As one of the most popular destinations in Europe, it is no surprise that Spain is a beautiful and exciting country to visit. Each city and town has their own personality, their own culture and their own flavor. Whichever part of Spain you decide to visit first, you will not be disappointed.
There is something for everybody, whether you enjoy history or architecture (many of the places listed in this article are UNESCO World Heritage Sites), or good food and wine. You’ll need your energy – even after a full day packed with activities – because you’ll still want to go out for a night on the town!
The best time of the year to visit Europe is just before the summertime, between April and the end of May, for obvious reasons: it’s less crowded and the flights are cheaper, but I enjoy summers there too. Daylight lasts longer than in the US (until 10pm), so you can pack a lot of activities into just one day.
Spaniards are also a lot of fun. They know how to enjoy life, and that means eating great food, listening to great music and taking their sweet time!
So, without further ado, here are the top 10 cities in Spain I think you should put on your list:
Barcelona is one of Europe’s most popular destinations. It’s a very dynamic and vibrant city. Its architecture is super impressive, as is its nightlife, with thousands of bars, cafes and chic boutique downtown hotels. Don’t miss their hip rooftop bars with amazing views.
Barcelona is also famous among soccer fans worldwide for their powerhouse soccer team FC Barcelona (Futbol Club Barcelona), home of Camp Nous. FC Barcelona has fans all over the world, but remember, here it’s called football, not soccer! You will also be delighted to see Gaudi’s art all over Barcelona and will be amazed by the city’s beautiful Mediterranean beaches.
Let’s not forget about the food and wine that are to die for. You can also catch a flamenco show here. They are pretty spectacular!
If you feel adventurous, and want to step outside the city for a half day or so, there are a bunch of historical sites surrounding Barcelona. The most popular one is Montserrat, home of a famous monastery with breathtaking views.
The capital of Spain also has its own unique charms. The city is a combination of old and new, much larger than Barcelona, with tons of art, shopping and restaurants to explore, and if you are into jamon (that’s ham in Spanish), they have shops all over town. This is not your typical ham; some of the meats are cured for days and served very thinly sliced, so if you are into ham and delicacies, you should definitely try it.
The Prado Museum is a must-see while in Madrid, as one of Spain’s most famous national art museums. The museum contains the work of important Spanish artists such as Diego Velasquez’s Las Meninas and Francisco Goya’s black paintings as well as Flemish and Italian art.
For history lovers, the capital is also surrounded by historical sites such as Toledo, Avila and Segovia.
Valencia is smaller than Madrid, but that is not to say it doesn’t have its own charms. The city combines Mediterranean flavor with history, arts and culture – and the result is a special historical site with perfect beaches, sunny weather and great museums. Valencia prides itself in being the birth place of the famous paella. You’ve probably heard of the Paella Valenciana, a time-honored recipe for a delicious rice dish.
Although Valencia has more of a relaxed vibe than Madrid or Barcelona, don’t let it fool you, because its nightlife is just as vibrant as any other major city in Spain.
Also, while you’re there, you might want to try the local staple cocktail drink: “Agua de Valencia”, made with cava, orange juice, vodka and gin. It’s delicious and a good alternative to sangria and the local wine.
Seville is an ancient city with lots of historic buildings. If you are dying to see a castle, this town is home of the Alcazar Castle complex and you will be amazed to learn about its history.
The city has beautiful narrow streets, where you can easily lose track of time. The mix of architecture, cafe culture and lack of traffic makes the old town a perfect place to slow down and relax. The people of Seville are also warm and friendly and the tapas are amazing.
While in Seville, you should definitely visit La Triana (the home of flamenco), Giralda (the bell tower of Sevilla Cathedral), Alcazar (one of the world’s oldest palaces still in use), La Plaza de Toros (a historic bullring), Plaza de Espana (a beautiful square) and El Paraso (Metropol Parasol, a huge wooden structure).
Granada is a more laidback city, which is perfect if you are looking to take a break from the crowds but still have that authentic Spanish experience. The city is small enough that you could pretty much walk anywhere. The nightlife is very exciting and the shopping is great as well.
Be sure to visit the Alhambra, a palace and fortress, which is the most famous landmark in Granada.
Salamanca is rich in architectural, religious and gastronomic culture. It was granted UNESCO World Heritage Site status back in 1988. The town is full of students and has a great vibe.
The cathedral of Salamanca is a must-see for its impressive architecture styles, as well as Plaza Mayor.
Cordoba is in the same region as Seville and it’s most famed for the impressive and ornate La Mezquita mosque.
Mallorca is one of Spain’s many islands. If you want to get in touch with nature, and take a break from all the crowds and sightseeing, you might want to put it on your list.
Palma is the capital and also the largest city of the island. If you are a history lover, this city is filled with treasures, such as the Gothic Palma Cathedral and the circular Bellver Castle.
Mallorca is full of natural beauties like the incredible mountain range Serra de Tramuntana, and amazing clean beaches, if you want to work on your tan.
Ibiza is most famous for its parties for sure, but if you step away from the party scene there is still plenty to see. The Island has some of the most amazing beaches which are less well known, like San Antonio or Playa d’en Bossa that you should definitely check out.
Mallaga is located in the Costa del Sol, more under the radar for most people, but not for European tourists, so that’s why you should pay attention to this gem and put it on your list!
This is also another wonderful location with tons of Instagram-worthy places, beautiful and clean beaches, amazing architecture and rich heritage.
The people from Mallaga are also very welcoming and they will make sure you feel right at home.
There you have it! My top 10 Spanish cities and places to visit. I hope you find this useful if you are considering a trip to Spain.