Ronda Introduction Walking Tour, Ronda

Ronda Introduction Walking Tour (Self Guided), Ronda

Ancient rock paintings found in the area tell us Ronda was settled by Celts, who called it "Arunda." Phoenicians and Romans followed the Celts. Muslim rule was established in 713 by the Umayyads, who called it the "Castle of Rundah." Islamic domination ended in 1485 when Rodrigo, Duke of Cadiz, conquered the city.

Seen from the air, Ronda is breathtaking. It is in two parts, perched on the edges of El Tajo Gorge, a 329-foot deep rocky canyon carved into the mountains by the River Guadalevin. The gorge is spanned by three bridges. The highest is New Bridge, completed in 1793.

The other bridges are Old Bridge, dating from 1616, and Roman Bridge, built in the 14th century. There is a rocky path leading from Maria Auxiliadora Square (Plaza de Maria Auxiliadora) to the bottom of El Tajo Gorge.

Ronda has one of Spain's oldest bullrings, created by architect Jose Martin de Aldehuela in 1785. The Bullring holds 5,000 spectators. One fight a year is held here as part of the Pedro Romero Fair, a colorful festival lasting one week in September.

A Walk through the old quarter reveals narrow, cobbled streets full of geraniums and inviting shops and cafes. The mostly intact 13th-century Arab Baths are located next to the Roman Bridge, while the 18th-century House of the Moorish King has never seen a Moorish king.

The Socorro Square is the political center of Ronda. It was here that Blas Infante, known as the father of Andalusian nationalism, unfurled the flag of Andalusian independence in 1918.

Don't miss the Mondragon Palace, the beautiful Duchess of Parcent Square, the Church of Santa Maria la Mayor, and the ancient entrance to Ronda, the Almocabar Gate (Puerta de Almocabar).

Try some Andalusian gazpacho, wild mushrooms, and Moorish sweetmeats for lunch. Enjoy a dramatic sunset from the 19th-century tree-lined boulevard, Alameda del Tajo, and take in free music performance nearby.
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Ronda Introduction Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Ronda Introduction Walking Tour
Guide Location: Spain » Ronda (See other walking tours in Ronda)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 14
Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.8 Km or 1.7 Miles
Author: nataly
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Puerta del Almocabar (Almocabar Gate)
  • Iglesia de Santa Maria la Mayor (Church of Saint Mary the Elder)
  • Palacio de Mondragon (Mondragon Palace)
  • Banos Arabes de Ronda (Arab Baths of Ronda)
  • Puente Viejo (Old Bridge)
  • Casa del Rey Moro (House of the Moorish King)
  • Museo Lara (Lara Museum)
  • Puente Nuevo (New Bridge)
  • Tajo de Ronda (Ronda Gorge)
  • Plaza de Espana (Spain Square)
  • Plaza de Toros de Ronda (Ronda Bullring)
  • Plaza del Socorro (Socorro Square)
  • Alameda del Tajo (Gorge Promenade)
  • Carrera Espinel Shopping Street
Puerta del Almocabar (Almocabar Gate)

1) Puerta del Almocabar (Almocabar Gate)

On the 20th of May, 1485, Fernando the Catholic, the King of Aragon and his soldiers entered the city of Ronda through its massive walls via the Gate of Almocabar. The 13th-century gate takes its name from the Arab, "al-macabre," meaning "the cemetery." There was a Muslim cemetery just outside the city walls.

The Almocabar Gate was the main access to the town through the south wall. The Castilian procession entered the first walled enclosure of the Islamic Ronda called "Arrabal Alto," today known as the Barrio of the Holy Spirit. The entrance gate of three recessed Gothic arches lies between two semicircular towers of cemented stones.

The other gate to the city was Charles V Gate, built in the 16th century in the Renaissance style. During Napoleon's occupation of Spain in 1808, the walls of Ronda and the Almocabar were left in ruins. The Almocabar was not restored until the 1960s.

Behind the Almocabar Gate is the Church of the Holy Spirit. The church was built on top of a mosque and dedicated to the day the Catholic Monarchs, Ferdinand and Isabella, took the city. There are plenty of restaurants and bars in the area, and a children's park. Get there well before 2 pm on holidays to find a good spot.
Iglesia de Santa Maria la Mayor (Church of Saint Mary the Elder)

2) Iglesia de Santa Maria la Mayor (Church of Saint Mary the Elder)

Built on the remains of a 13-century mosque, the Church of Saint Mary the Elder is located in the Town Hall Square of Ronda. The Square is also known as the Duchess of Parcent Square (Plaza Duquesa de Parcent) in memory of one of the first women who occupied a seat in the Spanish Congress.

The Church of Saint Mary's odd tower and facade make it look more like a City Hall. The main entrance opens to a small vestibule chamber. It contains one of the original columns of the cathedral built just after 1485. An earthquake in 1580 destroyed the original structure. The current building is a replacement.

The Medina Mosque, replaced by the original church, was itself constructed on top of a Visigothic church built on top of a Roman altar of the goddess Diana honoring Julius Caesar's victory over Pompey.

The balconies on the facade were added in the late 16th century, during the reign of Philip II. The balconies were for noble spectators of tournaments put on by the School of Cavalry (Maestranza de Caballería), a military training fraternity of nobles.

The Church of Saint Mary the Elder still holds the Mirhab prayer niche of the Medina Mosque. There is also a wall with Ataurique decorations behind the altar. The original church was Gothic. Its replacement is Renaissance. Gothic elements remain in the columns and the ogives.

There is a two-level choir of cedar and walnut. Seatbacks are adorned with carvings of symbols of Mary and the Sacred Heart, apostles, and saints. The Baroque altarpiece of the Virgin of Great Sorrow is attributed to sculptor Guido Montanes Castillo.
Palacio de Mondragon (Mondragon Palace)

3) Palacio de Mondragon (Mondragon Palace)

Abomelik, son of Abdul Hassan, sultan of Morocco, and Emperor of Fez ruled in Ronda's Golden Age. Some say the Mondragon Palace (Palacio de Mondragon) was built for him. This is unlikely. The palace was built in 1314.

Abomelik did not arrive in Ronda until after his resounding victories in Gibraltar in 1330. He did reside in the palace. However, his tenancy was short-lived. He died in battle against Alfonso XI at Jerez de la Frontera in 1338.

The Mondragon Palace today has been heavily renovated and a bit modernized. Some of the old details remain in the tiny building. There are Mudejar ceilings, original tiling, and galleries and balconies of the inner courtyards. Finest of all is the remaining water gardens. The gardens hover at the ultimate edge of the cliffs of Ronda.

The gardens are a popular venue for sculpture shows and weddings. The upper floor of the Mondragon Palace houses the town museum. The museum has permanent exhibits displaying artifacts and information covering several millennia of Andalusian history. The remainder of the palatial space is home to Ronda's main School of Languages.

The Catholic Monarchs Ferdinand and Isabella stayed at the palace in the 1490s. They ordered the first of many changes and additions. The front gallery is modern. The whole outer building around the courtyards dates from the 18th century. However, it might seem much the same to Hamet el Zegri, the last Moorish governor of Ronda.
Banos Arabes de Ronda (Arab Baths of Ronda)

4) Banos Arabes de Ronda (Arab Baths of Ronda) (must see)

The Arab Baths of Ronda (Hammams) were built, some say, in the 12th or 13th centuries. Others claim they date from the reign of Abomelik in the 14th century. The Baths are outside the walls, next to the Arabic Bridge (Puente Arabe).

The exterior of the Arab Baths is mostly intact. The water pump tower and the aqueduct can still be seen. A donkey on top of the irrigator (saqiya) turned a wheel that pumped water from the river to the aqueduct on the bath wall. As one enters the bath compound, a tower with a water channel and access ramp is on the right.

The tower contained a well connected to the waters of the Guadalevin River in the Ronda Gorge (El Tajo de Ronda) far below and the Canyon of Snakes (Arroyo de las Culebras), also far below. Water from the tower emptied to the aqueduct and thence to the baths, there to be heated and sent to the hot rooms of the baths.

The Arab Baths, like Roman Baths, had three zones; cold water, warm water, and hot water. Romans liked to soak in a hot bath, whereas the Arabs would use steam to detoxify. The three areas were separated by four pairs of horseshoe arches supported by brick and stone columns. Star-shaped windows in the vaulted roofs illuminated the scene.

The Arab Baths of Ronda, located on the Molino de Alarcon Street (Calle Molino de Alarcon), are open Monday through Friday from 10 am to 7 pm. Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays times are 10 am to 3 pm.
Puente Viejo (Old Bridge)

5) Puente Viejo (Old Bridge)

The city of Ronda is divided by the 394-foot-deep chasm of the Guadalevin River. The chasm is spanned by three bridges. The Old Bridge (Puente Viejo) is the second oldest and the smallest of the three bridges. Built in 1616, it is only for pedestrian traffic. It was once the only link between Little Market (El Mercadillo) and the Old City (La Ciudad).

Despite its name Old Bridge, it is newer than the Roman Bridge (Puente Romano). The 33 feet bridge is a basic single-arch and 102 feet above the river bed. The bridge parapet niches and balconies were redone in an 18th-century renovation. There are four viewing balconies mid-span, and the road is paved.

On the north side of the Old Bridge is a stepped garden leading up to the New Bridge. On the south side is the ornate Gate of Philip V. On the east side are the remains of the 13th-century Arab Baths ("Hammams").
Casa del Rey Moro (House of the Moorish King)

6) Casa del Rey Moro (House of the Moorish King)

No Moorish King was ever inside the House of the Moorish King (Casa del Rey Moro). The house was built in the 18th century, centuries after the departure of Hamet el Zegri, the last Moorish commander of Ronda, in August 1487. The Moorish gardens were designed by French landscaper Jean Claude Forestier in 1912.

The one item here from the Moorish occupation is the "Water Mine." In the 14th century, King Abomelik ordered steps cut in the walls of the Ronda Gorge (Tajo de Ronda) to enable water to be hauled up from the river. In 1485, attacking troops of the Marquis of Cadiz disabled the water wheel. With water cut off, the city surrendered.

The monument compound is in three parts. Besides the Water Mine, there are the Neo-Mudejar house and the gardens designed by Forestier. The house was built over the Mine in the 18th century. It was sold in 1911 to the Duchess of Parcent. The Duchess extended and renovated the house and commissioned Forestier to do the gardens.
Museo Lara (Lara Museum)

7) Museo Lara (Lara Museum)

Housed in the historical building called the "Palace of the Count of the Conquest of the Batanes Islands," Lara Museum is a private museum showcasing the collections of Juan Antonio Lara Jury. Juan's passion is collecting a wide range of bizarre and curious items. His passion took hold at age 10 with coins, and it never relented.

The 18th-century Palace house is located on Arminan Street (Calle de Arminan) in the Old City. It is a house with two upper stories and an interior courtyard. The upper floor is packed with old watches, handguns, sewing machines, typewriters, and microscopes. The lower floor has movie projectors and bullfighting gear. But the cellar houses the creepy stuff.

"Below stairs" we have witchcraft and the Spanish Inquisition. Mannequins garbed as Inquisitor's man a stretching rack, and other torture devices. They are armed with menacing, pointed steel instruments. Witchcraft displays feature bat-headed tarantulas, dragons, and a frog-faced raggedy old witch brewing something vile.

The Lara Museum is the work of a single person with a very specific taste. It's a little bit scary. Scary, maybe, but fascinating as well.
Puente Nuevo (New Bridge)

8) Puente Nuevo (New Bridge) (must see)

The New Bridge (Puente Nuevo) could be called Second Bridge (Puente Segundo), as it is the second span over the river gorge at that spot. The first attempt was the work of architects Jose Garcia and Juan Camacho in 1735. The bridge had a single-arch design. It was put together rather quickly and not well. It collapsed in 1741, killing 50 people.

The New Bridge of today is the largest and newest of the three bridges spanning the chasm of the River Guadalevin. It was completed in 1793 by Andalucian architect Jose Martin de Aldehuela, replacing the earlier attempt of Garcia and Camacho. The high central arch is flanked by two smaller, shorter arches.

The chamber above the central arch has seen several uses, including that of a prison and torture chamber. It was used as such by both sides in the civil war of 1936-1939. More than a few prisoners are said to have met death on the rocks of Ronda Gorge (El Tajo de Ronda). The chamber guardhouse today has exhibits on the history and construction of the bridge.

The project of spanning Ronda Gorge was first suggested by King Philip V in 1735. The intention was to supplement the 16th-century bridge, now called the Old Bridge (Puente Viejo), and the 12th-century Moorish bridge next to the Arab Baths. The New Bridge spans Ronda Gorge at its highest point. There are sidewalks and seating on each side of the bridge.

The New Bridge connects the parts of the city, Little Market (El Mercadillo) and the Old City (La Ciudad). The bridge chamber is open to visitors Monday through Friday from 10 am to 6 pm. On Saturdays, hours are 10 am to 1:45 pm and 3 pm to 6 pm. Sunday times are 10 am to 3 pm. There is a modest admission fee.
Tajo de Ronda (Ronda Gorge)

9) Tajo de Ronda (Ronda Gorge) (must see)

The Ronda Gorge (El Tajo de Ronda) splits the city's heart in two. The two parts are the Moorish Old Town (La Ciudad) and Little Market (El Maercadillo), the modern section. The Ronda Gorge, formed by erosion, is 394 feet deep and 223 feet wide. The River Guadalevin cuts through the canyon, fed by the snow melt of the Snowy Mountains (Sierra de las Nieves).

The high, Romanesque arches of the New Bridge (Puente Nuevo) span the irrepressible Guadalevin. Views from the top of the span encompass the entire canyon and the valleys stretching below, all the way to the hills of the Grazalema Mountains (Sierra de Grazalema). It is possible to walk along the banks of the Guadalevin following steep trails from the Old Town (La Ciudad).

Clinging to the sides of the gorge, one walks deeper and deeper, the cliffs rising above. The river is powerful. Flour mills once used river water to power their machines until the landslide of 1917 wiped them out.

The trail for walking through the canyon starts at the Roman Bridge (Puente Romano) on the east bank. There is no trail on the west bank. At the bottom, by the river, are several ponds connected by mill canals. A good view of the west bank can be had from the Hostel Los Molinos, located in an old water mill.

The most historic well connecting with the Ronda Gorge is in the House of the Moorish King (Casa del Rey Moro). Houses and well were erected in the 14th century. The well goes down to the river's edge. It is the major piece of hydraulic engineering remaining from the old Nasrid Kingdom. The well is called Water Mine (La Mina de Agua).

Steps were carved into the rock walls of the canyon. Christian slaves carried water up from the river in water skins. The Ronda Gorge is used in Hemingway's novel, "For Whom the Bell Tolls." There is a scene of Republicans throwing Nationalists from the cliffs, possibly in Ronda. Old customs die hard. But the views are fantastic.
Plaza de Espana (Spain Square)

10) Plaza de Espana (Spain Square)

Close by the New Bridge (Puente Nuevo), one will find the Spain Square (Plaza de Espana). While it is part of the New Town, it is also the entry point to the Old Town of La Ciudad. It seems that most Spanish towns of any size have a square named Spain Square. The Spain Square in Ronda is different.

How is it different? It overlooks the New Bridge and the fabulous Ronda Gorge ( El Tajo de Ronda). The views are really breathtaking. There are plenty of bars and eateries. There is one unobtrusive McDonald's, but it's only one. The Ronda ambiance is still intact.

There is the former Town Hall (Ayuntamiento) of 1734, now the Hotel Parador, and a statue of Antonio de los Rios Rosas, a statesman and native of Ronda born in 1812.

The town's main square was made famous by Ernest Hemingway in For Whom the Bell Tolls. Chapter 10 tells of fascists rounded up in front of the Town Hall and thrown off a neighboring cliff. The episode is based on events that took place here in Spain Square.
Plaza de Toros de Ronda (Ronda Bullring)

11) Plaza de Toros de Ronda (Ronda Bullring) (must see)

The first bullfight in Spain was held in the bullring in Ronda in May 1784. The stands partially collapsed. The second effort took place a year later. The event proved to be one of the greatest bullfights in Ronda's history. The great matadors, Pedro Romero and Pepe Hillo, faced off before the most noble families in Ronda.

The Ronda Bullring, constructed entirely of brick and stone, is about two blocks from the New Bridge (Puente Nuevo). It was designed by architect Martin de Aldehuela. All the seating is covered behind gallery arches. The seating capacity is only about 5,000, but the arena ring itself is the largest in the country.

The bullring is home to the Bullfighting Museum (Museo Taurino), dedicated to the spectacle of the fight. Shown inside are two centuries of bullfighting regalia and accouterments, torero outfits, swords, and lances. Even weapons used in war by the Royal Cavalry of Ronda (Real Maestranza de Caballería de Ronda) are included in the collections.

The museum is open year-round except during the Festival of Feria Goyesca de Pedro Romero in the first week of September. The Feria, properly called the Feria de Pedro Romero, connects three personalities: the 18th-century bullfighter Pedro Romero, painter Francisco Goya, and 20th-century bullfighter Antonio Ordonez.

In 1572 King Philip II created the Royal Cavalry (Real Maestranza de Caballeria) to promote military training, which included horsemanship and spearing bulls from horseback. The matador and founding father of a bullfighting dynasty Francisco Romero introduced the idea of fighting on foot.

Every year, in September, the Feria, organized by Antonio Ordonez, takes place. There are Flamenco festivals and processions of fans (aficionados) in 18th-century costumes. The celebration ends with a weekend of fighting in the arena. Orson Welles and Ernest Hemingway attended the event, and Welles' ashes are scattered on the Ordonez estate.
Plaza del Socorro (Socorro Square)

12) Plaza del Socorro (Socorro Square)

Socorro Square (Plaza del Socorro) is a popular place in Ronda. It has more than a few cafes and restaurants around its edges. There is a fountain and under the square is an underground car park.

The Church of Help (Iglesia del Socorro) is located on the square. The church is relatively new, the original church being destroyed by fire in 1936. The original church was consecrated in November 1557 by the bishop of Malaga, Don Francisco de Pacheco de Cordoba.

The square is regarded as the political center of Ronda. It was here, in 1918, that Blas Infante, writer, historian, and musicologist, raised the flag of Andalusian nationalism. Infante was also the leader of the Junta Liberalista, a federalist political party of the Second Spanish Republic.

Assassinated by dictator Franco's forces in the Spanish civil war, Infante's last words were, "Long live free Andalucia." Infante unfurled his flag from the balcony of the Artists Society building (Circulo de Artistas) on the north side of the square.

In front of the Church of Help is a statue of Hercules taming two lions. The lions represent the "Pillars of Hercules" at the Strait of Gibraltar. Hercules was the patron of Cadiz, the ancient city of Andalucia.
Alameda del Tajo (Gorge Promenade)

13) Alameda del Tajo (Gorge Promenade)

The Gorge Promenade (Alameda del Tajo), formerly the San Carlos Promenade (Alameda de San Carlos), is a tree-lined botanical garden of Ronda, dating from the 19th century. It is located next to the Bullring (Plaza de Toros) and borders the edges of the precipice of Ronda Gorge (El Tajo de Ronda). Lined with trees, named for children born on the day of planting, the pathway is noted for spectacular views.

Five different landscaped avenues lead to a vast area affording extraordinary views of the Ronda Gorge and the Ronda district. Some of the trees lining the avenues are more than 200 years old. Himalayan cedars, stone pines, and honey locusts can be found. The Caldron Handle (Asa de la Caldera) is an impressive rock formation in the area, great for photos.

Statuary appears along the way. There is the Monument to the Goyesque Lady, a figure of a woman in a traditional costume created by sculptor Francisco Parra. There is a memorial statue of the famous Torero Pedro Romero and a group called Angels (Angeles).

The English Path (Paseo de los Ingleses) is a cliffside path that leads to the gardens of the Hotel Catalonia. The Path of the Limes (Camino de los Tilos) is lined with lime-scented trees. Come to the Vicente Espinel Municipal Theater, a modern building with exposed brick, columns, and crystal windows.

Adjoining the Gorge Promenade is the park Gardens of Blas Infante (Jardines de Blas Infante). It has an open-air auditorium and of course, stunning views of El Tajo Gorge.
Carrera Espinel Shopping Street

14) Carrera Espinel Shopping Street

In the heart of Ronda, nestled within the ancient confines of the city, lies Carrera Espinel, affectionately known as Calle La Bola. This enchanting pedestrian thoroughfare takes center stage as Ronda's principal shopping street. Steeped in history and bustling with life, it offers a vibrant glimpse into the soul of this mesmerizing Spanish town.

Calle La Bola stretches for approximately 1 kilometer, cutting through the old town like a vein of activity, infusing it with vitality and commerce. Its charming cobbled streets, lined with an array of shops and boutiques, beckon locals and tourists alike to explore its offerings. This shopping haven is nestled in a district known as "El Mercadillo," making it the central hub for retail therapy in Ronda.

This iconic street derives its name from two distinctive sources. "Calle Espinel" pays homage to Ronda's illustrious son, Vicente Espinel. Born in Ronda in 1550, Espinel was a polymath of Spain's Golden Age, leaving an indelible mark as a priest, writer, and musician. He serves as an enduring source of inspiration and a testament to Ronda's rich cultural heritage.

Intriguingly, "Calle La Bola" has a tale to tell. It is a testament to the unceasing vitality of this street. In ages past, both young and old would converge here to partake in a peculiar ball game. This was no ordinary sport, but a game of skill and precision. Competitors would vie to launch a hefty iron ball, weighing a substantial 3 kilograms, down the street with the fewest strokes. The winner was the one who managed to propel the ball over a predetermined distance with the utmost finesse. This lively game added another layer to the street's legacy.

Alternatively, a charming legend whispers another origin story for the name "Calle La Bola." As the snowfall blanketed the town, a group of children came together to craft a colossal snowball. With hearts full of youthful enthusiasm, they nudged the enormous snowball down the street, creating joy and merriment throughout the town.