City of pride is what I felt when I saw Cádiz.
Funnily enough, lots of other visitors I met later shared that feel and Cádiz has all reason in the world (or in Europe at least) to be proud as it is one of the oldest cities in the Western world that has been permanently inhabited and the oldest continuously inhabited city in Spain. And for many years Cádiz was ranked highly among the most important cities in the world.
But for me, the feeling of pride was ignited by the magnificent view of the Catedral de Cádiz, possibly one of the most touching views of strength and serenity where a landmark touches the elements of the sea.
Look at Cádiz from the air or walk within its old walls and you find that the old baroque, neo-classical town of Cádiz (the Casco Antiguo) is extraordinarily situated on a very narrow strip of land extending into the ocean at the entrance of a natural harbour, that could originally only be reached overland via a narrow sandy strip from the south. Today there are two bridges over the entrance of the enormous Bay of Cádiz, the Puente de la Constitution or Carranza bridge (1969) and La Pepa bridge, which was finally opened in 2015.
As much as the old Cádiz is charming and filled with character and atmosphere in its old barrios (quarters), the more recent parts of the city show typical Spanish grandeur on its wide avenues and there is some fascinating modern architecture, like Cádiz Central Market, the Parador in the old town, the university and beach houses.
The Carnaval de Cádiz is the most famous of Carnavales in Spain and one of the largest carnivals in the world. Festivities go on for 10 days but is continuously in the gaditanos’ mind as preparations take place during the entire year.
Cádiz is the 2nd largest city in the Andalucia province, after Jerez de la Frontera (distance 22 kilometers).
The number of people living in the city has decreased in the last years. Apart from economic reasons, there is an ongoing lack of land for new housing. Reclaiming land from the sea is next to impossible due to the city’s location and high-rise building is very expensive because of the foundations required.
As a result, lots of young people who are unemployed leave Cádiz for Madrid or other regions in Spain or abroad. Cádiz is unfortunately not always for everybody the Tacita de Plata (little silver cup), as it is nicknamed, whether it is after the shape of the bay, the luxury coffee cups of the past or the reflection of the sun on the sea.
But what we have come for are Cádiz’ beaches.
The beaches in Cádiz are incredibly stunning and beautiful and there are a lot of them on Cádiz’ peninsula, so directly in front of the city. And all roads within the old quarter lead eventually to the ocean.
Playa de la Caleta
The west facing Playa de la Caleta is probably the most beautiful city beach and famous for its fantastic views.
Situated between the Castillo de Santa Catalina and the Castillo de San Sebastián, right beneath the Barrio de la Viña, the beach is quite small with a length of 400 meters and can be busy at daytime. The sporting Club Marítimo resides in a remarkable building on the beach and organizes lots of sporting events, including the annual Regata.
A fantastic beach to go down to after you got totally lost in the barrio above and so easy to go back into the barrio for a pre-evening drink or two.
Sunset at La Caleta is unforgettable.
Playa de la Victoria
The Playa de la Victoria is maybe the most popular beach, also with the locals. With its 2,8 kilometer length, it is much longer than La Caleta, has got a promenade filled with restaurants, bars, hotels and nightlife. The beach itself is well set up with all sorts of amenities from lifeguards and safety flags to beach bars, restaurants, chiringuitos and sporting areas. The outdoor Summer Cinema is a special and very popular venue.
The beach can be easily reached by car (lots of parking availability in the area) and public transport.
Playa de Santa Maria del Mar
has got 2 more names by which it is known to locals, which may be nicely confusing: Playa Los Corrales or Playa de las Mujeres.
This family beach is popular with body surfers and consists of fabulous fine golden sand.
In 2014 the University of Cádiz (in collaboration with the university of Agadir in Marocco) discovered a new species of mollusk here.
Playa de Cortadura
lies at the south end of the city, where the small sand strip towards San Fernando starts and is comparable to La Victoria, also for its size well-equipped amenities and easy access.
Playa del Chato
is its continuing small beach (only 70 meters wide), where the narrow sandy strip of golden sand dunes connecting Cádiz and San Fernando starts. It is famous for its vegetation in the dunes as well as in the water and for its restaurant El Ventorillo del Chato with great food at a special location (the road is still called Via Augusta Julia after the name of the Roman province of Cádiz).
Playa de Torregorda
is a beach south of El Chato playa where the road connects with San Fernando.
Playa de Cachucha
is a 500 meters long beach in front of the old town of Puerto Real backed by a boulevard with bars en restaurants. The beach is harboured by its position in the laguna and very easy to get to by car or train, the station is in town.
The beaches of the typical Andaluz town of El Puerto de Santa Maria are another bunch of fantastic beaches.
Playa de Valdelagrana is a long beach popular with surfers and with fantastic views of Cádiz.
Playa Levante lies inside the Bahia de Cádiz Natural Park, but be aware of the tide coming in.
If that isn’t enough choice of beach, go further north at Rota (where the American Naval base is located) to find another stretch of 16 kilometers of beautiful beaches. Or go south…
Playa de Campo Soto
If you continue south you will get to the 9 kilometers long golden sand beach of Playa de Campo Soto that stretches all the way further south towards Punta del Boqueron, renowned with surfers for its great winds at the Costa de la Luz.
Playa del Castillo
is an award winning beach at the Punta del Boqueron with lots of facilities and good access.
At the other side of the canal is Sancti Petri (Chiclana de la Frontera is inland) and in front of Sancti Petri is a couple of again fabulous beaches.
And as if it never stops, even more south in the area of Vejer de la Frontera, you get to the fabulous, wide beaches of Conil and eventually to Trafalgar.
Should you want to follow the Costa de la Luz further, you get rewarded by the wide Zahara de los Atunes beach and more south by the fabulous white sandy beach of Bolonia, with its enormous sand dunes at the northern part and the impressively located ruins of the Roman town Baelo Claudia just inland.
Playa de Cortadura coming from San Fernando in the direction of Cádiz at this side of bar-restaurant El Chato.
Carnaval de Cádiz
2017 Carnaval de Cádiz: 23 February – 15 March 2017 – the official dates from the Town Hall.
Cádiz presents the best Carnaval of Spain, no doubt about that. Some say it has tried to equal Venice’s and Genova’s carnival tradition already in the 16th century when Cádiz was one of the most important ports in the world and a melting pot of cultures Carnaval de Cádiz has continually been celebrated every year even during the Franco government (from 1937 on).
The city transforms itself for 10 days (officially but more) into one big street festival and open-air theatre with music, fireworks, processions, storytelling and spontaneous concerts, and on Saturday groups of people from all over Andalucia and further arrive in their fanciest dressings to fill the city’s barrio’s party all night long.
The sense of anarchy that carnival stands for permeates the city and to give you an impression, the official Andalucia guide describes the Carnaval weekend as a riotous, raucous celebration, not suitable for the faint-hearted.
Music is everywhere and what it is mainly all about, as about 300 traditional types of music groups like the Chirigotas, Comparsas, choros, cuartetos or Illegales enter the famous official competition COAC at the Teatro de Falla in the 20 days before Carnaval starts. After the competition’s grand final, they go out on the streets.
Lots more happens during Carnaval time in Cádiz, be prepared for an overwhelming time when visiting the city, but the no.1 advice is to come dressed up as everyone else does, if not you stick out like a lighthouse. And the other tip is to prepare for the experience, you find lots info and facts on events, music, theatre etc. on andalucia.com. Enjoy.
Yeah right! be your first reaction, flamenco when in Spain…
But flamenco is another genuine pride of the city, as it is here in Andalucia that flamenco has its origin, in the “Holy Trinity” as it is called, the triangle Jerez-Triana (Sevilla)-Cádiz.
Common belief is that flamenco came with the gypsies from India to Andalucia at the end of the 15th century.
There are numerous rhythms of Flamenco and four musical styles, and flamenco song has two categories, the Cante Andaluz and the Cante Gitano.
Flamenco was passed on to new generations within musical family dynasties for a very long time and flamenco singers and performers were documented only just over the last 250 years, during which flamenco has brought fame to singers, café’s, clubs and writers, developing into a variation of styles. It has continuously attracted artists of new generations of dancers and singers until today, such as Farruquito and Miguel Poveda.
Cádiz is full of great, traditional, and reasonably priced restaurants, a lot of them situated around Plaza Juan de Dios. No surprise quality seafood is available in abundance.
Tapas bars are found everywhere, one of the explanations for the origin of the word tapa is that king Alfonso XIII stopped by at the tavern of Ventorillo de Chato at Playa de Chato in Cádiz and ordered a cup of wine. The waiter then covered the glass with a cured ham slice to protect the wine from the blowing sand on that windy day. After the fist cup, the king ordered another one ‘with the cover (tapa)’. It may be true.
Visit the Mercado Central in Calle Lucia, housed in a former convent for lots of seafood shopping, and order your sherry and wine from the stalls with a delicious tapa at the side, like chocos (cuttlefish), pescaíto frito, cheeses, mojama (tuna), the famous tortillita de camarones and lots more.
There is no use in repeating facts you can easily find in Lonely Planet, Rough Guide and other apps, or on cadizturismo.com, cadiz.es, and andalucia.com sites.
But don’t miss the Catedral and other stunning locations where the sea imposes itself on the Casco Antiguo, where you will get to El Pópulo, Cádiz’s oldest barrio, settled in Roman times with its 1st-century Roman theater, that was built on a select spot with sea-view, like so many Greek and Roman theaters.
And if the once a week indulging alarm on your mobile goes off on time, you should definitely try the terrace or swimming pool of the Parador de Cádiz with fabulous bay views, next to Playa de La Caleta.
Striking views can be seen from the north and east promenades, and one is quite special, the sea view from the fabulous botanical garden Parque Genovés, which makes you gaze at Cádiz’s “Underwater Museum”, the shore here was the thin line between life and death. The explaination is that the shallow waters of the port area hold around 800 shipwrecks, many of which are preserved by the mud, even ships from Phoenician times should be still there. The problem is that dredging and land reclamation (and sometimes loot) are competing with valuable and unique history here.
Ok… a little history then, not the boring part hopefully. But as Cádiz has been famous all over the world for more than 2000 years and has played a big role in shaping Europe and the western world, its history deserves at least to be mentioned. In a nutshell.
And if you don’t like it, you can always skip it and save it for a sunny day, on a beach in Cádiz.
Or don’t read it at all.
History and mythology go hand in hand. The most famous bodybuilder with brains in mythology and paragon of masculinity is Hercules, the hero who had to perform 12 challenges to lift his guilt. One challenge brought him to the Spanish Peninsula where he had to bring back cattle to a 3-headed monster, and half the challenge was to get from the Mediterranean Sea to the Atlantic which passage was separated by a mountain. The instant decision maker took his sword, split the mountain into two and passed through the narrow street to complete his task. Its cliffs on both sides, one in Europe (now called Gibraltar) and the other in Africa, are known since ancient Greek times as the Pillars of Hercules.
Stories in mythology are like Games of thrones, if you like them you can’t stop fantasizing.
So now the people of the Mediterranean could sail to the Atlantic and that is what the Phoenicians did, creating Cadiz’s first settlement around 1100 BC, and named it Gadir.
Then the Romans took over, renamed it Julia Augustana Gaditana (the name of the beach road south from Cádiz is still called Julia Augusta) and left us two interesting things to prove they enjoyed life at the seaside. : the small Roman city was famous for having the monopoly on salted fish trade and for the skills of its highly erotic hypnotizing dancing women, of which its stories in Roman literature must have been as popular as 50 Shades of Grey today. Believe it or not.
In Arabic the city’s name later became Qadis, which then was only one step away to Cádiz in Spanish.
Glory for Cádiz came much later at the time of the Spanish voyages to the unknown West (later named America) as Columbus sailed from Cádiz on his 2nd trip there.
Shortly after, the city became home to the Spanish fleet and the number 1 richest port in Europe when silver from Mexico and Perú flew in. Impressive.
Interesting (if you like it) was that much later in 1720 Cádiz had monopoly trading with the New World and became again very wealthy, let’s follow the situation of today’s Trade Unions that are under attack with the New World’s government installed.
We are almost there, lots happened with Napoleon and Britain, the city flourished as the capital of Spain in 1810 for 3 years, the Spanish king was put in prison here, the battle of Trocadero freed him, Cádiz had settled its reputation for having remained a liberal, radical city, but never became wealthy again as it had been before.
But the culture of Cádiz and its region has for ever left its marks on the unique identity of the Spanish nation, the best example could be flamenco. Impressive again. (Including you reading this item all the way to this point).