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Ronda's impressive New Bridge and surrounding cliffside in Malaga, Spain
Ronda's impressive New Bridge and surrounding cliffside

Ronda’s old Moorish quarter is surreally perched on the side of a cliff. These steep cliffs and some additional fortified walls completely surround the town. Like an island in the sky, this unique location made it perfect for a castle-like enclave. Even though they were on top of the gorge, the Moors were able to secure water access from the Guadalevín River below. A secret tunnel was dug down nearly 100 m (300 ft) to the river which supplied water to Ronda’s residents for centuries. However, in 1485, Christian forces managed to overcome this access to the water and the Moors lost the city.

Besides the bridge and the gorge, Ronda is also the birthplace of modern bullfighting and home to one of the oldest bullrings in Spain. The interesting story of how bullfighting grew from the need to train horses for war is told in the bullfighting museum.

Today, Ronda still retains the historic charm that in the past attracted such famous writers as Ernest Hemingway and Orson Welles. Beyond its impressive New Bridge and its bullfighting heritage, Ronda is a pleasure to get lost in. Its incredible location, along the walls of the canyon, makes for an array of astonishing views waiting to be discovered. Whether it’s by wandering the narrow cobblestone streets, enjoying a cold drink on a veranda next to the New Bridge, or just watching the birds glide through the canyon – Ronda is a town that begs visitors to slow down, take in its beauty and relax.

Puente Nuevo

Ronda's Puente Nuevo at sunset time, Spain
Ronda's Puente Nuevo at sunset
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The Puente Nuevo and the Tajo gorge are Ronda’s main attractions. The striking bridge looks like something you would expect to find at the entrance to some fantasy kingdom in Game of Thrones or Lord of the Rings. To say it looks “sturdy” or “heavy-duty” would be an understatement.

Ronda’s Bridge was completed in 1793. For 34 years, workers painstakingly lifted quarried stone from the bottom of the gorge, all the way up until they reached the top – a full 98 meters (300 ft) above. The three arches of the bridge span 70 meter (230 ft) across the Tajo Gorge, connecting the Moorish quarter known as “la ciudad” with the newer “el mercadillo” section of the city.

Today, the bridge can be admired from all along the cliffs on both sides of the gorge. You can even eat at a restaurant or have a drink on a terrace overlooking all of the drama. But if you want to see the entire bridge and get the best photo, you have to go to the bottom. For more info, tips, and history, check out our dedicated Puente Nuevo guide.

The Two Cities of Ronda

Views of el mercadillo from la ciudad – Ronda, Spain
Views of "el mercadillo" from "la ciudad" – Ronda, Spain
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Ronda has a long history. It dates back to at least the 6th century when it was settled by Celtiberians who called it Arunda. Later the Romans took over Ronda and it received the title of city from Julius Caesar.

But it wasn’t until 713 when the Moors arrived that the city as we know it today began to be formed. The Moors called the city Hisn Ar-Rundah (Castle of Rundah). They built walls on the eastern and southern sides of the city. These walls together with the sheer cliff drops found to the North and West created an impenetrable castle of a city.

This old Moorish medina, known locally as “la ciudad” (the city), is full of winding alleyways with whitewashed buildings. Most of this area is quite austere in appearance but there are a couple of Moorish ruins dotted throughout.

Puerta de Almocábar in Ronda's old moorish city – Malaga, Spain
Puerta de Almocábar in Ronda's moorish city
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Even though the medina is known as “la ciudad,” only a very small portion of Ronda’s 35,000 inhabitants actually live here. Most live on the other side of the Tajo Gorge in an area that is known as “el mercadillo” (street market). This is the new part of the city that was built after the Christian Reconquest and once a bridge was built over the gorge.

Most of the buildings in el mercadillo date from the 18th and 19th century and they have a more typical Spanish style. The most important sight on this side of the city is the bullring and calvary school known as the Real Maestranza de Caballería (8€ entrance fee) which was established in 1572.

Street in el mercadillo, Ronda
Street in el mercadillo
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El mercadillo has much more going on than the extreme quiet on the other side. It is after all where locals actually live, so you will find more restaurants and shopping. Overall, the streets are charming and it’s a great place to take a stroll through.

For a complete list of the places of interest in the city check out the Things to do in Ronda section below.

More Things to Do in Ronda

RONDA'S VIEWPOINTS

Views from the Mirador de Aldehuela in Ronda
Views from the Mirador de Aldehuela
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Ronda is literally picture perfect. The setting with its two historic neighborhoods connected by an awe-inspiring bridge is breathtaking. Combine that with the natural rugged gorge and the surrounding farm lands and you have something very special. Thankfully Ronda has no shortage of spectacular viewpoints to take it all in. Below is our list of must-see spots.

  • Mirador Puente Nuevo de Ronda – This lookout is almost at the bottom of the gorge and gives the best overall views of the entire bridge. It can be accessed by a steep path from Plaza de María Auxiliadora. See our Puente Nuevo guide for more info.
  • Mirador de Aldehuela – A great lookout from the top that has very easy access. It’s just enough to the side so that you can see the bridge and look down into the canyon.
Roses in the Cuenca Gardens in Ronda, Malaga
Roses in the Cuenca Gardens
© ESPAÑA GUIDE
  • Mirador de Cuenca – Located in the Cuenca Gardens that descend down along the gorge. The incline is fairly steep but you will be rewarded with great views from about midway down of the bridge.
  • Mirador de Ronda – Although you cannot view the bridge from this lookout it’s still one of our favorites because you can see all through the surrounding countryside from a birds-eye perspective.

ROYAL SCHOOL OF CAVALRY (BULLRING)

Ronda's bullring in Spain
Bullring in Ronda, Spain
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Founded in 1572, the Real Maestranza de Caballería (Royal Calvary School) de Ronda is the oldest in Spain. Calvary schools were created by the nobility under the order of King Phillip II. These schools could be defined as “nobility clubs,” which had the job to prepare the horses for battle. For training the horses, they often used bulls which ended up developing into what we now call bullfighting.

Ronda is the birthplace of modern bullfighting and home to one of the oldest bullrings in Spain. Inside the Royal School of Calvary (8€ entrance fee) you will be able to see the bullring, bullpen and horse stables. In addition, there is a museum where you can learn how the calvary and bullfighting impacted Spain’s history and culture. Regardless of your position on bullfighting, we highly recommend a visit.

Museum exhibition in Ronda's bullring, Spain
Museum exhibition in the bullring
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Besides the bullring and museum, Ronda’s Maestranza still runs an equestrian school. It is possible to see Spanish thoroughbred horses when you visit and if you are lucky, they might even be training. If you are interested in seeing an actual bullfight, then you will probably find it very difficult since there is only one fight per year (go to Seville for bullfights). It happens at the beginning of September during Ronda’s largest fiesta, the Feria de Pedro Romero.

CUENCA GARDEN & OLD BRIDGE

Crossing the old bridge in Ronda, Spain
Crossing the Old Bridge in Ronda
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The Cuenca Garden (Jardines de Cuenca) is a delightful small garden located right in the edge of the cliff. It offers a wonderful full view of Ronda’s famous bridge all the way down to the Tajo gorge below. At the Cuenca Garden you will find yourself surrounded by a beautiful collection of roses. There are over 60 different varieties in this small garden.

If you have the time, make sure to visit the Jardines de Cuenca at sunset, when the views of the bridge are some of the best. Entrance to the Jardines de Cuenca is free and it is open from 9:30 am until 9:30 pm (until 6:30 pm in winter).

At the end of the Cuenca Garden you will find the old bridge which dates back to the 1300’s. It’s a beautiful setting and only steps away from the Arab Baths, found right below.

ARAB BATHS

Inside the medieval Arab Baths of Ronda – Spain
Arab Baths – Ronda, Spain
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Ronda’s Arab baths (3.5€ entrance fee) are some of the best preserved in Spain. Dating back to the 13th and 14th centuries, pretty much everything here is original because they were actually buried underground until about a century ago.

Ronda’s Arab baths are divided in three main areas (cold, warm and hot) that can be visited today. The rooms are pretty much intact and feature beautiful horseshoe arches, brick and stone work.

Inside of the baths, there is a short video with interesting information about the baths and how they worked. Among other things, it explains how horses powered a wheel that would transport the water from the river to the baths.

Although not widely known as one of the top things to do in Ronda, the Arab baths should definitely not be missed.

CASA DEL REY MORO

Casa del Rey Moro seen from the other side of the gorge in Ronda – Spain
Casa del Rey Moro in Ronda
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Although the house is called “house of the Moorish king,” it was never actually lived in by any king, let alone Moorish. Instead the name comes from its Neo-mudejar architecture which pays homage to the city’s Moorish heritage and founding. This massive 20th century house which clings to the steep walls of the Tajo Gorge was conceived by the Duchess of Parcent. It’s actually composed of several existing 18th century buildings that were all joined together.

The duchess commissioned Jean-Claude Nicolas Forestier (the same guy who designed the Maria Luisa Park in Seville) to create the surrounding gardens. The gardens took inspiration from Granada’s Alhambra and Seville’s Alcazar with some traditional French influence added in.

While the house and gardens are a sight themselves, the real highlight of Casa del Rey Moro is its secret passage known as the “mina” in Spanish. The mina tunnels all the way down to the river at the bottom of the gorge.

In the 14th century the Moors cut almost 300 steps into the rock so that they could have a safe access to water if they were under attack. The construction was quite successful and helped Ronda to be one of the last strongholds of the Moors in Spain. However, Christian forces were able to take control of the steps in 1485 and after only 10 days, the Moors surrendered.

The house is currently closed for renovations but you can still explore the mina and the gardens for 7€.

PLAZA DUQUESA DE PARCENT & CHURCH OF SANTA MARÍA LA MAYOR

Plaza Duquesa de Parcent in Ronda – Spain
Plaza Duquesa de Parcent
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The Plaza Duquesa de Parcent is the main square in the old Moorish area of the city and is probably the most beautiful in Ronda. The center of the square is full of super tall trees with plenty of benches and a fountain – a great place to take a little break and relax.

Surrounding the green area you will find some of the city’s most important buildings such as the town hall. It was built in 1734 and in the beginning, was a military prison.

Church of Santa María la Mayor in Ronda – Spain
Church of Sta María la Mayor
© ESPAÑA GUIDE

On the same square you will also find the Iglesia de Santa María la Mayor (4.5€ entrance fee). It was originally Ronda’s mosque but was later transformed into a church after the Reconquest. The bell tower is actually the mosque’s former minaret. The church’s interior is an eclectic mixture of styles such as Moorish, Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque.

PALACIO DE MONDRAGÓN

Moorish gate at the Palacio de Mondragón (Mondragon Palace) in Ronda – Spain
Moorish gate at the Mondragón Palace
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The Mondragón Palace is the real “house of the Moorish King” in Ronda. It is believed that it was built in the 14th century for King Abd al Malik, son of Morocco’s sultan Abul Hassan. After the Christian Reconquest of 1485, the Catholic Kings used it as one of their residences.

The palace is relatively small and set around 3 patios full of Mudéjar details. There are two small gardens that butt up against the cliff’s edge and offer spectacular views of the countryside surrounding Ronda.

Currently the municipal museum is located in the palace. While the museum is not particularly noteworthy, the building itself is one of the most significant in Ronda. Admission will cost you 3.5€.

PLAZA DEL SOCORRO

Socorro church in the square with the same name in Ronda – Spain
Socorro church in Plaza del Socorro

The Plaza del Socorro is the main square in Ronda’s new city. This area is known locally as “el mercadillo” and was built by the Christians after the Reconquest in 1485. The square was mostly built later after the Spanish Independence War (1808-1814).

The square is lively and in it you will find a variety of bars and restaurants with terraces. The two most important buildings around the square are the Casino de Ronda and the Socorro Church. The Carrera Espinel crosses the square and is the main shopping street of Ronda.

Plan your Visit to Ronda, Spain

BASICS
GET TO RONDA FROM...
HOW TO GET AROUND RONDA?

Ronda is quite small and all of the sights are located quite close to one another. The best way to get around is definitely on foot. The only exception might be if you want to go to the viewpoint at the bottom of the gorge and you don’t want to take the footpath down. It is quite steep and strenuous so if you have any kind of mobility issues, it may be best to either drive down yourself or hire a taxi.

Top Hotels & Apartments in Ronda

HOTELS
APARTMENTS

Best Restaurants, Bars & Cafes in Ronda

OUR TOP PICKS
Stylish modern restaurant that offers very creative dishes by using a mixture of traditional flavors with an innovative touch. It’s not one of the cheapest alternatives in Ronda, but it is quite good. It is also conveniently located 2-min walk away from Ronda’s famous bridge. Make sure to check out the day’s specials on the blackboard. Address: Calle Nueva 4
Occupying an old mansion perched on the side of the cliff, this restaurant features a beautiful garden with views to the green countryside that surrounds Ronda. You can choose 5 tapas from the menu for 16€. Great price, especially taking into consideration its incredibly charming setting. It is one of our favorites in Ronda. Address: Plaza de María Auxiliadora 4
Popular tapas bar frequented by tourists and locals alike. The menu is made up of a very long list of traditional tapas starting at 0.90€. Their order-forms make it very easy to place orders. It is a small busy bar with great ambience, just don’t expect a sit-down meal. Great value for your money. Address: Calle Virgen de los Remedios 35
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