Historians say that Cadiz was founded over 3,000 years ago and that it is the oldest inhabited city in Europe. Lively, seafaring and a centre for trade, Cadiz has a rational urban design – straight, narrow streets – towering façades with fine wrought ironwork and gardens of great botanical variety by the sea, which surrounds the city making it almost an island.

The baroque cathedral features bright domes and a sumptuous interior, so different in architectural style from the majority of Spanish cathedrals. As you walk around the tightly crammed city centre, visiting churches and museums, you come upon squares, such as San Juan de Dios, Mina, Constitución, España and Mentidero, each with its own style. Formerly known as Gades, Cadiz was for centuries Spain’s main port for ships sailing to and from America.

In February the carnival, so highly acclaimed here and with good reason, has its own temple, the Gran Teatro Falla, recently restored, in a curious neo-Mudéjar style.

Cadiz is situated on a bay which boasts a collection of attractive towns, such as El Puerto de Santa Maria, at the mouth of the River Guadalete, with beautiful beaches and the Castle of San Marcos in the town centre.

The town of San Fernando, closely linked to the history of the Spanish navy lies in the vicinity of salt marshes. Here also are Puerto Real and Chiclana. Further west, towards the mouth of the River Guadalquivir, first you see Rota and Chipiona, both with excellent beaches, and then comes Sanlúcar de Barrameda, opposite Doñana National Park. This town is famous for many reasons, from its wine, ‘manzanilla’, to its prawns and its summer horse races over the wide sandy beaches.

Towns and villages of unusual design abound in the province, such as Setenil, with its houses built into the rock, and Olvera, with its well-restored castle. Several tiny villages, Zahara de la Sierra and Castellar de la Frontera, are also stunning, while among the larger beautiful inland towns are Jerez de la Frontera, of sherry fame, Arcos de la Frontera, perched on a cliff, and ancient Medina Sidonia

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