By Jennifer Popplewell •
Published: 29 Nov 2023 • 15:14
Jerez Christmas lights
JEREZ de la Frontera. It is known as the city of Sherry wine, bullfighting and flamenco, and has a rich history that can still be felt quite clearly when walking through its streets today.
Situated in Andalucia, Jerez lies near the northbank of the Guadalete river and has been occupied since the 8th century. The Moors resided there during this time until 1264, when it was captured by King Alfonso X of Castile. The oldest building preserved in Jerez today is the 11th century fortress which is of Islamic origin. It serves as a reminder of the city’s Moorish roots as well as an outstanding point of interest for locals and tourists alike. Other historic monuments in the city include the City Gate, the Mosque, the main courtyard and the Villavicencio Palace, as well as its gardens, the Countryside Gate and the Arab Baths.
Due to this profound past, Jerez is a place that is popular with tourists all year round. During the summer its nearby beaches and flamenco shows make it a happy hotspot, however, the real magic and soul of Jerez comes out during the winter festive period. Known for its famous ‘Sherry’, (fun fact, the English word sherry comes from the 16th-century pronunciation of Jerez), the city offers visitors the perfect way to keep warm, as this alcoholic drink promises to send a lovely fire down the body! Herbert and Rosa Huber, a German couple who have been living in Jerez for 10 years, told Euro Weekly News that “Sherry is our favourite method to keep warm during the colder months, an open fire and a glass of our local wine, who needs central heating!”
Another magical aspect of Jerez in the winter is it’s Christmas market. Imagine the setting, a historic square surrounded by grand old buildings, decadent lights of all colours twinkling on their terraces and spilling into the trees, and at the centre of it all, a towering and adorned Christmas tree. Over 100 stalls fill the square, selling traditional food and drink as well as various trinkets and unique gifts, many of them locally made. Walking around this enchanting event it is easy to forget that one is in fact in the year 2023, as the energy transports the soul to another time.
Jerez also offers its winter visitors the unique experience of its Zambombas. These energetic parties are held from the beginning of December onwards, and usually take place in bars or right on the street. These exciting gatherings generally entail a group of musicians in a circle, singing Christmas songs enthusiastically as the passing people gather around to join in. The essential instrument is the zambomba, which looks like a large terracotta urn with a skin lid. The stick attached to this skin is moved up and down to produce its distinctive sound. Due to the fact that Zambombas often take place outdoors, a fire is often also burning close to keep attendees warm in the chilly weather!
In addition, make sure to visit Jerez’s famous ‘bodegas’, as well as taking a trip to the Nativity Scene that is proudly on display in the centre. On your travels, perhaps pick up some famous roasted chestnuts that are sold by street vendors in many areas of the city, as well as taking a pit stop in its quaint, traditional bars.
There are many hotels to choose from for your stay in Jerez, if you are feeling particularly luxurious, check out the Casa Palacio Maria Luisa. As it states in the name, it is literally a palace, and this year, 2023, it hosts a huge ‘flamenco inspired’ Christmas tree in the lobby, as well as a fantastic light display in the entrance, so even if you don’t plan to stay there, it’s worth popping your head in to have a look!
Jerez is an undeniably unique winter destination, with a captivating Christmas spirit that appeals to all of the five senses. During your stay you will hear the sound of the zambomba and traditional Christmas carols, experience the taste of seasonal delicacies, whilst you gaze upon fantastical light displays and the sight of nativity scenes in every window. The rustic smell of smoke from the chestnut stalls will fill your lungs, and if you’re lucky you may even feel some snowflakes falling softly onto your face.
It is a destination like no other, and not to be missed. The feeling of Jerez at Christmas leaves an eternal imprint on the soul, you might even find yourself making it a personal part of your own special Christmas tradition.
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Jennifer is a proud northerner from Sheffield, England, who is currently living in Spain. She loves swimming in rivers, talking to the stars and eating luxurious chocolate.
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