Best Places to Visit in Spain That You Shouldn’t Miss

written by local expert Jane Elmets

Jane always knew she wasn't destined for a desk job... She has travelled all over the world and is passionate about noodles, sloths and her hiking boots! When she isn't busy adventuring around the world, you can find her reviewing travel gear and dishing out travel tips to all the places she's visited.

Spain is one of the most visited countries in Europe, and it’s no wonder why. Although it’s not enormous in size, there are countless cities to explore, loads of culture to take in, and many tapas to be eaten. 

Oftentimes, tourists flock to the big cities because they’re easy to find on a map, but in reality, there’s so much more to this country. It’s diverse with sea, mountain, desert and city all in one, so you’ll find that there’s a place in Spain for even the pickiest of travelers.

From delectable food to a lively culture, to a deep and rich history, you’ll find that Spain can offer visitors much more than they ever expected. Those who visit once often come back time and time again because it’s so hard to stay away from such a magical country.  

barcelona aerial view

If you’re planning a European trip, here are 15 of the best places to visit in Spain that shouldn’t be missed!

Quick Answer: Best Places to Visit in Spain

Here are our recommendations for the best places to visit in Spain! Read on to learn more about what makes each city so special.

  • Valencia
  • Cordoba
  • Seville
  • Madrid
  • Toledo
  • Málaga
  • Alicante
  • San Sebastian

  • Almeria
  • Granada
  • Barcelona
  • Ibiza
  • La Rioja
  • Galicia
  • The Pyrenees

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Spain Travel Tips

Now before I get into each place and what the best things to see and do there, if you want general tips on how to plan a trip, what to eat, and where to go, check out our Spain Travel Tips article which has a ton of great information.

If you want some tips on what to pack, you can also check out our Europe Packing List Guide to make sure you don’t forget anything.

In order to get around from one place to the next, you can opt to take public transport or rent a car and drive yourself around! Driving in Europe is super easy and is often very cost-effective. Click here to view car rental rates.

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City of Arts and Sciences, Valencia

Starting things off is the show-stopping city of Valencia, the third largest and one of the most important cities in Spain. It sits in the eastern part of the country and has plenty to see, drawing travelers in from far and wide. 

The most notable landmark that’s brought Valencia great fame is the City of Arts and Science, a cultural and entertainment complex with groundbreaking architectural features and plenty contained inside. Here, you can find a science museum, aquarium, and planetarium, giving visitors plenty to do in between marveling at the complex’s architecture. 

One of the events that makes Valencia so famous is the Fallas Festival held every March. During this time, each neighborhood crafts and displays papier-mache figures which are then burned at the end of the week. It’s truly a sight to behold and something that can’t be missed if you’re visiting Spain in March!

Valencia also has an insanely cool Old Town brimming with historic sites and magnificent monuments. It’s a great place to spend a day strolling around the charming streets and wide open plazas, or grabbing a late night bite to eat.

When you’re not soaking in art and science, you can spend your time eating paella at your choice of posh restaurant, dancing at a packed nightclub, or enjoying the great outdoors in one of the many parks.

But if you ask me, one of the best parts about this city is that it’s right on the beach, so you can dip your toes in the ocean whenever you please!

For more on Valencia, check out: Things to Do in Valencia That You Just Can’t Miss | Where to Stay in Valencia, Spain

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Mezquita mosque cathedral in cordoba spain

Capital of the Cordoba province in the Andalusian region in the South of Spain, Cordoba is a gorgeous destination that will immediately transport you to a time long ago. 

Take a trip to the historic quarter, filled with maze-like medieval streets, large plazas, and courtyards around the Mezquita, the Mosque-Cathedral of Cordoba. While the Mezquita was once a mosque, it has since been turned into a gorgeous cathedral with most of the original architecture still intact.

A visit to this religious marvel absolutely cannot be missed while in Cordoba. Not only is it perfectly Instagrammable, but there’s so much to see you can spend hours exploring the many halls. It’s one of the most admired monuments in the world, with soaring ceilings, intricately carved details, and golden ornaments that truly dazzle. 

Besides the historic quarter, there’s plenty to see and visit like the Fortress of the Christian Monarchs, the Old Jewish Quarter, and the Street of Flowers. You’ll find patios and places to sit outside everywhere you look, allowing you to take in the southern Spanish sun in between glasses of Rioja!

For more on Cordoba, check out: The Perfect Córdoba Day Trip | Amazing Things to Do in Córdoba



Ahh, dreamy Seville, an outstanding Spanish city for tourists and locals alike. The atmosphere in this city is positively buzzing as there’s so much to do. 

Learn about history with a trip to the grand Cathedral of Seville (the third largest cathedral in the world) which is rumored to be where Christopher Columbus is buried, or hit the Real Alcázar for a stroll in the Moorish palace and the surrounding gardens.

When it comes to entertainment, Seville has got it down pat. It’s the birthplace of Flamenco and is one of the best places to catch a show. Watch dancers with a drink or opt for dinner and a show, the choice is yours!

While Seville is the financial and cultural capital of the region of Andalusia, it doesn’t stop the city from having a great time. After a delicious Spanish dinner, you’ll be able to enjoy some popping nightlife that the city is so famous for! 

Drinking in city squares or hitting the dance floor in a nearby club… You’re in for a good time with a visit to Seville!

For more on Seville, read: Top Things to Do in Seville, Spain on a Day Trip | Where to Stay in Seville | 15 Awesome Day Trips from Seville You Should Take | Seville Food Tour Review: Experiencing Seville Through Food and Flamenco


madrid, one of the best places to visit in Spain

As the capital of Spain, no trip to this country is complete without a visit to Madrid. Known for being upscale and posh, you’ll have no problem finding sophisticated shops, long boulevards, large museums, and of course a world class soccer (uh, football) team. 

There is an endless amount to see and do while visiting Madrid, from hitting the art galleries to exploring the expansive parks. There are monuments galore, with one of the most famous being the Royal Palace sitting right smack in the city center. 

You should also make your way to the Puerta del Sol, considered to be the heart of Madrid and Spain in general. This is where festivals and gatherings are held, as well as being home to street performers and the massive Madrid transportation network. 

If you’re looking for a little more than sightseeing and museums, Madrid is also an awesome place for some outdoor adventures. Go on rock climbing excursions, soar through the air on a paraglide or take insights below from a hot air balloon. These activities are an awesome way to break the norm in Spain’s capital and leave you with rewarding Spanish memories.

Aside from all the magic that happens while Madrid is soaked in sunlight, the true fun happens after the sun goes down. While all of Spain likes to party, some of the best drinking is found in Madrid. The nightlife is eclectic, with hundreds of bars and clubs for socializing and dancing. 

For more on Madrid, see: Incredible Things to Do in MadridMadrid City Break Guide: The Best of Madrid in 48 Hours | Best Places to Stay in Madrid, Spain | Madrid Itinerary | 10 Day Trips from Madrid


view of city in toledo spain

Sitting on top of a mountain in the center of Spain, Toledo was the capital of the country until the 16th century. It’s a fantastic melting pot, often referred to as the “City of Three Cultures” as Jews, Christians, and Muslims co-existed here for hundreds of years.

Toledo is an outstanding place to visit for history, art and architecture, all of which dates back to when the Romans ruled. The main cathedral in the city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site as it dates all the way back to the 13th century. It’s built in Baroque and Gothic styles and while you can wander around it yourself, it’s best to take a tour with a local guide!

Spend your time in Toledo getting lost in the medieval streets, visiting the religious homes of the three cultures and learning about the past in the historic center before visiting small cafes or local craft shops. 

If adventure is more your style, there are also some activities for you. Check out the urban ziplining and hot air balloon tours, both of which are awesome ways to see Toledo from a different perspective.

For more on Toledo, check out: Awesome Things to Do in Toledo, Spain for Any Traveler


Caminito del Ray in malaga spain

As you leave inland Spain and make your way closer to the coast, you’ll find plenty of sandy cities sitting right on the water. Málaga is one such city, and it’s an ideal European summer holiday destination. 

Here, you have everything that comes with a city on the beach like tanning foreigners, all-day drinking, and all the tasty eats, your heart could ever desire. But underneath this, there’s tons of culture packed into Málaga.

This 2,800 year old city (yes 2,800 years old!!!) is the birthplace of Picasso, and there are plenty of museums paying tribute to the hometown hero. Málaga also has a thriving artist community in up-and-coming Soho, filled with galleries and hip places galore.

Besides art and the beach, Málaga is also world-famous for being home to the Caminito del Rey, which was once considered one of the most dangerous hikes in the world. Luckily, the Spanish government refurbished the hike to make it much safer for visitors, and now it’s one of the most popular attractions in the area!

The Caminito del Rey is a walkway bridge suspended between two walls of a gorge in El Chorro. As you cross it, you’re faced with insane views of green-blue water, lush greenery and rocky formations. The best way to visit this world wonder is to take a guided tour right from Malaga.

For more on Málaga, check out: Best Things to Do in Málaga | Where to Stay in Málaga


beach surrounded by mountain and buildings in alicante spain

Another prime coastal city in Spain is Alicante (close to Benidorm), with its strong sun, rolling sea, and rocky landscape. Typically, people visiting the coast of Spain fly into Alicante and then directly move on to their next destination, but it’s certainly worth staying to check out what this beautiful city has to offer.

One of the main draws of Alicante is the glorious beach, with views of the tremendous Mount Benacantil right from the shore. If you’re feeling particularly adventurous, make your way to the top of Benacantil to take a peek at the Santa Barbara Castle sitting up high and watching over the rest of the city.

Besides the beach, it’s nice to visit the Alicante marine to watch the boats roll in and out as the sun sets, and then take a stroll through the old town to find a delicious Spanish meal for dinner.

San Sebastian

aerial view of San Sebastian

Located on the opposite coast from Alicante, glorious San Sebastian is in Basque Country, sitting right on the sea. This place is seriously pristine with gorgeous beaches, beaming promenades, and houses built into the plush green hillsides. 

Spend a day basking at Concha Beach which is a peaceful little cove, or make your way to Zurriola Beach for some prime surfing.

Besides soaking in the Spanish sun, San Sebastian is the ideal place to visit if you’re a serious food lover. Aside from the typical Spanish specialities, San Sebastian has its own local flavor with the ever popular pintxo, which is a version of tapas from Basque. In a serving, you’ll normally get something delicious on a piece of toasted bread and since they’re so small, you’re able to try everything! 

One of the best parts about searching for pintxos in San Sebastian is that most of the bars in Old Town put their offerings on the bar top so you can see everything being served with your own eyes.

If you prefer a local touch, try a pintxos and wine tour that takes you to the best family-run eateries in the city.

Now do you believe me when I say this place is seriously foodie heaven?

For more on San Sebastian, check out: Awesome Things to Do in San SebastianBest Places Stay in San Sebastián


old sand colored building with blue sky in almeria spain

Right in the southeast corner of Spain sits the ever wonderful Almeria, right on the Mediterranean Sea. 

While this city may be located near the water, it has a desert climate and is the driest  place in Europe! It’s a super sunny place that rarely sees any rain, making it the perfect place for a beachy getaway.

Almeria has heavy Andalusian influence, with much to visit and see on a trip here. There’s La Alcazaba, a massive Moorish Fortress, Game of Thrones and Western film shooting locations, a gorgeous cathedral, and of course the beach.

For true movie buffs, you can take a full day to visit the Mini Hollywood Western theme park where tons of Wild West films were shot.

For some nature, head out to the Cabo de Gata-Nijar Natural Park where you can walk along salt flats, explore the beach, and visit age-old fishing villages. Alternatively, you can make your way to the Tabernas Desert to the north to experience a dry ecosystem filled with lizards, birds, and tons of canyons and ravines.


spain granada

To see a Disney fairy tale in real life, all it takes is a visit to Granada. Here you’ll find a huge ancient castle and fortress, snow-capped Sierra Nevada mountains, and cobblestone streets for wandering. 

On a trip to Granada, you’re sure to be transported to a time long ago, especially on a visit to the Alhambra, a Moorish palace perched above the city. Many people come to Granada specially to see this historical building so it’s something that must be done while in the city. Here you can find tons of Islamic art and architecture, large gardens, intricately carved details and an outstanding view of the city below. 

There are countless tours of the Alhambra offered everyday, and taking one is a great way to understand the city, building and cultural history of this area of Spain.

Besides the palace, you’ll feel an Arabic influence pretty much everywhere you go in Granada as it was the historical capital of Muslim Spain. But that’s not all that there is to the city. Granada is home to thousands of students, giving the city (and especially the nightlife) a truly lively feel. 

Just a little bit outside of the city is Sacromonte which cannot be missed on a visit to Granada. Here you’ll find an area filled with white caves built into the hillside where the original Granada gypsies lived and flamenco dance and music really came to life.

For more on Granada, check out: 20 Amazing Things to Do When Visiting Granada, Spain | Where to Stay in Granada, Spain


Barcelona, Spain

A Spanish favorite among tourists far and wide, Barcelona draws crowds from every corner of the globe. There’s good reason why it’s one of the best places to visit in Spain. This stunning city has it all: history, culture, art, architecture (a lot of it), and sea views. 

You’ll never feel bored in this city as there’s so much to do, like exploring Gaudi’s work at the Sagrada Familia or Casa Batllo, visiting one of the stupendous museums, or taking a trip up to Mount Tibidabo. 

As a top destination in Spain, there’s no shortage of shops, restaurants, and bars to visit, and you should be sure to take a walk along La Rambla to take it all in. For a more relaxed day, kick back at Barceloneta, one of the most popular beaches in the city.

If you’re looking for a fun way to spend the day, you can also head over to the Tibidabo amusement park which has been around since 1905 and is a fan favorite among rollercoaster lovers. 

As far as other activities go, you have your fair share to pick from in Barcelona, whether you want to go jet skiing, hot air ballooning, on a helicopter tour, or parasailing.

For more on Barcelona, check out: Things to do in Barcelona That You Can’t Miss | Ultimate Barcelona Itinerary | Where to Stay in Barcelona | Best Barcelona Food Tours


water with boats surrounded by mountains in ibiza spain

I know what you must be thinking… Ibiza? Really? Yes, really. As the party capital of Spain and possibly all of Europe, I firmly believe this popping city deserves a place on this list.

Sitting to the east, Ibiza is one of Spain’s Balearic Islands and is best known for having some of the craziest nightlife in this part of the world with its mega clubs, beach parties, and boat events every night. It’s basically Miami spring break year-round, but in Spain instead.

But even if you’re not into partying, Ibiza still has much to offer. On a visit to Ibiza, you can take in the island’s natural beauty. There are tons of quiet beaches and hidden coves for exploring as well as small fishing villages that have been around for far longer than any of the nightclubs. 

Ibiza is also an outstanding place for water activities. Spend your days parasailing, jet skiing, or wake boarding while enjoying the warm Spanish waters. You’ll love getting your blood pumping while soaking in the sun and racing around the wide open ocean.

While there’s partying during the night, Ibiza is an outstanding place for rest and relaxation on a summer holiday, making it one of the best places to visit in Spain.

La Rioja

mountain homes in la rioja region spain

It wouldn’t be a trip to Spain without taking the opportunity to gorge yourself on Spanish wines. In La Rioja, a region in the north of Spain, you can drink to your heart’s content in the classiest setting possible: vineyards with insane mountain views dotted with villages and grapes stretching as far as the eye can see.

Here, you can find hundreds of vineyards that offer tours and tastings so you can experience some of Spain’s most renowned Riojas. Is there anything better than spending an entire day sipping boutique wines and snacking on tapas?

The capital of La Rioja is Logroño, and it’s a great place to stay for easy access to vineyards.

While staying here, you’re sure to notice the eye-catching Cathedral of Santa Maria de la Redonda with matching baroque towers, and the Cubo del Revellin fort that holds together the old city wall. Be sure to stroll around one of the city’s many parks and visit the Museo de la Rioja to learn the history of this lovely place.


rolling green hills in galicia spain

Rather than a super dry, beachy atmosphere like you get along most of Spain’s coast, Galicia offers visitors something far different.

This is one of the most underrated regions in the country. Most people only know of Santiago de Compostela, but there’s so much more to explore, especially for those interested in seeing a different side of Spain. 

Here, you get plush, rolling green hills with a strong Celtic influence and culture. This is the place to visit to learn about Spanish myths and legends, the most common being that Romans believed that the Cape Finisterre Cliffs were the end of the world.

Galicia is filled with crazy thick forests and a rumbling sea that gives a convincing backdrop for many of the region’s myths. It also creates an ideal place for exploration, as you can make your way from the woods, to the cliffs, and finally down to the beach. 

Consider visiting places like Praia das Catedrais for a beach surrounded by towering rocks, A Coruña for a beachy base besides Santiago de Compostela, and the Rias Baixas or Ribeira for a taste of wine country. 

Besides the rich history in this area, the Galicia region is the best place to visit hot springs in Spain. Since the area is so mineral-rich, it’s an outstanding place for relaxation and rejuvenation at one of the 300 different options today. 

After you finish bathing, you should fill up on local seafood as it’s considered to be some of the best in the world. 

The Pyrenees

mountains with trees and stream in the pyrenees mountains in spain

Last but certainly not least, the Pyrenees is one of the best places to visit in Spain. A stretch of mountains that acts as a border between Spain from France, these majestic mountains are truly breathtaking for visitors.

No matter what mountain aspects you’re craving, I can promise you’ll find them in the Pyrenees. Whether you crave a hike through the mountainous wilderness or an adrenaline-filled ski down steep slopes, you can have it all here. The entire stretch of Pyrenees is also full of quaint mountain villages, home to hearty food, full glasses of wine, and some extremely friendly people.

This is one of the best places to go canyoning in Spain as Berros Gorge makes for excellent exploration grounds, and you can even go rafting as well! If you’re visiting in winter, the Pyrenees offer a serene backdrop for snowshoeing, but also offer stunning settings year-round for hiking and trekking.

The Pyrenees is a great place to visit for some peace and quiet on a Spanish vacation. It also holds some of Spain’s loveliest ski resorts without the cost and crowds of those found in the Alps.

sagrada familia, one of the best places to visit in Spain

As you can see from this list, Spain is the land of variety. No two cities are alike, there’s a crazy range in landscapes, and there’s so much to do anywhere you go. You’ll never run out of activities, museums, or famous landmarks while traveling through the country.

Plus, you’re sure to fall in love with the rich local culture, deep red wine and tantalizing tapas.

Hopefully some (or most) of the places on this list make your itinerary, but if you’re missing a few, there’s no harm in taking another trip! If you need some inspiration for planning your dream Spain trip, check out the Spain itinerary we’ve put together that includes some of the places we’ve mentioned above.

You may also want to check out our full guide on Spain travel tips.

Happy traveling!

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