The European country of Spain is one of the popular tourist destinations. Every city in Spain is unique and has a lot to offer in terms of culture, architecture, leisure and even cuisine. We asked our fellow travel bloggers to recommend us with their favorite cities to visit in Spain and why it should be on your must-visit list of places in Spain. So here we share with you the best cities in Spain to add to your bucket list now!
Barcelona one of the popular tourist cities in Spain is the capital of the region of Catalonia. The three major draws for the tourist to the city of Barcelona is the football, architecture and the cuisine. Barcelona is home to FC Barcelona well-known for it’s for its football team, and is one of the largest and the second richest Football Club in the world. You can visit the FC Barcelona Museum and explore the history of the club, walk through the various trophy collection and memorabilia. You can also visit the Camp Nou is the home stadium of FC Barcelona when there are no matches being held in the stadium.
The other top points of interest in Barcelona is hunting for Antoni Gaudi’s architectural masterpieces and on the top of the list is the magnificent Sagrada Familia a colossal unfinished Roman Catholic Church.
The Park Guell a public park also displays some of the remarkable works of architecture and art of Antoni Gaudi. Sagrada Familia, Park Guell together with other Gaudi buildings like Casa Mila, Casa Vicens, Casa Batllo are designated as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. For a relaxed and funfilled day head to one of the popular beaches of Barcelona. While some of these are calmer and ideal for some laid-back experience other have great seafood restaurants, watersport activities, and shopping opportunities. Barcelona is a perfect base to explore Montserrat the popular pilgrimage destination of Catalonia.
Situated right on the south-eastern corner of Spain, in the province of Murcia, Cartagena is a history lovers’ dream. It’s a relatively small town but it has one of the most complex and fascinating histories in Spain. The Carthaginians founded the city around 220BC, due to the superb harbor which they used as their trading hub.
A few hundred years later the Romans, who built a coliseum, which was only found by archaeologists in 1988, invaded the town. There is also a Punic Wall, which is one of the few remains of Carthaginian civilization in Spain. The walls bear witness to one of the most important events of Ancient history in the Mediterranean Sea: the Second Punic War.
Voted by Faith Coates of XYU AND BEYOND
One of the best sites to visit is the Castillo de la Concepción. For the sum of €1 Euro, you can take the freestanding elevator, which is terrifying, to the highest point in Cartagena. From this viewpoint, you can see the old bull ring and take a walk around the Castillo which was originally a Roman Temple, a Moorish Citadel and then a 13th century Castillo. The views from the top are absolutely magnificent. You can see the Roman Coliseum and walk around the panorama to take in the wonderful views of the entire city and harbor. If the lift terrifies you, as it did me, there is a walkway around to the Coliseum and down to ground level. There are 12 museums in Cartagena, 4 beautiful churches and the remains of a number of great civilizations from the Romans to the Visigoths, Byzantines the Moors and finally the Spanish Catholic Monarchy.
Cartagena is unique in Spain because of the influence of ancient civilizations that used its strategic harbor and built the City around it. In the 19th century, the mining industry resulted in the building of some incredible Art Nouveau landmarks such as the City Hall, The Grand Hotel, and the Casino. The main street of Calle Mayor is a lively pedestrian and shopping area. This is where you want to visit to see some fantastic Spanish boutiques, and also where you head for some of the best tapas in Spain.
Palma de Mallorca
While we were captivated by the entire island of Mallorca, Palma de Mallorca was our first glimpse of the largest of Spain’s Balearic Islands. The area around this capital city has been inhabited since Roman times, and its port was used for voyages to Africa. Throughout the centuries, Palma has been ruled by Byzantine and Muslim dynasties and Palma’s Old City is clearly reminiscent of its Arab roots. Re-conquered by James I of Aragon in 1229, Palma has been under Christian influence, which resulted in an architectural, commercial and artistic heritage.
Voted by Betsy Wuebker of PASSINGTHRU
Visitors will want to see the 13th century Palma Cathedral and L’Almudaina Palace. Ancient Arab Baths and the Arab Quarter are nearby. Palma’s thriving art scene is complemented by stylish restaurants, shopping, and nightlife; its harbor promenade is scenic for pedestrians and cyclists alike. Check out the Bellver round castle and its hilltop views of the city. Lovers of Modernist architecture will take note of the many art nouveau buildings. Contemporary art fans will want to check out the Baluard Museum and the Joan Miró Foundation. Sightseers will want to buy a Palma Pass to get free public transport and discounts. For those who would prefer to avoid the high season crowds, off-season Mallorca delivers just as much enjoyment.
One of the most interesting day trips from Madrid is a mere 30-minute train journey away. Toledo, the city known as ‘the city of 3 cultures’ where during the Middle Ages Christians, Muslims and Jews lived in harmony with one another. Toledo is located in central Spain in the province of Toledo.
You will need a good pair of walking shoes to tackle the confusing, hilly and narrow cobblestoned streets, which Toledo is famous for. The ancient well-trodden streets link the Jewish Quarter, the Convent Quarter and the 1,000-year-old Mosque of Cristo de la Luz. The Mosque should be on your list of things to do in Toledo. The stunning building, once a Christian Church, dates back to the year 999 and is located on Puerto del Sol Square. We recommend taking some time to visit the peaceful garden with stunning views over the countryside.
Voted by Jane Dempster-Smith of TO TRAVEL TOO
Spain’s 2nd most important Cathedral is located in Toledo. It has been said that it is also Spain’s most Gothic Cathedral. A 200-step hike up the top of the Cathedral Tower will give you stunning views over the countryside. Toledo is famous for being the home of the famous Mannerist artist El Greco. His works can be seen in the sacristy in the Cathedral and in the small Santa Cruz Museum. Toledo’s Alcazar, which sits proudly on the highest point, was once used as a Roman Palace in the 3rd Century. The Alcazar has been converted into a massive Military Museum, which you should allow at least 3 hours to visit.
Everywhere you walk in Toledo you will see sword and metal shops. Since Roman times Toledo has been involved in sword and armor production and artisans still work their trade today. Toledo is a great day out!
Add Costa Brava to your bucket list. Located in the Catalonia region of Spain, Costa Brava stretches from the border with France all the way east of Barcelona. Costa Brava is named for the rocky coastline, translated to English it means “rough coast”. There are beautiful coastal towns in Costa Brava, consider Blanes, Lloret de Mar, or Tossa de Mar for your next vacation.
Voted by Susan Moore of SOLO TRIPS AND TIPS
Enjoy morning strolls through town on the cobblestone streets, taking a break for coffee and pastries at a café. When hunger hits later in the day, tapas and sangria will hit the spot. Of course, being on the coast means delicious seafood is plentiful. Beaches, historic churches, ruBins, and the Camino de Ronda coastal walk are some of the popular attractions in Costa Brava. Camino de Ronda is coastal hiking at it’s best. You can do a portion of the trail or the entire route, 230 km from Lloret de Mar to the French border. The trail is well maintained and marked with red and white lines on trees, poles or on the road, all along the route. You will see fishing villages, resort towns, beautiful coastal scenery, forest, and beaches.
Take a day trip to the Salvador Dali Museum in Figueres, Girona region of Spain, about 80 km from Lloret de Mar. Other day trip options are Monastery Sant Pere de Rodes and Village Medieval de Pals.
Getting to Costa Brava is easy from Barcelona, only 1-hour drive away. Rent a car, take a bus from the airport or Estacio del Nord, train from Sants station or Placa de Catalunya station to Blanes, or hire a private shuttle bus.
One of the best cities to visit in Spain if you want to explore the less touristic and more authentic part of it is Oviedo. This conservative town is located on the north of Spain, in the beautiful region of Asturias, the only place in Spain that has never been conquered by Arabic Moors. Oviedo is surrounded by mountains, which makes hiking one of the most popular activities for a sunny weekend. While it rains more often than in other parts of Spain, Oviedo is a great destination in any time of the year thanks to many things you can do indoors.
Voted by Roman of ROMAN ROAMS
In its extensive old town, you will find numerous local authentic bars and restaurants, where you can feel like a citizen of a town in 16th century. If you visit one of them, I recommend you to try some of its local dishes like fabada (bean stew with different kinds of sausages and cheese), Cachopo (two beef steaks with ham and cheese inside, breaded and deep fried) and rice pudding. To mention some particular attractions of Oviedo, you should visit Archaeological Museum and Museum of Fine Arts, the cathedral of Oviedo, Plaza del Fontan, Plaza Mayor, and some other cozy hidden streets and squares. Visit Oviedo and dive into the atmosphere of 16th century Spain!
Granada is part of Andalucia, along with Seville, Malaga, Cordoba and more. It has views of the Sierra Nevada mountains. This is a city that can bring you pure awe due to the remnants of the Moorish occupation which you can witness in the marvelous interiors of Alhambra. There is a lot of grandness in this palace that you can easily spend half a day learning about the history behind it. Granada also brings you adventure as you “hike” at night with Play Adventure tour.
Voted by Karla Ramos of KARL AROUND THE WORLD
Getting to Granada is easy, in our case we rented a car and drove around Andalucia. The nearest airport is Malaga, from Malaga you can take a 1.5 to 2-hour bus ride to Granada. Another option is to land in Seville and take the bus from there. Connectivity in this area is fairly easy. Don’t forget to book your Alhambra tickets in advance though as they get booked way ahead of time. Some people even book 3 months before. You will for sure enjoy the grandness of Granada.
I am not going to claim that I visited whole Spain, but Ronda with its rough nature definitely stands out compared to the refined Barcelona, Madrid or Seville. And the main reason is the majestic landscapes of the city. I am sure many people have seen the pictures of Puente Nuevo (the New Bridge) and the gorge, and it is the first thing they look for when they come to Ronda. But I like it for the impressive views of the distant and not very distant mountains from the very bridge. Just imagine mighty dark mountains standing out against the blue sky, with greenery here and there. And every panoramic deck in Ronda offers this view. Let’s not forget the man-made wonders of Ronda. A very notable place in the city is the Moorish mines. Shrouded in legends, this gloomy, dark and wet stone staircase with vaults leads right to the bottom of the gorge. The cathedrals of Ronda, its ancient walls, bridges, and gates, the ruins of Alcazaba are not to be missed. They are located in the farthest from the Puente Nuevo part of the city and not many travelers go there.
Voted by Marianna of IRMA NAAN WORLD
But it is not only the landscapes and its Moorish past that make Ronda special. Its long history with the first settlements dating back to the Paleolithic period appeals to explorers and history aficionados alike. Visiting the Pileta Cave with paintings about 30.000 years old, wandering in the mountains, taking a ride to the ancient Roman city Acinipo to see its ruins and a well-preserved theater could make perfect half-day or day trips. Prices in Ronda are cheaper than in other Andalusian cities, which makes it an affordable destination. In addition, it is easily accessible from both Malaga and Seville with buses running from the morning until the evening.
If your traveler’s soul is looking for an extraordinary and surreal experience, you should visit Figueres.
Literally meaning ‘the fig trees’ in Catalonian, Figueres is a small picturesque town just an hour and a half drive from Barcelona, near the border with France. In Figueres under the sublime Mediterranean sun and among Catalonian scenic vineyards, cypress, and figs trees, the eccentric artistic genius of Salvador Dali was born. There in his birth town, Dali created and built a magnificent theatre-museum. A theatre-museum? Exactly, the Gala Salvador Dali Theater Museum is a museum and a theatre. In fact, the quirky museum is a glorious theatre with some bizarre eggs on the roof, a spectacular glass roof cupola, dramatic central stage and several unique exhibition and showrooms. Nevertheless, it is the largest surrealist building in the world.
Voted by Milijana of WORLD TRAVEL CONNECTOR
The Theatre Museum holds a sensational collection of Dali’s art paintings, sculptures, installations, jewels and even the crypt of buried Dali. This is the place where you will be intrigued, shocked and amused at the same time. The extravagant golden Oscar statues in the museum’s atrium will amuse you, while bizarre ‘Rainy Taxi’ in the central courtyard will shock you. Furthermore, in the museum, you will admire playful optical illusion of ‘Lincoln in Dalivision’, while enthralling sculptural installation of ‘Mae West room’ and amusing “Palace of the Wind room’ will equally fascinate you. In Figueres wonder and amusement is guaranteed. What else you could expect of the creative genius if not ultimate uniqueness and unconventionally?! Don’t think twice, but take a day trip from Barcelona to Figueres to get your lifelong memorable surreal experience!
Just a couple of decades ago, nobody would have mentioned Bilbao on any list of best cities. But that has changed greatly over the last years. The construction of the iconic and world-famous Guggenheim Museum designed by star architect Frank Gehry put the city on the map. Since the opening in 1997, Bilbao has evolved into an important art center in Europe. Take some time to get lost among the crazy exhibition pieces of this modern art museum.
Voted by Mike of 197 TRAVEL STAMPS
And you don’t have to be an art lover to appreciate the beauty of Bilbao. The city is also an important culinary center of Spain and you can find amazing food markets around every other corner. Make sure to head to Mercado de la Ribera and try some Pintxos, a type of tapas served on bread originating in the Basque Country. Since Bilbao is located in the north of Spain, the climate is much milder which makes it a great destination for the summer months when the cities in the south may be too hot to visit. And while Bilbao is not the typical beach destination, there is a beautiful beach just a couple of minutes outside of the city center.
An old town feel, vibrant squares, great food, a feast of ancient Roman ruins and the backdrop of the turquoise Mediterranean Sea make Tarragona, the second largest city in Catalonia, a must visit. Known as Tarraco in ancient times Tarragona was the oldest Roman settlement in Spain and a stunning 15,000 seater seaside amphitheater which housed gladiator fights and public executions is the highlight of what remains today. The Circus, where horse and chariot races were once held, is another must visit. The Old Town, close to the impressive Cathedral de Santa Maria de Tarragona, is full of quaint cobbled streets and cafes serving Catalan feasts with seats spilling out into the lively squares.
Voted by Elaine & David of SHOW THEM THE GLOBE
The city is famous for its golden beaches and Cala Fonda, just a few kilometers from the center, is a secluded hidden gem – it’s so beautiful it is referred to as Waikiki Beach! Tarragona is also known for its human pyramids festivals, a Catalonia tradition, and a unique statue of life-sized figures in a human pyramid honors the pastime. Tarragona is beautiful as a standalone destination and is also easily accessible from Barcelona. The high-speed train from Sants Station in Barcelona takes 36 minutes to arrive in Tarragona.
Vigo is located in the northwest of Spain, right by the Atlantic ocean. Being the largest city in Galicia, it is a great mix of urban life and beach culture! Its quaint Old Town and the number of museums means that there is something for everyone in the city. If you are a fan of seafood, you will find yourself in heaven while in Vigo. There is indeed a sea of flavors to try in the city! Restaurants are plenty and as in the rest of Spain, most dishes are made to share. The pre-set menus will allow you to try a wide range of Vigo’s finest delicacies and generally the prices are affordable for what you are getting.
Nevertheless, the city is much more than a culinary heaven. One thing you absolutely can’t miss when in the city is the view from the Castro Fortress! It is a bit of an uphill battle to get there, but the views pay for all the effort. Take your time to appreciate the views and visit the Castro Park. If you are searching for even more beautiful views, take your hiking shoes and fully discover the mountains that surround the city!
Voted by Maria & Rui of TWO FIND A WAY
Near Vigo, you can also find one of Spain’s many treasures: the Ciés Islands. The archipelago is a paradise made of white sand beaches and crystalline waters. There’s a lot to do if you don’t fancy spending hours on the beach: the islands are part of a National Park, and opportunities to hike and observe wildlife are plentiful. You can visit as a day trip from Vigo during the Summer, or spend the night at the Cíes campsite. Be aware that there are only 800 spots available to keep this paradise unspoiled, so book ahead to make sure you get a place.
Most of us have heard of Valencia Oranges, but did you know behind this name is a charming must-visit city? Valencia is on the east coast of Spain and the third largest city after Madrid and Barcelona, but you would never feel it. The are no towering skyscrapers or chaotic gridlock in the center, instead, you will find historic buildings, churches, plazas, and fountains.
This city is a dream for architecture buffs, street art enthusiasts, and foodies. The unique mix of architectural styles in Valencia includes Baroque, Gothic, Romanesque, and Spanish Modernista. For eye-catching street art, head to the area of El Carmen and don’t forget your camera. As for the food lovers, you are in for a treat! Valencia is a city made me to enjoyed slowly – meal by meal. Indulge on Horchata and Farton at the Mercado Central, try paella in its original birthplace, sample the alcoholic “Agua de Valencia” during a night out in the Ruzafa area.
Voted by Chantell Collins of ADORATION 4 ADVENTURE
Valencia is an easy train or bus journey from Madrid and Barcelona, making it perfect for a weekend getaway or a couple of days break between the two. The tempo is slow and relaxed, so keep your itinerary light with plenty of room for long walks, coffee breaks, and afternoon siestas. You will leave Valencia feeling completely blissed out and well fed.
San Sebastian, located in the Basque Country, has a nice mix of beaches, mountains, and beautiful architecture that make it one of the best cities in Spain to visit. To get to San Sebastian, you should fly into Bilbao and then it’s about an hour bus ride. When you arrive in San Sebastian, take the funicular up Monte Igueldo or hike up Monte Urgull to take in the views of La Concha Bay and San Sebastian from above. I loved the sculpture called Open Construction at the base of Monte Urgull. If you enjoy hiking, you can also hike a section of the Camino de Santiago on the edge of town.
Voted by Anisa Alhilali of TWO TRAVELING TEXANS
During the warm weather months, plan on spending some time on Playa de la Concha, a sandy beach close to a mile long. The San Sebastian Old Town is a short walk from the beach. Take a walk, explore the old town area, and try some of their famous pintxos, the Basque version of tapas. We also took a pintxos cooking class and spent a fun evening at a Basque cider house just outside the city. Once you have seen San Sebastian’s major attractions, you can do a day trip to Spain’s most famous wine region, Rioja. If you enjoy modern art, then take a day trip to Bilbao to visit the Guggenheim Museum.
Ideally located between Madrid and Barcelona, Zaragoza is a hidden gem that most tourists forget to explore. The city hosted the 2008 World’s Fair and is today a small city with a lively culture. Our top 10 things to do in Zaragoza list includes roaming the idyllic green spaces, majestic buildings, and modern architecture. Obviously, anyone visiting Zaragoza will notice the Basílica de Nuestra Señore del Pilar as it is one of the largest churches in the world but don’t forget to catch a stunning sunset from one of the bridges nearby and definitely don’t forget to roam down the alleyways to discover Zaragoza’s great craft beer scene.
Voted by Yashy Murphy of BABY AND LIFE
Filled with character, the tapas bars in the old city aren’t overly crowded but deliver an authentic experience and is a spot where one can party late into the night. Families will also love Zaragoza because of attractions like the Aquario and Amusement Park. The highlight for me (beyond the sunsets) was the Museo de Los Faroles y Rosario de Cristal, a stained glass museum filled with intricate and giant displays that light up. Zaragoza’s picturesque views and leisurely atmosphere makes it a relaxing Spanish visit to add on to your list.
Seville is the fourth largest city in Spain. It’s also the hottest city in Europe, which means there is no best time to visit – any time is great! One of our favorite parts of the city is the Metropol Parasol. A lot of locals think this is an eyesore, but we think it’s an amazing place to go to watch a beautiful Seville sunset. It always impresses. Other points of interest in the city include the St. Mary of the See Cathedral and Giralda. The Giralda tower is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, originally built as a minaret for a mosque in the 1100s. Plaza de España is also beautiful and is one of the most picturesque places in the city. One of Seville’s claims to fame is flamenco. The Triana district is considered a birthplace of the dance and the city hosts the Bienal de Flamenco every year for about a month.
Voted by Michael of THE ROUND THE WORLD GUYS
Tapas culture is one of the most appealing things about Seville. It’s a tradition to go from bar to bar, sampling various Spanish dishes in the evening while meeting with friends at the end of the workday. There’s a reason Seville is usually in the top 5 places to visit in the world – and it’s definitely at the top of any list of European cities. It’s beautiful. There’s a ton of history here. The climate is awesome. And the food and entertainment scene are unmatched in Spain. When you get there, we suggest taking a free walking tour to see some of the highlights of the city. That’s a great way to get your visit to Seville started.
If you haven’t been to Tenerife yet, then you are missing out! The plane ride is absolutely worth the island adventure that’s only a couple of hours away. Being the largest of Spain’s Canary Islands, there are plenty of things for you to explore. Let’s start with the obvious. Tenerife is home to Mt. Teide, which is a dormant volcano which offers stunning seaside views once you climb it. That’s right if you’d like to combine a little adventure and sport with your holiday, a good hiking trip on Mt. Teide is the way to go. Alternatively, if you wish to do less sport but explore the beautiful scenery around, then take a trip to the Teide National Park. It is located right under the volcano. Make sure you don’t miss out on Tenerife’s beautiful beaches. Did you know that Tenerife is known for its whale and dolphin watching? You can easily book a ticket in advance!
Voted By Michelle Minnaar of GREEDY GOURMET
If you travel with children, what better way to spend time than in Siam Park. It is a Thai-themed adventure water park where you can indulge in many family activities, especially ride your favorite water slides. Also, leave a day for discovering Loro Parque where you can show your children all types of various exotic species. For something more sophisticated, you need to check out the Sandos San Blas Nature Resort and Golf. Treat yourself to a vacation that you fully deserve! You can also take part in the San Blas Nature Reserve Tour and explore the island’s beauty.
Naturally, while you visit this amazing island, you need to try the local cuisine and restaurant. For fresh seafood and daily catches, you need to try La Masia del Mar and La Vieja. Also, don’t miss out on good steak at Brunelli’s Steakhouse, exotic cuisine at The Oriental Restaurant and local modern cuisines at Gastrobar Aie.
Madrid is the capital of Spain and offers everything from shopping to nightlife and culture. First of all, the architecture is beautiful, and almost everywhere you can see majestic buildings surround you in the city center. My favorite things to do in Madrid include: Eating tapas and drink wine, walk along the Gran Via (famous shopping street), relax in one of the city’s many parks or attend a local festival or concert. There’s always something happening in Madrid, so no matter what time of the year you go, there will still be something fun to schedule. As for the nightlife, you have countless of hip nightclubs and bars. The streets of Malasaña are especially popular among the young party crowd. If you prefer something more classic or calmer, head for the traditional bars of La Venencia, Corral de la Moreria or Cafe del Principe.
Voted by Alex Waltner of SWEDISH NOMAD
Don’t forget to visit the Royal Palace and Puerta del Sol. If you like museums, you’ll be satisfied to know that Madrid is home to some of the best museums in all of Spain. Even if the city is big, it’s quite easy to get around thanks to the metro system.
Santiago de Compostela
Santiago de Compostela is the capital of Galicia province. The most popular place in Santiago de Compostela is the Cathedral of Santiago. The building has Romanesque structure, with later Gothic and Baroque additions. And it’s famous because at the end of the Camino de Santiago (Way of St James) a popular pilgrimage, a route starting in France and finishing in Spain. You can do The Way by walking or you can even go cycling in Camino de Santiago as I did from Madrid my hometown. There are many bars and restaurants in Santiago de Compostela, old town around to enjoy their gastronomy. I highly recommend their seafood and empanadas Also they’re very popular for drinking Albariño white wine that grows in Galicia and if you like beer as I do: Estrella Galicia is my favorite local beer.
Voted by Ruben of GAMIN TRAVELER
Another unique day trip from Santiago de Compostela you can go to Cape Finisterre on the West Coast of Galicia. In Roman times it was believed that it was the end of the world. On the way to Cape Finisterre, you can enjoy amazing views from the cliffs. You can even enjoy the beaches if you have time, the water is so blue and transparent. A travel experience you’ll never forget.
Malaga is probably best known for its airport, which acts as a gateway for the Costa del Sol. But it’s a fabulous destination in its own right, not least of all because it enjoys over 300 days of sunshine each year!
The city itself is small enough to explore in a long weekend, but there’s plenty to keep you occupied. The architecture in the city is beautiful, and you’re sure to be impressed by the stunning Cathedral that dominates the city center. It’s known as The One Armed Lady because the second tower has never been finished. You may also like to visit the Roman amphitheater and the Alcazabar, Malaga’s Arabic fortress palace.
Voted by Sally of SALLY AKINS
There is a multitude of museums in Malaga, covering everything from wine and cars to music and contemporary art. And you should certainly take time to visit the museum dedicated to the city’s most famous artist, Pablo Picasso. If you need a break from the heat, head to the Parque de Malaga, the city’s main park which is over 100 years old. The trees shade the park’s walkways, offering a welcome respite from the sun. The park also a weekly market selling a wide range of arts and crafts. Malaga is ideally located for exploring the rest of Andalusia and is around a 90-minute drive from the Alhambra de Granada. Malaga also has a fantastic selection of bars and restaurants to choose from, and there’s a very relaxed atmosphere in the city. And once you’ve finished exploring, you can relax with a cold drink by the marina or on the city’s sandy beach.
Girona is about an hour away from Barcelona but it couldn’t be more different! Way lower-key than its neighbor to the south, Girona is newly enjoying a bit of spotlight as it has been a popular setting for many scenes of Game of Thrones. A few scenes in King’s Landing, as well as in Braavos, have been shot in Girona. Besides that, Girona has tons of history, including an important connection to the Jewish diaspora and has even been called “The Mother City of Israel.”
Voted by Allison Green of ETERNAL ARRIVAL
There is plenty of architecture that’s significant to this part of Girona’s history in the Old Town of Girona. There are also interesting cathedrals (including the one that features as The Red Keep in Game of Thrones) and excellent museums. You can’t miss the delicious restaurants serving all kinds of tapas and Spanish cuisine. My favorite is Zanpanzar, which serves up traditional Basque pintxos with a Catalan twist and also serves some of the best Basque cider you could ask for.
Girona is also home to what’s been voted the best restaurant in the world, which doesn’t come cheap. Luckily for those of us without huge wallets, the owners of the best restaurant in the world have opened up an affordable, amazing ice cream shop right in Girona, called Rocambolesc! You can’t miss getting an ice cream there. Girona is also a great gateway to other day trips in Catalonia such as Besalú and Figueres (or even Barcelona), which makes it a great Spanish city for your itinerary!
Estepona is a lovely little city in Southern Spain that offers you the experience of the Andalusian charm, vast beaches, and a relaxed atmosphere. Wandering around the hearth of Estepona you’ll stumble upon picturesque cobbled stone streets with cute houses decorated with colorful flower pots. Around town, you’ll find both cozy cafés and nice restaurants where you just can sit back, relax and chat with the locals.
Voted by Christine Wedberg of CHRISTINE ABROAD
Estepona is not only a beautiful and cozy city located along Costa del Sol, but it has also an ideal location for those who wish to visit both Marbella, Fuengirola, Torremolinos, and Gibraltar. There are no direct flights to Estepona, but it’s still easy to get there. Just hop on a flight to Malaga and catch the bus outside the airport to Estepona!
This small city, Cadiz in Andalusia, has all the Andalusian charm. The narrow stretch of land is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, the Mediterranean Sea and the Strait of Gibraltar. You might have guessed that this place has lovely beaches but if you also know that Cadiz is the oldest inhabited city in Europe, you might as well guess that this city is stacked with history. Yes, in the architectures bearing a number of influences from Roman to neo-classical, to Moorish and colonial and much more. Remnants and renovations, bunkers and more than hundred watch towers will tell you that this place was used as a base by the Spanish Navy to explore and for trade. But history is not limited to this. When you walk into the small alleys of the old town admiring the beautiful mix of architecture along the way till it opens up to gorgeous plazas, you will come across buildings that have historical significances. The Roman Catholic Cadiz cathedral is one such structure bearing the intricacies of Baroque architecture and the grandness of neoclassical architecture. The parks of Cadiz have many exotic plants and trees, and one of the parks, the Genoves park, has two Ficus trees brought by Columbus, which are more than 150 years old.
Voted by Sammi Basi of A FORAGE
Though La Victoria is considered one of the best urban beach in Europe (you can take a Line 7 bus to reach the place), my favorite is the smallest beach La Calleta because of the Andalusian aura it characterizes. It is near the Cadiz’s carnival place, Vina. Out of the four Ficus trees brought by Columbus, two are on this beach. There are restaurants, bars, Flamenco clubs, and accommodation nearby. You can enjoy the facilities around or simply watch and wonder over the beauty of the place and tour back to history when you see the waves lapping against the castle walls.
To reach Cadiz you can take a flight to Jerez Airport and a train to Plaza Sevilla, and then a bus or car. Ferries are also available near the bus stations. To move around Cadiz, you can rent a car or a bike or take sightseeing bus.
Things you’ll need:
Personal identity at all times
Keep a check on the speed limit if you rent a car to drive (laws are strict for speed limits)
Carry, buy or exchange Euros (travelers’ checks are not accepted)
Located in northwestern Spain, it’s the capital of Salamanca province and part of the Castile and Leon region. It’s a very old city, but the university’s boisterous student life blending with classic tradition makes for the perfect balance. This is an especially nice place for those seeking a spiritual connection, as Salamanca is home to many beautiful cathedrals and convents.
While in this history-rich city, don’t leave without visiting:
The University. This college has been famous since the Middle Ages for attracting students from all over the world. It’s the centerpiece of the city; its sweeping façade and intricate carvings are breathtaking.
Convento de San Esteban. The cobblestone streets will carry you past the monuments of Spain’s noted thinkers, dreamers, and scientists and through several convents and cathedrals. If you’re looking for a peaceful place to reflect or rest, then add this to your list. Highlights include a glorious staircase, The Duke of Alba’s tomb, and a gilded high altar by famed sculptor Jose Churriguera.
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Art Nouveau and Art Deco Museum. Built in 1905, this museum is home to decorative arts such as a Faberge egg, porcelain carvings and figurines, gold-crafted statues, paintings, pieces of ivory, antique toys, and furniture.
To get there, take a national flight to Salamanca Airport, and from there you can take a bus or taxi into the city.
Cordoba is the perfect base for a weeklong trip like I did, although many visitors stay for only a night or two. Longer stays allow for food exploration at the various Plateros restaurants and the local Cordoban dishes. Extraordinarily rich in history, Cordoba once had the largest population in all of Spain and is most famous for La Mezquita, a Visigoth church within a Muslim mosque within a Catholic church (paid entry; free 8 to 9 am daily). The church grounds also have an orange tree garden with fountain (free entry; great for a picnic lunch) and a tower (5 euros) giving a birds’ eye view of the city (amazing near sunset). It’s the single most visible mixture of religions in a building in Spain, with hundreds of arches and elaborate ceilings.
Visit Cordoba in May when the patio garden culture is in full force with gorgeous arrangements of potted flowers. However, you can peek into patios any time of year, and get a true taste of it at the Palacio de Viana. If you’re interested in Baños Arabes, or Arab baths, then definitely visit the museum in Cordoba. It’s is really well done with a lot of signage and knowledgeable personnel. Also, it’s the biggest I saw during my 6-week road trip circumventing Spain, including Granada, Seville, Merida, and the Pueblos Blancos.
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A day trip to the old Moorish palace at Medina Al-Zahra will definitely work your imagination. The medina sits atop a hillside overlooking a valley and is in ruins mostly, however the partial reconstructions and tours offer insight into the royalty, military, and commoners who inhabited this place.
Getting to Cordoba is easy by both bus and train, as it’s a large city with daily service. Located in southern Spain, it’s an easy drive from Malaga, Granada, and Seville. Accommodation is available in all price ranges, with Airbnb’s sometimes less expensive than hostels.