Looking out across the rolling immensity of the Atlantic ocean, the city of Cádiz, perched on the southwest coast of Spain, is one of the oldest inhabited cities in Europe.
Situated at the end of a long sand spit on what was once an island, it has been like a little world unto itself since the Phoenicians first came here some 3,000 years ago.
Cádiz sightseeing guide
While Cádiz offers fewer major monuments than some of its counterparts, there is still history and architecture aplenty.
From the cathedral and the recently uncovered Roman theatre in the old Barrio del Pópulo, to the famed fish market and merchants’ watchtowers, the city has a character all of its own.
Stroll along the seaside garden promenades and through the gracious squares dating from the city’s 18th-century economic heyday to the iconic Balneario (bathhouse) on Caleta beach, with its tiny fishing boats anchored in the bay, and the stone causeway leading to the 1706-built Castillo de San Sebastián fortress.
To the south of the city, heading out into the province of Cádiz, the white sand beaches of the Costa de la Luz stretch as far as Tarifa at the southern tip of Spain, not far from Gibraltar.
In late spring and early summer this stretch of coast is where the annual tuna catch, the Almadraba, takes place. A visit to the local fish markets in Conil (about 43km down the coast from the city by road), Barbate (66km) and Zahara de los Atunes (75km) is well worth the effort, as are the Roman ruins of Baelo Claudia in Bolonia, between Zahara and Tarifa.
In the nearby Sierra de Grazalema mountain range you’ll find a number of Andalucía’s famous white villages perched on rocky hilltops, including Vejer nearer the coast (62km), and inland Arcos de la Frontera (65km), while in the north of the range sit Grazalema itself (111km) and Zahara de la Sierra (116km).
Cádiz wine country: wineries to visit
In the northern part of the province, bordered by the towns of Jerez de la Frontera, El Puerto de Santa María and Sanlúcar de Barrameda, is the famous ‘Sherry triangle’ with the production of all Sherry wines governed by the Denominaciones de Origen of Jerez and Manzanilla.
The Vino de la Tierra de Cádiz regional appellation oversees the production of unfortified still wines (vinos de pasto) throughout the province, and is gaining a reputation for the quality and individuality of its wines.
Some bodegas are using native grape varieties, such as Tintilla de Rota and Uva Rey.
Just outside Jerez is Bodegas Luis Pérez, founded in 2002 by Luis Pérez Rodriguez and his family with the aim of recovering some of the indigenous grape varieties of the region to produce both Sherry and non-fortified wines.
The original Vistahermosa farmhouse, located in the countryside and surrounded by its own vineyards on the El Corchuelo estate, is still in use, though a new modern winemaking and office facility has been built alongside.
Visits include a tour of the vineyards and winery, and a wine tasting in the elegant main room of the farmhouse.
Set in some 90 hectares (ha) of rolling hills overlooking the Bornos reservoir (an area also known as ‘the Tuscany of Spain’) east of Arcos de la Frontera, the vineyards and winery of Huerta de Albalá are the life’s work of the late Vicente Taberner Carsi, the result of his dream of creating a great Andalucían red wine.
Visits are by appointment and are available Monday to Saturday. They include tours of the vineyards, winery and cellar, and a sampling of the bodega’s Barbazul and Taberner brand wines.
Bodega Tesalia was bought in 2007 by Richard and Francesca Golding when they came to Arcos from London and fell in love with the countryside on the edge of the Grazalema range.
Their aim became to create high-quality red wines, now marketed under the names Tesalia, Arx and Iceni. As well as the vineyards and winery, the estate is used for breeding horses and general agriculture.
Visits are run by daughter Natalia and are available by appointment only.
In 2007, Alejandro Narváez and Rocío Aspera took over the derelict estate formerly known as El Olivar de Forlón, just outside El Puerto de Santa María, and began the work of restoring the old vineyards, olive groves and orchards.
Thus Bodega de Forlong was born. It is truly a labour of love – and especially a love and respect of terroir, in this case the local chalky albariza soil, with the wines expressing both the distinct and subtle differences between plots.
The winery specialises in a delightful range of artisanal and ecological wines. Visits are available upon request.
More than 150 years ago, brothers Primitivo and Tomás Collantes arrived in Chiclana de la Frontera from their northern home near Santander and set up their first winery, making wines from the local Palomino grapes.
In 2014, with grandson Primitivo at the helm, Bodegas Primitivo Collantes expanded on its full range of of DO Jerez Sherry wines to include dry and semi-sweet still wines, and more recently has also recovered the indigenous Uva Rey variety.
Due to its seaside location, towards Cádiz city itself, Chiclana benefits from the sea breezes to maintain the high quality of its biologically aged wines (aged under a layer of flor yeasts that protect it from the effects of oxygen).
Visits to the bodega are offered Mondays to Fridays.
Founded in 1838 this classic-style bodega, with its arches and high ceilings (affectionately known as Sherry cathedrals) has been owned by the Gutiérrez family for more than 100 years.
Visits are available Monday to Saturday at 11am (booking required) and include a winery tour and Sherry tasting.
My perfect day in Cádiz
I always love starting the day with a market visit, and the Mercado Central in Cádiz is one of my favourites, but today we have to be at the Maritime Port Terminal to catch the 9.55am catamaran to El Puerto de Santa María.
A pleasant 35-minute glide across Cádiz bay, and then just up the Guadalete river, leaves you pretty much at the doorstep of Bodega Gutiérrez Colosía. As noted above, visits are available Monday to Saturday at 11am, with booking required.
Lunch & Afternoon
After your bodega visit you’ll have time for a quick Sherry cocktail next door at Bespoke, run by daughter Carmen Gutiérrez, before heading to local seafood and wine mecca Restaurante El Faro de El Puerto for an unforgettable lunch.
Chef and owner Fernando Córdoba not only offers one of the best traditional menus in the province of Cádiz but, since opening in 1988, he has amassed an incredible wine cellar of more than 800 references, mostly Spanish, with about 220 available by the glass.
Sommelier Javier Manso is on-hand to guide you; when you book, you can request the option of starting your meal with aperitifs inside the magnificent 150m2 bodega.
After lunch, a short train ride will bring you back to Cádiz.
Once rested up, start off your evening with a glass of Sherry straight from the barrel at Taberna La Manzanilla on Calle Feduchy before stopping in at Mesón Cumbres Mayores for its exquisite Ibérico pork dishes.
One of the many things I love about Cádiz is that nothing is very far to walk and that any route you take back to your hotel will include pretty streets, parks, squares and perhaps a seaside stroll. Perfect.
Your Cádiz address book: Where to stay, eat and shop
Traditional luxury in an 18th-century neoclassical-style merchant palace on the edge of Cádiz old town, with splendid rooftop views of the port and across the city.
A perfect blend of classical Andaluz and Moorish architecture combined with modern comfort in a beautifully restored 18th-century house in the old city centre.
A thoroughly modern version of Spain’s famous Parador hotels, the Atlántico has all the luxuries you’d expect including a gym, spa and pool, in a perfect seafront setting with stunning views.
Best Cádiz restaurants
If you haven’t been to Casa Manteca you haven’t been to Cádiz. They’ve been serving traditional charcuterie and Sherry in their tiny bullfight memorabilia-festooned bar since 1953 and it’s a natural starting point for pre-lunch or -dinner tapas. Their new freiduría (bar selling fried fish) across the street is also worth a visit.
Chef Luis Callealta developed professionally alongside such great names as Angel León of Aponiente in El Puerto and Martín Berasategui near San Sebastián on Spain’s north coast – both three-star Michelin. This new venture, near the cathedral, combines classic culinary excellence and professional service based on locally sourced quality products, with an excellent wine list to match.
Three generations of the Córdoba family and almost 60 years in the business have made El Faro de Cádiz one of the best known spots in the city for local fish and seafood, with tapas bar or restaurant options and an impressive wine list.
Just outside the old city, this is the place to go for locally sourced gourmet quality produce (from wines and conserves to olive oil and cheeses), cosmetics, and everything in between. You can order online, too.
Founded in 1837 with major renovations completed in 2009, the Central Market is the hub of commercial activity in the city. It has the full usual range of fresh produce, but the star of the show is the fabulous fish market, with plenty of small bars and shops lining the outside walls to refresh yourself and enjoy a snack.
Sherry Wines Shop
A great place to stock up on Sherry and vermouth from Bodegas Lustau in this charming stall located on the outer parade of the Central Market (stall No6). And of course you can try before you buy.
How to get to Cádiz
There are frequent flights from various destinations in Europe to Seville and Jerez de la Frontera with easy train connections to Cádiz.