Best Places to Visit in Spain
A vacation in Spain means warm nights on lively plazas, and sangria-fueled sunsets surrounded by the bright blossoms of geraniums and bougainvillea. Spain’s historic role as a crossroads of the Mediterranean guarantees an ever-captivating cultural feast. Moorish and Basque influences weave their magic, transforming the architecture and the flavors. Join us as we tour these favorite Spanish destinations.
Spain's Top Cities to Visit
The “Golden Triangle” refers to three of its most famous art museums, all located on the Paseo del Prado, Madrid’s oldest street. Rooftop bars, flea markets, tapas cafes, theaters, sculptures, incredible parks, and a beautiful literary quarter are just some of its attractions. Try churros with hot chocolate or a calamari sandwich, two of its famed local dishes.
Crisscross cosmopolitan Barcelona for ornate Gaudi architectural masterpieces; the Barri Gòtic (Gothic Quarter); museums devoted to Picasso and Miró and chocolate; 1887 Ciutadella Park; and the historic Tibidabo Amusement Park, operating since 1905. Rest up with a view from the Port Vell Aerial Tramway, and nourish yourself at the lively Boqueria Market.
The Seville Cathedral, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is the world's largest Gothic cathedral and the burial site of Christopher Columbus. Climb its bell tower, originally the minaret of a now fallen mosque, and view the Murallas de Sevilla, defensive city walls dating to Roman times. Learn about bullfighting at Real Maestranza, the world’s oldest bullring, and its adjacent museum, or take in a Flamenco dance performance.
The radical, titanium-clad curves of Frank Gehry’s 1997 Guggenheim Museum Bilbao put this post-industrial city on the map, launching its transformation into a vibrant cultural center. Wander the Old Town, Casco Viejo, where narrow lanes weave among plazas, shops, and the TK Catedral de Santiago de Bilbao. As the center of Basque Country pinxtos (Basque tapas) are a must-eat! There’s also the opportunity to splurge on a Michelin-starred restaurant for a special meal in Bilbao.
The bayfront promenade begs leisurely strolling, the cobbled Parte Vieja (old town) views the El Torreón tower on Monte Igueldo across the bay, accessed by a TK funicular. Ayuntamiento de San Sebastian, formerly a belle époque casino, now serves as city hall alongside public gardens. Flanked by hills and beaches, San Sebastian’s setting is a geographic jewel box.
The Plaza Mayor is the central attraction in Salamanca, called La Dorada, "The Golden City,” for the glow of its baroque sandstone architecture. This UNESCO world heritage site is often named Spain’s most beautiful plaza. Used for bullfighting until the mid-19th century, today it’s a bustling square surrounded by cafes, shops, and ice cream parlors.
La Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias (the City of Arts and Sciences) is an uber-modern collection of six futuristic museums including an aquarium and a planetarium. In this southeastern Spanish port, North African Moorish influence abounds in architecture, culture, and food. Paella, Valencia’s signature dish, offers an authentic taste of Roman and Arab influences.
"There is no pain in life so cruel as to be blind in Granada," reads the inscription on the walls of the Alhambra. After visiting the legendary hilltop palace, wander the Albaicín, the old Arabic quarter, where flower-draped houses and hidden plazas are linked by twisting lanes and punctuated by hand-painted Moorish tiles. In the 16th century, communities of Roma people (formerly known as Gypsies, as the term is now considered to be politically incorrect) made homes in caves overlooking the city. Today, Sacromonte is a quirky community alive with art and music. The Museo Cuevas del Sacromonte features caves replicating the traditional life of centuries past.
When the Great Mosque was completed around 1000 AD, Córdoba was the most important city in the Islamic Kingdom. Converted to a church in the 13th century, it’s characterized by a spectacular blend of cultural influences, with a dramatic main hall supported by over 850 double-arched columns. The Feria de los Patios (Fair of Patios) draws visitors every May when elaborate private gardens in patios and courtyards in the old quarter are open to the public.
Top Sites to See in Spain
La Sagrada Familia
The Basílica de la Sagrada Família, also known as the Sagrada Família, was primarily designed by the famous Gaudí, and today his work on the building is part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site. While construction began in 1882, the original architect resigned after only a year. In 1883, Gaudí took over as chief architect and began to implement his unique style, combining Gothic and Art Nouveau forms. For the remainder of this life, Gaudí devoted himself to the project but never finished, and is now buried in the crypt. The Basílica remains unfinished but is guaranteed to be one of your favorite sights in Spain.
Santiago de Compostela
The Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela is the terminus of the renowned Camino de Santiago pilgrimage. Construction began in 1075, on the reputed burial site of St. James the Great, one of Jesus’ 12 apostles. The Romanesque-Gothic and Baroque influences merge, creating one of Spain’s most magnificent buildings.
The island of Ibiza is renowned for its nightlife. Sprawl on sunny beaches alongside turquoise coves, watch the sun set over the Mediterranean, or practice your new dance moves. Local markets have flourished since the 60s, offering boho-chic handcrafted jewelry and fashion.
Plaza de Cibeles
The Plaza de Cibeles in Madrid is home to one of the most famous sites of the city, The Fountain of Cibeles. Originally built for beauty as well as function, the fountain has been standing in the plaza since 1782. The sculpture at the center of the fountain portrays Cybele, the Mother of the gods and the Roman goddess of fertility, atop a chariot pulled by two lions. The design of the fountain allowed it to formerly function as a site for water-farriers to collect the day's water as well as a place for soldiers to water their horses in times of war. Today, it's mostly know for being a great spot to celebrate soccer wins with Real Madrid fans.