Ronda is a mountain top city in southern Spain, near Malaga and Marbella. It makes the perfect day trip from either place, being only a 30 minute drive from Malaga. That said, I think visiting Ronda warrants a trip in itself and is perfect for a weekend getaway. The city is perched above a huge ravine, which makes for dramatic views and sweeping landscapes. Its also Spain’s first bullfighting town, with a rich tradition of the bull fighter woven in to its culture. Couple that with cobbled streets, plenty of tapas and a good dose of sunshine and Ronda is quite a magical place to visit.
Here are some of the things not to be missed if you are visiting this beautiful city. If you’ve longer than a couple of days here, you may also want to explore some of the surrounding area – including the historical Roman town at Acinipo and the incredible rock town of Setenil de las Bodegas (post coming soon).
1. Ronda Old Town
The heart of the old Moorish town is a labyrinth of little cobbled streets, pretty balconies full of flowers and sun drenched bright white houses. It’s fun to just stroll around, grab some food and enjoy taking it all in. Of particular interest is the Iglesia de Santa Maria la Moyor which is a Mosque turned Catholic church and has a nice viewing deck out over the old town.
Walking the streets of the old town
2. The New Bridge
The most famous site in Ronda is the New Bridge. Ronda is split in half by the 120 meter deep ravine which is home to the Guadalevin river. A bridge was originally built at this point in 1735, but collapsed in 1741, killing 50 people. Thankfully the current bridge is much safer, constructed in 1759 and taking 34 years to build. It’s quite a striking monument and the views all around it are breathtaking.
Interestingly, there is a chamber above the central arch which has even been used as a prison! During the 1936-39 civil war, both sides also allegedly used the prison as a torture chamber, killing some by throwing them from the windows on to the rocks at the bottom of the gorge. Today the chamber is much more inviting, being a museum telling the story of the bridge and well worth an hour of your time.
3. Mondragon Palace and Museum
Mondragon Palace was the home of the Moorish king, and then when the Nasrid dynasty took control it became the home of Grenadian governors. Ferdinand II even briefly used the palace following his conquest of Ronda in 1485 (it was a busy year – also the year of the Wars of the Roses’ final battle in England at Market Bosworth).
Mondragon Palace is now the Municipal museum, detailing Ronda’s history from the stone age to today. It’s incredible to see how much the city has changed – from Roman conquest, to Moorish traditions, to Ronda’s heyday in the 1800s. The gardens are also maintained in Moorish style and lovely to stroll around.
The Moorish gardens (L) and views from the palace (R)
4. The Bullring
The bullring is a special place in modern Spanish culture and history. It is the home of the Rondeño style of bullfighting and the Real Maestranza De Caballería De Ronda. This is the oldest and most noble order of horsemanship which traces back to that busy year of 1485, when Ferdinand and Isabella defeated the Moors in Ronda, bringing the city back under Christian rule after 773 years of Islamic rule.
The bullring was built entirely of stone in the 18th century, and is now open to the public to explore. I personally don’t agree with bullfighting, but found it interesting to learn about the history and culture.
Inside the bullring
5. Arab Baths
An incredible historic gem, these baths from Moorish times have survived to today. The baths are similar to the design perfected by the Romans, except that steam was used to sweat out pollutants from the body rather than soaking in hot water as the Romans did. The baths are still in great condition and one of the highlights of a visit to the city.
6. Roman Bridge
The final stop of the list for a visit to Ronda is the Roman Bridge. To get here, it’s a walk from the grand New Bridge to the oldest and smallest bridge of Ronda that was built over the remains of an ancient Roman bridge. It has been restored over the centuries and very few of its original Roman and Moorish characteristics can still be seen. The bridge is also pedestrians only and the views are beautiful!
And that brings the top things to do on a trip to Ronda to a close. What do you think? Remember, if you’re in the city for more than a day or two, then I also recommend a day trip out of the city (post coming soon). Thank you for reading – stay safe and happy travelling!