The port city of Cadiz is situated on a peninsula in South-Western Spain, halfway between Gibraltar to the South-East and the border with Portugal to the North-West. It faces the Atlantic ocean and it’s dramatically joined to the Spanish mainland twice, once naturally by a beautiful long stretch of beach that carries a major road (Ctra de Andalucia, CA-33) to Cadiz’s South, and once by a scenic road bridge to the East (N443). Cadiz is the oldest surviving city in Spain and possibly in all southwestern Europe.
Cadiz’s history is awash with conquerors, as it always was an extremely strategic port. It was initially established by Phoenicians who succumbed to Carthagenians, then Romans, Visigoths, Byzantines, Moors and finally Spaniards came to rule. It survived many naval attacks by the English during the 16th and 17th centuries. Cadiz was the departure point for Christopher Columbus’s second and fourth voyages, and Spain’s main trading port with America in the 18th century, with consequent amazing wealth and prosperity. Many of the most prominent historic buildings in the Old City date from this era.
The relatively recent restoration of many of Cadiz’s landmark buildings and locations has spruced up and added to the charm of this remarkable city. It contains a most unusual cathedral, an 18th century watchtower, a theatre, remnants of an ancient city wall, a characterful old municipal building, an ancient Roman theatre, even unique, architecturally prominent 158m tall electrical pylons across the Bay of Cadiz. The old town, bordered by the sea and city walls is charming, with grand historic plazas interconnected by a vast network of characterful ancient narrow streets.
On a walk through the old town you’ll first come through the remarkable 16th century city gates, then across the gorgeous Plaza de Mina housing the museum of Cadiz which contains 3000 year old artifacts as well as works by Rubens and the 19th century Plaza San Antonio. The Plaza de la (rococo/neoclassical) Catedral houses the Baroque Santiago church, and the Plaza de España with the Constitution monument is prettily located by the port. During your walk you can admire the imposing fortress of Candelaria, the Castillo de San Sebastian and the Castillo de Santa Catalina. Then venture a little further into the side streets and the barrios (quarters like Santa Maria, El Populo and La Viña), which display a strong contrast to the new town.
Cadiz excels for wonderful beaches, with Playa de Caleta between two castles in the Old City, and the 3km long/50m wide Playa de la Victoria in the newer part, which is great for family swims. For the slightly more adventurous, La Playa de Santa María del Mar and Playita de las Mujeres offer views of the old district.
Whatever time of year you visit, there will most probably be some activity related to the Carnival of Cadiz, one of the best known in the world. Contests, rehearsals and public demonstrations culminate in the grand two-week.open-air theater event each February. Add a most interesting nightlife with a good selection of bars, clubs and coffee houses, the wonderful Andalucian cuisine, and great shopping with markets offering traditional and modern selections in a lovely setting, and you have a city with something for every visitor.
Posted : Wednesday, December 8th, 2010 at 13:14
Karen Bryan is the founding editor of the UK based, multi author Europe a la Carte Blog which features Europe travel tips about the best places to visit in Europe.