In the Old Town, begin with a look at the Mudéjar Puerta de Jerez, the gateway to Tarifa, which was constructed by the Catholic monarchs after the Reconquista. Spend an hour or so wandering the bustling Mercado (central marketplace) on Calle Colón.
The most intriguing church in town is Iglesia de San Mateo at the end of Calle Sancho IV El Bravo. It's open daily from 9am to 1pm and 5:30 to 8:30pm; admission is free. Behind a decaying baroque facade, the church's interior is late Gothic, with elegant rib vaulting in the nave and more modern stained-glass windows above. Reliefs of Christ and his apostles decorate the vaulting, and there is an impressive depiction of the crucified Christ by noted sculptor Pedro de Mena on the right aisle. The church also possesses a tombstone from the 7th century that proves the Christians had settled in Tarifa before the arrival of the conquering Muslims in 711.
Even more interesting is the maze of tiny streets to the immediate south of the church. Their layout has not varied since Muslims ruled the town.
West of the Old Town towers Castillo de Guzmán, built in 960 on orders of Abd ar-Rahman III, the caliph of Córdoba. From 1292 until the mid-1990s this was a garrison for Spanish troops. Since then it has been turned into a town museum. Its parapets offer panoramic views. It is open Tuesday to Sunday from 10am to 2pm and 4 to 6pm, charging an admission of 2.50€ ($4).
Serious bird-watchers come here to visit the spectacular Mirador del Estrecho, a lookout point that's great for watching bird migrations across the Strait of Gibraltar and that incidentally offers panoramic views. The lookout point is 7km (4 1/3 miles) east on the E-5.
Another attraction is the Roman ruins at Baelo Claudia, 10km (6 miles) to the north. These ruins were from a settlement here from the 2nd century B.C. The hamlet grew rich from a relish known as garum, a rotting mass of horror made from fish blood, heads, entrails, and soft roe from tuna and mackerel. Most of what you see today is from the 1st century A.D. when Emperor Claudius made the town a self-governing township. Discovered in 1917, the town was excavated, including ruins of its forum, three temples (Jupiter, Juno, and Minerva), and the remains of a basilica. The ruins of a theater have been restored, and the former main street can be traversed. The ruins of public baths can also be seen, even the fish factory where the highly valued garum was produced. The ruins (tel. 95-668-85-30; www.museosdeandalucia.es) can be visited June to September, Tuesday to Saturday from 10am to 8pm and Sunday from 10am to 2pm. In other months, hours are Tuesday to Saturday from 10am to 7pm and Sunday from 10am to 2pm. Admission is free.
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