“The city’s slogan is: ‘Anyone who visits Sanlúcar will return´.” And Sanlúcar’s wonderful
gastronomy surely plays a prominent role in its success”
by Muriel Feiner
Photos: Muriel Feiner
The designation of Sanlúcar de Barrameda as the ” Gastronomical Capital of Spain” in 2022 (effective until March 2023) did not come as a surprise to anyone, as it is famous throughout the world for its incomparable prawns and its exquisite manzanilla, in addition to the rest of the rich local gastronomy that emerges from its waters, marshes and fertile fields.
However, a trip to this Andalusian city can prove surprising to some for it is one of the many towns in Spain whose varied and extensive tourism offer is not well-known: a great deal of history, impressive monuments, landscape, sea, nature, art, handicrafts, gastronomy and vineyards and wineries that still follow the age-old traditional methods to produce their wines.
Sanlucar’s privileged location at the mouth of the Guadalquivir River has enabled it to play a key role in the development of world history. It was from here that Christopher Columbus sailed off on his third trip to the Americas and it was also the port of departure and arrival of the expedition of Ferdinand Magellan and Sebastián Elcano, who completed the first circumnavigation of the globe. In fact, the Fifth Centennial of this major accomplishment is being commemorated precisely this year.
The city also boasts a rich historical heritage, which becomes evident when wandering along its streets. The current mayor Víctor Mora has made and continues to make an enormous effort to restore, preserve and give renewed utility to its historic buildings, palaces, mansions, monuments, gardens…, a reflection of the justified pride the sanluqueños feel for their city.
There are many notable civil and religious monuments such as the 15th-century Castle of Santiago, the church of Nuestra Señora de la O, the Palace of Orleans where the City Council is currently installed, the 15th-century arcaded gallery of the Covachas, which houses the new Centro de Interpretación de la Manzanilla, the Capuchin Convent, where the Virgen del Buen Viaje is venerated, the Produce Market and the Medina Sidonia Palace. Of the latter, we must highlight the enormous importance of the General Archives of the Medina Sidonia Foundation, the most important private collection in Europe, with documentation dating back to well before the sixteenth century.
The Palace contains an extensive collection of valuable furnishings, paintings and sculptures and worthy of special attention are the beautiful bargueños (wood chests), tapestries of the Casa Montalto and paintings by Luis de Morales, Caballero de Arpino, Juan de Roelas, and Vicente López, among others.
Sanlúcar’s famous wineries are located within the city limits: Barbadillo, La Gitana, Hidalgo, Delgado … and offer guided tours of their installations which usually conclude with a sampling of the product. And of course, there is the Plaza del Cabildo, where the former Town Hall was located and is now lined with great tapa bars and an animated ambiance at all hours.
We cannot forget the beauty and enormous ecological value of the Doñana National Park, recognized by UNESCO as a Biosphere Reserve, with its dunes, marshes and wetlands, and the prominent role it plays in the migratory route of birds between Europe and Africa. As a result, its varied ecosystem makes it the ideal habitat for such rare fauna as the Iberian lynx, imperial eagle, red kite, and booted eagle, among others.
The sanluqueños enjoy an extensive calendar of annual events, festivals, competitions and traditions, such as the celebration of Carnival in winter; the solemn Holy Week with its religious brotherhoods that parade their remarkable works of art through the streets; the Romería del Rocío with a variable date between May and June, when a large influx of rocieros or pilgrims arrive at the Bajo de Guía to board a ferry over to the Doñana; the Manzanilla Fair in late May or early June; the patron saint festivities in honor of Our Lady of Charity; and the famous horse races on the beach, which have been held since 1845.
The quality and uniqueness of the Manzanilla, a white wine made from palomino grapes, are due to the climate, the mild temperatures and the high humidity, which facilitates the creation of the “velo de flor “, a kind of yeast, responsible for its unique bouquet.
But back to the theme of gastronomy, which Sanlúcar de Barrameda so justly represents this year. A visit to the Produce Market and the Bonanza Lonja confirm the high quality and variety of the products from the land and the sea, highlighting in particular the Sanlúcar patatas, with their unique flavor due to the saline waters that bathe the crops.
The main objective of Magellan’s expedition was to find a new route to the Moluccas in order to bring back spices to Spain. Of the five ships with a total of 265 men on board that sailed from Sanlúcar on September 20, 1519, only one returned three years later, on September 6, 1522: the Nao Victoria, with just 18 sailors. However, they brought with them a great diversity of highly prized spices, among them: saffron, cloves, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg. Although tapas is an important part of any visit to Sanlúcar, the city offers an extensive array of renowned restaurants, including “El Espejo” that has achieved a Bib Gourmand, awarded by the Michelin Guide, thanks to the work and passion of chef José Luis Fernández Tallafigo and his brother.
Another “must” on the agenda is the Bajo de Guía and its promenade along the calm waters of the Guadalquivir with the small boats floating in the bay and views of the nearby Doñana Park on the other shore. Here you can enjoy the full range of local cuisine and although one of the best-known restaurants is Casa Bigote, which is now run by the third generation of the same family, it is clear that you eat wonderfully well in any of the establishments of this idyllic place: El Mirador de Doñana, Poma, La Lonja, Joselito Huertas, Casa Juan…: galley soup, shrimp omelets, marinated fish, skate fish a la orange, clams, baby clams, seasoned potatoes, fried nettles, sole casserole and of course their characteristic striped prawns with long mustaches.
The city’s slogan is: “Anyone who visits Sanlúcar will return” and Sanlúcar’s wonderful gastronomy surely plays a prominent role in its success.
BREAKING NEWS: The Spanish city selected to become the “Capital de Gastronomía de España” in April 2023 is CUENCA. Surely this beautiful Castilian city will schedule a very special calendar of activities to celebrate this distinction.
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