Spain is the most popular tourist destination in the world after France. A large part of vacationers spend their vacations on the beautiful Spanish islands.
With its priceless architectural heritage, breathtaking landscapes to historical monuments of famous Spanish architects and artists, the Mediterranean country on the Iberian Peninsula has a lot to offer. Andalusia in particular is known for its beautiful historic cities.
A large number of these metropolises in Spain are bursting with architectural monuments from various eventful eras. Imagine Moorish buildings mixed with Spanish Renaissance masterpieces and quirky modern art.
Spain is also one of the largest countries in Europe in terms of area. To visit each city would probably take an entire year. But it’s best to stick to it, like the Spaniards themselves, and take your time. Once you have been infected by the fascination of this sunny paradise, you will remember the unique experiences for a long time and you will want to spend your vacation here again.
But now let’s take a look at the 23 best cities to visit in Spain.
Almería is one of the capitals of Andalusia in southern Spain. Before visiting Almeria, it is important to learn a little about its history. Because until today you can admire the traces of many civilizations that have passed through this place.
A recommended sight in Almería is the Alcazaba. With its 1,430 meter long wall, it is the largest Muslim structure in Spain after the Alhambra. The fortress consists of three parts, two of which are of Muslim origin and one of which is a Christian structure added after the conquest of Almería by the Catholic monarchs in 1489.
Almería Cathedral was built in 1524 after an earthquake destroyed the first cathedral, which was located at the Old Main Mosque in the medina. The main feature of the new cathedral is that it is a cathedral-fortress, built both for religious purposes and as a refuge for the population from the attacks of barbarian pirates.
In addition to the historical buildings, the miles of beaches in Almería are among the city’s main attractions. Many tourists traveling to Almería opt for a relaxing stay and stay in one of the beautiful coastal areas. From here, it is perfect to explore the city itself on a day off.
22. La Coruna
The Spanish city of La Coruña is located in the region of Galicia. The city offers a very pleasant historical center, perfect for a late afternoon stroll. Due to the cold water temperatures, the beaches of La Coruña are more suitable for walking than swimming.
One of La Coruña’s greatest sights is the Torre de Hércules: a Roman-era lighthouse that has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
And if you think it’s just another lighthouse, you’re wrong, because it’s the oldest Roman lighthouse in the world and despite its age, it’s still in operation.
Madrid has a special flair, the typical Spanish architecture and is definitely worth a trip even if the city is not located by the sea. Visit for example the breathtaking Royal Palace, the Bernabéu Stadium of the Spanish top club Real Madrid or walk through the wonderful old town – Madrid is littered with sights and beautiful places.
The Spanish capital has experienced a lot in its long history. Here, the past and present of different cultures, religions and world views meet. And just as you can still feel the Moorish influence in the architectural style, the country’s cuisine and the mentality of the people, the Madrilenean is proud of his very own character, which so distinguishes the people of this city.
Pamplona is a city in the province of Navarre in northern Spain.
Pamplona is internationally known for its San Fermin celebrations, which take place every year in early July and consist mainly of bullfights and open-air concerts. The “San Fermines” became very famous, especially in the United States, after Ernest Hemingway wrote about it in his book Fiesta. According to official figures, the city still receives more than 1,000,000 visitors from all over the world during this festive week – a particularly surprising number considering that the city normally has only 280,000 inhabitants.
Nevertheless, the city of Pamplona has much more to offer. Among the most representative monuments are the Cathedral of Santa María, the Church of San Saturnino, the Church of San Nicolás, the Citadel or the Comptos Chamber. Pamplona’s five-kilometer-long wall is also an essential part of the city’s tourism. Don’t forget to visit the Plaza del Castillo and have a coffee at the “Café Iruña”, as Hemingway did years ago.
Finally, it is always a pleasure to walk through the narrow streets of the historic center of Pamplona and discover all those historical details hidden in the facades of the houses or in the small cobbled squares.
Almost 700,000 inhabitants live in the largest city in Andalusia. Seville is one of the most popular destinations in Spain and is visited every year by tourists from all over the world.
The magnificent city center, with its extraordinary architecture, is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful places in all of Spain. Some of the numerous sights are rightly listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Must-sees in Seville are the royal palace Alcázar, the impressive cathedral with the Giralda and the Plaza de España, which served among other things as a set for the classic film “Star Wars: Episode 2”.
In addition to these highlights, you will find great museums, palaces, towers, parks, gardens and squares in Seville. The city center can be explored very well on foot. It is faster by bike, because Seville is one of the most bike-friendly cities in Europe.
Seville is one of the “cradles of flamenco” and a city where you will definitely not get bored. Festivals like Semana Santa or Feria de Abril are the cultural highlights every year.
The 2,000-year-old city on the Rio Tormes is one of the very first tourist destinations in Spain. This is mainly due to the time-honored university, which has shaped the city’s history and produced many scholars. For example, a few months before his expedition, Columbus explained to the skeptical professors his plan to reach India via the west. Today, over 40,000 students populate the city, giving it a lively, cosmopolitan feel and spawning a wide scene of pubs, bars and restaurants. Because of its cohesive cityscape, with many listed buildings dating back to the 16th century, the entire city has been declared a World Heritage Site.
17. Las Palmas
Gran Canaria may geographically belong to Africa, but it is part of Spain. Here you can relax on beautiful sandy beaches overlooking turquoise waters. Even in winter you can enjoy the beach of Gran Canaria with temperatures of up to 26° C. After a perfect day at the sea you can take a walk through the old town Vegueta and get to know the nightlife of the city.
Las Palmas de Gran Canaria is one of the most beautiful cities in the Canary Islands. Besides the breathtaking natural beauty, La Palma surprises with a variety of sights and activities.
Las Palmas, however, is not only a good destination for a beach vacation! It is also really good for a city trip. In the historic center, known as the Vegueta district, you’ll discover the many ancient and exquisite buildings, such as the Cathedral of Santa Ana, as you stroll through the area. Here you can even climb the tower and enjoy a great view of the city.
Las Palmas de Gran Canaria is a great destination on the island, as you can make nice excursions from here and there is also a lot to discover locally.
You want to go to the slopes at night? This is also no problem in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, because there are several nightclubs and some beach clubs that promise guaranteed good parties in the summer!
Cadiz in southern Spain is one of the oldest and most beautiful cities in Europe. There is also celebrated one of the most popular, fun and best carnivals in Spain. But Cadiz is not only famous for its carnival, but also for its people, atmosphere and beautiful architecture.
One of the main tourist attractions in Cadiz is the beautiful promenade, which for many bears a strong resemblance to the Malecón in Havana. Here you can take a beautiful walk along the sea and in front of the impressive backdrop of the cathedral.
The New Cathedral of Cadiz, as it is known among the inhabitants of the city, is a baroque and neoclassical building from the 17th century. It is located in the historic center of Cadiz, almost on the edge of the sea and is visible from almost everywhere in the city. You can visit both the interior of the temple and the bell tower.
15. San Sebastian
The Spanish city of San Sebastian is located in the Basque Country, in the north of the Iberian Peninsula not far from France. When you think of San Sebastian, you immediately think of the view of the bay La Concha (The Shell) with the rocky island of Santa Clara. With a vacation in the beautiful city on the Atlantic, one takes a step away from the typical Spain vacation on the Mediterranean. Mild temperatures prevail here than in the south or inland, which is why a visit here is especially worthwhile for those who prefer to avoid extreme heat.
Besides the beautiful beaches, some highlights in San Sebastian are the city hall (formerly a casino), the cathedral and the main square Plaza de la Constitución. What should not be missed during your vacation in San Sebastian is the enjoyment of the Basque specialty Sidra (fermented cider). Not only the taste itself, but also the pouring is worth an order – promised!
Alicante, with its beautiful palm boulevard and inviting shopping streets is one of the most famous cities on the Costa Blanca. The coast deserves its name because of the miles of sandy beaches that attract many sun worshippers. The sun shines practically all year round and the light blue Mediterranean Sea magically attracts visitors.
The Moorish fortress Castillo de Santa Bárbara from the 9th century towers high above the port city of Alicante on the Mediterranean Sea. From here you have a magnificent view over Alicante and the entire bay with the offshore island of Tabarca. Alicante is also famous for its palm-lined esplanade, which consists of 6.5 million marble stones. A place where people gather to exchange ideas and enjoy outdoor music concerts. The port of Alicante, at the end of the promenade is another highlight. Alicante is visited by many freighters and cruise ships. Here is colorful hustle and bustle and the view of the most beautiful sailboats and yachts is worthwhile. The old town of Alicante is particularly quaint and idyllic. In the Santa Cruz district, small houses and narrow streets stretch up the hill. The alleys are spectacularly decorated by the inhabitants and create a real Spanish feeling of life for every visitor.
13. Palma de Mallorca
Palma de Mallorca is worth a visit all year round and new trendy restaurants, luxurious boutique hotels, stylish bars, sophisticated cafes, international fashion boutiques and hip nightclubs are springing up everywhere. Not to be forgotten are the distinct yachting scene, the many city beaches, the extensive promenades along the sea, the interesting and varied culture, including high-quality museums and galleries, traditional local festivals and the wide selection of concerts.
One of Palma’s most important museums is the Es Baluard Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art. It features a permanent collection of paintings, sculptures, ceramic works and drawings by artists such as Cézanne, Gauguin, Picasso, Miró, Magritte and Giacometti. The view from the museum alone, which overlooks the Paseo Maritimo and La Lonja, is worth a visit.
The beach promenade leads along extensive sandy beaches in Palma, small bays and stylish beach clubs. There’s sure to be a sunny spot on the sand here for everyone – from families with young children to fishermen in need of a rest. Discover the best beaches in the capital!
There are so many options of what to see or do in Palma de Mallorca that the only problem here is the lack of time to do it!
In the northeast of Spain, in the autonomous community of Aragon, lies the city of Zaragoza, with 675,000 inhabitants. The city extends on both sides of the river Ebro. Zaragoza is the capital of Aragon and the most important center in the Ebro Valley. Zaragoza is located in the middle of a beautiful and fascinating landscape, with picturesque small towns where ancient customs and traditions have been preserved.
The city was founded between 24 and 12 BC by the Romans under the name of Colonia Caesaraugusta. Zaragoza belonged to the Caliphate of Córdoba since the 8th century, but it soon disintegrated. In 1118, the Christian Kingdom of Aragón conquered the city from the Muslims and made it the capital of the country. The year 2004 was an important year for Zaragoza, because the Bureau International des Expositions, had decided that the city could host the World Expo 2008. On the occasion of the Expo, Zaragoza made a strong effort to improve the city’s infrastructure.
Zaragoza is a modern and economically active city with a historic center. Zaragoza is one of the most important monumental cities in Spain. Romans, Goths and Moors left their traces here and invite you to a journey into the past. The landmark of Zaragoza is the Basílica del Pilar, the largest baroque building in Spain.
Morella is located in the extreme north of the Comunidad Valenciana, in the interior of Castellón, only 60 kilometers from the coast. Morella’s location on a mountain offers an unforgettable image when you arrive in the city. The medieval town is surrounded by centuries-old walls and crowned by castle ruins. The town has 16 towers, six portals and almost two kilometers of walls and has been declared a historical-artistic site.
The small town of Morella is also known for its unique traditions. Every six years it celebrates the Anuncí, a kind of carnival in which there is a unique confetti battle. During the “Anuncí” day, more than ten tons of confetti are thrown.
Morella’s gastronomy is very different from the rest of Castellon and is much more rustic. Baked lamb, rich truffles and even desserts come here fresh from the many wood-burning ovens that carry their smell into the cobbled streets of the town.
Cordoba is considered the third largest city in Andalusia and is the capital of the province of the same name. Due to its numerous sights and colorful folk festivals, it attracts tourists from all over the world year after year and was included in the UNESCO World Heritage List because of its eventful history and varied culture, which shows a multitude of different influences.
Vacationers first think of churches and other monuments when they think of Cordoba, but the city has much more to offer. Especially in spring, a visit around one of the numerous folk festivals, for which Cordoba is famous, is worthwhile. As in many Spanish cities, there are also elaborate Easter processions in which figures of the Virgin Mary are carried through the city. In addition to the traditional figures, however, contemporary works of art are also carried through the city center in Cordoba.
In May, the famous Feria de Mayo and the Concurso de Patios Cordobeses take place. The latter festival also allows tourists to take a look into the, otherwise mostly private, backyards. Among the many picturesque patios, the most beautiful backyard is chosen year after year.
The Cruces is a traditional competition among the neighborhoods of Cordoba. For this purpose, elaborate floral crosses are set up in each neighborhood, giving the city an extremely colorful face.
Malaga is one of the oldest Spanish cities. As early as the 8th century BC, Phoenicians discovered the natural harbor and founded a settlement here. The port of Málaga developed into the most important connection to North Africa. Then followed the Carthaginians, Romans and finally the Moors. In 1487 the Reconquista was victorious. This long history is reflected by numerous historical testimonies located in a relatively small area.
Malaga has experienced a significant increase in population and thus expansion in the last hundred years. The city was the center of industrialization of the poor Spanish south. In the 60’s began the development of mass tourism on the Costa del Sol. The city became the transportation center of the region, without distinguishing itself as a tourist destination.
This changed again in the last decades. Malaga discovered its history and culture, as well as its location by the sea, and began to spruce itself up. Today, Málaga is no longer just a transit station. The second largest city in Andalusia is increasingly becoming a city break destination in its own right in southern Spain.
The old town is located between the Guadalmedina River and the Gibralfaro fortress hill. Parallel to the sea runs the main street of the old town, Alameda Principal, which turns east at Plaza de la Marina into Paseo de Parque. At Plaza de la Marina is the access to the main shopping street of Málaga, Calle del Marqués de Larios.
Among the outstanding monuments in the center is the Cathedral of Santa María de la Encarnación. The cathedral is one of the most important Renaissance buildings in Andalusia, but it was never really completed.
Barcelona is a cosmopolitan city. Hectic and multicultural, playful and sometimes overdone. Anyone interested in architecture and people should take plenty of time to linger here.
Barcelona is full of tourist attractions, museums, legendary landmarks, parks and other sights. It’s safe to say there’s plenty to do and see.
Whether you spend your days exploring Sagrada Família, the sacred cathedral designed by Antoni Gaudí and Barcelona’s main attraction, visiting FC Barcelona’s legendary Camp Nou stadium or enjoying the bustling La Rambla street, you’re sure to make fond memories.
Other attractions include the Parc de Montjuïc and the Font Màgica, the Palau de la Música Catalana, and the Mercat de la Boqueria market. And if you want to immerse yourself in contemporary art and street art, be sure to visit MACBA, Barcelona’s cutting-edge contemporary art museum. This museum is one of the most prestigious institutions of its kind in all of Europe.
The Basque industrial and port city of Bilbao (Bilbo in Basque) has undergone a radical transformation in recent decades. Today, the city is one of the most attractive city break destinations in Spain.
In earlier times, Bilbao was considered a gray industrial city with not much to gain from a tourist point of view. Today, the largest city in the Basque Country presents itself as a center of culture and modern architecture. A pioneering step in this direction was the establishment of the Guggenheim Museum.
While almost one million people live in the greater Bilbao area, the city itself has about 350,000 inhabitants. The Nervión River, here already called the Ría de Bilbao, divides the city into two halves in a wide arc. To the east of the river lies the modern center, the new town of Abando, and to the southwest the old town of Casco Viejo.
Is Granada the most beautiful city in Spain? That is debatable, but the city at the foot of the Sierra Nevada is certainly one of the most interesting. The Alhambra fortress, the Generalife gardens and the Albaicín district are UNESCO World Heritage Sites and are among the most outstanding sights in southern Spain.
Granada is located at an altitude of over 700 meters in a fertile plain at the confluence of the Darro and Genil rivers. The upswing of the rather insignificant settlement occurred with the conquest by the Moors in 711, who fortified the city and laid out extensive irrigation systems. In 1031, the Emirate of Córdoba disintegrated and Granada became an independent kingdom (Taifa).
Under the ruling dynasty of the Nasrid, Granada experienced a period of cultural and economic prosperity. In 1492 Granada fell as the last bastion of the Moors on the Iberian Peninsula. The Moorish king Boabdil handed over the city without a fight to the Catholic kings Isabella and Ferdinand II.
The two most important visitor destinations are located on the two opposite hills of the city, separated by the narrow valley of the river Darro: the Alhambra and the Albaicín.
One of the most beautiful old towns in Europe, the endless beach, culture and culinary at its best, a Mediterranean lightness, great weather, Valencia offers all this and much more. Spain’s third largest metropolis (about 800,000 inhabitants) on the Mediterranean Sea is a wonderful vacation destination all year round.
In the streets and alleys of Valencia’s historic center, you can enjoy losing your bearings. It stretches between the Barrio del Carmen in the north and the Art Nouveau train station Estación del Norte in the south. A focal point is the Plaza del Ayuntamiento with its large fountain, the old city hall and many beautiful Art Nouveau buildings.
Northwest of it is the Mercat Central, the central market with dozens of stalls. Here you can take a first breather with fresh juices. The Silk Exchange building (Lonja de la Seda) is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Other exciting locations in the historic city include the impressive cathedral, one of the city’s landmarks, and right next door the Plaza de la Virgen as the cozy center of the city.
One of the most visited attractions in Valencia and the whole country is the futuristic Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias, or Science City. Star architect Santiago Calatrava designed this complex of snow-white and glass buildings surrounded by blue water pools. There you can visit a planetarium, a huge aquarium world, opera and much more.
A trip to Toledo is like a journey back in time. Instead of modern skyscrapers and straightened wide streets, narrow cobblestone streets, historic churches, city gates or the remains of a defense ring take visitors back to the Middle Ages.
But the capital of the autonomous region of Castile-La Mancha is home to more than just Spanish history. In the “city of three cultures,” as Toledo is called, Christians, Moors and Jews have left their mark everywhere. And because Toledo, with all its epochal buildings, seems like one big museum, the whole place has been declared a National Monument by the Spanish state and a World Heritage City by Unesco.
3. Jerez de la Frontera
Jeréz de la Frontera, commonly called Jeréz, is a city in Cadiz in the region of Andalusia. The beautiful old town is surrounded by the Alcázar de Jeréz, an Arab fortress from the 11th century, which is one of the most important sights of the city.
One of the typical things in Jeréz is the production of “sherry wine”. Therefore, at least one visit to a local winery is a must-see when visiting the city.
Also, a typical activity during a visit to Jeréz is the exhibition of show horses. The Royal Andalusian School of Equestrian Art is one of the most prestigious riding schools in the world and organizes unique horse shows. The school’s carriage museum is also a highly recommended sight.
The city is also known for its flamenco music and the great atmosphere of the historic center full of terraces, bars and restaurants. Gastronomy is one of the most outstanding arguments for visiting Jeréz. If you want to get to know the culture of Jeréz and experience the best atmosphere, you must definitely choose a so-called “tabancos”. The tabancos are the typical Jeréz taverns that have their origin in the traditional Jerez wine markets.
On the other hand, Jeréz is an important destination for motorsport lovers, since every year in May it hosts the MotoGP of Jeréz (the Spanish Motorcycle Grand Prix).
2. Santiago de Compostela
Santiago de Compostela is one of the most visited cities in Spain.
One of the reasons for the city’s popularity is the fame of the Apostle James the Elder, who was one of the twelve apostles of Jesus Christ. The history of the city and its beauty makes many visitors fall in love with Santiago de Compostela.
Around Santiago de Compostela there are many stories about the apostle James. He is said to have preached the word of Christ after his death and prophesied to convert many people. Upon his return to Judea, he was beheaded and his body taken back to Iberia, where he was buried in secret. His tomb was then discovered in the 9th century by a hermit guided by a star. Thus began the pilgrimages with believers coming from all over Europe – from Scandinavia to Brittany.
There are several pilgrimage routes that lead to the city of Santiago de Compostela – the most traditional one crosses the Pyrenees and begins in Roncesvalles: the French Way.
Ronda is a city in the province of Málaga in southern Spain.
The special feature of the city that makes Ronda an indispensable tourist destination is its unique location at the head of the deep gorge called Tagus.
This gorge divides the city into two parts and separates the new town, which began to develop in the 15th century, from the old town, which dates mainly from the period of Arab rule. Thus, Ronda combines a lot of history with the architectural influence of different civilizations. The first settlement in Ronda dates back to Roman times.
One of the most important sights is the Puente Nuevo, a stone bridge that crosses the Tagus Gorge and connects the new city with the old one. There is a lookout point here with beautiful views of the surrounding countryside.
It’s best to start your visit in the old town. Walk through the cobbled streets and see sights such as the church of Santa Maria la Mayor, the town hall and the house of “Rey Moro”. This part of the city is also home to the 13th century Arab Baths of Ronda, the best preserved Arab baths in Spain. End the walk through the old town of Ronda at the Puerta de Almocábar and the Arab walls – they are very impressive and in excellent condition.
In the new town you’ll find the city’s bullring, a legendary 18th century plaza and one of the city’s most visited monuments. You should end the day at the Plaza del Socorro, a place where you can rest and drink a wine after a full day of sightseeing.