Where to Go in Spain

SD › Best Places in Spain
Updated: May 5, 2022
By Santorini Dave

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Spain Itinerary – The Highlights

Best cities in Spain
1. Barcelona
2. Madrid
3. Seville
4. Granada
5. San Sebastián
6. Bilbao
7. Valencia

Best beaches in Spain
1. Platja de Tarmariu (Tamariu, Cost Brava)
2. Cala Agulla (Cala Agulla, Mallorca, Balearic Islands)
3. Playa La Malvarrosa (Valencia)
4. Es Pujols (Formentera, off Ibiza, Balearic Islands)
5. Playa Cabopino (Marbella, Costa del Sol)
6. Cala Mesquida (Mahón, Menorca, Balearic Islands)
7. Playa de los Álamos (Torremolinos)

Best vacation spots in Spain
1. Cala Agulla, Mallorca
2. Mahón, Menorca
3. Cala Comte, Ibiza
4. Barcelona
5. Marbella

Best wine regions in Spain
1. La Rioja/Navarra (famous for its tempranillo, garnacha and viura varieties, nearest cities: Logrono, Pamplona)
2. Catalunya (particularly famous for cava – Spain’s answer to champagne; also garnacha and syrah; nearest city: Barcelona)

Best food areas or cities in Spain
1. San Sebastian (elaborate tapas or pintxos, wonderfully creative fine dining)
2. Catalunya (some of the world’s top restaurants around the province, plus any cuisine imaginable in Barcelona)
3. Valencia (original home of the paella; many varieties available)
4. Granada (free tapas, wonderful mix of Spanish and Moorish cuisine)
5. Galicia (terrific seafood in coastal villages; province is particularly known for its octopus dishes)

Best castles in Spain
1. Alhambra
2. Alcázar de Segovia
3. Castillo de Peñafiel
4. Castillo de los Templarios

Best small towns in Spain
1. Cuenca, Castilla-La Mancha
2. Ronda, Andalusia
3. Ávila, Castile-León
4. Zafra, Extremadura
5. Benasque, Pyrenees Mountains

Best coastal towns in Spain
1. Cadiz
2. Marbella
3. Alicante
4. Sigtes
5. Ibiza Town, Ibiza

The 12 Best Places To Visit in Spain

Beautiful Madrid in the evening

The magical city of Madrid should be on any itinerary for Spain.

Madrid – The capital of Spain is a lively, frenetic city, with several world-class art museums (including the Prado) a terrific dining scene and legendary nightlife, with the tapas bars of the barrios of Chueca, Lavapies and Malasaña hopping until the wee hours. The city center is surprisingly compact, with most major attractions within easy walking distance from each other. Avoid Madrid in August, when it gets unbearably hot.

Barcelona – The most visited city in Spain sits between the mountains and the sea and has it all – a beautiful medieval center, excellent museums, good beaches, the most varied dining scene in the country and memorable Modernist architecture – particularly Gaudi’s La Sagrada Familia. Barcelona is at its best outside the holiday season, and you can easily use the city as a base for day trips along the Costa Dorada and Costa Brava if beaches are your passion.

Seville – The charming, walkable capital of Andalusia and Spain’s most important port city during the Spanish conquest of the Americas, Seville also shows traces of its Moorish heritage in the Alcazares Palace and Giralda tower. Its beautiful historic center – Barrio Santa Cruz – is a whitewashed maze of medieval lanes, dotted with tapas bars, while rough-edged Triana, across the river, is the birthplace of flamenco. Seville is renowned for its elaborate Easter processions; be aware that entire sections of neighborhoods are roped off for a week.

San Sebastian – Though the Basque coast frequently gets lashed by rain, San Sebastian’s popularity remains undimmed. Its attractions include a colorful Old Town, one of Europe’s best aquariums, a couple of excellent beaches, and world-class dining. Tapas are a big thing here – particularly elaborate pintxos (tiny open sandwiches), washed town with txakoli (young white wine), and San Sebastian also boasts some of the most creative fine-dining in the country.

Beautiful San Sebastian in Spain

San Sebastian in the Basque Country of northern Spain

Toledo – Sitting on a hilly promontory overlooking the Rio Tajo, Toledo was known as the ‘city of three cultures’ in the Middle Ages, and its remarkable architecture – the Gothic cathedral, preserved Sephardic synagogues, and horseshoe-arched mosques – is its biggest draw. Art lovers shouldn’t miss the El Greco museum, filled with dark and moody paintings by one of Spain’s Masters, and Toledo’s medieval maze of streets is a joy to wander. You can easily visit on a day trip from Madrid, but stay overnight to see the city’s charm after the daytrippers leave.

Ibiza – The ‘party island’ of the three Balearics, Ibiza attracts top DJs from all over the world to its superclubs in the town of Sant Antoni during the May-September season. Clubbing aside, its capital – Ibiza Town – is an attractive seaside city and there are numerous inland villages and secluded beach coves to explore. Don’t miss out on a day trip to the small island of Formentera with its clear waters and amazing beaches.

Mallorca – The largest of the Balearics, Mallorca has something to please everyone: terrific beaches – from wide strips of white sand to hidden coves, all-inclusive resorts of Magaluf, historic architecture in the capital of Palma de Mallorca and wonderfully rugged scenery in the Serra de Tramuntana mountain range – a playground for cyclists and hikers. Don’t miss the old wooden train from Palma to Soller and consider visiting the island in early summer (May, June) and the fall to miss the worst of the crowds.

Menorca – The quietest of the Balearic Islands, Menorca is wonderfully laidback. Bookended by two towns where visitors tend to base themselves – mazelike Ciutadella and the busier port of Mahon, the island is mostly rural, its gentle terrain ideal for walking or cycling. And let’s not forget the beaches – there are many secluded coves that you may well have to yourself, with plenty of scope for all manner of water sports.

Granada – Sitting at the foot of the Sierra Nevada mountains, sultry Granada has one unmissable attraction: the Alhambra palace – one of the most beautiful examples of Moorish architecture in the world (book tickets online in advance). But there’s more to Granada – the hilly maze of medieval Moorish streets that make up the Albaycin, the sounds of flamenco, and a dining scene that blends Moorish influences (think tajines and teahouses) with traditional tapas bars, many of which still serve free tapas when you buy a drink.

Cordoba – One of Andalusia’s oldest cities, Cordoba harks back to Roman times and was a particularly important part of Moorish Spain. The biggest attraction in the compact historic center is the magnificent 8th century La Mezquita mosque, with many original features still intact. The dining scene reflects the Moorish heritage and dishes such as oxtail, white salmorejo (cold almond soup) and eggplant baked in honey are particularly worth tasting.

Santiago de Compostela – The cathedral in the lively capital of Galicia in Spain’s north is the final destination for pilgrims and hikers walking the Camino de Santiago – the weeks-long trail that stretches across northern Spain. The Romanesque, Gothic and Baroque buildings of Santiago’s UNESCO-protected Old Town is particularly beautiful, and its many tapas bars are a wonderful place to catch up with fellow pilgrims.

Cadaquez – An unassuming fishing village in Catalunya, near the border with France, Cadaquez is refreshingly untouristy and particularly worth a visit if you’re a Salvador Dali fan. He spent many years in nearby Port Lligat and his home reflects the artist’s eccentricity. Cadaquez is also an easy bus ride away from Figeres and the excellent Teatre-Museu Dali, dedicated to Dali’s distinctive works.

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