A stroll along Cádiz's seaside promenades is reason enough to visit. The port city's paseo runs around Old Town and along the sometimes-turbulent Atlantic Ocean. There is no better way to get an understanding of the city and its relationship to the sea than to walk these handsomely landscaped waterfront paseos that double as public gardens. The southern and western promenades look out over the ocean; the most scenic is Parque Genovés 2, with exotic trees and plants from all over the world, including a palm garden, just like the type enjoyed in the oases of North Africa across the sea. Chattering monkeys are always on hand and summer concerts are presented here.

From the Parque del Genovés, if you follow Avenida Duque de Nájera, it will lead you to Playa de la Caleta, one of the most popular beaches of Cádiz. At the northern end of this bay stands Castillo de Santa Catalina (tel. 95-622-63-33). It was built in 1598 and for many decades was the port's main citadel. Except for the views, there isn't that much to see here, but it's open for guided visits, which leave every half-hour. In summer it's open daily from 10am to 8pm. In winter it's open daily 10:30am to 6pm. Admission is free.

Other parks along the promenade include Alameda Marqués de Comillas and Alameda de Apodaca. The promenade stretches all the way to the New Town and can be entered at many places, especially Plaza Argüelles or Calle Fermín Salvochea, off Plaza de España. Along this promenade, some of the most beautiful places or squares in the city look across to the far shore of Bahía de Cádiz.

advertisement

Inhabitants from 80 Million Years Ago -- All of the historic buildings in Cádiz's medieval core are crafted from a sedimentary limestone known locally as "oyster rock." Within many of the stones, you can see the shells of crustaceans that were alive 80 million years ago and whose petrified carcasses (in the form of this rock) were brought to the surface at the point where the tectonic plates of Europe and Africa collided in Cádiz.

Will the Real Havana Please Stand Up? -- Cádiz's seafront Malecón closely resembles parts of Havana, Cuba, and is often used by filmmakers as a stand-in for that city. During the filming in 2002 of the James Bond movie Die Another Day, with Halle Berry and Pierce Brosnan, the crews used the Malecón for the crowd scenes. According to a local newspaper, "Cádiz's unemployment problem was solved for 15 days, during which everybody played extras in the film."

The Old Town

advertisement

Even if you have to skip all the monuments, take a stroll through the Old Town. Start at Plaza San Juan de Dios, one of the busiest squares, directly south of the water-bordering Avenida del Puerto and the wide "green lung" of Paseo de Canalejas. This is an ideal place to sit at a sidewalk cafe and people-watch. You'll also be in the shadow of the neoclassical Isabelino Ayuntamiento (Town Hall), Plaza San Juan de Dios s/n (tel. 95-624-10-00), which is open on Saturday only from 11am to 1pm; admission is free. Built in two sections, one in 1799 and the other in 1861, the town hall is dramatically illuminated at night. Inside there's not much to see except an impressive chapter house.

If you follow Rosario Mendizabal west from Plaza de San Juan de Dios you arrive at another bustling landmark square, Plaza de San Francisco. Enveloped by white and yellow town houses, the square is studded with orange trees and adorned with beautiful streetlamps. It is one of the best places for an evening paseo (promenade).

To the immediate west of Plaza de San Francisco is Cádiz's third landmark square, Plaza de Mina, site of the Museo de Cádiz. This is a big, leafy plaza studded with palm trees. There are plenty of benches about if you'd like to anchor here and watch the world go by. On the western side of the plaza, you can gaze on the stunning, heavily ornamented facade of the Colegio de Arquitectos (College of Architects).

advertisement

The Great Composer's Not at Home -- The former home of Manuel de Falla, at Calle Ancha 19, is in Old Town. It boasts a plaque identifying it as the home of the composer, and a pair of the most elaborate door knockers in Cádiz, plus a tiled entranceway laid out in Mudéjar patterns. There's nothing else to see, since the rest of the building was locked up tight after its subdivision into private condominiums. Bus: 1, 2, or 7.

Private Treasures, Hidden Corners -- Cádiz is loaded with hidden treasures, many of which appear unexpectedly as you walk through the Old Town. One such place is the lobby of a strictly private, members-only club, Casino Gaditano, which was established in 1844 in a pink-fronted antique building set in a corner of the Plaza San Antonio. If the front door is open, and if you ask permission of the concierge, you can wander into the building's exquisitely crafted Mudéjar-revival lobby, where a splashing octagon-shaped fountain, soaring columns, and a bar reserved for members only re-create an upscale venue from the mid-19th century. Admission is free, but you won't be encouraged to linger after your brief visit. In theory, the club is open daily from 9am to 6pm, but if there's a reception or function scheduled at the time of your arrival, it won't be very easy to get in. To find it, look for a sign reading FUNDACION CENTRO DE ESTUDIOS CONSTITUCIONALES 1812, in the Plaza San Antonio s/n; www.constitucion1812.org. Bus: 2 or 7.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.