15 Cool Things To Do In Cádiz: Spain’s Oldest City

Are you planning a visit to the south of Spain and searching for the perfect beach town to spend a relaxing day (or even the weekend) in? If history, beach town vibes, and impressive views are your thing, then you won’t have to look much further than Cádiz! This Andalusian city is actually the oldest in Spain, and was first settled by the Phoenicians all the way back in 1104 BC.

I spent an idyllic weekend hanging out on the beach and exploring the cultural sights of Cádiz this October-it was the perfect way to kick back, relax, and tan a bit after my first few weeks teaching English in Spain!

While I spent several days in Cádiz, the city’s historic center is quite compact and easy to explore-making it a perfect day trip from Seville, Jerez, Tarifa, and other cities in Andalusia.

I recommend visiting for the day while the temperatures are still perfect for beach going (late spring-early fall). If you can’t squeeze a visit in then, consider heading to Cádiz during Carnaval, the festival for which the city is famous.

While one could easily spend the day simply soaking up the sun on the sand, here is my list of the top 15 things to do in Cádiz!

1. Check out the views from the Cádiz Cathedral

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The 18th century Catedral de Santa Cruz de Cádiz is one of the most iconic buildings in Cádiz. The cityscape simply wouldn’t be complete without the massive cathedral and its unique golden dome. It isn’t every day you get to visit a cathedral located so close to the sea-a visit is an absolute must! Entrance to the cathedral costs €5 and includes a visit to the church, complimentary audio guide, crypt, and the bell tower. If churches aren’t really your thing, I would consider paying the entrance fee just for the view of the sea and the city from the tower alone! The ramp and stairs to the top are just outside of the cathedral (so don’t misplace your ticket!).

 

2. Be a (beach) bum

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It wouldn’t be a visit to Cádiz without a trip to the beach! There are several great sandy beaches to choose from in town. The most popular beach is La Caleta. While I do recommend stopping by to catch the sunset here, I preferred spending time in Santa María Del Mar or the Playa Victoria. They seemed to be a little less crowded, and I love how long these beaches are!

 

3. Become queen (or king) of the castles

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Did you know that there are actually 3 castles you can visit in Cádiz? You’ll be feeling like a royal after visiting the Castle of Santa Catalina, the Castle of San Sebastián, and the Castle of San Marcos. If you are planning on just staying on the peninsula (as I did), then you will be able to see both the Castle of Santa Catalina and the Castle of San Sebastián, but you will have to travel further inland if you’d like to visit the medieval Castle of San Marcos. My favorite of the two castles I saw was…surprise…the Castillo de Santa Catalina. This fortress dates back to the 1600s and just happens to be named “Catalina” after me ;).  You’ll find that it offers some pretty spectacular panoramic views, and also houses local art exhibitions. The best part? It is totally free to enter!

After checking out this castle, be sure to stop by the Castillo de San Sebastián. I found this fort to be particularly interesting as you must walk along a long pathway to reach the islet that the castle is situated on. The castle you can see today dates back to 1706, but it is reported that this spot once housed the ancient Temple of Kronos.

 

4. Visit the Phonecian Ruins

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Another awesome (and free!) thing to see in Cádiz are the Phonecian Ruins housed within the Yacimiento Arqueológico Gadir. As Spain’s oldest city, these ruins are nearly 3,000 years old. When you visit, there is a short film in Spanish (with English subtitiles) which details the history of Phoenician settlement in Cádiz and offers insight into the ruins that remain today. You’ll discover the skeleton of a Phonecian man and have to the opportunity to walk directly above the ancient streets and structures that once made up this historic town.

 

5. Enjoy the camera obscura and panoramic views at the Torre Tavira

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If you are a sucker for good views (I totally am) and didn’t get enough of the city from the Cathedral, then you can head over to the Torre Tavira. This 18th-century tower is actually the highest point in Cádiz, and offers an excellent view of the Cathedral as well as the city and sea beyond. The tower costs 6 € to enter, and the price of admission also includes a demonstration of camera obscura. Personally, I preferred the view from the Cathedral, so if you are on a budget I would skip this tour. However, I do love the pictures of the Cathedral that I snapped from the top! The only thing I didn’t love was losing my lens cap here-it rolled right off the edge of the tower!

 

6. Wander around the old town

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El Pópulo is the area which makes up the old town of Cádiz, and the buildings here date back to the 13th century. Spend some time wandering down these historic streets, stopping to take in the medieval architecture around you. In this part of Cádiz, you’ll find narrow avenues, shops, and bars, as well as 3 historic entrance arches.

 

7. Check out the Roman Amphitheater

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Unfortunately, the Roman amphitheater was closed down for renovations (or possibly a national holiday-it was difficult to tell) during my visit to Cádiz. However, that didn’t stop me from sneaking a peek down a narrow alley which happened to have a view of the ruins. The theater would have held 20,000 spectators and was constructed in the 1st century BC.

 

8. Take a walk in Genoves Park

Genoves Park is located just past the Castle of Santa Catalina and is the perfect place to take a stroll in the afternoon. You’ll find walking paths, beautifully trimmed trees, and even an impressive manmade waterfall.

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Also, don’t forget to snap a picture of the two massive rubber trees (pictured above, not in the park) just before you reach the Castle of Santa Catalina from the La Caleta beach -the trees are over 100 years old and make for a great photo op!

 

9. Explore the catacombs of Cádiz

I didn’t manage to fit in a visit to the catacombs of Cádiz during my time in the city, but I am pretty sure I’ll be making a trip there when I return! A tour of the Catacumbas del Beaterio costs 6€, and you’ll be able to discover all of the subterranean secrets hidden underneath this sunlit city.

 

10. Stop and smell the roses at the Plaza de las Flores

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You are bound to discover this charming square at some point during your visit to Cádiz. Here you’ll find a small but bustling flower market, cute cafes, and a fun atmosphere in the center of town.

 

11. Grab a snack at the Central Market

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Looking for some cheap, local street eats? Head on over to the Central Market! This market is refreshingly not touristy (although you will encounter tourists there) and features a great selection of fresh seafood, produce, and other local goods. I stopped by for some €2 paella and couldn’t have been happier.

On Sunday, you may also encounter a cool flea market just outside this building. I had a blast checking out the antiques, books, and other goods there.

 

12. Hit a museum (or two!)

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Though Cádiz is primarily known as a beach town, that doesn’t mean it is lacking in the museum department! If you manage to pull yourself away from the sand for long enough, you can pay a visit to the Museum of Cadiz, Museo de Las Cortes, the Museo Catedralicio, the Lithographic Museum…and even a Puppet Museum! I typically can’t get enough of museums, but this weekend I was a little too focused on my tan to give any of these a try. If you visit one, be sure to let me know how it went in the comments!

 

13. See a flamenco show

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Haven’t caught a flamenco show yet while traveling through Andalusia? Not to worry!  There are a few options to choose from in Cádiz. I chose to skip a show and save a few euros (I had just seen some flamenco in Sevilla). You can either book a visit to the popular La Cava Taberna, or head to a free flamenco show such as the Taberna El Marques de Cadiz. You may even catch a performance while on the street! This happened to me several times!

 

14. Head on a free walking tour

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If you are looking to better discover the history of Cádiz and learn more about this seaside city, consider hopping on one of several the of free walking tours available! You’ll learn all about what makes the city of cultural and historical importance, and also visit the main sights, monuments, and hidden gems within Cádiz. Just remember-the tour may be free, but you should definitely tip your guide!

 

15. Shop, eat, drink, and be merry!

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Don’t forget to take some time to kick back, relax, and enjoy the chilled out beach vibes that Cádiz has to offer! While there are many things to see in the historic center of Cádiz, if you are only in town for the day, remember that you don’t have to see it all! While I totally believe that Cádiz makes an excellent day trip, it is the perfect place to ignore your itinerary in and just have fun! Duck into that cute shop, spend that extra hour in the sun, enjoy a glass of tinto in a cute plaza. That is what beautiful beach cities are all about!

 


Is Cádiz on your Spain bucket list, or have you been to any awesome beaches in Spain? Let me know in the comments!

 

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