The 13 Best Cities To Visit In Spain

best cities to visit in spain

Known for its vibrant culture, soulful cuisine, history-filled cities, and bustling year-round festivals, Spain is one of the most fascinating destinations in Europe. But there’s always the question of “what are places are worth visiting in Spain”?

If visiting this enticing country is on the books for you, say no more. Start planning your trip by checking out this highly curated selection of the best cities in Spain to visit in 2022 & beyond. This thoughtful guide will help you choose the getaway of your dreams — whether you’re in the market for an amazing dining experience full of tapas or simply want to witness awe-inspiring flamenco dance performances.

From hidden gems like Bilbao and Cadiz to major cities such as Barcelona and Madrid, we’ve got the low down on the best places to visit in Spain and the top things to do in each one of them. Have a look below and pick your favorite!

Why Visit Spain

View of Madri

Spain is a soulful and diverse country. That is exactly the reason why it’s a top destination for many travelers in Europe. Most cities in Spain, such as Barcelona, Madri, and Seville, have pleasant sunny weather all year round, aside from housing a showcase of cultural attractions, amazing tapas restaurants, and Instagrammable spots.

Many don’t know about this, but Spain is one of the countries with the most Unesco World Heritage Sites in the world – a total of 48 sites. The beautiful Old City of Salamanca, for instance, was granted UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Another advantage is that Spain is home to destinations that appeal to all types of travelers. Culture and architecture enthusiasts will have a great time in Barcelona or Bilbao, which are filled with world-class museums.

If you love the beach, try planning a trip to places like the Balearic Islands, which are home to a myriad of beautiful beaches. In case you want to visit a cosmopolitan dynamic place, head over to Madrid, which is Spain’s largest city and one of the liveliest cities in the country.

Fancy the cold weather? Make your move to the Sierra Nevada or to the beautiful Basque Country, which are the best places to visit for indulging in a crisp windy climate and enjoying some fun in the snow.

Of one thing we’re sure: Spain has some of the best cities in the world, and there’s plenty to see in do in the country. You just have to do some research and find out what are the best Spain cities for you.

Keep reading to learn all the best Spain vacation ideas!

The 13 Best Cities To Visit in Spain

Bilbao

The beautiful city of Bilbao is not one to miss the next time you visit Spain! Located in the North of Spain in the Basque Country, Bilbao offers a unique insight into Spain’s more modern side. Bilbao offers a rich, historical, medieval atmosphere combined with modern skyscrapers, futuristic buildings, and a reflection of the country’s industrial history.

One of the greatest cities in Spain for architecture and art enthusiasts, Bilbao houses one of Europe’s most famous art institutions, The Guggenheim Museum. While making your way through the museum’s galleries, expect to come across dazzling contemporary artworks by major artists like Mark Rothko, Jeff Koons, and Richard Serra.

After exploring Guggenheim’s collection, make sure you go for a scenic stroll by the Nervion River, where the museum is built.

And in case you’re looking for even a less touristic city to visit in Spain, you can stretch your trip and go visit other destinations in the mountainous Basque Country. Located in northern Spain, along the Atlantic coast, this autonomous community is home to several bucket list places, including Getaria, a green paradise filled with verdant lush hills. From there, you can even access the iconic Camino de Santiago de Compostela.

San Sebastián

San Sebastián is one of the most popular Spanish cities for travelers who enjoy lying on sandy beaches and indulging in stunning ocean views. This beautiful city is tucked right into the Bay of Biscay and it is very well known for its lavish resort hotels and vacation offerings.

The northern coast of San Sebastián is green all year long with a rainy winter season and a warm, sunny summer. Visitors will love indulging in the city’s upscale shopping spots, eating “pinchos” in the local restaurants, and climbing all the way up to Monte Igueldo to get panoramic views of the whole city and La Concha Beach.

If a more laid-back vacation is what you’re looking for, then this beach city is the perfect destination for you!

Barcelona

Barcelona is, hands down, one of the best and one of the coolest places to visit in Spain. The capital of the Catalunya region is famous for its lively nightlife, sandy beaches, art galleries, and striking architecture.

Barcelona is also known for its show-stopping beauty. So, in case you’d like to enjoy the most stunning views of the city, pack some manchego cheese, a bottle of wine, and hike all the way up to The Carmel Bunkers where you can watch the sun setting on the coast of Spain.

Visitors will also like strolling through the winding streets of the Gothic Quarter, and the leafy Las Ramblas, one of the city’s main thoroughfares. During your tour, expect to come across lively squares filled with restaurants that offer everything from tortilla española (omelets) and paella (Spanish rice with seafood) to fresh drinks like tinto de verano (wine with lemon soda).

Before traveling to Barcelona, Spain, we recommend that you make a list of the best places to visit in this vibrant city. Be sure to include places like the Sagrada Familia basilica, Parc Güell, the Gothic Cathedral of Barcelona, and Playa de La Barceloneta beach in your itinerary. Also, don’t forget to read our ultimate Barcelona travel guide for the best tips on how to enjoy the city.

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Valencia

The historic city center of Valencia, Spain.

The coastal city of Valencia is Spain’s third-largest city and the country’s most famous destination for eating paella, the iconic seafood dish. Located south of Barcelona on the Mediterranean Sea, this beach town is also one of Spain’s most coveted summer spots.

After a day well-spent at the beach eating freshly-made paella, make sure to try Valencia’s horchata, which is a must-try European drink.

One of Valencia’s best-known attractions is Las Fallas, which happens every March during the week leading up to Easter Weekend. This traditional celebration happens annually in honor of Saint Joseph, and it’s considered one of the best festivals in Spain.

When it comes to cultural activities in Valencia, be sure you also visit the City of Arts and Sciences, stroll through the Turia Gardens, and check out the stunning Valencia Cathedral. When it comes to art and culture, the city is definitely among the best places to visit in Spain!

Salamanca

The city of Salamanca, Spain.

Salamanca is one of Spain’s best cities. Popular thanks to its proximity to Madrid and for its gorgeous Spanish outdoors, this destination wows everyone who visits it, but especially those who enjoy cheap beer and fun nightlife.

This also happens to be one of Spain’s safest cities, which is another reason why it draws such young travelers. boasts

Must-do’s in Salamanca include visiting Casa Lis, Salamanca’s Art Nouveau & Art Deco Museum that’ll take you on a journey through time from the last decades of the 19th century until World War II.

Madrid

Puerta del Sol square filled with people.

Madrid is a bucket list destination for anyone visiting Spain. Vibrant, and highly cosmopolitan, the Spanish capital has all you could want from a big city: a string of mouthwatering restaurants, world-class museums, lush urban parks, captivating shopping spots, and a tempting bar scene.

Some of the experiences that Spain travelers can’t miss while visiting Madrid include marveling at the artworks in Museo del Prado, discovering the awe-inspiring Glass Palace (Palacio de Cristal), located in Parque del Retiro, and exploring Plaza Mayor, a history-filled square built during the reign of Philip III. Don’t forget to also check the iconic “El Oso y El Madroño” statue, in Puerta del Sol square, and dive deep into the Spanish history while snooping around the alluring Royal Palace.

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Toledo

spanish cities toledo

Toledo is a truly off-the-beaten-path city that you must visit during your trip to Spain. Located just a short ride by bus or train south of Madrid, this atmospheric town filled with charm and nature is the perfect getaway for those seeking to escape the city’s hustle and bustle.

Gloriously set in central Spain on a hill above the plains of Castilla-la Mancha, Toledo is especially known for its ancient old buildings that will take you on a journey back in time.

Thanks to its historic significance, Toledo has been a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1986. The city was dubbed the “City of the Three Cultures”, as it showcases a mixture of the three main cultures that have passed through Spain: Jewish, Muslim, and Catholic.

A great way of taking in the irresistible atmosphere of Toledo is by exploring the Old Town (Casco Histórico de Toledo), on foot. While making your way through the city’s cobbled streets, you’ll come across vivid remnants of the past including palaces, churches, convents, synagogues, and mosques.

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Take your tour even further by visiting the 13th-century Primate Cathedral of Saint Mary of Toledo, also known as Toledo Cathedral, the Mosque of Christ of the Light, built in the 10th century, and the surroundings of the Alcázar.

Also, don’t forget to stop and enjoy a glass of wine once in a while!

Granada

Rewarding travelers with everything from striking Moorish architecture and serene patios to delectable tapas and drinks, Granada is one of the most popular Spain cities. Some of the tried-and-true activities for those who visit this historic mountain town include hiking up to St. Nicholas Church to enjoy a glass of wine or chilled beer while watching the sunset over the spectacular Alhambra.

While walking around Granada, make sure to pay enough attention to your surroundings, as the city is dotted with evocative historical sights, such as gorgeous Moorish and Roman buildings that are simply a feast for sore eyes.

For a fascinating history class, take a free walking tour of Albaicin, which is the historical Moorish quarter of the city and the oldest neighborhood of Granada. Home to narrow Moorish streets and medieval constructions, this area was declared a World Heritage Site in 1984, along with the Alhambra.

The best time to visit Granada? Definitely spring! During that time of year, the weather is comfortably pleasant, and trees and bushes burst with colorful flowers.

But if you plan on visiting Granada in winter, no worries. The city is nestled in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, which is a prime destination for skiing in Spain!

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Córdoba

spanish cities cordoba

Tucked in Andalusia, only about 30 minutes by train from Spain’s southern capital, Córdoba is a beautiful town famous for its mix of Roman and Islamic architecture dating back to the early 1st century BC.

Once one of the largest cities in the world with a population three times its current, Córdoba was the capital of the Caliphate of Córdoba, which for several hundred years controlled most of the Iberian peninsula. This was mainly because, after Córdoba was captured and destroyed by the Muslims, Abd al-Raḥmān I a member of the Umayyad family took the leadership of the Spanish Muslims and made Córdoba his capital in 756.

Córdoba grew enormously and became the most cultured city in Europe. The Umayyad family filled the city with palaces and mosques, which can still be seen to the present day.

Some of the city’s most precious historical treasures include the La Mezquita Mosque, also known as the Great Mosque of Córdoba. One of the oldest structures still standing from the time Muslims ruled Al-Andalus, the mosque is famous for its sumptuous prayer hall built with recycled ancient Roman columns. Thanks to its dazzling architecture, it welcomes millions of visitors every year.

The city is truly a treasure trove for architecture lovers. Aside from the Great Mosque, other must-see ancient constructions are the Alcázar de Los Reyes Cristianos, located just across the Roman Bridge, and Palacio de Viana, a dreamy Renaissance palace filled with 12 lush patios.

Often regarded as one of the most beautiful cities in Spain, Córdoba is a popular destination during springtime, which is when crowds of people gather to see the famous local patios filled with colorful flowers of all shapes, sizes, and colors.

Curious fact: did you know that Cordoba’s Old Town is a Unesco World Heritage Site? Yes, and a very beautiful one! So when visiting the city, wander around its central neighborhoods, such as the Judería Quarter, which is filled with history.

Are you a Game of Thrones fan? Then you can visit Cordoba’s GOT Spain filming locations during a road trip through Spain.

Seville

The city center of Seville viewed from the top of the Metropol Parasol.

If you are fond of flamenco dancing, enticing floral scents, and striking Moorish buildings, Seville is the perfect place for you. Considered the beating heart of Southern Spain, this city will quickly captivate you with its rich cultural heritage and fascinating history.

The capital city of southern Spain’s Andalusia region, Seville also used to be the capital of Muslim Spain and, thanks to the ʿAbbādid and the subsequent Almoravid and Almohad dynasties, it became one of the most important cultural and commercial centers in all of Europe.

In the 12th century, Seville truly flourished, and several grandiose constructions started to pop up in the city. One of the most spectacular buildings of these golden days is the Alcázar Palace, a complex of Mudéjar-style palaces founded in the early Middle-Ages, and one of the oldest palaces still in use in Europe.

Filled with breezy gardens, alluring courtyards, sumptuous tapestries, and ceramic tile plinths, Royal Alcázars of Seville was one of the filming locations of Game of Thrones in Spain, as the setting for the city of Dorne.

During your trip to Seville, do not forget to walk around the Maestranza bullfighting ring and take long walks along the Guadalquivir River. You can also go to a Flamenco concert, as the city is commonly linked to this dramatic, soulful, and beautiful Spanish art.

Make sure you also visit Plaza de España, a showstopping semi-circular square that dazzles visitors with its mix of architectural styles, including Baroque Revival, Renaissance Revival, and Moorish Revival.

Also, if you are already planning your Easter holiday, then we highly recommend you add Seville to your itinerary. The Easter processions in the city are one of the most beautiful in Spain and happen to attract millions of tourists. In fact, it’s believed that Seville’s Easter celebrations have existed since at least the 16th Century, and from From Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday, the city’s streets come alive with these religious processions.

This lively city is definitely among some of the best places to visit in Spain for its classic Spanish culture and atmosphere that you won’t forget so soon!

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Cadiz

View of the historic white and orange buildings by the blue ocean in Cadiz, Spain.

Spain’s southernmost city, Cadiz is a true paradise for beach bums and seafood lovers. Thanks to its glittering coastline filled with idyllic beaches, this breezy Spanish city is one of Europe’s top vacation destinations for the summertime, drawing crowds of travelers every year.

Aside from enjoying Cadiz beaches, travelers can also take the opportunity to explore the city’s precious historical sights. An unparalleled way of discovering the local landmarks is by taking a walk through the cobblestone streets of Old Town, which is located within the remnant of the ancient city walls and harbors a collection of splendid plazas. Some of the attractions you’ll stumble upon during the tour include the Baroque-style Cathedral of Cadiz, remains of a partially excavated 1st-century Roman amphitheater, and Castillo de Santa Catalina, a star-shaped 17th-century fortress.

Palma de Mallorca

Palma de Mallorca is the capital of the Balearic Islands, and one of the most amazing vacation cities in Spain. Located in the western Mediterranean, the city is well known for its gothic buildings and paradisiac beaches of azure waters.

If it’s your first time in Palma de Mallorca, take some proper time to uncover the city center, which is home to the cobbled medieval streets, old townhouses, art, and, of course, the famous Cathedral de Santa Maria of Palma, also known as the La Seu Cathedral.

After visiting the old town, which is walkable and compact, go to the 19th-century Mayor Plaza which is also located in the city center. During the summer, soak up the sun on the Palma City Beach and stroll by the blue ocean on the Paseo Marítimo, a seafront promenade in Palma.

Malaga

Located in southern Spain’s Costa del Sol, Malaga is a laid-back city occupied by resorts and welcoming sandy beaches. To get started, visit Malaga’s old town, which boasts a rich cultural heritage marked by the Roman, Visigoth, and Moor invasions.

And since we’re speaking of culture and history, make sure to also include visits to the city’s hilltop citadels, which are the Alcazaba and the ruined Gibralfaro, and flaunt remnants of the Moorish rule.

You can also discover the oldest monument in Malaga, the Roman amphitheater, dating back to the first century. If you’re in the mood for some art, a visit to the home where Picasso was born, in Plaza de la Merced, is highly recommended.

Also, take a tour of some of Malaga’s finest beaches, such as Playa de La Malagueta and Playa de La Caleta, located close to the heart of the city.

Which part of Spain has the nicest beaches?

The Canary Islands, Balearic Islands, and Costa del Sol are home to some of Spain’s best beaches.

Where is the clearest water in Spain?

In Es Trenc Beach, Mallorca.

What are the best Spanish cities to visit?

The best cities to visit in Spain are:

  • Bilbao;
  • San Sebastian;
  • Barcelona;
  • Valencia;
  • Salamanca;
  • Madrid;
  • Toledo;
  • Granada;
  • Córdoba;
  • Seville;
  • Cadiz;
  • Palma de Mallorca;
  • Malaga.

How many UNESCO World Heritage Sites are in Spain?

Spain ranks third in being home to the most UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the world, with a total of 48 sites.

What is the best city to visit in Northern Spain?

The top 5 cities in Northern Spain:

  • Barcelona;
  • Santiago de Compostela;
  • Bilbao;
  • Pamplona;
  • Santander;
  • Oviedo.

Which Spanish Cities are you adding to your travel itinerary? For more Spain inspiration check out our Game of Thrones Spain travel guide, and the best travel destinations to celebrate New Year!

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8 of the best places to visit in Spain

Asian woman at a cafe in Madrid

With its sun-drenched Mediterranean beaches, World Heritage cities, incredible cuisine, and multi-faceted culture, few countries in the world can tick all the traveler boxes with such a diverse range of attractions as Spain. It is truly unique.

Given Spain’s long and storied past of Catholic monarchies, Muslim caliphates and New World conquistadores one region can have a completely distinct character from the next. Here’s a rundown of the best places to visit in this standout Iberian destination.

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1. Madrid

Best city for visiting world-class art museums

The Spanish capital is a lively city blessed with year-round clear blue skies draped over its vibrant barrios (neighborhoods), architectural landmarks and famed art museums. There’s even an ancient Egyptian temple, the Templo de Debod, right in Madrid’s city center.

Art aficionados could spend days exploring Madrid’s “Golden Triangle of Art” composed of three globally renowned museums, the Museo del Prado, Reina Sofía and the Thyssen-Bornemisza, which are home to some of the world’s most valuable art collections. They are situated along Madrid’s Paseo del Prado (Art Walk), which has recently been granted Unesco World Heritage status.

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Planning Tip: Madrid has a vibrant street culture that loves its wine-soaked tapas crawls. Cava Baja in the historic La Latina neighborhood is lined with quaint little bars and taverns, making it one of the best streets in the city to join locals hopping from one bar to the next to sample a selection of Iberian hams, charcuterie and cheeses.

Rear view of a young man relaxing in the pool and looking at Barcelona city skyline

2. Barcelona

Best for modernist architecture

Straddling the Mediterranean and the Pyrenees mountains, the Catalonian capital is a visually stunning metropolis that stands out for its avant-garde architecture, city beaches and a Gothic Quarter that stretches back over 2000 years.

No visit to Barcelona is complete without spending time at the Sagrada Família, the obra maestra of the illustrious Catalan architect and proponent of Modernism, Antoní Gaudí. His influence on the city is everywhere, and it’s worth taking time to visit his other architectural jewels, the Casa Batlló, La Pedrera and Park Güell.

Another place where Gaudí has left his legacy is at the Plaça Reial, at the heart of the city’s two millennia-old Barri Gòtic (Gothic Quarter). The public square is lit up by decorative street lamps that were Gaudí’s first commissioned public work. This ancient neighborhood is also home to the majestic Gothic Cathedral of the Holy Cross and Saint Eulalia, which was built over two centuries from the 13th to the 15th centuries. At the border of the quarter is Mercat de la Boqueria, one of the oldest markets in Europe.

Planning Tip: Have a lunchtime visit to Mercat de la Boqueria, when the unassuming places to eat, run by charismatic owners, start to open up.

A bar laden with bite-size pieces of food each with a cocktail stick in it

3. San Sebastián

Best city for gourmet experiences

This alluring Basque coastal city in northern Spain is stunning, characterized by its belle epoque architecture, white sand beaches that stretch for kilometers, and blue waters of the Bay of Biscay. On a clear day, stroll along the boulevard of La Concha beach to get a feel for the locals’ sea-loving culture.

San Sebastián, or Donostia in Basque, has evolved from being a traditional whaling town into a world-famous gastronomic capital. It has the greatest concentration of Michelin-starred restaurants per square meter in Europe and is the second city in the world with the most Michelin stars (behind Tokyo).

Planning Tip: You don’t need to have a Michelin-star budget to be able to enjoy San Sebastián’s food culture that seeps from every corner. Head over to the Parte Vieja (Old Quarter), particularly along 31 de Agosto street. The streets here are lined with restaurants and bars offering dizzying rows of assorted pintxos — literally meaning “spike”. The name describes how these appetizers are presented with skewers or toothpicks for easy picking.

People sitting at restaurant tables on a terrace at Cala Benirrás beach on Ibiza

4. Balearic islands

Best for beaches and sapphire colored waters

Anyone who’s been to these outlying islands east of the Iberian Peninsula would recognize the “Balearic blues” — the distinct shades of blue that characterize these Mediterranean waters. This archipelago’s four largest islands of Ibiza, Mallorca, Menorca and Formentera are blessed with countless beaches and calas (coves) embraced by white sand coastlines and rugged cliffs.

Among these islands, Ibiza is the most famous one, mainly for its reputation as a 24/7 party destination. Yet Ibiza’s clubbing culture is just a tiny slice of this spectacular island on the Unesco World Heritage List. It is fringed with sapphire colored waters, filled with historic fortified towns, has a plethora of hidden inlets and charming beachside restaurants and cafes. You can visit the ruins of the ancient Phoenician civilization at Sa Caleta and the Puig des Molins necropolis to get a glimpse of the ancient colonies that inhabited this island, long before the clubbers discovered it.

Horse-drawn carriages pass through a square. People are in traditional dress celebrating a festival

Time your visit for one of Seville’s colorful festivals, such as the April Fair (Feria de Abril) © LucVi / Shutterstock

5. Seville

Best place for cultural sightseeing

Seville is in the details — this charming Andalusian capital may give you the sensation of déjà vu, perhaps because its year-round sunny days, resplendent gardens and intricately carved palaces have made it a favored filming location for big productions from Star Wars to Game of Thrones. Its allure lies in its idiosyncratic mix — horse drawn carriages, flamenco tablaos (stages), colossal Gothic structures and Islamic stylistic details all blend together to create this multi-layered dreamscape of a city.

Seville’s rich cultural tapestry is the legacy of its long and varied history, once a Moorish capital, later the seat of the Castilian aristocracy, and then as the European gateway to the Americas after Columbus’ journey in 1492. The unique juxtaposition of cultures could not be more apparent when visiting the Seville Cathedral, the largest Gothic cathedral in the world and the final resting place of Columbus, and then just a few meters away, the Real Alcázar showcasing the splendor of Mudéjar architecture with Islamic, Baroque, Gothic and Renaissance elements.

Planning Tip: Want to experience a huge celebration? Time your visit for one of the city’s great annual festivals, notably the Semana Santa and Feria de Abril.

Field with wild flowers looking towards Toledo city in Spain

6. Toledo

Best for layers of history

This 2000-year-old walled city occupies a significant place in Spain’s history. It was the former capital of the Visigothic Kingdom, a fortress of the Emirate of Cordoba, a Roman municipium, the seat of power of King Charles V and the former capital of Spain until 1560 and is now a Unesco World Heritage Site. With Jewish, Christian and Islamic influences Toledo has earned it the nickname “The City of Three Cultures”. Walk along its narrow cobblestone streets to glimpse the vestiges of this unique cultural melange — ancient Roman structures, Moorish architectural styles, the Gothic Cathedral, the El Tránsito Synagogue and the Cristo de la Luz Mosque.

Planning Tip: Head over to the Mirador del Valle for spectacular panoramic views and a picture-perfect photo of this historic city by the Tagus River.

View at sunset of the capital of Galicia, the final destination of the Camino de Santiago (Way of St James)

7. Santiago de Compostela

Best city for spiritual tourism

Santiago de Compostela is the capital of Galicia and the final destination of the Camino de Santiago (Way of Saint James) pilgrimage, a tradition that stretches back over 1000 years. On any day of the week, you’ll see pilgrims from all over the world paying their respects at the Basilica of Santiago de Compostela, the reputed burial place of St James the Apostle.

Even non-pilgrims can relish the mystical beauty of this northern Spanish city with a distinct Celtic heritage. Its beating heart is the Plaza del Obradoiro, where stands the luxurious Hostal dos Reis Católicos, believed to be the oldest hotel in the world that was once a hostel for pilgrims.

Planning Tip: Santiago has a rich gastronomic tradition highlighted by its excellent seafood, so be hungry when you visit the city’s second most popular attraction after the Cathedral, the Mercado de Abastos food market.

Colourful tiled wall in the courtyard of the palace of Alhambra, Granada

8. Granada

Best city for Western Islamic architecture

Situated at the foot of the snow capped Sierra Nevada mountain range is the postcard-perfect Andalusian city of Granada. It is home to the Alhambra palace complex and ancient citadel of the Nasrid Dynasty, the last Muslim dynasty in the Iberian Peninsula which ruled until the 15th century. Meaning “the Red One”, the Alhambra is a stunning architectural masterpiece merging Moorish and Christian decorative elements — it’s impossible not to feel transported to a fantasy world with its intricately carved walls and archways, mirror-like pools and colorful mosaics.

Planning Tip: Continue the visual feast at the Palacio de Generalife right by the Alhambra, a summer palace whose gardens and perfectly orchestrated fountains provided repose for the ancient Nasrid sultans.

This article was first published August 2021 and updated September 2022

See our full range of Spain travel books

Make the most of your time in Spain with Lonely Planet’s range of travel guides and phrasebooks. Be the architect of your own trip as you discover the best things to do in Spain through insider tips, suggested itineraries and handy maps.

See our full range of Spain travel books

Make the most of your time in Spain with Lonely Planet’s range of travel guides and phrasebooks. Be the architect of your own trip as you discover the best things to do in Spain through insider tips, suggested itineraries and handy maps.

Epic Spanish Travel Destinations: My 8 Favorite places to go in Spain

Epic Spanish Travel Destinations: My 8 Favorite places to go in Spain

I´m slowly making my way back to blogging with this short recap of my favorite places to go in Spain! While the travel world slowly adjusts itself to the new normal these days, my nearest getaway plans include lots of epic Spanish travel destinations across the Iberian Peninsula.

Table of Contents

Favorite travel destinations in Spain

My travel vision

As someone who has already visited every province and major city in Spain, I’m often asked by friends and family to spill out my favorite places to go in Spain. But it’s often the most confusing moment for me as there are so many epic Spanish landmarks and hidden gems on my radar – how can I sum it all up in a few minutes?! Additionally, my suggestions may vary depending on the number of times a questioner has visited Spain himself/herself in the past.

I mean, you definitely go for the big names and cliche experiences during your first visit. But with every following trip, you start to dig deeper into the local culture and off-the-beaten-path Spain. You switch the tourist mode to the explorer mode and this is where the real adventures and authentic experiences are waiting for you.

If we, humans of the world, have one thing in common it´s our subjectiveness. Travels are no exception here. The most beautiful places on this planet often don’t live up to our personal expectations, while other lesser-known destinations surprisingly end up on the list of our all-time favorites. This is something we´ve already discussed in my San Francisco post, haven’t we?

But my point here is that my personal list of favorite places to go in Spain doesn´t match the lists of The most epic landmarks in Spain, The Best Fairytale Locations, The most beautiful places in Spain, or Top otherworldly Spanish landscapes. Let me put this straight: this post is simply a subjective collection of places that clicked with me and still make me gravitate back all the time.

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While my list of international favorites often starts with the Greek Islands, Norway, and Switzerland, Spain always goes in a separate chapter for me. Cause you don’t forget your first “travel crush”. You just don’t.

So when I’m feeling nostalgic for the places I’ve already been to, this is where I’m eventually ending up spending my vacations or short weekend breaks.

My 8 Favorite Places to Go in Spain

1. Seville

If there was one city in Spain I could choose to keep on visiting for the rest of my life it would be Seville. As one of the main gems of the Spanish Province of Andalusia, Seville is both bursting with life and quietly charming. No matter what you´re looking for: a solo city break, a fun-infused trip with friends, a family vacation, or a romantic getaway in Spain – Seville always fits the bill.

For first-time visitors, Seville offers all the famous things Spain globally ranks for: expressive flamenco, delicious tapas, unique fiesta, gorgeous architecture, and iconic landmarks. Yet, for Spain travel aficionados there will always be tones of new places to discover, from restaurants to museums&events.

Moreover, you can also keep discovering the region via day trips, as there are so many stunning places to visit in Andalusia.

If I can speak for myself here, I’m never tired of visiting Seville despite the fact that it is actually quite well-established on the tourist track. While I have confessed to you on numerous occasions that crowds make me avoid Barcelona more than I should ( elbowing my way down La Rambla doesn’t really fit into my vision of a perfect vacation). That is to say, 16-32 million visitors every year does not make the impressive Gaudi architecture any less beautiful, but they kill the vibe for me. In the case of Seville, we’re talking about 2 million visitors every year, so perceiving the slight difference?

2. Toledo

Another gem that appears on every list of the most beautiful places in Spain is Toledo. What I mostly love about this small town is its rich historical past, multicultural influence, and dazzling architecture. Not to mention that Santa Iglesia Catedral Primada de Toledo is one of the most beautiful cathedrals in Spain and the stunning Museo del Greco is a must-stop for all art lovers.

As a UNESCO World Heritage site, Toledo is filled with picture-perfect locations and historical sites. Despite the fact that the city is quite small it has played an important role throughout Spanish history and even was a Spanish capital till 1561. Also, Toledo is often referred to as “the city of 3 cultures”, where Islamic, Christian, and Hebrew inhabitants lived side by side for centuries. This multicultural note can definitely be perceived through the city´s gorgeous architecture.

One way or another, Toledo has always been one of my favorite places to go in Spain due to its unmatched artsy atmosphere.

3. Tarifa

Tarifa is my personal “place of power”. But let me explain myself here.

In one of my older posts about Mexican Riviera Maya I’ve shared how I was reading Carlos Castaneda´s “The Teachings of Don Juan” on the plane. Well in the book, the author talks about “places of power”, locations where one feels naturally happy and strong. This is something we always evaluate while visiting new places, right? It´s not always the place itself being special, but rather making us feel something special.

Well, Tarifa is one of those unique places in Spain that energizes me.

Despite being known for some of the most beautiful beaches in Spain, Tarifa has an absolutely unique geographical location, while sitting at the Strait of Gibraltar, where the Mediterranean meets the Atlantic. There is only 14 km separating Tarifa from Morocco, so you can enjoy the captivating views of the African continent.

Additionally, the tiny town of Tarifa houses lots of picturesque buildings, hipster cafes, and surfer shops. Aside from the active water sports and hiking in Parque Natural Los Alcornocales, in the summer months, Tarifa turns into an ultimate whale-watching destination.

The last time we visited Tarifa was in February, which was obviously the off-season. So, we literally enjoyed an inspiring walk along one of the vast white-sand beaches on our own. Afterward, we headed for lunch in one of the local restaurants La Pescaderia, where I tried probably the best tuna I´ve ever had.

Another popular activity in Tarifa, due to its proximity to Morocco, is a day trip to Tangier by ferry. That’s still on my travel bucket list though.

4. The Canary Islands

Another inspiring location for all the nature lovers and a huge influence in my hunt for the Spanish otherworldly landscapes is the Canary Islands. It´s a group of exotic islands in the heart of the Atlantic, located approx. 1000 km from the Spanish Peninsula and only 150 km from the African continent. Therefore, you can enjoy all the perks of technically being in Europe. Yet, stepping onto the unworldly volcanic landscapes of Lanzarote and Tenerife will make you feel like you´re traveling to the moon.

On the Canary Islands, you´ll find everything from beautiful beaches to magical forests and volcanoes. It’s also an amazing destination to explore Spain with Kids.

In my case, it’s a lot like some people might say “Paris is always a good idea” – well, for me “The Canary Islands is always a good idea”, especially cause the weather is great all year round, even when it comes to Christmas travels.

No doubt, the Canary Islands is one of the most epic Spanish travel destinations ever.

5. Marbella

If you’re are looking for a vacation with a luxury feel – Marbella is the place to be. I love visiting Marbella because of its charming old town, trendy Puerto Banus, a large number of cool bars, trendy restaurants, chic beach clubs, and local shops. Everything in Marbella speaks for the expensive lifestyle and exclusiveness. But at the same time, every corner is vibrant and aesthetically pleasing.

Even the local El Corte Ingles has the biggest gourmet corner I’ve seen in Spain. You know that as a huge foodie I am, I can spend hours searching for local delicatessen.

So if you feel a need to splurge on yourself – set your eyes on Marbella. Not to mention, lots of iconic Spanish landmarks and beautiful places in Andalusia, you can visit as day trips, if based in Marbella.

6. Ibiza and Formentera

For those of you dying for the Caribbean vibes every once in a while – Formentera is the answer. If there’s one place in Spain made for romance it´s this tiny Balearic Island, not surprisingly so loved by international celebrities and soccer stars. Formentera is a lot like the magical blue lagoon in Cyprus, but much more private. An island has quite a limited number of hotels and less than 10000 residents. Therefore it´s one of the most exclusive top Spanish islands.

On Formentera, you can enjoy some of the best beaches in Spain. The island can be reached by ferry from Ibiza (also Valencia/Denia in the summer months).

Nevertheless, if you’re traveling in the off-season, Ibiza also has a lot to offer here. Undeniably, in the peak season, this island is a lot about nightlife. However, Ibiza is a natural paradise all year round. So if you don´t have enough vacation days to lose on the Formentera transfer, Ibiza is the next best thing. Plus you have more secret gems in Ibiza as the island itself is bigger than Formentera.

7. San Sebastian

Spain’s Basque Country is one of the best dining destinations in the world, with 40 Michelin-starred restaurants over only 21 ooo square km. The city of San Sebastian is an absolute gem of the Basque country, one of the tops Spanish landmarks, and one of my favorite places to go on the Iberian Peninsula.

So, the foodie obsession in San Sebastian mainly rolls around its famous pintxos, diverse mini-bites all laid out in front of you. However, besides its unique and diverse food arena, San Sebastian is unapologetically beautiful.

What could possibly be more romantic than a long stroll at San Sebastian´s Bay of Concha, set amongst scenic mountains and swelling waves. The atmospheric Old Town with its quaint cobblestone streets and excellent pintxo bars never goes out of style.

The panoramic views of San Sebastian from Monte Igeldo, Monte Urgull, and Monte Ulia are simply to die for. San Sebastian gets a fair share of tourists in Spain – its allure is undeniable. No wonder historically, the Spanish monarchy used to spend their summers at Palacio de Miramar in San Sebastian.

This is mainly why San Sebastian is always present in most of my road trip itineraries across Northern Spain. Additionally, you can visit one of the most colorful villages in Spain, Hondarribia (only 23km from San Sebastian), or even cross a border to the charming French town of Biarritz.

8. The Spanish Pyrenees

Fresh mountain air, bird´s eye views, medieval villages with cobblestoned streets – the region of Pyrenees is another one of my favorite Spanish travel destinations.

I’ve already shared with you in my Huesca post an interesting idea that I’ve read somewhere: there´s a connection between our feelings and different elements of nature or landscapes we seek to explore. That is to say, the mountain-related trips and experiences help us to set new goals and embrace our future plans. Somehow this definitely works for me, as whenever I´m feeling ambitious and start dreaming of new horizons – I always set my eyes on the closest mountain region of the Spanish Pyrenees.

No matter whether it’s Vall D´Aran and Baqueira, or Huesca and Andorra – mountain roads are constantly pioneering on my personal Spain Bucket list. Read more about my last Pyrenees itinerary.

For more Spain travel tips and itineraries check my Pinterest boards Best of Spain and Spain Travel Collection.

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Source https://www.cuddlynest.com/blog/best-cities-to-visit-in-spain/

Source https://www.lonelyplanet.com/articles/best-places-to-visit-in-spain

Source https://atlifestylecrossroads.com/epic-spanish-travel-destinations-my-8-favorite-places-to-go-in-spain/

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