The 15 Best Places to Visit in Spain

Old Town, Calpe, Spain
Old Town, Calpe, Spain | Photo by Sam Williams on Unsplash
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Spain is the perfect destination for travellers looking for a European trip and, while the best-known spots are popular for a reason, it’s also full of hidden gems. Culture Trip has rounded up the best of both, from buzzing cities to quaint mountain villages. Here are the top places that will get you dreaming of a Spanish adventure.

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1. Tenerife, for unique island landscapes

Natural Feature

Photo by Fausto García-Menéndez on Unsplash
Tenerife, the largest of the seven Spanish Canary Islands off the west coast of Africa, might bring to mind package holidays and beaches, but there is actually so much more to see here. Away from the coast and the tourist hotspots the landscape is otherworldly, with volcanic peaks – Mount Teide is the highest peak in Spain – where you can explore the craters and ancient lava flows.

2. Alicante, for superb coastline

Natural Feature

Photo by Julian Dik on Unsplash

Sun, sea and a soaring rocky peak make Alicante a prime coastal destination. Many foreign tourists fly into the airport, then head straight out to resorts further along the coast – but they’re missing out, because Alicante is worth exploring in itself. The port city has a lively beach, with Mount Benacantil as a backdrop; Santa Bárbara Castle, dating back to the ninth century, sits at the top. Stroll by the marina in the evening before checking out the tapas bars in the old town.

3. Barcelona, for Gaudí architecture

Architectural Landmark

Photo by Logan Armstrong on Unsplash
The second largest city in the country is an eternal favourite with visitors, thanks to the stunning Mediterranean location, famous architecture and cosmopolitan atmosphere. There are numerous attractions in Barcelona – go gaga for Gaudí‘s architecture at Sagrada Familia and Park Güell – be sure to check out some of his lesser-known works too, such as Casa Batlló. Make the trip up to Mount Tibidabo for sparkling views across the city and the sea beyond. Rollercoaster fans, visit the Tibidabo Amusement Park, which opened in 1905. The mountain is also a great place for you to cycle or hike.

4. Granada, for immersive Moorish history

Architectural Landmark

Granada is like a Disney fairy tale come to life – it has a stunning ancient fortress, snowcapped peaks and winding cobbled streets. The Alhambra is one of the most famous attractions in Spain, and with good reason. The Moorish palace sits high over the city, containing some of the best-preserved Islamic art and architecture in the world. Don’t miss Sacromonte, an area of white caves clinging to the hillside, where the gypsy community originally lived; there, flamenco dance and music flourished.

5. San Sebastian, for pintxos in the Basque Country

Natural Feature, Historical Landmark

A bench on the promenade at La Concha beach in San Sebastian
© philipus / Alamy Stock Photo

This elegant city, on the coast in the Basque Country, is a must for foodies. The pintxo – a Basque version of tapas that usually includes delicious morsels balanced on crusty bread – is the local gastronomic calling card, and the bars of the Old Town lay theirs out on the bar tops so you can see everything on offer. Concha Beach is a beautiful, shell-shaped cove popular with families, while the nearby Zurriola Beach is great for surfing. Interested in eating your way through Basque Country?

6. Seville, for flamenco in Andalucia

Historical Landmark

Feb.1, 2016 - Cadiz, Spain - Ahead of the official start of Carnival, the citys renowned groups of local singers compete in an
© Pascal Saez / VWPics / Alamy Stock Photo
Seville, the capital of Andalucia in southern Spain, is famous for the flamenco culture, which is a famous part of the Spanish culture history. Take in a show in one of the intimate little flamenco bars to fully appreciate this passionate, dramatic and melancholic art form. Explore local history with a trip to the Real Alcázar, a well-preserved example of Mudéjar architecture that has been added to by Spanish rulers over the years. You should also take in the modern architecture at the Metropol Parasol, a huge, wooden structure that brings much-needed shade in the summer.

7. Cordoba, for a mixture of Islamic and Christian architecture

Architectural Landmark

Plaza de Espana with canal and bridge, Maria Luisa Park, Seville, Andalusia, Spain, Europe
© Neale Clark / robertharding / Alamy Stock Photo
Cordoba was the most important city during the Moorish rule of Spain in the Middle Ages, and it was home to the Mezquita, the vast Islamic mosque built from the eighth to the 10th centuries. After the Reconquista in the 13th century, part of the mosque, rather than being demolished, was converted into a cathedral, but much of it retains the original Islamic design. Cordoba Old Town, a Unesco World Heritage Site, is home to a Roman bridge, charming cobbled streets and some fascinating pieces of architecture.

8. Valencia, for the best paella

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A fountain, palm tree and pretty stone architecture at the Plaza de la Virgen in Valencia
© Vlad Ghiea / Alamy Stock Photo

Where better than the birthplace of paella to sample the most famous dish to come from Spain? Head to a beachside restaurant for lunch – Spaniards tend not to eat paella at dinner as it’s quite a heavy meal – and wash it down with agua de Valencia, a potent cava-based cocktail. Explore Valencia old town and don’t miss the incredible, spaceship-like Valencia City of Arts and Sciences. it’s a futuristic complex in what was a riverbed that holds an aquarium, Imax cinema, opera house and science museum.

9. Madrid, for the Royal Palace and art galleries

Architectural Landmark

Photo by Jorge Fernández Salas on Unsplash

Anytime is a good time to visit Madrid. The Spanish capital is a great destination for a weekend break. The golden triangle of art galleries holds some of the most famous works in Europe, from Picasso’s Guernica to Velázquez’s Las Meninas. The city is home to the Royal Palace, the largest in Europe in terms of floor area, and around every corner you can discover churches, shops and bars. La Latina is home to the best tapas bars around and is a great place for a tapas crawl.

10. Galicia, for mythical lush landscapes

Natural Feature

© Graiki / Getty Images

When you think of Spain, you likely think of dry landscapes and beaches on the Med, but the northwest region of Galicia looks more like Ireland – it’s green and wet. The Celtic feel doesn’t end with lush landscapes either, since Galicia is full of myths and legends. For example, the Romans considered the western Cape Finisterre cliffs to be the end of the world. Explore the wilder reaches by visiting the Cies Islands, an archipelago and nature reserve that is part of the Atlantic Islands of Galicia National Park.

11. The Pyrenees, for outdoor enthusiasts

Natural Feature, Hiking Trail

Cola de Caballo waterfall in Ordesa y Monte Perdido National Park in the Pyrenees, Spain
© Sergi Reboredo / Alamy

Whether you like hiking, skiing or quaint mountain villages, the Spanish Pyrenees are the ideal destination for you. Timbered houses and hearty local food are on offer, while Spanish ski resorts are a great alternative to the busier – and pricier – resorts in the Alps.

12. Almeria, for a taste of the desert

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View over Almeria from The Alcazaba, Almeria
© Hilary Morgan / Alamy Stock Photo
The only desert region in the continent is an otherworldly landscape of dusty, dry expanses and rocky outcrops, with a beautiful Moorish capital, Almeria. The landscape so resembles the American Wild West that director Sergio Leone filmed many of his classic westerns here, including The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966). The Cabo de Gata-Níjar Natural Park, on the coast, includes salt flats, pristine beaches and whitewashed fishing villages.

13. Ronda, for its dramatic bridge

Natural Feature, Historical Landmark

Ronda, Spain: Landscape of white houses on the green edges of steep cliffs with mountains in the background.
© Tetyana Kochneva / Alamy Stock Photo

This breathtaking mountaintop village, near Malaga in southern Spain, is most famous for the Puente Nuevo, a stone bridge that spans El Tajo gorge, a dramatic steep drop that separates the new and old towns of Ronda. The town is also home to the Plaza de Toros de Ronda: a bullring dating back to 1785. It holds a special place in Spanish culture history – in the past, it’s attracted such famous guests as Ernest Hemingway.

14. Ibiza, for partying into the night

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Ibiza old town and harbour, Ibiza
© travellinglight / Alamy Stock Photo

The White Isle is best known for clubs and bars, to the point where the natural beauty there is oft-overlooked. Away from the megaclubs, Ibiza is home to tiny fishing villages and quiet beaches; in recent years it’s become a popular destination for yoga and relaxation retreats, too. So whether you want to party all night or chill and rejuvenate, the island has it all.

15. La Rioja, for wine lovers

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© Martin Lindsay / Alamy Stock Photo

Spain is famous the world over for its fantastic wines – none more so than rioja. The region of the same name is home to hundreds of vineyards, many of which offer tours and wine tastings. Logroño, the capital of the region, is a good spot to base yourself, not just for the wine but also the must-try tapas bars.

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