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The Weekender: Vejer de la Frontera

Spend a splendid getaway in Spain soaking in the sun, sand, and sherry

Vejer de la Frontera may be one of Spain’s best kept secrets. Dubbed one of Spain’s prettiest destinations, the picturesque medieval town is perched high atop a hilltop overlooking the straight of Gibraltar and its shimmering beaches. Spend a languid day in the South of Spain strolling through the city’s white-walled streets and flower-filled courtyards, preferably stopping often for tapas, and you will see that the city has a supremely rich cultural heritage. Despite being a real life postcard, the city is surprisingly crowd-free (not a selfie stick to be seen for miles), making it the perfect place for a slow-paced sojourn.

Though you can walk around the entire pueblo blanco (white village) in under 30 minutes, you will find plenty to keep you busy. ​Drive south through rolling hills of sunflowers and you’ll hit seven glittering beaches. A short drive west will lead you to the famed Jerez sherry region, where afternoons are best spent sipping the fortified wine in historic bodegas.

Vejer was under Moorish rule for over five centuries, and much of the North African influence is evident in the architecture. Wander the labyrinth of white-walled streets and pop into​ chic jewelry boutiques, Moroccan blanket peddlers or basket weavers: the prices are low, quality is high, and each piece comes with a backstory to regale your friends with upon your return. Tapas spots are plentiful here so take a seat, share a few plates and a glass of sherry, and soak in the views of the city unfolding over the hills. Below, our complete guide to a weekend in Vejer de la Frontera.

Where to Stay:

Check into the new Plaza 18, nestled in the bustling heart of the town. While the square’s concentration of tapas bars and street musicians gives it constant energy, Plaza 18 promises a more secluded stay boasting just six rooms on the property.

Plaza 18

Plaza 18

Each room, along with the grand entranceway and common spaces, was lovingly restored with the help of award-winning designer Nicky Dobree. Built in 1896, the property was once a stately residential home and prior to that, a 13th-century Arabic home. Much of the home’s former glory is still evident, thanks to restoration efforts by Dobree and the Califa Vejer team. Admire the hotel’s soaring entryway­ where the original skylights let in huge veils of natural light over the original black-and-white tiles, and head up a swirling stone staircase to your room.

Plaza 18

Plaza 18

Rooms are uniquely accented with curated pieces from around the world, and many, with spacious claw-foot tubs. Views from the windows or Juliet balconies overlook either the center of the city or the nearby Parque Natural las Marismas nature reserve. Mix yourself a spritz from the sitting room’s bar cart and watch the sunset over the town from one of the Califa’s terraces–on clear nights you can spot the sun kiss the Tangier coasts across the straight.

Where to Eat:

Between languid lunches, aperitivo hours and late dinners, you can easily spend your days eating. Tapas is an excellent place to start, and look no further than the local-loved Corredera 55, a charming tapas spot with panoramic views of the valley. Stop by at sunset, order a glass of Cava, and choose from a selection of locally-sourced tapas. Chef Ellie Cormie, Scottish by way of Spain with a Michelin star to her name, plays the charming hostess, flitting from table to table, welcoming guests from near and far.

Corredera 55

Corredera 55

After an afternoon siesta, unwind on La Teteria de Califa, a rooftop tea room-meets-cocktail bar that overlooks the city. Experience the city’s Moroccan influence with Arabic pastries like baklava with honey and pistachios or date and almond cheesecake and a classic Moroccan tea. The room itself features a Beddaoui glass installation, Amazigh jewelry from the Atlas mountains, and a photo exhibit of owner James Stuart and his father’s photos of Jordan, Yemen, Syria and Morocco.

La Teteria de Califa

La Teteria de Califa

If you’re searching for a dinner more filling than tapas, head to El Jardin de Califa, a verdant garden restaurant that spotlights tagines, a sweet and savory Maghrebi dish slow-cooked in an earthenware pot.

El Jardin de Califa

El Jardin de Califa

A trip to this part of Spain isn’t complete without a tuna dinner, and El Campero in nearby Barbate is lauded as one of the best tuna temples in the world. Just off the coast is where the famed bluefin tuna are caught in the Almadraba, so expect the freshest tuna possible, often caught that morning if you visit in Spring.

What to Do:

Learn to recreate the treasured dishes of Spain at home with Annie B. The vivacious food and wine expert hosts a series of day classes, tours, and holidays, many out of her stunning home in Vejer. Visit the nearby Barbate market in the morning to scope out the fresh seafood, then spend the afternoon making Arroz con Negra or lightly fried boquerenes. Raise a glass or two of sherry to your creations over a late lunch on her rooftop.

A day at the ocean is perfect for napping off the tapas, and the area has seven beaches to choose from. Pick from more secluded beaches like Conil de la Frontera, or the more vibrant Tarifa strip, complete with ocean-side beach bars and clubs. For the athletically-inclined, Canos de Meca is one of the best spots around for surfing and bodyboarding.

A weekend getaway is not complete without a moment of pampering, so head to the Hammam. Pulling inspiration from the traditional Turkish and Arabic traditions of ritual purification, the Hammam, akin to a spa, will house both hot and warm Roman baths, a Moroccan steam room, and full massage services.

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