So you’re traveling to Europe and want to see everything? Easier said than done! Let’s start with Spain and the must-see places in this Iberian country.
León: This northwestern Spanish town is famous for its gothic style architecture. Come for the Santa María de León Cathedral, stay for the surprisingly vibrant nightlife. Stay for at least one full day – and don’t forget to check out the Barrio Humedo!
Palma de Mallorca: The capital of the Balearic Islands has amazing beaches, great hikes, and a lively nightlife. Like many Spanish towns, Palma has a wonderful cathedral as well. Plenty to do to stave off “island fever”!
Vigo: This city in Galicia has massive amounts of hidden culture, underappreciated and overly talented musicians, charming surrounding areas, and some of the most generous and genuine people in Spain. The seafood is also incredible here.
Júzcar: AKA the Smurf Town, this town was painted blue in 2011 for the filming of The Smurf movie. The production company offered to repaint the town back to its original white after 5 years, but the town likes the amount of tourism the entirely blue town and smurf painted buildings brings in. Hidden gem in deep Andalucía.
Sevilla: Around Christmas, pop-up ice skating rinks allow outside ice skating and amusement rides. The Plaza de España is one of the most romantic places in Spain, allowing tourists to rent a boat for 5 euros for 35 minutes to paddle around the moat surrounding the beautiful palace. Inside, each arch shows a seat and map of each province of Andalucía. The Cathedral and Real Alcázar are beautiful staples of Sevilla, not to mention the Real Alcázar was the site of filming for the hit tv series, Game Of Thrones. Sevilla is voted the most beautiful city of Andalucía.
Ronda: The cliff views of this small city are incredible; I mean, truly unbelievable. You will really understand the meaning of “living on the edge” when standing on the bridge over the old, dried up river that created the chasm separating the town in half.
Santiago de Compostela: This Galician town is a World Heritage Site for its gorgeous granite old town, timeless cathedral, and known for being the end of the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route. Home to the premier cuisine in the country,k you can try delicious seafood like octopus, shellfish, and crustaceans, plus quality but affordable wines and liqueurs. Nearby, the beaches on the Atlantic coast are hardly touched by the same tourism of the Mediterranean.
Alicante: A city and port on the Costa Blanca, Alicante has a great balance between tourist Spain and traditional Spain. Take a break from constantly speaking Spanish without all the tacky vacation tourism traps. Very relaxed, lovely beaches, and great shops, cafes, and bars.
Bilbao: In the province of Biscay in the autonomous community of the Basque Country, it is the largest city of the Basque Country. Visiting Bilbao, you will have easy access to the beach or mountains with the feeling of an actual city. Bilbao has a unique artsy side; there is always an arts or culture event going on. Also, the clean, walkable, amazing metro makes Bilbao a very livable city.
Madrid: The capital! The metropolitan center of Spain. The city is large and divided into many unique barrios. One night you might be sipping champagne at a lounge in Salamanca, the next you might be dancing bachata at an underground salsa club in La Latina. Visit some of the best museums in the country (for free at certain hours) or relax at a garden roof top terrace while watching the city pass by. The world is your oyster.
Segovia: A perfectly sized city one hour by bus or 30 minutes by AVE train from Madrid. The Old Town still has its ancient city walls. There’s a 2000 year old Roman aqueduct, a 12th century alcázar, a very well-preserved Royal Mint, a beautiful Gothic cathedral, and much more. Whole roast suckling pig is the local specialty, but if you want something lighter, you get free tapas with your drink in all bars. There are 2 university campuses (Madrid’s IE and Valladolid’s UVA), so there’s a large young population with a vibrant nightlife as well. Fun fact: Queen Isabel was crowned in the Plaza Mayor here.
Mijas: The enchanting village of Mijas is in the province of Málaga in the lowlands of the Sierra de Mijas mountain range, surrounded by pine forest. Just a few miles from the beach town of Fuengirola. Mijas has managed to retain much of its “white village” charm, with cobbled, narrow, winding streets dazzling whitewashed walls, and breathtaking views. There is a fun tourist trap here called the donkey taxi, where you actually ride a donkey as a taxi. Something everyone should try once!
Málaga: A great port area! A little touristy so it’s a little expensive but if you go into the downtown area behind the Moorish castle, there are a lot of cute local tapas places. El Pimpi is a must-see for visitors to Málaga. The pedestrian-only city center is perfect for shopping!
Old Cádiz: You can find cheap hotels near to everything. On the north end, you will find the only beach in old Cádiz, where they filmed Pierce Brosnan as James Bond in Die Another Day jumping out of a helicopter onto the fort out in the ocean. Towards the center of town you will find the market and shopping street. There is a wonderful local tapas restaurant called El Taperia Columela (on Calle Columela).
Setenil de las Bodegas: This small white village in the northeast corner of the province of Cádiz is built into a mountain, in the valley of the Sierras de Cádiz mountain range. You will find houses where the mountain makes up one wall and you will drive through tunnels carved out of the mountain. There’s not much to do here but with all the beautiful views, Setenil is a photographer’s paradise.
Of course, this list will forever change and grow. There is so much to see in Spain before moving on to other countries. I welcome more suggestions: I am still making my own list of places in Spain to visit!