A weekend in Almería
Almería is the perfect place for a weekend getaway. You’ll find the best places in the city within short proximity to each other so, in just a couple of days, you can experience the coast, Moorish buildings like the Alcazaba and other excellent examples of vanguard and industrial architecture, too. What’s more, if you do find that you have time, you can always pop over to neighbouring Roquetas de Mar, which has more than enough on offer to fill a whole other weekend.
Itinerary day 1
The port of Almería was the maritime and economical power centre of the Caliphate of Cordoba in the 9th and 10th centuries. Five hundred years later, it is still an important commercial port but, nowadays, it also attracts cruise ships, luxury yachts and often replicas of kinds of tall ships that created the ‘Golden Age’ in Spain. There are also bars, restaurants and soon renovations will be finished on the old fishing market, too.
In the same port there is a 19th century jetty that still stands as testament to the vigour and architectural ingenuity of the industrial age. Steel rods and cables twist upwards, out of the sea and create a long platform with a train track on top. Trains would crawl along this jetty and then wait, metres above the lapping waves, as products from the mines of Andalusia were loaded onto steamships to be delivered all over Europe.
This centre opened its doors in 1990 with the purpose of bringing together the works of internationally renowned photographers who, through their art, have shown the province of Almería in all its varied glory; its desert, coast, cities and mountain ranges. The centre is home to an important library of photographs of the Andalusian community and it also puts on exhibitions of the highest acclaim. There are also screening rooms, workshops and a library.
Continuing the theme of industrial era architecture, the old train station of Almería is an excellent example of Almería in its industrial prime. Completed in 1893, its lower wall is filled with arches, while the upper level has a string of balustrades, both of which contrast with the façade that looks more like a gothic church made out of steel and glass. In this ‘temple of modernity’ – as it was considered at the time of its opening – you can find shops, bars and restaurants in which you feel like you’re walking in another age.
Carmen de Burgos was a translator, women’s rights activist and the first female war correspondent in Spain and she is honoured in Almería with her name on its most beautiful walkway. The promenade is a little over two kilometres long and follows the coast of the city, connecting San Miguel, El Zapillo, La Térmica and Nueva Almería beaches along the way. On the promenade you will find bike lanes, market stalls, restaurants, bars and shops all in the shade of palm trees.
This is one of the best places in Almería to enjoy traditional food with a modern touch at an exceptional price. Here, you can choose to either tapear – meaning to try various tapas – or book a table in advance to have an à la carte experience. With its full wine list and array of beers you’re sure to leave with a smile.
Itinerary day 2
Considered to be the largest walled city of Al Andalus, Almería was a marvel to behold at the height of the Moorish occupation of Spain. Within its walls, making it practically self-sufficient, were water mills, public baths and impressive water cisterns that kept fresh water for its inhabitants. During the 10th century, the great Caliph Abderraman III controlled the entire region from this fortress and, after he was forced out by the Catholic Monarchs, a 15th century hermitage, a tower keep and a palatial house were built inside it. Today, that palatial house is now a museum to the Moorish period of Spain.
Six months into the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) Almería organised the construction of refuges large enough to protect 40,000 people, at a depth of 16 metres below street level, from the constant aerial bombardment of the Francoist air force and their allies. At the time, the majority of the 56,000 strong population had a place in the 4 km of tunnels and galleries that were eventually built in the refuges. After the war, the Francoist dictatorship took control of the country and the refuges were sealed indefinitely. In 2001, thanks to the many access points the refuges had in people’s houses, churches and markets, they were rediscovered with many original fittings and personal effects still in situ.
This restaurant has garnered an excellent reputation for modernising traditional dishes, such as red prawns, dried octopus and the famous gurullos, a type of ‘pasta’ made from wheat flour, water and saffron. Among Casco Antiguo’s more modern creations are ‘foie gras with a sweet wine gelatine’ and ‘eggs slow-cooked at 65 degrees on a bed of potatoes stuffed with truffles and green pepper foam’. Casco Antigo has an excellent atmosphere and the prices are very good too.
The Archaeological Museum of Almería is invaluable to anybody interested in the history of Almerían culture. In the 19th century, coal deposits in the area made Almería rich but also unearthed countless amounts of archaeology, especially ceramics and other cultural objects and sites, such as the Chalcolithic site Los Millares or the Bronze Age site El Argar.
The first thing you realise when you look at this building is that it looks more like a fortress than a cathedral and, in fact, you would be right. Built during the 16th century, this temple of worship was originally designed to protect the citizens of Almería from the constant attacks from Berber pirates. Inside, the original rib vaults still dominate the ceiling and there is a stunning altarpiece and sepulchre made out of alabaster and commissioned by Bishop Fernández de Villalán
Here is another example of the architecture of the ‘Age of Steel and Glass’. Completed in 1897, this was the first food market in the city and even today you can find the best fresh local produce there as well as some places to have a drink and some tapas. It is even said that Marie Curie made a trip here during her many holidays in Spain.
Almería has a special relationship with Hollywood since many of the great Spaghetti Westerns of the 60s and 70s, not to mention Conan the Barbarian and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, were all filmed there. In the House of Cinema, you can see some of the props and wardrobe used by such illustrious Hollywood stars as Sergio Leone, Steven Spielberg and Raquel Welch. It was once home to many of these stars during filming and the conservators preserved the room in which John Lennon stayed exactly as he would have seen it.
Specializing in Andalusian cuisine, this restaurant offers its clients two distinct dining experiences. In the ‘tavern’ side of the building you can sample their exquisite tapas – such as their homemade croquettes – in a relaxed, informal area. In the dining room, on the other hand, the kitchen really shows off with excellent seafood and fish soups, artisan goats’ cheese and local beans with Galician clams.
Itinerary day 3
Just 20 minutes from Almería capital by car is one of the best-preserved nature reserves on the Iberian Peninsula. Punta Entinas-Sabinar is home to thousands of kilometres of beaches, virgin coves, dunes, salt lakes, marshes and wetlands. You can also take in such sights as Cerrillos Tower and Sabinar Lighthouse, which dominate the heights, or you can just follow the Salinas de Cerrillo walking path that takes you through the salt lakes where flamingos and herons make their homes
This restaurant boasts a menu of over 90 different tapas all lovingly prepared and served at an unbeatable price. They don’t just stick to tapas, though. Their Iberian pork fillets served with ajoblanco or served Pedro Ximenez sauce are famous and draw in countless customers every year. This is the perfect place to stop, have some excellent food and then continue with your adventure in Almería.
Roquetas de Mar is one town that will not disappoint. Its most attractive features are almost too many to name: the beautiful beaches La Serena and Las Salinas, the bullring equipped with its own bullfighting museum, arguably the best aquarium in Andalusia, the archaeological site of La Ribera de la Algaida and the Church of Our Lady of the Rosary, are just some of the highlights on offer. It even has a water park named ‘Mariopark’! Certainly more than enough to fill an hour and a half!
Probably the most iconic building in Roquetas, Santa Ana Castle was once a meagre tower built to defend the citizens from the constant coastal attacks they suffered. Over the years the castle was built up into the fortress you can see today. Not only does it offer rooms with interesting information about the history of the castle, it also has exhibitions, open-air concerts, and the very best views of the city and beyond from the top of its ramparts.
Right by the sea you will find this oddly delightful restaurant that combines the very best products and tapas of the region with a dash of North American flavour. Raku offers its customers all the tapas they could wish for, specializing in the Raku Tosta (open sandwich) with ratatouille, tomato marmalade and quails’ eggs. And just to shake things up a bit, they also offer fantastic nachos with cheese, guacamole with jalapeños and an array of hamburgers, among other dishes.