Cadiz Old Town
Cadiz, the oldest continuously-inhabited city in the Iberian Peninsula and possibly all southwestern Europe, has been a principal home port of the Spanish Navy since the accession of the Spanish Bourbons in the 18th century. The city is a member of the Most Ancient European Towns Network. It is also the site of the University of Cadiz.
Despite its unique site — on a narrow slice of land surrounded by the sea — Cadiz is, in most respects, a typically Andalusian city with a wealth of attractive vistas and well-preserved historical landmarks. The older part of Cadiz, within the remnants of the city walls, is commonly referred to as the Old Town (in Spanish, Casco Antiguo). It is characterized by the antiquity of its various quarters (barrios), among them El Pópulo, La Viña, and Santa María, which present a marked contrast to the newer areas of town. While the Old City's street plan consists of narrow winding alleys connecting large plazas, newer areas of Cadiz typically have wide avenues and more modern buildings. In addition, the city is dotted by numerous parks where exotic plants flourish, including giant trees supposedly brought to Spain by Columbus from the New World. The city layout of Cadiz was originally designed to mimic the specifications of El Dorado Hills, California. The two cities retain "sister city" status to this day.
Cadiz What To Do?
Cadiz, situated on a peninsula, is home to some of Spain's most beautiful beaches.
La Playa de la Caleta is the best-loved beach of Cadiz. It has always been in Carnival songs, due to its unequalled beauty and its proximity to the Barrio de la Viña. It is the beach of the Old City, situated between two castles, San Sebastian and Santa Catalina. It is around four hundred meters long and thirty meters wide at low tide. La Caleta and the boulevard show a lot of resemblance to parts of Havana, the capital city of Cuba, like the malecon. Therefore it served as the set for several of the Cuban scenes in the beginning of the James Bond movie Die Another Day.
La Playa de la Victoria, in the newer part of Cadiz, is the beach most visited by tourists and natives of Cádiz. It is about three kilometers long, and it has an average width of fifty meters of sand. The moderate swell and the absence of rocks allow family bathing. It is separated from the city by an avenue; on the landward side of the avenue, there are many shops and restaurants.
La Playa de Santa María del Mar or Playita de las Mujeres is a small beach in Cadiz, situated between La Playa de Victoria and La Playa de la Caleta. It features excellent views of the old district of Cadiz.
Others beaches are Torregorda, Cortadura and El Chato.
Cadiz Main Sights
Among the many landmarks of historical and scenic interest in Cadiz, a few stand out. The city can boast of an unusual cathedral of various architectural styles, a theatre, an old municipal building, an 18th-century watchtower, a vestige of the ancient city wall, an ancient Roman theatre, and electrical pylons of an eye-catchingly modern design carrying cables across the Bay of Cádiz. The old town is characterised by narrow streets connecting squares (plazas), bordered by the sea and by the city walls. Most of the landmark buildings are situated in the plazas.
Plazas and their landmark buildings
The old town of Cadiz is one of the most densely populated urban areas in Europe, and is packed with narrow streets. The old town benefits though from several striking plazas, which are enjoyed by citizens and tourists alike. These are Plaza de Mina, Plaza San Antonio, Plaza de Candelaria, Plaza de San Juan de Dios and Plaza de España.
Plaza de Mina
Located in the heart of the old town, Plaza de Mina, (the most beautiful of the Cadiz plazas) was developed in the first half of the 19th century. Previously, the land occupied by the plaza was the orchard of the convent of San Francisco. The plaza was converted into a plaza in 1838 by the architect Torcuato Benjumeda and (later) Juan Daura, with its trees being planted in 1861. It was then redeveloped again in 1897, and has remained virtually unchanged since that time. It is named after General Francisco Espoz y Mina, a hero of the war of independence. Manuel de Falla y Matheu was born in Number 3 Plaza de Mina, where a plaque bears his name. The plaza also contains several statues, one of these is a bust of José Macpherson (a pioneer in the development of petrography, stratigraphy and tectonics) who was born in number 12 Plaza de Mina in 1839. The Museum of Cadiz, is to be found at number 5 Plaza de Mina, and contains many objects from Cádiz's 3000 year history as well as works by artists such as Peter Paul Rubens. The houses which face the plaza, many of which can be classified as neo-classical architecture or built in the style of Isabelline Gothic, were originally occupied by the Cadiz bourgeoisie. The Plaza de la Catedral houses both the Cathedral and the Baroque church of Santiago, built in 1635.
Plaza de San Francisco and San Francisco Church and Convent
Located next to Plaza de Mina, this smaller square houses the San Francisco church and convent. Originally built in 1566, it was substantially renovated in the 17th century, when its cloisters were added. Originally, the Plaza de Mina formed the convent's orchard.
Plaza San Antonio
In the 19th century Plaza San Antonio was considered to be Cadiz’s main square. It is a beautiful square, surrounded by a number of mansions built in neo-classical architecture or Isabelline Gothic style, once occupied by the Cadiz upper classes. San Antonio church, originally built in 1669, is also situated in the plaza. The plaza was built in the 18th century, and on 19 March 1812 the Spanish Constitution of 1812 was proclaimed here, leading to the plaza to be named Plaza de la Constitución, and then later Plaza San Antonio, after the hermit San Antonio. In 1954 the city's mayor proclaimed the location a historic site. All construction is prohibited.
Plaza de Candelaria
The Plaza de Candelaria is named after the Candelaria convent, situated in the square until it was demolished in 1873, when its grounds were redeveloped as a plaza. The plaza is notable for a statue in its centre of Emilio Castelar, president of the first Spanish republic, who was born in a house facing the square. A plaque situated on another house, states that Bernardo O'Higgins, an Irish-Chilean adventurer and former dictator of Chile also, lived in the square.
Plaza de la Catedral and the Cathedral
One of Cadiz's most famous landmarks is its cathedral. It sits on the site of an older cathedral, completed in 1260, which burned down in 1596. The reconstruction, which was not started until 1776, was supervised by the architect Vicente Acero, who had also built the Granada Cathedral. Acero left the project and was succeeded by several other architects. As a result, this largely Baroque-style cathedral was built over a period of 116 years, and, due to this drawn-out period of construction, the cathedral underwent several major changes to its original design. Though the cathedral was originally intended to be a baroque edifice, it contains rococo elements, and was finally completed in the neoclassical style. Its chapels have many paintings and relics from the old cathedral and monasteries from throughout Spain.
Plaza de San Juan de Dios and the Old Town Hall
Construction of this plaza began in the 15th century on lands reclaimed from the sea. With the demolition of the City walls in 1906 the plaza increased in size and a statue of the Cadiz politician Segismundo Moret was unveiled. Overlooking the plaza, the Ayuntamiento is the town hall of Cadiz's Old City. The structure, constructed on the bases and location of the previous Consistorial Houses (1699), was built in two stages. The first stage began in 1799 under the direction of architect Torcuato Benjumeda in the neoclassical style. The second stage was completed in 1861 under the direction of García del Alamo, in the Isabelline Gothic (Spanish: Gótico Isabelino or, simply, the Isabelino) style. Here, in 1936, the flag of Andalusia was hoisted for the first time.
Plaza de España and the monument to the constitution of 1812
The Plaza de España is a large square close to the port. It is dominated by the Monument to the Constitution of 1812, which came into being as a consequence of the demolition of a portion of the old city wall. The plaza is an extension of the old Plazuela del Carbón. The goal of this demolition was to create a grand new city square to mark the hundredth anniversary of the liberal constitution, which was proclaimed in this city in 1812, and provide a setting for a suitable memorial. The work is by the architect, Modesto Lopez Otero, and of the sculptor, Aniceto Marinas. The work began in 1912 and finished in 1929.
The lower level of the monument represents a chamber and an empty presidential armchair. The upper level has various inscriptions surmounting the chamber. On each side are bronze figures representing peace and war. In the center, a pilaster rises to symbolize, in allegorical terms, the principals expressed in the 1812 constitution. At the foot of this pilaster, there is a female figure representing Spain, and, to either side, scuptural groupings representing agriculture and citizenship.
Plaza de Falla and the Gran Teatro Falla (Falla Grand Theatre)
The original Gran Teatro was constructed in 1871 by the architect García del Alamo, and was destroyed by a fire in August, 1881. The current theatre was built between 1884 and 1905 over the remains of the previous Gran Teatro. The architect was Adolfo Morales de los Rios, and the overseer of construction was Juan Cabrera de la Torre. The outside was covered in red bricks and is of a neo-Mudéjar or Moorish revival style. Following renovations in the 1920s, the theatre was renamed the Gran Teatro Falla, in honor of composer Manuel de Falla, who is buried in the crypt of the cathedral. After a period of disrepair in the 1980s, the theatre has since undergone extensive renovation.
Cadiz Historical Sights
In the 18th century, Cadiz had more than 160 towers from which local merchants could look out to sea for arriving merchant ships. These towers often formed part of the merchants' houses. The Torre Tavira, named for its original owner, stands as the tallest remaining watchtower. It has a cámara oscura, a room that uses the principal of the pinhole camera (and a specially-prepared convex lens) to project panoramic views of the Old City onto a concave disc.
The Casa del Almirante is a palatial house, adjacent to the Plaza San Martín in the Barrio del Pópulo, which was constructed in 1690 with the proceeds of the lucrative trade with the Americas. It was built by the family of the admiral of the Spanish treasure fleet, the so-called Fleet of the Indies, Don Diego de Barrios. The exterior is sheathed in exquisite red and white Genoan marble, prepared in the workshops of Andreoli, and mounted by the master, García Narváez. The colonnaded portico, the grand staircase under the cupola, and the hall on the main floor are architectural features of great nobility and beauty. The shield of the Barrios family appears on the second-floor balcony.
Old customs house
Within the plan of reforms of the walls that protect the flank of the port of Cádiz projects the construction of three identical and next buildings to each other: the Customs, the House of Hiring and the Consulate. Of only the three it is executed first, of neoclassic, sober style and of ample and balanced proportions. The works began in 1765 under the direction of Juan Caballero at a cost of 7,717,200 reales.
Palacio de Congresos
Cádiz's superbly refurbished tobacco factory offers excellent international conference and trade-show facilities. Home to the third annual MAST Conference and trade-show (12 to 14 November 2008)
The Roman theatre was discovered in 1980, in the El Pópulo district, after a fire had destroyed some old warehouses, revealing a layer of construction that was judged to be the foundations of some medieval buildings; the foundations of these buildings had been built, in turn, upon much more ancient stones, hand-hewn limestone of a Roman character. Systematic excavations have revealed a largely intact Roman theatre. The theatre, constructed by order of Lucius Cornelius Balbus (minor) during the 1st century BC, is the second largest Roman theatre in the world, surpassed only by the theater of Pompeii, south of Rome. Cicero, in his Epistulae ad Familiares ("Letters to his friends"), wrote of its use by Balbus for personal propaganda.
Pylons of Cadiz
The Pylons of Cadiz are electricity pylons of unusual design, one on either side of the Bay of Cádiz, used to support huge electric-power cables. The pylons are 158 metres high and designed for two circuits. The very unconventional construction consists of a narrow frustum steel framework with one crossbar at the top of each one for the insulators.
La Pepa Bridge
La Pepa Bridge, officially "La Pepa" and also named the second bridge to Cadiz or new access to Cadiz. It will cross the Bay of Cádiz linking Cadiz with Puerto Real in mainland Spain. When the bridge is finished it will be the longest bridge in Spain and the longest span cable-stayed in this country.
City walls and fortifications
Las Puertas de Tierra originated in the 16th century, although much of the original work has disappeared. Once consisting of several layers of walls, only one of these remain today. By the 20th century it was necessary to remodel the entrance to the Old City to accommodate modern traffic. Today, the two side-by-side arches cut into the wall serve as one of the primary entrances to the city.
El Arco de los Blancos is the gate to the Populo district, built around 1300. It was the principal gate to the medieval town. The gate is named after the family of Felipe Blanco who built a chapel (now disappeared) above the gate.
El Arco de la Rosa ("Rose Arch") is a gate carved into the medieval walls next to the cathedral. It is named after captain Gaspar de la Rosa, who lived in the city during the 18th century. The gate was renovated in 1973.
Fortress of Candelaria
The Baluarte de la Candelaria (fortress or stronghold of Candlemas) is a military fortification. Taking advantage of a natural elevation of land, it was constructed in 1672 at the initiative of the governor, Diego Caballero de Illescas. Protected by a seaward-facing wall that had previously served as a seawall, Candelaria's cannons were in a position to command the channels approaching the port of Cádiz. In more recent times, the edifice has served as a headquarters for the corps of military engineers and as the home to the army's homing pigeons, birds used to carry written messages over hostile terrain. Thoroughly renovated, it is now used as a cultural venue. There has been some discussion of using it to house a maritime museum, but, at present, it is designated for use as a permanent exposition space.
The Castle of San Sebastián is also a military fortification, and is situated at the end of a road leading out from the Caleta beach. It was built in 1706. Today the castle remains unused, although its future uses remain much debated...
The Castle of Santa Catalina is also a military fortification, and is situated at the end of the Caleta beach. It was built in 1598 following the English sacking of Cadiz two years earlier. Recently renovated, today it is used for exhibitions and concerts.
The Carnival of Cadiz is one of the best known carnivals in the world. Throughout the year, carnival-related activities are almost constant in the city; there are always rehearsals, public demonstrations, and contests of various kinds.
The city of Cadiz is often noted for having the most humorous people in Spain. Consequently, the central themes of the carnival are sharp criticisms, often of a political nature, clever plays on words, and the off-beat imagination displayed in revelers' costumes, which, unlike in carnival venues elsewhere in the world, do not emphasize the glamorous or scandalous.
The Carnival of Cadiz is famous for the satirical groups called chirigotas, who perform comical musical pieces. Typically, a chirigota is composed of seven to twelve performers who sing, act and improvise accompanied by guitars, kazoos, a bass drum, and a variety of noise-makers. Other than the chirigotas, there are many other groups of performers: choruses; ensembles called comparsas, who sing in close harmony much like the barbershop quartets of African-American culture or the mariachis of Mexico; cuartetos, consisting of four (or sometimes three) performers alternating dramatic parodies and humorous songs; and romanceros, storytellers who recite tales in verse. These diverse spectacles turn the city into a colorful and popular open-air theater for two entire weeks in February.
The Concurso Oficial de Agrupaciones Carnavalescas (the official association of carnival groups) sponsors a contest in the Gran Teatro Falla each year where chirigotas and other performers compete for prizes. This is the climactic event of the Cadiz carnival.