9 Things You Need To Do in Sanlúcar de Barrameda, Cádiz
Updated: Dec 2, 2020
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If you haven't heard of Sanlúcar de Barrameda before, don't worry neither had I. That's until I visited Jerez de la Frontera and learned about the world of sherry production. Sanlúcar de Barrameda is one of three cities that make up the Sherry Triangle (along with Jerez de la Frontera and El Puerto de Santa María), and has played an important role throughout history due to its strategic location along the Guadalquivir River. There are a number of things to do in Sanlúcar de Barrameda besides taste testing all of the manzanilla wine, and quite a lot of them are completely free.
We decided to go on a day trip to Sanlúcar de Barrameda, and were pleasantly surprised by some of the historic sites the city has tucked away. I would consider it to be one of the hidden gems of Cádiz, if not a hidden gem of Spain. Keep reading to find out what I consider to be the best things to do in Sanlúcar de Barrameda, as well as why you should add this southern Spanish city to your list of things to do in Andalusia.
1. Castillo de Santiago
I'm going to start this list of things to do in Sanlúcar de Barrameda off with the city's most popular historic attraction: Castillo de Santiago. The castle was built in the late 15th century by the Second Duke of Medina Sidonia, but was built as a display of power rather than for military use. The castle has seen many prominent historical figures pass through its doors, including the likes of Isabella I of Castille and the explorer Ferdinand Magellan. Today you can visit the castle and its museum for €8, and in my opinion it's definitely worth it. It's a beautifully preserved castle, with many rooms to explore, and you can climb to the top of the tower and get some incredible views of the city and the beach in the distance too. Upon entry, you can download a free audio guide right to your phone, which has the voices of a variety of actors playing different roles within the castle, making it a lot more fun to listen to than other audio guides I've come across.
2. Bodegas Barbadillo
One of the main reasons many people visit Sanlúcar de Barrameda is to sample the famous manzanilla wine - a white sherry. Sanlúcar is the only place this sherry is allowed to be made, so visiting a bodegas is an absolute must. The Barbadillo's were the first family to bottle manzanilla wine in 1821, so the name is synonymous with the city.
Today you can take a tour of the Bodegas Barbadillo where you get to learn the history behind their wines as well as some secrets behind the production process. The tour includes entry into the Wine Museum, as well as some wine tasting - all for just €10!
3. Church of Our Lady of the O
The Church of Our Lady of the O (or Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de la O) is another main attraction in Sanlúcar de Barrameda that you simply have to see. It's only a few minutes walk from the castle, and sits in front of the Palace of the Dukes of Medina Sidonia. The church itself is situated in the relatively small Plaza de la Paz and dates back as early as the 14th century. When we visited here the church was closed, but it was a lovely structure to look at from the outside.
4. La Merced Auditorium
We came across La Merced Auditorium by chance while walking towards the main plaza. While it may not be the most interesting place to visit in Sanlúcar de Barrameda, it does have a pretty interesting history behind it. The convent was built in the 17th century under the patronage of the Medina Sidonia house. The auditorium sits within the church of the former convent (Convent of La Merced), and from the 20th century was adapted to its current role. Sitting just next to the auditorium is the Palacio de Orleans-Borbón, another attraction in Sanlúcar. It was built as a 19th century summer home, and today is used as the town hall. If you want to visit it, access is only given to the gardens.
5. Parish of Santo Domingo
The Parish of Santo Domingo (Parroquia de Santo Domingo) is a beautiful church in Sanlúcar de Barrameda, built in the 16th century. It's the only church in the whole city that was built entirely with stone. It was once the most important church in the region, and today can be visited for free, though donations are accepted at the entrance.
6. Church of San Francisco
A short walk from Santo Domingo brings you to another interesting church in Sanlúcar de Barrameda: the Church of San Francisco (Iglesia de San Francisco). It dates back to the 15th century, and was once a male monastery for the Franciscan order. Today it's home to 3 brotherhoods who walk in the Holy Week processions.
7. Plaza del Cabildo
The main square in Sanlúcar de Barrameda is Plaza del Cabildo. It's surrounded by cafes, restaurants, and lots of shopping streets such as Calle Ancha
8. Helados TONI
I can't pass by an ice cream parlour without stopping to have a quick look, especially if it's an historic one. Helados TONI was founded in 1896, and they still use their perfected recipes today, as well as producing novelty ice cream flavours. I'm a bit of an ice cream connoisseur, and I have to say that it was some of the best I've ever tasted. If you ever visit Sanlúcar de Barrameda, make sure you get some of this ice cream (I'd recommend the brownie flavour).
9. Playa de Bajo de Guía
Most tourists come to Sanlúcar de Barrameda for the beaches rather than to tour the historical sites of the city. And why not? Some of the best beaches in southern Spain can be found in this area. A great way to end a day of exploring Sanlúcar is to catch the sunset at Playa de Bajo de Guía. It's a gorgeous sandy beach, popular with tourists and locals alike. You can walk along the promenade if you don't want to get sand in your shoes, and stop at one of the many bars and restaurants to grab a cocktail or some delicious food. This beach is also where you can grab the ferry over to Parque Nacional de Doñana for a small fee.
BONUS: Visit the Bonanza Salt Flats
If you have a car, I would recommend taking a short drive from the centre of Sanlúcar and visiting the Bonanza Salt Flats. It's a beautiful area to explore on foot, and is part of the Doñana Natural Park as well. There are roads throughout the salinas, but they are very rugged and difficult to drive on, so it's easier to park up and take a stroll around the area instead. If you're a fan of birds, this is a paradise for bird lovers and is home to a number of rare species. We visited near sunset and the reflection on the salt flats from the setting sun was stunning.
There may not be as many things to do in Sanlúcar de Barrameda as there are in other cities in the Province of Cádiz, but it's definitely worth visiting, especially if you're looking for off the beaten path locations in Spain. There are a number of historically significant sites to see in Sanlúcar, and in my opinion it's an ideal day trip from Cádiz or other nearby locations such as Seville. If you're planning a trip to southern Spain or a road trip in Andalusia in the future, don't forget to add Sanlúcar de Barrameda to your Spanish itinerary!
Drop me a comment below if you've ever visited Sanlúcar de Barrameda, or anywhere nearby - I'd love to hear about your experiences! And remember to follow me on Instagram as well to keep up to date with my latest adventures.