Christmas in Cadiz
Christmas 2021. The time we discovered the old line 'the rain in Spain falls mainly on the plain' isn't rooted in fictitious diction. There was no formality in our speech as we made our way from Madrid to Cádiz, the rain roaring on our windshield, our Airbnb flooding as we drove. Christmas Eve was a night away, and I was fast hunting last-minute accommodation.
Tough as the holiday began, all was not lost—except our intended apartment. It set the tone for our Christmas venture, sending all plans out the window and encouraging us to embrace a little more flexibility (shudder the thought). And so, our tip became one of impromptu road trips and street wanderings to rival a Flâner.
Before we dive into our highlights, let it be said that if planning a getaway in the beautiful Southern tip, fly to Seville or Jerez. Do not, as one frugal couple did (with a voucher, might I add), opt for the cheaper flight to Madrid. A nine-hour drive on top of a flight is not for the faint of heart, no matter how beautiful a pitstop in Toledo may be—and it is beautiful.
We stayed for a total of seven days in Cádiz before drifting back to Madrid for New Year (yes, by car. Again). For those unfamiliar with this little gem of Andalusia, you are in for a treat on your Google search. Cádiz is an ancient port city that feels both Romanesque and distinctly Middle Eastern. It's a city rich in history, all cobbled streets and white-wash walls. We stayed in the Old Town, which I would highly recommend for its vibrant energy, eclectic eateries, and heritage sites galore. Our intended Airbnb was a bust through no fault of the owner—Cadiz architecture is not designed for a heavy downpour and so leak it must—however, it led to a truly pleasurable stay in GoodNight Cádiz Apartments, which was a fortuitous twist.
A cross between a hotel and a self-catering apartment, this setting offers absolute luxury with a healthy amount of independence. The kitchen may be tight, but the bedrooms and living space more than make up for it—particular shout-out to the electronic shutters, a wonderful touch for light sleepers. Located just across from Jardines de Alameda Apodaca overlooking the ocean, the property is within easy walking distance of Playa de La Caleta and the dynamic streets surrounding Plaza de San Antonio—which also offers secure parking.
Logistics aside, Cadiz is a city made for lovers with romantic sunset vistas and glowing street lights at dusk. For those who crave intellectual stimulation beyond long walks on the beach, the city is bursting with cultural sites and institutions sure to work up quite an appetite—which its endless bakeries will happily appease. Before exploring Old Town any further, I highly recommend a trip to The Cadiz Museum. Its wealth of artifacts, fine art, and impressive history will have you looking at your surroundings in a completely different light. With it being Christmas—and a pandemic— much of the popular sites were unaccessible, which we are happy to rectify next time. However, it opened the door for us to discover the lesser-known Oratorio de La Santa Cueva. A rich mix of Neoclassical architecture and exquisite artwork, this understated 18th-century church (as you may tell from the photo above) is a majestic site worthy of rivaling a Roman Basilica—not to mention the haunting interiors of the underground chapel.
Outside of this, for the most part, Cadiz is made for idle wandering, with La Viña offering a winding array of streets packed with boutique stores, tapas, coffee shops, and an irresistible laidback vibe. For a perfect end to the day, I would encourage you to drift on over to the Restaurante Contraseña for delicious, innovative dishes that feel on par with any high-end London Michelin restaurant.
A hop, skip, and a jump takes you to the easy-living surfer town of Los Caños de Meca, which boasts an easy-going island vibe to rival a sleepy New England resort town. Once the haven of hippies, Caños is now the home to beach lovers in every form, with surf vans fitting in seamlessly alongside the coastal condos. Here lies Singular Coffee, which is said to deliver excellent specialty coffee this side of Seville (more on that later), but we had just missed the opening times.
Drive a little further, and you will arrive in gorgeous Tarifa, where the Moroccan coast sits just on the horizon. Once again, we were hindered by the post-pandemic off-season (and Siesta), but we still got a taste of its distinctive bohemian style. Venturing down Tarifa's weaving streets, we discovered sweet little tapas bars and vegetarian restaurants—which, must be said, Andalusia has an abundance of. Along the waterfront, nestled close by Castillo de Santa Catalina, is an array of surfer-inspired restaurants that screams of fresh juice and wave-riding fuel.
Walking out towards the Isla de Las Palomas, the wind sweeping across towards Tarifa Beach, one is struck by a refreshing grounding into the present while somehow pondering all future possibilities. Perhaps it is the suggestion of otherworldly ventures that the distant coastline of Morroco brings—I cannot say. But for those who feel most restored when breathing the salty air, this underrated spot may be the most curative space yet.
The journey doesn't end here; check out our several-hour sweep of Seville.