To be added to the “Things to Do in Ronda” series: yesterday we went to the Palace of Mondragon, which, according to legend, was the palace of the son of Morocco’s sultan. The last Arab governor, before the fall of Ronda in 1485, also lived here. It’s an amazing building, and since it’s a bit off the main tourist street in the old Moorish district, it was also almost completely empty for the vast majority of our stay, except right at the end when a tour group arrived.
The big draw is a museum, the Museum of Ronda, which is in the palace. But seeing as I had a 2 year old with me, we weren’t going to do a lot of exploring. They do have some fabulous archaeological finds from Acinipo, one of which is a gorgeous life-sized Roman-looking sculpture of a woman. Hannah tried to hug it. Thank goodness for quick reflexes honed during years of playing video games. And people say Oblivion was a waste of time!
In the museum area there are exhibits showing the development of Iberian civilization in general, and Ronda’s in particular. There are model caves and huts which are all available to walk through, which was great fun for Hannah. I’m sure it was incredibly educational, if I’d been able to read it all. Instead, I took pictures of the boards that most interested me, and sometime I’ll go through and absorb it all. Hey, that’s a Traveling with Toddler Tip: when you can’t read stuff in the museum because your child wants to run up and down the steps, take pictures of the posters so you can read later.
The courtyards retain much of their original bricks, tiling, and woodworking, which makes it all the more spectacular that you can just walk around in them like it’s no big deal. The architecture is clearly Arab with the gardens that look almost mathematical in their structure. But then you go upstairs to the newer part (17th century), and you’re greeted with a main hall with an exquisite carved ceiling that looks similar to ceilings at Hampton Court and other late-Medieval buildings in England. You can definitely imagine councils meeting here to discuss news, greet foreign visitors, or have grand banquets. Now it seems to be a meeting or presentation room, but the feeling of the room is still very real.
One thing that I find remarkable about the Reconquista is how much of the conquered cities the Christians allowed to stand. When Ronda fell, Ferdinand barely touched it, with the exception of turning the armory into a church, which seems fair, I suppose. It’s refreshing to see the Arab imagery and architecture still so alive and available, but in a way, that’s what’s great about this town. The palace reminded me of the gardens in the Alhambra, and yet it’s so accessible, and empty.
We spent a good hour in the palace, much of that time was Hannah running around the courtyards having fun. I would highly recommend it for anyone on a day trip to Ronda – it’s a much better use of time than the bullring, which I refuse to visit, and am always astounded at the amount of tourists standing in front of it. But seriously, go to the Palacio de Mondragon. If you’re driving, you can park in the nearby Plaza Duquesa de Parcent which is about €2/hour, and it’s about a 5 minute walk from there, behind the church, towards the cliff (ie to the left). I did it with a baby stroller, so it’s pretty easy.
The cost to enter is €3 for adults, and small children are free. I did have to park the stroller at the entrance, near to the front door which made me a little nervous, but nothing had been touched when I came back, so I think things are pretty safe around here. This has definitely been one of my favorite things to see here so far; if you’re in Ronda, you should make the effort to visit.