Ronda sits in the heart of the Serrania de Ronda, surrounded by lush river valleys and sitting above a deep ravine; it is a place that literally takes your breath away and captures your imagination. Anyone who has been lucky enough to visit Ronda will understand its appeal. You’ll discover beautiful alleyways, cobbled streets, ancient city walls, the famous new bridge and incredible sweeping landscapes. Not only is it one of the most photogenic cities in Spain, it’s also the third most visited city in Andalucía.
While Ronda is an easy day trip from Malaga (only 100 km), it’s also perfect if you’re spending a weekend in Marbella or Seville. The roads are easy for tourists to navigate, and the countryside you pass through will have you glued to the window the whole journey! Traveling alone through Spain, I decided to play it safe and went with a professional guide named Matt from Toma & COE tours. He showed me some of the most beautiful and visited cities in Spain. Ronda was our first stop on the Andalucía tour of Southern Spain. I decided to spend the night in Ronda and experience all this city has to offer.
Here are some of the highlights of Ronda that are absolutely worth seeing.
The New Bridge – Puente Nuevo
The Puente Nuevo – new bridge – offers unforgettable views over the El Tajo gorge. It was actually completed in 1793 and took forty-two years to build. The bridge joins the old Moorish town and the newer ‘El Mercadillo’ parts of the city. This is Ronda’s most famous landmark by far and also the largest of Ronda’s several bridges that cross the impressive Tajo gorge which separates the city in two. The bridge is 98 meters tall with a high central arch, and a room under the road that has transformed from a hotel, bar, prison, and now to a small museum where you can see stunning views over the gorge.
The Parador de Ronda is a cliffside hotel which sits adjacent to the bridge and is well worth a visit. The views of the El Tajo gorge are quite unforgettable, especially in the evening.
If you have the time, walk down into the gorge along the Camino de los Molinos. The views are the best to be had down there. In springtime, the whole valley floor is awash with flowers.
Plaza de Toros de Ronda- The Bullring
Ronda is said to be the home of modern day bullfighting. Plaza de Toros stands on the west edge of Ronda, about two blocks from Puente Nuevo and the El Tajo canyon. The Real Maestranza bullring is one of the oldest and most picturesque in Spain. It was built in 1785 by the architect Jose Martin Aldehuela – the same architect who built the Puente Nuevo. The ring can hold up to 5,000 spectators.
Francisco Romero, born in Ronda in 1695, is credited with giving bullfighting its modern day rules with the introduction of the cape and the muleta. His grandson, Pedro Romero (1754-1839), became one of Spain’s greatest bullfighters. He founded the Ronda School for Bullfighting, and it is still known today for its classicism and strict adherence to the rules. There’s a museum and guided audio tours for visitors who want to walk around the bullfighting ring.
Santa Maria la Mayor
Santa Maria la Mayor is Ronda’s largest church, and also home to many of the Easter floats used in processions during Holy Week. The church was built on the foundations of an Islamic mosque, part of which is still visible in a small alcove as you enter.
Plaza Duquesa de Parcent – Duquesa de Parcent Square
Plaza Duquesa de Parcent is Ronda’s most picturesque square and one that is brimming with monuments. The Santa Maria del Mayor church is the highlight, a church which took over 200 years to build, and is a mixture of Gothic and Renaissance style architecture.
Another square I would recommend is Plaza del Socorro, the square in front of the Almocabar Gate, and around Calle Nueva. La Plaza del Socorro is named after the church that sits in the square. It’s a large, tree lined square in the heart of the older part of the new town. It’s important because of its location and size, and so it’s always been a meeting point, as well as a great place to spend the evening. Paseo is an activity Spaniards used to do in the evening in a square like this; local Rodeños still partake in this type of gathering. There are several bars and restaurants lining the square. The buildings were heavily damaged by French troops around 1805 during the war of Independence (Napoleonic War 1793-1815) so what we see today dates from after that time. Its close location to the Bullring makes it a lively and convenient place to see when you’re visiting Ronda.
Jardines de Cuenca – Cuenca Gardens
The Cuenca Gardens are located on the ledges of the Tajo, a winding staircase from Puente Viejo (Old Bridge) to the top of El Mercadillo. The views are fantastic and give you a unique and differing perspective of the city.
Mirador de Aldehuela and Balcón del Coño Viewpoints
Here’s you’ll find one of the most popular viewpoints of the city, and with good reason! The views of the gorge, the Puente Nuevo, and the surrounding countryside are simply spectacular.
The viewpoint has been named in honor of the architect José Martin de Aldehuela. This is the same architect who built the bullring, the Puente Nuevo, and finished Malaga’s cathedral, along with many other projects. The Balcón del Coño viewpoint is another spot that should not be missed.
Puerta de Almocábar
The Old Town is surrounded by massive fortress walls, pierced by two ancient gates: the Islamic Puerta de Almocábar, which in the 13th century was the main gateway to the castle; and the 16th-century Puerta de Carlos V. Inside, the Islamic layout remains intact, and its maze of narrow streets now takes its character from the Renaissance mansions of powerful families whose predecessors accompanied Fernando el Católico in the taking of the city in 1485.
Ronda was everything you can imagine and more. Honestly, if you are ever in Southern Spain, don’t miss out on visiting Ronda.