It may be the oldest city in Europe. Classical sources speak of the founding of the Phoenician trading base called Gadir around 1100 BC.
In less-distant times, Cádiz began to boom after Columbus’ trips to the Americas. He sailed from here on his second and fourth voyages. Cádiz attracted Spain’s enemies too: in 1587 England’s Sir Francis Drake ‘singed the king of Spain’s beard’ with a raid on the harbour, delaying the imminent Spanish Armada. In 1596 Anglo-Dutch attackers burnt almost the entire city.
Cádiz’s golden age was the 18th century, when it enjoyed 75% of Spanish trade with the Americas. It grew into the richest and most cosmopolitan city in Spain and gave birth to Spain’s first progressive, liberal middle class. During the Napoleonic Wars, Cádiz held out under French siege from 1810 to 1812, and during this time a national parliament meeting here adopted Spain’s liberal 1812 constitution, proclaiming sovereignty of the people.
The loss of the American colonies in the 19th century plunged Cádiz into a decline from which it’s still recovering.