Cádiz, one of Europe’s oldest cities, is totally surrounded by water, home to a gold-domed cathedral and more than 100 watchtowers. It’s also the perfect day trip distance from Marbella.
Article by Victoria Wood
The city and port of Cádiz date back over 3,500 years making it the oldest in the western world. Having been founded in 1100BC by the Phoenicians, Neptune’s son being its namesake, and its location being set between Hercules’ pillars, the depth and intensity of history, culture and mythology here is overwhelming. Landmarks, historical sites and buildings pepper the ancient streets of the site that in mythology marks the separation point of Europe from Africa.
So let’s wander the age-old narrow streets that open up into tree-lined plazas, marvel at the architecture of the cathedral and stately buildings, and then head to the beautiful golden beaches, as we tour some of the must-see attractions in the beautiful seaside city of Cádiz.
San Sebastian Castle
Taking a walk along the ‘Campo del Sur’ will set you on the path which leads directly to the San Sebastian Castle, named as such by the Venetians. This 18th century castle is built on a small island connected to the city by a pier (see the image above) and served to strengthen defences 200 years after having been a small watchtower built by Venetian sailors.
Today the castle is open to tourists and provides the most stunning views of the coastline, beaches, and the city itself. There are free exhibitions on offer and the castle’s courtyards host concerts and events throughout the year.
Paseo Fernando Quiñones, s/n, Cádiz
Santa Catalina Castle
Another vital part of the city’s defences, the Santa Catalina Castle sits at the other end of the famous La Caleta beach. The star-shaped fortress was built at the command of the King of Spain and is an impressive example of 17th century Spanish architecture. The castle offers incredible views from each of its battlements of the ocean, city and castle of San Sebastian. A chapel was added to the site in 1693 when Charles II of Spain ordered its construction and dedicated it to Saint Catherine of Alexandria and the Immaculate Conception.
A sunset walk around the castle walls being lapped at by the Atlantic Ocean, is highly recommended.
C. Campo de las Balas, s/n, 11002 Cádiz
The most famous monument in Cádiz took over a century to complete and thus features a blend of 18th and 19th century architectural styles from Baroque to Neoclassical. Its golden dome acts as a beacon, making it visible from all over the city.
To locals the cathedral is referred to as the ‘new’ cathedral as the former one is now the Santa Maria Church. Take a walk up the Torre de Poniente, one of its bell towers, to appreciate the 360º panoramic views of the city and beyond.
Plaza de la Catedral, s/n, 11005 Cádiz
Teatro Romano de Cádiz
Dating back to 70BC, this theatre was built when an advisor to Julius Caesar, Lucius Cornelius Balbo and his nephew, decided to extend the city’s perimeters. The name it is also known by, Theatrum Balbi, refers to these Roman founders who also constructed an extended neighbourhood as well as an amphitheatre in the (now) El Pópulo district, which were only discovered here in 1980. Excavation work has revealed part of the theatre which is thought to be one of the largest (capacity around 20,000) and oldest in the whole of the Iberian Peninsula.
This is an incredible opportunity to experience such an historical landmark first hand. Hop on an organised tour, entrance is free.
C. Mesón, 11, 13, 11005 Cádiz. Find out more here
The Plaza de San Juan de Dios
This square was constructed in the early 1500s and was originally the main hub of the city being close to the port. Originally the ‘plaza mayor’ of a city would be outside of the city walls and here you would have found the hustle and bustle of traders bringing in exotic produce from around the world, especially India and the Americas. Nowadays, the plaza has plenty to appreciate with the church of San Juan de Dios as well as the grand town hall building gracing its perimeters. There are also fountains and a plethora of restaurants, bars and cafes from which to enjoy the surroundings.
Plaza de España
The famous, commemorative monument in the Plaza de España was built in 1912 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Spanish Constitution (which was actually signed in the city of Cádiz itself in 1812). The highly symbolic Monumento a las Cortes de Cádiz features an empty presidential chair, inscriptions from the constitution, and figures representing peace, war, agriculture and citizenship.
Aside from the grand monument, the square is a perfect space to enjoy an afternoon respite, soak up some history or just sit and people watch.
Alameda Apodaca park and Genoves Park are a must-see when travelling through Cádiz. If it’s a hot summer’s day you’ll be relieved to find some well-needed shade as you stroll through the gardens and find a bench to relax on.
The Alameda Apodaca Park is located close to the water and features many sculptures, ceramics, fountains and is bountiful in its flora. A stunning walk as well as a highly recommended sunset spot.
Calle Alameda Apodaca, (Marqués de Comillas), 11003 Cádiz
Genoves Park is the largest public garden Cádiz has to offer, with its famous fountain of the children under an umbrella, the caves and lake features, a waterfall and various other monuments, the park is a worthwhile attraction, not to mention all the botanical species from all over the world.
Parque Genovés, Av. Dr. Gómez Ulla, s/n, 11003 Cádiz
Mercado de Cádiz
There are hundreds of great places to eat in the city of Cádiz, that would require an article of its own, however one of the best spots to pick up local fare in many cities would be its main market place. Here you can experience Cádiz best produce, its people and other wares on offer.
Pl. de la Libertad, S/N, 11005 Cádiz, Spain
La Caleta Beach
Nestled between the two castles, San Sebastian and Santa Catalina, sits the most popular beach in Cádiz. Partly due to the protection of the castle walls giving respite from the waves, but also the stunning architecture that surrounds it. This urban beach features plenty of amenities including restaurants, beach bars, flamenco clubs and even a decadent spa in the surrounding area.
The charm and historical value of Cádiz is second-to-none, with the added bonus of the city being by the beach and easy to get to from Marbella. A day trip works, but an overnight stop is highly recommended when exploring the surrounding areas.