The core of the white-walled town was made for walking. As you stroll, you can explore ancient churches and cobblestone alleyways and see windows pierced with the characteristic wrought-iron grilles of Andalusia.
Head up Cuesta de los Rojos to reach the Alcabaza (Fortress). Reopening is scheduled, but not at all guaranteed, for sometime in 2010. This is where the Moors staged their last defense before being conquered by Catholic troops in 1410. The fortress then became a military base for the Reconquest of Granada.
Today you can wander among the meager ruins that have been turned into a garden within the ancient walls. From the main tower, Torre del Homenaje, you can take in a panoramic view of the town; note the unusual roofs with their colored tiles. The view goes beyond the town to take in the surrounding plains and Peña de los Enamorados (Lover's Rock), from which two lovers -- one a Christian, the other a Muslim -- are said to have committed suicide when their parents forbade them to marry. The Alcabaza gardens are always open, although it's best to go during the day so that you can take in the views. Note: Torre del Homenaje is closed for renovations until 2010.
The town is riddled with churches, but one is more notable than the rest. If you go through the 16th-century arch, Arco de los Gigantes (Arch of the Giants), to the far end of Plaza Alta, you'll come to Colegiata de Santa María la Mayor at Plaza Santa María, near the castle. Dating from 1514, it has a facade with geometric motifs, which is said to have been the first example of Renaissance-style architecture in the province. Actually the monument betrays several architectural influences, including Mudéjar, Plateresque, and Gothic styles. The church (no phone) is open July to September 15, Tuesday to Friday 10:30am to 2pm and 8 to 10pm; September 16 to June, Tuesday to Friday 10:30am to 2pm and 4:30 to 7:30pm. It's also open year-round Saturday 10:30am to 2pm and Sunday 11:30am to 2pm. Admission is free.
If you are facing the church, on the left you can see the ruins of Las Termas de Santa María, a Roman thermal bath that was excavated in 1988. Some mosaic tiles and meager ruins remain, but that's about it.
Another attraction is the Museo Municipal, Calle Nájera (tel. 95-270-40-21), housed in the 18th-century Palacio de Nájera. Roman artifacts unearthed in the area are the chief attraction. The major exhibit is the Efebo de Antequera, a Roman statue about 1.4m (5 ft.) high. Discovered outside of town in the 1970s, it is a stunning bronze statue of a boy dating from Roman times. Another notable sculpture is an eerily lifelike woodcarving by Pedro de Mena, a well-known 17th-century Andalusian sculptor, of St. Francis of Assisi. On an unusual note, the museum exhibits the avant-garde 1970s art of native son Cristóbal Toral. Charging 3€ ($4.80) for admission, the museum is open Tuesday to Friday 10am to 1:30pm and 4:30 to 6:30pm, Saturday 10am to 1:30pm, and Sunday 11am to 1:30pm. A guided tour is mandatory; tours leave every half-hour from the entrance.
One final notable church is Iglesia del Carmen (Church of Our Lady of Carmen) (no phone), east of the Postigo de la Estrella, approached by heading up Cuesta de los Rojas. This is a rare 17th-century Mudéjar church. Behind a plain facade is a lavish interior with a coffered ceiling from the 18th century. Its greatest treasure -- found at the main altar -- is a retablo (altar) . This is one of the finest of its kind in all the province, a masterpiece of late baroque extravaganza. In the center, carvers Diego Márquez and Antonio Primo created a Madonna flanked by several polychromed saints and angels. Visiting hours are Monday to Friday 10:30am to 1:30pm and 4:30 to 6:30pm, Saturday and Sunday 10:30am to 1:30pm. Admission is 2€ ($3.20).
On the Outskirts -- The best day trip in the area is to El Torcal, a natural park consisting of a strangely shaped series of limestone rocks. Some visitors have compared its surface to the landscape of an otherworldly planet. Towering over the park is a 1,370m (4,494-ft.) peak. Several trails circle this dramatic summit; in fact trails cross the entire park, stretching out for 12km (7.25 miles). You can take the path marked with a green arrow on your own for 1.5km (just under a mile). El Torcal is 16km (10 miles) south of Antequera. Take Carretera de Malada out of Antequera and follow the signs to the site. Admission is free.
Only 1km (1/2 mile) east of Antequera, on the northern outskirts of town, is one of the most important prehistoric discoveries in Europe: Viera, Romeral, and Menga are funerary chambers dating from 2500 to 1800 B.C. and known for their Cyclopean size. The chambers were carved out of massive slabs of stone, including a 180-ton monolith.
The best preserved of the cuevas is Menga (tel. 95-271-22-06), which is also the oldest and largest of the trio. At one time these chambers were filled with great riches, but, of course, this treasure has long since been looted. Romeral consists of a long corridor leading to two round chambers. Small flat stones are laid out so as to produce a trapezoidal section in the corridor. Viera starts out with a narrow passageway that leads deep into the bowels of the earth. It's an eerie and strangely evocative prehistoric site.
From the center of Antequera, follow signs out of town toward Granada. Past a gas station, watch for a small sign directing you to Los Dólmenes. This will lead you to Menga and Viera. To reach Romeral, continue along the road to Granada for another 3km (1 3/4 miles) until you see a sign. The caves are open Tuesday to Saturday from 9am to 6pm and Sunday from 9:30am to 2:30pm. Admission is free.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.