix (named Cristo de la Viga).
  2. The Charterhouse of Jerez  is a monastery in Jerez de la Frontera. Its architecture is of a Late Gothic style, corresponding to the start of construction in the 15th century, with Baroque aspects dating from the 17th century. The building, completed in the 17th century, has been designated by the Spanish government as an Historic-Artistic Monument.  The impulse behind the monastery dates back to Alvaro Obertos de Valeto, a knight of Genovese descent, appointed during the Reconquista by Alfonso X of Castile to defend the city shortly Alfonso had conquered it from Muslim rule in 1264. Lacking descendants, he left his fortune to establish a Carthusian monastery in the city. It was not until 1475 that this location near the Guadalete River was chosen, of special significance because in 1368 it has been the site of a victorious battle against invaders; the victory was attributed to intercession by the Virgin Mary, to whom a hermitage had been dedicated on the site.
  3. The Andalusian Centre of Flamenco is an institution in Jerez, founded in 1993 to safeguard and promote the values and standards of the traditional Andalusian art form known as flamenco. It is devoted to the investigation, recovery, and collection of flamenco-related historical documents, whether they are in audio, visual, or journalistic form. It also has a collection of flamenco artifacts, including musical instruments, costumes, promotional posters, sheet music, and postcards. The Centre operates a museum and library to help educate the public and serve as a resource for scholars.
  4. The Museo Arqueológico Municipal de Jerez de la Frontera is an archaeological museum on the Plaza del Mercado. The museum occupies an 18th-century building which was declared Bien de Interés Cultural in 1962. It was established in 1873 as the Municipal Archaeological Collection, merging collections donated by wealthy individuals, and based at the Old City Hall of Jerez. The museum opened to the public in 1935. The collection includes a Corinthian helmet, extremely rare in Spain, found near the city's Charterhouse by the river Guadalete. The collection also includes Roman ceramics and other items.
  5. The Alcazar of Jerez de la Frontera is a former Moorish fortress, now housing a park. It was declared Bien de Interés Cultural in 1931. A first fortress was probably built in the 11th century, when Jerez was part of the petty kingdom of the taifa of Arcos de la Frontera, on a site settled since prehistoric times in the south-eastern corner of the city. In the 12th century, a new structure was erected to be used as both residence and fortress by the Almohad rulers of southern Spain. Later, after the Reconquista of Andalusia, it was the seat of the first Christian mayors. The Alcazar contains a former  mosque, the only remaining of the eighteen once present in the city. After the Christian conquest of the fortress in 1255, it was turned into a church dedicated to Virgin Mary by king Alfonso X of Castile. The minaret was turned into a bell tower.

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