Cádiz has a vibrant nightlife consisting of traditional tapas bars, street cafes, all night clubs and some wonderful local fiestas. The city's student population ensures a lively party scene at all times of the year and the absence of mass tourism means you can enjoy a really Spanish night out without it costing the earth.
As in most Spanish cities, the evening starts with a tour of the tapas bars where you can sample an array of tasty Andalucian snacks washed down with glasses of the local wines and sherries. Typical tapas might include slices of chorizo sausage, olives wrapped in anchovies, spicy prawns "al pil pil", or slices of fresh squid (calamares) and octopus (pulpo). Some bars offer a selection of 40 or more hot and cold tapas.
Practically every street in the city is packed with bars, cafes and restaurants. Plaza Mina in the centre and Calle De Manuel Rances are among the liveliest places when the sun goes down. If you're visiting in the summer, head for the Paseo Maritimo seafront promenade which buzzes with outdoor activity on warm, Andalucian evenings.
Many of the city's most reasonably priced, traditional restaurants are to be found in and around Plaza Juan de Dios near the port. The emphasis is on fresh fish dishes with ingredients such as oysters, squid, sea snails, shrimps and cockles. But you'll also see other Andalucian specialties on the menu including the famous gazpacho (that's cold tomato soup but it doesn't sound so tasty in English.) This is the home of Spanish sherry and you'll find many meat dishes - lamb and oxtail stews, sautéed steaks, kidneys and tripe - are generously soaked in the fortified wines of Jerez.
Fully fortified yourself with food and drink, you can head for the all night dance spots to be found in the La Punta district where the clubs don't really get going until 3am. You can dance till dawn then enjoy warm, fresh churros (crispy, Spanish pastries) with chocolate sauce for breakfast in La Plaza Flores before staggering home to bed.
No matter what month of the year you're visiting Cádiz, you'll probably find a local fiesta going on but the biggest and best takes place at the beginning of Lent (usually at the end of February, beginning of March). This is carnival time all over Spain but Cadiz is famous for having the most spectacular pre-Lent festival on the whole of the Iberian Peninsula. It's a match for the famous carnival celebration on the Spanish Canary island of Tenerife and the world's biggest knees-up in Rio de Janeiro.
The word carnival comes from a Latin phrase meaning to give up meat. This ancient festival developed as an excuse to party like mad before the 40-day Lenten fast during which Catholics have traditionally been expected to go without meat (and most other worldly pleasures). The often wild and irreligious celebrations were banned in Spain under the fascist dictator Franco and Cadiz gained notoriety as the only city to defy the ban.
These days thousands of Spaniards flock to Cadiz to enjoy a week of street parties, fancy dress parades, outrageous political satire and round-the-clock merrymaking.