Recently I headed down to the South of Spain for the first time to Cadiz. When I was living in London I had been told plenty of times that it was a must to get down to the little town of Cadiz, Spain. It was popular with the UK residents as a great summer vacation spot and a different alternative to Barcelona or one of the Spanish Islands.
I flew out of Barcelona airport with Vueling airlines and before I knew it had landed at Jerez airport, the closest airport to Cadiz, after the short 1 hour 20 min flight. When I landed, I instantly realised I was no longer in the city when disembarking the plane, we walked off facing a farm paddock before then turning and making our own way towards the airport terminal. No sign of the barricades and excess amounts of staff guiding you along the obvious direction you must take.
Once through the minimal security, I made my way to the closely located train station, bought my ticket, waited the 15 minutes for my train and then travelled the 45 mins to the coastal town of Cadiz, Spain.
As soon as I arrived it was obvious just how little this charming town was. From the Cadiz station, it was a short 10 min walk to my central Airbnb accommodation. On this walk, I was lucky enough to find a place that instantly grabbed my attention, a place advertising 40 cents canna’s (glass of beers). I took notice of my location and put it in the memory bank to return to after I had checked into my room, which I was soon to find out was in the ideal location and everything from here was a 10-15 min walk at the most. The host met me at the flat upon my arrival and she armed me with a map and circled all the must-see and do locations in Cadiz, Spain during my stay and then proceeded to highlight the locations of her favourite tapas places and drinking hotspots. She was a very helpful host and the flat was extremely large and super comfortable.
After gaining all the knowledge of Cadiz I left my room confident of finding plenty to do during my short stay. I started making my way towards the most famous landmark and building in Cadiz, the Cathedral. The streets were lovely as I walked my way aimlessly through and before too long, I had managed to negotiate my way to the front of my desired location. This was an impressive building indeed and the square surrounding it was a lovely place to relax in the sun in one of the many bars and tapas spots.
To enter the Cathedral, it cost 6 euro, I decided this wasn’t a priority for me but if the outside is anything to go by then I’m sure it’s beautiful inside as well. I continued to negotiate my way through the winding streets and eventually found my way out to catch my first glimpse of the Atlantic sea. The city is pretty much surrounded by the sea and no matter which way you walk you will eventually find it. It was the open sea on one side and a busy working harbour on the other.
The side of the open sea is built up from the water and has a large concrete wall you can look down from and out into the distance, it gives you some idea just how wild the Atlantic sea can get at times. The bird life is busy here with lots of seagulls flying overhead and searching for fish in the water. It was far windier here than it had been in the streets I had been walking through. The height of the buildings provides good shelter while negotiating your way through them, but they also limit the sun to shine through. I decided it was getting time for a beer and made my way towards the pub I had noticed when first arriving. It was fantastic value for money there and a huge difference to the prices I had come used to paying in Barcelona. I enjoyed 3 beers here and only just spent over 1 euro, incredible.
After reluctantly leaving these cheap beers behind I decided to walk back towards the Cathedral via some of the different small, narrow streets on offer. While in full tourist mode I found myself stumbling upon a procession, at a local church. It was a small service involving local children and adults, Cadiz, Spain is an extremely Catholic region as well as all of the Andalusian district. Once this service had passed, I continued my way back towards the Cathedral and the area of the main market square. It was not currently open but I took a mental image of where it was so I could return tomorrow and witness it full of local residents and businesses buying the freshest seafood, meats and vegetables.
I then found a place close to the market that was serving cold beer and Tapas and thought after a few hours of wandering the streets I deserved another refreshing beverage. I ordered the local beer called Cruzcampo and a tapas of Russian salad (Ensalada Rusa), this small Tapas dish only made me more eager for food and after finishing here I ventured onto a small locally run cafe that I had found on the internet with glowing reviews.
It was called Bar El Laurel, which was a small place with minimal decorations. At first glance, you could be excused for thinking it was going to be a bit of a letdown but let me tell you if you think that and leave you would be missing out on some fantastic locally cooked food and friendly service to match. The menu here changes depending on the produce they have been able to source that day, so you know it is going to be only the best and freshest ingredients. I opted for the carzon (fried dogfish) and carrilleras (pig cheek in red wine sauce). You also get bread and olives provided when you order your drink. The food was packed full of flavour and I enjoyed every mouthful. As you probably know by now, I enjoy sampling the local cuisine.
Once leaving I decided to walk back to my room via the Cathedral. This proved to be a great idea, the Cathedral looked simply stunning at night all lit up and the surrounding bars and restaurants provided great outside seating where you could sit and appreciate it fully. I enjoyed some wine here and didn’t get sick of the view at all. I was also talked into trying another Tapas dish of pollo con Pedro Ximenez (chicken with an alcoholic sauce) which was again full of flavour before making my way back through the streets and to my apartment to end the evening. Let’s just say I was pretty full after the food tour I had just been on.
Saturday started like any good Saturday should with a nice sleep in and waking up without the sound of an annoying alarm. I enjoyed breakfast at the Airbnb as this was supplied as part of my stay and then headed towards the most famous beach in the area, Playa La Caleta. It is a lovely sheltered beach that has two old castles on either side.
It is very popular with tourists for this reason, but I found myself a nice patch of sand and relaxed for the next few hours. I got a good dose of vitamin D in between annoying periods of cloud cover. There were an abundant amount of little fish jumping the whole time I was there only a few meters of shore and elsewhere in the bay.
After leaving the beach I walked out on the walkway to one of the castles to gain a lovely view looking back at the beach I had just enjoyed. I then ventured my way back to the local market I had found yesterday. On arrival, I found it full of activities with locals and tourists a plenty. The seafood was endless full of the freshest fish, prawns, oysters and mussels. On the outside, there were plenty of local stores selling all the produce from the market. I grabbed an 80 cent beer, double yesterday’s amazing bargain, and a snack of chicharrones (Pork pieces), the best beer snack.
Once finished in the market I made my way to a restaurant close by called Anca Lidia, it had once again been suggested to me by my Airbnb host. It was a restaurant that was famous in the area for its fried fish. I ordered just that in a variety plate and a side dish of vegetables. Both were tasty although I would have preferred a little more seasoning from a personal point of view. I also can’t help to think that frying all this fresh seafood is a little bit of a shame but as I try to do with all my travels, I eat and stay like a local as best I can.
After lunch, I took advantage of the low beer prices, compared to Barcelona, once again in the market and opted to buy one to enjoy while heading to the second beach to enjoy the afternoon sun. This beach was more open to the Atlantic and was generally where the locals seemed to head to enjoy their beach time.
It was pretty full and the clouds that had been coming and going all day had disappeared. This meant the temperature had climbed quite high and it wasn’t long before I took my first swim. I was expecting the water to be pretty chilly as had been the case in Portugal and Morocco during my last encounters with the Atlantic Ocean but to my surprise, it was far warmer and actually a very refreshing but pleasant temperature.
After watching a few newbies in the water that had hired a couple of surfboards from nearby I decided that they were having far too much fun for me not to get involved. I had zero surfing experience and it certainly showed, the waves were only small but actually perfect to learn on, they were also surprisingly more powerful than the size suggested. After an hour or so of attempting to stand up and look like Kelly Slater, I finally conceded that surfing wasn’t going to be for me, at least not on this day. I returned the board and spent the rest of the afternoon enjoying the lovely Spanish weather before heading back to the Airbnb to have a shower and rinse off the sand and salt water.
I am now an official Aussie surfer thanks to a recent trip to a Moroccan Surf Camp.
That evening I had researched a place with some great reviews on TripAdvisor and decided to check it out for myself. It was located in the Old Town of Cadiz, Spain a short 10-minute walk from my accommodation, as it turned out the streets were completely dead with hardly a person to be found. It was the final of the UEFA football tournament and Real Madrid was competing for the title, the only thing I could hear on my walk was the noise of TV’s televising the game from people’s apartments and the occasional roar when a shot was close to scoring.
When I arrived, I was shocked to find it was rated a Michelin star restaurant and soon looked at the menu outside to find the prices were a little higher than I was expecting to pay. I started to walk away thinking I would need to change my plans when I discovered that there were 2 eating options, the restaurant that I had found or just around the corner was a more relaxed bar option. The prices here reflected the change of atmosphere and I opted to give it a go.
The bar area was still a little fancier than the local ones I had been used to in the area, there was even fresh seafood on ice behind the bar. Once I ordered my selection of calamari, prawn type pancake (a local specialty) and Ham croquettes I soon discovered that the seafood I had seen on display was grabbed swiftly once someone has placed an order and delivered to the kitchen to prepare, this really proved just how fresh the seafood was.
The croquettes were seriously delicious and since arriving in Spain this had soon become one of my favourite things to eat, the prawn pancake had all the prawn flavour you could ever want and was super crunchy, it was a little oily but nothing a quick pat down with the napkin couldn’t fix and the calamari was as fresh as it had seemed behind the counter. Once again it was fried and had a slight flour coating over it but all in all, it was extremely tasty.
From here I negotiated my way back through the lovely narrow streets in the direction of where I was staying. I called into another local tapas place and enjoyed a glass or two of local wine. The perfect way to sign off a Saturday night. As it turned out Real Madrid had won the Football game and the streets were a lot livelier with people celebrating the victory.
Sunday morning started similar to the day before with a sleep in and breakfast at the apartment before heading to Torra Tower, famous for its views of the town. Once on the rooftop, I received amazing 360-degree birds- eye views of Cadiz, Spain. By now I could identify certain parts of the city that I had explored and enjoyed during my time here. The Cathedral and the main market place were large and easily noticeable from this vantage point, you could see out to the working harbour, the tourist beach I had spent my Saturday morning at and the large beach where I had tried my hand at surfing less than 24 hours before.
The views overall were fantastic and certainly gave you a great idea of the size and shape of the charming town I had been enjoying. Also included in the 6-euro entrance fee was the chance to get a visual tour of the city by a local guide. This was done very cleverly indeed by using a periscope type setup to project an image onto a round table. You in return gained real-life images from outside and she pointed out the main landmarks of importance throughout the city. You also were able to do some people watching and enjoy some light-hearted entertainment as the unsuspecting people went about their daily lives throughout the city. This was something I had never seen anywhere else before and a great invention. After returning to the roof to look more closely at some of the landmarks the guide had pointed out I left the tower and made my way towards the Botanical Gardens.
I hadn’t spent too much time previously on this side of the city and wanted to check it out. The gardens were very nicely maintained and actually not far from the beach I had spent my Saturday morning visiting. There are two famous trees located in the garden and they had famously been given to the city as a gift by way back when Cadiz was a major cog in the shipping trade industry. They are huge trees that cut an imposing presence throughout this part of the town.
From here I trekked back towards the main Cathedral in Town and found another lovely Café, so I called in to enjoy another Tapas style lunch. These were certainly something I was getting extremely used to and again the food was spot on. I continued my seafood theme by ordering an octopus and fish dish but this time making sure that neither were of the fried variety. I had finally worn myself out of fried seafood and was looking to eat something a little healthier. I also had a meatball in salsa dish and a cold soup styled dish called salmorejo. This dish was similar to one I had previously tried in Barcelona called gazpacho but this particular one was a little thicker.
After lunch I found myself back down on the beach where I had previously found out I was not a surfing natural, the temperature had climbed up to another impressive height, mid 20’s and perfect to rotate between sunbaking and enjoying a refreshing swim. The waves were nowhere to be seen today and the surfers had instead been replaced with plenty of locals playing different styles of Football games on the sand. Once it was cooling off, I made my way back to the Airbnb to freshen up and plan my attack for the last evening in Cadiz, Spain.
I opted to return to my favourite place I had experienced during my time in Cadiz called Bar El Laurel. Unfortunately, when I made my way there, I found the restaurant to be closed as it was a Sunday night. I was a little disappointed at first but then soon turned my attention to finding a replacement solution. After filtering through different options on TripAdvisor I settled for a local seafood favourite that had also got my attention previously when walking passed it previously.
Once I arrived, I was greeted by a super friendly waiter and he quickly showed me to an outside table. He explained the menu and recommended his suggestions which all sounded impressive and most importantly fresh, not fried. The meals coming out to fellow diners looked great and I used what I had seen to make a bit of a decision on what I ordered. I opted for the clams, freshly grilled cuttlefish, prawns in a garlic sauce and side of carrots in vinegar. All the food was washed down with a locally suggested bottle of wine to celebrate the ending to my lovely time down the south of Spain. The dinner, location and staff were all great and it was the best way possible to end my time at Cadiz, Spain.
The Monday morning, I opted to skip breakfast at the Airbnb and instead head for the famous local breakfast of churros and chocolate. I went to an establishment next to the main market that had built a reputation for having some of the best in the business. They were far thinner than I had previously seen and due to this was extra crunchy, even after I had applied a generous dipping of chocolate sauce on them. They were certainly not the healthiest way to start your morning but when on holidays healthy options are not always at the front of my priority list.
After, I made my way to the Cadiz train station and boarded the next train to Jerez, where I was scheduled to spend the afternoon and night checking out what it had to offer before making my way further up to Seville.
I left Cadiz, Spain having found a real love for the city, the seafood was lovely and fresh as I have mentioned throughout this whole blog but more than that the locals were unbelievably welcoming and helpful to any request I had. The Airbnb host started this when I arrived, and it continued until the moment I left the train station.
Overall Cadiz, Spain is great value for money as well with anything you wanted to do and has two lovely beaches to enjoy. If you get the chance over summer and you’re in Spain, you could do a lot worse than put this on your list of areas to visit.
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Happy Travels, Brodie