History, Architecture, Beaches, and Gardens
Long before the Moors, Vandals, or Romans conquered the Iberian Peninsula; before Rome was even founded; prior to Homer and the Golden Age of Ancient Greece, the Phoenicians dominated the seas. From the cities of Tyre and Sidon on the coast of modern Lebanon, these seafarers established colonies throughout the Mediterranean. In 1104 B.C., when David was king of Israel, the Phoenicians established Cadiz.
For over three millennia, Cadiz has served as an outpost to the Atlantic. It is the oldest European city. Many have staked claim to this protected harbor.
Christopher Columbus sailed from Cadiz on his second and fourth voyages to the new world. It became a wealthy city as most trade from the Americas passed through it. The British bombarded Cadiz in war with Spain, vying for naval dominance.
Our Cruise Stop
Today, Cadiz is often forgotten by travelers. Our Disney TransAtlantic Cruise stopped at Cadiz. Most passengers chose to tour Seville or Jerez. We had wanted to go to Seville, but four hours on a bus (2 each direction) for a three hour tour did not appeal to us, though.
Cadiz is quite compact. We chose to skip tours and to explore the historic part of the city on our own. Upon exiting our ship, we received a handy, well marked map. We split our tour into two parts. First, in the morning, we would visit the old town and shopping district. After lunch, we would explore the city parks.
Our plan worked wonderfully. Cadiz impressed us far more than we could have imagined.
Cadiz lies along a narrow peninsula. To the east is the Atlantic Ocean; to the west a protected bay. Not far to the south, the Straight of Gibraltar marks the entrance to the Mediterranean.
Cadiz divides into two main sections. The ancient town rests at the northern tip of the peninsula. The modern section lies to the south.
The Old Town
Our ship docked along protected east side. I headed out to explore in the morning before the rest of my family rose. As I exited the ship, I encountered a Hop-On/Hop-Off Bus and impulsively climbed aboard.
Overall, the bus tour was quite unimpressive. Only a portion of the historic town was included. Over half of the tour stretched further south through the modern section. Other than the popular beaches and a nice bridge, there is little else of interest in the new town.
Hopping off the bus, I decided to spend the rest of the morning exploring on foot. This turned out well. With a map in hand, I wandered from site to site. I love exploring in this manner.
From the Plaza de San Juan de Dios to the Cathedral of Cadiz, through the Barrio del Populo, the bright flowers and beautiful architecture delighted.
The Cadiz Town Hall is adorned with images from its past. A traditional depiction of Hercules standing with a lion overlooks the entrance. Greek legend held that Hercules founded Cadiz. Look close and you can see Phoenician coins in the trim. The coins have fish on them, which is what made the Phoenicians wealthy.
Portions of the Roman city wall still stand. The Roman amphitheater also remains.
A Walk Along the Sea Wall
After a stop back on the Disney Magic, I returned to the city with my family. We chose to turn to the north and visit the parks. We cut across from the cruise port by the Monument of the Constitution of 1812 and the Plaza de Mina on our way to Gardens of Alameda de Apodaca.
The Gardens line the north coast. The views are absolutely stunning. Begonias drape over pergolas. Flowers are scattered throughout. Though small, this park is one of the most beautiful that we have explored.
The Baluarte de la Candelaria, a fortress built in 1672, marks the northernmost point and connects the Gardens of Alameda de Apodaca to the Genoves Park.
The fortress was closed, but the park was wonderful. Trees carved into geometric shapes give the park a Dr. Seuss feel. Fountains and flowers adorn other parts of the park.
Several species of birds flitted all around. We were particularly surprised to see parakeets. The pretty green birds swept overhead. My only experience with parakeets was with my grandmother’s when I was young. It was the meanest pet that I have ever met.
It turns out that the Cadiz parakeets are not nice either. An invasive species, they invade nests and destroy eggs of other birds. The locals consider them a nuisance.
At the end of the Genoves Park, we had great views of the Castle of Santa Catalina, the Castle of San Sebastian, and La Caleta Beach. It was rather hot and we needed to return to the ship, though. So, we cut straight across town and back to the port, thrilled by with our afternoon stroll.
A Day in Cadiz
Cadiz was an unexpected surprise to us. The history, architecture, beaches, and especially the gardens made our cruise stop a special day.
I hope to someday visit Seville and Jerez. I am glad that we chose to stay in Cadiz, though. Otherwise, we might have missed out on this wonderful city.
- If you do not mind walking, you can thoroughly explore Cadiz in a day.
- Skip the tours. With a little research, they are not necessary.
- Even the locals will tell you to stay in the historic, old town.
- Don’t miss the Gardens!
- Cadiz Tourism has 4 free walking tour maps you can download.
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