Even if you already traveled to Spain, it can be hard finding areas that suit your specific interests. Luckily, we compiled a highlight list of some of the best Spain destinations out there. Come check it out if you are interested.
Exploring Spain can sometimes feel like visiting fifteen different countries at the same time. Each region feels more diverse than the next; it can be hard to tell which ones you should pick for you should choose for your next vacation. However, instead of looking at this vast country as a challenge, look at it as an adventure instead. Since Spain is one of the cheapest European countries to eat and sleep in, you can afford to travel around to a few towns and see all the sites.
But which sites do you check out? Luckily, we rank the ten most popular Spain destinations. Whether you never traveled to Spain before in your life, or if you're a season tourists, some locations should appeal to you.
How We Rate the Spanish Destinations on This List
Rating the fantastic Spain destinations on this list are no easy task. To make the job easier, for each location we look at the number of activities and sights that the place offers. Specifically, we look at the culture, food & drink, and overall beauty. For each of these categories, we ask a series of questions that help us determine which destination appeal more to the average tourist and which ones might offer a more specialized niche. Here is the question we ask for each category:
- Culture — Are there good art museums? Are local events and music frequent in the region? What kind of historical locations can you explore?
- Food & Drink — How many good restaurants and bars are in the area? Are there any local dishes unique to the region? Any vineyards in the area?
- Overall Beauty — How does the area look? Are there breathtaking sites, or is it just a monotonous metropolis? Is the surrounding natural landscape pretty?
Top Ten Best Spain Destinations You Need to Visit
When we rank the cities on this list, we do not mean to imply that one destination is categorically better than another one. Instead, we include the order, so you know which towns cater more toward tourists than others. The targets at the bottom of the list possess just as much value as the ones at the top.
The city of Madrid is a bustle of culture, nightlife, and food. Whether you peruse the local flea markets or catch a show, there is no shortage of things to do and places to check out. The Prado, one of the most well-known art museums in the world is an excellent place to start. Though flamenco dancing did not originate in Madrid, the top flamenco dancers still flock to Madrid — so if you want a good show to be on the lookout.
Or you can tour the Royale Castle built by King Philip V in the 1700s. The Plaza Mayor offers another good stopping point for lunch and a quick look at some local vendors. Once you finish, take a stroll Retiro Park and then relax while drinking a beer on a terrace bar.
Barcelona is indeed the melting pot of Spain — one of the few places where many different ethnic groups live amongst each other. Fans of Picasso will want to visit his museum in the city and then check out the Palace of Catalan music. You can take a break by visiting some of the many beautiful parks found in the town. While you are there, you should at least make a good look of the outside of the Church of the Sacred Family — the unfinished masterpiece of Antoni Gaudi. Then, take a turn to the Boqueria Market and indulge in some delicious foodie heaven.
While there are rumors that Barcelona is notorious for pickpockets who steal wallets and jewelry, these are mostly false now. The crime rate in Barcelona dropped dramatically in recent years. Just keep your valuables in your front pocket and stay aware.
Wine lovers rejoice! The region of La Rioja contains some of the best vineyards in the country. The rest of Spain is in no short supply of wine, but the tours and tastings in the gorgeous landscape of the country provide a much more ideal environment for enjoying the fermented beverage. The golden crops and rolling hills — on top of the classic renaissance design — make for a beautiful experience. Food options are a little more limited, so you will probably only want to make a day trip out of it. But there are museums and cathedrals you can stop at along the way.
Toledo offers beautiful insight into the contentious history of Spain. You can visit the famous cathedral — which holds obvious Gothic influences. Then, visit the Alcazar — a Roman palace that Arabs conquered.
Today, the castle is a military museum containing weapons and relics of the past. Make sure you visit the restaurants — the blends of Jewish, Christian and Arab dishes create some genuinely unique meals. Once you finish, then you can check out the museum of the famous Spanish golden age painter El Greco.
Some of the sites you see from the mountaintop city of Ronda honestly take your breath away. You can begin at the New Bridge (Puente Nuevo), the massive structure that connects the old district to the new one. Once you finish, you should visit the famous bullring. It was at this very bullring that a matador first introduced a red cape to the sport of bullfighting. If you are a fan of The Sun Also Rises, then you can visit Ernest Hemingway's memorial pathway. The author wrote extensively about bullfighting culture in Ronda.
The crown jewel of Granada is the red fortress, the Alhambra. And while everyone should try and tour it if they have the time, there are lots of other great locations you can also enjoy if the palace becomes particularly busy one day — for example, the Generalife summer palace with its exquisite gardens.
Excellent art museums and cathedrals can tempt history and art lovers. If you want additional history, then you can check out the surviving Arab bathhouse. Once you finish your day, relax at a bar and tapas restaurant and celebrate the day.
If you prefer a peaceful nature walk over some old ruins, then you will love the Pyrenees. Hikers from all walks of life have long taken solace in the high mountain trails and crystal blue lakes. However, just because you are away from the city does not mean there is any shortage of things you can do. For example, there are wildlife enclosures where you can see bears and eagles. Or, if you want additional activities, then you can go canoeing or skiing for the day. Make sure you check out the view from the top of the Pic du Midi — the peak offers a breathtaking panoramic view of the entire region.
With the recent creation the City of Arts and Science, Valencia is quickly becoming one of the most creative looking places in Spain. The fantastic architecture that forms the science and art complex is not just for looks, they contain interactable exhibits, like planetariums, plant exhibits, aquariums, opera houses and more.
The nightlife offers a surprisingly modern variety of electronic and dance music. Valencia is also the location that hosts the famous tomato fight, so if you have ever wanted to throw a tomato in someone's face, now is the opportunity. Just walking around the town reveals beautiful street art or a cute bookshop/cafe. In Valencia, there is something around every corner.
If you want to travel to Spain for the delicious endless Tapas dishes, then you need to come to Seville. The city itself contains the origins of Flamenco dancing, as well as the bright and flashy style that comes with it. Besides the tasty food, there plenty of historical sites to enjoy like the Plaza Espana — the massive structure built for the World’s Fair in the year 1929. There are also some beautiful gardens and cathedrals you can visit. Catch an incredible Flamenco dance performance if you have the time.
The last of the Spain destinations on this list is San Sebastian, the Southern cost side town in the Basque region. A day at San Sebastian fits perfectly in the middle of your Spain trip because it allows you a day to relax on the beach and enjoy the irresistible Basque dishes. Or, if you want to take a while and revel in the cities charge you can visit some of the sites. Visit the coastal city hall for a view at an architectural marvel. In addition to the usual offerings of cathedrals, museums, and holiday homes, there are also some great view in the mountains you can hike to if you want.
Spain Traveller’s Guide
If you remain unsure of where you want to go to Spain, then do not panic. Instead, think about some activities you like, or things you want to do while you're in Spain. Then, consult our traveler’s guide and see which cities fit your specific need.
What Are You Looking for While in Spain?
In places like Granada (and many other locations in the south of Spain), the only thing you pay for is the alcohol you drink. While you enjoy your beverage, a waiter will bring around small plates with delicious local dishes on them. The fare is usually straightforward, but adequate — the perfect bar food. In a way, it is a smart system. The food makes you drink, which makes you buy additional expensive drinks — a vicious cycle. Still, the congenial atmosphere and and good times are hard to find anywhere else.
The weather in France can be a bit unpredictable. While the beach towns offer the most consistently beautiful atmospheres, even hot summer days can quickly turn them miserable. Your best bet is the region of Andalusia. Or, for cooler weather, you should journey to the Pyrenees.
While every city and town contains some remnants of beautiful architecture — whether they are tiny or massive — it is Barcelona that holds the most staggering amount of pieces. From the holy family church to the whimsical park, the famous architect Gaudi left his artistic fingerprints all over the city, and it is all the better for it.
Either Madrid for the Prado, Reina Sofia, and Thyssen-Bornemisza museums or Bilbao for the unorthodox looking Guggenheim. These museums contain a truly staggering amount of great works. However, the Spanish artists of the ages left there paint all over Spain. You need no search hard to find one in a museum or gallery.
Seville is typically the place to be for bullfighting — but Madrid is another hotspot for enjoying the bloody tradition. Just keep in mind that they are not for the faint of heart.
Like a lot of the things on this list, good wine is around just about every the corner in Spain. However, if you genuinely care about the vine, then you should have some of the region’s hotspots. You cannot go wrong with the Basque region or La Roja. Make sure you remember to book a tour and a tasting.
We hope this guide helped you figure out some Spain destinations that fit your specific needs. As we mentioned, Spain offers quite a lot for one trip — let alone a lifetime of trips. As such, you need to make every second worth it. Soak in the culture and come up with a gameplan of what sites you want to see and things you would like to do. Remember to be flexible (it is Spain after all). Just go with the flow, and you will be fine.
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