Cadiz Introduction Walking Tour, Cadiz

Cadiz Introduction Walking Tour (Self Guided), Cadiz

Cadiz is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in Western Europe. Some say Cadiz was founded by Hercules after performing his tenth labor, wherein he slew Geryon, the three-headed monster, and stole his herd of red cattle. Others say no. They say the city was founded by Phoenician seafarers who beached their black ships on the sandy island of Erytheia three thousand years ago.

Phoenicians were followed by Carthaginians, Romans, Germanic tribes, Byzantines, Arabs, and finally, Castilians under Alphonso X. In the 18th century, Cadiz was the only trading port between Spain and the Americas. It lasted until 1778 when the right to trade with the Americas was expanded to most ports in mainland Spain.

The Old City consists of narrow, twisting alleys that hook up with large squares.

Cadiz has more than 160 towers. The tallest, Tavira Tower, was the official lookout tower for the town. The city has palatial houses in the neoclassical and "Isabelline" style, colonnaded porticos, grand staircases, cupolas, domes, and balconies faced in colored Genoan marble.

Remains of the Phoenician settlement are preserved. The Roman Theatre was discovered in 1980. Gateways of stone dating from 1300 are cut into the walls. The Castle of San Sebastian stands at one end of popular Caleta Beach. The Castle of Santa Catalina guards the other end.

Besides the grand watch towers, churches, and parks, there are more than fifty listed places to eat. Restaurants and bars are jammed under the trees of the Street of the Virgin of Palma.

In the evening, the sea breeze floats the song of flamenco, very like the call to prayer of a muezzin. One comes upon a troupe of musicians clapping out a rhythm. Dancers take turns spinning and stamping.

So much music, so much food, mystery, awesome architecture, and so little time.
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Cadiz Introduction Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Cadiz Introduction Walking Tour
Guide Location: Spain » Cadiz (See other walking tours in Cadiz)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 10
Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.8 Km or 1.7 Miles
Author: nataly
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Saint John of God Square (Plaza de San Juan de Dios) and Old Town Hall
  • Teatro Romano (Roman Theatre)
  • Cadiz Cathedral and Square
  • Mercado Central (Central Market)
  • Yacimiento Arqueologico Gadir (Gadir Archaeological Site)
  • Torre Tavira (Tavira Tower)
  • Gran Teatro Falla (Grand Theatre Falla)
  • Parque Genoves (Genoves Park)
  • Castillo de Santa Catalina (Castle of Santa Catalina)
  • Playa de La Caleta (La Caleta Beach)
Saint John of God Square (Plaza de San Juan de Dios) and Old Town Hall

1) Saint John of God Square (Plaza de San Juan de Dios) and Old Town Hall

Saint John of God Square (La Plaza de San Juan de Dios), the primary square in Cadiz, is also called Corredera Square (Plaza de la Corredera). The ancient port of Cadiz was situated on islands just outside the inner harbor. As in so many other medieval cities, the square was established outside the city walls. Access was through the sea-facing gate, today the "Arch of the People."

The square was constructed in the 15th century, partly on land reclaimed from the sea. The walls of the city facing the sea were demolished in 1906, and the area of the square was enlarged. In the 18th century, the Consistorial Houses built in the previous century were demolished to make way for the Ayuntamiento (Town Hall).

The "Isabelline" Gothic facade of the Town Hall was added in 1865 by architect Manuel Garcia del Alamo. The pediment of the facade holds a bas-relief of the god Hercules, the reputed founder of Cadiz, which was then called Gadeira. The town is old, even by European standards. It was old when Hannibal came to visit in the Second Punic War.
Teatro Romano (Roman Theatre)

2) Teatro Romano (Roman Theatre)

The Roman Theatre (El Teatro Romano) in Cadiz, also called Balbi Theatre (Teatro Balbi), remains only partially uncovered. It was discovered in 1980. Its official address is C. Meson, 11,13 11005, in the present-day El Populo district of Cadiz. The theatre was built circa 70 BC.

The famed Roman politian Lucius Cornelius Balbus ("the Elder") was born in Cadiz and was mates with Julius Caesar. Lucius and his nephew, Balbus, were endeavoring to expand the boundaries of Gades (Cadiz). They wished to build the Neapolis (New City). So far, an amphitheater and the Roman Theatre have been unearthed.

The Roman Theatre was abandoned near the end of the 3rd century AD. It was plundered a bit from that time through the next century. The remains did see some use as storerooms, stabling, and even housing into the Middle Ages. It provided foundations for the Moorish fort called "Castle of the Theatre."

Although the digs are still incomplete, the Roman Theatre is considered the oldest and perhaps the largest of its kind in all of Spain. It has a horseshoe auditorium and parabolic seating in tiers. Under the seating was a distribution gallery with circular barrel vaulting. The outside wall is of hewed ashlar stone.

The new Theatre Visitors' Center features accurate models of the excavated theatre. There are three areas of study. The "Theatre of Neapolis," the "Castle of the Theatre," and finally, the "Theatre of Balbus."
Cadiz Cathedral and Square

3) Cadiz Cathedral and Square (must see)

The 18th century was the golden time of Cadiz. Rich with wealth from the Americas, it was important to have a cathedral grander and taller than the Giralda of Seville (the bell tower of Seville Cathedral). The effort was started by architect Vicente de Acero, who had also built the Granada Cathedral. Acero quit in a dispute with the Head of Works in 1739.

This period of construction under different architects lasted until 1838. The project was carried on successively by architects Gaspar Cayon, Miguel Olivares, Manuel Machuca and finished by Juan Daura. This resulted in a series of styles morphing from Baroque to Rococo to Neoclassical.

The Cathedral is laid out in the traditional Latin cross plan. It has three naves and a pentagonal ambulatory. Except for the dome top of the ambulatory, the vaults are supported by rows of Corinthian columns. The altar is raised. Under it is a spacious crypt. Chapels are in the naves. In the choir are two highly valued great organs.

The 184-foot Clock Tower, also known as Levante Tower, is a principal attraction of the Cathedral. The top of the tower offers vast panoramic views of the El Populo district, the ocean, the South Field (Campo del Sur), the Promenade, and the city's harbor. The Cathedral shares the Square with its 1669 predecessor church, Old Cathedral (Catedral Vieja), dedicated to the Holy Cross.

The Square was part of the urban reform of 1721 that also ultimately produced the (new) Cathedral of Cadiz. Houses were demolished to create an open space before the Cathedral. The Square is not a regular shape. It runs parallel to the seashore and is paved with white marble.

The Rose Arch (Arco de la Rosa) is an access gate to the Town Castle. It was also a passageway to the old Tablas Square (Plaza de las Tablas), which was re-formed to become Cathedral Square. Besides the Cathedral and the old Church of Santa Cruz, the square is home to the Jesuit Church of Santiago, built in 1563.

Mercado Central (Central Market)

4) Mercado Central (Central Market) (must see)

The old Farmers' Market of Cadiz became the site of the Central Market in the late 1890s. Architect Torcuato Benjumeda designed the new market. He was also the designer of the Town Hall and the Church of Saint Joseph. The concept was for an open quadrangle of space lined with classical Doric-style columns.

A roof was placed over part of the original space of the Convent of the Shoeless (Convento de los Descalzos). This is the central pavilion of the market today. To answer a growing demand for produce, two open wings with columns were added to either side of the main building. A major refurbishment took place in the early 2000s.

There are at least 170 stands in the market selling fish, fruit and vegetables, meat, groceries, baked goods, and bread. Among them are three stands selling pickles, paper bags, and fishing gear. Most of the stands in the central pavilion feature a variety of fish and seafood.

The wing on the left of the entrance is home to the Rincon Gastronomico, offering samples of freshly made foods. The right-wing sells meat and unusual types of produce. A main attraction in the market is the Gourmet Corner.

Some of the tasting stands in the Rincon Gastronomico are El Comado, wines, and meat; La Taperia de Luna, tapas and soups; Gadisushi, sushi; Gadesbeer, beers; La Sarten, eggs, and tortillas and chips; Queso 360, cheeses from everywhere.
Yacimiento Arqueologico Gadir (Gadir Archaeological Site)

5) Yacimiento Arqueologico Gadir (Gadir Archaeological Site)

Cadiz is old for a European city. It was 700 years old when Hannibal started the Second Punic War. Around 1,000 BC, Phoenicians settled on Erytheia and Kotinoussa, two islands in the Guadalete River. They founded the port, later known as Cadiz. Gadir (Cadiz) formed part of the "Phoenician Belt" around the straight of Gibraltar.

The Gadir Archeological Site was a surprise. It was discovered during the restoration of the Norica Puppet Theatre. In 2014 the excavated site was fit for public view. It is now one of the town's main attractions. The Gadir Archeological Site is at the highest point of ancient Erytheia, the smallest island in the Cadiz archipelago.

The Archeological Site is arranged around areas representing different eras. It is a museum site with bi-lingual guides to explain things. Glass walkways cross over the exhibits. There are two levels to be seen from the walkway. The lower one holds the remains of eight Phoenician houses and streets.

There is an ancient Roman fish production factory on the upper level. A workshop for dyeing fabrics and a cistern are from the 2nd century BC. Skeletal remains of a young man burned in a fire in the 7th century BC were found. He was given the nickname "Mattan".
Torre Tavira (Tavira Tower)

6) Torre Tavira (Tavira Tower) (must see)

The Tavira Tower (Torre Tavira), the watchtower of Cadiz, is more than 149 feet above sea level and the highest point in the Old City. It's part of the House Palace of the Marquises of Recano (Marqueses de Recano). These days, the palace is the home of the Conservatory of Music of Cadiz.

Since the beginning of the 18th century, Cadiz had dominated all trade with the Indies and the Americas. Such a city needs towers to keep an eye on things, especially things coming from over the sea. Cadiz went for it. Today it has over 126 watchtowers, including the Tavira Tower.

The Tavira Tower was built in 1780 as a part of the Palace of the Marqueses, but it was always intended to be a lookout tower. Considering its superior height, it was officially designated as the town's surveillance tower.

In 1787 the palace gave over its function as a residence. It successively was home to the School of Noble Arts, the College of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, the Supreme Court, and finally, the City Hall Conservatory of Music.

Don Antonio Tavira was the first watchman of the tower. He left his name and so much more. In addition to commanding views of Cadiz and its environs, the Tavira Tower also has a Camera Obscura.

In a darkened upper room of the tower, a guide operates the optical system of the Camera Obscura. Images of the sea, monuments, and the city are projected on a round table screen in the center of the room. The session takes about twenty minutes.

In the two other rooms, exhibits explain the evolution of the Camera Obscura and the history of Cadiz in the 18th and 19th centuries. This room is about Cadiz's Golden Age. Finally, there is a panel on the Cortes de Cadiz of 1812. This panel tells the story of Spain's first written constitution, which was written in Cadiz.
Gran Teatro Falla (Grand Theatre Falla)

7) Gran Teatro Falla (Grand Theatre Falla)

Manuel de Falla y Matheu, a native of Cadiz and celebrated composer of Spain in the 20th century, refused to come home. In the 1930s, dictator Franco had overthrown the Republic of Spain. Manuel had fled to Argentina. Despite many blandishments and offers by the Franco government, Manuel stayed away. He died in Argentina.

The Grand Theatre Falla was named for Manuel de Falla in 1926 when he was at the height of his fame at home. Before this, the theatre was simply called Great Theater (Gran Teatro). The Great Theater building was completed by architect Juan Cabrera de la Torre in 1905. It replaced the wooden Gran Teatro de Cadiz, which had burned in 1881.

The Grand Theatre Falla is built in the Neo-Mudejar style. There are three Massive horseshoe arch entryways with alternating red and white voussoirs. In the vestibule, stairways ascend to "U"-shaped galleries above. The stage is 59 feet wide and 84 feet deep. The house ceiling has an allegory of Paradise by artist Felipe Arbazuza y Rodriguez de Arias.

In February, the Grand Theatre Falla is the venue for the artistic competitions of the flamboyant Carnival of Cadiz. In the remainder of the year, it hosts plays, concerts, and every other type of show.
Parque Genoves (Genoves Park)

8) Parque Genoves (Genoves Park) (must see)

Genoves Park is the largest green space in the Old City section of Cadiz. It covers an area of 30,000 square meters. It was inaugurated in 1892. In 2012 it was surpassed in the area for the whole city by Celestino Mutis Park.

The park was developed from an area known as the "Walk of Parsley." It was a barely vegetated area between the barracks of Composanto and La Bomba. It was a military space bounded by a sea-facing wall. The park has a near-trapezoidal shape. The entrance to Rocio Jurado Square opens to an avenue with a double row of flowerbeds.

The flowerbeds accentuate the images of the oyster stone fountains amid cypress trees and date palms. There are more than 150 species of exotic trees, palms, and shrubs. Unique species stand out, including the Canary Islands dragon tree, the New Zealand pohutukawa, and the Monkey Puzzle Tree of South America.

The park has a pond, a waterfall, and a small cave. There is a sculptural group and fountain called "Children Under the Umbrella." Other sculptures are dedicated to botanist Jose Celestino Mutis, poet Jose Maria Peman, composer Manual de Falla, naturalist Felix Rodriguez de la Fuente, and the Battle of Trafalgar.

There are sets of gated street furniture, lampposts, and a kiosk fashioned in the Victorian style. The park is also home to the new Jose Maria Peman Summer Theatre.
Castillo de Santa Catalina (Castle of Santa Catalina)

9) Castillo de Santa Catalina (Castle of Santa Catalina)

Anglo-Dutch troops and sailors under the command of the Duke of Essex and English Admiral Howard sacked Cadiz in 1596. The city and the Spanish fleet were devastated so badly, Spain was forced to declare bankruptcy the following year.

It was said Spain's disaster happened because "...all were heads of command and none were feet that would follow, and that is how they lost, for not having either hands or feet." King Philip was so set on revenge he dispatched a second and a third armada against England. He lost both, and Cadiz was still devastated. But there was hope.

Hope was a fort. The first bricks of the Castle of Santa Catalina were laid in 1598. However, the castle was not finished until 1621, under the rule of Philip III. The initial architect was Cristobal de Rojas, who had assisted in the building of the royal palace, El Escorial. Rojas died in 1614. All was completed by Ignacio de Sala.

The fort was a template for forts built in Cuba, Mexico, and Puerto Rico. Located at the end of La Caleta beach, the castle has pavilions, barracks, and cisterns. Sentry boxes are at each corner of the seaward walls. There is a waterless moat and a drawbridge. There are magnificent views from the battlements.

The fortress has served as a military prison, but now it is a cultural space with exhibition rooms. It is also a venue for concerts, art, and the Alcances Documentary Film Festival.
Playa de La Caleta (La Caleta Beach)

10) Playa de La Caleta (La Caleta Beach) (must see)

There are over 66 beaches around Cadiz, but La Caleta is the most beautiful beach in the city itself. It is regularly awarded the blue flag for the cleanliness and perfection of its facilities. It is located between the Castle of Santa Catalina (Castillo de Santa Catalina) and the Castle of San Sebastian (Castillo de San Sebastian). It is usually crowded. It has stunning sunsets.

Both castles are impressive, but the Spa of Our Lady of Palma and the Royal (Balneario de Nuestra Señora de La Palma y del Real) is the most attractive. Built in the early 20th century, the spa is an icon of Cadiz. It was once neglected and abandoned, but it is restored and currently is home to the Subaquatic Archeology Centre of the Andalusian Historical Institute.

La Caleta Beach was once the link between the two islands of ancient Gades. It has been used as a boat and ship landing since the Phoenicians first beached craft there. Rich archeological finds have been discovered. Many more remain hidden under the sands, for sure. Here is the place where Cadiz was born.

The allure of the beach has not been ignored by film producers. Scenes from "Alatriste," "Manolete" and 007 James Bond in "Die Another Day" were filmed at the beach of La Caleta. The scene of Halle Berry in a bikini and Pierce Brosnan sipping a Mojito at La Habana in Cuba was actually filmed at La Caleta in Cadiz.

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