Granada’s Moorish fortress sits high on a hill overlooking the city with a dramatic backdrop of the snowy peaks of the Sierra Nevada mountain range. Make sure to book tickets in advance so you don’t miss out on seeing this excellent example of Islamic art, including Arabic script and intricate tile mosaics. The Alhambra is Spain’s most visited tourist attraction and for good reason, so expect crowds, especially on weekends.
Seville was named the best city to travel to in 2018 by Lonely Planet and its cathedral is its crowning glory. The oldest gothic cathedral in the world dominates the city and is the final resting place of Christopher Columbus. Climb to the top of the Giralda, the cathedral’s bell tower that was originally built as a minaret; it is the only remaining part of the mosque that used to be on the site before the cathedral was built. You’ll be treated to stunning views over the city from the top.
One of Barcelona’s most iconic sights, this famously unfinished cathedral by local architect Antoni Gaudí is due to be completed in 2026, the centenary of Gaudí’s death. The cathedral is typical of the Catalan Modernism style associated with Gaudí and draws heavily on nature in its inspiration – its towers are not straight because, said Gaudí, no straight lines were found in nature. It is the second most visited sight in Spain after the Alhambra and is a must-see on any visit to Barcelona.
Valencia’s dried out river bed was given a new lease of life by famous Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava with the City of Arts and Sciences, a futuristic series of domed buildings that house an aquarium, science museum and theatre, and have helped rejuvenate a down-at-heel area of the city. The entire complex was finished in 2005, and in 2007 it was named one of the 12 Treasures of Spain in a competition held by Spanish broadcaster Antena 3. The L’Oceanogràfic, an open air aquarium, is the largest of its kind in Europe and is home to over 500 different species.
One of the most famous examples of Moorish architecture in Spain, Córdoba’s Great Mosque might these days be the city’s Roman Catholic cathedral, but it retains the design and decor of its Islamic predecessor. The mosque was commissioned in 784 by Abd al-Rahman I and features 856 columns in the spacious main interior space, as well as the beautiful entrance courtyard, the Patio de los Naranjos.
Frank Gehry’s modernist masterpiece, completed in 1997, is a curved, titanium ship-like structure that helped regenerate the industrial city into a centre of culture and art. The modern art museum holds both permanent exhibits and travelling collections but it is its stunning exterior that draws the crowds. Take in the building from across the Nervión River before exploring its interior. Don’t miss Jeff Koons’ huge Puppy and Tulips exhibits outside the museum.
There is no better place to discover Spain’s great wines than in La Rioja, the country’s most famous wine region and home to hundreds of vineyards. Haro is the location of several famous vineyards as well as the annual Haro Wine Festival, during which locals hold a ‘wine battle’ during which they pour wine over each other.
The end point of the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route, Santiago’s cathedral is the supposed burial place of Saint James, one of Jesus’ apostles who the route is named after. The cathedral was built between 1075 in 1211 and was later added to over the centuries. Take the rooftop tour for excellent views over the city as well as an interesting insight into the history of the cathedral.
Madrid’s Prado Museum, which will celebrate its bicentenary in 2019, is one of the world’s most famous art galleries. The former royal collection features masterpieces by the likes of Diego de Velázquez, Francisco Goya and El Greco. Visit on weekdays or early mornings to beat the busiest crowds and if you want to get a bargain, visit during the last two hours of the day when entry is free.
Set around Mount Teide, the highest mountain in Spain, Teide National Park is located on the Canary Island of Tenerife and is one of the country’s most stunning natural wonders. The otherworldly landscape is the oldest national park in Spain and attracts around three million visitors each year.
This UNESCO World Heritage Site, near the town of Ponerrada in León, was the most important gold mine in the entire Roman Empire. The mining techniques resulted in a dramatic landscape of orange-coloured rugged rocks jutting out of the greenery below. Today, you can still see parts of the aqueducts that served the site. Visit on a weekday to avoid the weekend crowds, and for the most dramatic views, head to the Mirador de Orellan.