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 15 places that will get you dreaming of a Spanish adventure.
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.
The second largest city in the country is an eternal favourite with visitors, thanks to the stunning Mediterranean location, famous architecture and cosmopolitan atmosphere. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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. In the past, it’s attracted such famous guests as Ernest Hemingway.
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.
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.