The Most Beautiful Cities in Spain
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Spain is a country of variance. One day you could be sleeping in caves up in the mountains, the next exploring ancient palaces, and the next drinking a mojito in a bustling beach bar – every city offers something a bit different than the next.
Barcelona and Madrid are the most visited cities in Spain, but they’re far from the only options for those willing to delve a bit deeper into Spanish culture. Here are six of the most interesting and beautiful cities in Spain for those seeking something a little different from their holiday:
Andalucía is the largest region of Spain, and just within its borders, you can discover a wide selection of different cities with their own unique personalities. One such city found at the base of the Sierra Nevada mountains, Granada, is the stuff of fairy tales. Picturesque is an understatement, as the city is full of castles and medieval monuments rich with history. Looming impressively over the city is one of the most famous Islamic palaces in the world, the Alhambra. Exploring the inside of this grandiose palace is a must-add to any bucket list.
What’s more, the food here isn’t just cheap; it’s free! With every drink you buy, you are given a free tapa – making Granada a very budget-friendly option.
Finally, forgo your creature comforts for a night and stay in one of the city´s nearby cave hotels to top off the truly memorable experience, Granada.
In the Basque Country of Northern Spain, Bilbao lies sequestered in a valley where the Nervion and Ibaizabal rivers join. Bilbao is not the region’s capital, but it is the best place to get a feel for the unique culture of the Basque people. Most notably through the food! Besides the exquisite seafood, you can also sample ´pintxos.´ Essentially small slices of bread with anything you can imagine on top, from the best cheese and meat – or even chocolate. It’s like each restaurant tries to outdo the other in originality!
Between bouts of shoving your face, there’s a market – voted the biggest food market in the world in 1990 – and the historical Plaza Mayor to see. Bilbao is also an important location for art lovers, thanks to the iconic Guggenheim Museum. A work of art itself, it houses the very best in contemporary art. The city has an industrial vibe but that doesn’t mean it isn’t beautiful, as this is all part of its charm, and Bilbao is indeed a charming city.
The Costa Del Sol on the coast of Andalucía is the most popular holiday destination in the region; however, the less explored Costa Del Luz has fewer tourists and is more beautiful. Cadiz is a city that stretches across a peninsula on the coast, jutting out into the Mediterranean. Some of the best fine white sand beaches run its length, and the lapping waves make it the perfect surfing location.
At the end of the peninsular can be found the city’s old town, which is a literal maze – it was constructed this way to confuse invaders – of streets loaded with authentic Spanish restaurants and bars. Cadiz boasts gardens of plants imported from South and Central America, scalable towers, and an impressive cathedral to visit. Cadiz is also a prime LGBTQ+ hotspot with lively nightlife and drag shows every weekend. To round off your trip there are few places better in Spain – if not the world – to watch a sunrise or sunset than between the two castles of Caleta Beach. Cadiz is one of Spain’s best-kept secrets, go before it gets out!
If beach time is essential for you on a trip to Spain, then Santander is an underrated option. City beaches usually have the unfortunate consequence of not being the prettiest – or cleanest – due to location. This is not the case with Santander. Since Santander is located within a bay, there are a few stretches of golden sand to choose between. Sardinero beach is even regarded as one of the most refined beach resorts in all of Spain. There’s also the relatively mild climate of the northern coast to enjoy, in comparison to the heatwaves of eastern or southern Spain. The city has various things to see once you can pull yourself away from the beach. There’s a cathedral, several lighthouses, and a natural enclosure – a short walk along the seafront – complete with sea lions and penguins.
Asturias is an often-overlooked region in northeastern Spain, with rolling green landscapes that few associate with Spain. Gijon is a coastal city within this region. While it also has a beach, it’s better known for its old town full of lively bars and its scenic view, ´Cerro de Santa Carolina,´ high on the rocks overlooking the city and ocean.
There is one specific Asturian claim to fame that is not to be missed in Gijon: cider! It’s not uncommon to see cider literally pouring down the streets of the old town due to the region’s tradition of pouring the cider out of the bottle from high up into your glass. Besides being great fun, this adds to the cider’s delicate flavor – just don’t get too carried away as it’s deceptively strong!
Going further to the southwest, close to the Portuguese border, Vigo’s coastal city- and fisherman town – can be found. Vigo really has that fisherman’s village feel despite being a large city. Foodwise, Galicia is unsurprisingly famous for its seafood, with octopus being the signature dish. There’s also the tradition of drinking wine from bowls – a tradition you can support in one of the many bars in Vigo’s old town.
Vigo is on a port in an inlet, so it doesn’t have its own beaches per se, but a short bus ride will take you to Samil – a hugely popular beach with the locals. Most worthwhile is a trip across to the visible Islas Cies via an easily bookable boat from the port. This island is a stunning sight that looks as if it has been lifted straight out of the Caribbean. Its main beach was once voted the most beautiful in the world. Be warned, though, the Atlantic waters are either freezing or refreshing – depending on your perspective.
Barcelona is one of Spain’s most world-renowned cities. Located on the northeastern coast, it stretches along the Mediterranean Sea. The city is a unique blend of old and new, with centuries-old buildings standing side by side with modern architecture.
A must-see in Barcelona is La Sagrada Familia – a church designed by Antoni Gaudí which, despite being unfinished, is one of the most visited monuments in the world. Another of Gaudí´s creations, Park Güell, is also worth a visit. This public park is home to many of his famous mosaic designs.
Of course, no trip to Barcelona would be complete without sampling the local food. Catalan cuisine is a delicious mix of Spanish and French fare. Try the traditional dish, paella, or go for something a little more unusual like squid ink risotto.
Madrid is the capital of Spain and, as such, is the country’s political center. Located in the center of the country, Madrid is a bustling metropolis full of energy.
The city is home to many world-famous museums, including the Museo del Prado, one of the largest art museums in the world. For something a little different, check out the Museo de Cera de la Ciudad de Madrid – a wax museum with over 200 life-size figures on display.
Madrid is also known for its nightlife. The city comes alive after dark, with bars and clubs staying open until the early hours of the morning. Be sure to try a glass of sangria while you’re out – the perfect way to wash down some tapas.
Valencia is located on the east coast of Spain and is the country’s third-largest city. The city is a popular tourist destination, with its sunny weather, Mediterranean atmosphere, beautiful beaches, and the smell of oranges in the air.
The old town of Valencia is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is well worth a visit. Stroll through the narrow streets and admire the architecture of the buildings. Then, head to the central market to sample some of the delicious local produce. Valencia is also home to one of Spain´s most famous dishes, paella. Be sure to try it while you’re in town!
Which is Spain’s Most Beautiful City?
Spain is a country with a lot to offer, you may have to choose for yourself!
From its stunning landscapes to its vibrant cities, there is something for everyone. Whether you´re interested in history, culture, food, or just relaxation, Spain is the perfect destination. So what are you waiting for? Plan your trip to the most beautiful cities in Spain.
Written by Auston from the Two Bad Tourists
Auston runs the blog Two Bad Tourists and is also a freelance writer. His work has been featured in many publications including Attitude Magazine, Edge Media Network, The Houston Chronicle, and ManAboutWorld Magazine.
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