A proud and historic port city
In the south-eastern corner of Spain, Almeria is more than the gateway to the arid heart of Andalusia. Shaped by the legacy of the Moors (and today by intensive agriculture) it’s a city of fascinating contrasts – from spaghetti westerns to amazing marine wildlife.
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Almería’s bustling local markets sell everything from bric-a-brac to seasonal specialities, and make a great introduction to the daily life of the city. Start at the Mercado Central de Abastos (Circunvalación Del Mercado), a covered market that specialises in takeaway and bargain outlets, before strolling down to San José and browsing the selection of hippy-style craft stalls. On Thursdays, a big street market in Carboneras sells handicrafts, ceramics and fresh produce from the surrounding area. Calle de las Tiendas and Calle Real both have an eclectic mix of local boutiques and big-name brands, while Paseo de Almería draws a loyal fashionable crowd.
Food & Drink
Mediterranean and Arabic influences combine to create the Almería region’s distinctive and delicious cuisine. The best place to sample local specialities is Casa Puga (Jovellanos 7), an ancient taverna that has it roots in the 1900s and now counts among the city’s brightest gastronomic stars. La Encina Plaza Vieja (Calle Marín) does a combination of scrumptious tapas and traditional rustic dishes. The freshest and the best seafood is served at glitzy Club de Mar (Playa de Almadrabillas), although El Bello Rincón (Carretera Nacional-340) combines an imaginative fish-focused menu with far-reaching sea views. At Casa Sevilla (Calle Rueda López), creative dishes interchange effortlessly with more traditional fare.
Procession of the Virgin of the Sea<
Honouring the patron saint of Almería, ‘la Virgen del Mar’, this lively fiesta sees an ancient statue of the Virgin Mary returned to the beach where it was originally discovered. After the procession, locals gather on the beach to enjoy bonfires, music and food.
Noche de San Juan
Part Christian celebration, part Pagan ritual, this midsummer festival is an excuse for the residents of Almería to let their hair down. Expect to see the burning of papier mâché figures, followed by street bonfires, music and traditional verbena dancing.
This summer celebration combines the Spanish traditions of bullfighting and flamenco dancing with a thoroughly modern knees-up. The last Saturday of the fair is a public holiday, and a spectacular floral offering is made to the Virgin Mary while costumed crowds look on.
Almería Western Film Festival
The first European festival dedicated exclusively to Western films, this new event is set to become a staple of the Almería calendar. It takes place in the desert of Tabernas and features a combination of classic films and new screenings.
International Festival of Spanish Keyboard Music
A series of concerts, workshops and fringe events make up this niche festival, which aims to appeal both to musical academics and to members of the public. Those keen to learn a new skill can also take part in courses run by nationally acclaimed artists.
The Moorish heritage of Almería is reflected in the exotic opulence of the city’s best hotels. Plaza Vieja Hotel & Lounge (Plaza de la Constitución) is overlooked by the Alcazaba Fortress and channels the Moroccan style of this famous monument in its décor. For visitors who prefer to be based closer to the sea, VITA Gran Hotel (Avenida Reina Regente) offers a more contemporary brand of luxury – its balcony rooms all have ocean views and access to an outdoor pool. The best budget accommodation tends to be in family-run pensions such as Pension Americano (Avenida de la Estacion), a basic but homely collection of rooms close to the city centre.