01 of 06
Best Cities in Spain
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.
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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?
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
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
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
Spain’s best beach town, San Sebastian turned pintxos (Basque tapas) into high art. More: San Sebastian Tapas Bars
02 of 06
Best Spanish Regions
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
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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
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.
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
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.
Green, green Spain! Home to Santiago de Compostela (to which thousands of pilgrims every year walk 800 miles on the Camino de Santiago.
03 of 06
The Best Things to Do in Spain
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:
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- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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).
- Eat Tapas
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:
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- 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
Tomatina Tomato Fight
Food fight, anyone?
See also: Tomatina Tomato Fight Guide
- 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
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?
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
- Las Fallas in Valencia
05 of 06
The Best Food and Drink in Spain and Where to Get it
Paella, of course - but what else? And what exactly is 'tapas'?
See also: What to Eat in Spain: City by City
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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
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
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
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
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.
06 of 06
More of the best of Spain
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.
- Top Ten Cathedrals in Spain
- Top Ten Paradors in Spain
- Seven Wonders of Spain
- Top Modernist Buildings in Barcelona
The Best of Spain on a Budget