Last Updated on January 16, 2024 by Kelly
The city of Cadiz in Spain is one of the oldest cities in Europe. Cadiz has been an active port city for thousands of years. Cadiz is surrounded by water on three sides and has numerous beaches to enjoy La Costa de la Luz. Cadiz is also known for its festive Carnaval celebrations! I personally lived in Cadiz for four months, and I’ve returned to visit Cadiz numerous times since living there. I might be biased, but Cadiz is one of my favorite cities in all of Europe. (Actually, the world!) In this post, I’m sharing my best tips for traveling to Cadiz, Spain.
Don’t forget to check out all our posts about destinations in Spain!
About Cadiz, Spain
As I mentioned before, Cadiz is one of the oldest cities in all of Western Europe. It’s even older than the city of Rome! It was first founded by the Phoenicians and was named Gadir as early as 1100 B.C. Since then, Cadiz has been inhabited by the Carthaginians, Romans, and Moors.
Christopher Columbus set sail from Cadiz during his second and fourth expeditions to the Americas. Today, Cadiz has a population of nearly 117,000 people (2018 census).
Cadiz is the capital city of the Province of Cadiz, which is one of the eight regions that comprise Andalusia (Andalucía). The city of Cadiz is informally divided into two parts: El Casco Antiguo (the old part of town) and La Parte Nueva (the new part of town). El Casco Antiguo, also often called El Casco Viejo, is the area located north of the Puerta de Tierra, which is the ancient defensive wall that separates the old town from the new part of town.
Cadiz also plays an important role in Greek mythology. It is in Cadiz that Hercules had a fatal encounter with King Gerion. The Phoenicians built a port and a temple in Cadiz, and legend has it that Hercules’ ashes were kept in that temple. Because of this, Hercules is shown in the city’s coat of arms.
Many people visit Spain, but relatively fewer visit the city of Cadiz. Unless you’re visiting Cadiz as part of a cruise, it can be a bit cumbersome to reach. Because of that, most tourists visit other sites in Southern Spain, such as Granada, La Costa del Sol, and Los Pueblos Blancos. However, I really think that Cadiz is worth adding to your itinerary. It is worth the effort in reaching it!
|Be sure to check out the nearby cities of Jerez de la Frontera, Ronda, and Vejer de la Frontera as well!
Tips for Visiting Cadiz in Spain
Cadiz is an extremely friendly city with much to see. We’ve included our best tips for seeing the city below!
Tip #1: Pronounce the Name Cadiz Correctly
The first thing you need to know is how to say the word Cadiz correctly. Cádiz is pronounced Kah-Deez, with an emphasis on the first syllable. A lot of tourists will pronounce Cadiz wrong, so you can gain some credibility just by pronouncing the name right.
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Tip #2: Pack the Right Gear
When you visit Cadiz, you’ll want to make sure you pack the right gear. We recommend that you pack things that will let you explore the city, as well as stuff you’ll need for an impromptu beach trip.
- Voltage converter: If traveling from the United States, you’ll need one to use your electronics in Europe.
- Power bank: If you’re walking around all day, you’ll want a power bank so you can charge your phone on the go. We like this one because it has built-in cords… less things to lose! We use our phones heavily for navigation and photography, so we always want to make sure to have a full battery on our phones.
- Quick-drying towel: I like to have a quick-drying towel in my day backpack. It’s perfect for traveling because it’s small and dries quickly. Whether you feel like taking a quick swim or dipping your toes, you’ll be all set.
- Day pack: Make sure you have a good day backpack to store all your valuables and souvenirs.
- Insulated water bottle: An insulated water bottle will keep your water cooler for longer. We’ve linked the one that we personally use.
Tip #3: Book a Guided Tour of Cadiz
There are also plenty of guided tours of Cadiz. By having a local guide, you’ll have a stress-free way of seeing the city. Some example tours include:
There are also guided tours that will take you from Cadiz to many of the nearby destinations. These include:
- Ronda and Setenil de las Bodegas
- Sevilla and the Real Alcazar
- Jerez de la Frontera (horse show and winery visit)
Tip #4: Get Lost in the City
When you visit the old town (el casco antiguo), it will feel a bit like a maze. You can try to follow a map, but honestly, one of my favorite things to do in Cadiz is to just wander around the city. Before you know it, you’ll run into either one of the main plazas or the water! Because of that, it’s hard to get truly “lost”. The old part of town is filled with narrow cobblestone streets that spill into beautiful plazas. Take the stress out of “navigating” and just enjoy exploring the city!
Tip #5: Time Your Visit for a Celebration
Cadiz is famous for its carnival celebrations. The whole city throws a giant street party for 11 days of carnival. You might have heard of the famous carnival celebrations in Rio de Janeiro, but the carnival celebrations in Cadiz are the most famous in all of Europe! If you’ve always wanted to celebrate carnival, we highly recommend that you visit Cadiz during carnival. Carnival typically takes place in February.
Another wonderful time to visit Cadiz is during Semana Santa. During Semana Santa, there are religious processions throughout the streets. Semana Santa is when the Catholic people celebrate Easter week.
Another popular time to visit Cadiz is during the summer. People from all over Spain (and Europe) head to Andalucia for summer vacations. The beaches are buzzing and it’s a really fun time to visit. I especially like to visit during the summer because there are chiringuitos – beachside bars on the sand!
Tip #6: Visit a Watchtower
Cadiz is a unique city because it has 126 watchtowers. You can view them all over the city! Most of the watchtowers were built in the 18th century, which was an especially profitable time for the port city. Wealthy merchants would build the watchtowers on top of their homes. The watchtowers are designed with North African architectural elements. You can read more about the history of the watchtowers by clicking here.
The most famous watchtower in Cadiz is the Torre Tavira. Torre Tavira (Tower Tavira) is the highest point in the old town, and for a small fee you can enter the building and go up to the rooftop. Also a part of the experience is the camara obscura, which projects live images of the city onto a concave screen. I’ve visited the Torre Tavira on a couple of occasions, and I would recommend visiting it if you have never been to Cadiz before.
Tip #7: Talk with the Gaditanos
The word Gaditano/a means “someone from Cadiz.” I definitely recommend that you speak with the locals! In my experience, Gaditanos are some of the nicest people you will ever meet. Practice your Spanish and make some new friends. I’m fortunate to say that I have many friends from Cadiz!
Tip #8: Take a Siesta
Like most places in Southern Spain, many of the city’s vendors are closed somewhere between 3pm and 8pm each day. If you want to go shopping or want to dine at a restaurant during those hours, make sure that you review their hours of operation in advance.
Tip #9: Plan to Stay Up Late
In Cadiz, it’s customary to eat dinner around 10pm. After that, many people go out for the nightlife. There are numerous bars that are open until the early morning hours. And even if the bars close, you’ll still find many people hanging out on the beach at night. During our last visit to Cadiz, my husband was surprised to see a playground crawling with kids at 1am! I’m not typically a night owl, but when I’m visiting Cadiz, I stay up late and sleep in the next day.
Tip #10: Visit all the Plazas
The historic old part of Cadiz is filled with numerous iconic plazas. You’ll find yourself walking along a narrow street and all of a sudden it will spill into a gorgeous plaza. Each of the plazas is distinct, which is why I recommend that you visit them all. Below I’ve listed the major plazas in Cadiz and why you should visit them:
- Plaza de San Francisco: This small plaza is one of my favorites. You’ll see the Convent of San Francisco and one side, which was founded in 1566. The plaza has some wonderful restaurants and bars. During the evenings, this was definitely a popular spot for nightlife.
- Plaza de Mina: This public square is larger and has more plants. I recommend going there for an ice cream and relaxing on a park bench.
- Plaza San Antonio: This plaza is situated at the end of the Calle Ancha, which is one of the major streets running through the old part of town. This is a popular square for families. I’ve often seen kids kicking soccer balls while their parents chat on park benches.
- Plaza de la Catedral: One of the most impressive sights in Cadiz is the cathedral. The cathedral took over 130 years to build! There are 16 chapels that surround the primary cathedral. The plaza in front of the cathedral is relatively small. As soon as you enter the plaza, you’ll notice the cathedral towering above you.
- Plaza de San Juan de Dios: This plaza hosts the town hall and was recently renovated. There are now colorful fountains that make this a beautiful plaza to visit at night.
- Plaza de Espana: While most Spanish cities have a Plaza de Espana, this is actually my least favorite plaza in Cadiz. It’s a high-traffic area along the edge of the old part of town, so the constant traffic takes away some of its charm for me. However, what I really love about this plaza is that there is a lush garden in it as well as a monument to the constitution.
Tip #11: Go Inside the Cadiz Cathedral
The Cadiz Cathedral, or Catedral de Cadiz, was built between 1722 and 1838. Despite being several hundred years old, it’s often referred to as the New Cathedral (Catedral Nueva). This is because the previous cathedral, or Old Cathedral, was burned down.
The Cadiz Cathedral is a massive church with a dome shaped from golden-colored tiles. The church is largely in the baroque style, but has elements of rococo and neoclassical styles.
Although it’s definitely worth seeing the cathedral from the outside, I also recommend entering the church. (There’s a small admission fee to enter.) You’ll be able to go up the Levante Tower for a view of Cadiz (the opposing tower is called El Torre del Reloj), and you can also go into the crypt below the church. There are numerous paintings and relics that you can also see inside the cathedral. Don’t just walk by the Cadiz Cathedral, make sure you go inside!
When you visit the cathedral, also be sure to take a short walk next door to see the museum (Museo Catedralicio). You’ll be able to learn more about the history and see more of the relics.
For a really fun experience, you can actually book your accommodations at a hotel directly across from the cathedral. There’s an outdoor pool that looks out directly at the cathedral! For booking information at the Hotel La Catedral, click here.
Tip #12: Visit All the Beaches
Because Cadiz is practically surrounded by water, there are lots of beaches to explore! Each beach has its own unique vibe. Here are my three favorite beaches in Cadiz:
- Playa de La Caleta: This beach is located in the historic center, and is one of the most popular beaches in Cadiz. It is framed by two small castles: Castillo de San Sebastian and Castillo de Santa Catalina. There are often small fishing boats that rest along the golden sand. The beach has been featured in several major movies, including the James Bond movie Die Another Day. (There’s a famous scene in which Halle Berry steps out of the water.)
- Playa de Santa Maria del Mar: Located in the newer part of town, a spiral staircase will lead you down to this beach. This beach has a bit more calm waters due to a pair of breakwaters. From this beach, you’ll have an excellent view of the Cadiz Cathedral in the distance. This is the beach I visited the most when I lived in Cadiz.
- Playa Victoria: This long stretch of beach is filled with beach bars during the summer. There’s plenty of room to stretch out. We recommend staying at the Hotel Playa Victoria Cadiz. I’ve also stayed at accommodations along the Playa Victoria, and it’s the perfect place to watch the sunset!
Tip #13: Walk the Beach Promenade
The Paseo Marítimo and the Paseo de Vendaval are the names of the beach promenade that follow the western edge of the city. One of my favorite things to do is simply walk the entirety of the promenade. You’ll have excellent views of the sea, there are lots of fun beach bars along the way, and you’ll get a beautiful view of the edge of the city.
Tip #14: Walk Along Calle Ancha
Calle Ancha, or Wide Street in English, is the main street in the historic old town in Cadiz. Calle Ancha has beautiful homes with gated portals and polished balconettes that look down onto the street. There are numerous shops, as well as my favorite bookstore!
Our YouTube Video About Cadiz
We created a short YouTube video if you’d like to hear me talk about some of these tips. I also included additional photos in the video. Check it out here:
How to Get to Cadiz, Spain
Cadiz is located along Spain’s famous Costa de la Luz. The word luz is Spanish for light, which is a fitting name because the region receives over 300 sunny days a year!
The city is attached to the mainland of Spain by a thin stretch of land (as you can see in the map above), which means that there are miles of beaches within reach of the city.
If you’re trying to get to Cadiz, you have several options:
- By Plane: The nearest airport to Cadiz is located in the city of Jerez de la Frontera. However, once you reach Jerez de la Frontera, you’ll need to take the train or book a taxi to reach Cadiz. (Which is approximately a 30-minute commute.)
- By Car: Cadiz is connected to Spain via a thin stretch of land and two bridges. Thus, it’s definitely possible to drive to Cadiz. I personally wouldn’t recommend renting a car, though, because parking can be quite difficult to find in the old part of town. For this reason, I recommend public transportation options.
- By Train: My favorite way to travel to Cadiz is by train. I’ve taken the train from Jerez de la Frontera, Sevilla, Granada, and Madrid on numerous occasions to Cadiz. I’ve found the trains to be comfortable and the most convenient option. Because there is a train station located right in the heart of the city, it is very easy to disembark and quickly get to your hotel.
- By Cruise: Finally, you can take a cruise to Cadiz, as it’s a major port town. Many tourists visit Cadiz via cruise each year. This is the only route that I have never taken, but there are plenty of cruises that leave from the United Kingdom and port in Cadiz.
The Closest Airports to Cadiz, Spain
Jerez de la Frontera: 35 kilometers away from Cadiz
The closest airport to Cadiz is a small airport in Jerez de la Frontera (airport code XRY). Jerez de la Frontera is approximately 35 kilometers (22 miles) from Cadiz. It usually takes about 30 minutes to travel from Jerez de la Frontera to Cadiz.
I’ve personally flown into this airport several times. Each time I’ve used it, it’s been part of a connecting flight from another airport in Spain. What I like about using this airport to reach Cadiz is that once you land there, it’s just a short drive or train ride to downtown Cadiz.
Sevilla: 130 kilometers away from Cadiz
Another airport relatively close to Cadiz is the airport in Sevilla (airport code SVQ). The Sevilla airport is a much larger airport in comparison to the one in Jerez de la Frontera, so there are more options for international flights. The Sevilla airport is 130 kilometers (81 miles) from Cadiz.
If you fly into Sevilla, you’ll have to then decide if you want to book a connecting flight to Jerez de la Frontera or take the train to Cadiz. (Or rent a personal vehicle.)
I’ve taken the train from Sevilla to Cadiz several times, and it’s another convenient option. The name of the train station in Sevilla is Sevilla Santa Justa, and you’ll want to book a ticket to the Estacion de Tren de Cadiz. During the summer months and busy holidays, I recommend booking the train ticket in advance.
If you have time, I recommend staying in Sevilla for a few days! You’ll have time to adjust from jet lag, while also seeing stunning architecture such as the Real Alcazar and the Plaza de Espana.
I usually choose between flying into Jerez de la Frontera or Sevilla based on flight deals. I’ll typically choose the most affordable option and go from there.
Madrid: 664 kilometers away from Cadiz
The Madrid airport, Adolfo Suarez Madrid-Barajas Airport (airport code MAD), is much further away from Cadiz than Sevilla or Jerez de la Frontera. However, I’m including it on this list because sometimes you can find cheap flights to Madrid. If that’s the case, you can either book a connecting flight to one of the airports listed above, or you can take the train from Madrid to Cadiz. The name of the train station in Madrid is Atocha. If you take a high speed train, you can get to Cadiz in a little over 4 hours. This might be especially worth it if a connecting flight has a long layover anyways.
I’ve also personally taken the train from Madrid to Cadiz on at least one occasion. I didn’t mind the long train ride too much, because I typically find trains more comfortable than planes. The last time I did this option, I was very jetlagged and I enjoyed a nice long nap before arriving to Cadiz.
Where to Stay in Cadiz
You have two choices when booking accommodations for Cadiz: staying in El Casco Viejo (the older part of town), or staying in La Parte Nueva (the new part of town).
El Casco Viejo is idyllic and has an old-world feel. There are plenty of narrow cobblestone streets that spill into picturesque plazas. There are over 100 watchtowers and a large cathedral that is a must-see in the old part of town. This neighborhood also contains the beach La Caleta, which was the site of a James Bond movie scene.
Lodging options en el Casco Viejo include:
- Hotel La Catedral: This hotel is located right across from the cathedral and has a pool overlooking the plaza. This is where I would choose to stay during my next visit to Cadiz!
- Parador de Cadiz: This is easily one of the nicest hotels in the city. The modern hotel has views of the water and a large pool.
- Hotel Argantonio: At this boutique hotel, you’ll get to stay in a mansion built in the 1700s with an amazing rooftop terrace.
La Parte Nueva is more modern and has direct access to many more beaches. The most popular beaches are the Playa de Santa Maria del Mar and the Playa Victoria. Because there are miles of beaches here, it’s possible to get away from the crowds and soak up some of the abundant Spanish sun.
Lodging options en la Parte Nueva include:
- Hotel Playa Victoria Cadiz: If you want to spend most of your time at the beach, Playa Victoria is the place to be. With tons of chiringuitos (bars set up on the beach) during the summer, it’s a really fun place to hang out. We spent a lot of time at this hotel’s swimming pool, so we highly recommend it!
- Hotel Cadiz Paseo del Mar: This hotel is also located next to the beach Playa Victoria. You’ll be able to easily stroll the promenade and enjoy the beach.
- Hotel Monte Puertatierra: This hotel is located across from my favorite beach in the city, La Playa de Santa Maria del Mar. When I studied abroad in Spain, I lived close to this hotel. If you want to spend time at the beach, but still be able to walk into the old part of town, this is a great place to stay.
Things to Do in Cadiz, Spain
There are many things to do while you are visiting Cadiz! Whether you want to enjoy Spanish tapas, go to the beach, watch a Flamenco show, or soak up its history, there is something for everyone!
- Visit the Cadiz Cathedral, which was built in the 1700s.
- Walk to the castle of San Sebastian. The fortress was built in the 18th century, and a paved causeway cuts across the water to reach it.
- Visit the beach La Caleta. The view from La Caleta is one of the most popular postcards of Cadiz. This is also the site where Halle Berry steps out of the water in a James Bond movie.
- Take a stroll through Parque Genoves, a waterfront park that is situated next to the university and is filled with exotic plants.
- Catch a concert at the Gran Teatro Falla.
- Climb to the top of Torre Tavira, one of the city’s many watchtowers. You’ll have an expansive view of the whole city, and a different perspective on the cathedral.
- Interested in history? Check out the Gadir Archaeological Site and see the ruins from the Phoenicians. (The site is called Yacimiento Arqueologico “Gadir”.)
- To learn more about the city, visit the Museum of Cadiz.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Where do you fly into Cadiz?
The two closest airports to Cadiz are Jerez de la Frontera (XRY) and Sevilla (SVQ). Jerez de la Frontera is much closer to Cadiz, but is a smaller airport in comparison to Sevilla. It might be easier to find flights to Sevilla.
Is Cadiz in Spain worth visiting?
The city of Cadiz in southern Spain is absolutely worth visiting. The city juts out from the mainland of Spain and is practically surrounded by water. Cadiz has numerous beaches, a historic old town, and a grandiose cathedral. It is one of my favorite cities in all of Spain!
How do I get to Cadiz?
The best way to get to Cadiz is by train. You can take the train from the nearby cities of Jerez de la Frontera or Sevilla, both of which have airports. The train station in Cadiz is located in the heart of the city, so once you arrive, you’ll be able to walk from the train station and immediately explore the old part of town (el casco antiguo).
How many days do you need in Cadiz?
I used to live in Cadiz, and I recommend spending at least two days in the city. You can cover most of the historical sites in the old part of town in one day, and that will give you one additional day to have a beach day. If you have more time, you’ll be able to leisurely visit the plazas and beaches.
Are the beaches nice in Cadiz?
The beaches in Cadiz are very nice. The golden sand is soft and the water is clean. There are many beaches to choose from, including: La Caleta, Playa Santa Maria del Mar, and Playa Victoria. I’ve been to all of them and have enjoyed each of them!
Is Cadiz a walkable city?
Cadiz is a very walkable city. The historic part of town is filled with narrow alleyways that are open just to pedestrian traffic, and the roads have raised sidewalks. Walking around Cadiz is one of my favorite things to do. There’s so many beautiful buildings, excellent restaurants, and picturesque plazas to explore.
Summary: Best Tips and Travel Information for Cadiz
Cadiz is one of my most favorite cities in the world. It has everything: beaches, cobblestone streets, and amazing restaurants. Here’s a summary of our tips for visiting Cadiz:
- Pronounce the Name Cadiz Correctly
- Pack the Right Gear
- Book a Guided Tour of Cadiz
- Get Lost in the City
- Time Your Visit for a Celebration
- Visit a Watchtower
- Talk with the Gaditanos
- Take a Siesta
- Plan to Stay Up Late
- Visit All the Plazas
- Go Inside the Cadiz Cathedral
- Visit All the Beaches
- Walk the Beach Promenade
- Walk Along Calle Ancha
We hope this post about traveling to Cadiz, Spain, inspires you to visit this amazing city!
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