Antequera is a unique city in Malaga. Lost in the middle of mountains, it formerly was an impregnable fortress during the Muslim occupation. Today, its aura always attracts many visitors, curious to discover its history and its UNESCO heritage. South Tours has visited this place and found the best things to do in Antequera.
1. Wandering in the old town
“Why is Antequera unique?” people ask. And we usually answer: “because Antequera is the most historic city in Andalucia”. When you wander in its narrow streets, you can see the remains of several civilizations. The Teatro Romano, which is from the first known civilization to settle in Antequera. The Alcazaba was constructed by Muslims and occupied at the end by King Ferdinand I. Also, the churches, symbols of the noble class, and religious brotherhood that came from Granada.
Best things to do in Antequera: going on walking tours
So wandering in the city, especially in the old town area is one of the best things to do in Antequera. You can discover Antequera by yourself, or be part of a walking tour. Conveniently, the tourist office reveals all Antequera secrets for you. It’s 9 euros for the tour, which are provided until the office closes. But, if you don’t want it in Spanish, you will have to book it in advance.
Alternatively, you can explore the city by yourself within a day. There are famous plazas that you can come across. The Plaza San Sebastián for example is located in the center of the old town. It’s a beautiful small area, where you can take a funny picture of yourself, sitting next to two bronze statues. The San Sebastián church overlooks the place. It’s in front of a beautiful fountain, made in the renaissance period. You can chill there or go to Plaza de las Descalzas.
Hidden in the shadow’s trees, it’s the perfect spot to have a drink and recover from the heat. But, for the nice view of the city, Plaza de Los Escribanos and Plaza de Santa Maria are the spots to go. Located at the top of Antequera, you will admire the beauty of a typical white village in Southern Spain.
When you arrive at this point, the particularity of Antequera will strike you. It’s a village lost in the middle of the mountains. Which makes it even more beautiful, as it feels frozen in time. Miradors are scattered all along the old fortress wall. In fact, the best one is “Mirador Michael Hoskin” located next to the plaza de los Escribanos. It’s the perfect spot to enjoy a sunset before the city gets dark.
Puertos and hikes
Finally, if you’re curious, you will see la “Puerta de Granada”, and la “Puerta de Málaga”, which are located on the two opposite ends of the city. The noble class built it as a religious symbol. On the side of each arch, you can see the coat of arms of old, great families. From la “Puerta de Granada”, you can go on little hikes to discover the surroundings. The treks are well indicated, with a duration from 30 minutes to 2 hours.
So, you could be easily lost. But it’s the only way to discover the hidden sides of Antequera! Besides, it’s when you can’t find your way, that your steps lead you in front of a church….
2. Finding all the churches and covents of Antequera
This is part of what makes the city unique. In this small area of 40 000 inhabitants, 40 churches and convents were built to host people in need. It was erected by 30 different noble families. They settled in the city when Antequera was the strategic, cultural, and economic point in Southern Spain. We won’t detail each chapel, but here are the best churches in Antequera, that we’ve visited.
Iglesia de San Juan de Dios
In homage to San Juan, this church is one of a kind. The façade is intriguing when you walk past, but it’s the interior that’s worth the look. The deeper you go into the church, the more you’re struck by the ornaments of this place. Made from plasters, gargoyles, unicorns and exuberant women cover all the walls. You can even observe figures that throw up foliages. These patterns symbolize pagan beliefs that existed at the same time the chapel was built. They also cover the dome, where the coats of arms of the noble family that construct the place are highlighted. Angels predominate the center of the sanctuary. They are next to San Juan taking care of the sick people, under the watchful eye of Jesus.
This edifice was run by nuns, who were also in charge of the hospital next door. The Granada fruit is represented throughout the church as a reminder that the sisters were members of Granada’s religious order.
It’s the most decorated sanctuary of Antequera. The place is in the dark, allowing the faithful to have a private conversation with God, unobstructed by others in the surroundings.
This church overlooks the city. Considered the most beautiful sanctuary in the city, it’s usually where the processions start. When you enter this chapel, the ornaments in the center will surprise you. You will gaze at angels everywhere, surrounding great religious figures. It’s a unique piece of art, that more and more tourists are curious to observe every year.
This coven hides a unique shop. If you go there, you will savor special pastries from Antequera, prepared by nuns. It’s a unique, local experience!
Colegiata de Santa Maria
Constructed by Don Ferdinand when he took over the city, this church honors San Maria. It was built due to the exponential growth of Antequera, and the need to have more sacred places.
Unlike the others, this chapel is minimalist, and sober in decoration. The only surprising thing inside is a huge statue of a Saint, riding an 8-headed dragon. It symbolizes the faith triumphing over the 8 sins forbidden by the bible.
3. Antequera’s restaurants
One of the best things to do in Antequera is to eat in restaurants. Due to a lot of farms and agricultural lands being located in the mountains surrounding the city, the restaurants serve lovely local, traditional food.
Antequera’s restaurants are usually located next to Plaza San Sebastián or Plaza de las Desclazas, in the city center. Antequera is worth a day trip, so we recommend you to go eat in 2 different places.
The Arte de Cozina, if you’re hungry for delicious tapas. This restaurant also serves unusual traditional meals. You could taste gazpacho made with green asparagus or preserved pork loin. Besides, the owners organize special food nights, with an original theme such as “food in the time of Cervantes”.
If we haven’t convinced you, other Antequera restaurants are worth the experience! The Baraka for example. Located in Plaza de las Desclazas, waiters don’t hesitate to risk their lives and cross the road, just to take your order. We strongly advise you to try the traditional Porra de Antequera over there.
4. Diving into the history of the Alcazaba
The Alcazaba is a must-see for tourists. It offers not only a panoramic view of the city but also a reflection of Antequera’s history. Which begins directly at the entry, with the Arcos de Los Gigantes. At the time, this huge door overlooked the old town and the souk.
Muslims erected the Alcazaba, on the Romans’ remains. It was then taken by Don Ferdinand, to unite the Spanish Kingdom. When you walk inside the castle, you see these different cultures that have controlled the edifice over the years. Old roman theaters are still next to the castle, and after the settling of King Ferdinand, the mosque there became a church. So wandering around the leftovers and the gardens of the Alcazaba is also one of the best things to do in Antequera. It will allow you to understand the history of the city. Moreover, you can one of the two towers and enjoy the highest spot of Antequera.
You should visit the Alcazaba then la Colegiata de Santa Maria. It’s 6 euros to explore both. You will have a free audio guide, which will explain to you the historical link between both edifices.
5. Best things to do in Antequera: Enjoying the museums
Antequera is proud of its art collection. That’s why the tourist office always advises people to go to the Museo de la Ciudad. It’s an old palace that hosts an archeological exhibition. Its unique collection of remains found in the area is perfect for history lovers. Besides, this visit gives you the occasion to wander in a typical Spanish palace.
If you are more of an art fan, you can visit the MAD of Antequera. This museum has to its credit paintings of Picasso, Muñoz Degrain and José Moreno Carbonero. This place is perfect to discover unique artwork while avoiding the hottest hours of the day!
6. Antequera golf
One of the other best things to do in Antequera is to play golf. Surrounded by green lands, the place is perfect for beginners and professionals. It’s a total of 18 holes of golf, spread over 35 hectares. Antequera Golf is well-known in the region for offering the best playgrounds. Besides, the institution organizes competitions to challenge you, or offers a package hotel plus golf, if you are looking for a more chill vacation. Located at the foot of El Torcal, the scenery around the playground is breathtaking.
7. Best things to do in Antequera: discovering the UNESCO sites
Antequera is well-known for its several UNESCO sites. Here’s why you should go and take a look.
Dolmens are on the top of the list of best things to do in Antequera. Classified as a historical heritage in 2016, these installations are proof of former civilizations’ presence in Andalucia, much older than the Romans. Even if the site still hides some mysteries, historians know that dolmens were built for funeral rituals. There are 3 Antequera dolmens that complete the site : the Dolmen El Romeral, de Menga and de Viera.
The Dolmen de Viera is the smallest one. It was also used as an indicator for the solstices, allowing the people to adjust their harvests accordingly.
The second one, just next to it is the Antequera Dolmen de Menga. The place faces the Pena de Los Enamorados, the mountain of the cursed lovers. This hill is visible from all the city’s miradors and its legend is famous in Andalucia. During the Moorish occupation, a gypsy fell in love with a Christian soldier. Seeing their love impossible, they decided to throw themselves together from the top of this mountain. Curiously, the cliff took the form of two faces…
Last but not last, the Antequera Dolmen El Romeral. It’s the largest installation in Spain. The most mysterious one, whose several secrets are still unknown. This dolmen is far from the other two, so it’s best to visit them by car.
History fans will love this site.
This is one of the best things to do in Antequera! Located about 15 km from Antequera, this hike is breathtaking. You have the choice between two different paths, both accessible for everybody. The only difference will be in the duration: the green hike is 45 minutes while people taking the yellow path will have to walk for 2 hours. On the way, you will discover unique rock formations, resulting from hundreds of years of erosion with the water.
Don’t worry, both treks are very well marked. It’s impossible to get lost. The site is accessible 24 hours a day but we advise you to go before 6:30 pm when the tourist office over there closes.
How to get to Antequera?
The easiest way to go from Malaga to Antequera is to rent a car. For that, you can gain access more easily to all the UNESCO sites.
Otherwise, you can take the train from Malaga to Antequera. It’s the most expensive choice but it’s comfortable. Otherwise, you can take the bus. From Malaga, it will take you one hour to reach the city. Otherwise, blablacar offers seats with more flexible hours. These two options are about 12 euros in total, for a back and forth journey.
What is best traveler’s advice for this destination?
You should take a car. It will be more convenient for your exploration of the city and its surroundings. Furthermore, there isn’t public transport between Antequera and El Torcal. So, without a car, the only two options for you are either to take a taxi (which can be expensive) or to book an excursion (which often includes a guided tour of the dolmens).
In any case, one day is enough to discover the city. Be aware though of the opening hours of the monuments you want to visit. The Museo de la Ciudad is only open in the morning, while some churches will only open their doors from 8 pm to 9 pm.
We strongly recommend Antequera for history lovers. This city is a gem, lost in the middle of the mountains.
Finally, on certain evenings of the year, the town lights up with a thousand flames. On the evening of 16 July, there will be the light festival in Antequera. This annual event celebrates the fact that two historical heritages are next to the city. The show is splendid, with illuminations on all the buildings, as well as a candle show. We highly recommend that you go and see it with your own eyes!