La Caleta in Cádiz, much more than an urban beach

Going to La Caleta beach in Cádiz is much more than going to an urban beach. In it we will enjoy its history, its archaeology, its castles and its traditions. It will be a pleasure for the senses.

When we talk about urban beaches, we can think of large beaches with kilometers of sand next to a sea whose tide rises and falls, dedicating its best views to its visitors. But when we talk about La Caleta we talk about something else. It’s not just a beach, it’s much more. An interpretation center could be made of it where to explain thousands of things.

La Caleta in Cádiz since the Palaeolithic

Everyone talks about Cádiz having more than 3000 years of history, but not many know that Remains of work instruments made of stone from more than 150,000 years ago have been found on this beach. At that time there were bands of hunter-gatherers who already inhabited this area that today is a beach and before was the mouth of a river (Herrero, N., 2002).


The Atapuerca site (Burgos) is known throughout Spain. On the other hand, what is not so well known is that many of the archaeological remains that have been found on this beach in La Caleta are the same as those that can be found there.

Obviously, the landscape has changed, but the sea in its onslaught brings us to the shore lithic remains left by those hunter-gatherers who lived here then. At the end of 2018, an exhibition was held at the Museum of Cádiz in which part of this Paleolithic material could be seen.

The underwater archeology of La Caleta

In the Museum of Cádiz there is a showcase dedicated exclusively to materials that appeared under the waters of this beach in La Caleta. According to ancient texts, in the area near where the castle of Santa Catalina is located today The temple dedicated to the Phoenician goddess Astarte could have been located.

They say that when the Phoenicians left for the trips through the Mediterranean They deposited votive offerings to ask the goddess to have a good journey. Hence the large amount of material found in this area: amphorites, perfume burners, figures of human and animal heads, etc.

The fortifications of La Caleta

The only urban beach located in the historic center of Cádiz, La Caleta, it is marked by two castles: Santa Catalina and San Sebastian. Let’s visit them.

The castle of Santa Catalina

Looking at the sea and located on the right we have the castle of Santa Catalina. It is the older of the two. It was built by order of King Felipe II after the Anglo-Dutch attacks of the 16th century in order to defend the city. In the 18th century, King Carlos III converted it into a prison.

After the Civil War, Jehovah’s Witnesses to conscientious objectors were imprisoned here. As an anecdote, we can tell that, depending on the military man in charge, the prisoners had certain privileges. Some of the soldiers from the 1981 coup also served part of their sentence here.

The castle of Santa Catalina is shaped like a star and from one of its points you can contemplate the best views of La Caleta. In the central area, during the summers, there is a small stage where musical shows are offered at sunset under the suggestive name of The sunsets of La Caleta.

the castle It has a parade ground from where different rooms are distributed. The small chapel dedicated to Santa Catalina stands out. And in the central zone the pavilions with the cells were located. These areas are dedicated to temporary exhibitions of painting, sculpture, etc. In another part of the castle there are small rooms where local artists work for the public.

In 2002, when the castle was opened to the public after its restoration, an area of ​​old offices was converted into a workshop area for children, associations and tourists. There they are transformed for a day and enjoy as if they were Phoenicians, Romans or pirates learning our past in first person.

Castle of San Sebastian

It stands out for having two well-differentiated parts. The first is the castle itself, and the second is the outpost, where the second lighthouse with electric light in Spain is located. It was built in the midst of the War of the Spanish Succession. The castle was inaugurated once the war was over.

As an anecdote, we can tell that the coat of arms at the entrance belongs to the House of Austria, instead of the House of Bourbons, who were the ones who won the war.

In the castle of San Sebastian There is only one area restored that enabled the University of Cádiz to set up a Science Laboratory (LABIMAR) there. In the Outpost area we find a huge expanse of land, at the end of which there are 50 casemates where the cannons were.

A curiosity: A small port was built for Queen Elizabeth II to come by boat to inaugurate the Outpost area. However, they say that at the time she arrived in Cádiz that day the tide was very low and it was impossible for any boat to enter the Isabel II dock, as they had baptized it.

All the authorities and members of the high nobility placed their little chairs at the entrance of the path that leads to the castle and the advance party so that the queen and her retinue could get on and arrive sitting up to the castle. But they say when the queen arrived at La Caleta and saw that landscape, she preferred to walk to the castle to admire the views.

La Caleta in Cádiz and ethnography: traditions

The hot boats

La Caleta is important as a beach, as an archaeological site and as a defensive site for the city of Cádiz. But it is no less important for its ethnography. La Caleta itself has a specific weight in the city.

The seafaring tradition the little boats that cross the waters of La Caleta show one of the most typical landscapes of the city of Cádiz. The sailors during the day strive to fix and take care of their boats. Starting at sunset, they begin to leave the beach as if it were a procession in search of the fish that sustains their families.

Carnival and La Caleta in Cádiz

There isn’t a choir, comparsa, chirigota, cuartero or romancero that doesn’t dedicate at least one letter of their songs to this beach. Year after year, La Caleta receives praise, comments, compliments and all kinds of letters referring to her. La Caleta and the Cadiz Carnival go hand in hand.

The burial of the mackerel

The caletera mackerel is one of the essential fish in the summer gastronomy of the city of Cádiz. It is a seasonal blue fish, so when September arrives they begin to be scarce and sometimes disappear until the following summer.

The last Saturday of August, in a symbolic way the burial of the mackerel is celebrated. It starts from mid-afternoon with a tour through the streets of the Viña neighborhood, next to La Caleta. A funeral procession is formed with the figure of a large mackerel, accompanied by mourners crying for the end of summer.

The tour ends by burning the figure, with carnival performances on La Caleta beach itself. And they end with a free tasting made by the caleteros themselves and caleteras of mackerel with noodles.

As you have verified, La Caleta is not only a beach, it is sand where we can sit, sunbathe, chat and play with the little ones. But it is also looking at the horizon and seeing that sea dotted with two castles. That sea that calms us, those waves that catch our eyes, those waves that bring us and then take away small pieces of the past on the shore we step on.

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