Ted and I haven’t visited often enough to put together a detailed Guide to Jerez and Cádiz but these are some introductory notes to both cities following a short visit in January 2019. The photos are Jerez (left) and Cádiz cathedrals.
Jerez de la Frontera (to give it it’s full name) and Cádiz are both in the province of Cádiz, Andalucía, 50 km from one another. Jerez sits slightly inland, between the coast and the mountains and today has a population of 212000. It is an old city in its own right, producing wine since Phoenician days and most famous today as the centre for sherry and brandy production – the word sherry derives from the English pronunciation of its Arabic name Xerex. Cádiz is the capital of the province with a population of 125000. It is an ancient city and port occupying a small promontory surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean and the bay of Cádiz.
Getting to Jerez and Cádiz
Jerez railway station (and a few sherry barrels)
Both cities are on the same railway line with frequent services which links them with Sevilla, the capital of Andalucía. The journey from Sevilla to Jerez takes about an hour and Cádiz 1 hour 40 minutes. From Sevilla there are frequent connections to and from Madrid. There are several through trains each day from Madrid reaching Jerez in 3hrs 45mins and Cádiz in 4hrs 15 mins. From Málaga they be reached with one change – by taking the fast AVANT train to Sevilla or the slower regional train to Dos Hermanas on the Sevilla – Cádiz line.
Jerez has its own small airport with its own railway station. There are direct flights to and from Madrid and Barcelona and in 2019 Ryanair operates 2-4 flights weekly to and from London Stansted.
There are regular coach services Sevilla- Jerez – Cádiz. A daily (Monday to Friday) coach links Málaga with Jerez daily in 4.5 hours, departing Málaga at 1615 and Jerez at 0700. There are three express coaches daily between Málaga and Cadiz via Marbella and Algeciras in 4 hours. From the Costa del Sol resorts Cadiz can be reached by changing coach at Marbella or Algeciras.
The modern centre of Jerez is around the Plaza del Arenal. Nearby is Plaza Esteve (the main bus stop), the market and the main shopping street, Calle Larga. To the west is the older part of town around the Arab alcázar (fortress) and the cathedral. Around the alcázar are pleasant shaded gardens. The cathedral is impressive from the outside (we didn’t go in) and has a strange separate tower standing alone across the cathedral square. Behind them is a warren of streets which make up the Barrio de Santiago, the original gypsy quarter, which feels like a separate village. The area is a mixture of rundown and derelict properties among the occupied houses and churches, and there are a few signs that gentrification has begun. The railway station and neighbouring bus station are to the east of the city centre, linked with it by frequent buses. Along many of the streets are orange trees – when we visited the council was collecting the oranges before they dropped from the trees as we visited.
You can’t miss sherry and brandy in Jerez. The large bodegas for ageing and storing the wine are everywhere. By the cathedral are the Bodegas Gonzalez Byass and Bodegas Fundador (formerly the Domecq Bodega). Most of the bodegas offer tours for visitors. Steve visited and enjoyed tours of the Domecq Bodeqa with Great Rail Journeys tour groups on day trips from Sevilla to Jerez several years ago. There are signs of the wealth of the sherry families including grand mansions such as the Palacio Domecq on the Alameda Cristina.
There is no shortage of places to eat and drink with umpteen places around the city centre. There are several café-bars on the Plaza del Arenal and surrounding streets for sitting outside and people watching. We enjoyed Cerveceria La Maceta (c/Lanceria 27), which had good tapas – the mojama de atun (salt-cured tuna slices) was excellent. For beer, Cerveceria Gorila, on a pleasant small square, Plaza Plateros is excellent inside and out and has local craft beers available both bottled and on tap. We tried the locally brewed and tasty Destraperlo. Needless to say, throughout the city having a fino of sherry is as popular as having a caña of beer.
We stayed in NH Avenida Jerez, Avenida Alcalde Alvero Domecq 10. It is a typical modern chain hotel, though in the off-season (we visited in January) was remarkably good value for a four star huge room with a king size bed. It is 15-20 minutes walk from the city centre and 30 minutes from the station. From outside the hotel there is a reasonable bus service to and from Plaza Esteve. There are plenty of other options scattered through the city centre.
Jerez has other attractions which attract visitors. The area is well-known for horsebreeding and two or three times a week the Real Escuela Andaluz del Arte Ecuestre – the Royal Andalucian School of Equestrian Art puts on a show of horses performing to music which attracts many visitors to the city. Steve visited a couple of times with tour groups and, providing one can see the point of dancing horses (Steve can’t), it is an impressive spectacle. Just outside the city is the Circuito de Jerez, a racing circuit used for Formula 1 motor racing and Grant Prix motor cycling. The biggest festival is the Feria del Caballo (horse fair) each May.
Cádiz is reputedly the oldest continuously inhabited city in western Europe, founded by the Phoenicians then a major Roman city. The casco antiguo (old city) sits on what was an island, now linked to the mainland by a narrow spit of land on which the modern city is located, and dependent for access on a causeway and bridges over the Bahía de Cádiz (Bay of Cadiz). The old city is a warren of narrow streets, and though the population has declined (there is no land for building and the sandy soil makes high buildings an impossibility) it is still densely populated and lively. There is very vehicular traffic and it can feel like wandering around a medieval city. The old city is surrounded by fortifications such as the Castillo de Santa Catalina and Castillo de San Sebastián. The promenade and road around the old city makes for a good walk.
The area round the central market, the cathedral, the Plaza de San Juan de Dios, and the adjoining shopping streets are the heart of the old city. On the bay side of the promontory is the commercial centre with grand avenues and squares fronting the commercial, cruise and naval port. On the Atlantic side, particularly in the modern city, is a string of popular beaches.
The modern city on the sand spit is reached through the Puertas de Tierra (Land Gates) in the old walls by the Plaza de la Constitución. The modern railway station is nearby, behind the old train station which in turn is behind the old customs building on the Plaza de Sevilla at the corner of the commercial port. The bus station is hidden further behind, most easily reached by waking through the railway station. Most hotels are in the modern city along the Atlantic beaches and the old town is reached easily by frequent bus No. 1 which calls at the Plaza de Sevilla and follows the port to the Plaza de España. Bus No. 2 follows the road round the old town. The catamaran ferry dock for El Puerto de Santa Maria (see below) and Rota is in the corner of the commercial port next to the Plaza de Sevilla.
There are plenty of bars and restaurants all over the old city, with concentrations around the market, on Plaza de San Juan de Dios and in Calle Plocia, one street behind the Plaza de Sevilla. Cadiz is known for its seafood. Though we didn’t have the time to explore in detail we did manage tapas of tortillitas de camarones, fritters with tiny local prawns from the bay. Maier, the local craft beer is sold in the Cabin Beer Bar, Plocia 29. The beer is fine though the bar and food are American style. On the corner of Plaza de la Catedral we used Bar La Barrica for beer and tapas. Cádiz is famous for its Carnaval (late February/early March) celebrations which sound like great fun though it is impossible to find accommodation – the Rough Guide recommends staying in Sevilla, travelling down in the evening and returning back on the first morning train.
We stayed in Hotel la Catedral, one of the few hotels in the casco antiguo, in an excellent position on the cathedral square. The front facing rooms have tremendous views of the cathedral. There is also a small infinity pool on the roof with views across the city (pictured). It is a comfortable three star and includes a good breakfast.
El Puerto de Santa Maria
We couldn’t resist the catamaran trip (pictured) to El Puerto de Santa Maria across the bay from Cádiz. It is the third centre of sherry production after Jerez, and Sanlúcar de Barrameda. The catamaran takes 30 minutes to cross the bay (El Puerto can also be reached by bus and train but the journey round the bay takes at least as long) and as it is part of the local transport system it is cheap. And you can sit up top – a bit cold and breezy for Ted and I in January.
Arrival at the Terminal Maritima on the Rio Guadalete was slightly disappointing as the area round the ferry terminal is a bit run down and quiet – we had expected a row of seafood restaurants, but they are further along the riverside. However, it turned out that a small bar across the road, La Dorada (Avenida Bajamar 16), closed when we arrived, two hours later was jumping and serving excellent plates of fish and seafood. A wander around town soon improved our mood. As in Jerez there are bodegas – we passed Gutiérrez Colosia and Osborne, where the flats across the road are named after sherry. The centre of town is a grid pattern of pleasant small streets plus the Plaza de España by the main church and a castle, the Castillo de San Marcos. There are plenty of small corner bars – we tried a few and had excellent chicharrones (like pork scratchings but with meat on) in one whose name I can’t find, and a final beer in La Dorada before catching the ferry back to Cádiz.
Sources of further information:
Getting to Jerez and Cádiz:
Renfe (Spanish railways): www.renfe.com
Comes (coaches from Málaga, Marbella, Algeciras and Ronda, plus Ronda to Jerez): www.tgcomes.es (Spanish only – click on rutas y horarios)
Damas (coach from Málaga to Jerez): www.damas-sa.es (Spanish only)
Local transport, including catamaran: Consorcio de Transportes Bahía de Cadiz: www.cmtbc.es (Spanish only)
Tourist office: www.turismojerez.com
Hotel: NH Avenida, Avenida Domecq 10, www.nh-hotels.com
city buses: www.jerez.es/webs_municipales/autobuses_urbanos/ (Spanish only)
Alcazar: open 0930-1430 (to 1730 on summer Mon-Fris)
Cathedral: open Mon-Sat 1000-1830
Horse show: Real Escuela Andaluz del Arte Ecuestre: www.realescuela.org
Hotel: Hotel la Catedral, Plaza de la Catedral 9, www.hotellacatedral.com
city buses: www.transporteurbanocadiz.es (Spanish only)
Hotel la Catedral