Bucket list-worthy places in Spain

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Spain's reputation abroad is often relegated to images of flamenco dancers and bullfights, yet there's much more to discover. The nation presents a compelling blend of coastlines, mountain ranges, historic fortresses, and centuries-old cathedrals. The Spanish people, renowned for their zest for life and hospitality, contribute to an inviting and captivating culture.

The country, known for its art and architecture, presents a compelling alternative to the frequented paths of France or Italy. Its rich history spans millennia, with traces of Roman, Gothic, and Moorish influence embedded in the tapestry of its urban landscapes and rural heartlands.

Regarding urban offerings, Spain boasts a selection of cities catering to a range of interests. For lovers of art and history, Madrid and Barcelona are must-visits. If it's the tradition you're after, Seville will not disappoint. Conversely, Valencia presents a mix of old and new with its innovative buildings standing beside ancient monuments. Palma's idyllic beaches offer a respite from city life, while Bilbao's industrial charm attracts those seeking something a bit different. San Sebastian will win over food enthusiasts with its culinary scene, and Las Palmas promises year-round sunshine for the sun-seekers.

In essence, Spain holds a wealth of experiences waiting to be explored. This guide aims to shed light on some of the country's top destinations, providing travelers with a deeper understanding of what makes Spain such a rewarding destination.

Delicious Madrid

City in🇪🇸 Spainrated
4.4

In the heart of Spain sits its capital, Madrid, a city known for its well-kept gardens, historical landmarks, and a culinary scene that will keep even the most discerning foodies happy. Despite its status as a modern metropolis, Madrid has maintained its historical charm, which is evident in its wide boulevards lined with traditional taverns and iconic sites such as the Royal Palace.

Madrid is a city that stays up late. Fueled by tapas, bars, and flamenco clubs, its nightlife defines the city's character. Even if you're not one for nocturnal adventures, the city's daytime offerings won't disappoint. From the vast collections of European art in the Prado Museum to the lush landscapes of Retiro Park, you will find your day full of activities and places to go.

While Madrid's public transportation is efficient, the city's layout can be confusing for first-time visitors. It's advisable to have a reliable map or navigation app on hand. Also, keep in mind that despite its friendly population, not all locals are fluent in English. A few phrases in Spanish might come in handy.

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Barcelona

City in🇪🇸 Spainrated
4.4

While Spain boasts numerous travel-worthy cities, Barcelona stands out with its rich history, unique architecture, and vibrant food scene.

First-time visitors will likely be drawn to the city's famed architectural wonders. Foremost among these is the Sagrada Familia, a towering basilica designed by Antoni Gaudi, whose distinctive style marks much of the city. Another must-see is Park Guell, a public park system composed of gardens and architectonic elements also by Gaudi. The labyrinthine streets of the Gothic Quarter hold a charm of their own, revealing small courtyards, ancient Roman walls, and countless shops and eateries at every turn.

Barcelona's culinary scene is another high point. One can hardly leave without sampling tapas, small plates of food stapling Spanish cuisine. The Mercat de la Boqueria is a popular spot to try fresh local produce, cheeses, and cured meats. However, be cautious of tourist traps around the city center offering subpar dishes at inflated prices.

While Barcelona is generally safe for tourists, pickpocketing can be a concern, especially in crowded areas like La Rambla and on public transport. It's wise to keep an eye on personal belongings at all times.

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Seville

City in🇪🇸 Spainrated
4.6

Despite the flurry of travelers that flood Europe, Spain's Seville is often overlooked. Apart from the well-known Seville Cathedral and the Alcazar Palace, it is filled with historic sites and cultural experiences.

Seville’s locals, known as Sevillanos, carry a relaxed way of life, reflecting the sunny and warm climate. They are rooted in tradition, evident in their daily routines and popular pastimes such as bullfighting. Don't mistake their laid-back attitude for a lack of productivity though, as Seville is a hub of Andalusian economic activity.

The heart of the city lies in the historic Santa Cruz district. This labyrinth of narrow streets, hidden plazas and whitewashed houses is a place to lose oneself in. Keep an eye out for the countless orange trees lining the streets, their intoxicating fragrance adding to the charm.

Venture into Triana, the birthplace of flamenco, where you can catch a passionate performance at a local tablao. Sample the city's culinary delights - try the gazpacho or rabo de toro, but remember, Sevillanos prefer to eat late, with dinner starting at 9 pm or even later.

However, the summer heat can be intense, often soaring above 40 degrees Celsius. It's best to visit during spring or autumn when the weather is milder.

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Valencia

City in🇪🇸 Spainrated
4.3

In eastern Spain, Valencia stands out as a city that elegantly combines the old and the new. Its history spans centuries, from the Roman colony to the Moorish stronghold, before finally becoming an integral part of the Spanish kingdom. This is evident in the cityscape, where Gothic and Renaissance architectural gems share the streets with innovative modern structures.

Valencia's locals, known as Valencianos, are a friendly bunch, often seen in lively discussions at the many tapas, bars, and cafes that line the city's streets. Despite its sizeable population, the city retains a sense of community, with neighborhood festivals and cultural events serving as a testament to its rich heritage.

The star attraction in Valencia is undoubtedly the City of Arts and Sciences, a futuristic complex of museums, opera houses, and oceanariums. This modern marvel starkly contrasts the medieval Valencia Cathedral in the old town, home to what is reputedly the Holy Grail.

For food lovers, Valencia is synonymous with paella. Originating here, this famous dish is best enjoyed in a traditional Valencian restaurant. Try it with rabbits or snails for an authentic local experience. Also, did you know that most of the oranges in Spain are from Valencia? They love their juicy oranges, so you should have some freshly squeezed orange juices.

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Palma

City in🇪🇸 Spainrated
4.1

Palma, the capital of the Balearic Islands, is a destination that offers more than just sunshine and sandy beaches. This Mediterranean city is home to a mix of modern amenities and historic sites.

Central to Palma's appeal is its Old Town, where narrow, winding streets are lined with well-preserved buildings that date back to the Middle Ages. Here, you will find the impressive Gothic Cathedral of Santa Maria, more commonly known as La Seu.

Mercat de l'Olivar, as the city's main market, is a treasure trove of fresh produce, local delicacies and seafood. A visit here is an ideal opportunity to taste the island's culinary delights, like sobrasada, a local sausage, and ensaimada, a spiral-shaped pastry.

Away from the tourist trail, you'll find the Es Baluard Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art. This lesser-known gem houses works by notable Spanish artists like Picasso and Miró, and offers panoramic views of the city from its terrace.

Palma may not be as popular as Barcelona or Madrid, but it's an equally rewarding place to explore. With its rich history, gastronomic offerings, and sandy beaches, this city provides a well-rounded holiday experience.

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Bilbao

City in🇪🇸 Spainrated
4.4

Spain's northern corner is home to Bilbao, a city that sidesteps the usual Spanish stereotypes of sun-soaked beaches and bullfighting, opting instead for a more urban and industrial charm. Not many years ago, it was just another decaying shipbuilding centre. But today, Bilbao stands tall, reinventing itself as a design and arts hub with a focus on quality architecture.

Bilbao's core attraction is the Guggenheim Museum, an architectural masterpiece of titanium, glass and limestone, housing an extensive modern and contemporary art collection. This striking edifice, alongside the modernist Euskalduna Conference Centre and Concert Hall, has played a crucial role in redefining the city's identity.

Bilbao's Casco Viejo, the old town, offers narrow streets and alleys full of traditional Basque restaurants. Here, visitors can enjoy pintxos - small snacks typically eaten with drinks - and local wine. It's a far cry from the image of paella and flamenco that Spain often projects.

Yet, visitors should be prepared for the region's unpredictable weather. Despite being in Spain, Bilbao has a maritime climate with high rainfall throughout the year.

Explore Bilbao

Donostia-San Sebastian

City in🇪🇸 Spainrated
4.6

San Sebastián, a seaside city in Spain's Basque Country, holds a unique allure for tourists. San Sebastián is home to some of Spain's finest beaches, namely La Concha and Zurriola, which are both conveniently central and well-maintained.

Culinary aficionados would find themselves at home here, as San Sebastián is known for its food culture, particularly pintxos - small bites served on bread. The city's culinary excellence extends to high-end dining, with several Michelin-starred restaurants to its name.

Basque cheesecake was invented in San Sebastián. We heard that someone came to visit San Sebastián and ate the cheesecake daily.

The hilly surroundings offer walking trails with views over the bay for a break from the cityscape. Mount Urgull, topped by an ancient fort and statue of Christ, is a popular choice.

An interesting lesser-known fact about San Sebastian is that it hosts one of the oldest film festivals in the world, the San Sebastian International Film Festival, which draws film buffs and celebrities alike each September.

Explore Donostia-San Sebastian

Las Palmas de Gran Canaria

City in🇪🇸 Spainrated
4.1

Spain, while not a newcomer to the attention of world travelers, still holds pockets of lesser-known attractions, such as Las Palmas in the Canary Islands. While the rest of Spain is more associated with bullfighting and flamenco, Las Palmas carries its unique identity, defined by a mix of Spanish and African influences. Its main attractions are far from the stereotypical desert and camel image that often accompanies thoughts of island locations.

Las Palmas is a city surrounded by beautiful beaches, with Playa de Las Canteras standing out. It is a natural marvel, with a long strip of sand and an offshore lava reef acting as a breakwater. This beach is known for its year-round mild temperature and calm waters, making it ideal for swimming and snorkeling.

Moving away from the coast, you find a city teeming with history and culture. Vegueta, the oldest district of Las Palmas, is dotted with historic buildings and narrow streets that bear witness to centuries of history. The district is home to the Casa de Colón, a museum dedicated to the voyages of Christopher Columbus, providing insights into a significant chapter of the city's past.

The local population here are known as 'Palmenses', who take pride in their unique Canarian culture that blends Spanish and African influences. They are warm and welcoming people, eager to share their traditions and way of life with visitors.

One should not miss trying out the local cuisine here. It is a fusion of Spanish, African, and Latin American flavors, with seafood being a star attraction. Dishes like "ropa vieja" and "papas arrugadas" are common local favorites.

Despite its charm, visitors should be mindful of the occasional tourist-targeted petty crime. It's advised to be cautious with personal belongings, especially in crowded areas.

Explore Las Palmas de Gran Canaria

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