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In 2022, Spain received over 70 million international tourists, making it a well-known destination for its captivating sights and attractions.
The elements that contribute to making Spain a top tourist spot, such as beautiful beaches and a rich variety of food, are widely known.
However, this majestic region offers much more than just the beaches and lively atmosphere of Ibiza or the historic districts of cities like Seville. Even the most popular tourist destinations hold hidden gems if you are willing to delve deeper, such as immersing yourself in Catalan traditions in Barcelona or experiencing the vibrant festivities of Valencia’s largest celebration.
There are also many unique options available, whether you are a food enthusiast looking to explore the deliciousness of Basque cuisine or an adventurer seeking a combination of warm winter weather and stunning volcanic scenery.
Deciding on a destination and activities can be overwhelming in a country with countless options. To assist you, we have compiled a list of the top choices below.
Experience the rich arts, culture, and history of the capital city.
Madrid, like numerous other capital cities, serves as a central hub for its nation’s customs and heritage, blending together significant aspects of its past and traditions. The city proudly showcases Spain’s renowned cultural offerings, such as the abundance of tapas restaurants and intimate flamenco performances, as well as boasting top-rated museums, galleries, and attractions for tourists.
To ensure a comprehensive exploration of the culture and history of this city, begin at the National Archaeological Museum before moving on to the Reina Sofia and Prado galleries. These renowned galleries feature masterpieces from Spain’s beloved artists such as Picasso, Dali, and Goya. After touring the Prado, you can easily access the Retiro Park, a popular green area for both locals and visitors. Just a short 20-minute walk away is the Plaza Mayor, a 17th-century square that remains a significant landmark in the city. To conclude your tour, take a stroll around the impressive Royal Palace, the largest in all of Europe.
From here, eat like a local at the glass-fronted Mercado de San Miguel – where plenty of madrilenos grab a quick lunch of mini paella, croquettes or empanadas – or the Sobrino de Botin, labelled as the world’s oldest restaurant by Guinness World Records.
Venture beyond the popular sights and take the time to discover the local neighborhoods, including the lively Malasana and the stylish yet refined Chueca. As a final touch to your cultural experience, consider catching a flamenco performance or a soccer game at the Bernabeu stadium, where Real Madrid plays.
Explore the topic of traveling to Spain further by reading additional information.
Experience the rich cultural heritage of Barcelona, steeped in Catalan traditions.
Barcelona is a unique Spanish destination that embraces its differences. While its parks, beaches, and top neighborhoods are widely known, the blend of Spanish customs and Catalan traditions has spawned a unique culture that makes it a truly exceptional place to explore.
Experience the highlights of Catalonia through a self-guided tour of the city, taking in the unique modernist architecture of Gaudi, including the famous Sagrada Familia. Explore the works of renowned local artists such as Picasso, Dali, and Joan Miro at the Picasso Museum and Museu Nacional d’Art. Immerse yourself in Spanish culture by dining on traditional tapas in El Born or at a seaside chiringuito bar. Then, continue your journey through Catalonia by joining a guided walking tour or simply strolling through the Gothic Quarter, home to the seat of government.
If you are able to plan in advance, consider visiting Barcelona during the La Merce festival in September. This event features cultural performances on multiple stages throughout the city and the impressive human towers of the castellers in the main squares.
Experience the tasty pintxos of San Sebastian.
San Sebastian is well-known for its abundance of Michelin stars. According to the city’s tourism website, only Kyoto has a higher concentration per square kilometer. Although the city boasts 19 total stars, the overall quality of food, from local bars to European restaurants, is equally impressive.
For those who love food or are new to it, exploring the pintxo bars in San Sebastian is a budget-friendly way to try the different elements of the regional cuisine and indulge your palate with some of the most diverse and delectable dishes in Spain.
The Basque Country’s most celebrated culinary creation, pintxos are an altered form of tapas consisting of small bits of food on bread and pierced with a toothpick. Often sold for as little as €1 each, they are a tasty, inventive way to eat a small meal, with Spaniards regularly visiting for lunch, dinner or a pre-meal snack consisting of anything from sheep’s cheeses to Spanish tortilla or marinated anchovies and beef cheek.
Experience the Las Fallas festival in Valencia.
The most significant festival in Valencia takes place annually from March 1st to March 19th. Initially, it was a way to welcome the arrival of spring, but now it is recognized by Unesco as a tribute to the city’s history with silk. The festival also honors the city and its residents, with everyone coming together to create a lively and joyful atmosphere, making mid-March the ideal time to visit.
The main attraction of the festival are the enormous Fallas monuments. These detailed creations often portray recent happenings or notable figures, typically in a humorous or unflattering manner, and can stand up to 20 meters tall. During the peak of the festival, there are approximately 700 scattered throughout the city, and from March 15th to 19th, they are fully assembled, showcased, and ultimately set on fire.
Tourists in Valencia can anticipate experiencing many of the elements that make the city a popular and appealing destination, but on a larger scale. Although the daily mascleta show, which involves gunpowder explosions, is exclusive to the festival, activities like late-night celebrations, outdoor dining in the plazas, and beach outings are typical aspects of Valencian culture.
Explore the breathtaking natural scenery of the Canary Islands in Spain.
While mainland Spain offers many beautiful natural locations, this small group of islands in the Atlantic may have the most stunning landscapes. The Canaries are situated roughly 100 miles off the coast of Morocco and boast a climate and terrain that make them a top vacation spot in Spain. With consistent sunshine year-round and average temperatures of 22C in December, visitors are guaranteed a pleasant stay. The volcanic nature of the islands also offers a diverse range of national parks, hiking paths, mountains, and beaches to explore.
Lanzarote and Tenerife are two of the most popular holiday islands. The latter is home to Mount Teide – Spain’s highest peak – and its national park, an area of rugged red rock that includes 41 marked walking trails. The former is an island that is almost completely characterised by volcanic activity, from its black sand beaches and lava fields to the picturesque coastline of Los Hervideros. Timanfaya National Park is a highlight here, with an evocative landscape composed of arid volcanic soil.
Discover the fusion of Moorish and Spanish cultures in Andalusia.
The region of Andalucia is often seen as a representation of Spain in the eyes of tourists, with its traditional cities like Seville, cultural activities such as flamenco and bullfighting, and its beautiful beaches on the Costa del Sol. However, not widely known is the fact that the region’s name and popular landmarks are heavily influenced by the Moors.
Andalucia today is a fusion of Islamic influences and revered Spanish customs, making it a prime destination for experiencing both history and modern-day Spain. The city of Seville boasts notable attractions such as its grand cathedral, the Alcazar palace, and the Plaza de Espana built for the 1920 World Fair, as well as nightly flamenco performances. Malaga is a top choice for tourists, offering beautiful beaches, ancient landmarks, and a laid-back atmosphere.
To the east, Granada boasts one of Spain’s most remarkable historical sites. The Alhambra palace and fortress complex is a true gem of Spain, serving as a lasting reminder of the country’s past. It still showcases its original 13th-century citadel, multiple palaces, numerous courtyards, and intricately designed geometric and water elements.
The cities, shorelines, and neighborhoods of the Balearic Islands.
The Balearic Islands have been a popular destination for British tourists for a long time. While Ibiza is still a top spot for partying, there are now more luxurious resorts, tranquil retreats, and unique activities available, making it a great option for couples and families. One of the draws is the lesser-known natural areas, such as the beautiful coastline of Cala Jondal, the peaceful northern countryside, and the scenic mountains in the southwest.
Perennially popular Mallorca continues to provide everything you could want from a summer holiday, with beautiful and blissfully quiet beaches and coves. The city of Palma, fronted by its magnificent Gothic cathedral, is well worth a visit, and an array of port towns, including Pollenca and Port Soller, are arguably just as enchanting.
The island of Menorca is often overshadowed by its larger neighbors, but it offers a more laid-back lifestyle with pristine coastlines, lush pine forests, and tranquil terrain. The beaches are a main attraction, and visitors can also enjoy hiking, biking, and vineyard tours, as well as explore the charming white-washed towns and major cities of Ciutadella and Mahon.
A different celebration during Aste Nagusia in Bilbao.
The main event in Bilbao is a festival that honors Basque traditions, but don’t be fooled – it’s the most extravagant celebration of the year.
The festivities are unparalleled in size and energy, as every member of the community comes together to celebrate from August 17th to 25th. While it’s not unusual to see revelers stumbling home well after sunrise, the atmosphere remains relaxed and inclusive. The city center is filled with stages showcasing a variety of music, theater, and cultural performances, and the streets of the Old Town are bustling with people of all ages.
An exciting event at this festival is the spectacular fireworks display every night, presented by different groups from various European countries. During the day, visitors are encouraged to discover other parts of the city, such as the renowned Guggenheim museum and the delicious cuisine at Ribera Market.
Reworded: Embark on a journey from the coast to the mountains by car.
Many tourists tend to overlook the northern regions of Spain, such as the Basque Country, Asturias, Galicia, and Cantabria. However, these areas provide numerous options for a budget-friendly and accessible road trip that showcases charming coastal regions, picturesque fishing villages, and stunning mountain landscapes.
If you are traveling from the UK, you will most likely arrive in the city of Santander. From there, travel west towards Oviedo, the capital of Asturias, and the charming coastal towns of Cudillero and Llanes.
Make sure to set aside some time to revisit the Picos de Europa. This stunning area, abundant with serene lakes and majestic mountains, provides ample opportunities for summertime outdoor adventures and boasts a variety of spacious and well-equipped campgrounds for an affordable vacation. Charming villages such as Potes and Cangas de Onis exude a rustic charm, but you can opt for a purely natural experience by avoiding them altogether.
After departing from the Picos, you will be approximately two and a half hours away from Bilbao, allowing for the possibility of visiting the two major cities in the Basque region if time permits.
Taste the finest wines from Rioja, Spain.
The wine-producing region of Spain, known for its tempranillo grapes and fruity wines, has a rich history dating back to the Roman era. Despite its small size, visitors can easily explore the region in a few days and enjoy bodega tours, wine tastings, and visits to towns like Logrono or Calahorra.
This area is situated in the scenic Cantabrian Mountains and valleys of the Ebro River, featuring beautiful views of rolling vineyards and a diverse collection of bodega buildings. Experience a taste of history at Bodegas Lecea, which includes 16th-century ‘wine caves’, or look towards the future with Ysios and Marques de Riscal wineries.
Take a journey on the Camino de Santiago.
The renowned Camino pilgrimage trail continues to be one of the most well-liked walking routes globally. Whether you choose to trek the 373 miles of the Camino Portugues or the more manageable 71 miles of the Camino Ingles, this path offers various options. Each route presents a remarkable physical test while also taking you through beautiful Atlantic coastlines, lush hills, and charming fishing ports.
The Camino Frances, also known as the French Route, is the most traditional path spanning nearly 480 miles from St-Jean-Pied-de-Port, France to Santiago de Compostela. It is often considered the ultimate camino experience, traversing the rugged Pyrenees, the scenic Rioja countryside, and notable cities such as Pamplona and Burgos.
The Portugues route, starting in Lisbon, is the second most favored path at 373 miles. Alternatively, the Camino del Norte, which starts in Irun in the Basque region, also covers a comparable distance of miles along Spain’s northern coastline.
Please take a look at our reviews of the top hotels in Spain.