arcos de la frontera tour view on the village

Arcos de la Frontera what to see in the most authentic white village

Must-sees in Arcos de la Frontera

In this article you’ll find information on everything you need to see in Arcos de la Frontera:

  • A few words about Arcos de la Frontera
  • Where is Arcos de la Frontera on the map?
  • What to see in Arcos de la Frontera
  • What to do in Arcos de la Frontera
  • Arcos de la Frontera Fair
  • Booking accommodation
  • Useful links (bookings and visits in Andalucia)
  • What to see near Arcos de la Frontera
  • Continuing your trip to Andalucia

A few words about Arcos de la Frontera

Arcos de la Frontera is one of the jewels of Andalucia. For me, it’s the most authentic white mountain village. To walk through Arcos is to step back in time. Arcos de la Frontera sits on a hill overlooking a gorge of the River Guadalete.

This white village is known as the Puerta de los pueblos blancos. In fact, it is usually from this village, which has been classified as a historic and artistic site, that the route of the white villages begins when you arrive from Cadiz, 60km away, or Seville, 100km away.

Origin of the name Arcos de la Frontera

The name Arcos de la Frontera has followed the great changes in civilisation throughout history. The village went by the following names:

  • Arx-Arcis (meaning high fortress) during the Roman period.
  • Medina Ar-Kosh during the Al-Andalus period.
  • Arcos de la Frontera after the conquest by the Catholic Kings in 1264.

Note: in 1012, after the fall of the Caliphate of Cordoba, Arcos became a small independent kingdom, a taifa. It remained so for almost 60 years, until Abbad II (Al-Mutadid) conquered it and incorporated it into his kingdom of Seville in 1069.

Where is Arcos de la Frontera on the map?

Arcos de la Frontera is a white village in the interior of Andalucia, set in magnificent natural surroundings.

What to do and see in Arcos de la Frontera?

  1. Arcos de la Frontera Castle
  2. Cabildo Square
  3. The Basilica of Santa María de la Asunción
  4. Stroll through the streets of Arcos
  5. The Callejón de las Monjas
  6. The church and convent of San Agustín
  7. The Convent of Mercedarias Descalzas
  8. Bésame in this arco
  9. Abades Mirador
  10. The Mayorazgo Palace
  11. Puerta Matrera
  12. San Pedro Church
  13. The San Anton Mill

Arcos de la Frontera is a magnificent white village that invites you to get lost in its narrow streets. Arcos de la Frontera was declared a national historic and artistic site in 1962, for its great beauty, its monuments and its archaeological wealth.

The village, with its narrow streets, courtyards and arches, has preserved a significant legacy from its Muslim period.

Arcos de la Frontera Castle – Castillo de los Duques

The ducal castle is one of the must-see places in Arcos de la Frontera. It is an ancient military fortress, built in the 11th century during the Muslim period.

This fortress underwent major alterations that transformed it into a medieval castle in the 14th and 15th centuries.

This medieval castle belonged to the Ponce de León family, the Dukes of Arcos.

To see it properly, you need to climb to the top of the bell tower of the Basilica of Santa Maria de la Asuncion:

Today, the castle is privately owned by an English family. Visits are therefore not possible. However, the owners organise a few open days for the public each year.

Entrance to the castle

The castle is located in the Plaza del Cabildo, next to the Peña viewpoint and the basilica.

Note: during the War of Independence (1810-1812), it was the headquarters of Napoleon’s troops. 

Square of the Cabildo a must-see in Arcos de la Frontera

Plaza del Cabildo is a beautiful square. It is surrounded by monuments such as the Basilica of Santa María de la Asunción, the Town Hall, the Ducal Castle, the Parador de Turismo and the convent of the Mercedarias Descalzas (Discalced Mercedaries).

The square also boasts a lookout point with spectacular views of the surrounding area of Arcos de la Frontera.

The Balcón de la Peña Nueva viewpoint, in the Plaza del Cabildo, is in fact a rock carved almost 100 metres high, with incredible views of the meandering River Guadalete. Not to be missed.

Basilica of Santa María de la Asunción

The basilica of Santa María de la Asunción was built in the Mudéjar style in the 14th and 15th centuries, on the remains of a mosque. It is the oldest and most important temple in Arcos de la Frontera.

The basilica was declared a national monument in 1931. Since its construction, the basilica has undergone major alterations, eventually transforming it into a church with a Gothic interior.

The interior also features a magnificent altarpiece, decorated in gold leaf and dating from 1585.

The exterior of the basilica is now a mixture of Renaissance and Baroque elements, with a neoclassical bell tower.

Built on the site of a mosque, this Gothic-Baroque creation is one of the most beautiful and intriguing churches in Andalucia:

A stroll through the narrow streets of Arcos

The narrow streets of Arcos are a real invitation to travel.

At times, there are also magnificent views of the surrounding countryside.

Of course, you’ll often find arches in Arcos…..

The Callejón de las Monjas

The Callejón de las Monjas (Nuns’ Alley) is one of Arcos’ most iconic spots.

It lies between the Basilica of Santa María de la Asunción on one side and the Convento de la Encarnación on the other.

Finally, the most photogenic feature of this narrow street, apart from the beautiful Gothic façade of the convent, are the three stone arches that cross it at the top.

The church and convent of San Agustín

This building, erected in the 16th century, was originally a convent. The convent flourished, with 20 religious preachers teaching grammar, art and philosophy in the early 18th century.

This convent, which became a “simple” church in the 19th century, is home to a little treasure for the locals. Inside, there is an image of Jesús Nazareno, who enjoys great fervour throughout the village, especially during Holy Week.

The Mercedarias Descalzas convent

The Mercedarias Descalzas convent, built in 1642, is the only remaining cloistered convent in the town. It is located at the end of this street (next to the Plaza del Cabildo):

It is famous for its handmade sweets, not to be missed.

Notes: How do you buy pastries made by these cloistered nuns? Once inside, ring the bell and say what you want to buy to the nun hidden on the other side of the wooden turnstile facing you. Then place the money on the turnstile, and a few moments later, the turnstile will spin again and all you have to do is collect your pastries!

Bésame en este arco – Kiss me under this arch – place to see in Arcos de la Frontera

Here’s a place that has become iconic in many of Andalucia’s white villages.

As you will have noticed, the village of Arcos uses a different formula to that used in all the other villages: Bésame en este rincón.

Once you’ve passed this magical spot and the inscription Bésame en este arco, you’ll come to the Abades viewpoint, another of the places to visit in Arcos de la Frontera.

From this vantage point you can see :

  • the lower part of the village,
  • the River Guadalete
  • Sierra de Grazalema Natural Park
  • Los Alcornocales Natural Park.

The Mayorazgo Palace

This palace, built in the 17th century, boasts an impressive façade.

Inside, there are two beautiful courtyards and an Andalusian garden.

Mayorazgo Palace – Arcos –

The palace currently houses the municipal art gallery and various temporary and permanent exhibitions.

It can be visited Monday to Friday from 10.30am to 1.30pm and from 4.30pm to 7.30pm.

La Puerta Matrera

The Matrera Gate – Puerta Matrera – links the old quarter of Arcos with the Barrio Bajo district.

It is also the only original gate remaining from the city’s fortified walls.

From the outside, you can clearly see that this tower gate was part of the city wall. It is now surrounded by houses, with a glazed chapel housing the sculpture of the Virgin of the Pilar.

The church of San Pedro

The church of San Pedro – on the right-hand side of the photo – is one of the finest examples of late-Gothic religious architecture and a must-see in Arcos de la Frontera.

This church, a former collegiate church dating from the 14th century, is impressive as soon as you see it.

The current tower, however, dates from the 18th century.

Inside you’ll find :

  • several chapels
  • an 18th-century baroque choir
  • a beautiful 16th-century altarpiece

The view of the church from these alleyways, with their typical Andalucia architecture and floral decorations, is an incredible sight.

San Anton Mill

At the bottom of the village, on the banks of the River Guadalete, you can see a beautiful old mill.

To conclude your visit to Arcos de la Frontera

This village has incredible charm and authenticity.

And my best advice is to try and get lost in the narrow streets of this fabulous village. It’s a promise of a journey back in time. You’ll even be disappointed when you end up finding your way back!

Where to eat in Arcos de la Frontera?

In the centre of Arcos de la Frontera, the Parador de Arcos de la Frontera is an ideal place to enjoy a drink, lunch or even a good night’s sleep.

The Terrace of the Parador is located at the mirador de la Peña, a place that offers a view from high up that is truly impressive and fantastic.

Note: like a certain mirador in Ronda, it has a local nickname: “El balcón del coño” . The locals say that “coño” is the first word you shout when you look out over the landscape from the edge of the cliff.

Here you can find more photos of the parador and book your accommodation in this splendid setting.

Calle Cuna in the old Jewish quarter of Arcos

Finally, if you’re looking for a more popular and unusual place to have a drink or lunch:

You can find the Circulo de la Union (el Casino) in Calle Boticas, 6.

The courtyard is part of a former Jesuit church, which was itself converted into a market. Historically, it was a place of relaxation where it was forbidden to talk about religion and politics. You have been warned 🙂

What to visit near Arcos de la Frontera

Vejer de la Frontera

Vejer de la Frontera is another fabulous white village in the province of Cádiz. It is one of the most beautiful villages in Spain.

vejer de la frontera arco arch
Vejer – Arcos de las Monjas

There’s plenty to see in Vejer de la Frontera.

Medina Sidonia

This village is a little gem. As well as the incredible friendliness of its inhabitants, the village has many treasures from Roman times to show visitors.

medina sidonia arco arche
Medina Sidonia

You’ll find plenty of beautiful things to see in Medina Sidonia, and strolling through its narrow streets is a pure delight for lovers of white villages.

Zahara de la Sierra

Zahara de la Sierra is a magnificent white village perched on a rocky promontory. It also features on the list of the 100 most beautiful villages in Spain.


A visit to Zahara de la Sierra will also leave you with wonderful memories.

Book an activity in Arcos de la Frontera

Below you’ll find the excursions and visits available in Arcos de la Frontera and the surrounding area.

You can also book them online today (with free cancellation):

Arcos de la Frontera Fair

Book accommodation in Arcos de la Frontera

Below you will find all the hotels and accommodation available in Arcos de la Frontera, once you have selected your dates:

Some useful links (car hire, other ideas for visits)

Easy and economical bookings

Continue your trip to Andalucia


Seville, the capital of Andalucia, is a city full of treasures to discover and monuments to visit.

Door of Forgiveness – Seville Cathedral

Here you will find everything you can see in Seville in 3 days. And for those who will stay longer you will also find information on secret Seville and the Santa Cruz and Triana districts.


cadix cadiz cathedrale catedral cathedral cattedrale

Visit Cadiz, a city with an incredible past and great beauty, on the Costa del la Luz.


When you reach the Costa del Sol you will find in this link all must-sees in Malaga :

Street art next to the Picasso Museum Malaga


Discover what to see in Granada, and visit the Albaicin and Sacromonte districts:



And of course, visit Cordoba, the caliphate city, and the Juderia district


Discover more of Andalusia’s beautiful sites in the Andalusia blog pages.

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