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Car hire in Cadiz from Carrentals.co.uk

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The historic port city of Cadiz in southwestern Spain has a unique setting on an island separated from the mainland by a narrow channel. The well preserved medieval walls and old city are the main attractions, with maze-like alleyways, picturesque plazas and stunning beaches characterising this Andalusian hub.

History: founded by the Phoenicians, Cadiz is thought by many to be the most ancient city still standing in western Europe. Having been conquered by the Romans, the city was once a haven for members of the higher social classes. However, it was during the Age of Exploration that Cadiz really rose to prominence, as home of the Spanish treasure fleet, and again in the 18th century when trade with the Americas boomed. Now a modern city, Cadiz has a distinctly cosmopolitan character.

Sightseeing: Cadiz Cathedral took more than 100 years to build and as a result, is a fascinating combination of baroque, rococo and neoclassical styles. Around the town, some of the 160 watchtowers which were formerly used by merchants looking for arriving vessels can still be seen, as can some of the 16th century old city walls. The remains of the second largest Roman theatre in the world, only recently uncovered, can also be viewed. For a taste of Cadizs maritime history, visit the two castles and the Candelaria fort, which overlook the city.

Shopping: Central Market in the old city is the site of an interesting Sunday flea market where you can pick up some unusual knickknacks. The central Columela street is the hub of modern shopping offering clothes, shoes and books, whereas El Corte Ingles and other malls are located on the outskirts of town. Popular buys include food products, ceramics and antiques.

Eating and drinking: seafood is a big feature, with boiled shellfish and grilled fish appearing on most menus. Sherry and other fortified wines are popular aperitifs, while there is normally a great wine selection from around Spain at Cadiz restaurants. Most restaurants in the old city offer outdoor eating and take away services; you can choose a fish by weight and they will fry and pack it for you to take home. There are also a number of atmospheric tapas bars specialising in seafood and Iberian meats.

Where to stay: most visitors choose to stay in the old city, perhaps the most atmospheric part of town and where most of the tourist amenities are. Here you will find a good selection of mid-range hostels offering good value for money, where you can expect service to be friendly and rooms to be spotless. Outside the old city there are some larger resort-style hotels along the coast with beach access and swimming pools.

Getting there: the closest airport to Cadiz is Jerez de la Frontera, 1 hour away by car. Flights from Jerez to Madrid and Barcelona as well as to London Stansted and Frankfurt Hahn are frequent. A greater selection of flights is available at Seville and Malagas airports, both less than 3 hours drive from Cadiz. Alternatively visitors can take a bus or train to Jerez from another Spanish destination or drive to Cadiz via the A4 from Madrid or the N340 from Barcelona.