Writing about my recent stay in Cádiz, a place that seems to get a bad rep here.
About me: I am a SE Asian American woman in my late 20s--with the right crowds, I can pass as Latin American, and my Spanish is decent (B1-B2).
I was in the historic area of Cádiz for 4 nights--2 days included a work conference at Palaccio de Congresos, near the train station and main port. There is a modern area across the main gate, but I only passed through via bus and was not interested at all.
I loved the historic area. It reminded me of the reasons I loved Reykjavik, Iceland: it's small, homey, not too quiet but not too busy or noisy (at least when I went to Reykjavik in 2014), and very walkable. In addition, the time I went to Cádiz had simply perfect weather. It only drizzled on occasion my second-to-last day. Otherwise, it was a very comfortable 60-70 degrees Fahrenheit with an occasional light breeze.
I stayed with an AirBnb host originally from England who gave me many local tips. I followed all of them and had time to do some other exploring as well. I quickly came to realize why she decided to live in Cádiz: the not-too-many people aspect, the beauty, the coastline, the delicious seafood, and it's so cheap! There's several free attractions as well. I always felt safe there from morning to midnight as a solo woman. Another very refreshing thing is the only American food chain I saw was Burger King. There may have been a couple of clothing shops, too, but I don't remember. The perimeter of historical Cádiz is a pleasure to walk around. It probably will take an able-bodied person an hour to do the whole thing. As a runner myself, I jealously watched a lot of runners take advantage of the fresh coastline air, wide sidewalks, and lovely garden spaces. (I had tried to pack light so I didn't have my running shoes or shorts.) I enjoyed seeing so many dogs, children playing in the parks, a couple taking dance lessons in an open courtyard, students practicing band, etc.
It's definitely a "take your time and relax" kind of place. I can see people from cruise lines who only have a few hours from morning to afternoon get disappointed in seeing Cádiz. It doesn't have a lot of things that can immediately "wow" you. Other than my conference, the one thing that just blew me away was somewhat late at night, at 10 p.m. at a family-owned flamenco showplace: La Perla de Cádiz. It was fantástico.
Another thing I enjoyed was a visit to the Osborne bodega. I took the 9 a.m. catamarán ferry from the port to El Puerto de Santa Maria (30 min) to catch the 10 a.m. English tour. Being solo and coming off-season, I knew I could take a decent chance at going without reserving a spot ahead of time, but they recommend you do if you have a group. I learned a lot, and our group was free to take our time in finishing 4 different bottles of wine (though we were nowhere near close). My AirBnb host recommended I come even earlier to have breakfast at their excellent restaurant, but alas... I got a little lost and didn't have time. :)
Mini-highlights (all free): little cute beaches, el Castillo de Santa Catalina (has art galleries and an exhibit on the Cádiz Explosion), el Parque Genovés, the outside of the main cathedral. Then cheap delicious restaurants: La Candela, Quilla, Pizzeria Candelaría, Bolas ice cream, Frityes, Cumbres Mayores.
I flew Boston->Barcelona->Jerez (near Cádiz) with carry-on bags. I got a sim card in Barcelona, and thank goodness because Jerez airport is so small and had nothing open for me to buy anything anyway. I took a Renfe train (bought ticket right there) to Cádiz station. No problems.
Now I'm in Málaga and will explore it, Sevilla, and Granada for the next 8 days with my husband. I'll see if I write about that as well later, but felt it was extra important to write about Cádiz so it gets a little more love here.