The Very Best of Spain

  • 01 of 06

    Best Cities in Spain

    Calle Cuchilleros in Madrid de las Austrias
    Madrid de las Austrias in Madrid's oldest neighborhood. (c) Damian Corrigan

    What is the best of Spain? That's obviously an impossible question to answer, so let's break it down into a few categories. Over the next few articles I'll offer my suggestions of the very best that Spain has to offer. 

    First up, Spain's best cities.

    See also:

     

    1. Madrid 
      Spain's best museums, some excellent day trips, great nightlife and so much more. It may not have the wow factor that Barcelona has, but you’ll never get bored in Madrid.
      Madrid or Barcelona: Which is Better?

    2. Barcelona
       Because, Barcelona! Does Spain’s most famous city need an introduction? Gaudi architecture, the Gothic Quarter, a burgeoning craft beer scene and so much more.
      How to Plan the Perfect Barcelona Trip

    3. Seville
      The jewel of Andalusia. The sounds of flamenco float out from the balconies as you sit eating tapas in the famous Barrio Santa Cruz.
      50 Things to Do in Seville

    4. Granada
       Two things: the Alhambra and Spain’s best tapas culture, where you get a tapa with every drink, for free! See also: Things to Do in Granada

    5. San Sebastian
      Spain’s best beach town, San Sebastian turned pintxos (Basque tapas) into high art. More: San Sebastian Tapas Bars

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  • 02 of 06

    Best Spanish Regions

    Old Santiago
    (c) Damian Corrigan

    Cities are great, but if you're not after a city break, you prefer to pick your destination based on what the region is like. 

    See also: Spain's Best Regions

    1. Andalusia 
      Seville, Granada and Cordoba are all in Andalusia. Add to that sherry from Jerez, the beautiful city of Cadiz, and the pueblos blancos (white villages) such as Ronda and you need never leave the region! See also: Andalusia Travel Guide
    2. Madrid 
      Stretching into the neighbouring regions of Castilla-La Mancha and Castilla y Leon, you have Segovia, Toledo, Consuegra and Avila all a Day Trip from Madrid. Explore some of Spain’s best small cities and be back in time for tapas.

    3. The Basque Country 
      San Sebastian and Bilbao are the major cities here. But add to that some great surfing, excellent wines (both in the Basque Country and a day trip away in La Rioja) and you have something quite fantastic. 
      How to Plan the Perfect San Sebastian and Bilbao Trip

    4. Catalonia 
      Simply by being home to Barcelona, Catalonia warrants a place on this list. But add in Figueres, with its Dali Museum, the Montserrat mountain and the Pyrenees and you have a region well worth exploring. See also: Day Trips from Barcelona.

    5. Galicia 
      Green, green Spain! Home to Santiago de Compostela (to which thousands of pilgrims every year walk 800 miles on the Camino de Santiago.

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  • 03 of 06

    The Best Things to Do in Spain

    Tapas bar in Logroño
    Tapas bar in Logroño. (c) Damian Corrigan

    How to fill your trip to Spain?  If it’s your first trip to the country, you can’t say you’ve been to Spain until you’ve done these things:

    1. Eat Tapas 
      Tapas is not a type of food but a way of eating it: small portions, normally accompanied by a drink. After that - there are no rules! In some cities, the tapas are given away for free with every drink, in others the food looks more like molecular gastronomy than a bar snack. See more: What is tapas?
      Where? Seville, Granada or San Sebastian. 
       
    2. See a flamenco show 
      Flamenco is not 'a dance'. It's a complete art form that involves singing, guitar, handclaps and, sometimes, dancing. For me flamenco has the power and emotion of opera, the melancholy of blues and the rawness of punk. You don't know what flamenco is until you've seen it. 
      Where? Preferably Seville or Granada, but Madrid or Barcelona has some good shows too.
       
    3. Visit the Sagrada Familia and other Modernist Architecture 
      Catalan modernism is a Spain's Art Nouveau, a fin de siecle art movement that is best observed in the fascinating architecture of Barcelona. Read more about Modernism in Barcelona
      Where? Barcelona
       
    4. Go to the Golden Triangle of Art Museums 
      The Museo del Prado, the Reina Sofia and the Thyssen-Bornemisza are three of the best art museums in Spain, nay, in the world, and they're all within a few steps of each other. Read more about the Golden Triangle of Art Museums.
      Where? Madrid
       
    5. Visit one of Spain’s crazy festivals 
      Tomatina, Pamplona Running of the Bulls, Las Fallas... Spain has a wealth of famous festivals, as well as hundreds of smaller fiestas (virtually every village has one a year).
      Where? All over the country (see below for examples of the very best festivals in Spain).
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  • 04 of 06

    The Best Festivals in Spain

    The best time to visit a city is when there is a festival on: there’s nothing worse than arriving in town the day after they’re clearing up the mess after a fiesta. My top picks would be:

    1. Las Fallas in Valencia 
      Las Fallas has it all. In addition to the usual street food, music and daytime drinking, there's fireworks, a religious element, and events happening at all hours of the day (including an early morning firecracker wake-up call. 
      See also Ten Best Things to Do at the Fallas Festival in Valencia
    2. Tomatina Tomato Fight
      Food fight, anyone?
      See also: Tomatina Tomato Fight Guide

    3. Pamplona Running of the Bulls
      Some people think its a good idea to run in front of a herd of angry bulls. Others think it's a good idea to watch people run in front of angry bulls.
      See also: Pamplona Running of the Bulls Guide
    4. Semana Santa
      Easter in Spain is such a big deal, it lasts a whole week. The vibe at Semana Santa can differ hugely depending on which city you are in: from the hushed sobriety of Toledo to the passion of Seville.
      See also: Which City Should I See Semana Santa in?

    5. Feria de Sevilla
      After Semana Santa is over, the sevillanos let their hair down with their big fiesta of the year. Also known as the Feria de Abril, even though it doesn't always take place in April.
      See also: Feria de Abril

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  • 05 of 06

    The Best Food and Drink in Spain and Where to Get it

    Galician style octopus (pulpo a la gallega), tetilla cheese and padron peppers
    (c) Damian Corrigan

    Paella, of course - but what else? And what exactly is 'tapas'?

    See also: What to Eat in Spain: City by City

      1. Paella
        Spain's most famous dish is often misunderstood. For a start, the most traditional version has no seafood in it. Crazy, huh? 
        How to Get Good Paella in Spain

      2. Tapas and Pinchos
        Not a type of food exactly, but a way to eat it. Tapas is all about small portions, preferably eaten standing up, with a drink, as part of an evening of bar hopping. 'Tapas restaurants' around the world that serve you ten little dishes on a single plate are not serving tapas.
        Best Cities to Get Free Tapas in Spain

      3. Wine
        Spanish wine, particularly the red, is some of the best in the world, and a lot cheaper than in neighboring France. 
        Wine Tours in Spain

      4. Sherry
        Different enough from your usual Spanish wine to warrant its own place on this list. Sherry is another misunderstood element of Spanish culture - it's not always the sweet stuff your grandmother drank. Try the full gamut of sherry in Jerez.
        Where to Drink Sherry in Jerez

      5. Octopus
        The texture puts a lot of people off, but that's usually because they haven't had it cooked right. Get it in Santiago de Compostela for the best experience.

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    • 06 of 06

      More of the best of Spain

      San Sebastian
      San Sebastian. Miguel Ángel García

      Spain's Best Beaches 

      Spain has a lot of coastline - and much of it is adorned with beautiful beaches. And if you find swimwear too restrictive - there are plenty of nudist beaches too!

      Spain's Best Art and Architecture

      No one could fail to be blown away by some of the constructions in Spain. From cathedrals that are approaching a thousand years of age to super-modern avant-garde structures, there's bound to be something to impress you.

      The Best of Spain on a Budget