Cádiz may be Europe’s oldest city, with a long and fascinating history. Columbus set out from here twice on his voyages to the New World. Built on a narrow spit of land, Cadiz is accessed by a single road over the sea, which gives it a magical air. The city’s golden age was during the 18th century. This is evident in the architecture of its extensive old town. This maze of lanes and streets is a joy to discover. Bars, cafes and many of the shops have a wonderful ‘vintage’ feel to them. It’s easy to fall in love with this charming city. Cadiz is an easy day trip from the Costa del Sol and we can help you explore this historic town with our sightseeing transfers.
There are very few human settlements on earth with this kind of historical pedigree; spilling over with monuments and historical remains. Cadiz is a real bucket list destination for your next holiday! A great time to visit is for Carnaval in the spring, second only in scale to Rio’s. Foodies will love the Ruta del Tapeo in summer, when the Cadiz’s tapas bars battle it out for glory.
The History of Cadiz
Cadiz stands on a peninsula jutting out into a bay, and is almost entirely surrounded by water. It was named Gadir by the Phoencians, who founded their trading post in 1100 BC. Cadiz was later controlled by the Carthaginians, until it became a thriving Roman port. It sank into oblivion under the Visigoths and Moors, but returned to the fore in the early 16th century. During this time it was the launching point for the journey to the Americas. Cadiz was later raided by Sir Francis Drake to gain control of trade with the New World. It later managed to withstand a siege by Napoleon’s army. In the early 19th century Cadiz became the bastion of Spain’s anti-monarchist, liberal movement. As a result, the country’s first Constitution was declared here in 1812.
Where to visit in Cadiz
The old, central quarter of Cadiz is famous for its picturesque charm. Worth a visit are the city’s Cathedral and churches of Santa Cruz and San Felipe Neri. The latter is famous as the place where a provisional government was set up with its own liberal Constitution. The cathedral is from the 1700s and combines baroque, rococo and neo-classical styles. By climbing its Poniente Tower you can enjoy great views over the port. Other points of interest are La Santa Cueva, home to several paintings by Goya, and stately mansions such as the Casa del Almirante and Casa de las Cadenas.
The old city looks quite Moorish in appearance and is intriguing with narrow cobbled streets opening onto small squares. The golden cupola of the cathedral looms high above the white houses which is stunning. It just takes an hour to walk around the headlands. There you can visit the entire old town and pass through some lovely parks with sweeping views of the bay.
Another highlight is to visit the 18th-century fortress, Castle of San Sebastián. The fortification is at the end of Paseo Fernando Quiñones, a long stone causeway that runs from the north-western edge of the city. The views back to Cádiz from this elevated path are scrapbook-worthy, and you can pause to dangle your legs over the wall and watch the Atlantic. The fortress buildings are from 1706, but the lighthouse here has Muslim origins. The Castle of San Sebastián was once used as a prison. Nowadays you can visit it for exhibitions and concerts. You may also recognise it from the Bond film, Die Another Day.
For the city’s best views visit Torre Tavira, 45 metres above sea level. It Cádiz’s official watchtower which dates back to 1778. At the top of ten flights of stairs and 170 steps is a rooftop terrace with the best view in the city. You can see west to the Castle of San Sebastián and south to the shining dome of the cathedral.
One level below the terrace is the tower’s Camera Obscura, installed in 1994. Every half-hour you’ll be able to watch a multilingual demonstration of this instrument, which projects a real-time image onto a screen. The camera’s lenses have high magnification, so it’s almost like looking at the city through a powerful telescope.
We’d recommend a stroll through the gorgeous waterfront park which borders the university campus to the north. Check out the paths made from the same sand used in Andalucía’s bullfighting arenas. The park was the work of the famous Valencian architect Gerónimo Genovés i Puig. There are loads of interesting areas to explore, like the grotto with a waterfall and ornamental lake surrounded by sculptures of dinosaurs. The whole park is a big botanical garden, with trees and plants from all over the world.
In most Spanish cities a trip to the permanent central market is a good way to see locals going about their day, and the best place to buy fresh produce. In Cádiz the market is an absolute must. The main reason is that the city’s location on the Atlantic gives it Spain’s freshest fish and seafood. Get there in the morning and the tantalising piles of crabs, oysters, lobsters, shrimps, tuna, cuttlefish and much more is a sight you’ll remember for a long time. Within the market there’s also a gastronomic area where you can buy freshly-cooked shrimp and oysters, as well as bars serving tapas.
The Phoenicians settled much of coastal Spain a long time before the Romans arrived. In Cadiz you can see the remains of one of their towns. The Gadir Archaeological Site, beneath the puppet theatre in the old town boasts the remains of a settlement from the 9th century BC. This site has been crucial for understanding Phoenician life in Spain, and you can visit it for free.
Last but not least, you need to visit the beach while you’re in Cadiz. Chill out and soak up the sun on Playa La Caleta, Playa del Victoria or the breathtaking Caña del Mecas.
As one of Spain’s major ports during the 16th century, Cadiz traded extensively with Venice. Cadiz is now the liveliest and most dazzling carnival town in mainland Spain, thanks to inspiration from Venice and its legendary carnival. It is famous for its amusing and creative characters and satirical musical groups. In fact, numerous groups and associations throughout the city spend the entire year preparing for the next carnival! The carnival lasts for around 10 days and is a raucous celebration and a great time to visit.