15 Best Things to Do in Cadiz

Best things to do in Cadiz

Are you looking for things to see and do in Cadiz? Situated at the end of a peninsula that stretches into the Bay of Cadiz, the port city is the capital of the Province of Cadiz, one of eight provinces that make up the prestigious self-governing community of Andalusia.

Located on the southwestern coast of Spain, its climate is one of warm summer months and mild winters, making it ideal for those year-round visits whether you enjoy coastal walks or exploring the city.

The Phoenicians founded Cadiz in the early 11th century BC, before the Romans occupied it from around 200 BC for 700 years. 

From the eighth century, it was taken over by the Moors for nearly 800 years, providing the city with an architectural, cultural and historical past that offers plenty of things to see and do in Cadiz, whatever your interests.

Pro tip: If you are still looking for accommodation, I recommend reading about the best places to stay in Cadiz.

15 Best Things to Do in Cadiz

1. Enjoy a guided or self-guided walking tour of old Cadiz

Enjoy a walking tour to do in Cadiz

Not only is Cadiz a popular ferry port for those wanting to travel to the Canary Islands by sea, it is also a favourite stop-over destination for many cruise ships. If this is you, and cruise stop-over time is limited, consider a self-guided or guided walking tour of the city.

With a visitors map and a little pre-planning, strolling the border around the old town is pretty straightforward, and you will get to take in many of the things to see in Cadiz mentioned in this blog.

On a small-group guided tour, not only can you click away with your camera as much as you like, but you also get to learn a little about the history of the sites you’ve chosen to visit. 

Recommended Tour: Free walking Tours

2. Cadiz Ayuntamiento (the old City Hall)

Cadiz Ayuntamiento (the old City Hall)

As you stroll through the cobbled streets, the pretty Square of San Juan de Dios opens up before you. A square with raised beds, swaying palms, fountains and the Cadiz A Moret statue all add to the splendour of the Town Hall just behind it.

Constructed in 1799 on the site of an earlier town hall, the large majestic building is part neoclassical and part Elizabethan. The Elizabethan part was added in 1861 and celebrated the wealthy period Cadiz was enjoying.

The interior is equally impressive, with a rectangular Council Chamber decorated with frescoes, stucco and marble

In one of the corridors is a statue of Hercules, and on the stairs are two large paintings – one depicting the city patrons and the other the miracle of the Virgen del Rosario.

Entry into the building is free, although groups must obtain permission before visiting.

3. Visit the Gates of Earth (The Puerta de Tierra)

Head toward Constitution Square (Plaza de la Constitución), and you’ll see the Puerta de Tierra standing out from the old defensive wall. 

Circa the early 16th century and built to accommodate expanding city boundaries; the two bastions were added in 1574, and the tower in 1756, completing the gates as you see them today.

The tower though, was not for defensive purposes but was a semaphore tower allowing messages to pass from Cadiz to Madrid, and vice-versa, in a little under two hours.

At the time, it was the only passageway from the old town into the more modern Puerta Tierra district. 

From a historical point of view, it is one of the most notable city monuments to see in Cadiz and flies the purple flag of its administrative division from the tower.

4. The Cathedral of Cadiz – a symbol of 18th-century affluence

The Cathedral of Cadiz – a symbol of 18th-century affluence

From the Earth Gates, make your way to Paseo Del Vendaval. This wide promenade runs from Puerta de la Caleta to the Puertas de Tierra, and within a short distance you will see the gold dome of Cadiz Cathedral.

The church was built between 1722 and 1838, during the port’s prosperous period of increasing trade with the Americas.

It is considered one of Spain’s most important example of Baroque architecture. However, elements of both Neoclassical and Rococo crept in during its 100-year build time.

Its golden dome towers above the skyline, pinpointing the cathedral from many points around the city.

With three naves and chapels on a rectangular layout, the altar sits in the centre, surrounded by choir stalls. You can also browse an extensive art collection, including works by Murillo and Zurbaran, and climb the cathedral’s tower for excellent views across the city.

Located on a large, pretty square, you will find plenty of café/bars where you can sit and take in the atmosphere while enjoying a coffee or glass of wine.

The Cathedral is open daily. Adult entrance fee is 6€ with children half price.

Recommended Tour: Medieval Tour Cadiz

5. Visit the Roman Theatre of Cádiz – an ongoing story of archaeological excavation

Constructed around 70 BC in what is now the El Populo district of old Cadiz, the theatre’s remains first came to light in 1980, during excavations for new building works.

Thought to be the second largest Roman theatre in Spain, and accommodating an audience of around 10 thousand spectators, the theatre produced plays for over three centuries.

For numerous reasons, live productions declined, with fewer and fewer theatregoers attending and in the 4th century, the theatre was abandoned.

In the 13th century, King Alfonso X of Castile ordered the building of a fortress on the ruins of the theatre, and its remains disappeared from view until 1980.

Only a part of the theatre has been excavated, and it continues to be a work in progress. 

Nonetheless, some of the unexcavated features can be seen through glass viewing panes in the Interpretation Centre along with models, videos and display screens in the small museum highlighting its highs and lows.

Admission to the site is free, but groups and guided tours must be pre-booked.

6. Head for Torre Tavira – for the best views of Cadiz

Head for Torre Tavira – for the best views of Cadiz

Strolling along the Cadiz promenade, you will likely come across a few (often neglected) watch towers. Around the coastal areas of Cadiz are said to be over 130 old watchtowers that played a large part in the city’s coastal defences.

While many have fallen into disrepair, some have been repaired and maintained, including Torre Tavira. A part of the palace-house of the Marqueses de Recaño, it was built in 1730, and at 45m high is the highest point in old Cadiz.

That said, while the views from the top of the tower are truly magnificent, there is much more to this tower than just the views.

On the first floor is a camera obscura room, providing a history and information of what a camera obscura is. 

A Wikipedia definition describes it as: A darkened room with a small hole or lens at one side through which an image is projected onto a wall or table opposite the hole.

Room 2 provides information about Cadiz’s boom years when trading with the Americas was at its peak. It also covers the 1812 Cortes de Cadiz and the history of Spain’s first Constitution, which was signed in the city.

Having learnt what a camera obscura is downstairs, you can enjoy a 20-minute real-time showing of how it works in the upper room. 

Your guide gives you a tour and history of the city using projected views of the main monuments, as well as real-time views of different areas of town.

Finally, after a 172-step climb to the top, you’ll be rewarded with fabulous views across the Cadiz rooftops and coastal areas for those holiday snaps.

Prebooking is required, with a €7 entrance fee per adult.

Recommended tour: Cadiz Cathedral & Tavira Tower Guided Tour

7. The Castle of San Sebastian – history, culture and glorious sunsets

Strolling the promenade toward the mouth of the harbour, San Sebastian Castle sits on its own island, joined to the mainland by the Paseo Fernando Quinones pedestrian causeway.

The site itself has a fascinating history. It was a temple to the Greek god Kronos in ancient times before being converted to a Muslim watchtower

In the early 15th century, during an outbreak of the plague, a Venetian merchant ship took refuge on the island and constructed a chapel to San Sebastian as a thank-you for the hospitality.

After the English/Dutch Alliance raided the city in 1596, the castle’s tower was rebuilt and expanded with improved artillery positions.

In 1706, the current castle was built facing the city, and reinforced in 1860 with additional artillery batteries. In the late 1800s, the causeway linking the island and mainland was constructed, and the current lighthouse was added in 1908.

In 1985, the castle complex was declared an Asset of Cultural Interest.

Although the castle is closed, exploring its grounds, moats, drawbridges and plaques make for a fascinating moments and, if you arrive at the right time, you can snap some stunning sunsets.

8. Visit the Santa Catalina Castle, chapel and exhibition centre

Visit the Santa Catalina Castle, chapel and exhibition centre

As you look across the bay from San Sebastian, you can see the impressive Castle of Santa Catalina. Constructed in the early 17th century, it is Cadiz’s oldest military building. Construction started in 1598 and was completed in 1621.

It was built after the English raid on Cadiz in 1596 as another coastal defence against increasing attacks from pirates and other privateers. The site includes a chapel and various other buildings for military purposes.

In 1769 it was converted to a military prison. In later times, from 1965 until 1976, it held conscientious objectors, including 300 Jehovah’s Witnesses who refused to sign up for compulsory Spanish military service.

In 1985 it was declared an Asset of Cultural Interest and, in 1991, was handed to the city council by the Spanish Ministry of Defence.

Today, the castle and grounds hold art spaces, creative workshops and temporary and permanent exhibitions throughout the year, as well as concerts and other events during the summer months.

The castle is open Monday-Sunday, 11:00-17:45 with free entry.

9. Visit the Museum of Cadiz

Located in a neo-classical building on the Plaza de Mina, Cadiz Museum opened in 1970 with the amalgamation of the Provincial Museum of Fine Arts and the Provincial Museum of Archaeology.

The ground floor is dedicated to archaeology, and exhibits finds and artefacts unearthed in Andalusia that date back to 5 BC, including two Phoenician anthropoids and numerous Roman artefacts. 

It also provides an ethnography section on the culture and lifestyle of the Phoenicians and Romans of the period.

The second floor contains the mainly Spanish fine arts section from the 18th to the 20th century, displaying 18 angel and monk canvasses by Francisco de Zurbarán, and works by Murillo, Rubens and Miró, amongst others.

The top floor is given over to the history of traditional Spanish puppets. The museum is open from 9.00am to 9.00pm Tuesday through Sunday, and entry is free.

10. The Gran Teatro Falla – a place to immerse yourself in history and culture

Visit The Gran Teatro Falla, best things to do in Cadiz

If your love is immersing yourself in the culture of the countries you visit, what better way to do it than with a visit to the theatre?

Cadiz is blessed with several theatres around the city, with the Gran Teatro Falla being one of the most popular.

Located on the Plaza Fragela, construction began in 1884, on the foundations of a wooden theatre destroyed by fire. Due to a lack of finance, construction was sporadic, and the build wasn’t completed until 1910.

In 1990 the theatre was totally refurbished, and re-opened by Queen Sofia of Spain.

Prior to the Carnival, the Carnival Singing Groups contest is held annually in the theatre, along with a comprehensive selection of monthly events throughout the year.

You can choose from plays, opera, ballet, skin theatre, classical concerts, Flamenco dance nights, modern music and stand-up comedy.

11. Enjoy an evening drinking and eating in the Barrio la Viña

Located on the city’s western side, this once working class area was originally home to most of the city’s old fishing community and is a great place to enjoy an evening out in Cadiz.

Full of iconic Andalusian architecture with a centrepiece of the Santa Maria Square, Barrio la Vina has, over the years, developed into a popular visitor district full of bustling traditional seafood restaurants, tapas bars and friendly taverns.

With the locals famous sense of humour and bonhomie, and the renowned Jerez Sherry available in every bar, a pleasant evening can be enjoyed in some of the best bars and restaurants in Cadiz.

Look up Casa Manteca or Bar La Tabernita for traditional tapas served in a pleasant, friendly setting. If you’re looking for fish, Bar Dorada offers excellent seafood dishes and has a 4-star rating on Google.

Located at Calle San Felix 15 Cadiz, El Faro de Cadiz has been serving good food to locals and visitors for over 50 years, and hold a TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence for continuous high praise from patrons.

If you’re looking for the best things to do in Cadiz during festival time, Barrio la Vina is one of the best districts to head for and has always played a big part in the organisation and running of the Cadiz Carnival.

12. Take time to chill with a relaxing beach day

If you think beautiful Cadiz is blessed with some of the best architecture in Andalusia, then take a look at its beaches.

Around the island city, are numerous golden sand beaches where you can enjoy water sports, have a lazy, lay-on-a-beach-bed day, or enjoy eating and drinking al fresco on the terrace of one of the many beach bars.

Being central to the city, La Caleta is a popular beach which grew in stature after scenes for the James Bond film, ‘No Time to Die’ were filmed there. However, due to its position and reputation, it can get busy during high season.

Victoria Beach is another amazing three-kilometre stretch of golden sand that fronts Cadiz’s only tourist resort area. At over 150 metres wide at low tide, you’ll find plenty of room to stretch out, even during the busy season.

The wide promenade runs along the coast, and will take you from one beach to another as you enjoy the cooling light breeze coming in off the ocean.

Outside Cadiz City, beaches to look out in Cadiz province in no particular order include:

  • Playa de San Telmo
  • Playa de San Fernando
  • Bolonia beach (Tarifa)
  • Zahara de Los Atunes beach (Barbate)
  • Los Alemanes beach
  • Costa Ballena beach (Rota)
  • Caños de Meca beach (Barbate)
  • Faro de Trafalgar beach (Barbate)

All are excellent beaches, with the majority holding the EU blue flag for cleanliness and at least the basics of facilities.

13. Is a local market one of your best things to see in Cadiz?

Although not as well blessed with markets as other cities in the country, the Mercado Central de Abastos in Cadiz is the oldest covered market in Spain, and dates to 1838.

In 1928, two large market pavilions were added, and today the market has over 150 stalls selling mainly fish, meats, spices, vegetables, bread and groceries, with a few general goods and souvenir stalls.

If plants and shrubs are your preference, you will find Las Flores Square and the local flower market nearby. The square is also a great place to rest a while, and soak up the atmosphere of busy Cadiz by day.

14. Reconnect with nature, on a visit to the Parque Genoves

Sometimes it’s just nice to head for the wide open spaces with no traffic noise, and chill in the fresh air. A pleasant 15-minute stroll from the market will bring you to Parque Genoves, the largest park in Cadiz, and located on the Paseo Mirador Santa Bárbara.

Since its inception in the 18th century, the park and gardens have been re-modelled and extended numerous times over the years.

Its early construction amounted to little more than a treeless patch of grass, which was expanded in 1854 to provide work for the locals, as well as a small barrier against the cholera epidemic sweeping the city.

It wasn’t until the Cuartel de la Columela barracks were demolished in 1863 that the first trees were planted. A mixture of various leafy species, of which the American cypress was the most prevalent.

In 1892, the park’s first major reconstruction was undertaken by the Mayor, Eduardo Genovés, and who the park is now named after.

The gardens were again extended, but this time with a lake, waterfall, fountains, new plants, trees, an auditorium and a café. 

A sculpture entitled ‘Children under the Umbrella‘ was erected along with a fountain sourced in Paris by the park’s director.

Today, the park is home to numerous commemorative monuments and sculptures to Cadiz’s great and good, and contains over 100 species of trees and shrubs, including:

  • A 100 year old Dragon Tree
  • An Iron Heart Tree from New Zealand. Said to be the best example in Europe
  • And two Monkey Puzzle Trees, now over 50m high

The park is also a haven for local bird and animal species and a favourite haunt with naturalists and bird watchers.

The park opens every day from 08.00 to 22.30 during the summer, and until 21.00 through the winter. Admission is free.

15. Enjoy a guided tour – and let someone else take the strain

Enjoy a Cadiz guided tour – and let someone else take the strain

Waking up in the morning and doing whatever takes your fancy has a lot going for it. But there is also a lot to be said for choosing guided tours to see the attractions you want to visit – especially so if time is of the essence.

We’ve already mentioned the option of guided walking tours of the city being great for visiting cruise passengers. But did you know there are also a number of guided cycling tours available.

Nowadays, many use environmentally friendly e-bikes, so you don’t have to do too much pedalling. Bikes and helmets are included in the package.

Exploring Cadiz by water is another favourite thing to do in Cadiz, and you can choose from numerous cruises. Consider a romantic dinner cruise for two including lunch or dinner with an aperitif and complimentary glass of wine.

Or maybe a family cruise with an optional lunch, where you cruise past Chiclana and San Fernando on the Costa de la Luz coast, and do a little swimming in the Bay of Cadiz.

Or you can choose a one hour daytime catamaran cruise, taking in some of the beaches and towns along the coast.

Finally, organised tours are also available to other areas of Andalusia, including the Doñana National Park – a UNESCO World Heritage Site – as well as cities like Jerez, Ronda and Seville.

Leave a comment