If you are seeking a sunny holiday option in Europe but want to avoid the summer hordes, remember the weather is good in the south in the less-crowded shoulder seasons – try Cadiz, Spain in March or October/November.
Cadiz is the longest continually inhabited city in Europe. Bordered by the Atlantic Ocean, the Mediterranean Sea and the Strait of Gibraltar, Cadiz enjoys temperatures of 18º Celcius in March and 19º Celcius in November.
We were there in early October (2017) in a late heatwave - temperatures ranged from 26 to 29º Celcius! As you can see, Cadiz is a great choice if you’re looking for sunny shoulder season or warm winter destinations in Europe.
TIP: Why not include Cadiz as part of a two week Spain and Portugal itinerary like the one suggested here?
Things to do in Cadiz
Given its 3000-year history, of course Cadiz offers culture and tradition along with unforgettable gastronomic tastes and experiences, beaches and romantic vistas.
The 260 kilometre coastline boasts 83 beaches. While there is just one in the old town (Playa de la Caleta), many of the others are easily accessible via a short bus trip. This coastline means you can windsurf or kitesurf if that’s your interest.
But, whatever season you visit, with its history of Phonecian, Roman and Moorish occupants, there are plenty of things to do in Cadiz.
The fortifications are featured in most promotional material for Cadiz. Part of the attraction of the old town is its three or four storey buildings which shade very narrow streets most of the day. So, even if it’s hot, you can move about out of the direct sun.
The streets lead into larger plazas where you can enjoy the cafes and restaurants in the open space. They come alive as the local meeting point and are frequented by musicians who move from one plaza to the next.
If you enjoy pedestrianised city centres, Cadiz’s old town is big enough to get yourself lost on the first day or two and small enough that you are soon recognising familiar landmarks. Among the street decorations, you will enjoy the Moorish tiled walls and ancient facades.
Like to visit more cities in Spain? Here's a list of some of the best cities to visit in Spain.
Main attractions in Cadiz
The Cathedral on the Sea offers an amazing view of the old town from its Bell Tower. For just a small entrance fee (€5) you can take in a free audio tour of the cathedral, highlighting works of goldsmithing and sculpture, an amazing crypt, and climb the Bell Tower.
This is not as difficult as it sounds as you walk up a circular ramp nearly all the way to the top. If you do climb the Bell Tower, consider the time of day, as you arrive right next to the very large bells and while it’s atmospheric to hear them ringing at ground level, it’s a bit of a shock to the eardrums in such close proximity.
If you are disappointed that there are few steps at the Bell Tower, climbing up to the Camara Oscura (camera obsura in English) will rectify that with 178 steps! Your reward is close-up and personal real-time views of what’s happening on the old town’s rooftop terraces.
The largest green area on the Cadiz map is Parque Genovis, the botanic garden. It features more than 100 species of trees and overlooks the sea. Entry is free and there is small café within the grounds.
Cadiz has a delightful fresh produce market, Mercado Central. If you are staying in an apartment you may want to choose some fresh fish and enjoy the fruit and vegetables. Or you may just enjoy strolling through the market, taking in the colour and scents.
Where to eat in Cadiz
There are endless options for food but the Spanish eat their evening meal late, so if, like us, you eat a little earlier, we recommend Bajamar, just outside Mercado Central (the market). It is open daily from 8am to midnight. We enjoyed the potato salad with anchovies, octopus salad, and tuna and onion stew.
Our most authentic Spanish meal experience was the tapa at Freiduria Las Flores (just around the corner from the Mercado). We had five tapa for €6.90. This is among the busiest restaurants in Cadiz and there is nearly always a waiting list for tables - yes, even in the shoulder season.
We ate at the bar and enjoyed being guided on tapa etiquette and selection by the locals. A noisy but memorable experience.
Where to stay in Cadiz
There’s a wide range of accommodation options available in Cadiz to suit all budgets. Click here to check options and current prices.
Look for air-conditioned accommodation even outside the main heat of summer, as the buildings tend to retain the heat.
Getting to Cadiz
Cadiz is located in the Andalusia region of south west Spain.
Seville (where there’s an international airport) is just 90 minutes by train – don’t miss it. Why not take a guided small group day trip to Seville? Click here for current prices.
Madrid can be reached by train in 4 hours 20 minutes.
If Barcelona is your gateway into Spain, it’s best to fly from there to Jerez then catch a train to Cadiz.
It’s possible to day a you can do a day trip from Cadiz to Tangier in Morocco if you are time poor. However, having been to Morocco on a previous trip, it really warrants a couple of weeks at least in my opinion.
Will you include Cadiz in your European travel plans? No matter what time of year you visit there are plenty of things to do in Cadiz and other destinations in southern Spain.
About the author: This article was written by my sister-in-law Birgit Schonafinger. Birgit has also contributed an article on what to see on a visit to Malaga in Spain.