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Best of Cadiz

By Matt Garfield

Posted: 23rd April 2013 15:29

On the southern Atlantic coast, Cadiz is sometimes overlooked as a destination for travellers to Spain.  But the people of the city are amazingly warm and welcoming and in typical Andalusian style, they have a wicked sense of humour.  In fact, they are famed even in Andalusia as being a particularly witty bunch – no mean compliment.  And as we shall see, Cadiz has plenty to offer the traveller willing to go off the beaten track.

History and Geography

Cadiz is the most ancient city still standing in Western Europe.  According to legend, the city was founded just 80 years after the end of the Trojan wars - which dates it to 1104 BC.  Heracles (Hercules) is credited with its founding.  The original city was destroyed in 410 BC by marauding Visigoths as they overthrew the Roman Empire in Spain and very little of it remains today.  Successive Roman, medieval and Moorish layers have been added and today the majority of the older parts of the city date from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

Tightly packed onto a small promontory of land jutting out into the Atlantic Ocean, the city is so compact that the sea is never far from view, making it difficult to get lost.  But in any case, the tourist office has helpfully painted a pink line on the floor to guide tourists around the main sights of the city.  Most bus routes run from the Plaza de la Hispanidad, with regular services to and from the rest of Spain.

Sights

The Old Town area is made up of narrow winding streets connecting large beautiful old plazas.  The prettiest of these, the Plaza de mina, also contains the Museum of Cadiz which is filled with treasures that span its 3000-year history.  The Cadiz Cathedral is one of the city’s most famous landmarks.  After the site’s original 13th Century Cathedral burned down in 1596, it took until 1892 for the rebuilding to be completed.  Such a lengthy construction period has led to the finished Cathedral representing an interesting higgledy-piggledy mixture of different architectural styles.

During a building project in 1980, not unusually, an older, medieval phase of construction was uncovered beneath the city’s foundations.  When these were cleared, structures were discovered that were obviously much older still.  When everything was fully excavated an ancient Roman Theatre had been unearthed, dating from the first century.  It is the second largest Roman theatre in the world and well worth a visit.

Entertainment

Every February, the streets of Cadiz burst raucously into life during its Spring Carnival.  Two weeks of feasting, drinking, partying and incredible costumes engulf the whole of the city, helping to make it one the biggest and best fiestas in a country expert in the art of throwing a party.  Colourful street performances are to found everywhere while the Carnival is on and entertainment is 100% guaranteed.  Under no circumstances should you visit Cadiz at carnival time if a quiet, relaxing time is what you’re after.

Cadiz has plenty of nightlife to offer at any time of the year, whatever your idea of fun.  The fashionable Playa de la Victoria area is where the young and glamorous of Cadiz go to hang out.  The Yunque bar and nearby Barrabas are typical of bars in this area: Oozing glam and European style with a clientele of beautiful and impossibly nonchalant Mediterranean demi-gods.

Elsewhere, completely different but also very cool, the Nehu MusicCafé is an African-themed bar with a super-chilled atmosphere where resident DJs spin a mixture of hip-hop, reggae and chill-out vibes.  Cambalache is a Jazz and Blues bar with a cool, relaxed atmosphere that features live music on Thursday nights after 10pm.  Rock pub, the Woodstock Bar has a great selection of international bottled beers, while O’Connells is – unsurprisingly – an Irish pub with a very welcoming atmosphere and the usual selection of Guinness and Irish whiskeys.

Café Pontiente is one of several gay/mixed pubs in the city.  Its chiselled, topless waiters serve drinks with a smile to a house music soundtrack.  Drag shows on Thursdays are wild and popular.  Alternative and student crowds go clubbing at Medussa.  This nightclub is open until late and plays a variety of musical styles.  And Sala Anfiteatro is another big club that attracts large crowds and caters for night-owls, opening from 3-6 am. 

For a more cultured night out, Cadiz has plenty of traditional Spanish cafes and bars serving tapas and playing flamenco music.  Visiting Pena Flamenco la Perla is an incredible experience for anyone who’s never seen authentic Spanish flamenco before.  Live performances are given from 10pm every night.

Eating out in the city is an experience that really spoils you for choice.  As you’d expect from a port town, the sea food is excellent in Cadiz and fried fish in particular is a local speciality.  The area of Plaza Juan de Dios is a maze of tightly-packed alleyways crammed with great restaurants and bars serving delicious, fresh traditional seafood dishes at very reasonable prices.

Take a trip

If you’re making a trip around Spain, Cadiz may not feature in your plans.  But it is a city that is well-worth making a diversion for if you are in the region.  Friendly, lively and entertaining, it is a quintessentially Andalusian experience – particularly during the Carnival silly-season.  For all your accommodation needs, view the best hostel in Cadiz: Casa Caracol

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