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The southern Spanish Province of Cádiz is probably most popular for its beautiful natural beaches, as well as having countless pueblos blancos and historic cities to visit. But did you know that Cádiz is home to a lot of fantastic budget friendly castles too? Many of these castles were built during the Moorish occupation of the area, and were later conquered by the Catholics during the period of reconquest in Andalusia, which started in the 8th century and lasted until the 15th century.
While there are plenty of budget friendly castles in the Province of Cádiz to choose from, many are unfortunately in a terrible state of disrepair, and some have been incorporated into modern towns and cities, meaning that for the most part they're barely recognizable and not worth planning an entire day trip around. After doing a road trip around southern Spain, I've decided to put together a small list of the best castles in Cádiz worth visiting, to help you plan your own southern Spain itinerary.
1. Castillo de Santa Catalina
Castillo de Santa Catalina is located in the heart of the city of Cádiz, on the very popular beach known as La Caleta. Construction of this castle began at the end of the 16th century, following an Anglo-Dutch sacking of the city. Its star-shaped floor plan gets its influence from Italian architecture, and makes the castle look like it's dramatically pointing out to sea. Cádiz is one of the best places to visit in southern Spain, and the majority of the city's main attractions are within walking distance of one another, which makes for an enjoyable day of exploring this ancient port city. Best of all, this castle is very budget friendly!
Entry fee: FREE
2. Castillo de San Sebastián
Sitting next to Castillo de Santa Catalina is another, perhaps more dramatic defensive castle called Castillo de San Sebastián. In my opinion, the long walkway leading up to the small islet that the castle sits on is more interesting than the castle itself, but it's still a great budget friendly castle in Cádiz to visit. It was built in the 15th century, and gets its name from a hermitage that once stood here, and according to tradition this small islet was once home to the Temple of Kronos. Cádiz was used as a filming location for James Bond Die Another Day, and Castillo de San Sebastián played a role in a very popular scene in the movie.
Entry fee: FREE
3. Castillo de Santiago
One of the best budget friendly castles in the Province of Cádiz to visit is located in the charming coastal city of Sanlúcar de Barrameda, not far from the city of Cádiz itself. Castillo de Santiago was built in the 15th century, as a display of power more than as a military fortress. It's located right in the heart of the city, so is easy to locate, and it has a fantastic audio guide to follow along with which has a variety of medieval actors telling you about the castle's history. The castle has multiple rooms to explore, and you can climb to the top of one of the towers for a beautiful panoramic view of the city and coastline.
Entry fee: €8
4. Alcázar de Jerez de la Frontera
If you're planning a trip to southern Spain, visiting the Sherry Triangle is a must, and Jerez de la Frontera is at the heart of it. The Alcázar de Jerez de la Frontera is one of the main attractions in Jerez, and is definitely one of the best budget friendly castles in the Province of Cádiz. The castle dates back to the 11th century, when the area was still under Islamic rule, and later fell under Catholic rule during the reconquest. It's a stunning piece of medieval architecture to look at from the outside if you don't have time to go inside, but it does have the pull of having a camera obscura in it to give you amazing views of the city.
Entry fee: €5
5. Castillo de San Marcos
Not too far from Jerez is the historic coastal city of El Puerto de Santa María. Among the many sites to visit here is Castillo de San Marcos - a mixture of a medieval castle and a winery. The castle dates back to the 13th century, and has played host to a number of important historical figures such as Christopher Columbus. Castillo de San Marcos has been beautifully restored, and you can add a visit to their on-site winery to your ticket as well for a memorable experience.
Entry fee: €8 castle, €14 castle and wine tasting
6. Castillo de Doña Blanca
Visiting Castillo de Doña Blanca is one of the more unique things to do in southern Spain, and is worth driving to if you're already visiting El Puerto de Santa María. This 15th century tower was once of key strategic importance overlooking the Bay of Cádiz, and has recently been reconstructed. The castle also sits on the site of an 8th century BC Phoenician town which has been excavated, and you're allowed to walk around the archaeological site and explore it a bit. To me, that makes it one of the best budget friendly castles in the province of Cádiz you can visit since it's basically a 2-for-1 deal!
Entry fee: FREE
7. Castillo de Olvera
Castillo de Olvera has to be one of my favourite castles in the whole of Andalusia. If you want some incredible views of the surrounding landscape, and aren't terrified of heights, this castle is the perfect choice. It dates back to the 14th century, and sits perched on the top of a very high cliff, overlooking Olvera. It's quite a steep climb to the top using stone steps that are lined along its perimeter, but it's definitely worth it. Olvera is often overlooked by tourists, so chances are you'll be lucky enough to have the whole castle to yourself like I did! If you're looking for unique budget friendly castles in the province of Cádiz, Castillo de Olvera is your best bet.
Entry fee: €2
8. Castillo de Medina Sidonia
Another fantastic budget friendly castle in the province of Cádiz to visit (if you don't mind ruins) is Castillo de Medina Sidonia. The castle was built at the top of a hill, and archaeological excavations have revealed that there are at least three different fortifications from different time periods overlapping one another. The latest was built in the 15th century by the Duke of Medinia Sidonia in an attempt to better defend the area. The weather in southern Spain can get brutally hot, and there is no shade here at all, so if you're thinking of visiting this village in the summertime, come prepared!
Entry fee: €2
9. Castillo de Arcos de la Frontera
If you're planning a road trip in Spain, and are heading to the Cádiz area, you'll notice there are a lot of pueblos blancos (white villages) to visit, and each one has its own unique features. Arcos de la Frontera is one of the best white villages in Andalusia to explore, and still holds a lot of its medieval charm. It's home to an 11th century Moorish castle, which you unfortunately aren't able to go inside, but you can walk up to the main gate at least. It's situated in the main plaza, where many of the other attractions are located, so is worth stopping to take a look at.
Entry fee: FREE
10. Castillo de Zahara de la Sierra
One of the most dramatic castles you'll come across in Cádiz is Castillo de Zahara de la Sierra. It sits perched at the top of a very steep hill, overlooking the village, and provides breathtaking views from the top. The castle has Muslim origins dating back to the 11th century, but historians agree that the current structure is Christian and is from the 15th century. It was once a formidable castle, but now all that remains are the keep and parts of the wall. The public has access to the inside of the keep however, and you can climb to the top too and explore its empty interior. The views you get from this castle are amazing, and it's definitely one of the best budget friendly castles in the province of Cádiz to stop at.
Entry fee: FREE
I've only touched the surface regarding the number of castles you can visit in the Province of Cádiz, but the ones mentioned above really caught my attention and are castles I would recommend making time to visit during a trip to southern Spain. I've yet to visit all of the castles in Cádiz, but I'm slowly making my way through the province! Cádiz isn't only all about its beaches - it has a deep rooted history that's well worth exploring too.
I would love to hear about your experiences in the Province of Cádiz, and if you've visited any castles that I haven't mentioned on this list, so please drop me a comment below! Remember to follow my travels on my Instagram page as well and keep in touch!