One of the things we love to do when travelling in Spain is to find places away from the big cities. And spending a day in Cadiz was one of our Spain highlights.
Cadiz wasn’t on our radar initially.
While completing a 6-week house-sitting assignment in Andalusia, we learned so much about this amazing region of Spain.
Cadiz is worth visiting.
And to help you spend a day in Cadiz, we have ten great things to do in Cadiz, plus two famous festivals of Cadiz to experience.
A Little History of Cadiz
Cadiz is the oldest Western European city in the world, founded by the Phoenicians in 1100 BC for its fishing and trade routes.
With Roman ruins to explore and beaches where Christopher Columbus set sail, Cadiz is a travel destination to be explored.
And it was here on 19 March 1812 that Spain’s first constitution was written, giving rights to Spanish citizens by reducing the monarchy’s power.
If you want to learn more about the region of Andalusia in Spain, then click here.
How to Get to Cadiz
The fast trains in Spain are your best option to get to Cadiz for day trips from Seville and Jerez, as car parking in Cadiz is at a premium.
Cadiz has no international airport, so Jerez de la Frontera is the closest airport.
While you can take a bus from Jerez airport directly to Cadiz, it is slow.
We recommend you take a taxi or a bus to Jerez and then get a fast train from Jerez to Cadiz.
12 Great Things To Do In Cadiz
A perfect place to start is coffee at the Town Hall Plaza.
You can find plenty of cafes and restaurants for Coffee and Tostados (toast layered with tomatoes, drizzled with olive oil, with a pinch of salt.)
For coffee, you can ask for the following:
- a Cafe Solo – espresso
- maybe a Cafe Cortado – espresso with a small amount of milk
- or Cafe con Leche – Coffee with milk
Now let’s show you the Best of Cadiz with these 10 Places to See.
1. Take a break at the Town Hall Plaza
The Plaza of San Juan de Dios has been Cadiz’s administrative and commercial centre since the 16th century.
The plaza is open to the harbour, where cruise ships disembark, and people gather under palm trees to enjoy coffee, wine or beer.
2. Visit the Roman Amphitheatre
Cadiz was once an island that now has a wonderful waterfront.
In the 1980s, a Roman amphitheatre (FREE to enter) was discovered buried under houses.
Make sure you look at the rock used to build the amphitheatre.
It’s called Oyster Rock. The rock is porous, holds moisture in summer, and remains dry in the wet season. No wonder they used Oyster Rock to build the old city of Cadiz.
3. Learn More at the Museum of Cadiz
The Cadiz Museum showcases the Museum of Fine Arts and the Museum of Archaeology.
While we loved seeing the Puppets used for the Carnival of Cadiz, we also loved a bit of trivia on the origins of the term Salary.
When the Romans paid for organized labour, they would make payment of salt. Salt was a precious commodity, so the labourer would sift the salt through his fingers to determine the quality.
Salt is the origin of the word salary.
So next time you see someone rubbing the thumb and first two things together, you’ll know it was the old form of cash. Sifting salt through the fingers.
4. The Beaches of Cadifornia
Like any city in Europe, there is an old and modern city, and Cadiz is no exception.
We loved how they called the new city “Cadifornia” because of its high-rise buildings and sandy beaches.
Make sure to see the beaches and forts on the western side of the waterfront.
5. Why Havana may be another Cadiz
The waterfront of old Cadiz is stunning with its brightly painted houses and beautiful lamp posts. The painted houses were said to lure the men home from the sea.
Perhaps it was this beauty that people say was replicated in the Spanish colony of Havana, Cuba. Even the lamp posts were duplicated.
Did you know the James Bond movie Die Another Day was filmed in Cadiz but set in Havana?
6. Church of Santa Cruz
The church of Santa Cruz is a must-see place to visit in Cadiz for three main things.
Firstly, when you see the Santa Cruz dome rising above the other buildings, it confirms it was once a mosque. And once you step inside, look at the arches, which show the beauty created for the original mosque.
Secondly, Santa Cruz was originally the city’s Cathedral with its beautiful glided altar.
Thirdly, the statue of the “Black Jesus.”
During the attacks on the city in the 16th century, the statue was removed from the church and hidden. But unfortunately, the statue was damaged in a fire. Hence the Black Jesus.
Within the church are beautiful wooden statues, and if you are visiting at Easter, these statues are processed through the streets.
We were able to experience this procession when visiting Granada, Spain.
7. Remnants of the Napoleonic Seige
Walking through the old city, you cannot help but notice the canons on the corners of buildings.
These old canons are remnants of the Napoleonic siege of the city. They are used on narrow street corners to save houses from damage by passing vehicles.
8. High-Density Housing in Old Cadiz
We loved the houses in the old city decorated with flowers from the nearby flower market. So when we noticed many of the houses’ windows were concreted, we were curious.
Like many European towns, we found out there used to be a tax on how many windows you had. So the owners chose to fill in some of their windows to save on paying this ridiculous tax.
Considering old Cadiz has a very high density of people living in this small land area, maybe it’s time to “open the window.”
9. Climb the Bell Tower of the Cadiz Cathedral
Cathedral Plaza is perfect for taking a break and enjoying some Spanish cuisine.
With the majestic Cathedral in the foreground and people wandering by, a stop here is a great way to enjoy Cadiz.
You will be in awe of this beautiful baroque Cathedral with its two towers representing the two winds, Levante and Poniente.
Our visit here later in the day was to view the gothic interior with the many chapels, central nave and crypt to explore.
Of course, the highlight was the walk up the ramp to the top of the bell tower with 360-degree views across the city and the Atlantic Ocean.
“The Cathedral of The Americas”, built with money from the trade between Spain and America, is one of the best places to see in Cadiz.
10. Why 129 Towers?
Make sure you find the Torre Tavira, at 45 meters, is the tallest tower of the 129 Towers in Cadiz.
Why so many?
The towers were built to scout for ships coming into port. The ships would signal the towers with coloured flags, indicating what food and wares they needed. The merchants of Cadiz would then have the goods ready for them when they reached the shore.
11. Walk the Forts of Cadiz
The next stop was the western waterfront with its white sandy beach and two opposing forts protecting the city.
To think it was from here that Christopher Columbus sailed twice on his exploration voyages.
You can walk out to the end of the San Sebastián Fort to wander through the old fort.
And if you have bought your swimsuit, you can take a dip at La Caleta Beach before exploring the old sea fort, Santa Catalina.
Santa Catalina was built in 1596 with canons to ward off the British and Dutch invaders. And those canons did prevent them from taking the city.
If you aren’t staying in Cadiz overnight, try to stay at least for the most stunning sunsets to enjoy from San Sebastián Fort.
12. Come to Experience the Festivals of Cadiz
- Carnival of Cadiz
- Halloween Spanish Style
- All Saints Day Celebration
The Carnival of Cadiz is one of the most famous festivals in Spain, which dates to the 16th century.
The carnival is held ten days before Lent, with a parade and massive party the weekend before Ash Wednesday.
This festival is the one to experience in Spain, celebrating music and humour. Saturday is the weekend’s highlight, so book your accommodation early.
Halloween Spanish Style is the night before All Saints Day.
What we thought was a festival for young children to dress up for a trick or treat. Here in Cadiz, the young adults enjoy fun and laughter in the wee small hours around the neighbourhoods.
All Saints Day Celebration – 1st November
All Saints Day is a public holiday in Spain, so most places are closed for the day.
As we wanted to experience the festivities, we decided to spend a day in Cadiz, the oldest city in Western Europe.
It was lovely to see families formally dressed and enjoying their lunch together on the long tables in the narrow streets.
Their celebration also marked the day Our Lady safeguarded the city of Cadiz in the 1755 Tsunami caused by the Lisbon earthquake.
Like our home New Zealand, Cadiz is on two continental plates and prone to flooding in earthquakes.
Where to Eat in Cadiz
Hungry tums and tapas always go well together.
Taberna Casa Manteca is one of the best places to enjoy a Tapas menu.
Finding it difficult to decide what to eat, we told the bartender to choose five tapas. And with a local beer and wine, the dishes arrived of finely cut meats, tuna, and cheese.
And another great place to enjoy a Spanish menu is the Mercado Central. Here you’ll find something to eat at one of the many food stalls; the variety will tempt your taste buds.
How do you spend a day in Cadiz?
Cadiz is an underrated city in Spain with so much to offer the traveller.
When planning your itinerary of Spain, make sure you plan to spend a day in Cadiz, the oldest city in Western Europe.
Take the fast train from Seville for a day trip.
Or stay longer for the Carnival of Cadiz.
Come for the Stay longer and spend the weekend for the
You can relax in Cadiz at a slower pace with walks, beaches and great food.
Cadiz is worth visiting.