Palm trees in front of Cathedral in Cadiz, Spain

Tetra Images/Robert Harding

How to see the historical side of Cádiz

As the oldest continually occupied city in Western Europe, Cádiz has a lot to offer history buffs. Here's our guide to some of its best historical sights

Updated July 2020

By Laura Potter

Although they're jam-packed with historical sights, there's an even better (or, at least, older) place to visit than Rome or Athens if you're looking to explore ancient history. Cádiz, in southwestern Spain, is actually the oldest continually occupied city in Western Europe and its incredible sights and streets are a must-visit for lovers of history.

Founded by Phoenician traders more than 3,000 years ago, Cádiz spent the following centuries playing host to the Carthaginians, Romans, Visigoths, Moors and now the Spanish. Columbus travelled to the Americas from Cádiz, and in the 18th century, the city replaced Seville (read more below) as the centre of trade with the colonies. This made it a target, so watch towers and fortifications, many of which you can visit today, were built all over the city. In fact, from the 16th to the 19th century, the British attacked, blockaded and looted Cádiz on five occasions. It's this complicated yet rich past that makes the town such an incredible historical destination. Stunning and dripping in culture and history it may be, but it is also refreshingly relaxed, unpretentious and welcoming. Here are four of the best places to delve into the historical side of Cádiz...

Four of the best historical sights in and around Cádiz

1. Torre Tavira

View of the city from La Torre Tavira, or The Tavira Tower in Cadiz


As the highest point in the oldest part of the city, this 18th-century watch tower offers some of the most spectacular views of Cádiz. It also features a camera obscura – the first to be installed in Spain – ancestor of the modern camera. Essentially a dark room with a tiny hole overlooking the horizon, it lets you see even the smallest distant objects and buildings in the landscape in incredible detail.

2. Teatro Romano de Cádiz

Roman Theatre remains with people, in Cadiz


Just around the corner from the famous Plaza de Catedral, which is home to both the cathedral and the Baroque Church of Santiago, is the Roman Theatre of Cádiz – the second largest Roman theatre in the world. Unbelievably, this Medieval gem lay undiscovered right up until 1980, when warehouses built on the site were demolished and the amphitheatre was revealed.

3. Playa de Caleta beach

Two people sitting on beach in Cadiz


The city is made up of a network of narrow yet beautiful streets, and is surrounded by pretty beaches, including the Playa de Caleta which is flanked by two castles – San Sebastian and Santa Catalina. Not only are the castles worth a visit, the beach itself is important in modern history, as it’s where Flamenco was born. A live show is well worth seeking out when here.

4. The nearby city of Seville

Patio de las Doncellas (The Courtyard of the Maidens), Real Alcazar (Royal Palace), UNESCO World Heritage Site

Neale Clark/Robert Harding

If you've got some extra time to spare while docked in Cádiz, history fiends should take the opportunity to explore the nearby city of Seville. Just under a two-hour car journey away, Seville is Spain's fourth-largest city and is brimming with stunning remnants of its Roman and Moorish heritage. One must-see sight is the Royal Alcázar of Seville (above), an eighth-century Moorish palace and UNESCO World Heritage site. Though still a working government venue, visitors can wander through the Alcázar’s horseshoe-shaped arches, ancient tiled hallways and sprawling gardens filled with palm trees and exotic flowers. You won't regret making the pilgrimage here, that's for sure.

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About the Author

Laura Potter

Laura Potter

Laura started her career at The Observer Magazine, and has written for many of the UK's biggest publications. She has a passion for exploring other cultures, discovering local food trends and throwing herself into unique experiences, from kayaking on Lake Michigan to cheering on the riders at the Tour du Rwanda.