Spain has long been a top bucket list destination in Europe. In 2019 the country welcomed over 125 million visitors from overseas. So what’s the draw?
Perhaps it’s the warm sunny weather, stunning cities and architecture or the chilled beaches. Whatever the reason, its popularity isn’t dwindling any time soon.
If you’re planning a trip to Spain this year, this article features over 52 outstanding things you need to add to your Spanish bucket list. It delves into the best experiences in Spain and features the country’s most iconic buildings, things to do and see, festivals, adventurous pursuits and of course, the cuisine.
Whether you’re planning a weekend break, a family holiday or a road trip around the country, you’ll find no shortage of things to see. You’ll find an abundance of ideas in this article, whatever your travel style, to tick off your Spain bucket list experiences. The only difficulty is choosing which ones you will be checking off first.
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The Complete Spanish Bucket List
In a hurry and no time to read everything in this Spain bucket list article? No problem! This post is divided into categories based on activity, so you can jump straight to what you’re after.
Better still, why now download the checklist of everything included for offline viewing.
What you can expect in this article...
Iconic Buildings & Landmarks in Spain
La Sagrada Familia, Barcelona
Highlights: La Sagrada Familia is one of the most spectacular cathedrals ever constructed, and it remains unfinished, some 140 years since building work began. The architect, Antoni Gaudí dedicated his life to its creation. Visiting the outstanding Sagrada Familia is one of the best things to do in Spain.
From the outside, La Sagrada Familia is simply magnificent, with two distinct styles on the completed façades striking in their individuality. The Nativity Façade tells the story of the birth of Christ through intricate sculptures in minute detail, whereas the Passion Façade depicts the death of Christ in a more sparse and austere style.
And that’s just the outside! Going inside La Sagrada Familia is definitely worth the time and money, as it truly is spectacular. The influence of nature is everywhere in Gaudí’s design, from the “branches” stretching out at the top of the columns to the use of carefully chosen stained glass in each of the windows, flooding the cathedral with natural light.
Tips for Visiting: The best views of the Sagrada Familia from the outside are from across the pond in Plaça de Gaudí, and if you can get tickets to go up inside the towers of the Sagrada Familia; you will get incredible views of Barcelona.
Go early to avoid the crowds, and be sure to book fast-track entry tickets in advance online or be prepared for huge queues to get inside. Tickets include an audio guide which you can access on your phone, or book a guided tour to get all of the insider knowledge and to help you spot the details in Gaudí’s work.
Recommended by Claire from Why Visit Barcelona
Related Article: The perfect 14 Day Spain & Portugal Itinerary
The Mosque-Cathedral of Cordoba
Highlights: The Mosque-Cathedral of Cordoba, also known as Mezquita-Catedral de Córdoba, is one of the must-see places to visit in Andalusia, South Spain. It’s a listed UNESCO World Heritage Site, along with the historic centre of Cordoba.
It’s a stunning example of Islamic architecture from the time that Muslims ruled in this part of the country, and was at one time the largest mosque in the Islamic kingdom, although since then a Renaissance church has been added since the Christians regained control of Al-Andalus (as Andalusia was known under the Moors).
This iconic landmark is one of the top things to see in Spain, especially if you have any interest in historical places and architecture. The most interesting part is its huge main hall which has 850 columns throughout and is the most photographed part of the structure. The outside of the building is equally impressive and it stands out across the city.
Tips for Visiting: The Mosque-Cathedral is located in the centre of Cordoba, so is easy to get to. The best time to visit is when it first opens as there tend to be fewer visitors then which gives better photo opportunities. However, it does get extremely busy, so to save queuing, it’s best to book your skip-the-line ticket in advance.
It’s open on Monday-Saturday between 10 am to 6 pm and on Sundays from 9 am to 10.30 am and in the afternoon from 2 pm to 6 pm. This is one of the most visited historical structures in Andalusia, and I promise you will be in awe at how beautiful the building is.
Recommended by Jonny from Backpacking Man Travel
Related Article: What to do in Cordoba in One Day
Seville Cathedral and The Giralda
Highlights: The Seville Cathedral is the largest Gothic church in the world and without a doubt one of the most famous churches in Europe. Officially known as the Cathedral of Saint Mary of the See, the 16th-century cathedral is a UNESCO World Heritage site and a must-see attraction in Spain.
The cathedral houses the tomb of Christopher Columbus, the explorer who completed 4 voyages across the Atlantic Ocean – forging the path for European colonization in the Americas.
Attached to the cathedral, the Giralda Bell Tower. The tower was once part of the original Mosque that stood on the grounds across from the Real Alcazar where the church is built. Visitors can climb the 100-meter tall tower using a series of spiralling ramps and stairs. From the top of the bell tower, you’ll have breathtaking panoramic views over the city, and a closer look at the spires of the gothic cathedral of Seville.
Tips for visiting: Plan for between 1-2 hours to visit the Seville Cathedral and Giralda Bell Tower. If you’re interested in the history of the cathedral and want to learn more about the various areas of the building including the nave, chapels, courtyard, galleries and the treasures and tombs each hold, get an audio guide to provide context to your self-guided tour of an in-person guided tour of the Cathedral and Giralda.
You should also dress appropriately. While the Seville Cathedral is one of the main tourist attractions in Seville, it is also a holy place and an active place of worship. For women, it’s best to cover your shoulders with sleeves or a shawl, if possible. Avoid mini-skirts or very short shorts, crop tops, or clothing that may be considered immodest.
Recommended by Melissa from Parenthood and Passports
Related Article: A Local’s Guide to Seville
The Alhambra & Nasrid Palace of Granada
Highlights: The Alhambra is one of the most popular places to visit in Spain. Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site, it’s set high on a hill in Granada and covers an area of 35 acres.
It’s a place where you can see the influence of different religions, cultures and rulers over many centuries. There’s the Alcazaba, a 13th-century fort built by the Nasrid dynasty during Spain’s Moorish era.
There’s also the 14th century Generalife, a stunning garden with a palace that was the summer residence for the kings. By contrast, the Palace of Charles V is a renaissance style building with a fine arts museum.
The standout attraction, however, is the Nasrid Palace. Here there are the most brilliantly ornate rooms and courtyards, decorated with Moorish designs and inscriptions. Head to the Patio de Los Arrayanes which sits in the centre and leads onto the King’s Palace.
Inside is the Salon de Los Embajadores, a room with walls, ceilings and windows adorned with dazzling and mesmerising patterns and designs and with intricate and ornate alcoves set into the wall. It is not to be missed.
Tips for visiting: On peak days, thousands of people visit the Alhambra, so try to go early. Likewise, its popularity means that booking tickets for the Alhambra and Nasrid Palace in advance is advisable.
A visit to the Alhambra should also be topped off with a trip to the Mirador de San Nicolas at the top of the hill in the city’s Albaicin district. From this vantage point, you get the most picturesque and uninterrupted views of the Alhambra sitting majestically on the opposite hill across the valley.
Recommended by Emma from Travel On A Time Budget
Puente Nuevo of Ronda
Highlights: The beautiful old Moorish city of Ronda is the largest and most popular of the celebrated “pueblos blancos” (white villages) of Andalusia. And the main reason it is such a great destination is the Puente Nuevo (New Bridge), which spans the 100-meter deep El Tajo gorge. Visiting Ronda, to marvel at the bridge is one of the top things to do in southern Spain
This stunning architectural gem is called the “new” bridge even though it is over 200 years old. This is the newest and largest of three bridges that spanned the 120 metre / 390 ft. gorge. The previous two bridges collapsed, the one before what you see today was a bridge with a single arch design, however, the poor construction meant that this bridge collapsed in 1741, taking with it the lives of 50 people. The redesign you see today features a middle column and several arches to ensure the same fate doesn’t happen again.
Tips for Visiting: Old or new, it is a truly spectacular sight, whether from the lush valley below or any of the impressive viewpoints scattered along the cliffs.
The best place to view Puente Nuevo is the Mirador La Hoya del Tajo, a nondescript viewpoint just down the hill into the valley below the Arco del Cristo. The climb back up might take your breath away but the photos of the bridge with the late day sun lighting it up are epic.
There are even several restaurants and hotels with balconies overlooking the bridge. For a truly up-close look in the comfort of a nice lounge with a drink in hand, check out the Parador de Ronda, the oldest and most famous hotel and restaurant in the area. And if your budget allows, they even have rooms with bridge views.
Recommended by Laynni and Dean from Routinely Nomadic
Related Article: 36 Incredible Landmarks in Spain You need To Visit
La Seu: The Cathedral of Palma
Location: Palama, Mallorca
Highlights: Along with being one of the tallest Gothic structures in Europe, the Cathedral of Palma has also become the symbol of Mallorca’s capital. With its 44 meters in height, the cathedral, also called La Seu, is impossible to miss.
It’s located next to the old town of Palma, right above Parc de la Mar, and it’s easily reached by foot from the city centre.
When entering the cathedral, one can immediately see why it’s also called the “Cathedral of Light”. There are 61 stained-glass windows which completely engulf the interior in rays of coloured light. Another interesting fact about the cathedral is that the Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí has contributed to its current look.
Tips for Visiting: To enter La Seu there is a small entrance charge, at peak times, book a skip-the-line ticket for the Cathedral. There are also audio guides available for hire at an extra cost.
Its opening times are Monday to Friday from 10 am with the closing time depending on the time of the year, and Saturdays from 10 am till 2:15 pm.
Recommended by Lyubomira from Bulgarian On The Go
The Alcazar of Segovia
Highlights: Did you know that the Alcazar de Segovia is said to have inspired Disney when he was imagining the Cinderella castle featured in the classic children’s movie as well as theme parks around the world? Disney never confirmed “the legend”, but all you have to do is look at one and then the other to see the similarities. Segovia is one of the prettiest European cities.
The castle of Segovia is perfectly situated on a rocky crag high above where the Eresma and Clamores rivers meet. It has served as a home to royalty, a prison, and housing for soldiers. Because of its location, the castle was impenetrable, inescapable, and easy to defend.
If your legs are up to it, be sure to climb the 153 steps up the spiral staircase of the Tower of Juan II. The views of the city and the Cathedral of Segovia from the tower are worth the climb! And on a clear day, you’ll be rewarded for your efforts with fabulous views of the surrounding countryside.
Tips for Visiting: It’s worthwhile purchasing tickets that include a self-guided audio tour of the castle, or if you prefer, a priority access guided tour of the Alcazar. The ticket includes a visit to the palace, the military museum, and the Tower of Juan II.
Getting to the city of Segovia is possible by train or car. The train station in Segovia is quite a distance from the city, so you will want to take a bus to the Aqueduct Bus Stop. Most tourists start their exploration of Segovia at the aqueduct and work their way up to the castle. Walk to the castle first and work your way back toward the aqueduct to have a tourist free view of it.
Recommended by Jolayne from Simply Jolayne
Related Article: The Best of Segovia in One Day
Plaza de España, Seville
Highlights: If you’re looking for the most beautiful place in Spain, then the gigantic monument of Plaza de España, is up there with the best.
It was built in 1929 as part of the Ibero-American Exposition celebration. Around the vicinity, you’ll see old buildings with titles like ‘Peru’ and ‘Mexico’ on them which also date back to the exhibition.
The striking building is a mix of Renaissance and Mudejar styles. It’s decorated with colourful tiles that are synonymous with Seville. The tiles form images of every province in Spain. The red-bricked landmark is built in a semi-circular shape and features different levels and walkways with decorated alcoves. There are even balconies to climb up and look out across the plaza and into neighbouring Maria Luisa park.
Tips for Visiting: Plaza de España is free to enter, its open from 8 am until midnight. Because it’s connected to Maria Luisa Park, in times of high wind (which is very rare) the gates are closed due to the risk of injury from falling palm tree branches.
If you want to watch Flamenco for free, you’ll often find buskers and performers under the central tower. There is no set time or schedule for this, but if it’s a pleasant day, with lots of tourists, they most likely will be there.
Related Article: The complete Seville Bucket List
The Royal Palace of Madrid
Highlights: Probably Madrid’s most opulent building is the Palacio Real de Madrid or the Royal Palace of Madrid. This is the official residence of the Spanish Royal family.
Dating back to the 1700s, it’s mostly used today for official ceremonies and as a tourist attraction. Inside, it’s everything a palace should be, over-the-top grandeur, gilded furnishings and lavish textiles.
While you’re visiting the Palace, head to the building opposite. The Almudena Cathedral (Santa Maria la Real de La Almudena) features some very over the top interior. Both need to be on your Madrid to-do list.
Tips for Visiting: The Palace can get busy, so book a skip the line ticket in advance. Expect to spend a couple of hours here.
Tours are available in Spanish and English, the tour in English happens on average 5 times a day, although if you visit during the high season, there are more tours per day.
Related Article: A Local’s Guide To Two Days in Madrid
The Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao
Highlights: A must for anyone interested in the arts, culture and architecture. The iconic Guggenheim is one of the top things to see in Bilbao. The design of the outside of the building is a triumph in itself! The Canadian Architect, Frank Gehry created this unique design that features a blend of interesting shapes and unique materials. This is one of the most stunning modern landmarks in Spain.
The museum houses a mix of permanent and temporary exhibitions from world-class artists.
If you’re a fan of the Dan Brown series of books, you’ll know that in his book ‘Origin’, the opening scene happens in the Guggenheim along with other important landmarks in Spain.
Tips for Visiting: Once you have bought your ticket, it’s good to know that you can go out of the museum and come back in again. Ask one of the staff at the exit for a wristband, and show this together with your ticket to regain entry.
If you’re carrying a heavy backpack, it’s worth checking this into the cloakroom.
Although you can explore the museum at your own pace, it’s also worthwhile joining one of the tours. Make reservations for the tour as well as priority access here. Tours are done in English.
The Alcazar of Seville
Highlights: The stunning Alcazar of Seville was once a fortress, dating back to the Moorish era. There are still numerous features on the building that reflect this heritage. After the conquest of the Christians, the palace became the home of the Spanish Kings, each one leaving their signature style. It became a UNESCO heritage site in 1987.
The main style of architecture is Mudejar which is a mix of Islamic and Christian design. You’ll find this style in many buildings throughout Seville, and Andalucía!
Once inside, there is a laid out route which leads you through the different rooms and courtyards. They are all lined with intricate lattice-like plasterwork, often stretched between marble pillars. The gardens are equally impressive, with beautiful flower beds, little outhouses, a folly and fountains. When you visit, you’ll be able to see why it’s worthy of being on your Spanish bucket list.
Tips for Visiting: The Alcazar is one of Seville’s top attractions, so it gets extremely busy and tickets sell out. Book a skip the line ticket for the Alcazar well in advance, particularly during peak season, which is April-June, and September – October (Seville gets so unbearably hot during July and August, that it’s comparatively quiet)
City of Arts and Sciences, Valencia
Highlights: The City of Arts and Sciences is a futuristic architectural complex and one of the top things to do in Valencia, in fact, it frequently appears on any 10 best things to do in Spain list. It’s a must-visit if you like to be surprised in your travels.
This city within a city, as it’s often called was designed by famed Valencian architect Santiago Calatrava, the brainchild behind several world-famous buildings such as the Milwaukee Art Museum, and the Liège-Guillemins railway station in Belgium, and the Museum of Tomorrow in Brazil.
The City of Arts and Sciences encompasses Europe’s biggest aquarium, a digital 3D cinema, an interactive science museum, an opera house, a sports arena, and an open-access garden with a chic dance club where champagne and cocktails flow freely. In recent years, this complex has become the symbol of the city and its best ambassador.
Tips for Visiting: Anyone is welcome to wander among the grounds of the buildings of the City of Arts and Sciences completely free of charge at any time of the day or night. However, you’ll need tickets to enter the Hemisfèric, the Science Museum, and the Oceanogràfic.
If you plan on seeing an opera here, it’s highly recommended you purchase your tickets well in advance. While prices are pretty steep, it’s well worth it. You can also book onto a roof top tour that includes wine and tapas.
Recommended by Laura from Travelers Universe
Must Do Things in Spain
Visit the Prado Museum in Madrid
Highlights: Madrid’s Prado Museum, quite simply, is the most comprehensive and diverse classical museum in Europe. The Prado includes, of course, many of the greatest works of the best Spanish painters such as Velazquez, El Greco, Murillo, Zurburan, and Goya.
Prado’s collection was assembled when Spain was the dominant and richest country in Europe. Therefore, the kings of Spain also collected the greatest paintings of Italy, Germany, the Netherlands and Flanders (the Flemish region of north Belgium), in particular.
Prado’s collection includes over 60 paintings by the Venetian Titian, as well as spectacular examples from Roger van der Weyden, Albrecht Durer, and Hieronymous Bosch, including the famous Garden of Earthly Delights. If you’re interested in art and culture, this is one of the top places to visit in Spain.
Tips for Visiting: Allow plenty of time to see the Prado, at least several hours, as the place is huge and many paintings deserve extended looks. Consider arranging a tour through the American Friends of the Prado if you’re American. Membership in the Friends includes one admission.
The Prado is open daily from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Sundays until 7 p.m. Admission is free after 6 p.m. daily and after 5 p.m. on Sundays. Buying tickets online is recommended. If you like, you can also arrange a guided tour when you buy your ticket.
Recommended by Tom from Travel Past 50
Related Article: Things to do in Madrid in Winter
Spot Wild Dolphins in Estepona
Location: Estepona, Costa del Sol
Highlights: One must-do whilst visiting Spain is a trip to Estepona, located in the Costa Del Sol. Not only does Estepona have a port full of restaurants and bars, soft sandy beaches and crystal clear water, but it’s one of the must-go places in Spain to spot wild dolphins!
Tours run daily throughout the year, but your best time to spot dolphins, turtles (and even whales!) is during the spring and summer months. If you want a truly unique experience, book a sunset tour. Most include drinks, food and music, and you can sail the night away spotting the wildlife in the Mediterranean. Plus, the red sunsets over the sea are pretty unforgettable.
The dolphins can come and go quickly, and your experienced guide will use his expertise to find the pods in the safest and most animal-friendly way. It’s pretty special when you see your first dolphin jumping through the waves next to your boat!
Worried you might not see the dolphins? Don’t worry, even if they’re out of sight, you’ll find an abundance of tuna fish springing out of the water and plenty of other marine life to keep you entertained!
Tips for Visiting: Spotting wild dolphins in their natural habitat is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, so make sure your camera gear is charged and ready to go.
Although you can go at any time of the year, Estepona is one of the top places to visit in Spain in summer, although to avoid the peak of the crowds, plan to visit in either visit in June or September.
Recommended by Jennie from Jennie Wanders
Explore Bolonia Beach and Dunes
Highlights: Bolonia beach is one of the most mesmerizing beaches in Cadiz. Dominated by the massive Bolonia sand dune cascading down to the beach. It offers breathtaking views. The 200-meter-high dune has slowly been created by desert sand blowing across from Africa and is now a natural monument. It’s a definite must see in southern Spain.
There are many other things to do in Bolonia but be sure to walk up the dune. If water sports are your thing, you can take windsurfing lessons or rent a paddleboard to explore the coastline. You can also enjoy a refreshing drink in one of the beach bars.
Another highlight in Bolonia is the ancient Roman ruins of Baleo Claudia. Being one of the three best preserved Roman remains in Andalucia, together with the Acinipo ruins in Ronda and the Italica ruins in Seville, it is a pretty spectacular site you can see straight from the beach. However, it is recommended to get go inside to see the entire complex up close.
Tips for Visiting: Bolonia beach is a fair bit outside the coastal town of Tarifa and though there is a microbus set up from Tarifa during July and August, you will have to drive the rest of the year.
In the summer months, there is usually a parking guard taking a few Euros for parking, but during the low season, it is free to park. If you travel in a camper van, either arrive very early or late in the day. You’ll be able to park for free when the guard is not there when you arrive.
Recommended by Linn Haglund of Amused by Andalucia
Watch a Flamenco Show in Seville
Highlights: One of the best things to do in Spain is to watch an authentic flamenco show in the heart of southern Spain in Andalusia. Flamenco is a passionate and vibrant dance form with beautiful costumes in bright colours, intricate movements and panache. There is singing and dancing accompanied by a flamenco guitar.
Sevilla is the birthplace of Flamenco, and in the city, there are many places to watch a live performance. Sometimes they are intimate stages others are more lively affair. Either way, it is best enjoyed with delicious local tapas and drinks.
Tips for Visiting: Tablao Flamenco Los Gallos is a well-known venue for top flamenco shows in Seville with an array of talented artists. The venue is intimate and you get to experience a typical flamenco bar.
There are 2 shows every night starting from 7 pm and lasting 1 hour and 30 minutes. If you are planning to visit the south of Spain put this on your must-do list and be ready for a thrilling experience.
Recommended by Asha Bhatia from Home Travel Guide
Related Article: How to see Stunning Seville in 3 days
Catch a Boat to Isla Lobos
Highlights: Visiting Isla Lobos is one of the most unique experiences in Spain. This tiny place is only a few kilometres long and is protected by a nature reserve with plant species that are endemic to the island. A variety of birds and over 130 different plants make it a paradise for those who are interested in fauna and flora.
However, most of the visitors fall in love with the volcanic landscape and incredible turquoise waters. One of the most beautiful parts of Spain as well as the most popular places on the island is Puertito Isla De Lobos.
Here you’ll find the best views of volcanic rocks. Playa De La Concha De Lobos is the biggest beach on the island with the views of Fuerteventura and Montaña La Caldera.
Tips for visiting: This protected island has a limit of 400 tourists a day, which makes it a truly special place to explore. It is just off the coast of Fuerteventura and you can get there in only 15 minutes by water taxi.
To visit Isla Lobos, you will need to get permission so make sure to apply for it as soon as you arrive in Fuerteventura. You can choose between two slots, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. It is always better to be the first group of 200 people that come to the island. Especially, when you can stay in Isla Lobos longer and come back with another group later.
Recommended by Paulina from UK Every Day
Stroll Around El Retiro Park, Madrid
Highlights: Once a private park belonging to the Spanish monarchs, El Retiro Park is now one of the most popular public parks in Madrid, perfectly combining its green spaces with unmissable monuments like the unique Crystal Palace and the Velázquez Palace.
It’s one of the liveliest areas in the Spanish capital, though it’s easy to find quiet corners where you can unwind and let the hours go by. Along with the Paseo del Prado Avenue (home to the infamous Golden Triangle of Art – Prado, Reina Sofia, and Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum), the park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, making it a must-visit landmark in Madrid.
Tips for Visiting: The park is free to visit and is open every day from 6am to 10pm or midnight, depending on the season. It also makes for a fantastic place to spend your morning or afternoon, strolling around, soaking up the sun, and taking plenty of beautiful photos.
Because it is big and houses so many monuments and gardens, it’s crucial to spend at least a few hours in this park. From the Monument of King Alfonso XII and its artificial lake to the park’s rose garden (La Rosaleda) to the Parterre Garden, there’s no shortage of gorgeous spots to explore there.
Recommended by Or from My Path in the World
Admire Gaudí’s Architecture
Highlights: The beautiful city of Barcelona is filled with many examples of Antoni Gaudí’s amazing architectural designs. Gaudí’s works are so iconic that his buildings in Barcelona have a UNESCO World Heritage Site designation. Naturally, his stunning works are some of the best things to see in Spain.
Some of Gaudí’s works are famous attractions in themselves, such as Parc Güell, a 17-hectare park filled with colourful, whimsical mosaic-covered buildings. Park Guell is one of Barcelona’s signature attractions and the designs showcased here have inspired many artists and architects around the world.
Other examples of incredible Gaudí architecture line Barcelona’s streets, turning them into an open-air museum. Marvel at the unique designs and colours of Casa Vincens, the fanciful flowing lines of Casa Milà, and the playful colours and textures of Casa Batlló. Visit the rooftop of Casa Milà for stunning city views or enjoy a summertime rooftop concert.
Tips for Visiting: Parc Güell is about an hour’s walk from Barcelona’s Ciutat Vella (Old City), so it’s best to take the metro to get to the vicinity of the park. It is free to visit the main park, but there is an entrance fee to access the Monumental Zone.
From Parc Güell, the best way to see all the other examples of Gaudí’s architecture is to take a walk. Most of these buildings are located along Barcelona’s Passeig de Gràcia, and following this boulevard will lead back to Plaça de Catalunya and La Rambla.
Recommended by Lisa of Waves and Cobblestones
Take a Road Trip In Andalucia
Highlights: If you’re looking for Spain vacation ideas, a great way to see a lot of it is by doing a road trip. The province of Andalucía is perfect for this, as you can mix the iconic cities, some of Spain’s best landmarks, beautiful scenery and beaches into one trip.
One of the most popular road trips starts in the popular city of Malaga. Enjoy the old city and the beaches before heading onto nearby Marbella. From here, head south along the coast to the stunning Bolognia beach, a gigantic sand dune and enjoy the wide sandy beaches. If you get the time and are interested in adventure sports, then stop in Tarifa which is famed for kite surfing.
From Tarifa, your Andalucian road trip heads up to the beautiful city of Seville, to visit some of Spain’s most iconic landmarks including the world’s biggest cathedral, Alcazar and Plaza de Espana. From Seville, drive to Cordoba, to marvel at the stunning Mosque-Cathedral before heading to your final stop in Granada where you’ll find the mighty Alhambra.
This itinerary can be done in an action-packed week, but it’s very rushed. Ideally, you will want to spend a couple of weeks as there are plenty of things to see at each destination.
Tips for Visiting: Spain is an incredibly family orientated country, so if you’re travelling with young children, you will find them welcome and well catered for.
If you’re hiring a car, check AutoEurope price comparison site to get the best deal. Surprisingly, hiring from the airport rental shops is cheaper than ones in the city centre.
You can save money by buying car insurance separately from your broker in your home country (some credit cards also will cover you) this can be cheaper than using the insurance that the rental company try to sell you.
Discover Colomares Castle in Benalmadena
Location: Benalmadena, Costa de Sol
Highlights: Benalmadena, located in the Costa del Sol, is one of the best travel spots in Spain. However, apart from it being a popular beach holiday destination, it is also home to beautiful parks, attractions and monuments like Colomares Castle (Castillo de Colomares).
Colomares Castle is a must-see attraction in Benalmadena Pueblo for culture lovers and photographers. It is a monument in the shape of a castle dedicated to Christopher Columbus.
Visiting this castle is a unique experience as visitors get to learn about the life of Columbus and the discovery of America as well as contemplate the mixture of detailed architecture in the building.
Although it is an impressive monument, it is still a hidden gem that many travellers don’t know about.
Trip for Visiting: Travellers can easily visit Colomares Castle from Malaga by taking the C-1 train towards Fuengirola in Maria Zambrano station. The train stops in Benalmadena Costa, and from there you can either walk for 30 minutes or take a local bus.
The entry fee is only a few Euros for adults. Opening times change depending on the season.
Recommended by Cristina from My Little World of Travelling
Visit Gaudi’s El Capricho in Cantabria
Location: Comillas, Cantabria region
Highlights: El Capricho de Gaudí is an eclectic villa designed by Antoni Gaudí in the beautiful Cantabria region of northern Spain. Designed for a wealthy donor to spend his summers, Gaudí produced a small home that is not short of unique architectural design. The stunning building is one of the most amazing places in Spain.
The home was finished in 1885 but unfortunately, the original donor died before it was finished. It was used as a summer home for many political and wealthy powerhouses in Spain but is now open for tourists.
The outside of this home is beautifully done with tiles featuring sunflowers. There is an amazing tower that was designed to create an interesting sound when the windows open and the inside features a unique blend of Moorish and Catalan design.
Tips for Visiting: Located in the Cantabria region of Spain, this is the perfect way to spend a morning before hitting the beautiful beaches in this region. The home is open from 10:30 am until 5 pm with longer hours in the warmer months.
You do need to purchase tickets to enter. They can be purchased online or at the time of entry. Plan to spend at least an hour exploring this beautiful gem.
Recommended by Ashley from Ashley On The Move
Adventurous Things to Do in Spain
Hike through the Torrent de Pareis
Location: Island of Mallorca
Highlights: The extraordinary hike goes through one of the most beautiful places in Spain; the impressive canyon, Torrent de Pareis. It’s an absolute highlight for experienced hikers visiting the beautiful island of Mallorca. Close to the monastery of Lluc, the largest place of pilgrimage in the Balearic Islands, you descend into the gorge which is, by the way, the second-largest gorge in the Mediterranean region.
Between the almost 300 meters high rocks, you have to find the best “path” through the dried up, often narrow riverbed. There are no signposts, so you will have to guide yourself. It will take you about 4 hours to climb over, under or next to the large washed-out rocks. You’re rewarded for your efforts by the beautiful beach and end point of Sa Calobra.
If you don’t feel up to the challenging hike, that’s not a problem. From Sa Calobra beach, you can simply walk into the gorge from the oceanside direction. You can do this as long as you want and then turn back.
Tips for visiting: This hike is not for beginners! You should not hike alone and do not descend into Torrent de Pareis after rainfall, as you may not be able to reach the beach. There is no cell phone coverage in the gorge, so tell the host of your accommodation where you are going in case of an emergency.
Take plenty of water and snacks with you and don’t forget to pack your swimsuit. When you reach the beautiful beach of Sa Calobra, you definitely deserve a swim in the turquoise Mediterranean Sea.
Recommended Linda from Hiking the Alps
Test Your Nerves On The Caminito Del Rey
Location: Ardales, Málaga Province
Highlights: The Caminito del Rey is an aerial trail, following along the walls of the Gaitanes Gorge. If you’re looking for cool things to do in Spain, this is it. The trail was originally built in 1901 by the national train company, Renfe. Then in 1921 King Alfonso XIII hiked along this same route. It was then, that the name Caminito del Rey, which translates to King’s Path, was given.
Over time the trail deteriorated, at one point it was listed as Spain’s most dangerous route as daredevils tried to walk the path on the broken or missing path on the edge of the gorge. Many fell to their death. Eventually, the path was closed for restorations.
It reopened in 2015 with all safety points covered. Now it’s an incredibly safe route with scenic views of the gorge below.
Tips for Visiting: The Caminito del Rey is about 8km long, depending on how quick you walk (and stop to take photos) it can take up to 4 hours to complete.
You can walk alone, although it’s better to book a guide who will tell you the history of the gorge. Tickets need to be booked in advance, and you must wear a helmet and have a safety brief before walking.
If you have a fear of heights, you may find aspects of this walk challenging. Especially the swing bridge at the end.
Explore Anaga Rural Park
Highlights: Anaga Rural Park is one of the most incredible and magical places in Spain, which is located on the Canary Island of Tenerife. It is a little bit off the beaten path of regular tourist places of Spain, but a real gem! If you love nature and unusual places, you just have to add Anaga to your Spain bucket list.
Since 2015, Anaga has been a UNESCO biosphere reserve, which is no surprise, as it has some of the most beautiful and impressive places on the island. It is worth coming to Anaga for the pristine nature, hiking, charming villages, and volcanic beaches.
One of the main features of Anaga Rural Park is that the famous trade winds always blow here. These constant and gentle winds are responsible for the good climate of the Canary Islands, as well as for the greatest treasure of Tenerife – the primaeval ancient laurel forest of Anaga.
Tips for visiting: From Cruz del Carmen, the visitor centre of the Anaga Rural Park, there are several hiking trails. The trails range from challenging to more relaxed hikes, but all are equally interesting and good for health and the soul. “The Sense Trail” is perhaps the most popular and best known of all the trails in the park.
It runs along the old royal road that linked the villages of the Anaga Massif to La Laguna and offers some of the best scenery in the park. Anaga Rural Park is one of the most unique places to visit in Spain and deserves a trip if you’re visiting the islands.
If you’re travelling around the Canary Islands, and love what you see in Aaga Rural park, then I also 100% vouch for Timanfaya National Park on the island of Lanzarote.
Recommended by Alexandra from Tenerife Is
Reach the Summit of El Teide
Highlights: El Teide National Park is a world heritage national park in the middle of the Canary Island of Tenerife. It’s a beautiful 19,000 hectares of park with otherworldly landscapes.
The main highlight and one of the best activities in Spain is to climb Mount Teide, the highest mountain in Spain; Mount Teide (3.725 meters). A visit to the top of this volcano is a must. From here you can get spectacular views of volcanic landscapes, the Atlantic ocean, and other Canary Islands (on clear days).
Other highlights of El Teide National Park are the stunning rock formations of Los Roques de Garcia, about 1.700 meters below Mount Teide, and the Tenerife Observatory for a stargazing experience you’ll never forget.
Tips for Visiting: The best way to visit El Teide National Park is by car. This will allow you to visit various areas of this enormous park. Though, it’s also possible to take guided tours from most coastal towns or take a local bus.
El Teide National Park itself is free to visit. However, the cable car up Mount Teide is not. You also need to make a reservation online to guarantee a spot. The cable car is open every day of the week from 9 am to 4 pm.
The cable car takes you to about 200 below the summit, and if you want to climb the peak you should apply for a permit (which usually sells out a year in advance) or take a guide who already has a permit.
Recommended by Lara from The Best Travel Gifts
Hike the Cami de Cavalls
Highlights: The ancient Cami de Cavalls walkway circumnavigates the Spanish island of Menorca, spanning over 185 km. It was once used to spot potential invaders approaching from the sea, but these days is a fascinating way to discover the true heart of this Balearic island.
Broken down into 20 easily navigated walks of varying lengths, walking the trails is one of the best things to do in Menorca, as they take you to some of the most stunningly beautiful beaches, past historical attractions, and between impossibly charming white washed villages. Walking the Cami de Cavalls introduces you to the real Menorca, and its forgotten past.
Tips for Visiting: Finding the Cami de Cavalls trails is easy enough, as it spans the length of Menorca’s coast. And you can’t go wrong, no matter which section of the walk you choose to complete.
For lesser-visited tracks, head to the island’s north coast, where red sand beaches, natural wetlands, and secluded lighthouses await. The trail between Far de Favàritx and Es Grau is a particular highlight that takes in secluded coves and hidden lakes.
Alternatively, on the south coast, walking between Cap D’Artrutx to Cala Macarella takes in some of the most famous beaches on the island, while giving you a fresh perspective of the landscape.
There’s no entrance fee for the trails, meaning they are accessible for everyone to enjoy, making them one of the best free activities to do in Spain.
Recommended by Nadine from Le Long Weekend
Venture Inside a Lava Tunnel at Cueva de los Verdes
Location: Lanzarote, Canary Islands
Highlights: One of the most intriguing activities you can do in Spain is to explore the extraordinary landscape of a lava cave. Situated in the north of Lanzarote, one of the largest islands of the Canary Islands in the Atlantic Ocean, you’ll find Cueva de Los Verdes. The attraction is a lava tube that dates back to around 3000-5000 years ago after Volcán de la Corona erupted.
Set against the backdrop of the Monumento Natural del Malpaís de La Corona, a parkland that’s a vast open expanse, the Cueva de Los Verdes lava tube extends for 6 km above sea level before reaching the sea and extending a further 1.5 km below sea level.
The part of the tunnel that you can visit has been open to the public for around 50 years and comprises around 1km worth that can be visited as part of a guided tour. It’s worth noting that the tunnel can be visited as part of a guided tour only.
The caves have been lit in such a way as to emphasise their shadows and to highlight features left by the lava. The rocks are naturally coloured in shades of grey, black, ochre and red. Walking in the caves feels like you’re in the centre of the earth. This is one of the top things to do in all of Spain, let alone Lanzarote.
Tips for Visiting: The tour of the caves takes visitors along two levels of the lava tube and takes about an hour, allowing you to enjoy spectacular rock formations and even see a concert hall that has been naturally hollowed out of the tube. The caves are open daily between 10 am and 4 pm.
In terms of what to wear, be sure to wear comfortable footwear, as even though a path has been carved out of the tunnels, there are numerous steps, and also wear shoes with rubber soles to avoid slipping.
Because they are underground, the lava caves are at a comfortable 19 degrees all year round, there’s never any breeze in the tunnel. In the summer this can feel cool, so bring a light jacket if you feel the cold easily.
Recommended by Sophie from Solo Sophie
Do The Camino de Santiago
Location: Different routes throughout Spain all finishing in Santiago de Compostela, Galicia
Highlights: The Camino de Santiago is one of the most popular pilgrimage routes in the world. The Camino is a network of walking routes. They all start in different parts of Europe, mostly in Spain and finish at the Cathedral in Santiago de Compostela.
The Camino routes offer diverse scenery. You can see the beautiful rugged coast of northern Spain, endless plains, and fields of central Spain, rocky peaks of the Picos de Europa National Park, and the lush green forest of Galicia.
Walking the Camino is a unique way of slow travelling that allows you to explore Spain outside the popular tourist destinations and get to know local people and culture. This is undoubtedly one of the best experiences in Spain.
Tips for Visiting: Anybody can walk the Camino regardless of their religion, beliefs, age, or nationality. The Camino routes are marked with yellow shells and arrows from the start to the end. The Camino Frances from St.Jean-Pied-de-Port and the Camino Portuguese from Porto are the two most popular routes.
There are special budget hostels for pilgrims called albergues where people who walk the Camino can stay in shared rooms paying between 6 and 8 euros per person.
After completing the Camino de Santiago, pilgrims can get a Compostela certificate at the Pilgrims’ Reception Office in Santiago de Compostela.
Recommended by Alya of Stingy Nomads
Ride a Sand Dune Buggy
Location: Corralejo, Fuerteventura
Highlights: Corralejo is a popular tourist destination in the North of Fuerteventura in the Canary Islands of Spain. Unlike the other Canary Islands, Corralejo has inherited vast dunes from its neighbouring country, Morocco.
These beautiful stretches of golden sand can be found at the Parque Natural de las Dunas de Corralejo. If you want to turn your trip up a notch, consider a Corralejo dune buggy tour. If you’re looking for fun activities in Spain, this won’t disappoint.
This experience will include driving on the roads, stopping at the sand dunes, going off-road and tackling the twists and turns of mountainous terrain and another stop at a rocky beach overlooking the smaller Islet of Lobos. You will even be treated to the sun going down on your return to the starting point.
Tips for visiting: While this national park is one of the most visited in the whole of Fuerteventura it doesn’t cost anything to visit on foot. If you choose a buggy tour, take something to cover your face, sunglasses, and clothes you don’t mind getting dusty!
Just be prepared for one adrenaline-fuelled trip.
Recommended by Kerry from Adrenaline Junkiez
Go Scuba Diving
Location: Gran Canaria, Canary Islands
Highlights: The Canary Islands have long been one of the best vacation spots in Spain. One of the must-do things, while you’re there, is to go Scuba diving in Gran Canaria. The diving there is incredibly diverse in terms of marine life and underwater landscapes.
Formed by volcanic activity, the waters of this island offer everything from imposing arches, swim-throughs, and caverns. And beyond all that, divers can also explore several wrecks in addition to an artificial reef that is frequented by big stingrays that hide in the structures.
Aside from stingrays, the reefs of Gran Canaria are full of large schools of fish from the Mediterranean, the Atlantic, the Caribbean and even some endemic species.
Tips for Visiting: If you only have limited time to dive in Gran Canaria, it is best to stay in the south of the island, as the conditions are much more stable than in the windy north. Some of the best dive sites are Pasito Artificial, the nearby Pasito Blanco and the El Cabrón Marine Reserve.
Although there are plenty of dive sites suitable for qualified divers, if you’re new to the sport, you can book onto a ‘Discover’ scuba dive session.
If you want to see the endangered angel shark while diving, you should plan a visit between late November and January.
Recommended by Steph from A Nomad’s Passport
Food & Drink Experiences In Spain
Eat Your Way Around La Boqueria Food Market
Highlights: La Boqueria food market is a must do in Spain for its amazing food and long history. The first recorded mention of La Boqueria was as temporary stalls set up in the open air in 1217, and even the current 1835 structure was supposed to be temporary. But wandering the aisles of fresh produce, fish, homemade pastries, and other goodies, it will be clear why this food market in Barcelona has stood the test of time.
One of the most popular things to do in Spain is to try the local cuisine. The best way to enjoy the market is by sampling an array of some of the best tapas and prepared foods in the area. La Boqueria’s location on the famous Las Ramblas makes it a convenient stop to fuel up, and Plaҫa de Sant Josep behind the market provides a shady spot to rest while indulging.
Tips for Visiting: La Boqueria is free to visit, though much of the fun is purchasing treats. Arrive earlier in the day to avoid the crowds of late afternoon into the evening. For best deals, visit on Saturday as stalls try to empty before closing until Monday.
The market is open from Monday to Saturday between 8 am and 8.30 pm. The closest Metro stop is Liceu, Green Line, L3. Alternatively, you can walk there to build up an appetite; type in Rambla 91, 08001 into your sat nav.
Recommended by Megan from Wander Toes
Learn To Cook Traditional Spanish Food
Highlights: Spain is a bit of a foodie lover’s nation. One of the best food experiences in Spain is learning how to cook some of their traditional dishes. The main dish that springs to mind is paella, a rice based dish cooked in a giant flat pan. Traditionally it’s made with seafood or chorizo, although you can have a vegetarian version.
Although you can find paella all over Spain, it originates from the region of Valencia, the city has numerous cooking schools that take you through the stages of recreating this delicious Spanish dish at home.
Different classes are available, some are half day, while others are a fully immersive experience and also feature a visit to a local market to pick up locally produced fresh ingredients so you get to see the whole process from start to finish.
Tips for Visiting: Traditionally, a Paella is made with either fish or meat, so if you have dietary requirements make this known at the time of booking so the cooking school can cater for a vegetarian version of the dish. If you have any allergies, make this known in advance also.
Attend an 'espicha' Cider Party in Asturias
Highlights: You might not usually think of cider when you think of Spanish drinks, well you’re wrong. The region of Asturias is famed for the tasty apple based drink, it’s so celebrated here that they even have a name for their cider parties.
An espicha is the name given to this celebration. They take place in a llagar and consist of a lot of eating and drinking cider. The name comes from the opening of the “espichar”, which is a 500-litre barrel of cider.
Typically, the celebrations happen in January or February. The tradition came about as a way of sapling the cider before the bottling process.
Asturias is one of the coolest places in Spain if you’re looking for something a little bit different. Look out for the unique way they pour the cider into a glass – it’s done from height to aerate the drink and add a little bit of natural fizz. The bartenders make this look very easy – it’s a lot harder than it looks, if you try it yourself, expect to get cider everywhere.
Tips for Visiting: Although the main time for seeing the celebratory opening of the barrel happens in January or February, you can experience an espicha throughout the year.
Most of the bodegas in the region will traditionally serve cider (by pouring it from a height). If you do attend a party, the onus is to drink until you can’t manage anymore. If you’ve ever experienced a cider headache, all I can say is just don’t! Pace yourself, it goes down far too easily.
As with any alcohol based activity, it’s best to book a tour and let someone else be responsible to the driving, or walk.
Sample the local Sherry in Jerez
Location: Jerez Region
Highlights: A little known fact that surprises a lot of people, Jerez is the Spanish word for Sherry. If you have a penchant for this sweet tasty fortified wine, then you will want to visit this region and its bodegas and cellars.
Jerez Region makes up a triangle of sherry-making land between three towns in Southern Spain. The largest and most famous of the towns is Jerez de la Frontera; this is the ancestral home of sherry wines!
The town is filled with bars and restaurants serving a multitude of different sherry produced in the area. These range from dry to pale fino, and then to the much darker, sickly sweet variety.
The difference between a bodega tour and a vineyard tour is that most of the magic happens in the casks. It’s essentially the ageing process that turns wine into sherry.
Tips for Visiting: Like with any alcohol-infused activity, it’s best to book a tour. Not only will they take you to the best spots, but the most important thing is that they will do the driving.
If you’re wanting to do an extended visit to the whole of the Sherry triangle, then aside from Jerez de la Fronterra, the other towns to visit are Sanlúcar de Barrameda and El Puerto de Santa Maria.
Take a Vineyard tour in Rioja
Highlights: This is the best place to visit in Spain if you’re a wine drinker, particularly red wine. Be sure to add a trip to the region of Rioja to your itinerary. Rioja has become synonymous with red wine; you’ve probably heard of the wine more than the region.
Here you’ll find hundreds of wineries producing world-class wines, and lots of them are open for tours and of course, sampling! There’s a mix of old and traditional wineries as well as modern ones, most tours combine both types.
Tips for Visiting: Although you can visit the vineyards independently, it’s best to book a tour, like this wine tour with included lunch.
Not only will they ensure that you arrive when they are doing a tour, but the best and most important advantage is also that someone will do the driving for you!
Historical Places in Spain
Explore Three Cultures in Toledo
Highlights: The hill-top city of Toledo proudly flaunts its legacy of religious tolerance and national importance. For 500 years, Muslims, Christians, and Jews thrived within the walls of this fortified metropolis. Marvel at the unique architectural style of Mudéjar which was born out of the conglomeration of the three coexisting cultures.
Visitors are humbled as they stand beside San Román church where one can physically see and touch its layers of history. Roman ruins, beneath Visigothic, beneath Moorish Mosque, and a Christian church showcase the prevailing history of Toledo. Toledo served as Spain’s capital city before it moved to Madrid.
Key points of interest include the most famous, the Catedral Primada, as well as the Caves of Hercules, El Greco Museum, Monastery of San Juan de Los Reyes, Plaza Mayor, Alcazar, and the Jewish Quarter.
Tips for Visiting: Avoid driving into the city centre. It can make the first impression stressful due to bridge traffic and narrow ancient roads. Instead, take a 35-minute train ride in from Madrid. Walk 15 minutes from the station to enter through the Puerta de Bisagra Nueva which has served as the city’s magnificent entrance gate for centuries.
As a souvenir, consider purchasing intricate damascene metal art or investing in new kitchen knives. Toledo is famous for its silversmiths, particularly for their swords.
To save money, it’s worth getting the tourist attraction pass for entry into lots of great museums and monuments.
Don’t leave the city without relishing the Mazapanes, a dessert delicacy that was born in Toledo.
Recommended by Catherine from Postcard Narrative
Discover the ancient Roman city of Tarraco
Highlights: All history fangirls and fanboys should not miss Tarragona, Spain’s Roman city by the sea. This is the location of the former city of Tarraco, and its remains paint a vivid picture of this ancient city’s past glories. This is one of the best parts of Spain to enjoy ancient Roman ruins.
Follow the path of Tarraco’s city walls by walking along its tree-lined Archaeological Promenade that borders Tarragona’s Old Town. Don’t miss the magnificent seafront Roman amphitheatre, which is thought to have seated up to 12,000 spectators.
There are also local forums with intact Corinthian columns, and underground tunnels linking the Praetorium to a first-century Roman circus.
Tips for Visiting: Together, these monuments form the UNESCO-listed Archaeological Ensemble of Tarraco. Although individual tickets are available for each sight, a more convenient and cheaper day pass allows access to the Roman Walls, the Praetorium and Roman Circus, Amphitheatre and Local Forum. If you want to find out more about the history, then book a guided tour of the ruins.
As the opening hours are seasonal, it is best to check the city’s website for current information. Like many attractions across Spain, these sites are closed on Mondays.
Tarragona is an easy day trip from Barcelona. Take the regional train to the centrally-located Estación de Tarragona Adif, with a journey time of one hour. If you have longer then consider staying here, this city also makes a laid-back city break.
Recommended by Bridget at The Flashpacker
Walking the Walls of Avila
Highlights: The medieval city walls of Avila are the most complete fortifications in Spain. They were built during the 11th century to protect the residents from the Moor attacks. Today the well-preserved walls are one of the main visitor attractions of Avila and are one of the must-visit places in Spain.
These imposing walls are designed as irregular rectangles and are around 2200 metres in length. It received UNESCO World Heritage status in 1985.
Part of the wall is accessible to visitors. You can walk around the semi-circular towers, turrets and gates of the walls. You will get a breath-taking panoramic view of the Avila Cathedral, the Plaza del Mercado Grande and the surrounding Spanish countryside. This is one of the most beautiful places of Spain.
Tips for Visiting: To get there, you can visit Avila on a day trip from the capital city of Madrid. Or drive yourself, it takes about an hour to drive to Avila from Madrid. You can also catch a train to get here.
The walls are open to the public all year round. Opening hours vary depending on the summer and winter months.
You have to pay a small fee to enter the walls and you can download the audio tour on your phone. There are two different parts of the walls, and those need to be accessed separately.
For the most stunning view of the city and the walls, visit the Los Cuatro Postes viewpoint.
Recommended by Moumita & Sankha from Chasing the Long Road
Stroll through Barcelona’s Gothic Quarter
Highlights: The so-called Gothic quarter is the real ancient heart of Barcelona. The amazing metropolis you see today started as a Roman settlement right here in today’s Gothic Quarter.
During the Middle Age, the development picked up speed substantially. Until this day, you can see beautifully preserved buildings and structures.
However, not all that meets the eye is as old. In 1920’s the city made major changes and rebuilding to the area in preparation of hosting the World Expo. A visit to the Gothic Quarter can be something like a scavenger hunt in spotting the “fake old” features.
Tips for Visiting: Don’t miss the charming bridge connecting two buildings – El Pont del Bisbe. It’s an example of a structure built only in the early 20th century.
On the other hand, Roman columns of the Temple of Augustus enclosed in a residential building, are as old as can be – about 2,000 years!
The facade of the Barcelona Cathedral took on a neo-Gothic look in the 20s and Gaudí, the genius architect, hated it. If you can, visit the Gothic quarter with a knowledgeable local guide, who’ll help point out the specific examples of structures only pretending to be ancient.
Recommended by Veronika from Travel Geekery
Related Article: Two weeks Spain & Portugal Itinerary
Step back in time at El Rocio
Location: El Rocío, Andalucia
Highlights: Located next to the Doñana National Park, in the Huelva Province of Andalucia, is the peculiar town of El Rocío. This is Spain’s answer to the ‘Wild West’, the town does resemble something out of a movie set, where horses are more at home than cars on the sandy streets of the town centre. It is one of the most unique places in Spain and certainly worth visiting when touring inland Andalucia.
The town centres around the Hermitage Church of El Rocío, which is home to the Virgin of El Rocío; a much revered carved wooden statue of the Virgin Mary from the 14th century.
For nature lovers, the surrounding National Park is famed for its population of wild deer, along with an assortment of migrating wetland birds that visit each spring, including a population of iconic flamingos.
Tips for Visiting: To see El Rocío come alive, consider visiting around Pentecost when close to a million pilgrims descend on the town each year for a glimpse of the Virgin of El Rocío statue. Many pilgrims arrive in traditional clothing in decorative horse carriages. Pentecost Monday is the day of the main festivities; it varies each year. In 2022 falls on the 6th of June.
With the horse being so important in this region, the best way to experience nearby Doñana National Park is of course on horseback. Various operators in town offer guided horseback tours, as well as carriage rides for those not wanting to get into the saddle.
Recommended by Children of Wanderlust
The Alcazaba of Almeria
Highlights: The Alcazaba of Almeria is the largest Andalusian fortress on the Iberian Peninsula. It looks over the complete city and serves as the largest symbol of Spain’s Moorish history. It was once a lighthouse used to ward off vessels sailing from the Alboran Sea to Spain. Now the fortress is the point of reference that shows the way people roam within the city.
The Alcazaba is the heritage heart and is named after Abd al Rahman III who had a big contribution to the design of the fortress. Almeria served as the most important port city of Spain opening up paths for trade with all regions of the Mediterranean. The Alcazaba of Almeria was even declared an Artistic Heritage Monument in 1931.
While entering the Alcazaba of Almeria, visitors will be able to explore the fascinating history of Spain. The fort has been standing strong for years and although the glory of the fort has faded, its significance of being a major monument hasn’t been affected. The beauty of Alcazaba de Almeria is exuded by its horse shaped entrance and crenellated walls.
Tips for Visiting: Be sure to allow at least two hours to explore all 43,500 square metres of the Alcazaba since it is one of the best things to do in Almeria.
You can reach the entrance to the site by taking bus no. 2 or 3 from the town centre. This will drop you close to the fortress. The fortress is open daily, between 9 am to 6 pm. Another great thing about visiting is that admission to the fortress is free!
Recommend by Paulina from Visit Southern Spain
Visit the Old Town of Peniscola
Highlights: One of the most beautiful and unique things to do in Spain is a visit to the old town of Peniscola. It’s located in the Province Castellon on the Mediterranean Coast and is a place certainly not everyone knows about, making it one of Spain’s top hidden gems. Due to its fabulous location, this fortified city is often called “The City in the Sea” and the snow white old-town houses add an extra portion of charm.
The most important attraction and the most notable landmark of the coastal town is the Peniscola Castle. It rises 64 meters above the azure blue sea. When you visit you will be amazed by the ancient walls which date back to 1307, these offer stunning views from above the town.
The town also features wonderfully quaint, cobbled stone streets dotted with many cute shops that meander through the town. If you’re after something more relaxing, then you’ll also find many fantastic beaches just next to the old town, which are perfect for swimming and sunbathing!
Tips for Visiting: Peniscola can be easily reached by car or by train, with connections from Valencia or Barcelona. Although you could do this as a day trip if you have time we’d recommend staying a few nights.
One of the top places to stay is the charming adult only Hotel Boutique La Mar. This wonderful little place is located in the middle of the picturesque white old town.
The best time to travel to Peniscola is in spring, between March to April. At this time of the year, you will enjoy plenty of sun and there are only a few tourists. If you visit in the peak of summer, you’ll be sharing the space with Spanish tourists, as they flock from the nearby balmy cities to spend their holidays at the cooler climes of the coast.
Recommended by Juma from Places of Juma
Admire the prettiest village in Spain
Highlights: Albarracín is a small town in the Aragon region of northeastern Spain. Nestled within the Sierra de Albarracín mountain range on a meander of the Guadalaviar River, the historic town is often voted one of the most beautiful destinations in all of Spain.
Albarracín dates back to the 9th century when it was founded as the capital of a Moorish kingdom before being conquered by the King of Aragon and falling under Roman Catholic rule. Today, the well-preserved ruins and unique architecture from the town’s fascinating past attract visitors from all across Spain and further afield.
There is an abundance of things to do in Albarracin. You can explore the old Muslim quarter, with the ruins of a thousand-year-old alcázar (Moorish castle) and Medieval fortress walls that tower above the town. Then move on to the stunning Románico-Mudéjar style cathedral, whose colourful dome peaks above the sea of orange sandstone roofs, and the grand 18th-century Episcopal Palace.
Plus, don’t miss the lush natural landscapes and world-class walking and bouldering routes surrounding the small town.
Tips for visiting: Albarracín is a popular destination with Spanish tourists, but it’s still a bit of a hidden gem amongst international visitors, and one of the must-visit places in Spain if you’re looking for something off the tourist trail.
Because Albarracin is mostly visited by Spaniards, it does mean that most information signs, museum displays, and guided tours are only in Spanish. However, the captivating town is still worth visiting even if you don’t speak Spanish; just make sure you have a translation app ready and do some research in advance.
The Cathedral and Castle can only be visited on guided tours by Spanish speaking guides. You can book the tours at the Fundación Santa María de Albarracín Office. Make sure to check the tour times and book in advance. Once inside, you can simply wander off to explore on your own.
Recommended by Emily from London City Calling
Visit the White Village of Casares
Location: Casares, Malaga Province
Highlights: One of the things you must do in Spain, especially if you’re in the south of the country is to visit the white villages.
And if there is one pueblo blanco (white village) to put on your itinerary for Spain, make it Casares! The beautiful village is located on a hilltop not too far inland from the Costa del Sol. It’s small enough to wander on foot, but it has a rich history and boasts spectacular views from its hilltop castle.
Walk up to the top of the hill to take in the picturesque ruins of the old Moorish castle, and enjoy panoramic views that can stretch to Gibraltar and the African coast on a clear day. Look for raptors circling in the sky!
Visit vista points near the village to snap photos of the gleaming white sugar-cube like houses clustered about the clifftop for that picture-perfect shot. Stroll the streets of the village to savour the charming ambience, and enjoy a drink in the small main square.
Tips for Visiting: The easiest and most convenient way to get to Casares is to rent a car and drive. There is a local bus from Estepona that you can take, but the times are such that you only get about three hours in the village.
If it’s the only way you can arrive, you should still go! The village is small and you can enjoy it in three hours, but if you drive yourself, you can enjoy it at a much slower pace.
Recommended by Dhara from It’s Not About the Miles
Marvel at The Segovia Aqueduct
Highlights: Segovia is one of the most beautiful places in Spain to visit. Its most recognisable landmark is the Aqueduct of Segovia. The whole historical centre has UNESCO heritage status!
There are many stories surrounding how the Aqueduct was built, some say the Devil, others say Hercules. In reality, it was built by the Romans in 1AD, and it still stands today! The purpose of it was to transport water from the Rio Frio, 15km away.
What makes this structure so mighty are some of the statistics about it. It features no less than 170 arches and 220 pillars made from 25,000 granite blocks. If that’s not impressive enough, it’s all held together by gravity! There is no mortar used at all.
Tips for Visiting: Because of its size, it can be difficult to photograph. To get the best photos of it, then head up the Postigo steps. Here you’ll find a lookout point. You’ll find these steps to the side of the Information Centre (Centro Recepción de Visitantes) on Plaza del Azoguejo.
The best time to see it is either in the early morning, or late afternoon as the Aqueduct casts beautiful shadows over the Plaza del Azoguejo. To find out more interesting facts like the ones mentiones above, join a small group tour.
Related Article: The Best Things to See in Segovia
Get Lost in The Streets of Girona Medieval City
Highlights: Located near the Costa Brava, is the city of Girona. Spend a day exploring the old Medieval quarter. The city spans across the river Onya, and this is where you can photograph one of the city’s most iconic images the colourful old buildings, tightly packed against the water’s edge.
Allow plenty of time to explore Girona and get lost in the myriad of ancient streets. Some of the top places to wander are the Call, which is the old Jewish quarter and the city walls that date back to the 10th century. If you opt to walk along the walls, you’ll also get a great vantage point to photograph the city from above.
It’s also worth visiting the stunning Basilica of Sant Feliu with its unusual shaped spire. There’s an abundance of things to see in Girona, regardless of visiting on a day trip, or an extended break.
Tips for Visiting: Girona is an incredibly foot-friendly city, so to explore the centre you won’t need to use a car or public transport. The best way to explore the narrow streets is with a small group walking tour or if you’re happy to wander, have fun getting lost in the streets yourself.
If you don’t want to stay in Girona, it’s a really easy day trip from Barcelona. It only takes an hour by car and even quicker by train. The high-speed train gets there in just over half an hour!
Must-Experience Festivals in Spain
Experience Las Fallas Festival in Valencia
Highlights: Fallas festival of fire is one of the most unique experiences in Spain. A Falla is a statue made of wood, cardboard, cork and other flammable building materials. They are giant works of art that are often satirical or critical of the governments of Valencia, Spain and the world.
The Fallas are on display in the middle of the streets, starting at dawn on March 15. They are located all over the city, so allow plenty of time to wander the streets to look at the Fallas.
While you’re there, try a traditional paella made in a giant pan in the street, or take in the dazzling nightly fireworks display at midnight.
On March 19 the festival ends as the Fallas are burned to ashes in the Valencian streets; the incredible pieces of art are gone in a matter of minutes. There is nothing like it. This is then finished off with a very loud firework display.
Tips for Visiting: The festival takes place in the streets of Valencia so you can experience most things for free. There is a Falla guide printed each year, you can pick one up at the local tourist information shop, or public places like the train station. It’s certainly worth it as the guide is the only way you can get all of the information about each Falla and the Falleras that represent the neighbourhood.
If you like being in the middle of the action stay near the Plaza del Ayuntamiento. The mascletà are every day at 2:00 p.m. It’s hard to describe these “sound fireworks” but they should be on your list. The Nit de Foc is on March 18 starts at 1:30 a.m. it’s worth staying up for this incredible display of more traditional fireworks.
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Witness Semana Santa Week in Seville
Highlights: Semana Santa is one of the holiest and most iconic celebrations in Seville. It happens in the week that follows Palm Sunday and is celebrated with huge dedication. Also known as the holy week, Semana Samanta is a wonderful time to be in Seville. It is celebrated in the festive month of April; the Feria de Abril happens two weeks after Semana Santa.
The holy week draws tourists from both, all over Spain and internationally. The religious festival brings out huge statues, locally known as Pasos, that depict different images from the Passion of Jesus Christ. These statues come out on the streets and the processions last for almost 12 hours. The week is so significant that various offices are closed, schools declare holidays and the whole city joins the spectacle.
Enjoyed since the 12th century, Semana Santa is celebrated all over Spain. The streets of Spain are covered by the processions of tribute to Jesus Christ. However, Seville hosts the biggest and most important of the festivals. The people walking the ceremony perform an act of penance, feeling guilty for their sins. The accompanying music can be either jovial or sombre, depending on the scene being depicted.
Tips for Visiting: Semana Santa runs all week long from Palm Sunday until Easter Sunday. The processions are free to watch.
If you’re planning a visit to Seville that coincides with Semana Santa, expect to pay well over the odds for even the most basic of rooms. Hundreds of thousands of people flock to the city during this time, and accommodation comes at a premium for the whole of April because of the month of celebrations.
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Join In The World’s Biggest Food Fight at La Tomatina
Highlights: Interested in joining in with a huge food fight? One of the most crazy things to do in Spain is to experience the La Tomatina festival in the town of Buñol.
It’s held on the last Wednesday of August where thousands of people come to take part in the world’s biggest food fight. It features over 100 tons of over ripe tomatoes that get thrown in the streets.
The small town of Buñol is normally home to just 9000 inhabitants, however, during the La Tomatina festival, this swells to at last double that. It gets crowded!
The day starts at around 11 am, with trucks carrying the tomatoes arriving at the centre of the town, Plaza del Pueblo. The official start of the festival is when someone reaches the top of a two-story high pole. To climb the greased-up wooden pole is harder than it looks! Water cannons are then fired and the chaos begins. The throwing of the tomatoes lasts for about an hour and then begins the cleaning process
Tips for Visiting: If you’re intending of visiting, then you’ll need to be one of the 20,000 lucky ones. Demand for the tickets well exceeds this!
Because the town of Buñol is so small, it’s easier to book accommodation in Valencia which is just 38km away. Also, wear something that you don’t mind getting trashed, you will be covered in tomatoes!
Fiesta de los Patios in Cordoba
Highlights: If you’re visiting the south during May, one of the top things to visit in Spain is the Fiesta de Los Patios in Cordoba. It translates to the festival of the courtyard, and for two weeks over 50 patios – some private, some commercial, are adorned with colourful and fragrant flowers.
The open courtyard of the houses in Cordoba came about because of the climate. This design was established during Roman times when inhabitants wanted a way of escaping the intense heat of the summer sun. You’ll also see a lot of patios with wells, this was to enable the residents to collect rainwater.
It’s quite a spectacle, you’d be hard pushed to see so many flowers in one place. It’s absolutely beautiful! A competition runs to award the best patio.
Tips for Visiting: You can download a map from the official website. The dates change slightly each year, but typically it’s in the first two weeks of May. Wear a good pair of walking shoes, as the patios are spread out all over the city.
The patios are free to enter, although all of them will have a donation pot, so have some loose change handy. They are open daily and have limited opening hours, from 11 pm-2 pm and then 6 pm-10 pm. The festival draws thousands of visitors, so expect to queue to get into them.
See Colles Castelleres the Human Tower, Tarragona
Highlights: A must see in Spain is the unusual festival of Colles Castelleres. This is a competition based festival that originates in Tarragona. The aim is to build a castell or human castle. The festival has even gained UNESCO status based on its cultural heritage.
The castells competition is held during October on alternate years. It happens every year ending in an even number. Towers are ‘built’ by groups from the bottom up. The pinya forms the base and takes the weight of the tower. Other team members climb up and form subsequent layers. They can end up as tall as ten stories high! On occasions, the audience is invited to join!
To accompany the tower building, traditional music is played featuring drums and a gralles (a Catalonian reed instrument). The whole experience is nerve-racking to watch.
Tips for Visiting: The festival attracts hundreds of people to the city, so expect it to be very busy with hiked prices for accommodation. It’s free to watch the towers in the street, although the grand finale of the competition happens in the stadium.
Party Until Dawn At Feria de Abril
Highlights: One thing the Spaniards do exceptionally well, is to throw fantastic parties and festivals. If you’re looking to join in with one of the most fun things in Spain, then the Feria de Abril certainly needs to be on your radar.
The weeklong festival happens in April, two weeks after Easter (if Easter is late, then the festival gets bumped to early May). It starts on Saturday with the lighting of the Feria gate at midnight. This is the main entrance to the festival and is a gigantic wooden prop covered in hundreds of lights.
People dress in traditional clothing, with women wearing flamenco dresses and flowers in their hair, and men wearing suits. You’ll also see plenty of people arriving in horse drawn carriages.
Parties go on for the whole week and end at 6 am most days. If you’re lucky enough to get access to a private caseta (the tents) then these are the best places to head to see live music and dancing. There are public casetas if you can’t get into a private one.
Tips for Visiting: Although you don’t have to wear a traditional dress, wear something smart – think along the lines of wedding attire. If you don’t want to buy a flamenco dress, they are quite expensive! then you can hire one for the week.
Be prepared to get social. The Spanish love to party, so most likely you’ll be invited to dance one of their traditional Sevilianos dances. It’s a little bit like a flamenco. Even if you have two left feet, get involved and join in the fun.
Also, pace yourself. The parties go on until 6 am all week.
So, what’s on your Spain Bucket List?
If you’ve made it to the end of this ultimate Spain bucket list, well done! So now the question begs, where to visit in Spain? there’s so much choice!
How many of these outstanding things have you done? And how many are you adding to your Spain travel itinerary?
If you’re planning a trip to Spain, then take a look at these other useful articles.
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