Find out the top things to do, the best restaurants, hotels, and some insider information to help you plan your visit to Cadiz in Andalucia, Spain.
Vivid green water dotted with fishing boats, white buildings as far as the eye can see, skinny cobbled streets running from one side of the peninsula to the other, and a buzzy, local vibe with characterful tapas bars on street corners. After falling in love with Cadiz on my first visit, I just know it’s somewhere I’ll return to again and again. It’s historic. It’s quaint. It’s charming. And however hard I try to describe why it’s special, I think it’s the photos that really tell the story. Is Cadiz worth a visit? Yes. Definitely.
Cadiz, Spain: Why Visit?
If you’re into history, this is the city for you! Founded by the Phoenicians 3,000 years ago, Cadiz is one of the oldest cities in Western Europe. The Romans also settled there, building an impressive city (some of which is still in existence today!) Over the years it was one of Europe’s most important ports, with trading links to America. For somewhere relatively small, it really does have a fascinating past, and one you can really get under the skin of!
But for those less interested in the past, there’s plenty more to this city. There are several beautiful beaches, including La Caleta right in the centre. There are wiggly narrow streets, beautiful tree-lined plazas, fountains, great restaurants and sensational views. It’s somewhere you could create an itinerary packed with tours and museum visits, or just spend a few days eating, drinking and exploring at your own pace. And that’s exactly why I loved it.
While some of Spain’s larger cities are becoming more multi-cultural, Cadiz has retained a truly Spanish flavour. Locals seem to be connected, only walking a few paces before bumping into someone they know and catching up over a cerveza or a coffee! Tapas bars go back several generations, and despite some restaurants specialising in modern Spanish cuisine, there are still plenty with menus virtually unchanged from 50 years ago.
Cadiz, Spain: How To Get There
The most direct route from the UK, is to fly with Ryanair from London Stansted to Jerez, which is just 33 minutes away by car.
If you’re already heading to the south of Spain, Cadiz makes a great day trip, and the high-speed rail network makes it easy to get around.
Cadiz, Spain: Best Time To Visit
Southern Spain benefits from pretty warm temperatures all year around. Even in mid-winter it can be as warm as 16 or 17 degrees. The time you may find the weather uncomfortable is more likely to be in the summer months when temperatures can reach as high as 38-40 degrees. It was around 39 degrees during my visit in late June, so be prepared!
Spain knows how to party, so don’t be surprised to see a few festivals or celebrations during your visit. During my trip in June there was a huge celebration for San Juan, which included fireworks over the sea, and a religious festival with parades winding their way through the city.
Cadiz is particularly famous for its Carnival in February. There are also plenty of celebrations during Semana Santa (Holy Week). Just remember, the city will be extra busy during these periods, and accommodation may be a bit pricier, and harder to find!
Cadiz, Spain: Things To Do
Food Tour Of Cadiz: Always one of my absolute favourite ways to get to know a city, the guys from Pancho Tours and Cadizfornia Tours are young, fun, and so passionate about their home city. They know which bars have interesting stories to tell, where to get the best fried fish, and where you should spend your Euros for the rest of your stay!
Cost: From 30 EUR
Roman Theatre: I couldn’t believe it when I was walking down the main street with the sea on my left and I spotted the remains of a large Roman amphitheatre. Free to visit, it’s amazing to walk all over this piece of history. The museum is very well formatted too.
Climb Torre Tavira And Check Out The Camera Oscura: Recommended by everyone I met, Tavira Tower is the highest point in the city and offers incredible panoramic views. You’ll need to book onto a guided tour in order to marvel at the periscope images of the city projected onto the camera oscura.
Cost: 6 EUR
Climb Cadiz Cathedral Tower: So you’ve taken in the panoramic views of the city from Torre Tavira, now compare them with the views from the top of the cathedral. Personally, I preferred the views from up here, as I loved snapping photos with the bells silhouetted against the incredible city backdrop. I also really liked being closer to the water.
Cost: 5 EUR
Hit The Beach: The beaches around Cadiz have won plenty of awards, including being recognised as one of Europe’s best urban beaches. La Caleta at one end of the peninsula is a popular spot with both tourists and locals, but it can get a little crowded. If you want to spread out, head just a few minutes into the new city to Santa María Del Mar or La Victoria.
Explore The Shops: While there are a few streets around Calle Columela with well-known stores such as Zara, Desigual and Mango, Cadiz has lots of boutiques, gift shops and food stores. The fun comes in discovering them as you explore the city on foot.
Visit Mercado Central – A buzzy market in Plaza Libertad with a truly local vibe. You’ll be able to watch the locals buying their fish and fresh produce, and check out some of the strange sea creatures for yourself!
Relax In Parque Genovés: With a water feature, plenty of birds, beautifully manicured trees, exotic colourful flowers and a café, it’s not hard to understand why several locals I spoke to said this was their fave spot in Cadiz.
Walk The Entire Peninsula: As mentioned, you really don’t have to race around Cadiz to have a good time! One of my favourite things to do was wander the entire peninsula, starting at Plaza de San Juan de Dios, passing Parque Genovés, La Caleta Beach, the Cathedral, Roman Theatre and more.
Tour The Underground Caves And Catacombs – It’s thought that there are well over 50km of ancient passages, caves and burial sites under Cadiz, some dating back 3,000 years to when the city was founded! There are plenty of remains from Roman times and the 16-18th centuries when there was almost as much happening underground as above. The best way to experience it is to head off on a tour of the city’s caves, La Casa Del Pirata and the Catacumbas Del Beaterio.
Visit The Castles – The two castles that extend at either side of La Caleta Beach are free to visit, and along with their historic significance (built in the 17th / 18th Centuries) Castillo De San Sebastian and Santa Catalina provide magical views of the city.
Cadiz, Spain: Where To Eat and Drink
Before revealing where I had some of my favourite meals, it’s worth remembering that this is Spain, and schedules are different! Breakfast is around 8/9am, around midday people might stop for a quick drink and a tapa, then lunch at 3pm and dinner around 9/10pm. Once I understood this Spanish way of life, it made sense that a lot of places are closed between 4pm – 8.30pm.
La Marmita Centro – This smart restaurant serves modern Spanish cuisine and for the best experience, I’d recommend choosing the tasting menu. Dishes such as a cone of tuna and avocado tartar, mussels with seaweed, Iberian pork with bulgar wheat, and a dramatic Jack Daniels smoked pork came paired with tasty sherries and wines. Service was excellent, and I came away with new knowledge of the ingredients, dishes and wines.
Casa Manteca – Cadiz’s most famous bar, this is a right of passage for anyone visiting the city. It’s lively, with walls covered in old pictures of Cadiz’s legendary carnival, bull fighting and more. Food is cheap and tasty, with the house speciality being chicharrones – a type of pressed pork served on waxed paper. I’d also recommend the roasted peppers stuffed with prawn and cod.
La Candela – In contrast to the city’s numerous traditional restaurants, this one was quirky, arty and along with delivering great flavours, they also took pride in presentation. The croquettes were totally delicious, as was the marinaded tuna. It can get busy, so it’s best to book in order to guarantee a spot.
Cafe Royalty – Lavish décor, paneling, accents of gold and beautifully-preserved murals make this historic café somewhere you just HAVE to visit. The café is famous for its picatostes – fried bread covered in sugar. I enjoyed them for a late breakfast one morning, with a strong coffee.
Mesón Cumbres Mayores – Another popular haunt, this tapas bar shows off its hams by hanging them from the walls, the ceiling, and anywhere else they can fit them! Even the pumps for the cervezas look like legs of jamon! It’s laid back and traditional, and I’d recommend the solomillo presa and secreto.
La Tabernita – Arrive before 9pm to grab one of the few tables in front of this popular tapas bar. For something new, try their cuttlefish meatballs (black from the ink) or their tortillitas de camarones (a baby shrimp fritter).
Cadiz, Spain: Where To Stay
Casa Patio del Panadero – I stayed here for the duration of my trip and the location was perfect for exploring the city on foot. The restored 19th-century building has a traditional Andalusian central patio, friendly staff, and my room had a sofa area and mini kitchen with fridge and microwave.
Cadiz, Spain: Where To Visit Next?
I’ve spent a lot of time exploring the south of Spain. Just last year I headed to Ronda (still one of my absolute favourite places in the whole world!), Malaga, Nerja and Antequera. If you have a car, I’d recommend all of those, along with Seville, Granada and Cordoba. Each place is surprisingly different, has a unique cuisine and absolutely loads to see and do.
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