The Heart of Andalusia
From the many times we’ve been coming to Southern Spain, there’s always a new city or place to visit, and this weekend was not going to be different. While our flight was to Malaga, a 3rd time so far in that city, the main aim this time was for reaching the nearby historic city of Antequera 50 kilometres north of Malaga, with its World Heritage Site listed “the Ancient Dolmens of Antequera” and the nearby Torcal Natural Reserve, home to one of the biggest and most important karst landscapes in Europe.
A day trip is well worth it and more than enough to enjoy every sight within the city, and nearby Torcal and the prehistoric Dolmens, hence do not think this is a tour that will take more than that, otherwise you face the fact of having too much time to spare when you overestimate. And considering Malaga as the perfect base it really takes a short time between one to another.
The city retains a massive cultural heritage and one can feel at the many little charming squares how the life would have been during the Muslim invasion days. The city, although inhabited during prehistoric times, was a medium size Roman post and grew considerably in size and important from the 8th century onwards. Its nickname, “the heart of Andalusia” comes due to its location at pretty much the “centre” of Andalusia having Malaga, Granada, Cordoba and Seville at easy reach on all directions. It was suggested in 1978 to be the possible headquarters of the Andalusian Government, but it went to Seville instead.
While Antequera itself is easy to navigate through, doing just few back and forth along the main 3 streets, when visiting the Torcal Natural Park and the Dolmens require more time, and as you can visit the 3 dolmens in the city by walking (yet beware one of them sits 4km distance from the other 2), if you wish to visit the Torcal you will for sure need to have your own transport and be independent. A taxi ride can be optional, but costly.
On a few notes regarding food and restaurants, the same as commented for Malaga here applies too. A restaurant/bar serving “Menu del Dia” will not be too far from wherever you are. But you must remember they stop serving food at around 15.00pm, if not earlier, and they are very likely to close after lunch service for some hours break. They will reopen towards the evening, but will not serve anymore the day menu. The price for these menus is very competitive and likely to be around 10 Euros in general. It does include a starter, a main course, dessert, bread and a drink (it can be even wine or beer). If I may suggest, try to avoid any fast food place while you are in general, anywhere in Spain, and enjoy some nice traditional food instead, it is likely to be even cheaper than a McDonalds menu.
For more information about Antequera check Wikipedia site. Spain’s currency is the Euro (EUR). Please note that any price reference is true as from when this guide was created, therefore check prices in advance as with the time they change.
What to see and do in Antequera
- Alcazaba The highlight number one in the city, the Moorish citadel located at the very south of the city, on a higher elevation overlooking the city. Some of the former encircling walls are still standing, with longer sections around the Alcazaba, and minor parts elsewhere through the city.
-Torre del Homenaje The second widest of all the towers built in Andalusia during the Muslim occupation. Located on the western side of the Alcazaba.
-White Tower Along the same wall section where Homenaje Tower is.
-Courtyard Offers a great view of the towers and walls at one side, and the archaeological remains of the former mosque and water tank of the Alcazaba.
-Mosque and Water Tank Very few remains, surrounded by landscaped gardens all around.
- Saint Mary Square Just east of the Alcazaba, home to the most important church in Antequera.
-Royal Collegiate Church of Santa Maria la Mayor Built between 1514 and 1550 as one of the first renaissance works in Spain.
-Roman Baths Side to side with the Collegiate Church, very few remains are visible.
-Arco de los Gigantes Erected in 1595 in honour of King Philip II of Spain using some Roman masonry from the nearby baths.
- Infante Don Fernando Street Starting at the south of the city next to the Arco de los Gigante runs all the way towards the northwest of the city. It is one of the major thoroughfares with plenty of sights along its way.
-Palace of Nájera Built in the 18th century, home to the Municipal Museum. Located on the perpendicular Najera Street, corner with the small Coso Viejo Square.
-San Sebastian Square One of the charming squares with traditional architecture of white painted houses and a beautiful 1545 fountain in the middle.
-San Sebastian Church Dating from the 16th century, with a renaissance facade and baroque tower
-San Agustin Church The next continuing along the street heading north.
-City Hall Farther north, near the end of the road, housed in a traditional palace with an Andalusian courtyard inside.
-Los Remedios Church Attached to the City Hall, while very plain from the outside, it has a very richly decorated interior dating from 1630.
-Captain Moreno Square This little intersection or roads is marked by the statue of Moreno among great architecture.
-Plaza de Castilla The northern end of Infante Don Fernando Street is marked by the Door of Estepa, originally built in 1749, rebuilt in 1998.
-Bullring Opposite Plaza de Castilla, one of the most beautiful in Spain in the traditional architecture blending with Moorish touches.
- Santa Clara/Calzada Street The next important thoroughfare in Antequera, linking north and south. Continuing the route as you were doing, from the Plaza de Castilla take Merecillas Street all the way east to the end and you will reach Santa Clara Street.
-Trinity Church At the northern end of Santa Clara Street.
-San Francisco Square At the middle section of the street, is home to the main city’s market, San Francisco Church and San Zoilo Municipal Library.
- Madre Carmen del Nino Jesus Street The third of the main streets in Antequera, this one has an orientation from near the Alcazaba towards the northeast, right to the prehistoric Dolmens. As mentioned before, to continue your tour, keep heading south along Calzada Street until the intersection with Madre Carmen, then head north.
-Saint Joseph Convent Founded in 1632, with the church built in 1734 in baroque style. Don’t miss the interior, fully covered in artworks.
-Palace of the Marquis of Peña de los Enamorados Immediately after Saint Joseph Convent, follows an architectural plan of a traditional Alcazar, with corner towers.
-Convento de la Victoria The next construction, with an 18th century church built in the style of Italian baroque.
-Santa Eufamia and Santiago Churches Continuing along the road, another 2 of the many churches everywhere in the city.
- Bronze Age Dolmens The largest of its kind anywhere in Europe, 5000 years old and still in immaculate condition. There are 3, 2 next to each other and the 3rd one few kilometres from the other 2. The Dolmens, together with the Torcal Natural Park and Peña de los Enamorados have been listed by UNESCO as World Heritage Site.
-Menga Dolmen The largest of them three, constructed in 4700 a.C. with a circular chamber.
-Viera Dolmen In the same compound of Menga, this one is of the corridor kind, with its rectangular chamber at the end. Constructed in around 4000 a.C.
-El Romeral Dolmen Located in the second archaelogical area, east from the other dolmens. It is of a corridor with chamber kind, however, the cupola was reached by piling stones one after another reaching proximity. Constructed in 3800 a.C.
-Peña de los Enamorados Not a dolmen, however this 874 meters high mount is of key importance to the 3 previous dolmens, since their rarity unparalleled in Europe is their alignment with this mount.
- Torcal Natural Park The Jurassic age limestone is about 150 million years old and was laid down in a marine corridor that extended from the Gulf of Cádiz to Alicante between the present Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea. These seabeds were uplifted to an elevation of over 1300 meters during the Tertiary era, resulting in one of the most impressive karst landscapes in Europe. It is located between Malaga and Antequera, just south of the later.
Antequera sits at a privilege location, with 4 major airports equidistant to the city at approximately 1 hour distance. However, the main airport is Malaga, the 4th largest in Spain in number of yearly passengers, and being such and important touristy city for sun-seekers, there is a vast choice of airlines and destinations served. Pretty much any airline within Europe has as one of their routes Malaga, this including especially any low cost carrier. Finding a good fare is rarely hard, however during the summer months you can forget about it. High season is serious in this part of Spain, and unless you are willing to fly at random odd days, a weekend trip can easily be as expensive as a flight to Dubai at over £300.
From the airport to Malaga downtown there are frequent trains ans buses. The train is the cheapest option at just 1.80 Euros per way. The train station is opposite the arrivals of Terminal 3, with frequencies of every 20 minutes during the day taking just 12 minutes to the train station. The other option is the Bus A, stopping at all terminals and along its way in Alameda Principal, Paseo del Parque and the main bus station next door to the train station costing 3 Euros per way. If you need further information about the urban transportation in Malaga check that guide here.
From Malaga to Antequera you have trains and buses. Calculate 1 hour approximately one to the other. Both train and bus stations are located at the very north of Antequera, within walking distance of the historic city, however bear in mind there is another railway station serving the high-speed trains from Malaga to the north, but stopping well outside and far from the city centre for what you will need the shuttle buses from there to the old town. Once tin the centre, there is no need for taking any further transportation, the entire city is small enough for walking through and enjoying the countless sights at every street.
As I did not stay overnight in Antequera since this was a day trip from Malaga, I can only give you the information for the later. After all, it is highly likely Malaga will be your base for visiting other cities nearby as we keep doing for the last years.
There is a massive choice of hotels in Malaga, of any kind and any size, however prices either in low or high season are still much higher than expectations, unfortunately. It is very hard to find a good deal at a nice place, unless you are OK in lowering your comfort and quality standards. A good and reasonable point to start your search is by checking some of our preferred affiliate hotel search engine such as Hotels.com, Booking.com, Expedia, Otel.com, Agoda, Opodo, LateRooms or Ebookers.