Spain is one of the most popular and one of the most visited country in the world. It’s popularity got lots of reasons and Spain got something for everyone! The lifestyle feels so easy, the approach feels so light and there is something in the air that brings some special vibes here. It’s easy to fall in love in Spain because everything says: relax! Meanwhile, the culture of the country is incredible: siesta, flamenco, jamon, Picasso, Gaudi, Dali, incredible (and sometimes bit crazy) architecture, muslim heritage, mountains, nature and, of course, the best and most convinient beaches in Europe. You can easily spend months exploring the highlights of the Spain if you are willing to see more, than Barcelona and you definitely should do yourself a favour and travel around the country to see and feel the real vibe of Spain.
In this article i will share some of the great places to visit in Spain!
The capital city of Spain is a place, that is hard to miss. Madrid is busy and a bit chaotic, which is hard to understand at first, but you will be ok here. Enjoy art in Prada, Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum and Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía. Walk around Plaza Major and Royal palace, enjoy street cafes, spend few hours enjoying Retiro park and make sure to enjoy the birds-eye view to Gran Via. Madrid requires some time to scratch the surface and find you way to the soul of the city!
It’s hard to believe, but just 3 decades ago Barcelona wasn’t a popular tourist destination. Now it’s the most popular place to see in Spain and have all the rights to be it. Amazing Gaudi architecture, beaches right in the city, great shopping, wonderful Old town, Picasso museum, amazing hotels and culture along with perfect shopping makes it such a busy place. There are several UNESCO Heritage Site within the city and lots of great day trips around (keep reading to learn about them). On the other side, Barcelona could be overwhelming: in touristy areas of the city sometimes everything you want is is to leave as soon as possible. Still there are a lot of more local (and beautiful) neighbourhoods, where it’s easy to see Barcelona the way we imagine it from the movies.
3rd largest city of Spain for some reason feels a little bit off the beaten path, but it brings absolutely different experience. Valencia is the great place to live and wonderful city to visit. It’s Old town is the largest in Spain, the parks are really stunning, museums and monasteries are mind-blowing and it’s a birthplace of paella. You can see the official Holy Grail, amazing modern architecture of “The city of Arts and Sciences” and spend some time on the beach just in one day! And good news: no big crowds around! Give it a go and there is a big chance it will be your favourite place in Spain.
Amazing scenic location close to the mountains with the snowy peaks and incredible muslim heritage including world-famous Alhambra (buy your tickets in advance) makes Granada a top place to see in Spain. The city is not huge, but got it’s own charisma. You can easily spend couple days here and learn a lot about Spanish history and culture. Check Old city and monasteries, enjoy tango in cave bars and spend several hours browsing around the promises of Alhambra to make the most of your time in Granada.
Different places and parts of Spain could be really different. When i was in Bilbao, i can hardly believe that it is Spain. Bilbao got different vibe, which makes it such a great place to see and experience the diversity of Spain. Famous Guggenheim museum and pinxos (local versions of tapas) are the main reason why you need to visit it. Browse around beautiful river, check Old part of Bilbao and the new one to feel the city. If you want something different – make sure to visit The Vizcaya Bridge, which is inscribed as UNESCO World Heritage Site and located right next to the city.
>> Read my travel diary about Bilbao
This classical Spanish city got a lot to make you busy for couple of days: incredible Basilica del Pilar and it’s tower with great view, UNESCO World Heritage Site Iglesia de San Pablo de Zaragoza, Goya Museum, great market and the area of former Expo exhibition with some interesting architecture. Zaragoza got a lot of festivals and traditions,: the largest Easter celebrations (Semana Santa – a week of celebrations) in Spain, Reyes Magos (Three Kings) festival in January, Carnival in February, Fesival of Pilar in October, Semana de la Tapa (Week of the Tapa) in November and many more. Zaragoza is a birthplace of chocolate, so make sure to browse around multiple small charming sweet shops there. Tapas scene was one of my favourite: lots of little bars are filled with locals, the variety is great, the experience is easy and cheap.
>> Read my travel diary about Zaragoza
Cordoba is known around the World because it’s stunning Cathedral, which shows complicated history of the region. Once it was a Mosque, which was later turned into Cathedral and still have some fascinating combinations of “candy” coloured Islamic styled arches and incredible white and gold classical catholic decorations. Apart from it, Cordoba got the prettiest patios EVER. These patios are almost everywhere. They are made as part of houses to cool down during the hot time of the year. Most of them are closed to the general visits, but still some are possible to see. Annual festival of patios is held every May with the competition for the best decorations.
>> Read my travel diary about Cordoba
The largest square in Spain, crazy cool architecture, 3rd largest cathedral in the World and famous Royal palace makes Seville a must-have destination to see in Spain. Also Seville got one of the best variety of places to see flamenco show. Though all Flamenco bars and theaters works mostly for tourists, you still have a chance to see good show.
>> Read my travel diary about Seville
Sitges so far is one of my Top5 places places in the world. This small charming city is located next to Barcelona and basically just a beach city with relaxed vibe and charming streets. It got small Old town with beautiful white houses, small commercial area, famous church next to the beach, Baccardi museum (the founder of the company was born here) and busy gay life. Strategic location just 40 minutes from Barcelona by train makes it a very busy place during the weekend in summer. The beaches are great, the culture and nightlife is busy, the food is one of the best in Spain and it’s so easy to feel here like you are at home just in couple of days!
Party Capital of the World and home of the largest, most fascinating clubs! Ibiza is a place to see! Probably, it’s better to get there while you are young, but the shows in clubs are so good, so it doesn’t matter. There are two sides of Ibiza: one is bold and loud, full of drinks and posh parties. Another is very tranquil, beautiful and could be amazing choice for vacations. I was so surprised that this crazy party is just in a few areas, but mostly Ibiza is a wonderful getaway island with beautiful nature and lots of areas to enjoy sun and tranquility. Ibiza is a place to stay for a while and make the most of your time by visiting beaches during the day, enjoying one of the best sunsets in world and partying hard at night!
This small peaceful island is located not far away from Ibiza. It is calm, natural island with the best beach in Europe i ever been. It is very natural place, there are just a few places to stay and the island is popular as a day trip or a stop while cruising the Mediterranean on the yacht. Peaceful and serene location not to be missed for all the beach lovers!
Tarragona got one of the largest beaches in Catalonia and is mostly famous for it’s Old town and Roman ruins, inscribed as UNESCO World Heritage Site. With lots of architecture, cute plazas, small cafes and view to the beautiful beach, Tarragona is a great place to see for a day and walk around in search of cool history of the place. Some even reccomend it as a best place to go if you got only couple of days outside of Barcelona: you will have lots of history and nice beach all together.
While being in Catalonia it’s hard to miss Montserrat. This is the area of stunning rock nature and one of the most scenic monasteries in the world – Monestir Santa Maria de Montserrat. Montserrat literally means “serrated mountain’ and it’s stunning location along with spiritual experience makes it one of the best place for 1-day hikes and pilgrimage in Spain.
Girona is a charming city in Catalonia and usually makes a perfect day trip from Barcelona. It’s colourful houses and pretty old town makes it a cool place to visit. Apart from it, Girona got full package of essential sights: cathedral, jewish quarter, bridge, Roman heritage and some pretty streets and cafes.
Figueras is the birthplace of Salvador Dalí and the place of famous “Teatre-Museu Gala Salvador Dalí”. This large museum is the main (and good enough) reason to visit the city as it houses some fantastic and super famous Dali painting and installations and the grave of the artist. Spain is famous for it’s incredible and crazy art and this place is definitely not to be missed to experience it!
These are just 15 great places to see in Spain. With one of the best transportation in Europe visiting Spain is a pleasure. Trains are comfortable and fast, busses are good and not too expensive, flights are regular with lots of low-cost options. You literally can travel around Spain for a year just to see all the major places.
If you want to go deeper, here are some more ideas:
Canarian islands, Mallorka, Menorka – for island getaway
Toledo, Cadiz, Pomplona, Segovia, Oviedo, Galicia, Cadiz – for cultural experiences
La Rioja – for wine tasting
Santiago di Compastella – for spiritual experience (including famous pilgrimage route)
Malaga, San Sebastian – for great beach time
Spain is a unique place! It’s one of few countries, which you can visit many times and it’s never get old. It’s amazing culture and lifestyle, it’s adherence to traditions, it’s special mood, food, style and beaches are incredible! It’s much more than just another Insta spot, it’s a place where you go to experience and feel it! And thought places like Barcelona are so busy now, you can easy skip it till it gets better (or just go during the off-season) and visit other places to feel the real Spain and make the most of your time here!