Travel Guide: Spain

If you are planning a  trip to Spain, read our recommended best places to visit in Spain, book your flight and get ready for an exciting exploration of Spain’s  most popular attractions. Spain’s leading cities are intriguing, historic and exciting, while the countryside and seashore are scenic wonderlands.  Spain has something for everyone, so let’s see what it can offer you.

Be sure to take a look at our road map of Spain, based on Google Maps, that shows the locations of our recommendations for the Best Places to Visit in Spain. You can  route between locations using the map and use the satellite tab to see locations across the country in amazing detail.

Barcelona

Catalonia, the northeastern-most of Spain’s seventeen autonomous communities, has a different feel than the rest of the country and the province of Barcelona is unique in Catalonia.  Perhaps it is the uplifting contribution of Gaudi’s architecture or the sensibilities of the Catalonian people; whatever it is, Barcelona is one of the best places to visit in Spain.

  • Start your visit with a walk down La Rambla, then, see the Gaudi’s famous, in construction basilica Sagrada Familia.  Take in as much of the city and as many of  Gaudi’s creations as possible.
  • Also visit  the Barcelona Cathedral (Cathedral of the Holy Cross and Saint Eulalia) and the surrounding Gothic Quarter (Barri Gothic), where you will be surrounded by medieval buildings and centuries of history.
  • Don’t miss the Picasso Museum or the Palau de la Musica Catalyunya.  In addition there are a number of outstanding museums and monuments in Bacelona that deserve your attention.
  • For details and photos of these and other attractions in Barcelona, see our guide to the Best Places to Visit in Barcelona.
Barcelona, Spain
Barcelona, Spain

Madrid

Madrid is a remarkable  capital city with numerous interesting attractions and an important history.  The “must sees” of the city include “Old Madrid”, the Museo del Prado,  the Palacio Real (Royal Palace), its gardens, Retiro Park and the city’s many fine and famous plazas.  A fine day trip from the city to El Escorial, the impressive palace of King Phillip II

  • Madrid is known for its “Golden Triangle” an area of art museums that includes the world famous Prado,  the Thyssen-Bornemisza and the Museum Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia.  Each museum is spectacular and having all three in one small area is Spain’s gift to the world of art lovers.
  • Make no mistake, the museums, architecture, dining, and entertainment in Madrid are spectacular.
  •  Our guide to the  Best Places to Visit in Madrid provides all the details for your exploration of these and other attractions in Spain’s capital city.
Royal Palace
Royal Palace

Andalusia

Andalusia is a scenic and attractive area of Spain and much of Andalusia (Andalucia in Spanish) is synonymous with “Moorish pain”.  In addition, the culture of this area has been influenced by ancient Greece, the Roman Empire and the numerous invaders that conquered Iberia in the ancient past.  The mix of cultures and nationalities produced an interesting history, which makes a visit to  charming Andalusia an intriguing exploration.

Travel Guide: Andalusia, Spain
Andalusia, Spain

We recommend the following towns to those planning to visit Andalusia:

Seville

One of the grand cities of Spain, Seville attracts many tourists due to its splendid architecture and interesting attractions.

  • Seville’s Cathedral is  popular  due to its architecture, the tomb of Christopher Columbus and the attractiveness of its noted bell tower (the Giralda).
  • Cross the square and visit the Alcazar, a stunning, well preserved, medieval, Islamic palace. Follow-up with a visit to the grand Plaza de Espaņa.
  • For more information see the official website, Turismo Sevilla.
Flamenco Dancer in Seville Spain
Flamenco Dancer in Seville Spain

Cordoba

Cordoba was the capital of the Islamic Umayyad Caliphate that controlled Andalusia and a large portion of what is now Spain between the 8th and 11th centuries. Cordoba is considered by many travelers to be one of the most beautiful destinations in southern Spain.

  • The historic center of Cordoba is a UNESCO World Heritage site that is best known for its Moorish extravaganza, the Mezquita (Mosque, which is a visual treasure. During the Reconquest of Spain by the Catholics in the 13th century (Reconquista), a baroque cathedral known as Santa Maria Mayor was built within the Mezquita.
  • In addition, be sure to see the Alcazar de los Reyes Christianos and the Tower Fortress Calahora.
  • For more information on visiting Cordoba, visit the official turismo website.
Cordoba, Spain
Cordoba, Spain

Granada

If you have to choose one town to visit in Andalusia, make it Granada.

  • The Moorish Alhambra is beautiful, taking advantage of its  glorious setting in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains.  The Alhambra’s architecture is intricate, purposeful, and important.  Budget your time to spend the better part of a day, just in the Alhambra.
  • Of course, the rest of the Granada provides many attractive areas to explore, including the Albaicín and the Old City.
  • For more information in visiting, see the  official Turismo de Granada website.

Costa del Sol

Costa del Sol is an intriguing section of the Spanish coast that attracts those who want a seaside vacation. The coast here is beautiful and temperatures are usually moderate, although summers can be warm.

Many travelers have unfairly observed that Costa del Sol is close to becoming a continuous string of high rise apartments that blight the landscape.  While the observation may be true in very limited locations, the majority of vacationers who visit come to the Costa del Sol to sunbathe or escape the winter seasons in the rest of Europe and rarely need to be concerned about the whether there will be apartments to rent.

  • Concrete aside, there is a lot to like about the area, as the scenery is great and some of towns are quite striking. Malaga. for example, is a fun town to explore and its striking Alcazaba, a palace from Moorish times, is quite interesting..
  • See the official website  of the osta Del Sol  for more information on visiting and accommodations.

Costa del Sol

Toledo

  • Toledo, a noted UNESCO World Heritage Site and once the capital of Spain, is dramatically situated on a hill above the River Tagus, which is traveling to the Atlantic Ocean via Lisbon.
    • Visit the Cathedral (Catedral de Toledo), which has an interesting and long running history, the Alcazar, the Mezquita del Cristo (mosque), and the Casa-Museo de El Greco (containing twenty of the Artist’s best-known paintings).
    • Toledo was occupied by the Romans, Visigoths, Moors and Christians.  Its architecture and essence reflect the mixing of Islam, Judaism and Christianity.
    • Visit the official tourism website of Toledo, Spain for more information on visiting.

Castilla y Léon

Salamanca
Salamanca

Salamanca

  • Its old town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site  and Salamanca is a historic university town known for its outstanding and well-preserved architecture.
  • Most visitors spend considerable time in the Plaza Mayor, the social center of the city, known for its fine shops and good food.
  • Many travelers visit both the New (Catedral Nueva) and Old (Catedral Vieja) Cathedrals, which are joined and offer interesting contrasts in architecture.
  • Salamanca University is one of the oldest centers for learning in Europe and the oldest university in Spain.
  • See the official tourism website  for Salamanca for more details on visiting this attractive city,
Avila, Spain
Avila, Spain

Avila

  • Avila is a UNESCO World Heritage site known for its famous medieval walls (considered among the best preserved in Europe) and an interesting old town. Avila offers good food, great shopping and fine walking.
  • The Catedral de Avila and its museum (known for its religious art) should be on your itinerary.
  • In addition, Avila was the birthplace of St. Theresa of Avila and several relics can be viewed at theConvento de San Jose.
  • See the official tourism website of Avila  for more details on visiting.

Segovia

Segovia, Spain
Segovia, Spain
  • Yet another of Spain’s cities awarded UNESCO World Heritage status, Segovia’s well-preserved, tiered  Roman Aqueduct is a world famous attraction.
  • The Alcazar of Segovia is a stunning, almost picture perfect fortress that dates from the 13th century, although its design was tinkered with until the 16th century.
  • Be sure to see the La Dama de las Catedrales (the Lady of Cathedrals), which is known for its gothic design and interesting decoration.
  • See Segovia Tourismo, an official website, for more information on visiting.

Valencia

  • Valencia is the gateway to the Costa Blanca, another of Spain’s noted coastal resort areas. Valencia has some excellent beaches and its Cathedral is worth a visit.
  • The city’s most popular attraction, however, is the La Lonja de la Seda, the Silk Exchange, that dates from 15th century.  The Silk Exchange, is a series of impressive Gothic-style buildings that  once marked the center of commerce in Valencia. Valencia was  Spain’s major Mediterranean port during the 15th and 16th centuries
  • For more information on visiting, see the official website of Valenica Tourism.
Bilbao, Spain
Bilbao, Spain

Bilbao

  • Bilbao makes our list of best places to visit in Spain based, mainly, on the Guggenheim Museum designed by Frank Gehry.  Bilbao’s Old Town is interesting and should be toured if the Guggenheim’s pull is enough to lure you to the city. For information about the Guggenheim, click this link .
  • See the official tourism website for Bilbao for details in this interesting city.

Balearic Isles

  • Mallorca, Spain
    Mallorca, Spain

    Reachable by ferry from Barcelona or other locations, Mallorca (Majorca) is an exotic destination. Palma, the main city, has two fine cathedrals, interesting shopping, and is a great place to wander. For a great view of Palma, visit the hilltop castle (Castell del Bellver), which now serves as a historical/archaeological museum

  • Many “party animals” prefer the island of Ibiza, an island known for its active club scene, great weather and beautiful beaches.
  • The official tourism website of Ibiza  has plenty of information about what to see and do when in visiting.
  • Still others prefer to visit the island of Menorca, especially for Maó (Mahon), known as the setting for the initial novel in the Hornblower Saga, as well as the invention of Mayonnaise.
  • The island has numerous mysterious, historic mounds and dolmens, and is a delightful, peaceful place to spend some time. The landscape is hilly and forested.  Small villages dot the island, as do developments for vacation homes.
  • See the official tourism website of the Balearic Islands  for more information on visiting.

Additional Resources

The official tourism website for Spain is Spain.Info  where you can find additional details for visiting the towns covered above, as well as information for other cities and attractions in Spain.

For country facts on Spain, as well as information of value to travelers (visas, traffic safety and road conditions, medical facilities and health information), see the U.S. State Department’s page on Spain.