A BRIEF HISTORY
Arcos de la Frontera was declared to be of National Historic Interest in the 1962 & has been drawing visitors ever since.
It is also reviewed as One of the Thousand Places to See Before You Die in Patricia Schulz's best-selling travel book of the same name, a destination that deserves a place on your bucket list!
Arcos has been visited by its fair share of historic figures. Charles de Gaulle wrote his memoirs on the balcony of the Parador and Napoleon Bonaparte's brother also stayed in Arcos; ridiculed as "Pepe Botella" due to his love of drink, he was briefly, & disastrously, declared Emperor of Spain in the early 19th century.
For over two centuries before the visit of The Catholic Kings, Ferdinand & Isabella in 1493, Arcos formed part of a group of defensive walled towns bordering the last Muslim bastion in Spain, the Nasrid Kingdom of Granada. It was for this that Arcos was given the appendage "de la Frontera" - meaning of the Frontier.
Such was Arcos' strategic-military importance from the times of Arx-Arcis under the Romans, then Medina Arkos under Muslim rule, that in the same year as their visit, The Catholic Kings made Arcos one of Spain's principal ducal seats.
IN AND AROUND ARCOS
Arcos de la Frontera is located in the province of Cadiz, in South West Andalusia, Spain.
The layout of today's old quarter dates from Spain's Islamic period, with its quaint narrow cobbled streets & abundance of patio houses. The main historic monuments go back to this era, such as the castle, built in the Taifa period, the Santa Maria Church, formerly a mosque and the San Pedro Church, previously an Arab Fortress.
But we also catch glimpses of Visigoth & Roman occupation: testimony to the latter are the many roman columns built into the corner of buildings, some even positioned upside down. Retrieved from a nearby roman settlement by later generations, the columns were recycled as a protective barrier to prevent passing donkey carts from destroying the corners of homes & monuments.
Later buildings, such as the "casa-palacios" (grand houses), convents & monasteries date from Spain's Renaissance period, when vast fortunes were made in the newly discovered lands of the Americas. Those lucky enough to find their fortune returned home to show off their new wealth.
Some of our guests have compared walking around Arcos' streets to that of wandering around a film set, as the atmosphere evokes strong feelings for a past long gone & yet curiously still present, lending the old quarter a surreal quality.
Flamenco, both dance and song, remains a significant art form in Cadiz Province, & Arcos is no exception. Peñas (Flamenco Clubs) in & around Arcos offer genuine & lively shows aimed at local aficionados. Visitors are also welcome to come & enjoy the atmosphere.
For those looking for some relief from the heat of summer, but not wanting to go to the beach, we can recommend a lovely pool, set by the lake in Arcos, some 5 minutes drive away or a man-made beach on the shores of Arcos´ lake.
Arcos is blessed with the perfect position for taking day trips further afield: located right in the middle of Cadiz Province, the nearest beaches are 30 minutes' drive away, as is Cadiz capital. The sherry bodegas & señorial houses of Jerez de la Frontera are just 20 minutes by car; the Sierra de Cadiz, to the North of Arcos, a mere 20 to 30 minutes drive with its numerous & charming white towns (pueblos blancos) & breathtaking scenery. The famous gorge at Ronda is 55 minutes by car and the flamboyant Andalusian capital, Seville, just 1 hr 20 minutes.
A little further afield is Italica, the Roman town that sits just outside Seville, and where it is said the Roman Emperor Hadrian was born. Towards Tarifa, on the coast, is the lovely coastal village of Bolonia, home to the spectacular Roman Ruins of Claudio Baelo, which sit just above a sandy cove which in turn overlooks the coastline of Northern Morocco, so near you feel you could reach out and touch it.
You can't get more romantic than that!