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Downtown Cádiz

Downtown Cádiz (Kat Nickola)

The ancient city of Cádiz can be seen across the Bay of Cádiz from Rota. It is one of the oldest continuously occupied cities in Europe and makes a great day trip destination.

Cádiz was founded as early as 1100 BC by Phoenician traders who called it Gadir. At the time, the bustling trading port was made up of two islands. Nowadays, Cádiz is connected to the mainland by a sliver of sand. You can visit the ancient city at the free Yacimiento Arqueológico Gadir, an archaeological site of Phoenician houses that now lies under Cádiz.

Cádiz skyline from atop the cathedral

Cádiz skyline from atop the cathedral (Kat Nickola)

Over time, Cádiz was absorbed into the Roman Empire and the city’s name evolved into Gades. It became a thriving, wealthy port and naval base. Today you can visit the Teatro Romano de Cádiz for free to wander under the amphitheater stands and learn about life in Roman Gades.

Later, under Muslim rule, the city was called Qādis which translated into Cádiz following the Reconquista.

Tunnel under the Teatro Romano de Cádiz

Tunnel under the Teatro Romano de Cádiz (Kat Nickola)

A short walk from the amphitheater through the cobbled alleyways will lead you to the Arco de la Rosa. It is one of the few vestiges of the medieval city wall. Just beyond the arch the tiny alley opens onto a palm-tree lined plaza with the Catedral de la Santa Cruz de Cádiz and the Iglesia de Santiago. The small Iglesia, or Church of Saint James, marks the starting point for the Camino de Santiago’s Via Augusta route. The huge baroque cathedral took over 100 years to build in the 1700s and has an ornately decorated interior with numerous chapels and relics, a display of religious trappings and a massive crypt. Your ticket includes a visit to the tower, which is accessed from a separate door outside. After a winding climb up the ramp (not stairs), the view from the top is incredible and the bells will chime right over your head.

Catedral de la Santa Cruz de Cádiz

Catedral de la Santa Cruz de Cádiz (Kat Nickola)

For food, you cannot beat lunchtime in the Mercado Central. In the morning, the central aisle of this market is busy with produce and fish vendors. Around 1 p.m., however, the outer aisles begin to set up and open for lunch. It is a great place to taste new tapas and pinxtos (tapas on a baguette) since you can buy them individually from display cases.

Pinxtos at the Mercado Central

Pinxtos at the Mercado Central (Kat Nickola)

Christopher Columbus sailed to the Americas from the port of Cádiz on two of his voyages. It became a target for pirates and raids since it had become the homes port for the Spanish treasure fleet. To protect these assets, a series of fortifications and sea walls were built along the western waterfront over the centuries. The Castillo de Santa Catalina was built in the 1600s and reflects the style Spanish conquistadors would carry to their forts in the southwestern United States. Across the small Caleta Beach is access to the long causeway out to the Castillo de San Sebastian, built in the 1700s. The castle has been used in James Bond and Die Hard films. The walk out along the causeway is windy, even in nice weather, but the castle is often closed. At low tide, it is fun to explore the tide pools and coastline below the fortifications.

You can get to Cadiz via the ferry from Rota’s port or you can drive. Paid parking at the train station is straightforward and within easy walking distance from the old town.

Castillo de Santa Catalina

Castillo de Santa Catalina (Kat Nickola)

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Kat is a travel and lifestyle writer based in Kaiserslautern, Germany with a special interest in anything outdoorsy or ancient. She has a bachelor’s degree in geography from Penn State University and has been a travel writer for a long while. Currently, she is in the depths of an archaeology dissertation for a degree at the University of the Highlands and Islands.

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