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 Cadiz, Cordoba, 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 most 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 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 and the highest point, the Torre del Tajo. When we completed the hike we accessed the trail using one of the car parks located on the side of A2233. While the hiking trails here are definitely not strenuous, the views are certainly worth the visit as a large portion is spent along towering cliffs overlooking the ocean.
Once you arrive, there are actually several different hikes you can choose from. We recommend the Wikiloc or Alltrails apps to look for routes and track your progress. We ended up spending a few hours exploring the pine forests and and cliffsides while letting the kids get out some energy.
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.
If this spot 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 cuisine. Originally we had planned to have a date night at the restaurant, however, with COVID, those seem to be few and far between. We’ve been told by the owner though that the establishment is kid-friendly, so we may just end up taking the littles when we go. There are several dining areas to choose from, so if you go before us, let us know how your time was and which one you chose! 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: 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
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 Espana
The center of Vejer, Plaza de Espana, 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 Espana:
- 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
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