If you are visiting Spain for the first time, be warned – this is a country that fast becomes an addiction. You might intend to come just for a beach holiday, a walking tour or a city break, but before you know it you will find yourself hooked by something quite different – the wild celebration of some local fiesta, perhaps, or the otherworldly architecture of Barcelona. Even in the best-known places to visit – from the capital, Madrid, to the costas, from the high Pyrenees to the Moorish cities of the south – there are genuinely surprising attractions at every turn, whether it’s hip restaurants in the Basque country, the wild landscapes of the central plains, or cutting-edge galleries in the industrial north. Spain’s diverse landscapes stir the soul.
The Pyrenees and the Picos de Europa are as beautiful as any mountain range on the continent, while the snowcapped Sierra Nevada rises up improbably from the sun-baked plains of Andalucía – these are hiking destinations of the highest order. The wildly beautiful cliffs of Spain’s Atlantic northwest are offset by the charming coves of the Mediterranean. And everywhere you go, villages of timeless beauty perch on hilltops, huddle in valleys and cling to coastal outcrops as tiny but resilient outposts of Old Spain. Food and wine are national obsessions in Spain, and with good reason. The touchstones of Spanish cooking are deceptively simple: incalculable variety, traditional recipes handed down through the generations, and an innate willingness to experiment and see what comes out of the kitchen laboratory.
You may experience the best meal ever via tapas in an earthy bar where everyone’s shouting, or via a meal prepared by a celebrity chef in the refined surrounds of a Michelin-starred restaurant. Either way, the breadth of gastronomic experience that awaits you is breathtaking. For all the talk of Spain’s history, this is a country that lives very much in the present and there’s a reason ‘fiesta’ is one of the best-known words in the Spanish language – life itself is a fiesta here and everyone seems to be invited. Perhaps you’ll sense it along a crowded, postmidnight street when all the world has come out to play. Or maybe that moment will come when a flamenco performer touches something deep in your soul. Whenever it happens, you’ll find yourself nodding in recognition – this is Spain.
Top 10 Places to Visit in Spain
1. Barcelona – Barcelona is one of Spain’s top tourist attractions and a main destination in the country. Barcelona definitely offers everything a tourist can hope for in a European city – it has the historic sites, it has the dynamic setting, it has the modern life and the old-charm buildings, it has the vibrant culture, the lively shopping, the buzzing nightlife. One of the most unique features of Barcelona are the architectural marvels of probably one of the most famous architects of Spain Antoni Gaudi, which include the Casa Batllo and the Sagrada Familia Church.
2. Granada – Granada is the capital of the province with the same name and it is located at the base of the Sierra Nevada mountains. Granada is a city that offers a fascinating blend of impressive modern-day and nightlife, traditional culture, and stunning natural and man-made attractions including the infamous Alhambra that encapsulates the Andalusian history. Alhambra is a medieval complex overlooking Granada and it is one of the most stunning historical sights in Europe, offering the visitor with a splendid and very detailed architecture, lush gardens, cascading water features, and jaw-dropping views of the city.
3. Spanish Islands – The Spanish islands are, indeed, one of the most popular summer holiday destinations in Europe, visited by thousands of tourists every year. Some of the most beautiful and picturesque islands in the world, the largest Spanish islands are equally divided between the Balearic Islands and the Canary Islands. The four major Balearic Islands are Ibiza, Formentera, Mallorca, and Menorca, each of them shining with its individually and a character different than the rest of the country. Ibiza, for example, is a great party destination, while the largest and most popular Mallorca is the perfect treat for everyone enjoying summer, sun, and sand. The Canary Islands are located very close to the shore of Morocco in the Atlantic.
4. Madrid – Madrid is the cultured, vibrant, and passionate capital city of Spain. It is widely known for its buzzing nightlife scene, the great diversity of ethnic groups, the colourful and cosmopolitan ambience, the great food. Some of the main attractions you should check out when in Madrid are the Royal Palace, the large plaza Puerta del Sol, Plaza Mayor square and its lively San Miguel Market.
5. Seville – Seville is one of the best destinations in Spain, mainly because of its exceptional attractions, lively festivals, and sizzling nightlife. Seville is the capital of the Andalusia province and the region’s financial and cultural capital. Do not miss to enjoy the grand Cathedral of Seville, where it is believed that Christopher Columbus is buried, and the extravagant Moorish palace with luxurious gardens the Real Alcazar.
6. Valencia – Valencia is one of the largest and most important cities in Spain. After redirecting the Turia River, Valencia constructed its most impressive landmark, which is the cultural and entertainment complex the City of Arts and Science. The complex features several buildings including a science museum, a planetarium, an aquarium, and more.
7. San Sebastian – San Sebastian is located in the Basque country of northern Spain off the coast of the Bay of Biscay. This beautiful city is mostly known for its amazing beaches and mouth-watering culinary tradition. If you fancy diving into history, the Old Town features a few historic sites and buildings. The most popular beach in the city is the well-known Playa de la Concha.
8. Cordoba – Cordoba is the capital of a province with the same name and one more destination worth visiting. The heart of the city is the historic quarter of Cordoba that is a labyrinth of tiny medieval streets, whitewashed courtyards, and plazas that are all surrounding the main attraction, the Mezquita. Initially built as a mosque, the Mezquita is a stunning cathedral with well-preserved original architecture. Other places attracting your interest in Cordoba include the Fortress of the Christian Monarchs, the Street of Flowers, and the Old Jewish Quarter.
9. Toledo – Nestled on a mountaintop in central Spain, Toledo used to be the capital of Spain back until the 16th century. Once inhabited by Jews, Christians, and Muslims, the city is often called the “City of Three Cultures”. Nowadays Toledo houses historical and architectural heritage left by the Roman Empire.
10. Santiago de Compostela – Located in northwestern Spain and a capital city of the Galicia region, Santiago de Compostela is mostly popular as the final destination of the traditional pilgrimage Camino de Santiago. It is believed that Santiago de Compostela is where the Apostle of Jesus Christ, St. James is buried. Nowadays, Santiago de Compostela is attracting thousands of visitors every year because of its religious and historic heritage. The arriving point for most of the pilgrims is the main square Praza do Obradoiro.