The small seaside Spanish town of Cadiz is not the kind of place where you’ll find a long list of tourist attractions. In fact, you can probably spend half a day seeing all the city’s important landmarks. This will free up the rest of your visit to soak up the sun and the chill Andalusian vibes. To really enjoy visiting Cadiz, you need to do a lot wandering, drinking, and beaching.
Cadiz boasts a couple of museums, a castle fortress (that is temporarily closed), a cathedral, and a lot of adorable streets full of sidewalk cafes. Most of the sightseeing will be found in the Old Town of Cadiz, where everything is less than 10 minutes’ walk.
In the heart of Old Town, Cadiz has an imposing baroque cathedral to visit. The inside of the Cadiz Cathedral looks a little worse for the wear, with netting keeping the falling pieces of the ceiling from raining on visitors. It’s beautiful in the kind of way that things that are slowly falling apart are beautiful. More importantly, here you can visit the cathedral’s bell tower. Though it’s a bit of a grueling hike up, the views of the coast between the cathedral’s golden dome and arches are well worth it. Do note that the bells go off every 15 minutes, so don’t stand under them.
Detached from the mainland and visible from Playa La Caleta, which is also in Old Town, you can take the long stone causeway down to the Castle of San Sebastian. Though it’s currently closed indefinitely, the short walk can get you close to the 18th century fortress and give you nice views of the beach. An alternative, though less picturesque fortification to visit is the Castle of Santa Catalina.
On the off chance you traveled to one of the few places in Europe with warm coastal beaches to see some 17th century Spanish art, the Cadiz Museum features archeological and art exhibits. If you’re interested in archeology, you may also be interested in the partially excavated Roman Theater near the cathedral.
Much of the sightseeing in town will take you to beautiful plazas and parks, where you can watch the sun set or take a break from walking around. If you’re coming off a cruise ship, the first plaza you’ll probably come across is the Plaza de San Juan de Dios, where you’ll see vendors selling handmade goods and souvenirs. The Plaza de las Flores is another popular square that is lined with flower vendors as well as restaurants.
The nicest park to enjoy when you’re not discovering the city’s tiny neighborhoods and busy squares is the Alameda Apocada and the nearby Parque Genoves. The lovely tiled walkway of the Alameda takes you through beautiful gardens where you can even stop for a drink. Parque Genoves’ precisely pruned hedges and waterfall make for a magical stroll or a good place to grab a coffee as well.
Cadiz is quaint and relaxed, but it’s probably not worth the trek south to visit unless you’re going to the beach. You don’t have to go very far from Old Town to enjoy a beach that is nicer and larger than most of the beaches in Europe. La Caleta offers hassle-free beaching, tropical drinks, and views of the nearby castle fortresses that you might recognize from the move Die Another Day.
However, if you want the luxury beachfront experience, you’ll have to go south to the 8 km stretch between Playa de Santa Maria del Mar and Playa de Torregorda. A promenade runs down along Playa de la Victoria, where you’ll find ample sandy real estate to plant your beach umbrella along with beachfront hotels, restaurants, and bars. Though it’s worth noting that there is also a road for cars that stands between the beach and most establishments, so your sea view may be interrupted by the traffic. The beachfront promenade in Cadiz also stood in for the boardwalk in Havana in the Bond film.
If you’re visiting for a couple of days, the best way to enjoy Cadiz is to start your morning taking in one or two local sights and then hitting the beach until lunchtime. The town goes dormant during siesta which is also the hottest time of day. So do as the Spaniards do and take a nap before getting ready for an evening of tapas and sangria.
Eating and drinking in Cadiz
Cadiz is prototypically Andalusian; much of the eating out you’ll do will be at local unassuming tabernas where you can only get tapas and alcohol. Though not quite a tourist attraction per se, Cadiz’s Central Market can provide a nice culinary journey if you can get a seat. The center of the market is where locals buy fresh seafood and produce. These stalls are surrounded by bistros which tend toward the very specific, making it hard to have a variety of dishes at any one place. However, what you give up in variety, you’ll get in quality.
Just outside the market, you’ll find some excellent albeit touristy restaurants like Taberna El Almarcen and the popular churro stand Churreria La Guapa. The farther you go from city center into more residential areas, the more relaxed and affordable eating and drinking become. As a general rule, you should avoid anywhere that has burgers and pizza on the menu. Cadiz is where you want to fully embrace Spanish cuisine.
Many of the best tapas bars and restaurants close for several hours in the middle of the day until at least 8 pm or 8:30 pm. And the best ones like Taberna Casa Manteca and Bar La Tabernita will be absolutely slammed the second they open. So if you manage to get a table, cherish it and stay and drink for a while. Order a few tapas now, a few later. That’s the best way to enjoy visiting Cadiz. To be so relaxed that all your meals take 4 hours and you need to sleep afterwards.