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Cádiz, in southern Spain's Andalucía, is a jumble of lively streets, sun-kissed beaches and gregarious locals. This ancient port city spans a peninsula crisscrossed with a buzzing mix of shops, nightlife and a Roman amphitheatre which once held 10,000 roaring spectators. As you take in the surroundings while sampling tasty fried fish washed down with a glass of crisp sherry, Cádiz will quickly get under your skin.
Hostels in Cádiz are centrally located, making the most of natural and urban scenery with rooftop terraces and colourful patios to relax on. Lots have free breakfast and many put on communal evening meals, while others have shared kitchens. Along with free Wi-Fi, you'll also find Cádiz hostels that offer group activities such as yoga and surfing lessons, as well as trips to flamenco shows.
Cádiz is a network of eclectic barrios (neighbourhoods). At the entrance to the old town are the cobbled streets of El Pópulo, an area gathered around the iconic Plaza de la Catedral square. Within the old town is El Centro, a busy collection of shops and bars leading onto vibrant squares like Plaza de Topete, famed for its colourful flower stalls. La Viña, the former fishing quarter next to the Playa Caleta beach, is the place to get caught up in the energy of Cádiz. The annual Carnival kicks off in this district, which is also packed with tapas bars.
To see the sights of Cádiz, the 45-metre tall Torre Tavira tower gives the best panorama of the city. You'll have earned the views – and a sweet churros snack – after climbing the 173 steps. Escape the seaside crowds by heading to the large Playa de la Victoria, a beach running along almost the entire western side of the peninsula. The Mercado Central's stalls are home to some of Spain's signature tantalising, fresh seafood. Try fried dogfish and tortillitas de camarones (shrimp fritters) in the outdoor bar area attached to the market.
You can explore Cádiz on foot or use the bus system, with routes spreading out from Plaza de España square. The closest airport is Jerez Airport, which has direct trains running regularly to the Estación de Tren de Cádiz railway station, at the south eastern edge of the old town. Trains also connect with nearby Jerez de la Frontera, as well as further afield to Seville and Madrid. The neighbouring bus station also has routes to these and other destinations such as Ronda and Valencia.