Cádiz is known for many things. Both today and many centuries ago. It played a fundamental role when, in times of seafarers, it was traded with the New World, but long before it was one of the most important Phoenician settlements in the Iberian Peninsula. In fact, the Phoenician name of Gadir it did not have to evolve much until the current Cádiz. And although all that is far behind, today Cádiz continues to speak to us proudly of its past.
If its history doesn’t sound much to you, surely you do know it for its carnival, one of the most important in the country and even in the world, for the chirigotas contest that is held every year at the Falla Theater, or for its beaches. With La Caleta as the maximum representative of its beauty and where the old spa of La Palma has witnessed the best sunsets for almost a century.
But if you want to go a step further and not be left alone with what they tell you, in a weekend you can cross Puerta Tierra and enter the historic center of Cádiz, and once you’re there you can walk, walk and walk. Narrow streets full of history, squares full of life, buildings that tell the splendid past of the city, and light await you. A lot of light. The light of Cadiz. Responsible for so many lovers who fall exhausted into the arms of ‘the silver cup’. But in order not to miss some of its most beautiful, important and peculiar places, here are 10 essential places that you cannot miss when you visit Cádiz.
- The cathedral of Cádiz, of course
The cathedral will be one of the first things you see in Cádiz because it stands out above everything else. Construction began in 1722 and was completed a century later, combining baroque and neoclassical styles. Its main façade with its two large towers takes center stage, but we must not miss entering to contemplate its numerous Corinthian columns, its chapels and its striking high altar.
- The Plaza de San Juan de Dios
It is the old Plaza Mayor of the city, and you will understand that as soon as you see it. In its day, numerous exotic goods brought from the Indies were sold here, and today several buildings of interest stand out, such as the Town Hall, the Casa de los Pazos Miranda and the church of San Juan de Dios, which stands out for its baroque style. Between palm trees and fountains, it is a good place to have a drink if we stop along the way.
El Pópulo is considered one of the oldest neighborhoods in Europe and, therefore, in the West. It is estimated that it has been populated continuously for about 3,000 years and walking through it means soaking up history. It is delimited by the arches of La Rosa, Los Blancos and El Pópulo, which correspond to the old gates of the walled medieval town, and walking through its narrow streets you will come across part of the grandstands of the Roman theater or the Casa del Almirante, the the most important 17th century palace in the city.
To get to know a city well, you have to visit its markets, and in Cádiz that becomes quite an experience. The Central Market has, among others, 57 fruit and vegetable stalls, 54 fish and seafood stalls, and 44 meat stalls. It is quite a spectacle for the eyes, and also every day of the week the Gastronomic Corner is organized, an opportunity to try the most authentic products from Cadiz.
- The Castle of Santa Catalina
The Santa Catalina Castle was built between the end of the 16th century and the beginning of the 17th century as a response to the Anglo-Dutch assault on Cádiz in 1596. It was designed in the shape of a star by the engineer Cristóbal de Rojas with the aim of defending the bay of Santa Catalina, and is an excellent example of military architecture that has survived without major changes to this day. Today the Castle of Santa Catalina has been transformed into a great cultural and leisure space. Its rooms receive temporary exhibitions and workshops of all kinds, and it even hosts concerts in summer.
Although it is popularly known as Plaza de las Flores, its real name is Plaza de Topete, but when you visit it you will soon understand why it got its nickname. At one of its ends, the Post Office building stands out, which stands out for its red brick, but what will captivate you here is the aroma given off by its many stalls selling flowers. It is one of the most colorful and lively squares in Cádiz, it is full of life and in it you will find one of the most famous fish frying places in the city: the Freiduría las Flores.
- The Castle of San Sebastian
At the southern end of La Caleta is the Castillo de San Sebastián. It is located on a small islet that has historically housed defensive constructions and guides for navigators, but it was in 1860 when the previous castle was replaced by the fortification that you see today, since then already attached to the mainland. Currently the Castle of San Sebastian is used as an exhibition space and as a place for concerts.
You will find the Plaza de España near the port of Cádiz, on land that has been reclaimed from the sea. It is surrounded by gardens and renowned buildings, such as the old Customs House, today the Provincial Council of Cádiz, but if there is something that draws attention to it, it is the monument to the Constitution of 1812. ‘La Pepa’ established a milestone in the history of Spain, so in 1912, to celebrate its centenary, this kind of hemicycle open to the sea was erected, with allegories of Spain and Hercules, and where references are made to peace, war, industry and farming.
In the historic center of Cádiz and next to the sea is the Genovés Park, a green space that takes us back to the end of the 18th century. It is part of the history of the city and one of its main attractions is found in its interesting plant species of different origins. It houses small monuments, such as the Children’s Umbrella fountain, although La Gruta, a lake with its own waterfall, is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful corners.
And if we go to Cadiz, we should not overlook Tavira Tower. With its 45 meters high, it is the best viewpoint in the city. It is part of the Casa Palacio de los Marqueses de Recaño, it was the official watchtower of the port of Cádiz in 1778 and its current name derives from its first watchman, Antonio Tavira. Today it also has a tourist attraction: the Camera Obscura. A system of mirrors and lenses that projects what is happening outside at that precise moment on a white curved horizontal screen, like a table.