Cádiz, Spain

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Cádiz: The Prototype Of New World Cities

Reviewed by Kathleen Peddicord

Kathleen is the Live and Invest Overseas Founding Publisher. She has more than 30 years of hands-on experience traveling, living, and buying property around the world.

Seaside view of Cádiz in Spain including local cathedral
Adobe Stock/dudlajzov

Spain has a quality of life that’s difficult to match… the climate, the good food, and the active outdoor lifestyle add up to Spaniards having the longest life expectancy in Europe thanks to good food, climate, and active outdoor life. (It ranks second in the world, after Japan.)

Along Spain’s southwestern coast lies the Costa de la Luz, or the Coast of Light.

From northwest to southeast, it stretches from Spain’s border with Portugal down to Tarifa, the southernmost point in Europe, almost touching Morocco across the Strait of Gibraltar, along the Atlantic Coast.

This region is famous for the very thing it’s named for: dazzling sunshine—some 3,000 hours per year.

The Costa de la Luz’s centerpiece is Cádiz. It’s often called “Little Havana” or compared to Old San Juan, Puerto Rico, because of its long board-walked beachfront backed by colorful ancient buildings…

In fact, Cádiz is the prototype that those New World cities were based on. It’s touted as the oldest city in Western Europe, dating to 1104 BC.

Walking its streets, you can feel the history and see the cultural influence of the many civilizations—from Phoenicians to the Romans to the Moors—that impacted it over time.

Its Old Town is densely populated, with one of Europe’s oldest neighborhoods and ruins hemmed in by old city walls. Individual landmarks syncretize various architectural styles.

Narrow streets spill out into lively plazas where you can sit in the shade of a towering cathedral and watch the world go by…

Cádiz Province (one of the two provinces that the Costa de la Luz covers; the other is Huelva) offers everything from well-appointed beachfront towns to ancient hilltop villages that can be seen for miles because of their brilliant, white-washed buildings.

You may not need a car in Cádiz as the town center is compact. Centuries ago, when the town was built, it was designed to be navigated on foot and that continues to be the best way to get around.

There are major upsides to walking everywhere: it’s good for your health, it’s the best way to discover, it’s easy on your bank account, it’s positive for the environment…

A downside is that walkways can be slippery and perhaps impossible to navigate if you are mobility-impaired. This is true across the Old World and especially in town centers where the pavement has been trodden on for hundreds of years.

Just outside Cádiz Old Town is the railway station. From there, you can connect as far as Santander and Gijón, in the extreme north of Spain, or Madrid. A one-way ticket from Cádiz to Madrid (Puerta de Atocha Station) will run you about 47 euros. From Cádiz to Sevilla (Santa Justa Station) is about 13 euros.

Expat Ivan Ricoy, who lives in Cádiz and runs a business there, says: “For a long time, Cádiz was looked down upon by the other regions of Spain, and its people were almost seen as backwards because they don’t seem to have the same ambition that drives other parts of the Western World…

“Nowadays, the national perception of Cádiz is changing. It’s becoming more popular with people from other parts of Spain for the very thing it was previously looked down on for: its laid-back outlook on life.

“It has almost a post-modern appeal… people are now seeking out the slow, family-oriented pace of life that Cádiz is known for. I think this could make it very appealing to foreign retirees as well.”

People here absolutely work to live, not live to work. The culture is relaxed and fairly liberal.

Expat Community In Cádiz, Spain

Costilla beach at sunset, Rota, Costa de la Luz Cádiz, Spain

The Costa de la Luz is not the most popular destination in Spain for expats… but its authenticity and low-key local vibe is part of its appeal.

Cádiz, despite being the biggest city on this coast, is not home to a huge number of expats.

Expat Ivan Ricoy says, “People from Cádiz are very friendly. They are excited that foreigners want to come here and see how they live. I often bring my tour groups to a family-run vineyard, for instance, to see how wine is made, and this has become a source of pride for the family.

“It might be a humble way of life, but it’s validating for them that people come all the way from the United States and other places to see it.”

In short, foreign retirees will need to do some mental adapting and reprioritizing if they come here… The slower pace of life takes some getting used to.

Cádiz isn’t a big city environment; you don’t have lots of museums, theater, excitement, action, entertainment, etc. If you want those things, you have to create them for yourself.

People who settle here tend to be nature-lovers… This region is unspoiled, and there are lots of opportunities to hike in the surrounding hillside, explore empty beaches, and so on.

Older people are very respected here. They live their lives to the fullest until the very end. They still socialize in the plazas, play dominoes, babysit their grandkids at the beach, and do exercise classes together.

In other places, homes for older people are pushed outside of the city centers to suburbs and places where there is nothing going on. This isn’t the case here.

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Cost Of Living In Cádiz, Spain

One of the biggest reasons to choose Spain as your overseas retirement destination is that it’s so affordable.

Many Americans and Canadians have this perception of Western Europe as being financially out of reach, a destination only accessible in daydreams…

The truth is that many Western European countries—especially Spain and especially the Costa de la Luz—are more affordable than the States or Canada. That’s a lower cost of living for a higher quality of life, too.

Living in Cádiz, your big-ticket expenses are likely to be rent, health care, and taxes.

For rent, expect to pay about 600 euros a month at the higher-end of the spectrum, for a well-appointed two-bedroom apartment by the beach in Cádiz. Compare that to US$2,159—the average rent for an apartment in Sarasota, Florida, and you’ll see where the savings come in.

For other day-to-day costs, you’ll be surprised at how affordable things are… You’ll often hear that “wine is cheaper than water” in southern Spain, and it’s completely true. You can get a decent bottle of wine for about a euro.

A dinner for two, including drinks, appetizers, mains, and dessert, could come to about 30 euros. A fancy coffee will be less than 3 euros; a beer—served in small glasses called cañas in Spain—will be about 1.20 euros.

Transportation costs will depend on whether you have a car. It’s possible to get by without one thanks to the train, for which the basic fare is negligible.

Let’s take a closer look at the cost of living in Cádiz.

Apartment Or House Rental Budget (For A Couple)

ExpenseMonthly CostsNotes
RentUS$645Two-bedroom apartment by the beach.
TransportationUS$70Monthly pass for a couple.
UtilitiesUS$105Electricity, including heating and cooling, and water. Internet and Cable TV.
Cell PhoneUS$47Monthly plan with calls and 10GB+ data.
EntertainmentUS$250Eating out twice a week at a local restaurant. Beers twice a week at a local pub. Movie theatre trip twice a month.
GroceriesUS$400Monthly grocery haul.
Household HelpUS$160Twice per week.

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Things To Do In Cádiz, Spain

The main square in Vejer de la Frontera, Cádiz Spain

Cádiz is touted as the oldest continuously inhabited city in Western Europe—so it’s historically interesting. There’s fascinating landmarks, amazing architecture, and other visible reminders of the ancient past.

Catedral de la Santa Cruz

One of the must-see spots and symbol of Cádiz is the cathedral—La Catedral de la Santa Cruz. For a reasonable entry fee, you’ll get audio guides available in different languages to explore the interior, visit the crypt, and get access to climb the cathedral tower—the best viewpoint of the city.

Cádiz Old Town is dense with historical sites, landmarks, and important buildings. It’s worth it to take a walking tour of this compact neighbourhood to get the lay of the land.

The top sites are the Cádiz Cathedral, dating to 1722, Oratorio de San Felipe Neri (the church where the first Spanish Constitution was signed), and the Central Market where you can shop alongside locals and sample local snacks.

Beaches In Cádiz

Cádiz has a handful of beaches: La Caleta (the beach in the Old Town), Santa Maria del Mar (a Blue Flag designated beach), Victoria, and Cortadura. It has the widest selection of city amenities, including banks, malls, hospitals, dentists, gastronomy, museums, etc.

Also, worth checking out is Parque Genovés, a green space with exotic New World plants supposedly brought over by Columbus.

Safety In Cádiz, Spain

In general, the Costa de la Luz area is a very safe region in which to live. Even in Cádiz, the most city-like environment along the coast, you can feel completely safe walking around at any time of the day or night.

In fact, you’ll even see kids playing in the town squares, unaccompanied, well after dark. That should be a good indicator of the level of concern locals have about safety.

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Health Care In Cádiz, Spain

Spain has the seventh-best health care in the world according to the World Health Organization’s rankings.

As a North American retiree, you likely won’t have free access to the Spanish public health system. But there is a pay-in plan of around only US$65 a month for under-65s and US$170 a month for older residents. Meantime, private health insurance plans start from around US$300 a month.

To qualify for most types of Spanish residency as a foreigner, you’ll need to provide proof of health insurance, and for older folks, this can be pricey.

Exact amounts depend on the provider, your health, and what the policy covers, but it can be anywhere from US$1,500 to US$5,000 per person per year.

Once you become resident in Spain, your health care costs will go down when you join the national health care system.

In Cádiz, there is one public hospital (Hospital Universitario Puerta del Mar) and three private. Pharmacies are abundant in Cádiz, notable for their big green crosses.

Visa And Residency For Spain

Many non-EU citizens require a visa to enter Spain. If the stay is intended to be under three months (90 days), a tourist visa may be needed.

This is called a Schengen visa, valid for all of the countries in the Schengen Area, and is issued by the Spanish Embassy in the home country (or the embassy of the Schengen country in which a traveller will arrive).

Anyone arriving in Spain with the intention of staying longer than three months requires a Residence Visa (Visado de Residencia).

This must be requested from and issued by the Spanish Embassy of the applicant’s home country, before departure for Spain.

It is different to the standard 90-day Schengen visa in that it allows the holder to begin the residency application process. Application for residency is not typically accepted from anyone arriving on a Schengen visa.

Spain’s Golden Visa program allows anyone from outside the EU to obtain residency by investing 500,000 euros in real estate.

Residency in Spain doesn’t just allow you to live in Spain. You can stay as long as you like in any of the 26 Schengen visa countries, meaning you could move as you wanted among France, Italy, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and beyond.

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Weather In Cádiz, Spain

Weather in Cádiz Spain

The weather in this part of the world is hot. Winters are mild and summers are scorching.

For example, temperatures range from a daily mean of 76°F in summer to a daily mean of 56°F in winter.

This area gets 53 days of rain per year on average or about 21 inches. It’s extremely sunny and bright here, with 3,070 sunshine hours a year.

Cádiz, Spain, FAQs

What’s The Tax Situation In Spain?

Spain is not exactly a tax-friendly country… It’s more of a lifestyle play than an investment one. Personal income tax rates range from 19% (for income over 12,450 euros) to 47% (for income over 300,000 euros).

Spain doesn’t have a tax abatement program for pension income like Portugal, Southern Italy, and Greece do. That said, you can arrange things so that your tax situation is manageable.

Is Cádiz LGBTQ+ Friendly?

Spain is one of the most culturally liberal, gay-friendly countries in the world. Same-sex marriage and ability to adopt children have been legal since 2005.

LIOS editorial director, Sophia Titley, who interviewed a gay couple when she visited Cádiz, says the couple backed this up. “Their take is that people are so busy living their own lives to pay much attention to what anyone else is doing.”

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