Algeciras: The Red-Headed Stepchild of Spain?
Plaza Alta in Algeciras. Photo by me.
Algeciras, Spain located in the south of the south—Andalucia—has become my Spanish home away from home. I was skeptical accepting work here last year as most guidebooks quickly dismissed it as a port city with an industrial influence, serving largely as a place of transit ushering in and out tourists and citizens of Morocco. Though the port is undeniably an eye-sore, I’ve come to appreciate Algeciras as a place that is more than what meets the eye, and worth stopping through for a blend of African and European cultures, (though admittedly, you’ll probably only find yourself here en route to Morrocco.)
You’ll know you’re nearing Algeciras when the streets signs are accompanied by Arabic script. Head up and away from Avenida Virgen Del Carmen (the main street that goes along the waterfront) to find the quaint city center, filled with tapas restaurants, cozy pubs, shops and bakeries. The farther west you head, the heavier the Moroccan influence: kebap restaurants, traditional tea shops (selling delish Moroccan mint tea) and open-air markets. If you find yourself here in the summertime, head for one of the two beaches: Rinconcillo and Getares. Getares is the prettier and more popular option featuring a beach-side promenade of restaurants and cafes.
With the UK territory Gibraltar, exotic Morocco, and glamourous Marbella as its neighbors, Algeciras is situated in a prime location. Partner that with a relatively low-cost of living, (by European standards) and the gritty individuality of this place becomes all the more tolerable. So are the guidebook rumors true? Partially. However, that doesn’t take away from the fact that this city is unashamedly and authentically a port city untouched by tourism. So if you’re looking for a place a bit off the beaten track, stop by for a couple of hours and then head further down the road to kite-surfing capital, Tarifa.