Ernest Hemingway said that, “The whole city and its surroundings are a romantic set… Nice promenades, good wine, excellent food, nothing to do.” After going to Ronda twice now, I’d partially agree with him. However, he isn’t 100% right either. There are things to do in Ronda, maybe not as many as other places the famed globetrotter frequented, but activities and tourist attractions are there. At least, the rest of the quote is accurate.
In this guide, I’ll share some of the top things to do in Ronda, where to stay, how to get there and the best restaurants along the way.
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How to get to Ronda
Ronda itself is a small town not far from Malaga and Seville. You can take an Avanz bus from either city (about 2 and half hours).
You can take public transportation but, getting to Ronda is easiest by car and is also a perfect stop as part of a larger Andalusian itinerary. The rolling hills in the surrounding countryside are absolutely beautiful and reminded me of the most charming places in Tuscany.
When to Visit
I’ve visited Ronda twice, once in December and once in late May. The Christmas lights were quite magical and the weather was cool enough for a comfortable hike.
Visiting in the warmer months of the summer is more ideal for lounging by the pool and enjoying tapas in the plazas.
Traditionally, the Feria de Pedro Romero takes place the first week of September. The weeklong festival culminates with a bullfight to celebrate the famous bullfighter from Ronda.
Where to Stay
Hotel Catalonia Reina Victoria – The hotel is walking distance to most of the things to do in Ronda and our room overlooking the restaurant was nicely furnished. The in-house Restaurante Azahar is a picturesque place to have a drink and enjoy the sunset.
My only slight complaint was related to the used, dirty dog bowl they brought to our room. Most people don’t travel with their dog like I do, so this odd misstep probably doesn’t apply to you. Nevertheless, I was glad they accepted dogs at all (something that I’ve found rather difficult to find in Spain). Check pricing and availability.
The same hotel group also has a second location (with higher ratings). The Catalonia Ronda has a pool that overlooks the famous bullring. The slightly more central location is a plus too. Check pricing and availability.
Parador de Ronda – After visiting the Parador in Arcos de la Frontera for coffee, I started to take note of this upscale hotel group in Spain. This location doesn’t allow dogs, so we couldn’t stay there. However, the Parador is perfect for views and is right in the center of town. The Christmas lights are spectacular too if you visit in December. Check pricing and availability.
Hotel Molino de Arcos – If you want a rural stay with a pool, look no further than the Molino de Arcos located about 15 minutes from Ronda. This boutique hotel has a Provence meets hacienda vibe with its terra-cotta tiles and large garden. Sadly, no mini fridge to my disappointment, but there is an honesty bar for wine and snacks. Free parking, but prepare yourself for a few potholes on the dirt road. Check pricing and availability.
Things to do in Ronda, Spain
Built in the 1700s, the Puente Nuevo (the new bridge) connects the two parts of town previously divided by the 400 foot gorge. Today, it is one of the top things to see in Ronda and hard to miss. During the Spanish Civil War, allegedly both sides used the bridge to execute opponents by throwing them off.
From here, you can walk down the pathway and through the Jardines de Cuenca to the other bridge, the Puente Viejo.
On the opposite side, you can hike down the El Tajo Canyon to the Mirador Puente Nuevo de Ronda. The path is mostly paved with a steady incline/decline, but overall not that difficult.
I wonder if Hemingway would find it ironic that one of the things to do in Ronda (the place he said there’s nothing to do), is see a statue of him. Hemingway and Orson Welles statues bookend the paseo in the park between the bullfighting ring and the Mirador de Ronda (viewpoint).
The statues celebrate the two public figures and their relationship to the city. As a Spanish Civil War correspondent and bullfight lover, Hemingway had close ties with Spain and celebrated his 60th and final birthday in Ronda. Orson Welles spent summers in Ronda and his ashes are buried there. He also has a street named after him, Paseo de Orson Welles.
A machismo activity Hemingway certainly approved of is bull fighting. This kind of animal brutality isn’t particularly my cup of tea, so I personally passed. However, if you are interested in the tradition, you can visit the Plaza de Toros and the neighboring museum. Built in 1785, the Ronda bullring is the first in Spain.
Walk along the 13th century gate, Puerta de Almocábar.
Visit the Arab baths dating back to the 13th century. Read more about the water systems and Muslim tradition.
Honestly, I get annoyed when I read a list of things to do in a particular city and the author mentions a different, nearby city or day trip. Yet here I am, about to do it. So while visiting the cave town of Setenil de las Bodegas or taking a hike in Grazalema isn’t in Ronda technically, those are notable nearby towns you might want to check out.
Where to Eat
Bar El Lechuguita is a tapas bar that was packed at all hours of the day. When we walked by at night and the line had finally died down, we stopped in for a few traditional tapas. Even though we had already eaten dinner, I didn’t want to leave Ronda without trying one of the most popular spots. After eating just a few bites on the wobbly high top tables out in the cobblestoned street, I completely understood the long line.
For more inventive tapas try Restaurante Las Maravillas on one of the pedestrian walkways. The sweet potato gratin with pesto was delicious and a welcomed change to my usual mayonnaise potato salad.
Do as Rick Steves does and try contemporary tapas at Tragatá (you can watch his trip to Ronda on YouTube). I was hoping to snag a table here, but they were closed when we tried. De Locos Tapas also came highly recommended by friends, so it is on my list for next time.
Restaurante Don Miguel is a touristy spot located right in front of Puente Nuevo with a beautiful view of the valley below. I would skip it for a full meal, but for coffees and the traditional Andalusian breakfast (bread and olive oil) it was fine. The food wasn’t exceptional (as other reviewers confirm), but the view was.
Now for a truly exceptional meal during your trip, drive about 10 minutes to El Muelle de Arriate. This amazing restaurant’s unlikely location is right next to the Arriate train station (don’t worry the train that went by was very quiet) with views of the mountains in the distance.
The owner is Dutch and will happily tell you the many specials in your preferred language and can accommodate dietary restrictions. I had a stuffed avocado starter I won’t soon forget followed by a seafood tagine that I regretted splitting with my husband. They are also known for their large salads that just about every other table ordered. Be sure to make a reservation and thank me later!
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