Looking for the most beautiful Spanish towns? This list will keep you going!
Spain is high on the list of most people’s dream destinations, usually positioned within the top three countries most visited in the world – and perfect for solo female travel over 50. Singling out the most beautiful cities in Spain is a thankless task, because Spain is so crowded with beauty that any attempt to make a list is bound to be incomplete.
From clinging cliffside towns to architecturally magical, Spanish cities have something unique, something intriguing, and no two are alike.
The following collection of 25 top cities in Spain comes to you in part from my own experience, but mostly from contributions made by travel bloggers who have visited Spain and fallen in love with the country. Here, then, is a look at the best cities in Spain from their respective points of view.
This sun-drenched coastal city on the Costa Blanca has a blend of history, culture, and stunning natural beauty. As you stroll through its narrow streets, it’s impossible not to be instantly captivated by its unique charm.
Alicante has its roots in Iberian times and was trading as far back as the 8th century BCE. Its ancient past is evident in its well-preserved historic center, known as the Barrio de Santa Cruz. As you wander through the cobbled streets, it’s easy to be enchanted by the whitewashed houses, quaint plazas, and hidden alleyways adorned with colorful flowers.
Alicante’s most iconic landmark is the Santa Barbara Castle. Perched high on a hill, this castle is an impressive fortification with breathtaking views of both the city and the coastline. To get there, you can either take a leisurely half-hour hike up or hop on the elevator to reach the castle without breaking a sweat.
Alicante is also famous for its beautiful beaches, including the popular Playa San Juan and Playa de Postiguet. They both have golden sands and crystal-clear waters and are perfect for a day of relaxation – although at the height of summer, beaches here will be crowded. Next to the beach is the city’s seaside promenade, Explanada de España, perfect for stroll among palm and ficus trees and a coffee break.
The bustling Mercado Central is a great place where you can sample local produce, such as cheeses, and cured meats. For a sit-down experience, you can try El Chaflán de Luceros and the more upscale Templo Restaurante.
What to eat in Alicante: Alicante is also known for its exquisite Mediterranean cuisine, including dishes like arroz a banda (rice with seafood) and paella Alicantina. This type of paella is slightly different from paella Valenciana, which comes from the city of Valencia further north and is considered to be the most authentic paella. And don’t forget the turrón, nougat that comes in either soft or hard versions. (Contributed by Valencia Revealed)
Directly on the Mediterranean Sea and with more than 3000 hours of sunshine a year, the city of Almería is famous for its weather, its lack of water – and the Spanish Civil War. Exploring the war’s history is one of the best things to do in Almería, and the tunnels beneath the city, once used as refuges, can be visited (on a guided tour only).
Almería’s Alcazaba fortifications might not be as stunning as those of Seville or Granada, but the structure provides stunning views and the Cathedral is unique – it was designed to protect against Barbary pirate attacks.
Literature fans can follow the life and times of Federico Garcia Lorca, the famous Spanish poet assassinated at the beginning of the Civil War. He may have been born in Granada but spent much of the rest of his life here in Almería.
Movie fans can scout some of the many film locations in Almería, which is also known as the “Hollywood of Spain”. In the late 20th century, this is where many “spaghetti westerns” were filmed, but the city and its environs also has a nobler cinematic reputation as the location for scenes from such notable films as Game of Thrones, Lawrence of Arabia, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, and James Bond’s Never Say Never Again, to pick just a few from a very long list.
What to eat in Almería: See if you can find a tapas bar that serves the local chérica, a thin slice of toast smothered with aïoli sauce and topped with… whatever’s available, like ham, or tuna or anchovies.
There’s a superb tapas scene in this city, with a good mix of bars with free and paid-for tapas to visit in the Old Town. You’ll want to sample Casa Puga but early, as soon as it opens, as there’s ALWAYS a line to get in. (Contributed by Sarah Carter of A Social Nomad)
The Spanish city of Ávila is in the heart of the country, in the province of Castile and León, a city of Spain that is famous for its historical sights – medieval city walls, Romanesque churches, medieval monasteries, and cobbled streets. It received UNESCO World Heritage status in 1985 and you’ll find plenty of cultural things to do in Ávila, one of the most beautiful cities in Europe.
Ávila is a perfect day trip from Madrid. It is an hour’s drive, or just over that with one of the many trains that connect the two cities daily.
The medieval city walls of Ávila are the most complete fortifications in all of Europe. Like many fortifications in Spain, they were built during the 11th century to protect residents from attack by the Moors. Today, the well-preserved walls are one of the main tourist highlights of Ávila.
These imposing walls are designed as irregular rectangles and are around 2200 meters (2400 yd) in length. You’ll get a breathtaking panoramic view of the Ávila Cathedral, the Plaza del Mercado Grande and the surrounding Spanish countryside. Just be aware that there are two distinct sections of the wall and each has separate entrances.
Avila is the birthplace of one of the most revered Catholic saints, Saint Teresa. The Santa Teresa de Jesús convent stands on the site of her birthplace and is a must-see attraction while in Ávila, with its beautifully ornate chapel and small museum depicting her life and her work.
What to eat in Ávila: To sample some mouth-watering local specialties visit Restaurante Alcaravea near the Ávila Cathedral. If you’re a meat-eater, try the famous chuletón de Ávila, a large T-boned steak (from a breed of local cows) so delicious it is garnished only with salt. (Contributed by Moumita & Sankha from Chasing the Long Road)
Any list of famous cities in Spain will have Barcelona near the top. is one of the most beautiful and culturally rich cities in Spain. Located in the northeast of the country, in the region of Catalonia, Barcelona is on the Mediterranean and within driving distance of France.
Many people here speak Catalan as well as Spanish. The Catalan language was suppressed under the Franco regime of the mid-20th century but has since recovered, and Catalonia periodically attempts to secede from Spain, so far unsuccessfully.
Barcelona has a world-famous art scene, and it has an unparalleled collection of buildings designed by modernist architect, Antoni Gaudí. His most iconic work is the yet-to-be-finished La Sagrada Familia cathedral, with its intricate, larger-than-life Nativity and Passion facades. He also designed Park Güell, the hilltop green space filled with imaginative benches, columns, and arches with sweeping views over Barcelona.
Pablo Picasso also notably spent his adolescence in Barcelona, honing his skills and developing into the master he would one day become. You can see an impressive collection of his works at the Picasso Museum, which follows his evolution as an artist through early landscape paintings, pieces from his Blue period, and Las Meninas.
For more stunning views over the rooftops of Barcelona, enter Barcelona Cathedral in the Gothic Quarter and take the elevator to the top. From the roof, you’ll have a 360-degree view of one of the country’s prettiest cities, which allows you to see out to Montjuic Hill and over many of Gaudí’s quirky rooftops.
Finally, it would be remiss to visit Barcelona and not participate in the vibrant nightlife. Start with an atmospheric walk down Las Ramblas before eating some delicious tapas in the El Born district. Try the patatas bravas and cured meat, either on your own or during a tapas tour.
What to eat in Barcelona: While you’ll find wonderful regional food – try the excellent 7 Portes restaurant in Barceloneta for some delicious seafood paella – Barcelona is a great place to try some Catalan specialties you won’t find easily in the rest of Spain.
Pa amb tomàquet, or bread with tomatoes, is just that, bread scrubbed with a bit of garlic and fresh tomatoes: it’s ubiquitous and rarely will it be absent from a Catalan table. Another famous dish is the Fideuà, the local equivalent of paella, but made with noodles instead of rice. (Contributed by Theresa McKinney of Wanderlust)
Bilbao is one of the most interesting cities in Spain, located in the Basque region in the north and once the heartland of the Basque independence movement. After years of being a no-go zone, peace has brought prosperity and turned Bilbao into a thriving and lively city. It has excellent architecture, delicious food, and is known for exporting chefs.
One of the city’s main attractions is the Bilbao Guggenheim Museum, which was designed by Frank Gehry and opened in 1997. But the best way to take a bite out of Bilbao is to walk its streets, particularly rewarding if you catch the city on a bright spring day.
Bilbao is a city with a rich culture and culinary heritage, and it has managed to thrive despite its tumultuous past. It is one of the most visually stimulating cities in Spain, with a certain contemporary nonchalance that casually throws out ultramodern structures into the midst of classical monuments. The best way to enjoy this unusual city is to walk its streets, take in the contrasts and corners, and sample the delicious food.
What to eat in Bilbao: Bilbao has some of the best food and products in the world, and the Basque region is famous for its culinary expertise, with Basque chefs prized around the world. The freshness of the produce and the peculiar quality of the rain-fed grass gives food a deep, full taste.
The region is also famous for pintxos, which are similar to Spanish tapas but are mounted on a piece of bread and usually held together by a toothpick (they can be built quite high). Anything goes on a pintxo, from baby eel to egg or mushrooms. The flavors have to marry well, and it has to look pretty. Enjoy a traditional txikiteo with a group of friends: it’s the Basque version of a pub crawl, with successive stops in bars (this is where you eat pintxos) and a little drink.
Burgos is in Castile and Leon in northwest Spain and the main reason to visit is the stunning UNESCO-listed cathedral. From the 10th to the 15th centuries, Burgos was the capital of the Kingdom of Castile. Its position as the capital, the fact that it was a major stop on the pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela, and its monopoly over the merino wool trade made it an important and affluent city. This can be seen in the buildings and architecture of the city today, of which the Gothic Cathedral of Burgos, one of Spain’s best Gothic structures, is the best example.
History is everywhere in Burgos. The city still has remnants of its 13th-century city walls, and its most spectacular gate is the Arco de Santa Maria (Santa Maria Gate), one of the city’s most important landmarks.
Just outside Burgos are two beautiful examples of Gothic architecture. One is the 12th-century Monastery of Las Huelgas, which also has a museum of religious art and objects. The other is the Cartuja de Miraflores, known for its stunning altar, one of Spain’s most beautiful Gothic pieces.
As in most old Spanish cities, the Plaza Mayor, or main square, plays a role. Burgos is no different, and the square is the heart of the city, a perfect place to sit and people-watch. It is surrounded by beautiful buildings, including the Town Hall and the Casa del Cordón, perfect for enjoying a coffee or a meal. Walk off the calories on the tree-lined Paseo del Espolón, the most popular spot in Burgos for a paseo, or stroll.
What to eat in Burgos: Burgos is famous for its queso de Burgos cheese (soft, white and mild, often eaten as a dessert) and for its black pudding, or morcilla de Burgos, not to everyone’s taste. Fortunately the city is also known for lamb grilled in wood-fired ovens and for fish. After your meal, try “grandfather’s desert”, made with cheese, honey and nuts, usually walnuts and almonds.
For roast lamb and other traditional foods, consider Restaurante Casa Ojeda. Or for a unique take on Spanish food, nothing beats El Huerto de Roque (make sure you reserve!) (Contributed by Kristin Krogh Dahlstrom of Scotland Less Explored)
When it comes to historic Spanish cities, you cannot do better than Cádiz: it is the oldest continually inhabited city in Europe, with a history dating back to 1104 BCE. It has been a major port since ancient times and the modern city still has a very cosmopolitan feel. It is not as busy or touristy as other Spain cities, it is still easy to find accommodations, and there are plenty of attractions.
Two of the best things to do in the city are to explore Cádiz architecture and beaches. Cádiz Cathedral was built between 1722 and 1838 and is a beautiful example of a Roman Catholic church in Spain. It is also famous as “The Cathedral of The Americas”, since it was partly financed by America.
Besides beautiful churches, Cádiz allows for relaxation at sandy beaches such as La Caleta. You can swim in one of the southernmost places in Spain and admire the historic fortress by the coast. The Castle of San Sebastian is on a tiny island connected to the main city by a bridge.
If you need a place to stay, try the Hotel Boutique Convento Cádiz. You will fall in love with the internal courtyard and architectural details. This affordable 1-star hotel is also home to the monks who live in this beautiful 17th-century convent.
Of course make sure you also visit Cádiz Old Town, which is abundant in historic landmarks and great restaurants.
What to eat in Cádiz: For starters, try the very typical tortillitas made with baby shrimp – cristy and fresh. Cádiz is also famous for stews, one of which is potatoes with chocos (cuttlefish), in a tomato-based sauce usually garnished with peppers, onion and garlic. It is a traditional dish whose recipes are handed down the generations within families, and each family may have its own take on it.
For some extraordinary food, try Restaurante El Faro de Cádiz, run by three generations of the same family, set on continuing the culinary traditions of the city. You can try their delicious Dorada de Estero a la Cádiz or one of the most beautifully served desserts. (Contributed by Paulina from the UK Every Day)
Córdoba is one of the most beautiful cities in Andalusia, a mid-sized city in southern Spain, with a rich history and a TON of charm in its streets.
The Muslim Moors stayed in Andalusia for nearly 800 years. When they completed their Mezquita, or mosque, in 988, it was the second largest mosque in the entire Muslim world.
When the Christians re-conquered the area, the mosque was not destroyed but instead converted to a cathedral. The interior today is a stunning mixture of Islam and Christianity.
The mosque has over 800 candy-cane striped double arches, all aligned in perfectly symmetrical rows and columns that fill the entire building – the striking red and white arches seem to go on forever. Christians added small chapels to the exterior and a nave and transept right in the center of the mosque-cathedral.
Besides the Mezquita, Córdoba is most known for her patios – beautiful, small courtyards filled with flowers and greenery, with flowers spilling over ledges, flowers in blue flower pots that hang in rows high up the walls, with extra little adorable details like cobblestoned flooring, balconies, arches, wells, ladders, and other accents adding visual interest. The Patio Festival takes place in May and highlights 50+ gorgeous patios, but many are open throughout the year for visitors to admire.
As you’ll notice when spending one or two days in Córdoba, the flower-filled patios in Córdoba seem to spill over onto the streets, where you’ll regularly see flower pots filled with geraniums hanging on walls or sitting on window sills, a lovely accent to the white walls and yellow trim of the city.
What to eat in Córdoba: Make sure you try salmorejo when you’re in Córdoba. This traditional cold soup is made with pureed tomatoes, bread, garlic, and vinegar. It’s similar to gazpacho, but thicker and creamier, and served with small bits of hard-boiled egg. (Contributed by Stephanie of The Unknown Enthusiast)
Less than an hour’s train ride from Barcelona and its amazing attractions, the city of Girona is special and full of worthwhile attractions.
The city has a rich history, reflected in its striking architecture. Walking through the well-preserved Old Town will unveil details ranging from Romanesque through Gothic. Small, narrow cobblestone streets snake up and down the medieval city center, enclosing the entire historic district.
The city has maintained its historical appeal but also has a lived-in atmosphere that locals love to enjoy. You’ll feel this everywhere, around the beautiful promenades and squares, outdoor cafés and public markets, and other historic buildings and gathering places.
Its Jewish Quarter, or Call, dates back to the Middle Ages and is one of the best-preserved Jewish quarters in Europe. Visitors can explore its alleyways and learn about the city’s rich Jewish history.
An unexpected attraction is the Pont de Ferro, or Iron Bridge, over the River Onyar. The architecture along both riverbanks is unusual, and the bridge can boast its engineer was none other than – Gustave Eiffel, of Eiffel Tower fame.
The stunning Costa Brava coastline, a string of hamlets and towns for easy outdoor exploration and day trips, makes Girona a fantastic for the region.
What to eat in Girona: Girona is for foodies and the city is full of excellent restaurants, including a number of Michelin-starred establishments that take advantage of farm-to-table ingredients to bring the best tasting food in the region. Local products include prawns from Palamós, anchovies from L’Escala, Fesol d’ull ros beans, and Pals rice, and you’ll find great food along the many public squares lined with fantastic eateries. (Contributed by Noel Morata of Travel Photo Discovery)
Set against the backdrop of the scenic Sierra Nevada mountains, Granada is only an hour’s drive from the “Costa Tropical”, just east of the Costa del Sol. As it is a special city that tops the list of must see places in Spain, you should ideally set aside 2 or 3 days in Granada to visit the UNESCO sites and explore the city at your leisure.
The Sultans of Granada made their home here in the 13th century, creating one of the world’s greatest wonders, the Alhambra Palace. It stands as a watchdog over the city, an extraordinary complex of Moorish design, with courtyards and ornamental gardens ringed by ancient fortifications. For peace of mind, book tickets to the Alhambra well in advance.
The beautifully preserved Old Town of Granada is full of medieval treasures, a compendium of neighbourhoods where the Moors, Christians and Jews lived. Imagine yourself back in the Middle Ages as you wander the atmospheric streets – enter the labyrinth of whitewashed little houses spilling down the hillsides, browse the bazaars, and relax in the pools of an authentic hammam.
Granada is more than a picture-perfect history book destination. It’s a lively, easy-to-get-around city full of local Spanish residents and university students (not a mega tourist trap). Admittedly, the hop-on-hop-off bus is a leg-saving way of getting around, and a convenient and central area to stay is around Bib-Rambla plaza.
What to eat in Granada: Given Granada’s history, it’s not surprising to find Arab and Jewish culinary traditions mixed in with Spanish ones. It is a real foodie paradise where tapas are almost a religion. You’ll be served something tasty every time you sit down for a drink! The city has dozens of pretty plazas, tree-lined squares where restaurants and cafés have street terrace tables for al fresco dining.
Find a bodega to savour local produce (cured ham, sausage, cheeses) with a glass of wine, enter an Arabian eatery for a taste of North Africa, or a trendy restaurant for fusion cuisine. For raciones, which are larger versions of tapas, head for Bodegas Castañeda – also good for charcuterie boards and wines. (Text by Karen Marco of Kali Travel)
Jaén is an enchanting inland city in Andalusia, only an hour from Granada and two hours from Málaga’s busy sunshine coast. Yet few visitors come here, despite its beauty and incredible attractions.
An imposing Renaissance cathedral can be found in the historic center – the cathedral claims to exhibit the Holy Veil. Legend says that Saint Veronica used it to wipe off the blood from the face of Jesus. If you happen to visit Jaén during the Easter processions, you might get a glimpse of it as it is only viewable to the public on Good Friday.
The Arab Baths are also top Jaén attractions, and you can see them under the majestic Villardompardo Palace. They are among Spain’s largest Arab Baths and are particularly noteworthy, with their star-shaped ceiling windows allowing in beautiful patterns of natural light.
Make sure you go for a walk up the Santa Catalina Hill to the medieval castle above the city, especially seen at sunset from the big cross, with sweeping views of the city and the surrounding olive groves.
What to eat in Jaén: The province of Jaén one of Europe’s biggest olive oil producers, so try to make time for an olive tasting tour while visiting the city. For vegan burgers, have lunch at Hamburguesería Goiko or tapas at El Biscúter. (Contributed by Linn Haglund of Amused by Andalucia)
Las Palmas de Gran Canaria
Picture this perfect vacation day: a morning museum exhibition followed by a delicious lunch on a seafront terrace; a swim in the Atlantic in the afternoon and perhaps some shopping until sunset cocktail time; and finally, a lively neighborhood in the evening with plenty of options for dinner and drinks. Sounds nice? Welcome to Las Palmas de Gran Canaria!
The capital city of Gran Canaria, one of the biggest of the Canary Islands, allows for this perfect day, all within walking distance.
Start the day in colorful Vegueta, the oldest neighborhood in the city, bursting with museums and historical buildings: make sure you include Santa Ana Cathedral and San Antonio Abad Square in your city walk. Check out the exhibition in the Canarian Museum to learn about the history of the city, or the Atlantic Center of Modern Art (CAAM) if you’re in a more contemporary mood.
After feeding your cultural soul, how about some local shopping to take home some souvenirs?
Head out to Triana, whose stores are located inside emblematic buildings of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Fancy a swim? Walk to the beach Las Canteras, considered one of the best urban beaches in the world! The area around Las Canteras promenade is filled with beachfront terraces, restaurants, and bars (Valentina’s homemade vermouth is delicious) in a chilled island atmosphere that will end your day(s) perfectly.
What to eat in Las Palmas: Given its proximity to Africa and the fact that the Canaries are islands surrounded by ocean, geographical factors are bound to influence the food and you’ll notice that when you eat there. A typical fare is mojo, or sauce, with an olive oil base and peppers – green or red, depending on whether you’re having greed or red mojo – along with garlic, paprika and spices. If you’re craving Canary tapas, don’t miss Triciclo for some typical gastronomy dishes with a modern twist: patatas bravas con mojo are a must-try. (Contributed by Inês from Random Trip)
León is one of the most famous places in Spain for its Easter Semana Santa parades, cathedrals and for being along the pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela. This fairly small city in northwestern Spain is easy to walk around, and it is very safe to visit.
At Easter time, the city’s spectacular Semana Santa celebrations bring in crowds from all over for 30 processions over ten days. The include thousands of friars wearing ceremonial gowns, trumpet players, and floats depicting biblical scenes. It can get very busy so make sure you visit during the first few days to avoid the largest crowds. Another option is to book one of the rooms at NH Collection Leon Plaza Mayor, which overlooks the procession route.
Leon is home to many stunning buildings. The area around Plaza Mayor is pedestrianised and León Cathedral, Basilica of San Isidoro and Convent of San Marcos are all within a short walk.
What to eat in León: Dried beef, or cecina, has its own designation of origin so you must try it while here. Perhaps less common is botillo, pork intestine stuffed with meat, very typical of the region. For traditional cooking, visit Carea Bistro, or have one of the many menus of the day – Menú del Día – served up to pilgrims on the road to Santiago. (Contributed by Kristin Krogh Dahlstrom of Scotland Less Explored)
Madrid is definitely one of the most beautiful cities in Spain, with plenty to see and do.
Starting with the Plaza Mayor, the heart of Madrid’s Old Town, you’ll witness the city’s stunning architecture and street performers before walking down to the Mercado de San Miguel, a historic market that offers a wide variety of local food and drink options.
This part of town also houses the Royal Palace of Madrid, which is one of the largest palaces in Europe and a significant landmark in the city. The palace offers guided tours, and visitors can explore its grand halls and opulent decor.
Madrid is a haven for art lovers, with enough museums to keep you busy for days. Its “Golden Triangle of Art” contains three world-renowned museums: the classic Prado, the modern Reina Sofia and the Thyssen-Bornemisza, which falls in-between. If your feet hurt from all the walking, head for the nearby Retiro park and rest in the shade or by the lake.
In the evening, head to trendy Malasaña for dinner and drinks, with its bohemian vibe and café culture. Or for a stunning view of Madrid, go to the rooftop bar at Círculo de Bellas Artes and watch the sunset. Top off your day with a flamenco show. No, it’s not typically from Madrid, but the finest Andalusian performers perform in the capital.
Madrid is a large city, but its main sights are in a relatively concentrated area, so even if you only have one day in Madrid, it is worth making the effort to see as much as you can.
What to eat in Madrid: Cocido Madrileño is a winter stew that is perfect for those chilly Castilian days. Madrid is a perfect city for tapas, so do try such popular ones as patatas bravas, served with a garlic or hot sauce, tortilla española (Spanish potato omelet with or without onions), and croquetas, or croquettes, with ham or chicken or tuna. Don’t neglect the chocolate con churros, a sweet hot chocolate with elongated donut-type pastries. Try these at the Chocolatería San Ginés right next to the Plaza Mayor.
Málaga, located on Spain’s Costa del Sol, is not only one of the best beach cities in Spain but an important historical and foodie destination.
The city has been ruled by various civilizations throughout history, including the Romans, Moors, and Christians. This has resulted in a unique blend of architectural styles, including Roman theaters, Moorish castles, and Gothic cathedrals.
The Alcazaba de Málaga fortress palace dates back to the period of Muslim rule in Andalusia and is characteristic of that era – Andalusian courtyards with fountains and manicured gardens, detailed Moorish architecture and fantastic city views.
The Castillo de Gibralfaro is one of the best castles in Malaga province, built to protect the Alcazaba from attack. It overlooks the entire city and offers the best panoramic view of Málaga. While the structure may date back to the 14th century, it was clearly occupied long before, as evidenced by Phoenician and Roman artefacts and ceramics.
Málaga is home to some of the most famous art museums in Spain. The most notable of these is the Picasso Museum, which houses a collection of over 200 works by the famous artist. Picasso was born in Málaga, and the museum provides a unique insight into his life and artistic career. Other notable museums in Málaga include the Carmen Thyssen Museum, which houses a collection of Spanish art from the 19th and 20th centuries, and the Centre Pompidou Málaga, which is a branch of the famous modern art museum in Paris.
What to eat in Málaga: Among the traditional dishes you might want to try are espetos de sardinas (grilled sardine skewers), ajoblanco (cold almond soup), and berenjenas con miel de caña (fried aubergines with sugar cane honey).
The best place to eat authentic traditional dishes on a budget is Mercado de Atarazanas (Málaga’s food market). A few minutes’ walk from Málaga Cathedral is Casa Lola, perfect for tapas. (Contributed by Cristina of My Little World of Travelling)
Mérida is an incredibly underrated city in Spain jam-packed with Roman ruins. In fact, it is the city with the most and most well-preserved Roman ruins in the country.
Situated less than an hour from the Portuguese border in the Extremadura region, you could easily add it to your Portugal itinerary. There are many amazing things to do in Mérida Spain and many of the sites are on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
The main archaeological complex includes the Roman Theater, the Amphitheater, and an old Roman villa, making for a spectacular stroll worthy of several hours.
The city has additional Roman ruins worth a visit. Walk along the 1st-century aqueduct, which once stretched for 10 kilometers (6.2 mi). You can still get a glimpse of its former grandeur on the outskirts of Mérida’s Old Town.
Mérida is also home to one of Spain’s longest Roman bridges, which stretches nearly 800 meters (875 yd). Next to the bridge, you can explore one of the city’s Moorish remains, the incredible Alcazaba de Mérida.
What to eat in Merida: Given that Mérida is not a major tourist destination, most specialties will be local, so you won’t have to go far for authentic dishes. Many of these will be made of pork, whether barbecued or stewed. Cold vegetable soups are also popular in Mérida, including the gazpacho-like salmorejo.
There is also a strong influence of nearby Portugal, like bacalao dorado, a type of fried cod served with fried potatoes. For vegetarian food and something different, try Sawadi, run by a Spanish-Thai couple. (Contributed by Linn Haglund of Brainy Backpackers)
Backed by lush mountains and just 30 minutes from the Cantabrian Sea, Oviedo — the capital of the autonomous Asturias community — is one of Spain’s greenest city breaks.
Renowned for its impressive architecture, diverse styles such as Gothic (Oviedo Cathedral) and Baroque (Camposagrado Palace) sit side by side. But, the most fascinating architectural feats are found on the city’s fringes, where well-preserved pre-Romanesque churches – part of the city’s UNESCO World Heritage Site – can still be admired. Dating back to the mid-800s (and the Kingdom of Asturias), you’ll want to pre-arrange a guide to enter inside these monumental buildings.
While there are a handful more things to do in Oviedo if time allows — such as seeking out the city’s statues (there are close to 100 sculptures) or admiring the vast collection at the Fine Art Museum — Oviedo’s charm is found while wandering the spotless pedestrianized Old Town, often voted the cleanest Spanish city.
What to eat in Oviedo: Oviedo’s hearty dishes, dairy products, and sidra (cider) fill the provincial table. Don’t miss local favourites such as fabada asturiana (a hearty bean stew) or cachopo (breaded and stuffed veal steaks). A reservation at La Corte de Pelayo, celebrated for its traditional dishes, is best made in advance (solo diner bookings are accepted online).
After dinner, seek out the region’s famed cider, which is organically produced without gasification. However, what makes Oviedo’s sidra scene so unique is the escanciar style serve. Poured from a great height by the server, this unique method allows the alcohol to gain some natural fizz when hitting the slightly tilted glass. Pair your sidra with one of the region’s 40 cheese styles (the blue Cabrales is one of the most celebrated) for a truly regional experience. (Contributed by Daniel James Clarke of Dan Flying Solo)
Palma de Mallorca
Palma makes a great weekend trip from Barcelona or Valencia by overnight ferry, or by plane from other European locations.
The magnificent Cathedral-Basilica of Santa María de Mallorca is a must-see, and although you can admire the striking architecture from the outside (especially from across the lagoon in the Parc de la Mar), it is well worth the small ticket price to go inside.
The nave of the cathedral is 44 meters (145 ft) tall, making it one of the tallest Gothic cathedrals in Europe, and the Rose Window, known as the Gothic Eye, is 14 meters (46 ft) in diameter. During the summer you can also get tickets for the roof terrace to examine the architecture more closely and enjoy views of the city below. Next to the cathedral is the Royal Palace of La Almudaina, once a Moorish citadel, and now an official residence of the royal family.
Aside from the Palace and the Cathedral, Palma’s Old Town is a maze of streets filled with unique buildings, some of which date back to the Roman Empire, while others display their Moorish, Gothic or Modernist roots.
Another wonderful thing to do in Palma is to enjoy the water – whether that is walking along the Passeig Marítim boardwalk on the seafront, heading to one of the beaches or taking a boat trip to explore the coastline and do some snorkelling.
Renting a car is best if you want to explore more of Mallorca to visit many of the beaches and coves just an hour’s drive from the city, take a day trip to the Drac Caves or ride the historic Ferrocaril de Sóller to Soller.
What to eat in Palma de Mallorca: Make sure you try an ensaimada mallorquina, a sweet Mallorcan spiral pastry, and some sobrasada, a soft spicy chorizo-like sausage which you can spread onto bread and devour. Bar España is great for tapas and Fornet de la Soca is a must for pastries. (Contributed by Claire Sturzaker of Why Visit Barcelona)
San Cristóbal de la Laguna
If you are looking for a gorgeous Spanish city with an island and Latin American vibe, San Cristóbal de la Laguna (or simply La Laguna) has to be on your list.
Located in the north of Tenerife and a short distance from the island’s capital, Santa Cruz, La Laguna is a UNESCO World Heritage city that boasts stunning pastel houses, historical mansions, and a grid street layout that will have you feeling like you’ve stepped into a time machine.
It’s the first “ideal city” that was built according to philosophical ideas that supported wide streets, and open places. It’s also the first unfortified town with a grid model. And basically served as Spain’s laboratory during the colonial times for cultural and architectural changes before they were brought to The Americas to build colonial cities. In other words, La Laguna is the birthplace of most Spanish colonial cities in Latin America.
Besides the historical importance of the city, it also has all the picturesque elements of Hispanic architecture. The streets are pedestrian-friendly, and it’s a bustling town filled with lively bars, cafés, and boutique shops to buy unique Spanish souvenirs.
To fully appreciate La Laguna, focus on the Old Town and historic center, which is the area listed by UNESCO. Luckily, the center is incredibly small and walker-friendly, so you can easily see all the highlights in just one day. Take a stroll around Obsipo Rey Redondo Street, and you’ll pass the most important museums, churches, and buildings.
What to eat in La Laguna: As in other parts of the Canary Islands, a must-try is the typical potato dish with mojo sauce. A great place to try these (and more delicious tapas) is Taberna Ossuna. (Contributed by Lara Hartog of The Best Travel Gifts)
San Sebastián, one of the most beautiful Spain cities (locally called Donostia) is arguably also the best city in Spain for food. It is especially popular with visitors seeking a sophisticated gastronomy scene – and excellent beaches without the crowds of other coastal cities in Spain, particularly on the Costa del Sol.
There are three beaches in San Sebastián: La Concha, Ondarreta, and Zurriola. La Concha is the most popular with families because of its 1.5 km-long crescent shaped sandy beach and calm waters. Right next door is Ondarreta Beach, which is just as lovely, with super fine white sand and cafés, showers, and restrooms. Gros district has the wild surf beach, Zurriola, which has spawned several well-known surfing schools.
The beaches are where Spaniards head during the day, but the evening is when San Sebastián comes alive. Food is the main reason to come to San Sebastián – there are more Michelin stars here per square kilometer than anywhere else in the world!
The San Telmo Museum, located in the Old Town, showcases local Basque culture and history, perfect for anyone interested in Basque culture. You can also hike up Monte Urgull, a hill overlooking the city. It is home to a 12th-century castle, used to defend the city during medieval times. Visitors can take a guided tour of the castle and enjoy the panoramic views of San Sebastián from the top of the hill. On the way up, stop at the statue of Christ, the cannon battery, and the cemetery. The hike is not too difficult, and there are several picnic spots along the way, making it a great way to spend a day outdoors in San Sebastián.
What to eat in San Sebastián: San Sebastián Pintxos (pronounced ‘peen-chos’) is the standout local cuisine, and pintxos are the Basque equivalent of tapas. The Old Town’s cobblestone streets are bursting with pintxos bars. A must-try is the local specialty, “Gilda,” a skewer of green olives, anchovies, and pickled peppers that packs a punch of flavor.
Early evenings can be spent wandering through the narrow lanes, hopping between pintxos bars, trying different pintxos. Tucked away near the San Telmo Museum is the best-known pintxos bar, La Cuchara de San Telmo, on Santa Korda Kalea. The next local favorite is Gandaris Jatetxe, which becomes insanely crowded. It’s one of the few bars open in the afternoon, so you can start your pintxos crawl here and beat the crowds. (Contributed by Monique of Spain Travel Hub)
Santiago de Compostela
Santiago de Compostela is the lively capital of the Galicia region, in Spain’s far northwestern corner.
It is also one of the most famous Spanish cities for being the official ending point of one of Europe’s most renowned pilgrimages, the Camino de Santiago. Pilgrims walk hundreds of kilometers across Spain, France, Portugal, and beyond to stand in front of the Romanesque Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. This beautiful church is the alleged burial site of the Apostle St. James.
While most pilgrims end their journey in Santiago de Compostela, some may feel called to walk to the “End of the World” along the Camino Finisterre Muxia, which starts from the cathedral and ends on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean.
Santiago de Compostela’s Old Town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The lovely cobblestone streets are filled with monuments, historical sites, and gardens, with street performers and musicians playing in green parks and narrow alleyways.
What to eat in Santiago de Compostela: Like most cities of Spain, Santiago has a fantastic culinary scene. For tapas, locally known as pintxos, head down Rua do Franco and wander from one tapas bar to the next. With its close proximity to the sea, don’t miss the chance to indulge in the many seafood-inspired dishes. And do try one of the city’s famous dishes of pimientos de Padrón, mild green peppers sautéed in olive oil and seasoned with sea salt. One of the best places to eat in Santiago de Compostela is the Mercado de Abastos. The fresh market has tons of food stalls and everything from bakeries to restaurants, and wine bars.
No matter how you get to Santiago de Compostela, it is by far one of the best cities on any Spain cities list. (Contributed by Megan J. Anderson of Packing Up the Pieces)
Segovia might not be the first place that comes to mind when you think of the most beautiful places in Spain, but as soon as you disembark from the train and walk toward the astounding Roman aqueduct, you’ll be immediately entranced.
Built to carry water from the Río Frio to the city (its purpose remains unchanged today), the Segovia aqueduct dates back to the 1st century AD. It may not have the same fame and glamour as the Sagrada Familia or the Alhambra, but it is nonetheless one of Spain’s most impressive historical landmarks.
Straddling the appropriately named Avenida Acueducto, this feat of ancient human technology runs for 15 kilometers (9.3 mi) and has stood the test of time.
Another landmark that represents Segovia’s intricate history is the Alcázar. Built by the Berber Almoravid dynasty but seized when King Alfonso expelled them from the city, it overlooks Segovia. Not only does it boast Moorish architecture, but it also has remnants from past adaptations and expansions which took place during the 13th and 16th centuries.
Segovia’s ancient structures and historic buildings have given the city UNESCO World Heritage Status, and it is an easy day trip from Madrid.
What to eat in Segovia: Segovia’s most famous contribution to Spain’s culinary culture is the cochinillo asado, or roast suckling pig. Those who do it well boast it is so tender they can cut it with a plate – no knife needed. If you prefer lamb to pork, then go for the lechazo. For dessert, it’s time for a Ponche Segoviano, a traditional pastry made with almonds, egg and cream. It was invented at Confitería El Alcázar, where you can still pick one up today. (Contributed by Claire Europe in winter)
Madrid and Barcelona might be the most obvious choices when visiting Spain for the first time, but many visitors consider Seville one of the most beautiful cities Spain has to offer. It just might captivate your heart.
Seville, locally known as Sevilla, is the capital of Andalusia, the southernmost region in Spain. It has a rich history and cultural heritage spanning 2200 years. The area’s first settlement dates back to the 8th century BCE, but the first town was founded some six centuries later. Romans, Vandals, and Visigoths ruled it for the next several centuries.
By the 8th century Seville was flourishing, both culturally and commercially, having come under Moorish rule which would last until expulsion by Christians some 500 years later.
During the 16th century, Seville experienced significant expansion when it became the center of exploration of the Americas. Christopher Columbus left from Seville for the New World and today, you can visit his tomb in Seville’s Cathedral.
The cathedral, its Giralda Tower, Alcázar Palace and Gardens, and the General Archive of the Indies are all UNESCO World Heritage sites and among the best things to do in Seville for history buffs and culture enthusiasts.
Seville Cathedral is the largest Gothic cathedral in the world. Equally stunning are the Alcázar Royal Palace and Plaza España.
What to eat in Seville: Andalusian food is among Spain’s most delicious. Tapas bars, traditional bodegas, and restaurants are on every street corner. Head to El Pimentón restaurant to taste homemade Andalusian food. Order salmorejo, gambas al ajillo, or carrillada to enjoy Andalusian flavors. For more upscale dining, choose the Michelin-starred Abantal. (Contributed by Milijana of World Travel Connector)
Toledo is a day trip from Madrid, but a walk back in time. It is one of the best-preserved medieval walled cities, and a walk through Toledo’s Old quarter is to understand the three belief systems that shaped Spain: Islam, Judaism, and Christianity. There are sights that mark this city’s incredible journey through various ruling beliefs.
Few people travel through Toledo without stopping at a marvel of Christian architecture, the Toledo Cathedral. The Jewish Quarter of Toledo is believed to be one of the earliest Jewish settlements on the peninsula, a maze of streets and a great place to get lost. The light slanting through the maze of streets alone is worth a few hours of wandering.
You can feel the Moorish influence throughout the city, from the Arab walls and gates to tiny winding streets that keep the city cool. While the larger mosque was torn down, today you can visit the Cristo De la Luz mosque.
Even though the city’s main sights highlight its diversity, a bird’s eye view reveals how it all comes together in a magical tapestry. And there is no better place to see it than from the city’s public library.
The top floor of the library has a lovely small café and views for miles. You’ll find inexpensive drinks and snacks, making it the perfect place to watch an unforgettable sunset over a truly remarkable city.
What to eat in Toledo: Toledo is famous for its marzipan. Sweet shop windows are often full of figures and replicas of important city sites made from this sweet paste. Before you dive into the sweet, try Cervecería El Trébol. Located just a block off the main square, Plaza de Zocodover, El Trébol has delicious tapas and great craft beer to refuel after a day of exploring a magnificent city.
Hardly any other Spanish city is as full of culture, history, and beautiful places as Valencia.
Valencia can be divided into three main sights: the picturesque historic city center, the modern city of arts and sciences, and of course, the region’s unique beaches. Your Valencia itinerary should ideally include a mix of all three.
Walk through the alleys of the historic center and discover the sights that await you here. Sip on a delicious ice-cold horchata, the region’s favorite drink, while exploring places like the cathedral, the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Silk Market, and other beautiful corners of the city.
Afterward, take an extended break on one of the city’s beaches. Let the Spanish sun warm you up or refresh yourself in the clear waters of the Mediterranean Sea. Alternatively, if the beach here gets too crowded, you can head to a more outlying stretch of coastline.
Finally, make sure you don’t miss the City of Arts and Sciences. In an almost futuristic landscape, you will find numerous cultural institutions such as museums, a 3D cinema, and one of the largest aquariums in the world.
Valencia is one of the most beautiful cities in Spain, and clearly offers an exciting mix of beautiful architecture, fascinating culture, tasty dishes, and picturesque beaches, so you certainly won’t get tired of it.
What to eat in Valencia: Paella, of course – the dish was born in Valencia, after all, although it has left its culinary mark on the entire country. Make sure you try it when you visit, for example, at the Central Market. (Contributed by Vicki Franz of Vicki Viaja)
The most beautiful cities in Spain: good for solo travel?
Spain is a perfect country for solo travel, and its cities are no different, whatever your age.
No one will care if you are by yourself, and restaurants and bars will welcome you. And Spain is quite a safe destination, with rare instances of violence. The major safety threat in Spain towns usually comes from pickpockets and a variety of tourist scams, so hang onto your belongings and take precautions in your hotel.
KEEPING YOUR BELONGINGS SAFE
I have two items that I always travel with to keep my belongings safe from pickpockets and thieves.
My Pacsafe cross-body bag: This is what I use during the day (I have three different models!) These bags are so light you’ll forget you’re wearing one – and they’re virtually impossible to get into.
My Sholdit scarf: This infinity scarf is the ideal dress item and lets you take your most important items with you even if you’re out for a stylish restaurant evening.
Spain has a tremendous history, with remains that in many places date back to Roman times, and the architecture of its cities reflects this history. Most cities are an incredible mixture of styles, from Roman, of course, but through to medieval, Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque, Classical, and many types of modern architecture, from Gaudí’s impossibly whimsical constructions to the latest Arts and Science district of Valencia. It is this diversity that makes the cities Spain beautiful.
Beyond their architectural value, the most visited cities in Spain are also often the ones with the best food. Spain is a culinary paradise, and many visitors come here to satisfy their taste buds.
Spain’s unique culture is another draw, from its famous flamenco song and dance to its bar-hopping customs and world-class art museums.
And of course, this is a coastal country, with some of the best beach cities in Spain overwhelmed by visitors during the summer months.
Visiting any of these 25 most beautiful cities in Spain will give you an overview of all the things people love about this country. You’ll understand why once you’ve been here, you’ll want to return.