The Keep of the Alcazaba (popularly known as the “Papabellotas Clock”) competes with the Peña de los Enamorados (the Lovers’ Rock) as a symbol of Antequera. Both are icons in a city where the hand of man owes much to nature. Situated at a crossroads, equidistant from Seville, Cordoba, Malaga and Granada, Antequera is surrounded by mountains which, in turn, delimit a fertile plain. Civilisations going back to the Copper Age left impressive funeral monuments such as the dolmens of Menga, Viera and El Romeral. Later, the area was settled by Romans and Arabs who, for centuries, kept a fortress here. The upper part of the city offers an outstanding panorama of this long history. And also of the following period, when, after the Christian conquest, the lower city was filled with convents and churches and this city saw a period of humanist splendour with the foundation of the Cátedra de Gramática, a school for the study and dissemination of the culture of Antequera, and the construction of the Collegiate Church of Santa Maria. Antequera is history and Antequera is roots. Its lands, in what is known as the Antequera Depression, are enormously productive and the plain of Antequera is famous for its fertility, watered by the River Guadalhorce running east to west, and which produces many of the traditional local dishes, like the porra, a tomato-based summer soup, ajoblanco, a cold almond soup, gazpachuelo, a fish soup, and thistle salad. Culture, landscape and gastronomy fuse together in Antequera.
TRADITION IN THE HAMLETS
On the morning of 25 December each year, the inhabitants of the hamlets around Antequera (La Higuera and La Joya, among others), of the town of Villanueva de la Concepcion and of the city itself gather at the Jeva Hermitage, to the south of the El Torcal Natural Site to venerate the Virgin of Purificacion. This festivity begins with the pealing of bells which then gives way to the traditional “choque de pandas de verdiales”, a typical dance of the province of Malaga, before entering the hermitage. Later, they feast on home-made mantecado shortbread, coffee, aguardiente liquor and buñuelos, fried dough balls, typical of the area, followed by music until the Virgin is taken in procession to the threshing ground, where a mass is held.
Starting to see the city from the higher part has the advantage that, as well as the beautiful historical monuments, visitors can also enjoy panoramic views of the houses and surrounding countryside from different viewpoints. One of these singular spots is the Portichuelo, with the chapel of the Virgin of Socorro.
With its prime position and its importance as an example of the flourishing Renaissance culture, the Collegiate Church of Santa Maria la Mayor is outstanding. Far from traditional models and with its imposing facade, it is one of the most important buildings in the city and one of the first examples of Renaissance architecture in Andalusia. When standing before it, note the facade of worked stone with three bodies separated by buttresses and a very geometrical style. Inside, note the layout typical of a basilica, with three naves separated by Ionic columns, and the Mudejar wooden beams.
The lower part of the city also offers history and monuments. Discover one of the main urban landmarks of the city: the San Sebastian Church, with its Renaissance facade bearing the coat of arms of Charles V, and its Mannerist-Baroque spire. The Church of Our Lady of Los Remedios, in Mannerist-Baroque style, has a great retable dating back to the 18th century, with the camarín, a small chapel of the Virgin of Los Remedios, the patron of Antequera. The beautiful tempera paintings will leave no-one unmoved.
A stroll down Calle Infante Don Fernando will bring you to the Church of San Agustin, the Town Hall and the Church of San Juan de Dios. Very close to here, you will also find other places of great interest, such as the Convent of La Encarnacion, facing the Plaza del Coso Viejo. Here is the City Museum and the Convent of Santa Catalina de Siena, leading to the Plaza de las Descalzas, with the Convent of San Jose and Cuesta de los Rojas, taking you to the Church of Carmen, in the square of the same name, and which has a very valuable unpainted Baroque wooden retable.
The Antequera-Santa Ana AVE station is 15 kilometres from the town centre. It is the departure point for trains to Madrid, Barcelona, Malaga, Granada, Seville, Cordoba and Algeciras. The station is a modern building with quartz crystal walls and flat roofs. As well as taxis, there is a bus service which connects the station with the city centre.
Antequera has two festivities which are catalogued as Andalusian Festivals of Tourist Interest. The Royal Fair in August dates back to 1748, when Ferdinand VI granted Antequera the privilege of holding the fair annually. The Royal Fair is officially opened when the lights are turned on and, from that night and for a whole week, the city is transformed with numerous leisure, art and fun activities for everyone. Another of the fiestas is the May or Spring Fair, which is held in parallel to AGROGANT, an agricultural and livestock fair, and includes a great variety of events such as the food festival, the Malaga goat competition and auction, a horse show devoted to the Pura Raza Española, the pure Andalusian horse, a photographic marathon and tourist activities to promote the city.
But if what you seek is year-round nightlife, you will find many places in Antequera for late-night fun, mainly in Calle Calzada and Alameda de Andalucia.
If your interest is ecological tourism, Antequera can offer the El Torcal Natural Site, one of the most impressive karst landscapes in Europe, with amazing rock formations caused by erosion. There are four well-differentiated zones: Sierra Pelada, Upper Torcal, Lower Torcal and Tajos and Laderas, with its particular fauna and a rich flora of over 600 plant species.
In Antequera, the gastronomy is defined by the geography, by the products harvested in the Vega, the nearby plain, mainly cereals, vegetables and olive oil, and by the idiosyncrasy of the people.
One of the best known dishes from Antequera is porra, which is made with bread, olive oil, garlic, tomato and peppers. Other typical dishes are ajoblanco (a cold almond soup), pimentón (a cold soup with tomato), gazpachuelo (a fish soup), migas (country-style breadcrumbs) and different salads, such as thistle salad.
But you cannot leave Antequera without trying the game dishes, such as conejo a la cortijera (rabbit), and chivo pastoril (goat), and the local recipes for fish escabeche, a means of preserving food by poaching and marinating that goes back to Roman times.
Among the deserts are bienmesabe (a ground almond sweet), bizcochos de soletilla (a type of ladyfinger), and cabello de angel (a pumpkin sweet). Another outstanding product is the mollete, a type of soft, lightly-baked artisan Arabic-style bread. The mollete can be accompanied in many ways: butter, olive oil, chicharrones (pork rind), zurrapa de lomo (spiced, fried pork in lard), pâté, cured sausage meat, etc., a treat at any time of day.
There is no single area where you will find the tapas bars and restaurants. They are spread out throughout the city, making it easy to combine a day of sightseeing with gastronomic tourism. Don’t forget to visit the enclosed convents and their bakeries, such as the Convents of Belen or San Jose, to buy the traditional bienmesabe. At Christmas, these bakeries also sell mantecado shortbread, another of the typical sweets of Antequera, together with others typical of the Easter week, such as pestiños (deep-fried dough with honey), torrijas (bread fried with milk and honey) and roscos (fried dough rings).