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Ibero-American Capital of Culture in 2012, the year Cadiz celebrates the drafting of the Spanish Constitution (known as “la Pepa”) in 1812. Both friendly and luminous, the beacon of Southern Europe is ready for lift-off.

By:  José Lorenzo Benítez
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Travel NotesFind out more about this city with our insider guide.
Capital of Atlantic light
Población: 130,561 inhabitants
Area: 12.10 km2 (7.17 km2 built), an isthmus at the far end of the Bay of Cadiz
Stands out for: the views from the look out towers (such as the Torrw Tavira), its beaches, and carnival
Did you know? the city is getting ready to relaunch with the celebration of the bicentenary if the 1812 Constitution

The people of Cadiz, known as gaditanos, are proud of their enthusiastic approach to life. Mind you, this doesn’t come without effort, ingenuity, and in the face of both financial difficulties at the end of the month and their infamous complacency. Cadiz boasts the best beaches of any Europe city, but suffers from stunted urban and economic growth. In the past lies more than 3,000 years of civilization, and Cadiz has been declared the oldest city on the continent.

When the cold weather takes hold of the north of the country, gaditanos sit at terrace cafés and enjoy the warm temperatures. Life revolves around good weather except when storms and high winds set in (confusingly the north, east and west winds all affect Cadiz). There are even those lucky enough to bathe in the sea from spring until November.

This microcosm most definitely enjoys a great quality of life but there is also a high rate of unemployment. The lack of land, for both residences and industry, is a burden on the city. It simply cannot grow any more, and the younger generation end up leaving. Drawing strength from its splendid past it emerges from the ocean and breathes. It lives and keeps afloat as the administrative capital and a growing tourist enclave. It holds up against the battering of time in the same way it resisted against Napoleon’s attacks. The failure of the French invasion at the beginning of the 19th Century is forged into its city walls and the minds of the gaditanos. The words of one popular song claim: “With the bombs dropped by those show-offs, the girls from Cadiz make their ringlets”.

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Two hundred years have gone by and the number of hotels and visitors multiplies each year. There are now more cruise ships than ever and fewer shipping containers in the port. Gades, as it was known in Phoenician times, has established a reputation in Spain thanks to the natural wit of its people and their art for entertainment. Local authorities have embodied this in their slogan for attracting tourists: “The city that smiles”. It is also a city that weeps, though it is always joy that triumphs. And that is why the most upbeat style of flamenco could only be from Cadiz. Now the city is preparing itself for the celebrations of the bicentenary of the Spanish Constitution in 2012. The Ibero-American Summit of Heads of State will also be held here in an attempt to strengthen relationships with Latin-American countries. Spain owes a great deal to Latin-America. Cadiz hopes to raise awareness and respect for their partners across the ocean.




The Phoenician traders from Tyre (modern day Lebanon) founded Gadir in around 1100 AD at the very edge of the Mediterranean Sea. At the time this was the furthest anyone had. Control of maritime trade was disputed between the Greeks and the Phoenicians. When the power of the Phoenicians began to decline, Cadiz fell under the protectorate of Carthage. The Punic army launched their attack against Rome from here in around 238 AD (the Second Punic War). Cadiz took advantage and allied itself with Rome, who later founded the city of Gades. Their wealth began to decline from that moment onwards. It later fell into he hands of the Moors who used it as a strategic port to transport troops from North Africa to the peninsula. They remained for 700 years. Under their control the city did not have a particularly significant role until around 1260 when King Alfonso X ordered the re-conquest of Cadiz. The city grew during the 15th Century and became a point of entry for Genoese and Flemish immigrants, as well as others following the prosperous trading routes of the high seas. The 18th Century was an era of great splendour. In 1711 the House of Trade (Casa de Contratación) was established to control the monopoly on Latin-American trade.

This magnificent era continued until the 19th Century, a time marked by permanent socio-political instability and several revolutions which started in this bastion. Spain began to win the War of Independence in Cadiz. Napoleon’s troops were unable to overpower this stronghold and began to withdraw from Spanish territory. The 1812 Constitution was discussed in the Church of San Felipe Neri while Cadiz was still under siege from the French. Cadiz played a significant role in defending the freedom of the Spanish people and helped Ferdinand VII of Spain return to the throne. The city began to expand further than its city walls at the beginning of the 20th Century and in the final stages of its growth, from the seventies onwards, the city began to look like its does today.


Cadiz is divided into two main areas: the old part of the city and Extramuros (literally meaning outside the walls). In colloquial speech it is worth knowing that when people from Cadiz, especially older people, talk about “going to Cadiz” (“ir a Cádiz”) they mean the historical centre, as if the rest of the city was another place altogether. Nor is it unusual when in one of the Extramuros neighbourhoods to hear people say “Are you going to Cadiz?” (“¿Vas a Cádiz?”).

The distinction between the two areas is interesting. For example, nightlife moves from the old quarters in winter to the seafront in summer. It is also worthwhile knowing the local use of the word gadita. A gadita is someone who lives in the old quarters. They, in turn would refer to someone from Extramuros as a beduino (Bedouin), which has derisive connotations.


Manuel de Falla – Classical composer - born in Cadiz in 1876. His tomb can be visited in the Cathedral. Along with Isaac Albéniz and Enrique Granados he is considered one of the most significant figures in Spanish classical music.

Francisco de Goya – Aragonese painter - created three canvases that have been recently restored and can be found in the Oratorio de la Santa Cueva, built in the 18th Century. “Cadiz marked a before and after in Goya’s work. Something must have happened here which changed his way of thinking and the way he viewed life,” points out Alberto Romero Ferrer, a lecturer at the University of Cadiz.

Paco Alba – Carnival lyricist - created the group carnival form and was the author of one of the most acclaimed Carnival lyrics to this day.

Fernando Quiñones - poet, essayist, novelist and flamenco enthusiast - one of the most outstanding Spanish narrative writers from the generation of the 1950s. He was also wonderful at recreating Andalusian speech, especially that of Cadiz.

Costus - artistic duo - made up of Enrique Naya from Cadiz and Juan Carrero from Majorca. Their paintings were saturated with colour and irreverence at the height of The Madrid Movement.

Contemporary people

Supertirititran – superhero – native to Cadiz from the realm of videogames.

Álvaro Mutis – Columbian writer - winner of the Cervantes Prize. Named Honorary Citizen of Cadiz as one of the direct descendents of the botanist from Cadiz, Celestino Mutis.

Carlos Edmundo de Ory – poet - lived in France for over 40 years. Also an Honorary Citizen of Cadiz.

Arturo Pérez Reverte – writer and member of the Royal Academy of the Spanish Language - has set many of his historical novels in Cadiz: A Day of Anger, La Carta Esférica and Captain Alatriste have all been inspired by the capital.

James Bond – famous character from the world of film - played by Pierce Brosnan. Many of the scenes from Die Another Day with the actress Halle Berry were filmed in Balneario de la Caleta, Cadiz.

Pasión Vega – modern copla (singing style on the fringe of flamenco) singer - lived in the neighbourhood of la Viña were she fell in love with the man who is now her manager. Her albums has been inspired by the work of local artists like Javier Ruibal from El Puerto de Santa María, Cadiz.

Pablo Carbonell – singer, comedian and entertainer – lead singer in the band Los Toreros Muertos. Since then he has pursued a number of different career paths and he has even worked as a film director. His greatest success was in the Spanish television program Caiga quien Caiga where he played an impertinent journalist.


The Mayoress Teófila Martínez (representing the PP, People’s Party) is in her fourth consecutive term in government after obtaining an absolute majority in the elections. Representation in the municipal government has not changed since 2003: 18 PP councillors (People’s Party), 8 PSOE councillors (Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party) and 1 from IU (United Left). The work of the opposition has not worn down the government’s team. Its term in office is characterised by lack of balance between the government’s active approach and the Mayoress’ propaganda, and the lack of initiative, political and media charisma of the rest of the municipal government. Teófila Martínez was able to gain firm support from central government for large scale urban development plans such as the underground railway. She has been able to visualise administration in this area as well as the investment for rehabilitating housing and infrastructure. However some argue that the cost has been the sacrifice of other areas of social importance. Municipal programmes are largely judged by their ability to showcase the government’s work. Cooperation with socialist organisations such as the Diputación Provincial (provincial council) or la Junta (autonomous government of Andalusia) is complicated.


As strategic sectors (such as the shipping industry) fade into near extinction, tourism is on the up encouraging investment in the growing number of hotels. Key for business in the area, small companies still offer the charm of personalised and friendly service. The Cádiz Centro Club de Calidad (Central Cadiz Quality Club) is a quality seal that is given establishments in the old quarters. Other significant industries for the local economy include the duty-free zone and port traffic, including cruises and the transportation of goods. The latter has been negatively affected by extensions to the Algeciras port. New businesses have also appeared in ground-breaking sectors such as IT. However the use of the internet in business is still underdeveloped. Those in Cadiz also survive thanks to the informal economy, emigration and work provided by the rest of the Bay. At the end of 2007 there were over 11,000 people unemployed in an area where the population barely exceeds 130,000 people. The current crisis has contributed to making unemployment rife, and Cadiz often seems to be at the bottom of the list in comparison to the rest of Spain and the EU. Amongst its challenges: specialised training in new industries, such as renewable energy and biotechnology.


The Diario de Cádiz is the most important newspaper in Cadiz and the flagship newspaper of the Joly group. This family business, which is conservative in style, is the main Andalusian local news group. Despite the appearance of new newspapers like La Voz de Cádiz, published by the Vocento group, it still sells many more copies than its rivals. The newspaper Cádiz Información, published by Publicaciones del Sur, has a symbolic presence. With regard to radio, Canal Sur Radio and Cadena SER are both battling to be number one. Onda Cero, Cadena COPE and the local radio station Onda Cádiz Radio all compete with RNE (Spanish National Radio). Local variations of Canal Sur Televisión are the most watched for local information. Local channels Onda Cádiz Televisión, Onda Luz and Canal Cádiz are way behind in terms of quality and viewing figures.


The state-run Cortadura and private San Felipe Neri are among the most prestigious secondary schools in Cadiz. Truancy, failure at school and mounting tension in the classroom are the main areas of concern for teachers’ trade unions. One of the four campuses of the University of Cadiz (UCA) can be found in Cadiz. The rest are in Puerto Real, Jerez and Algeciras. The campus lies in the old quarters. Apart from the degree courses, UCA also offers a comprehensive range of sporting, cultural and training activities, such as literary gatherings and Campus Cinema Alcance for film enthusiasts. Within UCA, which is open to the public, there is a language school that offers a broad range of courses. However, there is no conservatory of music in the city. The subject can only be studied to intermediate level as the facilities are not adequate.


“Bicycles are the bane of Cadiz,” emphasised Daniel López, the spokesman for Ecologists in Action (Ecologistas en Acción). A bicycle lane has not yet been considered on the recently completed Avenida Juan Carlos I. There have been several civil protests organised in favour of the use of bicycles. This issue stems directly from a problem that affects the whole area of the Bay: public transport. The Metropolitan Transport Consortium (Consorcio Metropolitano de Transportes) have set up new transport links, such as those connecting Cadiz with El Puerto and Rota by water, but the use of cars is still widespread. Bottleneck traffic is common.

There are also serious problems in other areas. “Recycling is a disaster,” adds López. Recycling often involves wandering around for a long time before finding the right recycling facilities. Local authorities do little to encourage it. There is also a lot of noise. “Even if you just open the balcony, it’s impossible to hear the TV,” bemoanes Alberto Méndez from calle Sagasta in the town centre. Ecologists also condemn the levels of light pollution as well as lighting on the beach at night during the summer arguing that it wastes energy.


Some traditions are pretty dirty. During August each year, the beaches of Cadiz turn into a barbecuing extravaganza. Cadiz celebrates the José León de Carranza football trophy and often there is barely room to breathe as tens of thousands of families flock to the beach. At their peak the celebrations attracted over 200,000 people, and local authorities proudly competed for a mention in the Guinness Book of Records. Entire families brought sofas down from their living rooms to spend the evening by the sea and enjoy drinks and grilled fish and meat. Soon the party got out of control as chaos and vandalism descended on the event. Due to the impact on the environment, coastal authorities intervened threatening to ban the celebrations if local authorities did not control the barbecues. In 2006 the municipal government moved the festivities to a working day in the hope fewer people would attend. The debate continues. At play are two issues: preserving local tradition and risking the transformation of local beaches into a rubbish-dump. Nevertheless, one thing is clear: the whole city throws itself into the celebrations.


These books related to Cadiz may interest you.


These films related to Cadiz may interest you.



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El 26 February 2008 a las 1:59 AM, Lorenzo dijo...

Bonitas fotos, Gonzalo. La de Santa María del Mar es como la vista de mi casa. Gracias.

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El 26 February 2008 a las 11:59 AM, Lizette dijo...

Es una guía equilibrada con sol, luna y parte del universo de mis alegrías. Cádiz es un encanto y su gastronomía particular.

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El 14 December 2008 a las 8:14 PM, Juanito M dijo...

Nosotros los koalas: “EL koala, al igual que el gaditano, es un mamífero y ambos estamos en vías de extinción. Fósiles vivientes. Cada vez somos menos y nadie, salvo los koalas y nosotros, es culpable de este ruinoso destino: como el koala, el gaditano vive con dificultad fuera de su hábitat y es famoso por su pasividad cuando se le molesta e incluso cuando es capturado. Con todo, tanto el koala como el gaditano caen simpáticos y resultan muy graciosos a todo el mundo.

El koala es una trágica metáfora del gaditano, de sus tragaderas. Nos lo tragamos todo sin rechistar ni protestar; todo lo más rajamos por lo bajini, no sea que se entere quien tú sabes y pierdas la subvención municipal, la preferencia en la rifa de los pisitos o el curro de la niña en la última ocurrencia chorra del ayuntamiento. Aquí se pierden 15.000 habitantes en diez años y los responsables resultan ser los de Estadística, unos torpes que no cuentan bien. Aquí se publica que Cádiz es de las ciudades más caras, y los hooligans de Teófila vociferan que Ella no tiene la culpa y que eso es cosa de los ateos y chorizos de los rojos que le tienen manía. Pero nadie dice nada de que la población envejece a un ritmo insostenible, que los impuestos son muy altos, que la ciudad se acateta día a día, que se maltrata un casco antiguo admirable con coches y más coches, y que se levanta Canalejas durante meses para meter en el parking unos pocos coches más.

Nadie dice que la cultura local tenga tufo a Coros y Danzas, ni que toda la fuerza se nos vaya en la mayonesa de los croqueteos mientras nos entregamos placas unos a otros. Nadie parece reparar en el embotamiento que provocan ese localismo victimista y llorón o el glamour cutre del señoritismo neocarrancista, rendidos ante cualquier chatarra alucinógena; un poné el bicentenario, que ojalá sea algo más que Ramón Velázquez disfrazado de Bonaparte.

Las especies que se resignan no evolucionan. Por eso, después de tres mil años de torrija, el gaditano (y tal vez el koala) tienen lo que se merecen.” Del (

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El 15 December 2008 a las 10:54 PM, Lorenzo dijo...

DEMOLEDOR. El sindicato UGT ha presentado hoy un estudio comparativo del empleo en Andalucía realizado por la Universidad de Alcalá de Henares. Cádiz es la última provincia, no sólo la capital, en todos los índices de acceso al trabajo, salarios y rentas, protección social, igualdad de géneros en el mercado laboral (y eso que la ministra de la equiparación sexual es gaditana) y ocupa el antepenúltimo puesto en otras tantas cuestiones. Eso sí, somos los terceros en el grado de satisfacción de nuestra vida laboral. Lo que no dice el estudio es si se trata de vida laboral regulada o economía sumergida, picaresca y chapuzas varias. ¿Le habrán han preguntado a los narcos y camellos de esta provincia si están satisfechos con su trabajo? Pues eso, la ciudad que sonríe, pese a todo. Qué graciosos que somos, éle!

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El 12 March 2012 a las 11:41 AM, Juan dijo...

Cádiz es un sitio estupendo. Tiene todo, playas, gastronomia y la gente es un encanto.

Aquí os dejo con una guia de cádiz.




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