This port where the Rio Guadalquivír meets the Bay of Cádiz may have lost its deep harbor of ages past, but its sandbars and silted beaches make it a playground of the south. Well-off Spaniards flock here around Easter to bask in the sun, walk or ride horses on the beach, and eat mounds of fresh seafood in the restaurants. Sanlúcar also produces manzanilla sherry, a delicate style that can only be obtained by aging in the salt air by the ocean.
The simplest way to get to Sanlúcar from Jerez is to drive the 25km (15 miles) on the A-480. Alternately, buses run every hour between Jerez and Sanlúcar from 7am to 9pm weekdays, every 2 hours 9am to 9pm on weekends. The tourist office is at Calzada de Ejército s/n (tel. 95-636-61-10;www.sanlucardebarrameda.es). It’s open Monday to Friday 10am to 2pm and Saturday and Sunday 10am to 2pm and 6 to 8pm.
Sanlucár’s harbor at the mouth of the Guadalquivir was once so deep that Columbus launched his third voyage to America here. But centuries of silting have made the river shallower, creating lovely in-town beaches and protecting the upstream wetlands of Parque Doñana. The healthy estuarine system is a fisherman’s delight. Look for extraordinary shrimp, king prawns, and rock lobster on restaurant menus. Most visitors gravitate to the sandy strand at Bajo de Guia or to restaurant-lined Plaza del Cabildo.
When Magellan sailed from Sanlúcar in 1519 to circumnavigate the globe, he reportedly spent more on manzanilla than he did on armaments. To understand why, visit one of the manzanilla producers. Bodegas Barbadillo ★, Calle Sevilla, 1 (tel. 95-638-55-21; www.barbadillo.com) has been crafting and aging sherry since 1821. The bodega offers guided tours in English Tuesday to Saturday at 11am, and Sunday at noon. The price per person is 5€, and reservations are recommended.
The marques emblazoned on cafe umbrellas on Plaza del Cabildo ★ signal who owns each bar. Stop at any one to order a plate of shrimp and glass of manzanilla to enjoy in the sunshine.