Latest update: 21 July 2023
Arcos de la Frontera in Andalusia is a town full of narrow alleys, white houses, small monuments, and much history. You are assured of beautiful views thanks to the fantastic location of Arcos de la Frontera on top of a huge rock. It is the favorite white village in this region of many visitors. Find out why.
Arcos de la Frontera: town on the rocks
Arcos de la Frontera is located in Andalusia, in the province of Cádiz. The rivers Guadalete and Majaceite flow through the town. And the hill on which Arcos de la Frontera rests is a massive rock with a deep abyss called La Peña. The highest point is about 185 meters above sea level.
Arcos de la Frontera is one of the white villages in Andalusia and part of the Ruta de los Pueblos Blancos. The Ruta de los Pueblos Blancos is a car route along several white villages in Andalusia. Arcos de la Frontera is considered the gateway to the route of the white villages.
How much time do you need in Arcos de la Frontera?
In principle, half a day is enough to visit the sights of Arcos de la Frontera. Unless you want to see all viewpoints in and around the village. And they are well worth it! Because from the town, you have terrific views over the river, the countryside, and the white houses. But Arcos de la Frontera is also very impressive from a distance because of its high location. There are several places where you can take a walk, for example:
- Sendero Tajo de Arcos (Google Maps location)
- Hike along the Guadalete river (Google Maps location)
- Presa de Arcos (Google Maps location)
But the real highlight is, of course, the town of Arcos de la Frontera itself. What to do there? What sights to see?
What to do in Arcos de la Frontera
Well, there are quite a few places of interest in Arcos de la Frontera, but they are all quite small and easy to visit. The town itself is the main attraction.
The center of Arcos de la Frontera roughly consists of two parts: the lower part on the slope is the newer part of Arcos. Via the Cuesta Belénin, you slowly move up the hill to the historic part of Arcos de la Frontera.
Walk through history in Arcos de la Frontera
Actually, all you have to do is start walking through the village. There are information boards in various places where you can learn more about the rich history of this white town. In the 13th century, Arcos de la Frontera was part of a Muslim taifa (kingdom), it was then called Medina Ar-kosch, and it was the geographical border (frontera) between the Moors and Christians. In 1250 it became part of a predecessor of the Spanish kingdom. The Muslims stayed around for a while but were later expelled from Arcos de la Frontera. Due to its location, Arcos de la Frontera has always had an essential position in various power struggles. Napoleon’s troops also occupied the town once.
Semana Santa monument in Arcos de la Frontera
Just before you enter the old Arcos de la Frontera alleys, you will find the monument to Semana Santa. Semana Santa is the holy week before Easter. This is celebrated extensively in Spain with processions and church masses. The memorial consists of three people who walk in a procession and carry a forged cross.
Mirador Plaza del Cabildo / Balcón de Arcos
At the Plaza del Cabildo, you will find the basilica and the castle of Arcos de la Frontera and a beautiful viewpoint. This viewpoint is also called the Balcón de Arcos. You can see for miles over the countryside around Arcos de la Frontera. Standing on the corner and looking to the left, you will also see the San Pedro church on the cliff. During my visit, there is a man in a corner of the viewpoint with birds of prey that you can put on your arm, for a fee, of course. From this point, you also have a nice view of the basilica, a bit of a shame that there are so many cars on the square, but hey… you can’t have it all, can you?
The Basilica of Arcos de la Frontera: Santa María
The official name of the Gothic basilica is Basílica Menor of Santa María de la Asunción. There used to be a mosque on this spot; the church was built in the 16th century. You can visit the church and combine that with climbing the tower. That will cost you 4 euros combined.
You once again have fantastic views from the bell tower, just like at the Mirador Plaza del Cabildo, but now you can look around 360 degrees, including the castle and the Arcos reservoir.
The castle of Arcos de la Frontera
Unfortunately, the ancient castle of Arcos de la Frontera can only be admired from a distance. It was already built in the 11th century by the Moors. The Castillo Ducal (also known as Castillo de los Duques de Arcos) is located on the Plaza del Colbildo and you can go through the gate, but unfortunately, you can’t get any further. The castle is in private hands and is only occasionally open to the public. You can see it better from the rock’s edge and the basilica church tower.
Changing open-air exhibition
In Calle Escribanos, you will always find a small open-air exhibition on the walls of the white houses. Sometimes they are photographs, sometimes paintings. When I’m there, it’s Spanish poems. So be sure to drop by to see if something is exhibited that appeals to you.
Palacio del Mayorazgo in Arcos de la Frontera
Departments of the municipality are now located in the Palacio del Mayorazgo. So there is office space, but walking in and viewing the patio is still worthwhile. The patio is very nice, and sometimes there is a small exposition too. At the back of the building, you can view the Andalusian garden.
The San Pedro church
Arcos de la Frontera is full of religious buildings; it’s up to you whether you visit them all or just pop into a few. I visit the San Pedro church. This church was also built on the site of a Moorish fort. For two euros you can take a look inside. It’s kind of uh… a lot. Everywhere you look, there are ornaments, statues, paintings, and more, more, more.
The arc where you MUST kiss
At one of the many arcos (arches) in Arcos de la Frontera are the words Bésame and este Arco. Kiss me at this arc. It is, of course, up to you whether you obey. In any case, it is a nice detail on the way to one of the town’s viewpoints (Mirador de Abades). The arch occasionally gets new decorations.
An inspiring bench at the Mirador de Abades
In terms of attractiveness, it is not much of a big deal. Un banco que inspira is literally a bench, a cheerfully painted bench, that is. It is around the corner from the ‘kissing arch’, and you automatically end up at the Mirador de Abades viewpoint.
Spanish food at Taberna Jóvenes Flamencos
I haven’t really done any research on restaurants in Arcos de la Frontera, but when I walk past Taberna Jóvenes Flamencos, I immediately know I want to eat there. It has a typical Spanish feel to me: flamenco, bullfighting, the color red, and tapas. You will find the ‘standard’ tapas such as croquetas, and a few specialties on the menu. Try the ajo molinero: a local specialty with stale bread, oranges, peppers, and more. The goat cheese pâté with Pedro Ximénez sauce is also delicious – they make sherry from Pedro Ximénez grapes in this region.
Parking in Arcos de la Frontera
You cannot park in the old center of Arcos de la Frontera. You don’t want that either, because the streets are so narrow! So choose a paid parking garage near the center or a free parking space a short walk away. These are a few parking options in Arcos de la Frontera:
- Parking El Paseo: paid parking. You can walk up the hill from the square to the old center.
- Parking Arcos: free parking in an open area. It is located slightly below the rock, so you must walk further to the center.
- Mirador: at the bottom of the rock, you can walk along the rock from here, and it takes you slightly longer to visit the village.
Overnight in Arcos de la Frontera
Are you passing through, and would you like to spend the night in one of the white villages of Andalusia? Arcos de la Frontera is a good choice. Make sure to check out these Arcos de la Frontera hotels and guesthouses:
- Hotel Posada de las Cuevas: small-scale hotel in the center, nice decor and arcos in your room!
- La Casa de Bovedas Charming Inn: warm, homely rooms, a beautiful terrace, and a nice swimming pool.
- Pensíon San Marcos: simple, affordable rooms above a nice restaurant.
- Casa MariSol: nice apartment for you alone. Love the decoration with cool details and cute seats.
More Spain inspiration?
Helpful links for your Spain trip
- Travel guides. Let’s get you ready for your trip! Order a travel guide to browse through. Then, for example, have a look at Bol.com or Amazon.
- Flights. Have a look at Transavia and Vueling, but do compare prices! Definitely check out Momondo, Skyscanner, and Kiwi.
- Boat. You can catch a boat to Mallorca from Barcelona, for example. Book your ticket at Balearia. You can also get to the other Balearic Islands with Balearia. Compare ferry prices at Direct Ferries.
- Bus and train. Travel to Spain with NS International or Flixbus. Other useful companies are Busbud, 12go, and Omio, also for buses and trains within Spain.
- Accommodation. All-time favorites: Booking.co and Natuurhuisje. Or try Campspace. Rather stay in a hostel? Try HostelWorld.
- Money. Your bank cards may not get accepted everywhere. You could opt for a Revolut card as an additional card when you travel.
- Activities. You book the best tours and activities with GetYourGuide and Viator. And Freetour.com and GuruWalk both offer ‘free’ walking tours, while Baja Bikes has bike tours.
- Attractions and museums. Get a 5% discount at Tiqets on museums and attractions with the discount code: KIMOPREIS22
- Car rental. My go-to car rental companies are EasyTerra and Sunny Cars as they have all-inclusive / worry-free offers.
- Travel gear. Buy your gear at Bever or Decathlon, or simply at Bol.com.
- Package deals. Rather go on a catered trip? There is plenty of choice. ANWB vakanties, Tui, Shoestring or Sawadee, of rather D-reizen, Sunweb, Corendon or Vakantie Discounter? Or why not treat yourself to a yoga retreat!
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First published: February 2023. The article has been updated since.