One of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in Western Europe, Cádiz has maintained a character of its own. Over 120 watchtowers dominate the city skyline, a legacy of its former life as a busy trading port, and a gold-domed cathedral stands as an emblem of the prosperity it enjoyed. The heart of the city is the whitewashed Casco Antiguo (old town), where a maze of narrow streets takes visitors past leafy plazas, baroque churches and elegant 18th-century merchants’ houses.
Start the day in classic Spanish style with some crispy churros and chocolate. Café La Marina is a local institution, but to avoid the higher prices, join the ‘gaditanos’ — as locals are known — in the queue for Churrería La Guapa, on the other side of Plaza de la Libertad.
Just around the corner, the 150ft-tall Torre Tavira is Cádiz’s highest watchtower. Once used for spotting ships sailing into port from the Americas, its viewing platform reveals the city’s best panoramas, and there’s even a fun camera obscura. After going up, head underground at Yacimiento Arqueològico Gadir, just a few metres away. Cádiz was founded by the Phoenicians in the 9th century, and this archaeological site preserves intact remains of the original settlement.
Next, amble through the old town’s labyrinth of tiny bars and old barber shops, taking in the signature art nouveau iron balustrades and tiled doorways. A tucked-away church, Oratorio de la Santa Cueva is a neo-classical jewel, with three splendid paintings by 18th-century Spanish master Francisco Goya. For souvenirs, try Sasha Alpargatas, which specialises in espadrilles in a variety of styles and hues. Or head nearby to Mira-Mira for a selection of colourful jewellery and handbags.
Cumbres Mayores, just off Plaza de Mina, is the place to refuel. This restaurant and tapas bar has been dishing up traditional Andalucian fare since 1966: sit at the bar below hanging jamóns or in the beamed dining room, tucking into grilled pork ribs or garlic prawns. For dessert, head back into the streets of the old town. Thanks to the Moors’ enduring legacy, you’ll find almond sweets in most parts of southern Spain; the local speciality, pan de Cádiz — a cake-like sweet made from marzipan and candied fruits — is sold in almost every pastry shop.
If you’re here in the summer, the coastline’s sandy beaches are perfect for whiling away lazy afternoons. La Caleta, near the old town, and Victoria, a short car ride away, are among the best known, but Cortadura, heading south out of town, is wonderfully wild. Alternatively, catch a train to the nearby town of El Puerto de Santa Maria. It’s part of Andalucia’s ‘sherry triangle’, home of the popular fortified wine; try it at the Bodegas Osborne winery, where guided tours include tasting sessions.
From there, wander into the cobbled streets of Santa Maria. If you’re still peckish, pop into Romerijo, a family-run restaurant and fishmonger with prawns, shrimps and goose barnacles to take away and eat on the go. Afterwards, cross over the road to the waterfront and hop on a catamaran for the half-hour trip back to Cádiz.
Sunsets in Cádiz are best enjoyed from bars. In summer, you’ll find everyone near La Caleta beach, but in the winter months, Ajolá — a cosy spot 10 minutes’ walk away — is hard to beat. When it’s time to round off the day, La Bodeguita de Plocia is one of the best tapas bars around. Join gossiping friends and elderly gents in flat caps, savouring fried anchovies or sipping a super-smooth manzanilla sherry.
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