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El Puerto de Santa Maria is set on the Costa de la Luz, on a section of the Atlantic coast where the pinewoods, growing among marshes, reach right down to the sand of the beach. The enviable climate of this Andalusian town makes it an ideal destination for people who want to enjoy the sun, the sea and outdoor sports. And, in this incredible natural landscape, with a deep seafaring tradition, luxurious tourist complexes have been set up, provided with all the comforts any traveller could want. Developments like Vistahermosa, Puerto Sherry and Casino de Bahía de Cádiz are among them.
Travellers can enjoy their leisure time in the many restaurants in the area, and in swimming pools, on golf courses and at marinas. More than 15 kilometres of beaches of fine, golden sand lie at El Puerto de Santa María. The beach bars standing on Levante, Valdelagrana, Santa Catalina and Fuenterrabía beaches are an unbeatable option for tasting the area's rich seafood with views of the Atlantic. A sherry, with its own Denomination of Origin, can accompany any of the food.
According to the legend, this seafaring town, home of the poet Rafael Alberti, was founded by an Athenian leader. But it is not until the Muslim invasion that we have historical documentation of the settlement. This town in the province of Cádiz experienced its greatest splendour after its reconquest by Alfonso X (13th C.) and under the rule of the dukes of Medinaceli. During the following centuries, its relationship with the Atlantic Ocean and the maritime expeditions (including the Discovery of the New World) led it to be named Captain Generalcy of the Ocean Sea. Because of its wealth of monuments, the whole town has been declared a Site of Cultural Interest.
The Castle of San Marcos is one of the most outstanding buildings of the whole town. Built on the site of an old mosque, it preserves a Christian chapel in its Keep. In its layout you can find both Almohad and Gothic elements, the result of years of cultural coexistence. It is an archaeological site that has been declared a Site of Cultural Interest.
Among the religious buildings in El Puerto de Santa María, the Great Priory Church, whose original plan goes back to the 15th century, is outstanding. The main front, known as the Portada del Perdón, which preserves Gothic elements, like pinnacles, flying buttresses and gargoyles, is from this period, although the rest of the building is from a later date. For its part, the Puerta del Sol was designed in the 17th century, as witnessed by the grooved columns, floral decoration and medallions.
The urban development of the town centre between the 17th and 18th centuries resulted in a multitude of Baroque buildings, like the Casa de los Leones, one of the most representative. The construction of this palatial house was ordered by one of the many merchants who had come from the Cantabrian coast to do business in this port.
We will also find the Monastery of La Victoria, a former hospital and prison, also declared a Site of Cultural Interest. Its fortress-like appearance alternates features of flamboyant Gothic with those of the Renaissance style. Its splendid main front is worth a good look.
The churches of San Francisco, La Concepción and La Mayor de Nuestra Señora de los Milagros, as well as the convents of Las Capuchinas and El Espíritu Santo, are other good examples of Cádiz religious architecture. Your tour can end with the palace of Valdivieso or at the Bullring, one of the oldest in Spain.
Costa de la Luz
El Puerto is an excellent place for tasting the best of Cádiz cuisine. Food in the Bay of Cádiz is based on fish and shellfish from the Atlantic Ocean, which are accompanied by vegetables from the fields. Little shrimp omelettes, Rota-style red band bream and seafood soup are some of the recipes the traveller should not miss. Cuttlefish with potatoes, clams, marinated fish and mackerel with noodles complete the gourmet menu. The wine is from the Jerez-Xérès-Sherry y Manzanilla-Sanlúcar de Barrameda Denomination of Origin.
The Costa de la Luz offers us interesting places combining town centres full of monuments with beaches beside the Atlantic. Sanlúcar de Barrameda, where horse races are held on the beach (Festival declared a site of International Tourist Interest), Puerto Real, San Fernando, Chiclana and Conil de la Frontera show us the best of the Cádiz maritime tradition. From El Puerto de Santa María, catching the "Vaporcito del Puerto" boat that takes the visitor to Cádizon the other side of the bay is a must. Here the districts of La Viña, Santa María and El Pópulo bring you close to the region's best carnival and flamenco tradition. If we are talking about flamenco, though, Jerez de la Frontera is the home of the most famous vocal chords. This is a noble city where wine cellars and Cartujano horses (stars of the Horse Fair, also of International Tourist Interest) are worth a visit. Beautiful churches and its majestic fortress must also be included in the tour.
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