Cadiz

Cadiz has fabulous beaches

Introduction

Cadiz, believed to be one of the oldest cities in the world, is located in the region of Andalucia on Spain’s southern coast where it is flanked by the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea.  Since many tourists flock to nearby Seville, the city of Cadiz is one of Spain’s best-kept secrets.  Located on a peninsula, it is a coastal city full of old-world charm, Moorish architecture, majestic cathedrals, and a maze of ancient streets dating back to Medieval times.  Cadiz is the preferred vacation destination for millions of Spaniards, who come here to enjoy the glorious beaches and historical sites while avoiding the tourist crowds that swarm to Spain’s more well-known cities.

Practicalities

Ships dock at Puerto Comercial, which is only a ten-minute walk to the downtown area. Take care to note which side of the dock you are on – maps here are complicated and it’s easy to head off in the wrong direction if you don’t note that your actual starting point! There are several quays at the Port of Cadiz, such as Reina Victoria, Reina Sofia, Alfonso XIII, and Ciudad.   The train station, which is a five-minute walk from the Port of Cadiz, offers transportation to nearby villages as well as to Seville and Jerez.  Car rentals, from the European chain Europcar, can be found right across the street from the train station.  A bus station is also within walking distance of Puerto Comercial.  The bus is the most economical way of getting around Cadiz, and there are plenty of buses and routes to choose from.  If you plan to do most of your sightseeing by bus, it is a good idea to buy the Bonobus Pass, which is valid for ten rides.  A Bonobus Pass can be purchased from hundreds of kiosks throughout the city. There is also a hop on hop off bus that stops right where the ship docks and gives a great tour of the modern part of the city. (See must sees)

Cadiz can be divided into four separate and unique districts, each one with its own character and flair.  These districts are City Centre , La Vina, Santa Maria, and El Populo.  City Centre is a colourful district full of plazas, where the sweet fragrance of orange trees linger in the air and lush gardens surround historic Moorish and Baroque cathedrals.  La Vina, on the other hand, is an urban barrio and the location of many of the city’s bars and nightclubs.  Santa Maria is the oldest district in Cadiz, and contains some of the most impressive examples of architecture in the city.  El Populo, the tourist district, is full of monuments, shops, and cafes.

The currency of Cadiz, as well as the rest of Spain, is the Euro.  Although the official language is Spanish, English is spoken and understood by many who work at local businesses and the multitudes of shops and cafes.  Cadiz is on CET (Central European Time), which is the same time zone for most of Europe.  The climate of Cadiz is mild throughout most of the year, very hot in summer and snow is something most citizens of this city have never seen.  On average, 300 days of sunshine per year can be expected here.

Shopping is one of the most popular activities for those visiting Cadiz, and the city is full of small shops that offer everything from the most fashionable European clothing to the finest Andalusian wines and sherries.  Cadiz is also known for producing fine pottery, furniture and handicrafts.  Most major credit cards are accepted all throughout the city, but it is important to remember that Spain has a Value-Added Tax (VAT), which is added to most purchases.

The old town has busy, interesting shopping streets

Some of the best shopping in the city can be found near the Plaza San Juan de Dios, where the streets are lined with a variety of markets, cafes, and shops. If you work your way towards the Cathedral, you’ll find the majority of the more interesting shops.  Two major commercial avenues, Calle Ancha and Calle Columela, also are renowned for their shops and restaurants.  The city also has two major modern shopping centres, one on Avenida Andalucian, and another in Bahia Sur (South Bay).

When visiting the many shops and restaurants of Cadiz it is important not to forget about the Spanish custom known as siesta.  Many businesses are closed from 2:30 to around 5:30 in the afternoon for siesta, and during this time life in the city slows to a crawl.  Many chain restaurants, outlet stores and supermarkets remain open through siesta, however.

Cadiz is one of the safer cities in Spain, and the citizens of Cadiz are famous for their hospitality to tourists and visitors.  However, as with all tourist destinations, there are the occasional pickpockets and purse-snatchers.  Should an emergency arise, there are several important numbers worth remembering.  The number for Local Police is 092, National Police is 091 and Guardia Civil is 062.  The number for the ambulance and fire department is 085.  The are four hospitals in Cadiz, the largest of these being Hospital de la Misericordia and Hospital Universitario Puerta del Mar.

Context

The history of Cadiz spans a period of over 3000 years, and it is probably the oldest city in western Europe. Many different cultures and civilizations have influenced the city, and their influence can be found in everything from the architecture to the music and food and local customs.  Some of the civilizations and cultures that have influenced the city include the Phoenicians, Greeks, Visigoths, Romans and Moors.  The Phoenicians were the first to settle in the area, inhabiting a city they referred to as Gadir, which is now present-day Cadiz.  It is believed that the city was founded as a trading post, and archaeological evidence has been found which suggests that Cadiz was the centre of the gold and silver trade as far back as 1100 BC.

The name Cadiz comes from Qadis, which was the name given to the city by the Visigoths who conquered the city in the 5th Century.  The city’s peak, however, took place in the 15th Century, when the Catholic Church placed Cadiz under the Spanish crown.  During this time, the city was heavily fortified to protect it from British attack.  Many of these fortifications are still standing today.  In the 19th Century, Cadiz became the capital of Spain and remained so until 1813.  After 1813, Cadiz remained a cosmopolitan city, though it was no longer influential in world politics or commerce.

Columbus set off for his 2nd and fourth voyages from Cadiz and the city became rich through trade with the Americas

The old merchant’s houses by the sea have turrets which were used by the owners to watch for their laden ships returning from the New World.

Cadiz is a very cultural city and the traditions brought here live on through Carnival. The Cadiz Carnival is one of the most famous festivities in Spain and takes place on Shrove Tuesday in February or March, depending on the year.  The celebration is characterized by colourful costumes and lively music and dance, which has always been a source of pride for this Andalusian coastal city.  It is widely believed that the form of dance known as flamenco has its origins in Cadiz.  Flamenco is so popular in the city that the district of Cadiz known as Santa Maria is known as “the flamenco capital of the world”.

General interest

Food is also an important part of life in Cadiz, and there is quite a variety to choose from.  Since the city is surrounded on three sides by water, seafood is abundant.  Lobster, squid and shrimp are served in virtually every restaurant, and the city has many locally famous dishes, such as “caldillo de peros” (fish stewed in orange sauce) and “pescadito fritas”, which is fried fish prepared in the customary Cadiz manner.  There is also ‘Pain de Cadiz’ which is marzipan stuffed with fruits, and turron – a kind of nougat very popular in Spain. Wine, sherry and brandy are also a matter of cultural significance in Cadiz, which is home to some of the world’s largest and most important sherry and brandy producers.  The dark, bold variety of sherry known as Amontillado is a mainstay of the Cadiz dinner table.

Aside from food, drink and music, the fun-loving citizens of Cadiz (known as Gaditanos) are also very much interested in sports.  Football, of course, is a big draw; Ramon de Carranza Stadium, located on the Plaza de Madrid, is home to the Cadiz CF professional football team.  Golf, horse riding, and bullfighting are also very popular in Cadiz.

Key attractions

Perhaps the best-known landmark in the city is the Cadiz Cathedral.  This 18th Century church was built with gold from the New World, and is an architectural gem known throughout Spain for its magnificence and splendour. The square outside has many pavement cafes and when we visited had free wi-fi.

Cathedral Nueva

Nearly as famous is the Oratorio de Santa Cruz church.  Located in the city’s Barrio del Populo, the Santa Cruz Church features several paintings and murals by Spain’s most famous artist, Francisco Goya.

A walking tour through Cadiz will reveal a staggering amount of architectural diversity, and the city is brimming with cathedrals, monuments, and castles showcasing styles ranging from Gothic, Baroque, and Moorish.  Many buildings were also constructed in the Mudejar style, illustrating a unique and distinctive marriage of Muslim and Spanish elements.  One example of Muslim influence on the architecture of Cadiz is the theatre known as Gran Teatro Falla, which is constructed in pink brick and features Mudejar- style arches.

Other points of interest include the quaint Plaza de Mina, which is regarded as the most beautiful plaza in Cadiz.  Plaza de Mina is also home to the Fine Arts and Archaeology Museum.  This museum, also known as the Museum of Cadiz, contains many relics and artefacts from the city’s 3,000-year history.  The museum’s art gallery contains works by Rubens, Goya, and other prominent artists.

Visitors may also want to check out Torre Tavira (Tavira Tower), which is one of the 160 watchtowers built in the 18th century.  These towers, many of which are still standing, were built so that merchants could scan the watery horizon for incoming merchant ships.  The top of Torre Tavira offers a panoramic view of the entire city.

Cadiz is one of the most densely populated cities in the world, as evidenced by the narrowness of the cobblestone streets and shaded alleyways and Cadiz does not have much green space or open areas.  Nonetheless, the city is home to quite a few gorgeous gardens.  Most of these gardens are located along the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea, and contain exotic species of trees and flowers, ponds and fountains in addition to their view of the sea.  These gardens are where the locals go to relax and unwind and they are ideal for a romantic afternoon stroll.  The largest is Parque Genoves, which can be found between the Avenida Doctor Gomez Ulla and Paseo de Santa Barbara.

Beaches are a matter of national pride in Spain, and Cadiz boasts some of the best in the country.  Caleta Beach is the most popular.  It is situated between two castles, Santa Catalina and San Sebastian.  Other Cadiz beaches include Victoria Beach and La Cortadura Beach.  The latter is the most secluded beach in Cadiz as well as its longest, stretching 4,000 meters between Torregorda and Cortadura.

Quirky facts

The James Bond movie “Die Another Day” (starring Pierce Brosnan and Halle Berre) was filmed in part at Caleta Beach.

George Meade, a Union general in the American Civil War, was born in Cadiz on December 31, 1815.

In 1980, a Roman theatre was discovered during a renovation project in the El Populo district.  This theatre, dating back to 100 BC, is the second-largest Roman theatre in the world.

Christopher Columbus sailed from Cadiz on his second and fourth voyages to the New World.

Author: Marlin Bressi