Cadiz was founded around 1100 BC by Phoenicians on a small island which, today, belongs to Costa de la Luz. It became, together with Onuba (today’s Huelva), one of the first seaside trading posts on the peninsula. There are archaeological proofs confirming that Cadiz is the oldest city in Western Europe. Hundreds of years later, Malaga was founded (Phoenician Malaka), and later, Adra (situated near Almeria – during the Phoenician period, it was called Abdera).
The Phoenicians named the city Gadir, which means a wall or a fortress. This becomes reasonable once you look at the solid fortified walls surrounding the oldest part of the city and begin to understand the significance of their localization at the gates of the Atlantic. During its three thousand year history, the city had been often raided and fell under hegemony. After the Phoenicians, the ones controlling the city were: Carthaginians, Romans, Visigoths, Moors and, since 1262, Castilians. One of the most important moments in the history of the city was 1717 when Cadiz became a monopolist (after Seville) of trade with American colonies. It made the city truly cosmopolitan.
Cadiz province and the city itself hide many fascinating relics of the past. There are proofs supporting a theory that about 30 km away from the city, on the small Sancti Petri, there was a shrine of the mythical Hercules, the ruins of which were destroyed during the Moorish invasion in the eighth century. Today, at the top of the dune, from which you can look at the island, there is a memorial informing that you are in a “Magical Spot, from which the ancient enjoyed the view of a setting sun, which during the winter and spring solstices, used to hide behind the walls of the shire of Melqart – Hercules…”
In the fifteenth century, due to the development of navigation techniques and the mastery of shipbuilding tools production, the city flourished. From here, Christopher Columbus embarked on his second (1493) and fourth (1502) journey to the New World.
Cadiz very often was attacked by pirates ant the British armies during the Eighty Years’ War and the Anglo-Spanish War (1587-1604). I had been often destroyed and rebuilt. One of the most critical moments was the Singeing the King of Spain’s Beard of 1587 and the Capture of Cadiz in 1596, when the English fleet commanded by the Earl of Essex, expecting great loot, devastated the harbour, the city, and the Spanish fleet. As a result, the Castile kingdom went bankrupt and the marine communication was suspended for a long time.
In the eighteenth century, the city flourished again due to the dynamic development of marine international trade. It became a symbol of democracy when a few years later, in 1812, the first liberal constitution of Spain was signed.
Entering the city alone brings lots of excitement because there are only three roads-bridges leading to it. Possible the most distinctive building in Cadiz is Catedral de Santa Cruz from the eighteenth century with a dome covered in gold azujelos. Los gaditanos (that is what the citizens of Cadiz are called – derived from Gadir, the ancient name of the city) call it Catedral Nueva – a new cathedral to distinguish from Catedral Vieja – an old cathedral from the thirteenth century also known as Iglesia de Santa Cruz.
When you visit Cadiz, you cannot miss flamenco – Barrio de Santa Maria is considered to be the cradle of flamenco singing. Here, the great Spanish singers were born and practiced: Luisa Burton, Enrique El Mellizo, Curro Dulce, Paquirri el Guante, Enrique El Mono and Antonio Chico Mellizo. Jose Luis Figuereo Franc, an artist known as El Barrio, is connected the city. He was born in Cadis and his Andalusian spirit brings thousands of fans here – I came, I saw, I stamped my foot...
The province extends from Puertas de Tierra to San Juan de Dios and El barrio del Populo – the oldest and, in my opinion, the most beautiful part of the city. Some people say that the road in El barrio del Populo should be made of glass to allow people to see the riches hidden a few kilometres underneath it – the oldest Phoenician settlements in Europe.
The old city used to be surrounded by a wall, which successfully protected the city from attackers. The true symbol and the relic of it is Puertes de la Tierra, which together with castles Castillo de San Sebastian and Castillo de Santa Catalina, were used as elements of a strong fortification.
Another great attraction is the entrance to Torre Tavira situated in the centre of the old city. It is built-in into Palacio de los Marqueses de Recano complex and it is the tallest tower (45m) of the 129 preserved in Cadiz. From the top of it, you can enjoy the panorama of the whole city, the cathedral and the coast. At the top, there is a special room with Oscura camera – looking through it is a very interesting experience. In the eighteenth century, similar devices were used to monitor the coast. There are two types of tours available – immediate entrance ticket without the opportunity to use the oscura camera and a ticket for a defined hour with the possibility to enjoy the view while using the device.
There are many ways to explore Cadiz. HERE you can download the city map and choose a thematic route which interests you the most. Every one of them is interesting and offers lots of excitement.
If you want to relax on the coast, you can choose one of the three main beaches: Playa de la Victoria, Playa de Santa Maria del Mar and, in my opinion, the most interesting one with historical background – La Caleta beach, which can be found near the old part of the city. In your mind’s eye, you can evoke the view of Carthaginian, Phoenician and Roman ships… The sunset hypnotizes, especially due to the closeness to an impressive building from the 20s of the twentieth century – Balneario de Nuestra Senora de la Palma Real built in the Art Nouveau style. It used to be a SPA resort, but now it serves as the centre of submarine archaeology. From the beach, you can see the Castillo de San Sebastian fortress. A legend says that there used to be a temple of Cronus.
Cadiz is famous for its uproarious carnival celebrations – Carnaval de Cadiz. It was included to the World Heritage List as one of ten Intangible Cultural Heritages of Spain. It is a festival of fun, jokes, original costumes, firework shows, performances, concerts, parades, balls and… criticism. Various bands, always wearing their interesting costumes, sing their chirigotas – satiric songs about the difficulties of everyday life or about the faults of the government. The culminations is the election of the Queen of the Ball – diosa del carnival – and an open-air fiesta, in which people from all over the world participate. It is a unique chance to get to know the atmosphere of Cadiz.
Do you remember the scene from Die Another Day from 2002 starring Pierce Brosnan as James Bond, in which Halle Berry gets out from the ocean in an orange bikini??? The scene was filmed on La Caleta beach which “starred” as Cuban Havana.
You definitely should try fried (on olive oil) fish and seafood, including adobo, acedias, ortiguillas, mojarra, chocos, marrajo, morenas, molla, anguila… and a shrimp omelet. It is recommended to look for good food on Sopranis and Plocia streets, where you can find bars, restaurants, and bodegas suitable for every pocket and serving delicious local cuisine. I recommend going to Mercado Central situated in the centre. It offers fresh local products. You can eat there during the lunch hours, as well.
• Resteurante Marisqueria Las Flores
• Restaurante El Faro
• Café bar El Palillo
• El Mesón de la Posadilla
A very popular dish here is a steak tartare made of red tuna fished using the almadraba technique, which is practiced in the Strait of Gibraltar from April to July/August when the fish migrate.
You should also try the wine from Jerez winery. The sweet Pedro Ximenez Muscat will remind you of the 3000 years of Andalusian wine tradition.
Playa de Santa Maria del mar – it is one of the surfers’ favorite beaches
Playa La Victoria – when the wind blows, thrill-seeking kite surfers come to the beach.
A map presenting the most interesting places in Cadiz
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