14 of the Best Things To Do in Antequera
Updated: Aug 23, 2021
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If you've never travelled to southern Spain before - why not?! Andalusia in particular is filled with incredible historic towns and cities, many of which aren't necessarily nestled along the coast. Sure, Málaga is great, and so are the likes of Córdoba and Cádiz, but sometimes the best places to visit are those that are often overlooked by tourists - such as Antequera. There are so many things to do in Antequera, that I can't believe it never shows up on my searches of places to visit in southern Spain.
Antequera is located less than an hours drive from Málaga, and is quite well known for its large amount of churches. There are 33 churches in total in Antequera, and for such a small city that's a lot. In fact, Antequera has the largest number of churches per inhabitant in all of Spain. Pretty impressive fact, right? Apart from its churches, Antequera is very popular for its traditional restaurants, and boasts a mixture of prehistoric, Roman, medieval, and Renaissance sites that are all open to the public. Keep reading to find out my top picks for the best things to do in Antequera and what points of interest you shouldn't miss!
1. Alcazaba de Antequera
One of the best things to do in Antequera is to visit the 14th century Alcazaba de Antequera. The fortress was built on top of Roman ruins, and its walls stretch beyond the main complex, further down the hill and into the city. The Alcazaba played a central role during the constant battles fought between the Moors and the Christians, as it was situated in a very important strategic location. It's one of the most picturesque castles in the province of Málaga, and costs only €4 to enter - not bad if you're visiting Spain on a budget! If you don't have time to explore the interior of the Alcazaba, there's a fantastic viewpoint of it from beside Iglesia de Santa María de Jesús, and there is parking behind the castle, which also provides you with a nice view!
2. Iglesia de Santa María de Jesús
There are many churches to visit in Antequera, but one of my favourites was Iglesia de Santa María de Jesús. It's located only a few minutes walk from the Alcazaba, and seemed to be situated in a very popular area for locals wanting to sit outside with a drink and some tapas. The church itself was completed in the 17th century, but has undergone a series of changes since then. The front of the church is gorgeous, but my favourite part was the side closest to the road (shown in the photo) with its glistening white wall and imposing doorway. This is also where you'll find a great view of the Alcazaba on the hill.
3. Mirador de las Almenillas
If you're looking for unrivalled views of Antequera, Mirador de las Almenillas is where you'll want to head to. It sits at the entrance to some of the most popular historic sites in Antequera, and is well worth the somewhat steep climb to the top. From here, you're able to pick out many of the impressive churches that adorn the city, and see how Antequera has grown as a city over the last few centuries. There are a few parking spaces at the viewpoint, so if you're planning a road trip in southern Spain during the off-season, chances are you'll be able to park here.
4. Arco de los Gigantes
Located directly across from the viewpoint is Arco de los Gigantes (Arch of the Giants) which is considered to be one of the best things to see in Antequera. It was built in the 16th century as a replacement for part of the Muslim wall which stood there, and has a number of Latin statues and gravestones built into it which were found at ancient Roman towns in the surrounding area. The arch is also very popular for photographers, since you can see the city and the mountains in the distance through it. After you've passed through the arch, you'll find the entrance to the Alcazaba on your right hand side.
5. Real Colegiata de Santa María la Mayor
Churches in Antequera don't come much grander than Real Colegiata de Santa María la Mayor! Visiting this impressive church is one of the best things to do in Antequera, and is very popular with large tour groups in the summer months. It dates back to the 16th century, and is considered to be the first columned Renaissance church built in Andalusia - as well as one of the first in the whole of Spain. It costs just €4 to enter, or you can purchase the combo ticket which will give you access to the church and the Alcazaba for €6. This is one church I would definitely say is a must see in southern Spain. There are also some pretty fascinating Roman ruins next to the church which are worth visiting if you have the time.
6. La Peña de los Enamorados
One of the most iconic sights in Antequera is La Peña de los Enamorados - also known as the "Lover's Rock". You can see it from a number of spots in the city, but I would recommend seeing it from either Mirador de las Almenillas or the plaza in front of Real Colegiata de Santa María la Mayor. Legend says that a Christian boy was captured in the medieval period and sent to be a servant at the home of a rich Moorish family. He fell in love with the daughter of the family and they decided to flee, but were chased and cornered at the mountain, and instead of surrendering, they threw themselves from the top of it. Many people also say it resembles the face of an Indian looking towards the sky. Finding a nice view of La Peña de los Enamorados is one of the top things to do in Antequera - so don't forget to look out for it while you walk around the city!
7. Explore the streets of Antequera
The city of Antequera is full of charming streets to walk along. Cuesta Santa Maria, for example, is located just in front of Real Colegiata de Santa María la Mayor and is lined with pretty white washed houses and a couple of restaurants too. If you're not on a tight schedule, I would recommend taking a leisurely stroll around the city, because you never know what you might come across. Antequera is highly underrated by tourists, but in my opinion it's one of the best cities in southern Spain to visit if you want to immerse yourself in history and the Spanish culture.
8. Parroquia San Sebastián
Considering Antequera has the most churches per inhabitant in the entirety of Spain, I could have filled this post with a lot of photos of beautifully designed churches and religious sites. But I don't want to ruin all the fun! One church that really caught my eye as we were walking the streets of Antequera was Parroquia San Sebastián. This Renaissance church was built in the mid-16th century, and has seen numerous additions to it over the centuries. It sits at the bottom of the hill where the Alcazaba is located so it's very easy to find.
9. Plaza Coso Viejo
Another top thing to do in Antequera is to visit Plaza Coso Viejo. The plaza was once called the Vegetable Square, as it was where the open air market was held. It has since been completely renovated and is home to Palacio De Nájera and Convento Santa Catalina de Siena. There is also a beautiful statue in the middle of the plaza of Ferdinand I of Aragon riding on his horse, who conquered the city in 1410.
10. Museo de la Ciudad de Antequera
If you're interested in visiting a museum while you're in Antequera, Museo de la Ciudad de Antequera is one of the most popular ones, and is located inside the 18th century Palacio De Nájera in the Plaza Coso Viejo. Although this museum doesn't top the list of things to do in Antequera, it's the perfect place to visit if you want to learn more about the history of the city and see some fine art as well.
11. Museo Conventual de las Descalzas
Another interesting museum to visit in Antequera is the Museo Conventual de las Descalzas. Visiting this museum is definitely a unique thing to do in Antequera, as it forms part of a convent, and is run by cloistered nuns. The museum itself is home to a large selection of religious art, which are well worth taking a look at - especially if you love history! This museum is located a few minutes walk from Plaza Coso Viejo, and is surrounded by some of the best restaurants in Antequera.
12. Stop for tapas at Arte de Cozina
Speaking of food, you can't leave Antequera without having some tapas at Arte de Cozina. I actually came across this restaurant on a number of blogs while I was researching the best things to do in Antequera, so I added it to our itinerary. The tapas is phenomenal here, and very budget friendly too considering the portion sizes. They use local produce to create traditional recipes, and sometimes add their own twist on things. We sampled a few tapas dishes each and loved every bite.
13. Visit the Sitio de los Dólmenes de Antequera
If you have a car, or are planning on going on a coach tour of Antequera, make sure you visit the Sitio de los Dólmenes de Antequera. This incredible 5000 year old Megalithic site comes in at the top of almost everyone's list of things to do in Antequera, and is one of the best preserved prehistoric sites in Spain. The Dolmens are completely free to visit, and there are three in total to explore. The Menga Dolmen (pictured here) is the largest in all of Europe, and sits next to the Viera Dolmen. The El Romeral Dolmen sits a short car ride away from the other two. The Dolmens would have been used for rituals and burials, and are now part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site list. There are a limited amount of people allowed into the Dolmens at one time, so I would recommend phoning ahead in peak season to check that there is a slot available. They don't take very long to see, but are interesting nonetheless.
14. Hike at El Torcal de Antequera
If you love outdoor activities, you're going to want to hike at El Torcal de Antequera. Its unique limestone rock formations have been formed over millions of years, as rain and wind have chipped away at them, and make for a unique day trip or short hike. This is by far one of the best things to do in Antequera if you have the time, and is completely free too! There are a few different trails to choose from based on your hiking ability and how long you want to be hiking for, as well as a lovely viewpoint of the surrounding landscape just off of the parking lot. It's the most important karstic site in all of Spain, so if you're tired of walking around the cities in southern Spain and want to explore a bit of its more natural sites, El Torcal is your best bet!
Antequera is often overlooked by tourists visiting southern Spain. While many people like to stay along the coast, or visit the larger cities like Granada or Seville, I love to get off the beaten path and visit cities that people may not have heard of before or hadn't considered visiting. Antequera is less than an hours drive from Málaga, and very close to the small white village of Archidona, so if you're planning a trip to southern Spain, don't forget to add it to your itinerary! It's the perfect alternative to the larger, busier cities but still has a lot of fascinating things to see and do in it.
I would love to hear about what off the beaten path places in southern Spain you've visited, or if you've ever been to Antequera, so please drop me a comment below! And remember to follow me on my travels on Instagram too for lots more travel photos and ideas on where to plan your next trip!