We spent April 20 in Cadiz. We had previously docked here in 2013, https://baderjournal.wordpress.com/2013/10/11/cadiz-seville-spain/, but we spent that day visiting Seville (a completely worthwhile trip) so Cadiz itself was mostly new to us. Cadiz is on the Atlantic coast, outside the Mediterranean. Founded by the Phoenicians in 1104 BC, it is considered to be the oldest continuously occupied city In Europe. In the 17th & 18th centuries Cadiz became very wealthy as the terminus for the American gold & silver trade after the river to Seville was blocked by silt. The city was mostly destroyed in 1596 by Sir Francis Drake, so most of the old city dates from the 17th & 18th centuries. Central Cadiz is located on a large peninsula jutting out into a bay, so there is water all around it. The cruise ship port is right downtown, giving quite a view of the city from the ship.
The night before reaching Cadiz there was a performance by a Flamenco group, dancers and a superb guitarist, who sailed with us for several days through Spain. The guitarist had given an intimate solo performance for a small audience in the Crow’s Nest bar earlier in the afternoon, which whetted our appetite for the full performance at night on the main stage of the Queen’s Lounge. It was not a disappointment!
Cadiz is unusually visitor friendly. Across the street from Amsterdam’s berth is a large park, at the end of which is the tourist information office. They gave us a map of the city marked with four color coded walking tours. These tours are actually marked on the streets themselves in the color indicated on the map, so it was pretty easy to follow. We followed (loosely) the green walking tour of the old part of the city.
Our first stop was Plaza de San Juan de Dios, laid out on land reclaimed from the sea beginning in the 15th century. The plaza is dominated by the old town hall, built between 1799 & 1861. In front of it on the plaza is a statue of a Cadiz politician erected in 1906, when the plaza was also expended after the city walls were demolished.
The attached building with the brown tower to the left of the town hall is the church of San Juan de Dios, formerly the Misericordia Hospital. It was built in the late 17th century & is quite elaborate inside with a small but beautiful pipe organ. We had not previously seen (or at least noticed) pipes facing forward like those in this organ.
The old part of Cadiz near the city hall, called Barrio del Populo, is famous for its picturesque narrow winding streets. Among other things, we came upon the Casa del Almirante (Admiral’s House), built in 1690 by Don Diego de Barrios, admiral of Spain’s American treasure fleet.
The Cadiz Cathedral was built between 1722 and 1838 on the site of the previous cathedral, which was built in 1260 & burned down by the English in 1596. It is one of the largest in Spain. It has a golden dome and two towers, and appeared from the ship to tower over the city on the opposite side of the peninsula. There was a good bit of construction in progress when we were there so we didn’t go inside.
On the left side of Cathedral Plaza is the Arco de la Rosa, one of the gates of the medieval; city walls built in the 12th century. On the other side is the Church of Santiago. It was rebuilt in 1635 after the English plundered the city in 1596. There are several 17th century gilded Baroque altarpieces inside & a single octagonal tower on top.
The Plaza de Las Flores is an oblong plaza full of flower vendors & cafes. It is pretty but also popular and therefore crowded. On one side of the plaza is the Correos, the main post office, an attractive brick building with a novel mail slot. On the other side is the Mercado Central (Central Market). The market’s outside walls with porticoes date to the mid-19th century and the central buildings were added in 1928. We saw mostly fruit & vegetable stands and fresh seafood (some still alive) & butchers.
Not too far from the mercado is the Palacio de los Marqueses de Recano, built around 1730, which is typical of the mansions built by merchants in the American trade. It is on the highest spot in the old city, some 45 meters above sea level, and on top is the Tavira Tower. In the 18th century there were more than 160 such watch towers used by merchants to look for ships arriving from the sea. The Tavila Tower is the tallest one remaining; in 1788 it wa designated as the watchtower for the port of Cadiz. The tower reputedly gives a fine panoramic view of the city & also contains a camera obscura that is supposed to be interesting. But its about 170 steps to climb to the top and Mary was still feeling the effects of the Dubai illness, so we didn’t go up. Across the street is the 18th century Hospital de Mujares, one of the first women’s hospitals. You can see below that its façade is interesting, with unusual cross shaped windows on the second floor. Inside is a courtyard with stone staircases leading to the upper floors, but the gem is an extremely elaborate gilded chapel, sharply contrasting with the grey stone of the rest of the building, inside which is a magnificent painting by El Greco of St Francis in Ecstasy. Sadly, no photography was allowed inside the building so we have only the picture of the façade to include here.
Just up the street from the Tavira Tower we discovered the Municipal Library, so you know we had to visit that! It was very nice, with white balustrades around a central atrium reaching to the 4th floor.
We wandered the interesting & sometimes crowded streets of the city for awhile on our way to the Cadiz Museum. The streets are probably the most interesting things to see in Cadiz.
The Cadiz Museum sits on the quiet Plaza de Mina. The museum is quite interesting, although the lack of English signage limits its enjoyment by folks like us. The first floor is the archaeological museum, containing many artifacts from Cadiz’s long history. But its prime exhibit is a pair of Phoenician sarcophagi. As mentioned above, the Phoenicians founded Cadiz (or as they called it, Gadir) around 1100 BC. The male sarcophagus, uncovered in 1887, was the first item in the archaeological museum, & was later joined by the female sarcophagus that was uncovered in 1980. There is also a large statue of the Roman Emperor Trajan, who was born not far from Cadiz. The second floor is filled with art, mostly Spanish painting, and the third floor (which was closed for renovations when we visited) contains a collection of large puppets used in local festivals.
I failed to mention earlier that it was a chilly & drizzly day. We emerged from the museum to discover that there had been a downpour while we were inside (good timing). As a result the streets & plazas were much less crowded than they had been during the morning. We visited the small 18th century Oratorio de la Santa Cueva (Holy Cave), which got its name from a subterranean cave that was converted into a chapel. The stark underground chapel has a dramatic painted wood crucifixion sculpture. On the top floor is a very richly decorated elliptical chapel with a dome. This chapel has five semicircular paintings, three of which are by Francisco Goya.
It was still drizzling on and off as we strolled to the water front on the far side of the peninsula from the cruise port, behind the Cathedral. In addition to the dramatic curved waterfront we saw the 1st century AD Roman Theater, discovered only in 1980. One of the largest theaters in the Roman empire, it could accommodate some 20,000 spectators. Next to it was a pile of spiral columns, which may or may not have been part of the theater.
On our way back to the cruise port we stopped by the Plaza de Espana to see the monument to the 1812 constitution. This was Spain’s first republican constitution, written in Cadiz while Napoleon occupied the rest of Spain. The monument was begin about 100 years after the constitution was written & completed in 1929. The text of the constitution is displayed on the tall pillar in the center, with a statue representing justice at its base.
Getting back into the port was something of an ordeal because guards at the gate required many people to empty their pockets. But before long we were back on the ship for our departure from Europe, with only one more port to visit before the end of the voyage. So here is one last look at the panorama of Cadiz from the ship before we sailed away.