Destination Deep-Dive 13 MINS READ

The Best 13 Cities to Visit in Spain

The Best 13 Cities to Visit in Spain

Destination Deep-Dive 13 MINS READ
spanish cities cadiz

Wondering what the best cities to visit in Spain for 2021 are? With the new year quickly approaching, there is one thing we have on our wish list that lives there all year round: A trip to Spain. With incredible summer deals, fall escapes, winter getaways, and spring festivals to explore, Spain is a country you can visit any time of the year. Whether you’re in the market for an amazing dining experience full of tapas or want to explore cultural activities like flamenco dancing, you can never go wrong with visiting Spain. Looking for the best place to start planning your vacation to the Iberian Peninsula?

Start with this list of the most beautiful Spanish Cities to visit in 2021. This guide takes you on the getaway of your dreams from north to south. From hidden gems like Bilbao and Cadiz to world-famous cities like Barcelona and Madrid, we’ve got you covered on the best places to visit, and some of the best-known things to do there. Whatever type of vacation you’re looking for, from romantic city escapes, amazing outdoor excursions, or relaxing beachside vacations, Spain will have something for you.

Note: Make sure to double-check COVID 19 precautions, protocols, and operating hours before you visit any of these sites.

Why Visit Spain

View of Madri's buildings.

Spain is a soulful and diverse country. And is exactly the reason why it’s a top destination for many travelers in Europe. Most cities in Spain, such as Barcelona, Madri, and Seville, have pleasant sunny weather all year round, aside from housing a showcase of cultural attractions, amazing tapas restaurants, and Instagrammable spots.

Many don’t know about this, but Spain is one of the countries with the most Unesco World Heritage Sites in the world – a total of 48 sites. The beautiful Old City of Salamanca, for instance, was granted UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Another advantage is that Spain is home to destinations that appeal to all types of travellers. Culture and architecture enthusiasts can go to Barcelona or Bilbao, for instance. If you love the beach, try planning a trip to places like the Balearic Islands, which is filled with beautiful beaches. In case you want to visit a cosmopolitan dynamic place, head over to Madrid, which is Spain’s largest city and one of the liveliest cities in the country. Fancy the cold weather? Make your move to the Sierra Nevada or to the beautiful Basque Country, which are the best places to visit for some crisp windy climate.

Of one thing we’re sure: Spain has some of the best cities in the world, and there’s plenty to see in do in the country. You just have to do some research and find outr what are the best cities in Spain for you.

The Best Cities to Visit in Spain

Bilbao

bilbao spanish cities

The beautiful city of Bilbao is not one to miss next time when you visit Spain! Located in the North of Spain in the Basque Country, Bilbao offers a unique insight into Spain’s more modern sides. Bilbao offers a rich, historical, medieval atmosphere combined with modern skyscrapers and a reflection of the country’s industrial history. One of the greatest cities in Spain for architecture and art enthusiasts, Bilbao houses one of Europe’s most famous art institutions, The Guggenheim Museum. Make sure you take a stroll along the Nervion River after a delicious breakfast of churros and cafe. Definitely one of the hidden gems, we consider Bilbao one of the top places to visit in Spain in 2021.

And in case you’re looking even a less touristic city to visit in Spain, you can stretch your trip to Bilbao and go to other cities in the Basque Country. This beautiful mountainous is an autonomous community located in northern Spain, along the Atlantic coast. An amazing city to visit in the region is Getaria, a green paradise, filled with verdant slopes and hills covered in verdant forests. From the region, you can even take the Northern Camino de Santiago.

San Sebastián

spanish city san sebastian

If you enjoy lying on sandy beaches with beautiful views, then San Sebastián is the perfect Spanish city holiday. The beautiful city is tucked right into the Bay of Biscay and it is very well known for its lavish resort hotels and vacation offerings. The northern coast of the city is green all year long with a rainy winter season and a warm, sunny summer. Visitors will love indulging in the upscale shopping, gourmet restaurants offering “pinchos”, and exploring up to Monte Igueldo to get the panoramic views of the whole city and La Concha Beach. If a more laid back vacation is what you are searching for, yet something that offers all of the whimsy of the city meets beach life, San Sebastián is definitely one of the great places for you to visit in Spain.

Barcelona

Hands-down the number one of the best places to visit when traveling in Spain is Barcelona. The Catalonian city is famous for its nightlife, sandy beaches, city, and incredible views. You can’t go wrong packing a picnic and hiking up to The Carmel Bunkers to enjoy manchego cheese and vino with an unforgettable view of the coast of Spain. But before you go exploring, you will want to plan a bit as there is so much to do, see, and eat in this cultural hub. A great thing about Barcelona? How well-connected and easy to get around it is.

Visitors will adore strolling through the Gothic Quarter over the cobbled streets. Elaborate plazas filled with restaurants offer everything from tortilla española (omelets) to paella (Spanish rice with seafood) to tinto de verano (wine with lemon soda). Discover the great live music scene and contemporary street art. You can even plan ahead by taking a virtual tour of several cities in Spain before your visit. 

Before travelling to Barcelona, Spain, make a list of the best places to visit in the city. Make sure to include to the list visits to places like the La Sagrada Familia, Parc Güell, the Gothic Cathedral of Barcelona, and Playa de La Barceloneta beach. Barcelona is definitely one of the places to visit in all of Spain in 2021, and we highly recommend it to anyone planning a trip to the country.

Valencia

The historic city center of Valencia, Spain.

Spain third-largest city and most famous destination for eating paella, the iconic seafood dish, is the coastal city of Valencia. Located south of Barcelona on the Mediterranean Sea, this beach town is a summer hot spot to visit in Spain. After spending a day at the beach and eating freshly-made paella, you can try Valencia’s horchata almond drink. However, one of Valencia’s biggest events happens every March leading up to Easter Weekend. It is called Las Fallas. Parades of large hand-built structures and people dressed up in costumes fill the streets, culminating in the burning of many of these magnificent creations. This event commemorates Saint Joseph. When looking for cultural events to attend during your trip, be sure to plan to see this one. You also cannot miss visiting the City of Arts and Sciences, strolling through the Turia Gardens, and checking out the Cathedral. For a cultural experience, the city is definitely among the best places to visit in Spain.

Salamanca

The city of Salamanca, Spain.

Salamanca is one of Spain’s best cities, especially for student travelers. Popular for how close it is to Madrid and for its gorgeous Spanish outdoors, Salamanca wows everyone who visits. Especially those who are fans of cheap beer and fun nightlife. It also happens to be one of Spain’s safest cities which is another reason it boasts visits by the youth. From visiting Casa Lis, Salamanca’s Art Nouveau and Art Deco Museum, or house of Shells, tourists love the art experiences offered in this city. After all, Salamanca was the center of great minds in historic Spain. This city is definitely on the list of the best places to visit in Spain, especially for younger travelers.

Madrid

Puerta del Sol square filled with people.

The capital city of Spain is Madrid. Although there is a big debate about whether to visit Barcelona or Madrid, both are quite different, so it is very hard to choose. That’s why the only choice is to visit both and the other Spanish cities on this list! Madrid will give you a more contemporary vibe and will be easier on the budget for a longer trip.

Aside from being the capital city, Madrid is the largest city in Spain and it will allow you to explore Spanish history and life in the city. It is also the best city for connecting you to the rest of Spain as it is in the middle of the country. There is a magnificent selection of affordable hotels and rentals in Madrid that will make you never want to leave. From visiting the lively Puerta del Sol, uncovering the history of Plaza Mayor, and taking long walks through Retiro Park, to going to the Royal Palace, Madrid has so much lust and charm you will fall madly in love with. We know we do! 

Toledo

spanish cities toledo

Madrid’s neighbor, Toledo is one of the best cities in Spain, a truly off the beaten path city that you must visit during your trip. Located just a short ride by bus or train south from the capital, Toledo offers nature and town life for those looking for an escape. Set in central Spain on a hill above the plains of Castilla-la Mancha, it is well known for the old city architecture and mannerism.

A UNESCO World Heritage site since 1986, Toledo is known as the “City of the Three Cultures”, because it showcases a mixture of the three main cultures that have passed through Spain: Jewish, Muslim and Catholic. So in case you’re seeking some well-deserved culture-fix, you can take an architecture tour of the city. Visit the 13th-century Primate Cathedral of Saint Mary of Toledo, also known as Toledo Cathedral, go to the Mosque of Christ of the Light, built in the 10th-century and visit the surroundings of the Alcázar.

Also, don’t forget to enjoy a glass of wine and wander through the winding streets on the hilltop. You’ll love looking at everything from the Moorish Bisagra Gate to Mudejar Sol Gate. The city has so much to offer especially no crowds. If you are looking to experience classic Spain for a better price and in a quieter setting, then Toledo is for you. We know we can’t wait to visit again soon.

Granada

From Moorish architecture and serene patios to tapas and drinks that will fill you up with joy, Granada is a must-visit in Spain. Some of our favorite things to do when visiting this historic mountain town include: Hiking up to St. Nicholas Church to enjoy a glass of wine or chilled beer while watching the sunset over the spectacular Alhambra.

While walking around through Granada, make sure to pay enough atention to your surroundings, because the city carries a lot of history. That way, you’ll easily spot buildings dating back to the Moors and Romans. For some history class, take a free walking tour on Albaicin, which is the historical Moorish quarter of the city and the oldest neighborhood of Granada. Home to narrow Moorish streets and medieval constructions, this area was declared a World Heritage Site in 1984, along with the Alhambra.

And in the wintertime, people come from far and wide to enjoy the mountain fun to be had in the nearby Sierra Nevada Mountains. In the spring, visitors will see the trees and bushes bloom with vibrant color that goes hand in hand with the magical feel this city gives off. Pro tip: when you order a drink at any restaurant in Granada, they also come with a small tapa so be sure to find the best bars in town. 

Cordoba

spanish cities cordoba

Tucked in Andalusia only about 30 minutes by train from Spain’s southern capital, is Cordoba. This beautiful town is famous for its mix of Roman and Islamic architecture spanning from the early 1st century BC. La Mezquita Mosque is one of the town’s main attractions and welcomes millions of visitors a year. Especially during spring when people gather in the city to see the famous patios filled with colorful flowers of all shapes, sizes, and colors. From Roman bridge to Palacio de Viana, the architecture of the city is definitely worth a visit, and if you enjoy wandering through Spanish cities and their romantic narrow streets, then Cordoba should be added to your bucket list.

Once the largest cities in the world with a population three times its current, Córdoba was the capital of the Caliphate of Córdoba, which for several hundred years controlled most of the Iberian peninsula. This was mainly because, after Córdoba was captured and destroyed by the Muslims, ʿAbd al-Raḥmān I a member of the Umayyad family took the leadership of the Spanish Muslims and made Córdoba his capital in 756. Córdoba grew enormously and became the most cultured city in Europe. The Umayyad family filled the city with palaces and mosques, which can still be seen to te present days.

Curious fact: did you know that Cordoba’s old town is a Unesco World Heritage Site? Yes. And a very beautiful one. So when visiting the city, wander around its central neighbourhoods, such as the Judería quarter, which are filled with history.

Are you a Game of Thrones fan? You can visit Cordoba’s GOT Spain filming locations during a road trip through Spain.

Seville

The city center of Seville viewed from the top of the Metropol Parasol.

Seville is the heart of Southern Spain, both physically and emotionally. If you are fond of flamenco, olives, and oranges, and floral scents, and incredible views from its many rooftops and buildings, Seville is the perfect place for you. Orange blossom perfumes are sold on every corner, along with painted tiles and traditional feria dresses.

Aside from being a beautiful city, Seville boasts a rich cultural heritage. Capital of southern Spain’s Andalusia region, the city used to be the capital of Muslim Spain and, thanks to the ʿAbbādid and the subsequent Almoravid and Almohad dynasties, it became an important cultural and commercial centre in Europe. In the 12th-century, Seville flourished, and one of the most sumptuous constructions from these golden days is the Alcázar Palace. Historically known as al-Qasr al-Muriq, the Royal Alcázars of Seville became even more famous with Game of Thrones, as it was the setting for the city of Dorne.

During your trip to Seville, do not forget to walk around the Maestranza bullfighting ring and take long walks along the Guadalquivir River. You can also go to a Flamenco concert, as the city is commonly linked to this dramatic, soulful and beautfil Spanish art.

Also, if you are already planning your Easter holiday, then we highly recommend you add Seville to your itinerary. The Easter processions are one of the most beautiful in the whole Spain and they attract millions of tourists. In fact, it’s believed that the Seville celebration has existed since at least the 16th Century, and from From Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday, the streets of Seville host these processions.

Seville is definitely among some of the best places to visit in Spain for its classic Spanish culture and atmosphere that you won’t soon forget.

Cadiz

View of the historic white and orange buildings by the blue ocean in Cadiz, Spain.

Spain’s southernmost city, Cadiz is truly paradise. Lovers of seafood and beach vibes will be very fond of everything Cadiz and its beach towns have to offer. It is also one of many European’s favorite vacation destinations, and usually brings in thousands of visitors every year. The Costa del Sol offers painted white towns running along the shore. This allows visitors to experience many of Spain’s beautiful spots all summer long. We suggest starting with Cadiz capital and taking a road trip along the coast. On a clear summer day, you can even see Morocco from the hilltops. Of all the other Spanish cities to visit, Cadiz is an absolute must.

Palma de Mallorca

Palma de Mallorca is the capital of the Balearic Islands, and one of the most amazing vacation cities in Spain. Located in the western Mediterranean, the city is well known for its gothic buildings and paradisiac beaches. If it’s your first time in Palma de Mallorca, take some proper time to uncover the city center, which is home to the cobbled medieval streets, old townhouses, art and, of course, the famous Cathedral de Santa Maria of Palma, also known as the La Seu Cathedral. After visiting the old town, which is walkable and compact, go to the 19th century Mayor Plaza, which is still in the city center. During the summer, soak up the sun in the Palma City Beach and stroll by the blue ocean on the Paseo Marítimo, a seafront promenade in Palma.

Malaga

Located on southern Spain’s Costa del Sol, Malaga is a summer paradise occupied by resorts and welcoming sandy beaches. To get started, visit Malaga’s old town, which carries a rich cultural heritage since the city has a fascinating history marked by Romans, Visigoths, and Moors. And speaking of culture, also include visits to the city’s hilltop citadels, which are the Alcazaba and the ruined Gibralfaro, with remnants of the Moorish rule. You can also go to the oldest monument in Malaga, the Roman amphitheatre, dating back to the first century. If you’re in the mood for some art, a visit to the home where Picasso was born, in Plaza de la Merced, is highly recommended. And, of course, take a tour on some of Malaga’s finest beaches, such as Playa de La Malagueta and Playa de La Caleta, which are close to the heart of the city.

Which Spanish Cities are you adding to your travel itinerary? For more Spain inspiration check out our Game of Thrones Spain travel guide, and the best travel destinations to celebrate New Year!

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