Top 11 Things to Do in Spain

  • 01 of 11

    Eat Free Tapas

    Spain, Andalusia, Granada, Albaicin District listed as World Heritage by UNESCO, Bodega Castaneda, tapas bar
    ••• MATTES Rena/Getty Images

    "Going for tapas" is an essential part of life in Spain. It isn't so much what you eat but how - that is, a morsel food with every drink, and each each one in a different bar. Lots of bars, lots of drinks, lots of great food.

    See more about the Best of Spain, including Spain's best food to eat, festivals to experience, cities and see and regions to visit.

    See also: 9 Best Cities For Tapas

    Where can you eat free tapas in Spain?

    They say you don't get anything for free in this life. In much of Spain this is indeed the case, but in Granada (and a few select other cities) your tapas come free with your drink.

    Read more about Tapas in Spain

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  • 02 of 11

    See the Architecture of Antoní Gaudí

    The most splendid church of Gaudi
    ••• seng chye teo/Getty Images

    Antoní Gaudí's architecture is famous, daring and unique - but that doesn't mean it is actually any good. I met a Swedish man who described La Sagrada Familia as "the most ghastly thing I have ever seen". But even he admitted that everyone should see it.

    See more about the Best of Spain, including Spain's best food to eat, festivals to experience, cities and see and regions to visit.

    See also: Madrid and Barcelona Suggested Itineraries What to do when you want to visit Madrid and Barcelona but you only have a few days.

    Where can I see the architecture of Antoní Gaudí in Spain?

    Though there is Gaudi architecture all over Spain, the majority of it is in Barcelona.

    See also my top ten Things to Do in Barcelona.

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  • 03 of 11

    See a Flamenco Show

    A flamenco dancer in action
    ••• Thomas Roche/Getty Images

    Flamenco is virtually unique in present day music - a traditional form of folk music that is still as alive today as it has ever been. Flamenco can be heard backed by a full orchestra in the gardens of the Alcazar in Seville, played by a pair of drunken gypsies in a seedy tavern or blaring from the stereo of a youth's turbo-charged sports car.

    See more about the Best of Spain, including the best food to eat, festivals to experience, cities and see and regions to visit in Spain.

    Where Can I See a Flamenco Show in Spain

    The best flamenco is to be found at a gypsy wedding, a spontaneous bar sing-a-long or in one of Spain's prisons. These are hard to come by, so you'll need to go and see a show - the best ones are in Seville or Madrid.

    Read more: Where to See Flamenco in Spain

    Seville Tourist Information

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  • 04 of 11

    See a Bullfight

    Bullfighting at the Maestranza bullring, Seville, Spain.
    ••• Yadid Levi/Getty Images

    Animal rights activists in Spain will be up in arms about bullfighting's inclusion in this list, while many Spaniards will groan - bullfighting is no longer anywhere near as popular as it once was. However, bullfighting is an inescapable part of Spain's history and remains an anachronistic curiosity - ritualized animal cruelty in a progressive Western democracy or an endangered art form? You have to see it for yourself to decide.

    Book a Bullfight in Madrid or read more about Bullfighting in Spain

    Choose carefully which city you go to see your bullfighting in - just because a city has a bullring, doesn't mean the city has a tradition of bullfighting.

    See more about the Best of Spain, including Spain's best food to eat, festivals to experience, cities and see and regions to visit.

    Where can you see bullfighting in Spain?

    Bullfighting is originally from Ronda, but Seville is its spiritual home while Madrid has the most supporters today.

    Where to Stay in Madrid to See a Bullfight The bullring...MORE part of town, called Las Ventas, is not the most exciting part of town, but it is well connected to the center of the city. I would stay more centrally (close to Puerta del Sol) and take the Madrid Metro to the bullring.

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  • 05 of 11

    San Sebastian Gourmet Food

    Selection of pintxos tapas on restaurant counter. Bilbao, Spain
    ••• Cultura Exclusive/RUSS ROHDE/Getty Images

    San Sebastian in the Basque Country is fast emerging as the foodie destination in not only Spain but the whole of Europe.

    So what can you expect of San Sebastian food?

    For me, there are three essential elements that make up San Sebastian's fantastic cuisine:

    • Pinxtos The local name for tapas, these are the most gourmet tapas you'll find anywhere in the country.
    • Michelin Restaurants San Sebastian has three restaurants in Spain with three Michelin stars, more than any other city in Europe and with the best star-to-population ratio of any city in the world.
    • Steak and cider Basque cider is the lesser-known sister of Asturian cider. Experience it at a Basque Cider House, along with some excellent steak.

    Practical Information About Visiting San Sebastian

    See also: How to Plan the Perfect San Sebastian, Bilbao and Basque Country Trip

    • The nearest airport is in Bilbao. Don't forge to visit the Guggenheim museum while you're there.
    • There are trains from both Madrid and Barcelona. 
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  • 06 of 11

    Visit the Alhambra

    Court of the Lions, Alhambra, Granada, Spain
    ••• Mark Horn/Getty Images

    In the hills of Granada is the Alhambra Moorish fortress, which protected the city's inhabitants from invasion by the Christians for hundreds of years. It certainly worked - Granada was the last city to fall during the Reconquista, the Spanish leg of the Crusades.

    See more about the Best of Spain, including Spain's best food to eat, festivals to experience, cities and see and regions to visit.

    You can image what to expect at the Alhambra with this simple equation: take the most beautiful gardens in the world, add a beautiful fortress and multiple by ten.

    Most people get around the Alhambra in under four hours, but many have been known to stay longer. Avoid busy times of year as tickets are in short supply.

    Booking Alhambra Tickets

    Tickets are hard to come by for the Alhambra. Read more about Alhambra tickets.

    As the Alhambra is so big, with several different parts that have their own entry times, it pays to do your research before you turn up. Read my personal tips on visiting the Alhambra...MORE here: Alhambra Tickets: What You Should Know

    One of the best ways around ticket scarcity and the Alhambra's daunting size is to book a guided tour. Not only are you guaranteed a ticket, you also get a much-needed guide to show you around the humongous fortress.
     

     

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  • 07 of 11

    Visit Madrid's Three Essential Art Museums

    Museo del Prado, Madrid, Spain
    ••• Ingolf Pompe / LOOK-foto/Getty Images

    Spain produced two of the most important artists of the past hundred years: Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dali. Find work by both artists in the Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, one of Madrid's three essential museums.

    But many would say that these two artists are not the best that Spain has to offer, and even more would say that the Reina Sofia is not the best museum in Madrid. Instead, that accolade goes to the Museo del Prado, which houses excellent art from the 14th to the 19th centuries from the likes of Velázquez, Goya and El Greco.

    The Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza completes the triumvirate of essential Madrid museums.

    See also: Madrid and Barcelona Suggested Itineraries What to do when you want to visit Madrid and Barcelona but you only have a few days.

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  • 08 of 11

    Study Spanish in Spain

    studying Spanish in Spain
    ••• Life can be a beach even when you're studying Spanish in Spain. Image: Will Ockenden (Some Rights Reserved)

    If you have a little extra time on your hands, why not learn Spanish?

    Spanish is one of the four most useful languages in the world (along with English, Chinese and Arabic), spoken throughout Spain and South America and quite the in-vogue language to learn in Europe at the moment. It is also a surprisingly simple language to learn. I learned the language fluently after failing miserably at French at school. In twelve weeks at a language school in Spain, I went from absolute beginner to the advanced class.

    With the varying accents and other regional languages spoken in Spain, it is important to pick your city wisely. Accents in the south, such as in Seville or Malaga, can be tough to decipher for a beginner (but could be a great test of your skills once you get past the basics) and the other languages you'll hear spoken in Barcelona and, to a lesser extent, Bilbao, distract a little from the advantages of learning in Spain.

    Further details:

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  • 09 of 11

    Eat Paella in Valencia

    Paella
    ••• Vanessa Gavalya/Getty Images

    Another cliché, but when in Spain, you have to try the paella. Unfortunately, unscrupulous Spanish restaurants know this and often serve paella which is frankly unpalatable.

    For this reason, you have to choose your restaurant carefully. Read more on How to Make Sure You Get a Good Paella in a Restaurant in Spain.

    Remember that there are several paella varieties - bypass the seafood version and go for paella Valenciana. Made from meat instead of seafood, this is the original paella and so is the most 'authentic'.

    Read more about Paella in Spain:

    See more about the Best of Spain, including Spain's best food to eat, festivals to experience, cities and see and regions to visit.

    More About Valencia

    Find out about Valencia, the home of paella.

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  • 10 of 11

    The City of Seville

    Seville cathedral with orange trees
    ••• Seville cathedral and orange trees: just two of the delights of this fantastic city. Damian Corrigan

    Seville is a treat, providing you can avoid the sweltering heat in August and that they've finished the Metro by the time you get there (should be sometime this century). Seville at its best is truly captivating, including its cathedral with its Giralda tower, the neighboring Alcazar castle and garden complex and the Plaza de España (above). Check out the pictures to see what I mean.

    See more about the Best of Spain, including the best food to eat, festivals to experience, cities and see and regions to visit in Spain.

    See also: Seville Tourist Guide

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  • 11 of 11

    Camino de Santiago

    Hiker pilgrim on the Camino de Santiago, Asturias, Spain, Europe
    ••• Christian Kober / robertharding/Getty Images

    The Camino de Santiago is an ancient pilgrimage to the tomb of St James in Santiago de Compostela. For most people this involves walking up to 800km across northern Spain, though you can start from anywhere you like. 

    For those who embark on the most popular route, the Camino Frances, this involves a walk through the Pyrenees, through Pamplona and the wine country of La Rioja, before a long stint walking across the Spanish meseta. After reaching Leon, a city renowned for its tapas, you cross into the wonderful green countryside of Galicia.

    For more about the Camino, see this Camino de Santiago Guide