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spain: el puerto de santa maría

España, Spain, Andalucía, El Puerto de Santa María

Just over an hour from Sevilla on the same train that goes to Jerez & Cádiz, most visitors zoom past El Puerto de Santa María without a second thought. But its beautiful beaches, interesting architecture & vibrant cuisine scene make for a great, non-touristy overnight stay. Explore with us…

If arriving by train, follow the Guadalete River into the city center. But there’s a better way to get to El Puerto: by boat! True to its name, the port has public transportation connections via water from the city across the bay, Cádiz. A 30-minute ride gives passengers a beautiful overview of the windswept Bahía de Cádiz, plus an opportunity to check out the latest bridge. Opened in 2015, the cable-stay Puente de La Pepa gets its nickname from the 1812 Constitution signed in Cádiz & spans a whopping three kilometers… the longest in Spain & the third longest in Europe:

España, Spain, Andalucía, port, puerto, Cádiz
España, Spain, Andalucía, Cádiz, Puente de La Pepa, bridge
Puente de La Pepa: my first trip across in 2016 & under construction in 2013.

No matter how you get there, stroll along the river to get a feel for how important commerce has been to El Puerto. Also think about Christopher Columbus spending time here pre-1492… obtaining important funds prior to Ferdinand & Isabel agreeing to back his journey. Salt flats, visible in the distance, have been producing for 3,000 years & can be visited. We’ll have to go back for that since we didn’t have time on this trip.

España, Spain, Andalucía, El Puerto de Santa María

The Iglesia Mayor Prioral impresses with a mix of late Gothic & early Renaissance styles. Construction began at the end of the 1400s just before the first voyage of Columbus & continued over the next two centuries. Decoration & design point to the wealthiest period in El Puerto’s history thanks to trade with the Americas. What a gorgeous façade:

España, Spain, Andalucía, El Puerto de Santa María, catedral, cathedral

No less stunning is El Puerto’s private architecture. The Castillo de San Marcos grew from remnants of a post-conquista mosque back in 1264 & underwent major restoration in the 1940s. Although owned by a local winery, they still open the castle for visits. Of course Washington Irving stayed in town & surely enjoyed the hospitality of well-to-do families. Numerous palaces —some in better condition than others— dot the city center. They point to a time when the Cargadores a Indias, merchants with the Americas, possessed a monopoly on all trade with Spanish territory in the New World… a good lesson on how fortunes come & go. The old marketplace is an odd combo of discotheque/eatery today, but at least still serving a purpose:

España, Spain, Andalucía, El Puerto de Santa María, architecture

Even if you’re not fond of churches or architecture, everyone’s gotta eat. As the southernmost city of the Sherry triangle, El Puerto has a reputation for fantastic fino & brandy. Both large & small producers open their wineries for visits:

España, Spain, Andalucía, El Puerto de Santa María, region map, sherry triangle

We began the morning at Bodegas Obregón —it’s never too early for a glass of fino— with it’s wonderful aroma of yeasty barrels, bullfighting decor & old-school crowd. Nothing fancy here, just excellent wine & atmosphere. After a stroll around town, we stopped next at Bar Gonzalo for some marinated carrots, grilled marrajo (mako shark) & perfectly-fried puntillitas (baby cuttlefish). Given its location along the Atlantic, seafood is obviously the specialty of El Puerto & goes perfect with fino or a local white from Forlong. Although full (and tipsy) by this point, we stopped for one last drink at the flagship tasting room for Bodegas Osborne. Beautiful facilities & another nice white, this one from their Montecillo line:

España, Spain, Andalucía, El Puerto de Santa María, food, fino, bodegas

Although not a big draw for most tourists, that’s precisely the reason to visit El Puerto de Santa María. The city has a traditional Andalucía vibe with friendly residents & spectacular food & wine only one hour from Sevilla. What’s not to love? And don’t forget the beaches!

2 thoughts on “spain: el puerto de santa maría”

  1. Such a lovely tribute! This made my day – Thank you! Will reread with a glass of fino and time to dream about next trip. Just love the history and the people there and so eager to return!

    1. Thanks, Vikki! I think the last time I went was over 20 years ago… I’ll definitely have to visit more often! And eat more, for sure 🙂

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