There is no other town like this in Spain. Although you will find many charming whitewashed villages across the country, yet there is no other town that would combine a charm of the traditional Spanish village with dramatic cliff-edge views. There is no doubt you will find towns or cities in Spain that you will love. Likely more than one. But you will not find a place like Ronda, Spain.
When thinking of the Spanish Region of Andalusia the first places that come to mind are probably Seville, Granada or its sun-kissed coastline with Marbella or Tarifa as main hotspots. But Ronda (Spain) is a true hidden gem of Andalusia and should definitely be added to your itinerary.
Ronda (Spain) is a historic hilltop city located in the Spanish province of Málaga. It is built across the deep El Tajo gorge. The town is split in half over the ravine and connected by the famous Puente Nuevo bridge – the landmark of Ronda.
Puente Nuevo bridge is Ronda’s most famous attraction and connects the old and new part of the town presenting the most spectacular view. Yet, Ronda is so much more than its famous bridge.
Why is Ronda worth visiting?
Ronda, Spain is most famous for its Puente Nevo Bridge but it is also an exceptionally charming and somehow romantic town. As it is situated on top of the gorge divided by a deep ravine (El Tajo de Ronda) holding the Guadiaro River. It boasts incredible views over the Andalusian countryside and mountains.
Ronda is split into two parts with one of them being La Ciudad – a historical old town. Ronda’s old town dates from Islamic times and it is a beautiful white-washed village with plenty of little cafes, restaurant and shops. Further north, the ‘new’ town is rested on top steep cliffs, with parks and promenades looking over the surrounding mountains.
Ronda is a historic town with dramatic history also known to be the birthplace of bullfighting. But these days it offers a much more laid back atmosphere with great hiking opportunities, heaps of sightseeing as well as great restaurants and tapas bars.
Ronda is one of the oldest towns in Spain. It was already settled in the 6th century BC by the Celts, who called it Arunda. The current Ronda is of Roman origins. It was founded as a fortified post in the Second Punic War and received the title of the city at the time of Julius Caesar.
Great artists and writers of 20th century appreciated Ronda for its romantic character and charm.
Famous German poet Rainer Maria Rilke spent extended periods in Ronda, where he kept a permanent room at the Hotel Reina Victoria. His room remains to this day as he left it: a mini-museum of Rilkeana. Rilke wrote about Ronda: “I have sought everywhere the city of my dreams, and I have finally found it in Ronda”
Ernest Hemingway arrived in Spain in 1936 as a journalist. He was fascinated by the town and was a massive fan of bullfighting. He spent many summers in Ronda as a resident of the town’s old quarter and wrote two books about Ronda. He said: ‘That is where you should go if you ever go to Spain on a honeymoon or if you ever bolt with anyone. The entire town and as far as you can see in any direction is romantic background….”
Ronda is easily accessible from Malaga, Seville or Granada and it can be seen in one day. Yet, there is plenty to do and see so you could spend anything from one day to few days in Ronda.
How to get to Ronda, Spain
From Malaga – It takes around 2.5 hours to get to Ronda from Malaga by train and it costs around €15 one way. Take the train to Antequera Santa Ana and change there for Ronda. You can also take a direct bus which is a slightly cheaper option and it takes around 3.5 hours to get to Ronda. There are very few direct services per day. But you can take a bus to Marbella or Fuengirola and change there for Ronda.
From Marbella or Fuengirola – You will find direct bus services from both Marbella and Fuengirola to Ronda. Bus from Marbella leaves from the San Pedro de Alcantara. In Fuengirola, you will get a but from the main train station. You Can also take the train to Malaga and take a train to Ronda from there.
From Seville – There are direct busses from Seville Estación de Autobuses El Prado de San Sebastián to Ronda and the journey lasts just under 2.5 hours. There is no direct train service to Ronda from Seville. Ticket costs around €10. You could take a train to Cordoba and change there, but the journey will last around 3.5 hours so bus is the best option.
From Granada – A new high-speed rail line connecting Granada and Malaga has been built in 2020. This is the best and fastest way to get to Ronda from Granada. You will have to change in Antequera but it is still a lovely and pretty fast journey. The cost of the train journey is around €20 and takes just under 3 hours.
Things to do in Ronda, Spain
When I visited Ronda I made a bit of a mistake by not planning the order in which I would visit the sights. The town is not flat! I found myself going up and down many times and coming back on myself as I visited the attractions in random order. It was fine by me as I do enjoy walking, but this was very tiring and I also wasted a lot of time. So, to spare you the huffs and puffs (at least a little) I will list the sights in the recommended order.
Plaza de Toros de Ronda (Ronda’s Bullring)
Ronda Bull Ring Inaugurated in 1785 and a second oldest in Spain (after Sevilla). Regardless of what is your opinion about bullfighting (I am certain about mine), it is still a piece of history and a magnificent sight. Ronda is known to be the home of modern-day bullfighting. Ronda’s Bull Ring was home to one of Spain’s most famous ‘schools’ of bullfighting founded by Pedro Romero, one of Spain’s most famous bullfighters.
It is indeed one of the most beautiful bullrings in Spain – supported by Tuscan columns with a museum situated right underneath the tiers.
You cannot say you have been to Ronda if you haven’t seen its famous bullring.
Mirador del Ronda and Balcón del Coño Viewpoints
After visiting Ronda’s bullring take a pathway that runs along the cliff-edge to Paseo Ernest Hemingway and Puente Nuevo. This path offers some of the best views of the surrounding landscape and contains a number of viewing points called ‘Balcons Coños’. The most famous, and thrilling one is called Mirador del Ronda. It will award you with unforgettable views of the El Tajo gorge, the whitewashed town that sits upon it as well as the Puente Nuevo bridge.
The Puente Nuevo Bridge
Puente Nuevo bridge is what Ronda is most recognised for. It connects two parts of the town – the old (La Ciudad) and the new town (El Mercadillo) spanning a narrow chasm and plunging over 300 feet straight down to the Guadalevín River below.
It was built in an atmosphere of tragedy as the original construction collapsed in 1741, killing 50 people. After 40 years in construction, Puente Nuevo, Ronda’s ‘new bridge’ was completed in 1793
Parts of the Puente Nuevo solid span column interiors were used as a prison and even, allegedly, as a torture chamber.
During the 1936–1939 civil war, captured prisoners were supposedly tortured in the chamber. Some, supposedly, were thrown from the windows of the chamber, to break against the rocks of the gorge.
Now however it is the main attraction of the town and what most of visitors come here to admire.
The Lower Bridges: Puente Viejo and Puente de San Miguel
Puente Nuevo is not the only bridge connecting two sides of Ronda. Puente Romano (“Roman Bridge”, also known as the Puente San Miguel), Puente Viejo (“Old Bridge”, also known as the Puente Arabe or “Arab Bridge”) are Ronda’s two lower bridges over the gorge. They can be reached by taking Calle del Comandante Linares downhill and through an arched gateway.
The bridges are only set few meters away from each other and the area around the bridges is popular amongst hikers and nature lovers.
Baños Árabes (Ronda’s Arab Baths)
These 13th- to 15th-century thermal baths are considered the best-preserved Moorish Baths in Spain.
Moors conquering Spain, beginning in 711 AD, greatly changed the architectural and cultural landscape of the country. Especially in Andalusia, you will find many remnants from Spain’s Moorish rule, from palaces and fortresses to impressive gateways, historic neighbourhoods and ruins of old Arabic baths. Ronda’s Arab Baths are one of the most important places of interest in Ronda.
For the Moors, the baths were built for sanitary reasons but also as for religious ‘purification’ purposes. Hence the baths were located next to the mosque. Moors would clean both their body and soul before entering the temple.
Similar to ancient Roman baths, the complex had cold, warm, and hot baths (the heating system was entirely hydraulic). The three chambers received light through a number of star-shaped roof openings. This is a magnificent sight and you should definitely visit whilst in Ronda.
There is information provided to the visitor and it includes a video illustrating how the baths were used in ancient times. It runs in Spanish and then English every five minutes.
Arab Baths of Ronda are open Monday to Friday 10am till 6pm (10:00-18:00) and ticket costs around €3.5.
La Casa del Rey Moro and Jardines de Cuenca
I would definitely recommend visiting La Casa del Rey Moro and stepping down to the beautiful garden called Jardines de Cuenca – both located close to Puente Viejo bridge.
La Casa del Rey Moro, although known as the Moorish King’s House, it was in fact never home to any of the kings. It was built well after the Moorish conquest of Spain, nevertheless, with its floating gardens and many historic tales – it is definitely worth visiting.
It consists of three parts: the water mine, the house and the garden.
The Water Mine, a system of intertwined stairways and cells, was built in the fourteenth century. It starts at the top of Ronda’s cliff face and spirals down to the Guadalevin River consisting of 231 stairs.
This staircase played a fundamental role in Ronda’s history. For many centuries, those mines were the only water source the city could rely on. Slaves (Christians) built the water mine and they were also used to carry the water up and down the stairs to the city.
The Casa del Rey Moro gardens offer scenic views of the gorge, the El Tajo river, and the surrounding mountains.
Also set near Puente Viejo and offering spectacular views are Jardines de Cuenca gardens. These gardens provide wonderful views over the city’s bridges and the El Tajo gorge.
The Cuenca Gardens are distributed across a series of terraces where you can relax and take some great photos of the Puente Nuevo bridge.
La Ciudad: The Old Moorish Town of Ronda Spain
La Ciudad (Ronda’s Old town) is located to the south of Puente Nuevo and above the Arab Baths. This labyrinth of picturesque little streets will take you back in time. The town is Moorish in origin and contains a mix of charming whitewashed houses and grand Renaissance mansions.
This is where you will be able to wind down after some sightseeing hiking and find a charming coffee shop or a restaurant to relax and replenish your strength with churros or tapas.
Ronda’s Old Town is also the area where you will find most of the town’s cultural attractions.
One of the best known is the Palacio Mondragon.
This Moorish and Renaissance-style palace once provided luxurious accommodations for the Catholic Monarchs. The building nowadays houses the Ronda’s History Museum. The palace is most famous for its small Moorish water garden, designed to resemble Generalife in Granada. The building also maintains many of interesting Moorish details like ceilings, balconies, and tiles.
While exploring the Old Town make your way to picturesque Plaza de la Duquesa de Parcent where you will find the Iglesia Santa María la Mayor. This Mosque turned Catholic church is the biggest and most attractive of the churches in Ronda. This magnificent sight boasts ornamental Renaissance & Baroque-style features & a viewing deck.
Last but not least on your tour around the La Ciudad you will find a Bandit Museum. It is definitely a very interesting museum and worth a visit.
The Bandit Museum consists of five rooms: “Romantic Travelers and Documentation”, “Living Banditry”, “Famous Bandits”, “Those who followed the trail -Civil Guard” and “Weapons and written testimonies”. All those exhibitions tell fascinating stories of people who either chose or were forced by circumstances to take on the lifestyle of a bandit. All the rooms are full of archives of historical value about bandits, romantic travellers, smugglers, history of the Civil Guard, and so on.
Ronda Bridge View Point
Finally for the best views of the town and the Puente Nuevo bridge take a little hike down the gorge towards the to if the Mirador Mirador Puente Nuevo (Ronda Bridge View Point). This is the famous viewpoint from which most of the iconic pictures of the bridge was taken.
This is a great place to end your day and watch the sunset reflecting over the bridge and the town above. From there you can also take a little hike towards Mirador del Viento and La Hoya Del Tajo viewpoint. In case you had some energy left.
Of course, you don’t need to see every single one of those wonderful attractions, especially if you only visit for one day. My aim was to list it all for you so you can make your choice and pick your favourites.
Yet, if you decided to spend more then one day in Ronda there is enough to see and enjoy. Trust me, you will not get bored. After all, how can one get bored with those beautiful views and romantic atmosphere of Ronda, Spain – a true hidden gem of Andalucia?