There are few places in Spain which can lay claim to the international recognition enjoyed by Jerez. Thanks to its wine, jerez or sherry, the equestrian tradition, the bulls, flamenco, and motor racing, this Andalusian town’s name has been known far and wide for many years. The Phoenicians arrived in the surrounding area some 3000 years ago to establish a colony called Xera, which became known as Ceret under the rule of the Romans and Sheres or Xeres when it became an Arabic fortress. Under the reign of the Catholic Monarchs, the prosperous trading of its famous wines with the English began. The Muslims left a deep mark on the town including the layout of the quarters situated at the heart of the old Arabic city town center such as San Lucas and San Mateo, where the church of the same name is to be found, the Market Square (housing the Archaeological Museum), and Riquelme Palace. But without a doubt, the most important Al-Andalus feature is the Alcázar de Jerez situated within the walled enclosure of the Mosque, the Arab Baths, and the Olive Garden with its cisterns and fountains in perfect harmony with the Baroque palace of Villavicencio built upon the ruins of the original Islamic palace with a tower where the visitor can find the original camera obscura.
The town has many interesting examples of Gothic architecture. In the Santiago quarter, home of bulería music, there is the Church of Santiago dating from the 15th century which holds the image of Our Father Jesús del Prendimiento attributed to La Roldana. The Convent Church of Santo Domingo and San Marcos Church are also good examples of this style. Each house some of the images carried through the streets during Easter Week (Jerez’s main festival along with the Horse Fair). Nearby is another cathedral, a beautiful highly monumental work of Baroque architecture. Inside, the choir stalls, the Virgen Niña de Zurbarán, an inmaculada by Vaccaro, a crucifix by Juan de Arce, and the Cristo de la Viga, (Gothic 14th century) are all worth seeing. The adjacent tower is built on the site of an Arab minaret. But if you really want to get to know Jerez and its people, there is nothing better than a long walk along the Calle Larga, the central nerve and shopping center of the town. This is where the town’s heart beats strongest, where the best shops are to be found alongside the pavement cafés where you can enjoy a drink and some of the delicious Jerez tapas. Then, head for the Plaza del Arenal, Jerez’s most emblematic square, the Mamelón, and the little Placita del Banco all buzzing with activity. Afterwards, go to either Plateros or Rafael Rivero Square both friendly places with plenty of pavement cafés offering delicious cuisine.