Cruise passengers can choose a shore excursion to Seville or enjoy the shopping, restaurants, beaches, famous paintings, and winding old streets in Cadiz.
South of Seville, where the Guadalquivir River meets the Atlantic, Cadiz is Spain’s, and perhaps Europe’s, oldest inhabited city, and a favourite port for today’s cruise passengers. Travellers who have not visited the Andalusian capital of Seville, should not miss an excursion there, but there is plenty to do on a day in Cadiz.
The Straits of Gibraltar divide the Spanish Riviera: to the east are the Mediterranean Beaches of the Costa del Sol, and to the west are the less-known Atlantic beaches of the Costa del Luz. These long stretches of white sand extend right to the old town.
Spain’s Oldest City
Archaeological digs under the old city in 2007, seemed to confirm it as the site of the earliest Phoenician settlement in Europe; the city of Gadir; dating back to 1100 BC. Completely surrounded by water, Cadiz is almost an island at the end of a long, thin peninsula. Buying in Spain is still popular, but this area has been widely overlooked by expats, so it retains much of it’s Spanish charm.
The narrow streets of the old town are fun to stroll; those around the colourful flower market offer the best shopping. Stop in a café for a cup of thick hot chocolate, or in a candy shop for turron; the Andalusian almond nougat.
Parks, beaches and promenades surround the city, overlooking the sea; the loveliest of which is Alameda Apocada, filled with tiled fountains and lush foliage. Two forts; Santa Catalina and San Sebastion; guard the western shore, and between them is La Caleta; a beach much loved by locals. Facing it is the old fishermen’s quarter, and you can still see bright painted fishing boats along the shore here.
Where to Eat in Cadiz
Follow Calle San Feliz into this old quarter, to find one of the region’s best seafood restaurants; El Faro. It is popular, so calling ahead is a good idea (956 211 068), especially at busy times. Remember that the Spanish dine late, with lunch beginning at 2 pm and dinner 9 pm or later. Restaurants lining Cadiz’s Paseo Maritimo (promenade) offer cuisines from Basque to North African, and of course fresh seafood.
Paintings by Goya and El Greco
Art lovers should follow the handy walking tour map offered by the tourist office on Plaza del San Juan Dias. To find this large square, surrounded by shopping streets; cross Avenida del Puerto as you leave the port and go straight ahead.
The map will lead you to these churches that house paintings by famous artists:
Nuestra Señora del Carmen; a baroque church, has an altarpiece by El Greco. Be sure to see the lovely patio, as well.
Santa Catalina; begun in 1639, was part of a convent, and on the high altar is Murillo’s last work; the Mystic Marriage of St. Catherine.
Santa Cueva: is an oval church dating from 1783 and has several paintings by Goya, done in 1795.
Hospital del Carmen de Mujeres has a chapel in which you’ll find El Greco’s Ecstasy of St. Francis.
San Felipe Neri; another oval church, was built in 1671, and on the high altar is Murillo’s Immaculate Conception.
If you wouldd prefer to explore Seville on your own, instead of on the ship’s shore excursion, the train station is right at the port, less than five minutes walk, behind the car rental offices. Trains are frequent to Seville and to other nearby towns, including Jerez de la Frontera, where visiting at least one sherry bodega is almost mandatory. The School of Equestrian Art, whose stables offer tours and weekly shows, is also in Jerez.