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An Expat's Guide to Living in Cádiz, Spain

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The year I was blessed to be living in Cádiz, Spain was hands down the most fun year of my 8 years abroad. A truly enchanting location, Cádiz is a highly sought-after destination. Its likeness to Havana, Cuba is the draw for hundreds of thousands of people. 

The famous Malecón, an esplanade and barrier sea wall, is an 8 km stretch frequented by the masses in Havana. The expenses of filming in Cuba, however, frequently force the hand of directors to come to Andalusia instead. As a result, the city has served as a backdrop for hundreds of films, including the popular James Bond movie, Die Another Day

The sea views aside, Cádiz is home to one of the largest celebrations in Andalusia: Carnival. An annual celebration of culture and past political folly, this event plus the famed Semana Santa are two cultural events I recommend everyone experience in person at least once. 

Living in this magical place has left a Cádiz-shaped imprint on my heart. But I would argue that Cádiz is grossly underrepresented as a travel destination in Western Europe. Though that doesn’t stop the tourists from arriving every year, be it by bus, train, car, or boat. 

Come discover the culture, history, and sense of community, and which beach is your favorite when moving to this beautiful place.

The Best Time to Move to Cádiz

Teatro Fall Photo by Jorge Fernández Salas

Are you considering living in Cádiz, too? I don't blame you!

This city is something else. As one of the most stunning locations in all of Europe, this Spanish city will enchant you instantly. Most wait for the summer months to begin the move, but as someone who has mingled amongst the locals here for a year, I can instruct you not to do so. 

Why is that, you ask? Because the rent in the city is triple to respond to tourism demands.

The best time to relocate to Cádiz, Spain, instead, is just before fall. This is largely thanks to the University and vocational school campuses in town but because of this, it can be difficult to secure long-term leases. That is to say that most Spanish people own these homes and rent them short-term to students and/or professors. 

When it comes to cost, Cádiz isn't exactly cheap either. We have tourism and the density of the population to thank for that, too. I have watched the prices here increase over the years. Still, the cost of living is lower than in most places in the rest of the world. 

The Logistics of Making the Move to Cádiz

There is an airport in Cádiz, but it's rarely open to international flights. The next closest place to land is in Jerez de la Frontera, but air prices in and out of there can be a little rich. My suggestion is to fly into Seville, then take the train (Santa Justa) down to Cádiz. The ride is about two hours, super comfortable, and there are charging ports on board.  

Moving by plane is still feasible though. I did it, twice. If you choose the right airline and ticket, you can cut costs on baggage fees. After that, a little strategic packing is all that it takes. As of February 2023, face masks are no longer compulsory on planes, buses, or trains but are still required in medical spaces, i.e. pharmacies.

It's worth noting that should you decide on the plane and train combo there may be baggage limitations to consider. Typically, each train passenger is allotted one carry-on and one large bag up to 20k. Read the fine print of the train operator for details of your exact route(s).

Choosing Where to Live in Cádiz Province

Playa de la Caleta Photo by Jorge Fernández Salas

Deciding where to live in the province is challenging for one major reason: there are too many beautiful places to choose from.

If the municipality is the choice, I highly recommend areas that keep you around the local culture such as Plaza de Espana or near the Alameda. These neighborhoods are relatively quiet and have gorgeous landmarks and views of the sea.

If lively nightlife is more your speed, then consider the area close to the Theatre Falla (where my house was) or La Viña, where the famous La Caleta Beach is located.

Moving away from the city and down the paseo (or strip) toward the beaches, rent prices drop significantly, and there’s more access to large retailers and restaurants. Those that are motivated by food may find this part of town more enjoyable.

For the best chance at really integrating into your community and making friends with locals, learning Spanish will take you far. I recommend you start learning a few months before your move online with Mondly. This online language platform teaches basic vocabulary, grammar, and even helps you speaking with practice conversations. Start speaking Spanish with Mondly today.

But the truth is, anywhere you choose to live in this magical place will be spellbinding. If you are considering another city in Spain, check out the other guides highlighting Córdoba, Gran Canaria, Madrid, and Barcelona.

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What Makes Cádiz the Gem of Costa De La Luz?

Stunning Cádiz Federico Garcia

The Cádiz province is part of Andalusia, the southern region of the country, therefore the warmest of other points in the region. And unlike other Spanish cities, the name Cádiz doesn't exist in other colonized countries/territories in South America. This fact makes it all the more delicious to have called it home.

The architectural wonders, the lengthy paseo, scattered parks, and the sea all bid for the top spot of what to see and experience when living here. Because of this, I recommend people start in the center with the Ayuntamiento (or Town Hall) and check out these stops first, until you find your favorites, too:

  • Playa de la Caleta is the place to catch the best sunset on the peninsula. Bring some wine and food and settle in for a picnic next to the sea. Operational since the 7th Century (BC), this bay served as the original port.
  • San Sebastian Castle is located right off the bay above. One of several fortresses around the seafront, the castle can be seen from anywhere on the west side of the city. 
  • Parque Genoves is a local favorite for weekend pastime. This botanical garden houses 100 different species of trees imported from all around the world. Take your time in this gem and visit the fountain hiding near the back of the garden.
  • Mercado Central is found in the heart of the Old Town, a short walk from the paseo. The Mercado is the place to enjoy typical Cádiz food and half pints for two Euros. I recommend sampling the chicharrones at stall 47 or grabbing a plate of freshly shucked oysters near any of the several entries to the market. 
  • Cádiz Cathedral is home to a real-life crypt plus it has dozens of flying buttresses and an ancient organ that will leave you speechless. Climb the tower (separate price) to capture some amazing 360 views of the city. 

While gallivanting, don't forget to enjoy the various plazas in the city where Christopher Columbus set sail for the New World in September of 1493. Each has its own story and vibe, my favorite being Plaza de Mina, as this plaza is home to the Cádiz Museum. Trees galore, busy squirrels, squawking pigeons, and plenty of tree-covered benches to sit on.

With so many things to see and do in Cádiz, you won't quickly grow bored here. When you first arrive, I'd advise checking out the tourist hotspots and giving yourself some time to ease in. After a few weeks, you'll soon be discovering the quaint spots that make this place feel like home.

What Are the Best Beaches in Cádiz, Spain?

Playa de la Caleta Photo by Jorge Fernández Salas

Grab your bathing suit or bikini, towel, sunscreen, and some friends, then head to the beach to find out! Part of the appeal of coming this far west is experiencing the sun and sand. Two things I never took for granted while living in Cádiz, Spain. 

An expat tip: Behave like the Spanish do and go topless. It’s not creepy or gross at all to do so. Women of all ages are topless under the warm sun, and no one will blink an eye at complete nudity either. 

The most urban beach is the playa de la Caleta, but if space is preferred, get out of the municipality and head down toward Playa Victoria. This coastline stretches down to Tarifa, overlooked by the hills of Vejer de la Frontera, and is broken into four names:

  1. Chato
  2. Cortadura
  3. Santibáñez
  4. Torregorda

There’s no major difference between each beach location other than the force and frequency of the wind. This region is known for its high gusts and the mini dunes that form along the coastline as a result. Don't forget to drink plenty of water while under the warm Spanish sun!

Getting Around Cádiz, Spain

Another beautiful beach option by Cayetano Gros

When visiting the municipality and old town areas of Cádiz, it’s easy to walk to most places, beaches included (the urban beach that I frequented most when living in the city was Playa Santa Maria del Mar). But if you don't want to/can't walk around with ease, then lean on public transport.

This is especially great if you acquire a bono bus card. Load the card in 7 Euro increments and take the bus to get around. Each load covers roughly ten rides, so be sure to estimate accordingly, or you can opt for paying in cash (or card) directly on the bus. 

There are two versions of bono bus cards in the municipality, one for the city bus (white) and one for long-distance buses for the province (green). The latter also works for ferry travel but can not be used on city buses.

These long-distance buses won't get you as far as the El Caminito del Rey in Málaga, but they will open you up to the beauty of the province with ease. 

Doable Day Trips From Cádiz, Spain

Vejer de la Frontera by Ferran Feixas

Most expats and visitors tend to head for better-known (or publicized) coastal destinations like Marbella or Almería when attempting to visit “off-the-beaten-path” places in Spain. But there are too many breathtakingly beautiful white villages in this province (the country, honestly) to mention.

Discover the best of Cádiz when you take a trip to the following destinations:

  1. Conil de la Frontera delivers ocean view after ocean view and arguably has some of the best beaches. Especially if heading south toward El Palmar De Vejer.
  2. Jerez de la Frontera is a short distance inland from the city and stunning in the Summer months. The land of sherry and wine, Jerez will hook you quickly.
  3. Setenil de las Bodegas is part of the Cádiz province that's thick with Spanish history and is built into the overhanging cliffsides of the area.
  4. Tarifa is located right on the coast where the Atlantic and the Mediterranean sea meet off the coast of Southern Spain. People here enjoy the good life, and though visitors come for kite surfing, they stay for the food.
  5. Vejer de la Frontera is a small town perched high on the hill overlooking Gibraltar. This place is perfect for experiencing the sights at a slower pace. 

Small groups can arrange for tours with any travel company in the area. For those interested in slow traveling, Cádiz is a prime location to set sail solo, with family, or with friends.

The port connects the small island to the Canary Islands in the Atlantic Ocean as well as neighboring cities in the province such as Puerto Santa Maria (El Puerto de Santa Maria) and Rota (US Navy Base).

You're Ready to Enjoy Living in Cádiz

With the launch of it's new digital nomad visa, more than just those teaching English will soon be moving to Spain...and for good reason! Offering it's residents a laidback atmosphere, warm climate, tasty cuisine, and plenty to see and do, Spain is a fantastic country to call your home abroad. Will you make the leap?

Hero photo curtesy by Jordi Vich Navarro.

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