Picture yourself in Southern Spain. Vejer de la Frontera probably isn’t the first place that pops up in your imagination. Certainly, there are better known spots, like Cádiz, Córdoba, or Granada (which we will be writing about soon!), but for a low-key, non-tourististy, authentic Andulusian pueblo blanco experience Vejer can’t be beat. Pueblo blanco? Yup, they’re the collections of white villages that you see peppered all through your Insta feed and all over our blog! They are a series of small settlements throughout Southern Spain in which nearly all the buildings have whitewashed walls and red tiles roofs. Most are set up in hillsides or mountains, and the contrast of the white village set off against the green vegetation is breathtaking. It’s quintessential Southern Spain.
Most of the villages date their roots back to the times of the Ancient Romans, and if the history wasn’t enough draw they also make for some pretty spectacular ways to spend a few days. While there are tourist routes that take you through each one, we have been fortunate enough to devote an entire day (or more) to many of them. Lucky we *get* to live in Andalusia!
Even among the pueblos blancos, however, Vejer de la Frontera is lesser known. The town is set along the Barbate River and on a clear day overlooks the straits of Gibraltar. It’s a small place, and we think that for most, one day (or even an afternoon) is sufficient to take it in, even when you take part in the traditional 2+ hour Spanish dining experience. This destination is for sure one to kickback and enjoy. So, taste the fresh seafood, smell the oranges in the air, and listen to the Spanish guitar wafting from nearby cafes. Spain is all about taking your time, and with such beautiful pueblo blancos, who would want to hurry? Cheers to Vejer!
So, this isn’t *technically* in Vejer de la Frontera, but it’s pretty sweet and located less than 20 minutes in the neighboring town of Barbate in the Parque Natural de la Brena y Marismas del Barbate. There are many access points to reach the cliffs, so we recommend the Wikiloc or Alltrails apps to look for routes and track your progress.
When we completed our hike we accessed the trail using one of the free car parks located on the side of A2233. The hiking trails through the Mediterranean Pine forest aren’t particularly strenuous, however, they can be very sandy which can make them a bit more taxing. As you get closer to the water, you’ll reach the highest point, the Torre del Tajo, a tower that dates back to the 16th century and served an important role in costal defense for the area. Shortly after you’ll reach the cliffs – the views are breathtaking! Enjoy.
Sitting right at one of the entrances to Old Town Vejer de la Frontera is Corredera 55, an adorable restaurant that specializes in gorgeous views, tapas, and excellent vino! Need we say more? To be frank there are lots of places to sit and enjoy a bite in Old Town, but for some reason this place stood out to us as just a bit different than the rest. Perhaps it was the orange trees that lined the outdoor patio area that we just fell in love with or the views.
Prices are a bit on the higher side, but we felt that they were pretty fair considering the quality of the food, which we would describe as fresh, healthy, locally sourced (when possible) and vibrant (I mean, check out the colors in that salad! Pretty sure the salad was named, “Dr. Feel Good” for a reason.). To boot, the owners are a Scottish duo that are very welcoming, so if your Spanish is limited it isn’t difficult to get by.
- Hours: Dine-In: Daily, 1100 – 1800 (seating available on the open air terrace or inside); Take -away: Daily, order by 1700 and pick-up by 1800
- Reservations: Can be made by phone: 0034 956 451 848 or 0034 621 262 869 or by WhatsApp 0034 621 262 869
- Book La Casa del Califa Here
El Jardín del Califa
If Corrdera 55 looks appealing, we also encourage you to check out the company’s sister restaurant, Jardín del Califa, located in the town’s Plaza de España, which specializes in Moroccan & Middle Eastern cuisine. We celebrated Dom’s birthday here in 2021 and we can confirm that the food + atmosphere are both top notch.
As soon as you step foot into the establishment you feel as if you’re taking a journey somewhere. Miles and Penny both told us as they descended the first set of stairs that they thought they were headed into a dungeon! Although I’m not sure I got the same vibe (felt a bit more romantic to me); I do appreciate their sense of adventure!
One of the unique aspects of this restaurant is that there are several dining areas to choose from ranging in size and intimacy. The stone vaulted dining room, El Aljibe, is the smallest (pictured below left) and is barely big enough to fit a table and chairs. It is set in an alcove that used to be a water cistern built when Vejer was under Islamic control. The next biggest dinning area, El Templo, feels more like a chapel and dates back to the 16th century. It would be a great spot for a romantic dinner for two, something a bit hard to come by for us. For our visit, we chose to dine in El Jardín (pictured below right) due to the weather being so wonderful this time of year and our crew probably being a bit louder than most. Additionally, we didn’t request it, but we felt fortunate to have a table located in a corner as our kids tend to move about some and enjoy playing cars with one another when we are out.
The menu as well is just as lovely as the setting and we didn’t have a single dish that disappointed. As a bonus, the restaurant does have a menu for the kiddos, so if there was any doubt whether or not the place is child-friendly, you can go ahead and put that to rest. Miles had a chicken fillet with potatoes and veggies, while Penny went with a French omelette. Both kiddos were happy with their choices and earned “clean plate club” kudos!
We absolutely recommend the Warakarish, grape leaves stuffed with rice + spices, as an appetizer (no picture of this because the kiddos got to it first), as well as the Vegetable Tagine (pictured left) and the Kefta Bisinyah (pictured right). Both dishes were not only delicious, but we also felt very reasonably priced at 13€ and 14€ respectively.
Since we visited during one of the many provincial closures during the age of COVID, we were able to snag a reservation fairly easily a couple days before during our preferred time. However, this restaurant is consistently one of the most popular not only in Vejer, but also in the area for all the reasons mentioned above. Thus, we encourage you to plan ahead!
To further your experience, check out the hotel the restaurant is based in beforehand and perhaps book a night? I mean seriously, how dreamy does La Casa del Califa look? Yup, it deserves allll the heart eyes for sure.
- Hours: Daily, 1200 – 2230
- Reservations: Can be made by phone: 956 451 706 or email: email@example.com or online here
- Book La Casa del Califa Here
Levante Street Food
Just ~25 minutes away from Vejer is Caños de Meca, a small seaside village located just to the east of Cape Trafalgar. If you’re in the mood for a natural beach day and dig the surf vibe we recommend adventuring to this sleepy little town for the afternoon and grabbing a bite at Levante. Devoid of big box resorts, Caños de Meca is a super chill spot with a low-key feel and most restaurants stay true to that beat. We love Levante not only for the great outdoor seating, but also for its extensive menu! Highly recommend the tuna burger if you visit, although perhaps that’s not too terribly surprising as this area is one of the premier tuna fishing spots in the world.
- Hours: Friday, 1200 – 2000; Saturday and Sunday 1000 – 2000
Stroll the Town
Strolling the old town is pretty much the main thing to do in most of the pueblo blancos. These places are definitely the take-your-time-and-soak-in-Southern-Spain kind of places, while each one has some notable sights, the small size and walkability makes it easy to head from one place to another, perhaps while stopping at a cafe for a glass of sherry or some tapas in-between.
Not having much of a specific plan upon arriving, we found some free street-side parking and set out to explore on foot. First stop? Castillo de Vejer, because naturally a castle should always be at the top of the list. While reaching the castle itself is enjoyable as it requires winding your way down the cobblestone streets, we were a bit surprised when we got there that you couldn’t actually see much of the castle from up close. It’s mostly hidden behind high walls and is best visualized from farther away (when you can actually see some of the structure). Built between the 10th and 11th centuries, the structure was declared a national monument in 1931. At one time you could visit the inner portion, however (*side-eye COVID*), this part was closed when we visited – bummer.
Vejer de la Frontera Castle:
- Hours: Temporarily Closed
- Admission: Free to walk around the exterior castle walls. Since the Castle itself was closed when we visited; we’re unsure if an admission is charged.
Iglesia del Divino Salvador
The Church of the Divine Savior is a gothic-style church built in the 16th century. It’s located near the highest point in the city and neighbors the main plaza (Plaza de España). While not as ornate as many other churches/cathedrals we’ve visited in Spain, it is still a beautiful building. Again, closed when we visited. This was a running trend for our time in Vejer.
Iglesia del Divino Salvador:
- Hours: Monday, 1000 – 1400 and 1830 – 2030; Tuesday, 1000 – 1200; Wednesday, 1000 – 1200 and 1830 – 2000; Thursday, 0900 – 1300; Friday, 1000 – 1200 and 1830 – 2000; Saturday – Sunday, 1900 – 2100
Plaza de España
The center of Vejer, Plaza de España, is the main meeting point for locals and tourists alike. The beautiful, palm-lined plaza with central fountain is surrounded by cafés and restaurants and is especially beautiful to experience at sunset. Back in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries local bullfighting would take place here, but in more modern times it hosts other events and parties throughout the year…at least in non-COVID years!
Plaza de España:
- Hours: 24/7
- Admission: Free!
When the weather is picture perfect can we suggest heading to this outdoor art museum for a bit of fun? Our wee ones are (generally) really great about going with the flow, but add in a contemporary art hunt of sorts and suddenly that relaxing walk through a Mediterranean pine forest is way cooler. The reception area is housed in an old bunker and that’s also where you’ll purchase tickets. The three main areas will be outlined on the maps provided. Our kids loved navigating the area and playing “guide” following “las setas amarillas” (the yellow mushrooms) all along the way. Umm…it was kinda the cutest.
The neatest of the three areas is the Parque de Esculturas (Sculpture Park), so we suggest starting there first (it also takes the most time). Moving at a laidback pace, plan on 50 – 60 minutes for this part as there are 11 stops. While not difficult, the path isn’t paved and has several very sandy, root-filled, and steep portions that make taking a stroller difficult (but not impossible). We would generally have broken out our baby carrier, but Jude was asleep in his carseat when we arrived and was fresh off 6 hours in a carrier the previous day while we hiked in Grazalema, so we just let him be. Bottom line: It’s doable with a stroller, but baby wearing is a better bet.
The second section of the park are the bunkers. Each of these holds an art exhibition, some are full displays themselves, while others hold a sculpture, photographs, even a car is housed in one!
Finally, the third and final section is the Cantera Quarry. Here you’ll see Marina Abramovic’s work, “Nidos Humanos,” (Human nests) as well as walk by a display of barbwire (the barbwire isn’t marked off, so just make sure your littles don’t go running full speed for it).
Overall, we suggest budgeting ~ 2 hours to take your time and enjoy all forty+ exhibits located on the grounds. It *almost* goes without saying, but because so much of the place is outside make sure you go on a nice day. Thankfully those are pretty easy to come by in Southern Spain.
- Hours: Tuesday – Sunday, 1000 – 1400. Closed Monday.
- Admission: 5€/Adult, free for the kiddos. Ticket sales close one hour before closing.
- Parking: Free
Located just 15km (about a 20 min drive) from Vejer is historic Cape Trafalgar, the site of the famous naval battle between the combined French and Spanish Naval forces and the British in 1805. It was in these very waters that despite being outnumbered, Admiral Nelson led the British to an important victory, sinking 23 of the 33 Spanish and French vessels while the British lost none.
Even though it is considered to be one of the most important naval battles of the 19th century, Spain hasn’t really done a lot to highlight the Cape’s historical importance. Given the significance of their loss, perhaps that’s somewhat understandable. There is a small placard on the walk up to the lighthouse (which cannot be accessed), but that’s about it.
The original lighthouse was built in 1862, and it’s easy to spot towering over 30 meters above the ocean. Next to the lighthouse are the remains of the original Trafalgar Tower, of which the historical origins seem to be somewhat disputed. It may date back to the period of Muslim control in the 9th century, or it could have been built by the Duke of Medina Sidonia in the 15th century to protect the areas fisheries. Who knows?
Either way the Cape and surrounding beaches are a great way to spend an afternoon in Southern Spain. Fresh air, clean waters, sand dunes, a dose of history, and good eats!
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