Cadiz is a city absolutely drenched in history. And this year 2012 – is a particularly important anniversary. 200 years ago in Cadiz the first ever Spanish Constitution was drawn up. This pivotal document devolved significant powers from the King to regular people and it formed the basis for constitutions in countries as far afield as Mexico and Norway. Huge celebrations are planned throughout the year and many of the city’s major historic sites have been renovated for the occasion.
Cobbled Streets & Beautiful Squares
The historic core of the city juts out on a peninsula and is surrounded by an ancient fortified wall. It’s a fascinating warren of narrow cobbled streets and unexpected squares, full of atmosphere and hustle and bustle. You can easily spend a good couple of days exploring on foot, getting lost a little and finding yourself again. The only time you might want to hop on the bus is to get to the beach – the town beach Playa de la Caleta is fine for a quick dip, but it gets crowded and the beaches just outside the old town are worth the trip to get to.
Much of the up-market accommodation is outside the old town, but for budget travellers, basing yourself in the old town is easy. There are several good quality hostels to choose from and a couple of really excellent value hotels if you’re feeling a little more flush. It goes without saying that during bicentenary year places will be at a premium, so you’re well advised to book ahead.
So what’s there to see and do in Cadiz? Here are a few suggestions:
5 things not to miss in Cadiz:
The busy market
The guidebooks will tell you this is the ‘oldest covered market in Spain’. Maybe so, but it’s been renovated extensively so it doesn’t exactly feel old. Regardless of that it offers a fascinating view of daily Gaditano life. It’s great for people watching or buying a few bits and pieces for a picnic lunch.
The vast cathedral
This vast Baroque building dominates Plaza de la Catedral. Inside you’ll find a genuinely awe-inspiring series of towering vaulted arches and an altar-piece of outrageous extravagance; the sheer scale of it all is what really hits you. It’s worth checking out the nearby Cathedral Museum down a small alley to the left of the entrance, in Casa de la Contaduria too. It’s a trove of gem –encrusted treasures, many plundered from Spain’s New World colonies in the Americas.
Cadiz museum is located on one of its most attractive squares – Plaza de Mina – which in itself is worth a wander. There’s an eclectic collection of relics and paintings from pre-history to the present day here. It’s particularly good for the strikingly lifelike paintings of 17th century local artist Zurbaran – 21 in total. The other place to head for if you want the full low down on the city’s history, is the Museo de Las Cortes de Cadiz which focusses on that famous Constitution and has had a makeover for the 2012 celebrations.
Sandy, fun-filled beaches
If it’s beach you’re after, head for Playa Victoria. A long stretch of golden sand just outside the old town, it’s flanked by many of the more upmarket hotels. . If you’re feeling energetic you could walk it, but quicker to hop on a bus. It’s a huge expanse of sand and rolling surf, with a long promenade, lots of bars and cafes, and beach bars serving seafood too – known as chiringuitos.
Tapas on Calle Virgen de la Palma
This street is famous for its string of neighbourhood tapas bars that dish up some of the best local seafood. It’s definitely on the tourist map these days, so prices aren’t as cheap as they used to be, but it remains pretty unspoilt otherwise. Take a phrasebook if you don’t speak Spanish. Try a mixed plate of deep-fried fish – surtido – and an ice cold beer. It’s the perfect way to spend an evening.
Flights: The nearest airports are Jerez and Seville from where you can get direct trains to Cadiz.
Bus: There are regular buses from Madrid with a journey time of around 8 hours.
Boat: Many of the big cruise lines dock at Cadiz port. Visit the P&O Cruises website for the latest cruise deals from P&O Cruises
The bus and train stations and the cruise liner port are all within walking distance of the old town.
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