arcelona, Madrid, Seville: any European traveller with a taste for Spain is likely to be familiar with its three most popular cities. Cádiz, on the other hand, has managed to fly mostly under the radar, despite being one of the oldest cities in Europe.
An ancient port in the south-west shaped like a pericón – the ubiquitous hand fan you’ll need to combat the Mediterranean heat – it is a more laidback and authentic taste of Spain than the big three, and has a food and drink culture to match.
It is surrounded by some truly gorgeous stretches of the Atlantic, something taken advantage of by Gran Meliá Sancti Petri, a hotel that is a 30-minute drive from Cádiz’s old town. Presiding over its own patch of the Coast of Light, this peaceful five-star resort is the perfect place to combine exploring Spain’s best-kept secret with some serious seaside relaxation: the perfect combination for a week away.
Where is it?
About 30 minutes down the coast from Cádiz, the hotel is nestled in a tranquil stretch of golf courses and high-end resorts. La Barrosa beach is accessible via a walkway at the back of the Gran Meliá, and is as fine as any coastline in Spain. Two charismatic villages, Vejer de la Frontera and Chiclana de La Frontera, are nearby and are also worth exploring, while Jerez airport is under an hour away.
There is a stately quality to the Gran Meliá, from the extravagantly spacious foyer to the huge internal courtyard, which is decorated with ornate fountains, olive trees and gardens playing host to wild birds.
The pool area feels similarly luxurious, with small warrens of deckchairs that lessen the impact of busy periods.
The hotel’s decor has a rustic, almost shabby Moorish accent which is charming set against the neat landscaping.
The bar and dining area can feel a little too exposed for an intimate meal, but it is a price worth paying for the Gran Meliá’s overall sense of scale and grandeur.
The Gran Meliá has everything you’d expect from a five-star hotel: a 24-hour gym, a quality spa with a sauna and steam room, billiards and a games room for kids. There’s no on-site golf, but you do get discounted access to five nearby courses. Its greatest strength is the huge pool, which manages to be family-friendly without surrendering its luxury feel.
Food & drink
A choice of five restaurants means there’s no need, strictly speaking, to go explore the sherry and Iberian bars of Cádiz (though of course, we suggest you do). El Patio serves a somewhat chaotic but good quality breakfast, while Aqua is a cut above what you’d expect from a poolside dining spot.
Bar Don Fernando makes use of the hotel’s spacious communal patio with live music under the stars. But the crowning jewel is the Michelin-starred Alevantes, where a huge and clever menu of seafood twists on Spanish classics is cooked on an open fire.
There are 227 rooms in total, each decorated in a pleasant if unsurprising palette of terracotta and white. We stayed in a standard room that had an extremely comfortable bed, a spacious living room area as well as a balcony overlooking the courtyard.
The hotel is best for couples, young and small families, and people looking to explore an often overlooked area of Spain in luxury.
Rooms start from £377 per night; melia.com
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