Occupying a tiny peninsula on the south coast of Spain, Cádiz is a beautiful old city that is well worth a visit. The old town is on the tip of the peninsula and is buzzing with beautiful plazas that are constantly full of life. To get here, you must pass through the new town, an elegant metropolis with excellent beaches.
Cadiz is a popular port of call on Mediterranean cruises and transatlantic voyages. But with usually only around ten hours in the city, you're limited in what you can do.
Best Time to Visit Cadiz
The Carnival in February is Spain’s biggest (outside of the gay districts of Chueca in Madrid and Sitges in Barcelona). Alternatively, late June sees the Festival de San Juan, a mini Las Fallas, where they burn big displays.
How to Spend the Day
Morning in Cadiz
- Visit Cadiz cathedral, a fantastic 18th- and 19th-century bright structure that perfectly fits the sunny Andalusian ambiance of the city.
- Go to the central fish market (mercado central) and check out the fresh fish caught the same morning in the waters near the city.
- Climb the Torre Tavira and see the beautiful views of the city. Science geeks will appreciate the camera obscura, (cámara oscura in Spanish), one of only around a dozen examples left in the world.
- Head over to Taberna La Manzanilla for a glass of local manzanilla sherry.
- Get a final dose of fried fish (served in a paper cone) at the Freiduria Las Flores
- If you come at the right time of year, Plaza Candeleria might have oranges on the trees!.
- Visit the beach.
- Don't forget your souvenirs! Close to Plaza San Juan de Dios there are few souvenir shops stocking local wines.
- Then head back to the ship for your onward voyage!
Cadiz is a tiny peninsula on the south coast of Spain and can be divided into two parts – the new town on the ‘neck’ of the strip of land and the old town at the ‘head’. The new town looks like most coastal cities in Spain, with large thoroughfares lined with palm trees and beaches with bars and clubs catering to the sunburnt tourists. The best beaches are here in the new town, but the old town is where the character is.
As you pass through the cities walls that encompass the old town, the road splinters off into narrow streets that lead into the center and a couple of minor highways that encompass the old town. It is best to leave your car around here and travel the rest on foot.
Old town Cadiz is a collection of plazas joined by a series of narrow streets. Nominally, the ‘main square’ would be Plaza San Juan de Dios which is home to the ayuntamiento (council) building or the Plaza de la Cathedral (guess what you’ll find there!), but plazas Candelaria, Mina, and San Antonio could be considered your focal points too.
Starting from Plaza San Juan de Dios, it is a short walk through the shopping district to the Cathedral. From here, walk up Compañia to Plaza Libertad, home to one of the oldest indoor markets in Spain.
Take the street in the northern corner, Hospital de Mujeres, to see the women's hospital with its ornate church, and then hop to the next street up, Marques del Real Tesoro, to see the Torre Tavira, with its panoramic view of the city. From up there you can decide for yourself where to go next.
Eating in Cadiz
If you don't eat on your ship, you have two options close to the port that make a great start to the day.
- Get chocolate con churros, the classic Spanish breakfast, at El Sardinero
- Have fresh fruit juices and smoothies at local shops
Though I choose my lunch and dinner restaurants very carefully, I pick my breakfast options more freely. I'll take breakfast in a beautiful location because they can't mark up coffee and toast that much (and even a 100% markup is still only a couple of euros extra) and they can't mess it up that much either. Often the location makes a slightly overpriced breakfast worthwhile. The same can't be said for sinking 30€ into a mediocre meal just because it has a nice view.
Bring your own fish from the market to Taberna La Bombilla, where Nene and his team will cook it however you like!
Want paella? Pick up some shrimps and mussels from the market and La Bombilla will provide the rest. Never had cod stew (guiso de bacalao)? Easy. Or for a really simple option, do what I did and pick up a slice of tuna and ask them to cook it on the hotplate (a la plancha) with a simple side of tomatoes. Cost? 2.87€ for the fish from the market and 3€ for the preparation.
La Bombilla also has local sherries.
If you're not going to Taberna La Bombilla, head over to Calle Virgen de la Palma in the Viña area of town and take a table in the street for some excellent fried fish. Go for cazón en adobo, dogfish in a vinegar-and-garlic batter.
Just off this street is Casa Manteca, a bar that is extremely popular with the locals.
Late Afternoon Snack
If you're still hungry, check out the Freiduria Las Flores in Plaza Topete (also known as Plaza Las Flores) for a paper cone of excellent fried fish!
Drinking in Jerez
Up by Puerta de la Caleta, there's a beach and a restaurant (Peña Flamenca Juanito Villar) with great sherry by the glass. Everyone sits outside when the weather is nice. Drink a couple of glasses and then go and sit down on the beach to work off the alcohol buzz!
Head over to Taberna La Manzanilla (Calle Feduchy) for a glass of manzanilla sherry. Manzanilla is made in Sanlucar, one of the points of the 'sherry triangle', which has an airborne yeast that gives the sherry a unique flavor not found in the rest of the region.
Short Day Trips You Can Do from Cadiz
Cadiz is a great place to explore, but Jerez and Seville also have something truly unique to offer those on a quick visit to the region.
Jerez is most famous for its sherry, which is a highlight for most people visiting the city. Sherry is an acquired taste, which I'm pleased to say I did acquire on my last trip to the city. If you're not much of a wine drinker, I might suggest passing Jerez by.
Jerez is also famous for its annual horse festival. The horse riding school in the city is world famous, putting on shows all year round.
How to Get to Jerez from Cadiz
Jerez is just an hour away by train and the train station is next to the port, so you could visit Jerez by yourself.
Seville is the jewel in Andalusia's crown and one of the most popular cities to visit in Spain. The Barrio Santa Cruz is Seville's most famous neighborhood and home to some fantastic tapas bars, while the Giralda and Cathedral are a fascinating mix of Christian and Muslim architecture.
How to Get to Seville from Cadiz
Seville is two hours from Cadiz by train, which is certainly doable. However, I'd strongly recommend the guided tour for this one, as they guarantee they'll get you back to your ship in time.