The good life – slow

Right at the bottom of Spain, sits an Andalusian ancient port city; Cadiz. Connected with mainland Spain via a bridge, Cadiz is surrounded by water and seemingly cut off from the rest of the world. For decades it’s been attracting cruise ships, students, local tourists and fiesta-lovers having one of the country’s most well-known carnivals.

Here you’ll find winding streets, small tapas bars, quaint squares and buzzing street life, all before the sun dips into the Atlantic Ocean. The old town’s energy, the friendliness of the locals, the divine food and the myriad cobbled streets will entice any visitor.

It’s a slow pace of life so don’t rush your days there. That said only two to four days are needed to get your dose of Cadiz-fornia. The town is split into two parts; the new part and the old town, el casco antiguo as it’s known. That’s where you’ll want to go, that’s where Cadiz’s beauty lays.

Facing Africa, the area’s climate tends to be warm throughout the year that means you can jump in the sea in April-May and surf almost year-round. The evenings can get chilly though and as the town is only surrounded by sea, it can get quite windy.

Its plain air environment makes it the perfect setting for sunset-watching with no buildings distracting the sun’s descend into the water. The best place to see it is of course at the beach. La Caleta beach is a popular option with its parked small boards adding a sweet touch. Playa Santa Maria, however, is an even better location as the beach goes on for miles and there’s a perfect view of the coastline.

Must Do’s

For an extended vista of Cadiz, Torre Tavira is the highest point of the old town and offers panoramic views to feast the eyes. Ascending the tower is the camara obscura, an optical instrument projecting real-life images happening across town on a canvas. This is a unique tour of Cadiz as the guide explains the history and the monuments of the town offering a 360° birds-eye view.

A little bit further down the tower is a grand monument of Cadiz. The 18th-century Cathedral with its golden dome is a distinct feature of the town and it has several architectural points of interest. Its sheer size will draw you to it and if you look closely, it is a blend of styles and epochs. Its baroque style was cut short when the first architect abandoned the project. From then, it took 116 years to be completed and now also includes rococo elements and neoclassical design.

There are a total of 16 chapels inside and you can visit the Cathedral daily or attend the mid-day mass on Sundays. Find prices and opening hours here.

A short walk from there is the famous market of Cadiz where local producers and merchants sell their fresh goods. Find fruit, vegetables, meat, fish, cheese and a few baked goods. On the outer sides of the market, a few bars sell tapitas to be enjoyed with a cold beer.

Right outside the market is the post office and one of its most fascinating features is the lions’ mouths on its walls. Decorating the side of the building, the open lion’s mouth is where you drop off your postcards and letters to be sent around the world. It makes the postcard experience all the more exciting!

Best explored on foot, Cadiz works up an appetite quite quickly. It’s hard not to go hungry with a tapas bar filling every corner. Though the town is best known for its fried fish, Cumbres Mayores just off Plaza Mina is a meat-loving eatery that should be at the top of your to-do list.

Split into two parts, the restaurant has bigger dishes and table seating. The bar, where the majority of the locals sit, offers delicious tapas and drinks. With garlic strings and ham legs hanging from the ceiling, this quaint bar has all the right atmosphere going for itself.

Try the albondigas en Roquefort (meatballs in a Roquefort cheese sauce), robo del toro (bull’s tail) and the dates wrapped in bacon.


For a heartfelt touch of Spain, Pena Flamenca La Perla puts on flamenco performances most Fridays at 10 pm and is located in the seafront of Calle Concepcion Arenal in the Barrio de Santa María. Right next to it is El Pelicano, a music cafe-bar with several live music nights. Open also in the afternoon, it’s a great place for your cafe con leche overlooking the sea.

Oozing live jazz sounds is Cambalache jazz bar that invites local and foreign musicians to perform. Live acts are usually on every Thursday and, true to Spanish culture, performances start quite late, around 10 pm-11 pm. Find it on Calle Jose del Toro 20.

Just down the road is a beautiful boho library-café, La Clandestina. Besides delicious cakes, tostadas and coffee, this cute café also doubles up as a bookstore and a library to pick your favourite literature novel to dig into.

Even in the shortest visit to Cadiz, you will quickly realize that a fair amount of walking goes into seeing it. Its narrow, winding streets don’t allow for many cars to pass through and even the locals mostly depend on their feet and bikes.

Truth be told, even if you skip the guidebooks and just aimlessly walk the streets, they will probably show you all you need to see. The real beauty of Cadiz, its raw, authentic self is best found within its people, its ordinary eateries, squares and the bars that don’t like they have much to offer. Even the most regular corners can hide an expected surprise because Cadiz holds a peculiar touch that makes you want to stay.


Images: Eleni Philippou (except 7 & 8)