The charming Andalusian city of Cádiz is not lacking in things to see and do. From art galleries and museums to a stunning cathedral and exuberant flamenco shows, there is something here for everyone. Here are the top 10 things to see and do.
Santa Cruz Cathedral
Cádiz’s key architectural attraction is its spectatcular Santa Cruz cathedral. It was built between 1722 and 1838 and was originally known as the Church of the Americas because it was financed by Spain’s lucrative trading with the ‘New World’. One of its two towers is open to the public and offers some great views of the Cádiz skyline, whilst the façade can be admired from sunny terraces on Plaza de la Catedral.
Plaza de la Catedral, s/n, Cádiz, Spain, +34 956259812
Well worth a trip if you’re exploring the port area of Cádiz is the Benot Gallery, which displays works by contemporary Andalusian artists. The current exhibition, by Cádiz-born painter Ricardo Urrejola, is a good example of the kind of art exhibited at Benot: entitled ‘On Nature, the Sea and the City’, it explores our natural and man-made habitats over a series of arresting oil paintings.
10 Avenida Ramón de Carranza, Cádiz, Spain, +34 956228681
Castillo Santa Catalina
The Santa Catalina castle was built on the orders of Philip II in 1596 after the seizure and sacking of Cádiz that same year by an Anglo-Dutch fleet. From the ramparts you can look out over the bobbing fishing boats of Caleta Bay and fishermen scraping sea urchins from the rocks in low tide. Some of the interior spaces now serve as exhibition halls, where you can enjoy works by local artists (no admission fee charged).
Calle Campo de las Balas, s/n, Cádiz, Spain, +34 956226333
Founded in 1970, when the city’s Museum of Fine Arts and Archaeological Museum combined, the Cádiz Museum displays an intriguing mix of artefacts over three floors. On the ground floor is an archaeological collection that features some notable pieces from prehistoric Andalusia; on the first floor you can enjoy paintings by Rubens and the 17th-century Sevillano artist Bartolomé Murillo; and on the second level are displayed some of the ‘Tia Norica’ puppets used in Cádiz‘s famous carnival.
Plaza de Mina, s/n, Cádiz, Spain, +34 856105023
Tell people you’ve visited Cádiz and one question they’re likely to ask is, ‘Did you see the trees?’ They’re referring to the giant, gnarled rubber trees (ficus macrophyllas, to be precise) that grow outside the university’s economics faculty, near Caleta beach. These amazing specimens are over 100 years old and would be ideal for a spectacular treehouse, if only it were permissible to build one.
As you stroll along the seafront promenade of Campo del Sur in the direction of Playa Victoria, keep an eye out on your right for a colony of wild cats. Maintained by a collective called Cádiz Felina, they live amongst the huge man-made boulders that protect the city from the sea. By day, they sunbathe on the rocks and aren’t at all bothered by the seagulls who also call the Cádiz seafront home.
Flamenco at Peña La Perla
La Perla is the city’s best flamenco club and usually puts on two or three shows a week. On a big stage decorated in rural gypsy style (think wooden cartwheels, Andalusian ceramics and copper pans) an extroverted brand of flamenco performed, with as many as five or six dancers pounding the stage into submission at once. Admission is free and there is cheap bar inside that serves sandwiches and plates of cured jamon as well as drinks.
Calle Concepción Arenal, s/n, Cádiz, Spain, +34 956259101
For a lively morning in Cádiz, check out the city’s biggest and best market on Plaza Libertad. The Mercado Central is a joyful, chaotic nucleus of local life, with old men piling into the nearby bars for a mid-morning sherry or caña (small beer) whilst their wives haggle for bargains. Seafood stalls selling that morning’s catches line the central aisles, whilst butchers, fruit and vegetable and clothing outlets are found on the square’s outskirts.
Andalusians flock from all over the region to Cádiz’s beautiful beaches. La Caleta is the smaller stretch of sand on the city’s western side, where the local fishermen moor their vessels in the shadows of Santa Catalina castle. Playa Victoria is a much longer beach on Cádiz’s eastern extremity. Both offer unblemished yellow sand, bright blue waters and plenty of chiringuitos in which to enjoy some fresh fish and a cold caña.
Casa La Manteca
The old fishing quarter of La Viña (well worth exploring in its own right) is home to Casa Manteca, one of Cádiz’s legendary tapas bars. Its small interior is decorated with sepia-hued bullfighting posters, old sherry barrels and dusty bottles of wine – a suitably traditional environment in which to enjoy excellent wines and tapas (the cured meats are particularly good). Manteca is hugely popular with tourists, but happily it has never lost its old-school charm.
66 Calle Corralón de los Carros, Cádiz, Spain, +34 956213603