Spend 24 hours in Cadiz and it will get under your skin. It’s vibrant yet chilled, with glorious golden sandy beaches and beautiful historical architecture. Our guide will help you plan the perfect city break.
We’re warning you now, spend 24 hours in Cadiz and you won’t want to leave! Cadiz is intoxicating; a city that beguiles you. It gets under your skin and makes you long to live there. With its glorious golden sandy beaches, beautiful historical architecture, relaxing plazas, mouthwatering tapas bars, and a buzz that’s vibrant and chilled at the same time, Cadiz is the perfect Spanish city break. It’s an easy city to explore on foot but it’s also a city that many tourists overlook, and it’s all the more alluring for it.
James Bond film fans may feel like they’ve seen Cadiz before. You know that scene in Cuba from Die Another Day when an orange bikini-clad Halle Berry emerges from the sea whilst Pierce Brosnan looks on? It was shot on La Caleta beach in Cadiz, not Cuba.
Cadiz is in south-western Spain, the capital of the province of Cadiz. It’s a city with a spectacular setting, surrounded on three sides by the Atlantic Ocean. Whilst Andalucían cities such as Seville and Granada are on the well-trodden tourist path, Cadiz has managed to remain somewhat under the radar. We’re not sure why. It’s not exactly difficult to get to, but you can’t step off a plane straight into the city (see below for information on getting to Cadiz).
As far as we’re concerned, Cadiz has everything the perfect city should have. It’s remarkably clean and well cared for, its architecture is mesmerising, it has lots of green spaces, it is easy to explore, and it has its own identity. Orange trees are everywhere and catching the delicate scent as you walk along is simply divine. Add to that all of the wonderful places to eat and drink and a vibrant but relaxed atmosphere and you’ll wonder why you haven’t been here before.
What To Do With 24 Hours in Cadiz
Without a doubt, once you experience the city for yourself you’ll wish you had more than 24 hours in Cadiz. It’s a city that’s at its best when it’s absorbed rather than hurried through. Nevertheless, 24 hours is a good amount of time to see a lot of the sights and get a real feel for a city. As we said above, Cadiz is easy to explore on foot so you can see a lot. Alternatively, hop on a City Sightseeing open top bus and explore the city that way. Tickets are valid for 24 hours and two walking tours are included so it’s a fantastic way to see Cadiz. It’s also a particularly good option if you are visiting the city on a cruise and only have a few hours to explore.
The gorgeous views across the Atlantic Ocean are one of Cadiz’s highlights so walking along the sea walls and drinking them in is a good place to start. The city has some wonderful beaches but La Caleta beach is a great place to head if you’re short on time. Situated in the west of the city, the golden sandy beach is and crystal clear waters are very inviting. If you head in for a dip we’re willing to bet that you won’t be able to resist the urge to emerge from the water in a sultry fashion. After all, if Halle Berry can do it in Die Another Day we can all do it. Right? Erm….
La Caleta Beach is situated between two historical castles: Castillo de Santa Catalina and Castillo de San Sebastián. You can explore the former for free but the latter has been closed for some time for renovation and, apparently, is unlikely to reopen any time soon. The walk out to San Sebastián is beautiful, however, and worth doing for the views of the city from the sea.
Notable Historical Buildings
Head away from La Caleta beach along Calle Campo del Sur and you’ll see an arresting sight in the distance: Cadiz Cathedral (or Catedral de Santa Cruz de Cádiz). Construction of the cathedral started in the early 1700s and it was finally finished in 1838. The length of time it took to build has led to the striking blend of Baroque and Neoclassical styles. Like St Peter’s in Rome, St Paul’s in London and Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence, the roof of Cadiz’s cathedral has a remarkable dome at its centre (unlike, for example, the cathedrals of Milan, Paris and Salisbury which all have spires). The golden tiles of the dome gleam in the sunshine and are spectacular underneath a bright blue sky.
It’s well worth paying the entrance fee to visit Cadiz Cathedral (it was €6 when we visited). It’s as impressive on the inside as it is on the outside. An audio guide, entrance to the crypt, and access to the bell tower are all included in the admission. The Cadiz born composer, Manuel de Falla, is buried in the crypt (after whom the Gran Teatro de Falla is named).
On exiting the cathedral you can climb the east bell tower. The signs at the start say that it takes 10 minutes to climb, making climbing it seem an intimidating task. However, it’s actually fairly easy to ascend because you do so via ramps rather than stairs. Once at the top the views across the city and out to sea are magnificent. Be careful once you’re up there though – numerous signs warn you of the bells sounding every 15 minutes. We started to descend just before they rang and we were glad we did so…they are loud!
Nearby to the cathedral is the Iglesia de Santa Cruz, the original cathedral of Cadiz. It dates back to the 13th century and was the city’s cathedral until 1838. Most of the original building was destroyed after attacks in the 16th century and it underwent much restoration in the 17th century.
Close to the two religious buildings are the remains of a Roman Theatre. It dates back to the 1st century BC and was discovered in 1980 when the warehouse building on the site burned down. In Roman times the theatre had the capacity to hold 20,000 spectators, making it extremely large. This is same as the amphitheatre in Pompeii (Rome’s Coliseum is estimated to have had the capacity for 50,000 spectators).
If you have time, another place to visit with magnificent rooftop views of the city is the Torre Tavira. The tallest of the city’s remaining watchtowers (there were originally 160), dates back to 1778 and contains exhibitions about Cadiz’s history, as well as a camera obscura.
Tapas for Lunch
You’re bound to have built up a hunger after all of that walking and exploring. Satisfying that hunger in Cadiz is certainly no hardship! You can take your pick from the city’s tapas bars. Of the places we frequented, our favourite was Méson Cumbres Mayores. We were drawn in by the traditional interior, complete with hanging Iberian hams and garlic bulbs. The service was excellent and we left feeling refreshed. It was only afterwards that we realised that this place is included in many a ‘best tapas in Cadiz’ list. We can’t help feeling pleased that we discovered it for ourselves!
Méson Cumbres Mayores: Calle Zorrilla, 4, 11004 Cádiz
The Plazas and Green Spaces of Cadiz
A city on the coast with gorgeous historical architecture and fantastic places to eat will always get our vote. But throw in beautiful spaces to relax or stroll through and forget 24 hours in Cadiz, we’re ready to move there. The majority of the plazas are on the perimeter of the old city and, therefore, come with sea views.
Like the photograph at the beginning of this article, some of the plazas have fountains and mosaics. Others, like the Plaza España in the photograph below, have monuments. The Plaza España is the newest plaza, and the widest, in the old city. Completed in 1929, the towering monument is a tribute to Spain’s first written constitution, established in 1812 by the Cortes of Cadiz (the first Spanish legislature). Even if you only have a few minutes to relax during your 24 hours in Cadiz, this is a lovely place to do it in.
Our favourite green space in Cadiz is Parque Genovés. The park is more like a botanical garden as it contains over 100 species of trees and shrubs, including monkey puzzle trees, an Iron Heart tree (native to New Zealand) and a 100 year old Dragon Tree. As you stroll through you’ll see sculptures, a pond, a waterfall and a grotto. It’s such a beautiful space. There’s even a children’s park at the end closest to the Parador de Cadiz.
Dinner in Cadiz
The Spanish are known for having afternoon siestas and eating late at night, usually around 9pm. In Spanish cities such as Seville and Madrid, restaurants tend to stay open throughout the day so it’s not difficult to find somewhere to eat earlier in the evening. In Cadiz, most eateries close around 4pm and re-open at 8pm. If you want to eat dinner earlier, it’s not that easy to find somewhere to go. One place that serves food throughout the day is Café Royalty. And believe us, it’s certainly no hardship to eat here. Quite the opposite in fact!
Café Royalty first opened its doors in 1912. It quickly became one of Cadiz’s most popular spaces, frequented by anyone who was anyone in society. The composer, Manuel de Falla (the one who is buried in Cadiz Cathedral), used to give concerts here. However, in the 1930s, with the Spanish Civil War approaching, the café closed its doors and the building was left to ruin. In 2008 an ambitious restoration project was undertaken by the de la Serna Martin family and the doors reopened in 2012. Finally, Café Royalty’s lavish and stunning decor can be enjoyed and admired once again.
We visited Café Royalty in the late afternoon/early evening for tapas, cake, and cocktails. Not only were the dishes incredible, the service was excellent too. Truth be told, we were expecting it to be stuffy. We certainly weren’t expecting a place as opulent as this to be welcoming to children, but we shouldn’t have worried. Lots of families were there, enjoying refreshment together at the end of the school day. The place had a warm and convivial atmosphere and felt very special. It was a real highlight of our trip. Without a doubt, the next time we are in Cadiz we will be making a beeline for this place.
Café Royalty: Plaza Candelaria, 11005 Cádiz
The End of the Day
As night begins to fall the city livens up. People gather in the squares and the streets to catch up over drinks and dinner. This is a time to spend with family and friends and you’ll see lots of young children having fun, as well as adults. The evenings are also a good time for a bit of retail therapy as the shops are open late.
As the sun begins to set we recommend you head back to La Caleta beach. Watching the boats bob about in the water whilst the sky burns orange behind the castles is a magical experience. The perfect sunset to end the perfect day.
24 Hours in Cadiz – A Family Friendly City Break
Andalucia is a wonderful region in Spain to visit with young children. The people are friendly and enjoy engaging with children, the weather is warm, even in winter, and the sights, sounds, and tastes are the ultimate sensory experience. Cadiz is a perfect example of Spain’s welcoming attitude to the young ones.
We visited Cadiz for the first time just as our daughter was turning 1 and were pleasantly surprised by how great a city it is to explore with a little one. The restaurants have highchairs, it’s easy to find good changing facilities, and traversing the city with a buggy is no problem at all. If you’re looking for a family friendly city break you cannot go wrong with Cadiz.
The Spanish treat children as part of every day life and you’ll be extremely unlucky if you encounter anyone who gives you a dirty look when you enter a building, be it a restaurant, shop, or cathedral. Let’s face it, however long your city break is, and especially if you only have 24 hours in Cadiz, you’re going to want to explore and eat out. Knowing that you’re going to be welcomed in places makes things so much easier and more pleasant.
The only difficulty we encountered in Cadiz was finding somewhere to eat in the late afternoon/early evenings. As we said above, most places close between 4pm and 8pm. As new parents in the UK we’ve had it hammered into us that 7pm (if not earlier) is an appropriate bed time for a baby. Obviously dinner has to be before this. Spanish parents clearly don’t have this advice hammered into them because children (including infants) eat late with their parents.
The moral of the story is this: you either need to be organised and sort food out earlier in the day to give your child for dinner (we would love to be this organised), or you need to be prepared to delay dinner and bedtime until places start to re-open (we were not this brave), or you need to find somewhere that serves food all day. This was our chosen path but it is easier said than done. The only places we could find are Café Royalty (Plaza Candelaria, 11005 Cádiz) and Mamma Pronto (Calle Presidente Rivadavia, 2, 11001 Cádiz). Both were good and, as we said above, Café Royalty was excellent!
If you know of anywhere else in Cadiz serving food all day please let us know in the comments box at the end of this article.
What’s the Weather Like in Cadiz?
If you want to do a city break somewhere wet and cold, don’t do a city break in Cadiz! It is genuinely a year round destination, where the weather is either warm or hot and where rainfall is low throughout the year. It’d be bad luck if your 24 hours in Cadiz were not warm and sunny.
Cadiz is particularly popular to visit from May to September. Average temperatures are comfortably into the 20s (°C) and rainfall is at its lowest. These months are often described as the best months to visit due to the beautiful weather. What’s best is, however, entirely subjective. Our first time in Cadiz was in February. We had glorious sunny blue skies and the temperature was in the low 20s (°C). It was so warm that we were able to walk around in shorts and t-shirts! Not only that, there were hardly any tourists and hotel rates were low. Win, win, win!
It’s carnival time in Cadiz at the end of February and the whole city gets involved. Lasting over two weekends, there are processions, fancy dress (which is practically mandatory!), and fireworks. The emphasis is very much on light-hearted fun and entertainment.
‘Pre-Carnival’ is a huge event in itself when singing competitions take place at the Gran Teatro Falla. It lasts for 20 days! The final is televised and watched by hundreds of thousands of people.
Where To Stay in Cadiz
We stayed in the Parador de Cadiz and highly recommend it. Not only is it the perfect base for exploring the city, it’s immaculate, stylish, and a comfortable place to stay too.
The hotel has an unbeatable location by the sea, with La Caleta beach on one side and Parque Genovés on the other. One of the things that makes this hotel truly special is the fact that all of the rooms have floor to ceiling glass doors and balconies to really make the most of the glorious views. And when we say glorious views, we mean panoramic vistas over the city and as far as the eye can see over the Atlantic Ocean!
When we booked our stay our daughter had only just started sleeping through the night. After 10 solid months of broken sleep we weren’t taking any chances and decided to book a junior suite so she could sleep separately from us. The room was astonishing! It was absolutely beautiful and also huge! It had two bathrooms for goodness sake. That’s right, two bathrooms.
The separate living room was perfect for setting a little one’s cot up in (the cots provided by the hotel are excellent – they have proper mattresses and even come with their own teddy bear. Such a lovely touch). Both the living room and the bedroom had floor to ceiling glass doors leading out to a balcony. As we said above, the views were spectacular. Sitting up in bed and opening the automatic blackout blind was quite the event. It will be hard to beat watching the sunrise over Cadiz from the comfort of the Parador de Cadiz.
We enjoyed our stay at the Parador de Cadiz so much that it’s made it into our article about our fantastic accommodation experiences around the world.
How To Get To Cadiz
The closest airport to Cadiz is Jerez de la Frontera Airport. It’s only 45 kilometres (28 miles) from Cadiz and there are direct bus and train routes, taking around an hour. Fly direct to Jerez from elsewhere in Spain (such as Madrid, Barcelona, and Bilbao), from the UK (London Stansted), and from Germany (including from Stuttgart, Dusseldorf, and Frankfurt). If you travel by car the transfer from Jerez Airport to Cadiz takes just under 40 minutes.
Seville Airport is approximately 130 kilometres (80 miles) from Cadiz. Although there are not any public transport links directly from the airport, it’s around a 30 minute bus ride to Seville’s main train station – Sevilla Santa Justa – and then 1 hour 30 minutes by train to Cadiz. Alternatively, it takes about 1 hour 20 minutes by car. Seville Airport is a better option than Jerez for most because flights land from lots more European countries, as well as Morocco.
A third option is to land at Malaga Airport and transfer from there. More flights land at Malaga airport than Seville, including from more countries in Europe and from Montreal, Canada. The airport is 230 kilometres (142 miles) from Cadiz and it’s just under 2 hours 30 minutes to drive. The alternative is to transfer from the airport to Malaga itself, then take a 4-hour bus journey to Cadiz. When we visited the city we flew into Malaga airport from Bournemouth and then hired a car to drive to Cadiz.
As you can tell, we LOVED Cadiz! 24 hours in Cadiz is a good amount of time to get to know the city, but if you can stay for longer then we really think you should. In our opinion, it’s a city to get to know by relaxing in it and absorbing the Spanish way of life.
Have you been to Cadiz? We’d love to know about your time in the city. Tell us about it in the comments box below or get in touch via one of the methods on our contact us page.