Splendid beaches, stunning architecture, delicious cuisine, vibrant nightlife, and lively fiestas all make Spain one of Europe’s most popular travel destinations. Spain encompasses 17 autonomous regions and several islands and boasts one of the most widely diverse cultures and landscapes on the continent.
Here’s what you can expect to see- Cities, that are a beautiful blend of traditional and modern design. Buildings, that are adorned by Gaudí, Paintings, and sculptures of every period that has ever graced the world of art and nature that is blessed by God. Spain offers so much to see and do that it would take a lifetime to explore. Out of all the beautiful places, here’s a list of the top 15 places that you just can’t miss.
1. Barcelona’s Sagrada Familia
One of the most visited buildings in the world, Sagrada Familia is a fine combination of Spanish Gothic and Art Nouovue. This Roman Catholic Church is still under construction and is home to the tomb of its creator Antoni Gaudí. Regarded as his Finest works, the building will have 18 towers when completed, representing the apostles, evangelists, Virgin Mary, and the highest one in the middle, representing Jesus Christ.
The Building attracts over 3 million visitors each year and is open to visiting different parts of the church including a museum, shop, nave, crypt, and towers. Opening hours for public visits are between 9 am to 6 pm during the winter months and until 8 pm in the summer months. One can also get access to various guided tours.
2. The Prado and Paseo del Artes, Madrid
The Prado, Reina Sofia National Art Museum, the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, and the CaixaForum, all along Madrid’s mile-long boulevard are the most renowned art museums in the world. Known as El Paseo del Arte – Boulevard of the Arts, this must be the place with the highest concentration of the most acclaimed art pieces. You will be surprised by the impressions and examples to be found in these museums of every period that has graced the world of art.
The Prado has the world’s largest collection of Spanish art. From the 12th-century medieval works to the Avante-Garde movement of the early 20th century. You won’t regret having a guide with you, you’re pretty much guaranteed to be surprised by the number of insiders and stories they can share about these priceless gems by El Greco, Velazquez, and Goya. Major artistic attractions of the Reina Sofia are Picasso’s Guernica and works by Miró, Dalí, Dubuffet, Braque, Serra, Calder, and Magritte to name a few. You can visit these Museums with minimal entrance fees on weekdays.
3. The Alhambra, Granada
Home to many romantic and secret legends, the Alhambra is a representation of Spain’s Islamic heritage and history. Situated overlooking the beautiful city of Granada, the Alhambra is a complex of immense charm. This Moorish pleasure palace includes several buildings, towers, walls, gardens, and a mosque. The complex Exhibits ineffably intricate stone carvings, marvelous tile-lined ceilings, and the tranquil courtyards which will take your breath away.
4. Seville Cathedral and Alcazar
La Giralda tower, Seville Cathedral, and the Alcazar combine to form a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Seville Cathedral is the largest Gothic cathedral in the world and occupies the site of the great Aljama mosque, built in the late 12th century by the ruling Moorish Dynasty. The opulent size and grandeur are the most fetching qualities of the church. Opposite the Cathedral, The Alcazar palace is divided into sections dating from a succession of eras: Moorish, Gothic, Mudejar, and Renaissance. Considered one of the most distinctive castles in Spain, Alcazar was originally built like a fortress. With a minimal entrance fee, one can enjoy the throne room, the John II tower, and outer walls. The opening hours for the complex are Monday-Sunday, 9:30 am-19:00 pm.
5. La Rambla, Barcelona
The most easily identified landmark in the city, La Rambla is a long tree-lined boulevard that cuts through central Barcelona. It’s the best and the most relaxing way to experience the vibe of the city. The boulevard is lined with many books and newspaper stands, as well as, restaurants and cafes with open-air tables. Walking over Joan Miró‘s circular tile work, or watching the human statues, there is no shortage of experiences on La Rambla. The boulevard starts near the Port Vell cruise ship terminal and ends at the famous Placa Catalunya and you can easily find it by a simple inquiry to any local. Walking tours are the best ways to uncover the hidden beauty that this place has to offer.
6. Costa del Sol
Having some of the most amazing beaches, the Costa del Sol is the southernmost coastline of mainland Spain. The name translates to ‘the sunny coast’, as the sun shines the brightest in this region and it is a great place for sunbathing and tanning on the beaches. Costa del Sol has a natural landscape, clear beaches, pine-clad countryside, picturesque fishing villages and tranquil surroundings which are not only an attraction for the tourist but is an escape for the locals as well.
The recent Revitalization of its hub city of Málaga has also made this coast even more attractive. You can find various activities to do in this coastal town. A few steps from the beach, in Marbella, is the old town of whitewashed houses and well-preserved remains of the Moorish Castillo which is definitely worth a short trip.
7. The White Towns of Andalucía
These small and enchanting hilltop towns distinguished by their simple whitewashed houses are influenced by the Berber architecture of North Africa from where the moors originally came. The ancient land is home to amazing people, incredible landscapes, unrivaled gastronomy, and some of the prettiest little towns you’ll find in Europe. Some famous towns are Arcos de la Frontera, Grazalema, and Vejer de la Frontera. Showcasing the region’s long and fascinating history, the white towns are great for people looking for a quiet and relaxing holiday.
8. El Teide, Tenerife
The highest peak in Spain, El Teide is a living and breathing volcano located on the Canary Island of Tenerife. This impressive volcano shows how nature’s violent side can also be a testament to the beauty of the landscape. The terrain that surrounds Teide National Park is equally beautiful and the fossilized lava on the sides of the volcano are a wonderful sight to the eyes. You can climb El Teide’s cone, but an easier way to get to the top is by an eight-minute cable car ride. On a clear day, it offers a spectacular view of the entire archipelago and North Africa (the nearest landmass to the Canary Islands).
9. Bilbao’s Guggenheim
An architectural masterpiece, The Guggenheim museum will mesmerize you from the movement you lay your eyes on it. This curvy titanium-clad building has attracted and inspired many architects in the world. Build by the well-known architect Frank Gehry, the museum opened in 1997 and is home to a large collection of prominent and contemporary artworks. Inside the museum, you will find traveling exhibitions and rotating displays of collections of modern art. Guggenheim Museum exhibits many modern artists including Joseph Beuys, Louise Bourgeois, Jeff Koons, and many more. You can visit Guggenheim on weekdays and weekends from 10 am to 6 pm.
10. La Rioja Wine District
Known to be the Tuscany of Spain, La Rioja Wine District is a wine-growing region famed for its Rioja is known for its structure and tannins. The wine country is subdivided into three regions- Rioja Alta (where most of the oldest wineries are located), Rioja Alavesa, and Rioja Baja. It is a hit amongst the tourists for its locally produced vintage wines and scenic vineyards. One can explore the wine district with one of their luxury wine tours. You can also visit the wine museum, you heard it right. There’s an entire museum dedicated to the red stuff! If you are in town in June you can participate in the wine harvest festival, which involves people throwing buckets of wine at each other.
11. Toledo’s Gothic cathedral
Begun in the 13th century, Toledo’s Gothic Cathedral is one of the most impactful cathedrals in Spain. Located in the city of Toledo, this cathedral impersonates flamboyant gothic architecture and elements of mudéjar, renaissance, and baroque in many of its chapels, choir stalls, and sacristy. The site has been sacred for many centuries but has only existed as a cathedral from the 19th century. Inside, the cathedral contains important masterpieces including a spectacular baroque high altar and two paintings by El Greco.
12. Gaudí Sites in Barcelona
It won’t be overstating it if one says that Barcelona is home to the world’s most abstract and bizarre architecture and the reason is one and only, Antoni Gaudí. There are many examples in Barcelona of Gaudí’s fascinating architecture one of them being Parc Güell. Parc Güell is a bright ceramic-chard mosaic garden mounted by fantastical creatures. Many other architectural marvels like Gaudi’s Casa Milà (his last and most famous secular work), Casa Batlló, and Palau Güell (the palace residence of the Güell family) are scattered across Barcelona and are impressive at the first look.
It’s best to walk around Barcelona and you will definitely come across some of Gaudi’s finest works. It is not hard to spot the difference between Gaudi’s creations and other architectural installations in the city. Anything which does not have a straight line is made by Gaudi!
13. Ibiza -The Party Island
Being at the forefront of Europe’s music and clubbing scene, Ibiza has made its mark as the party capital of Spain. Its super-clubs and bars have now become legendary and are a magnet for party lovers. A heady combination of beaches and nightclubs, Ibiza is the best place for late-night partying and dancing till dawn. Ibiza has wonderful weather throughout the year and hosts renowned DJs from all over the globe. A few of the best places to hang out are Sankeys, Hi Ibiza, Amnesia, Ocean beach, and Privilege. Boat parties are also becoming popular in the party scene of Ibiza.
14. Plaza Mayor, Madrid
An important part of the lifestyle of Madrid since the 16th century, the Plaza Mayor was designed by Juan de Herrera. The Plaza Mayor, a grand arcaded square in the center of Madrid is very popular among tourists and locals. Build during the Habsburg empire, it was Philip II who entrusted Juan with the construction of the plaza. It has been at the center stage for many historic ceremonial events like the proclamation of a new king and the canonization of saints. The Plaza has many alfresco restaurants and you will find many street artists performing there.
15. Monastery of Montserrat, Catalonia
50 km from Barcelona, Montserrat is much more than a place of pilgrimage. From Art museums to incredibly talented choirs, this place has so much more to see than just the monastery. The surrounding landscape of the monastery is in itself a charmer and would leave you speechless with its beauty. For an adventure enthusiast, Monsterrat has several footpaths and trails, ranging from easy to difficult. Monastery of Montserrat is a great option for a day trip from Barcelona. To reach Montserrat, you will have to take a train from Barcelona to the Espania station and take a cable car for reaching the monastery.
Why Visit Spain?
Why Visit Spain?: Spain is well known for its beaches and sunny weather, but it has many other things to offer, from gothic cathedrals and quiet country villages to rugged coastlines, mountains, and volcanoes. So pack your bikini and espadrilles, sort out your travel insurance and head off on an adventure to this beautiful and surprisingly varied country.
There are many gothic buildings in Spain and the cathedrals, in particular, are spectacular, with Santiago de Compostela being a particularly great example. The City of Arts and Sciences in Valencia is a great example of the work of Santiago Calatrava and a visit to it after dark when it is floodlit is a must if you are in the region. The Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao is also worth seeing for its amazing modern architecture. A trip to Barcelona will involve trying to make sense of Gaudi’s eccentric La Sagrada Familia. You can have a look into Spain’s distant past with a visit to the Roman aqueduct at Segovia. Whatever part of Spain you visit, there will be a host of architectural gems to gaze at.
Spain has such a varied landscape that you will find the perfect conditions for almost any outdoor activity. Take a guided horse ride along the bandoleros trails in the Serrania de Ronda, or a motorbike trail if you prefer more than just the one horsepower. The beaches offer surfing and sunbathing, as well as newer sports such as kite surfing or kneeboarding, so you can learn something new in between relaxing and enjoying the scenery. However, make sure your travel insurance will cover any mishaps.
Eat Out in Style
Paella is one of Spain’s most famous dishes and the tapas are also not to be missed. Why not try a little something with your drinks as you go for a leisurely bar crawl on a sunny afternoon? Other dishes to try in Spain include cochinilloasado (suckling pig), queso manchego (a sheep’s milk cheese), and of course chorizo and various Spanish hams. Wash it all down with Sangria, a classic Spanish red wine similar to a Rioja, or to cool you down on a hot day go for a chilled beer.
There are many festivals throughout the year and all over the country. Semana Santa is the Spanish Easter celebration and is particularly enjoyable in Seville and Malaga. The Tomatina Tomato Fight is a lot of fun if you like a big food fight – held in August in Bunol, the origins of this festival are hazy at best. The San Fermin Festival is when the famous Pamplona Bull run takes place, which is a great spectacle to watch and is probably best left at that as not many travel insurance policies will cover you actually taking part!
There are so many reasons to visit Spain, from the beaches and bars to the mountains, rivers, and amazing architecture.