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Among the many landmarks of historical and scenic interest in Cádiz, a few stand out. The city can boast of an unusual cathedral of various architectural styles, a theatre, an old municipal building, an 18th-century watchtower, a vestige of the ancient city wall, an ancient Roman theatre, and electrical pylons of an eye-catching modern design carrying cables across the Bay of Cádiz.

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The old town is characterised by narrow streets connecting squares (plazas), bordered by the sea and by the city walls. Most of the landmark buildings are situated in the plazas.

According to a 2006 census estimate, the population of the city of Cádiz was 130.561, and that of its metropolitan area was 629.054. Cádiz is the seventeenth-largest Spanish city. In recent years, the city's population has steadily declined; it is the only municipality of the Bay of Cádiz (the comarca composed of Cádiz, Chiclana, El Puerto de Santa María, Puerto Real, and San Fernando), whose population has diminished. Between 1995 and 2006, it lost more than 14.000 residents, a decrease of 9%.
Among the causes of this loss of population is the peculiar geography of Cádiz; the city lies on a narrow spit of land hemmed in by the sea. Consequently, there is a pronounced shortage of land to be developed. The city has very little vacant land, and a high proportion of its housing stock is relatively low in density. (That is to say, many buildings are only two or three storeys tall, and they are only able to house a relatively small number of people within their "footprint".) The older quarters of Cádiz are full of buildings that, because of their age and historical significance, are not eligible for urban. Only replacement of these old buildings with high-density apartment projects might allow Cádiz to sustain a higher population.

Two other physical factors tend to limit the city's population. It is impossible to increase the amount of land available for building by reclaiming land from the sea; a new national law governing coastal development thwarts this possibility. Also, because Cadiz is built on a sandspit it is a costly proposition to sink foundations deep enough to support the high-rise buildings that would allow for a higher population density. As it stands, the city's skyline is not substantially different than it was in medieval times. A 17th century watchtower, the Tavira Tower, still commands a panoramic view of the city and the bay despite its relatively modest 45-metre height. (See below.)
Cadiz is the provincial capital with the highest rate of unemployment in Spain. This, too, tends to depress the population level. Young Gaditanos, those between 18 and 30 years of age, have been migrating to other places in Spain (Madrid and Castellón, chiefly), as well as to other places in Europe and the Americas. The population younger than twenty years old is only 20.58% of the total, and the population older than sixty-five is 21.67%, making Cádiz one of the most aged cities in all of Spain.
Despite these trends, some are cheered by the fact that the other towns and cities surrounding the Bay of Cadiz are growing modestly, absorbing some of the population fleeing the capital. Improvements in roads and railways have allowed people to commute to Cadiz for work more easily. Increasingly, outlying communities, like Puerto Real and San Fernando, are providing bedrooms for Cadiz's workforce. In recent years, Cadiz has become more of a place to work than a place to live.

The city was originally founded as Gadir (Phoenician for”walled city") by the Phoenicians, who used it in their trade with Tartessos a city-state believed by archaeologists to be somewhere near the mouth of the Guadalquivir River, about thirty kilometres northwest of Cadiz. (Its exact location has never been firmly established.)
Cadiz is the most ancient city still standing in Western Europe. Traditionally, its founding is dated to 1104 BC although no archaeological strata on the site can be dated earlier than the 9th century BC. One resolution for this discrepancy has been to assume that Gadir was merely a small seasonal trading post in its earliest days.
Later, the Greeks knew the city as Gadira or Gadeira. According to Greek legend, Hercules founded Gadir after performing his fabled tenth labor, the slaying of Geryon, a monstrous warrior-titan with three heads and three torsos joined to a single pair of legs. As early as the 3rd century, a tumulus (a large earthen mound) near Cádiz was associated with Geryon's final resting-place.
One of the city's notable features during antiquity was the temple dedicated to the Phoenician god Melgart. (Melqart was associated with Hercules by the Greeks.) According to the life of Apollonius of Tyana, the temple was still standing during the 1st century. Some historians, based in part on this source, believe that the columns of this temple were the origin of the myth of the Pillars of Hercules.

Votive statues of Melqert-Hercules from the Islote de Sancti Petri
Around 500 BC, the city fell under the sway of Carthage. Cadiz became a base of operations for Hannibal’s conquest of southern Iberia. However, in 206 BC, the city fell to Roman forces under Scipio Africanus. The people of Cadiz welcomed the victors. Under the Romans, the city's Greek name was modified to Gades; it flourished as a Roman naval base. By the time of Augustus, Cadiz was home to more than five hundred equites (members of one of the two upper social classes), a concentration of notable citizens rivaled only by Padua and Rome itself. It was the principal city of a Roman colony, Augusta Urbs Julia Gaditana. However, with the decline of the Roman Empire, Gades's commercial importance began to fade.
The overthrow of Roman power in Hispania Baetica by the Visigoths in 410 saw the destruction of the original city, of which there remain few remnants today. Justinian later reconquered the city in 550 as a part of the Byzantine province of Spania. It would remain Byzantine until Leovigild's reconquest in 572, and returned to the Visigothic Kingdom.
Under Moorish rule between 711 and 1262, the city was called Q?dis (Arabic), from which the modern Spanish name, Cádiz, was derived. Alphonso X of Castile finally ousted the Moors in 1262.

During the Age of Exploration, the city experienced a renaissance. Christopher Columbus sailed from Cádiz on his second and fourth voyages, and the city later became the homeport of the Spanish treasure fleet. Consequently, the city became a major target of Spain's enemies. The 16th century also saw a series of failed raids by Barbary corsairs. The greater part of the old town was consumed in the conflagration of 1569. In April 1587 a raid by the Englishman Sir Francis Drake occupied the harbour for three days, capturing six ships and destroying 31 others as well as a large quantity of stores (an event popularly known as 'The Singeing of the King of Spain's Beard'). The attack delayed the sailing of the Spanish Armada by a year.

The city suffered a still more serious attack in 1596, when an English fleet under the Earl of Essex and Sir Charles Howard captured it. 32 Spanish ships were destroyed and the city was captured, looted and occupied for almost a month. Finally, when the royal authorities refused to pay a ransom demanded by the English for returning the city intact, they burned much of it before leaving with their booty. The Duke of Buckingham mounted another English raid in 1625 against the city, commanded by Sir Edward Cecil, but this was unsuccessful. In the Anglo-Spanish War, Admiral Robert Blake blockaded Cadiz from 1655 to 1657. In the Battle of Cadiz, the English attacked again under Sir George Rooke and James, Duke of Ormonde, but they were repelled after a costly siege.
In the 18th century, the sand bars of the river Guadalquivir forced the Spanish government to transfer the port monopolizing trade with Spanish America from upriver Seville to Cadiz with better access to the Atlantic. During this time, the city experienced a golden age during which three-quarters of all Spanish trade was with the Americas. It became one of Spain's greatest and most cosmopolitan cities and home to trading communities from many countries, among whom the richest was the Irish community. Many of today's historic buildings in the Old City date from this era.

During the Napoleonic Wars Cadiz was blockaded by the British from 1797 until the Peace of Amiens in 1802, and again from 1803 until the outbreak of the Peninsular War in 1808. In that war it was one of the few Spanish cities to hold out against the invading French, who sought to install Joseph Bonaparte on the throne. It became the seat of Spain's military high command and of the Cortes (parliament) for the duration of the war. It was here that the liberal Spanish Constitution of 1812 was proclaimed. The citizens revolted in 1820 to secure a renewal of this constitution; the revolution spread across Spain, leading to the imprisonment of King Ferdinand VII in Cadiz. French forces secured the release of Ferdinand in the Battle of Trocadero (1823) and suppressed liberalism. In 1868, Cadiz was once again the seat of a revolution, resulting in the eventual abdication and exile of Queen Isabella II. The same Cadiz Cortes decided to reinstate the monarchy under King Amadeo I just two years later. In recent years, the city has undergone much reconstruction. Many monuments, cathedrals, and landmarks have been cleaned and restored, adding to the considerable charm of this ancient city.

Places of interest


Palacio de Congresos

Tavira tower

Plaza de San Francisco and San Francisco Church and Convent

Admiral's House

Plaza San Antonio

Old customs house

Plaza de Candelaria

Plaza de Mina

Plaza de la Catedral and the Cathedral

Roman theatre

Plaza de San Juan de Dios and the Old Town Hall

Pylons of Cadiz

Plaza de España and the monument to the constitution of 1812

Carranza Bridge

Plaza de Falla and the Gran Teatro Falla (Falla Grand Theatre

La Pepa Bridge

Fortress of Candelaria

City Gates

San Sebastián, el castillo

Santa Catalina


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Costa del Sol: Cádiz
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