Iberian delights of a Mediterranean cruise include day-long shore excursions to the famous Andalusian city of Seville with its imposing cathedral and royal palace. Many cruise passengers whose ships call at Cádiz, a city on the Costa de la Luz (the Coast of Light) in the Andalusia region of Spain, immediately head out of town. It’s understandable, as in addition to the nearby treasures of Seville, the delicious sherries of nearby Jerez de la Frontera beckon, as well.
But Cádiz founded 3,000 years ago by the Phoenicians, who named it Gadir — later, the Romans called it Gādēs), has much to offer travelers. Some noteworthy offerings include excellent Spanish architecture from bygone eras, good beaches, and delicious regional cuisine.
Here are some of the Cádiz attractions I have enjoyed during my three visits to the city.
The city’s impressive Roman Catholic Cathedral has an eye-catching egg-yolk-yellow dome that can be seen from the outer decks as vessels approach the port. The cathedral’s architecture includes elements of Baroque and Neoclassical styles. The tomb of distinguished Cádiz-born composer Manuel de Falla (who gave the world the “Ritual Fire Dance,” among many other compositions) is in the Cathedral’s crypt. For a small fee, visitors can tour this magnificent cathedral. Nearby are the partially-excavated Roman Theatre dating from around 70 B.C. and the Parroquia de Santa Cruz or Santa Cruz Church, consecrated as the city’s cathedral in 1263, and now a Roman Catholic church. On one of our visits to Cádiz during Holy Week, some of the religious processions with bands and floats left from the Santa Cruz Church and wound their way to the Cathedral.
Beaches like Playa de la Victoria, Santa Maria, La Cortadura and La Caleta are well worth a visit. The latter, in the old town, is framed by the Castillo de Santa Catalina and the Castillo de San Sebastián. The average temperature of the waters is a tad too cool for a Floridian like me—around 73˚ in July—but the sun and the scenery can’t be beat.
Cádiz City Hall
A beautiful Neoclassical building that dates from the 18th century, Cádiz City Hall has a façade that rises over a polished brick portico supported by semicircular arches. Its balcony features beautiful Ionic columns crowned by a triangular pediment with a relief of Hercules, the mythical founder of the city. The interior of the building has a square courtyard with a white marble statue of Hercules in one of the bays. The City Hall is open to the public on Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., provided no events are taking place. However, we went on a different day and asked the entrance’s security guard about the Hercules statue. He beamed and took us right in to see it! Admission is free.
Also known as Torre Tavira, the Tavira Tower is the perfect place for panoramic views of Cádiz. In its heyday during the 18th century, Cádiz was a key Spanish port of trade with the West Indies. Torre Tavira has exhibits that tell the story of the city and has an observation deck and a camera obscura, which projects real-time images of what is happening outside the tower. Admission here is six euros.
Cádiz Central Market and the Plaza de las Flores
The Central Market, a massive covered place in the Plaza de la Libertad, has all manner of meats, fish, fruits and local produce. It’s a great place to look around and learn about what people eat in Cádiz and if you wish, also have your lunch there. Sample such goodies as fried baby shrimps sold in paper cones. Regarding food, give your taste buds a treat by trying some local delights in the city’s markets, restaurants and cafés, particularly langoustines and other fresh seafood, Jamón ibérico (Iberian ham), sherries from Jerez, turrón (a kind of nougat) and chocolate con churros (cocoa with fried pastries). Near the Central Market is Plaza de las Flores, where vendors sell lovely flowers. Why not pick up a fresh, fragrant bouquet to adorn your cabin?
Doñana National Park
This UNESCO World Heritage site is a must: Doñana National Park is a natural reserve with shallow streams, sand dunes and marshes ideal for bird watching. Admission is free for hikers and cyclists.
If you’re ready to see everything to explore in Cádiz, take a look at upcoming cruises to this Spanish gem.