I’ve always wanted to visit Cadiz, so when the Spanish Tourist Office asked us to visit this enchanting destination, I was thrilled to be given the opportunity to discover its charms first-hand.
Cadiz forms a stunning part of Costa de la Luz, a section of the Andalusian coast line in south-west Spain known as the ‘Coast of Light’ given its year-round sunshine (more than 300 days), which provides the perfect opportunity for visitors to relax on the region’s 8km of beautiful beaches.
Founded by the Phoenicians more than 3,000 years ago, this ancient port city with a population of just over 120,000, is one of the oldest cities in western Europe. Many of the historic buildings are made from oyster rock formed in the sea, a popular building material that can withstand Cadiz’s high humidity. The skyline is characterised by 129 watchtowers, built so merchants could see their ships arriving in the harbour. One of the most famous towers, Torre Tavira, with its Camera Obscura, is the ideal place to take in the city views.
The old town of Cadiz with its stunning cathedrals and beautiful squares is the perfect size to wander aimlessly around, taking in the rich history of the buildings. Key highlights include Mina and Saint Antonio squares, The Botanical gardens and Ancha, renowned as the most beautiful street in Cadiz.
Sherry, sherry and more sherry
The Cadiz region is famous for its sherry, thanks to its soil (which contains a lot of calcium) and its climate (300 days of sunshine and plenty of rain), which combined provide the perfect growing conditions for the three grapes that are used to make sherry – Palomino, for dry sherry, and Pedro Ximenez and Moscatel for sweeter sherries.
Where to enjoy sherry and traditional Spanish cuisine in Cadiz
No visit to Cadiz is complete without a wine tasting at a traditional sherry bodega. We loved Bodegas Lustau (located just north of Jerez), one of the oldest wineries in Europe, and an ideal place to learn about everything you could ever want to know about sherry, including top tips such as serving it chilled paired with spicy food or mature cheese to bring out the best flavours.
To continue our sherry appreciation, we enjoyed lunch at sherry bodega La Carbona, a traditional family-run restaurant offering regional dishes made with high quality ingredients, and of course, lots of sherry! With its high ceilings, wooden beams and terracotta tiles, it provides an air of cool sophistication in the heat of Jerez. Here diners can experience the culinary delicacies of the region from one of three menus (a tasting menu, a la carte or sherry pairing).
We indulged in a five-course tasting menu, starting with a sherry-infused veal pate (a real taste bud tantaliser), followed by a light and delicious calamari and salmon risotto, which was bursting with flavour. Our favourite dish, however, was the divine duck with sherry and pears.
But first, flamenco
Andalusia is home to the birth of flamenco and with plenty of places in the region hosting flamenco shows, it’s a ‘must see’ experience. Typically, flamenco has four elements to it - hand-clapping, foot stomping, shouts of encouragement and what translates in English as ‘hell raising’.
I had my first taste of flamenco at Puro Arte in Jerez. The show typically lasts 60 minutes and demands your FULL attention. The intensity was unlike anything I had seen before; I was immediately mesmerised by the energy, the passion, and the connection between the performers.
If you’re seeking a traditional experience unlike any other, head to Sanlúcar de Barrameda to take in horse racing on the beach with a beautiful sunset serving as the backdrop for this spectacular race.
This racing tradition, which has been going for 175 years, was started by fisherman who used horses to help them be the first to get to the market. Today, thanks to big sponsors and a lucrative prize offering, this 1800-metre race attracts top quality horses and trainers from around the world.
Hundreds of locals and visitors line the beach to watch the action, tucking into sunset picnics while the horses whizz past. Local children also get involved, betting sweets on their favourite horses to win! At the finish line, viewing platforms and VIP areas provide places to bet, see the horses and have a drink.
The races generally start at 6pm – depending on the tide – and on average, there are four races per evening over three days twice a year in August. Horse fans should also ensure they visit the Royal Andalusian School of Equestrian Art, which hosts a programme of performances throughout the year by world renowned horses and riders.
Whatever your pleasure, Cadiz provides a wealth of experiences for all to enjoy. From spectacular beaches to historical treasures, it’s a unique destination that should be on everyone’s Spanish travel bucket list.
*During my visit I was hosted by The Spanish Tourist Office, The Soho Boutique Hotel in Jerez, and La Carbona. All opinions and images are my own.
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