TOP THINGS
TO DO & SEE in Cadiz, Spain

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What You Can’t Miss

Besides relaxing at the beach, the main thing to do in Cadiz is to wander through the old town while taking in its unique character and beauty. When your feet get tired, there are plenty of great and relatively inexpensive restaurants to choose from.

The old town is actually quite large and is composed of a labyrinth of narrow cobblestone streets that are almost entirely surrounded by fortifications and water. The main things to see are all found in this area including the cathedral and the Tavira Tower. The old town even has its own beach, La Caleta, which is located between two forts.

Charming street in the old town of Cadiz, Spain
Street in the old town of Cadiz

However, if spending time at the beach is your main objective, then you might want to venture into the new city. What it lacks in charm, it makes up in convenient beach access, beach bars and a wide array of beachside hotels to choose from.

Top Things to Do

1

TAVIRA TOWER

Tavira Tower in Cadiz, Spain
Tavira Tower

Cadiz is famous for its watch towers. These towers were built on the tops of the houses of many rich merchant families of the 18th century. They were used to alert them as to when their ships were arriving in port from the New World.

Of the original 160 towers, 133 are still standing. The tallest of all of them is the Tavira Tower (7€ entrance fee) and it’s open to visitors. The top of the tower, being the highest point of the entire city, offers some incredible views. Besides seeing a lot of the other towers on the surrounding buildings, you can get a nice glimpse of the cathedral and crystal blue waters next to it.

Camera Obscura at the Tavira Tower in Cadiz, Spain
Camera Obscura at the Tavira Tower

Not only are the views amazing, but the Tavira Tower also offers something rather unexpected. Its tour through the city’s other merchant towers via a camera obscura. If you aren’t familiar with a camera obscura, it’s basically a pin-hole camera that projects onto a viewing surface in a dark room.

The guide operating the camera obscura is able to move the lens in 360 degrees and focus in on different parts of the city in real-time. Many of the city’s towers are difficult to spot from the street level, but with the use of the camera obscura you're able to get up close to them. The tour is super entertaining and the 20 minutes just fly by.

2

FORTIFICATIONS

Chapel inside the Santa Catalina castle in Cadiz, Spain
Chapel in the Santa Catalina castle

Cadiz played an important role with commerce in the New World, becoming a major destination for the Spanish treasure fleet.

As such, it became a target for Spain’s enemies – especially pirates. For three centuries, walls, bastions and castles were built to try to stop the onslaught. The city saw many battles and was even taken over several times, but never for very long.

Remnants of the fortifications along the waterfront in Cadiz - Spain
Remnants of the fortifications along the waterfront

Today, remnants of the fortifications can be found all around the old town. The most important examples are the Santa Catalina (16th century) and San Sebastián castles (17th century). Both are open to visitors and are free to enter.

3

CATHEDRAL

Views of Cadiz's magnificent cathedral from the Tavira Tower, Spain
Views of Cadiz's magnificent cathedral from the Tavira Tower

Cadiz’s cathedral (6€ entrance fee) is the most iconic site in the city. Its golden tiled dome glistens in the bright sun. Nowhere is this better viewed than from along the Campo del Sur waterfront.

Such an image can easily be confused with La Habana. And indeed, Cadiz has lots of connections with the Americas. In fact, the cathedral itself was constructed with money that came from the New World and its even nicknamed the “Cathedral of the Americas.”

The Cathedral Square in Cadiz's old town, Spain
The Cathedral Square in Cadiz's old town

In 1722 when construction began, its architect had intended for a Baroque design. However, the build was drawn out over the course of 116 years and architectural taste changed. As a result, the inside is mostly Baroque while the outside is mostly Neoclassical.

The ticket to the cathedral includes access to:

  • The Clock Tower – from it you can enjoy nice views of the city and the Atlantic Ocean.
  • The Cathedral Museum (Casa de la Contaduría) – located 150m away, it is where a lot of the Cathedral’s treasures are exhibited.
4

CENTRAL MARKET

The meat boutique in Cadiz's central market, Spain
The meat boutique in Cadiz's central market

Cadiz’s Central Market has been open since 1837. Still today, there’s bustling and excitement in the air as vendors proudly display their huge variety of fresh fish and seafood, of which Cadiz is particularly famous for. But the market is more than just fish – there are tons of other fresh fare for sale.

The market is surrounded by plenty of bars. They are the perfect spot to sample a few tapas of some of the same local fish and seafood that is sold in the market. The best ambience in the bar area is around lunch time.

A visit to the market is a great way to experience the local atmosphere and have a nice bite to eat at the same time.

Beaches in Cadiz

La Caleta beach seen from the Santa Catalina castle, Cádiz – Spain
La Caleta beach seen from the Santa Catalina castle

Cadiz’s unique geographical location has given the city 8 km (5 miles) of gorgeous beaches full of fine white sand. These are the main ones:

LA CALETA BEACH

Located in the old city, La Caleta beach, is probably the most special beach in Cadiz. This beautiful sandy bay is guarded by two castles, one at each end: the Santa Catalina and San Sebastián castles.

In the center of the beach stands another relic from the early 19th century. What used to be a high-end spa is now an underwater archaeological center. This same building was converted into a bar for the 2002 James Bond film “Die Another Day.” In this scene, a bikini-clad Halle Berry emerges from the water to meet Mr. Bond in the bar.

If you want to stay right next to La Caleta beach then we recommend the Parador Hotel. It’s the perfect hotel if you want to be able to enjoy the beach and Cadiz’s amazing old town at the same time. Plus, it is arguably the nicest hotel in the city.

La Caleta is also a great spot to watch the sunset.

Santa María del Mar beach with the old town in the background – Cadiz, Spain
Santa María del Mar beach with the old town in the background

DE LA VICTORIA BEACH

Considered one of the best city beaches in Europe, De La Victoria beach is Cadiz’s main beach. Stretching 3 km along the new part of the city, this sandy beach is regularly awarded with the Blue Flag for the cleanliness of its water and excellent facilities (lifeguards, toilets, showers, changing rooms, hire of parasols, chairs and more).

It is surrounded by a wide promenade that is the perfect place for a stroll in the evening or to enjoy the local gastronomy at one of the many bars and restaurants.

SANTA MARÍA DEL MAR BEACH

Santa María del Mar beach is also in the new part of the city, but it is the closest beach to the old town, with exception of La Caleta. In reality, it’s pretty much just a continuation of De La Victoria beach.

More Things to Do

MUSEUM OF CADIZ

The Museum of Cadiz (free for EU citizens; 1.50€ otherwise) occupies a neoclassical building in the Plaza de Mina in Cadiz’s old town. It is divided in three sections: archaeology, fine arts and ethnography.

The main highlight of the museum are two Phoenician marble sarcophagi of which only ten in the world are known to exist. The museum also houses some remarkable Roman artifacts as well as an impressive Fine Arts collection. Of special interest are its Baroque paintings with works from Zurbarán, Rubens, Murillo and more.

ROMAN THEATER

Cadiz’s Roman theatre (free entrance) was originally built in the 1st century BC. However, it remained buried until its rediscovery in 1980. Excavation works are still in progress.

With almost 120 m (394’) in diameter, the theater had capacity for over 10,000 spectators.

There is also a small exhibition space with information about the site and the excavations works: photos, models, audiovisual resources, etc.

PLAZA SAN JUAN DE DIOS

The Plaza San Juan de Dios is probably the most emblematic square in Cadiz. It has been the center of city life for centuries. Historically, it was used for commerce. Before the market was created, the exotic produce brought from the New World was sold in this square.

Presiding over the square is the neoclassical styled town hall which was built around 1800.

The Plaza San Juan de Dios is also surrounded by many bars and restaurants, making it the perfect place to try the typical “pescaíto frito” (fried fish).

ARCHEOLOGICAL SITE GADIR

The Archeological Site Gadir (free entrance) allows visitors to explore the remains of the original city of Gadir while learning about its evolution from the Phoenician founding in 1100 BC to Roman times.

The site can be visited by taking part in an informative 45-min tour (free). It is recommended to call ahead to book tickets (+34 956 22 63 37), or at least stop by at opening time (11am) to get tickets for later on that same day.

GENOVÉS PARK

The Genovés Park is the largest green area in the old town. This beautiful botanical garden houses over 100 different species of trees, bushes and exotic plants.

Its unique location right on the oceanfront, provides the park with constant sea breeze and great ocean views.

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