Where to Go in Spain
Where to Go in Spain
Our Guide on Where to Visit in Spain
Spain offers diverse topography that includes everything from a Mediterranean coast with idyllic beaches to the snow-capped Sierra Nevada Range in the southeast and the stunning Picos de Europa in the northwest. It’s known for its unique culture and long, rich history with some of the oldest archaeological sites in all of Europe.
As the birthplace of Pablo Picasso and Antoni Gaudí, Spain has inspired many prolific artists and offers countless national and natural treasures. From matadors to flamenco dancers and soaring gothic cathedrals, those high mountain peaks and vast plains, where you can soak up the sun on the Costa Blanca, feast on tapas in San Sebastian, and dance all night at a club in Barcelona. No matter where you go you’ll discover exceptionally beautiful villages, like the medieval walled village of Albarracin, strategically carved into the cliffside, or Galicia’s fishing village of Combarro with its homes built on stilts.
The food and wine are reason enough to visit Spain with everything from trip-worthy tapas bars and mouthwatering beachside seafood, this country boasts one of the most exciting food scenes on the planet. There’s a strong culinary tradition here with century-old restaurants preserving history along with plenty of modern, Michelin-starred gems. Spanish festivals are a must-experience, every town has its own, or several of them, with something to enjoy year-round. Many have religious origins, some are more like raging parties, and most are rather quirky like the famous La Tomatina, Bunol’s town-wide tomato fight, Las Fallas in Valencia with its huge statues of cultural icons that are burned, and the famed Pamplona Bull Run. Witnessing any of them is sure to be a memorable experience.
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Best places to go in Spain
To whet your appetite we’ve offered some additional color on Spain’s most commonly visited destinations below. There’s so much more besides though – our specialists will be delighted to discuss their personal favorites and off-the-beaten-path highlights with you.
The beautiful city of Barcelona is considered the capital of Modernism, home to a wide range of impressive architecture, including many monuments designed and built by Antoni Gaudi like Sagrada Familia, La Pedrera, Casa Batllo, and the fantastical Park Guell. Among its magnificent buildings, the gothic-style Barcelona Cathedral often causes jaws to drop. It’s a shopping enthusiast’s dream, with everything from antique shops and boutique designers to big-name stores. When it comes to cuisine, it ranks high on the list as a popular destination for foodies. One could spend hours browsing the many food markets with La Boqueria Market in particular a standout for sampling Catalan fare. It hosts over 70 fruit and vegetable stalls, lots of fresh seafood, and jamon (cured ham). Don’t miss a stroll through animated Las Ramblas, a wide, shady boulevard with lots of action, including street performances. And, there are over two miles of sandy shoreline to enjoy too.
Mouthwatering food, art, history, nightlife, Madrid has it all. There’s so much for art lovers that many visitors return again and again to take it all in. One can see original masterpieces by local talents that include everyone from Velazquez to Goya along with Italian and Flemish greats. The works of Spanish painters like Dali and Picasso are displayed in world-class galleries such as Museo del Prado. There are dozens of historic sites to visit including alluring churches, palaces from the Spanish Enlightenment, and the Renaissance homes of its greatest writers that can be toured. A true culinary capital, one can learn all about Spanish cooking and sample the results or just eat their way through the many tapas bars and Michelin-star restaurants. The nightlife is what legends are made of, in fact, some say this city offers more bars than any other, with a wide range of buzzing nightclubs and storied cocktail lounges.
Historic Seville, known as the ‘City of Flamenco’ is the perfect place to delve into Spanish culture, complete with Moorish architecture, bullfighting, and Flamenco dancing. If you’ve ever wanted to watch or even learn the dance yourself, this is the place to do it. It’s home to the 15h-century Seville Cathedral, the world’s largest gothic-style church, where you’ll find the tomb of Christopher Columbus, along with countless other impressive sights. You won’t want to miss the Royal Alcazar of Seville with over a millennium of history dating back to Moorish times. The oldest residence in Europe still in use, the country’s royal family still calls it home when on official visits to Seville. It’s worth exploring the atmospheric old quarters and visiting Plaza de Espana, the city’s most famous square, a landmark example of Regionalism architecture that combines elements of Baroque Revival, Renaissance Revival, and Moorish Revival styles.
Nestled at the base of the Sierra Nevada mountains, the gorgeous city of Granada sits atop three hills and enjoys a magnificent backdrop of snow-capped mountains. It’s most famous for Alhambra, which was originally constructed as a fortress on the remains of ancient Roman fortifications in 889 AD before becoming the royal residence and court of Granada in the mid-13th-century with the establishment of the Nasrid kingdom. It’s the only palatine city from the Islamic period that’s been preserved, providing a fine example of Nasrid art with countless treasures displayed revealing the great empire’s glory days as well as grounds that are filled with fountains, pools, and tranquil courtyards. There’s much more to see, however, including the whitewashed buildings in the Muslim quarter and the lookout spot at Mirador de San Nicolas which provides a panoramic view of the city and what’s been called the world’s most beautiful sunset.
San Sebastian is a renowned food city and was named one of Europe’s two cities of culture for 2016, yet it’s often overlooked by tourists. Located along Spain’s northern coast as part of the Basque Autonomous Community, there are many reasons to visit. The food scene has been called one of the best in the world, with its streets not only filled with pintxos bars, the Basque equivalent of tapas, but there are more Michelin stars per square meter than any other city with the exception of Tokyo. You might want to take a food tour to sample it all, including items like local spider crab, stewed rabbit, and txakoli wine while learning about the history of the cuisine. There are beautiful beaches like Concha, the symbol of the city, considered one of the prettiest in all of Europe. As it’s a long stretch, it’s a top spot for tranquil walks.
Cordoba’s claim to fame is the iconic Mesquita. Absolutely mesmerizing with its stunning red and white arches celebrating Moorish-Andalusian art, it’s considered one of the world’s greatest Islamic buildings. It’s a symbol of the culture that once flourished here over a millennium ago when the city was the capital of Islamic Spain. But there’s a lot more to discover, with enticing stone-paved lanes lined with shady trees, wrought-iron balconies, lush patios with flowers and plants, that are fun to wander. There are plenty of outstanding restaurants and bars, and Cordoba hosts a number of festivals worth attending too. May brings endless festivities and flowers will adorn crosses and fill patios across the city. The annual Patio Festival opens the beautiful courtyards of homes to the public and the Feria de Cordoba features traditional dancing. An evening stroll through Cordoba is always a delight with floating guitar songs adding to the enchanting atmosphere.
One of Spain’s oldest cities, Ronda has prehistoric origins, not to mention spectacular beauty. It sits above a deep ravine, surrounded by lush river valleys, setting a striking scene that’s sure to take your breath away when you first catch a glimpse. There are remains of prehistoric settlements that date to the Neolithic Age spread throughout the city, like the cave paintings of Cueva de la Pileta. Still unknown to most travelers, they were discovered in 1905 and date back 30,000 years. Ronda also hosts 13th-century Arabic baths in its old Arab quarter that are considered the most well-preserved in all of Spain, with a large cauldron that heated the water still visible and in good condition. The home of modern-day bullfighting, the city’s famed Maestranza bullring is one of the country’s oldest and most picturesque. Other highlights include the La Sangre de Ronda wineries and Santa Maria church.
Costa Blanca stretches over 124 miles along the Mediterranean coast and sunny Valencia is its capital city. White sandy beaches are just minutes away, complete with sun loungers and cabanas, backed with a lively promenade, shops, and restaurants. The city itself is also blessed with ancient history that includes the gates of 14th-century defensive walls that tower over the historic center, providing a dazzling scene while enjoying the pedestrian square, Plaza de Virgen. At its heart is a fountain surrounded by eight women who represent the eight irrigation channels that have delivered Valencia’s water since Roman times. In stark contrast is the City of Arts and Sciences complex with its futuristic architecture and one of the 12 treasures of Spain. Barrio del Carmen in the middle of the historic center is one of Europe’s largest medieval neighborhoods, oozing with charm as one of the most enjoyable areas of the city to explore.
Bilbao isn’t known as a popular tourist destination but there are many reasons to visit. Located in the northwest region of Spain, it makes an ideal base for exploring the Basque countryside and Cantabrian mountains while offering plenty of its own. Enjoy the laid-back, artsy vibe as you stroll the streets, and don’t miss Guggenheim Museum, impressive inside and out. The sculpture-like structure made up of glass, titanium, and limestone represents a stunning example of some of the most groundbreaking 20th-century architecture with an innovative design and audacious configuration. One of the largest museums in Spain, the modern art exhibited inside includes permanent and visiting exhibits by Spanish and international artists. A highlight is Richard Serra’s monumental ‘A Matter of Time’ sculpture that required a special large hall for the massive steel pieces. Bilbao is also the country’s cod capital, making it a must-try while you’re here, along with the foodie favorites, pintxos.
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