Top 5 Cities to Visit in Spain

Spain, like Italy and France, has a reputation as being romantic, beautiful and perfect for a vacation. All this is true but there is more to it and it boasts some world class cities to visit.

Spain tends to be on many people’s list of European countries they want to visit. Lots of sun, good food, and all those delightful Spanish men – what more could you want?

Spain is divided into 15 regions and each not only has its own government but sometimes even its own dialects. There is enough to see in individual regions that you likely won’t see the whole country in a single trip. My last trip there, we concentrated on the southern Andalusian region which was absolutely wonderful.

Spain has a unique history and has had many diverse cultures including the Romans and Moors make their home and leave behind structures, ruins, and inventions there. As a result you can explore some incredible ruins while still in mainland Europe.

While there are many things you should do in Spain including eat tapas, eat lots of gelato (it tastes fantastic on a hot afternoon), catch a football game, lie on the beach, see some flamenco dancing, and shop; there are also lots of great cities to see too. In fact, there are some you just should not miss.

#1: Madrid


Madrid is Spain’s capital city and a bustling metropolis. It is also one of the scariest places I have ever driven in. Thankfully, Madrid has a great public transportation system that is easy to navigate even if you don’t speak Spanish.

As you would expect, it is full of well-known museums like the Prado and Reina Sofia. The Royal Palace is open in parts to visitors and is worth seeing. For those seeking something truly unexpected visit the Debod Temple, an authentic Egyptian temple that was moved stone by stone to Madrid in the 1960s from the Nile Valley where it was threatened by a dam being constructed.

Although pricey, foodies will want to visit Botin, the world’s oldest restaurant which was founded in 1725. Reservations are recommended since it is quite popular with locals and tourists alike.

The best parts of Madrid though are places like the Plaza Mayor and Puerta del Sol where you can wander around and soak in the atmosphere and culture. The open topped bus tour is also a fun way to see a big city.

#2: Barcelona


This is the other big Spanish city. It’s on the coast and I have yet to make it out there. That being said, it is one of Spain’s biggest cities for tourism, perhaps because it has a bit of everything to offer the tourist.

There are beaches (try Barceloneta – recently voted World’s Best by National Geographic), Roman ruins, mountains, an incredible nightlife, lots of football including the world’s biggest football stadium Camp Nou, and so much more.

Famed architect Antoni Gaudi made Barcelona his home and his work can be found in many places around the city. Fans will want to visit Parc Guell which was once destined to be a housing development but instead became a public park. Take a guided tour to get all the details and see the more interesting nooks and crannies of the park.

La Sagrada Familia is another Gaudi creation, this time in the form of an immense and immensely detailed cathedral. It is still in construction and not expected to be finished until 2026. It is an amazing site regardless of your religion.

For those who like street performers and lively roads in general, exploring La Rambla is another must. However, pickpockets and purse snatchers abound so be careful and sensible.

#3: Granada


Granada is famous for the structure to which it is home – the Alhambra. It was the seat of the Moorish government until their exile in 1492 and was later occupied by Catholic kings.

It is one of the most impressive group of structures, particularly once you realize its age, that I have ever seen. You’ll need to climb the hill to see it and for those not athletic, I do recommend a taxi because it is a big climb. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage site and tours last 2-2 ½ hours. It is worth having a tour guide give you the details.

There are lots of line-ups and seeing it will take you most of the day. Do not hesitate, do it. Afterwards, you can relax with some of the best gelato in Spain.

#4: Seville


We took the train into Seville for a day trip from where we were staying in Jerez. I kind of regret not having more time there and would like to revisit it at some point in the future. Because we were only there for a day and limited by the train schedule we didn’t get to see many of the sites I have since discovered.

We did see the Cathedral and if you see nothing else, you must see this church. It is Europe’s largest Gothic cathedral and its third largest church period after St Paul’s in London and St. Peter’s in Rome. The architecture, artwork and sculptures are incredible. You will put a kink in your neck staring at the detailed ceilings.

It’s also home to the remains of Christopher Columbus. In a country full of amazing churches, this one was the most awing of all. Watch out for the scam artists in front of the church. We got badly taken. You should also climb the Giralda Tower which is beside it and offers incredible views of the countryside.

The Real Alcazar of Seville is another fortress/palace that shows off the influence of both the Moors and Christians. Regardless of heritage, the cultures always seemed to love gardens and both Granada and Seville show this off beautifully.

The Palace of the Countess of Librija is a museum we had not heard of until we were on the train on our way to Seville. Unfortunately, by the time we had seen the church and Real Alacazar, we were too late to see the museum which was closing. The museum was the Countess’ residence and she collected ancient mosaics including many Roman mosaics.

She also had some phenomenal artwork, statuary, and other household embellishments that made her 15th century home such a showcase. It is on my list of places to visit when I make it back to Seville.

#5: Toledo


What attracted us to Toledo initially was its fame as the home of many famous sword makers and Damascene steel. We ended up unable to tour a manufacturer much to my dismay but instead we discovered something even better – the old walled city. There are places to park outside and within the city you will be on foot.

There is lots to see but nothing impossible to do if you have only a day. That being said, get a map first thing as the streets are like a labyrinth and it is very easy to get lost.

Not surprisingly for Spain, there are lots of beautiful cathedrals and alcazars to see. Toledo was known as an area where Jews, Christians, and Moors all managed to get along reasonably well and there are mosques, temples and cathedrals alongside one another.

Within the walled city are museums and cathedrals that house impressive art by artists like El Greco, Goya, and Raphael. Even for a philistine like me, it is impressive and worth seeing.

Spain is beautiful and regardless of where you go I suspect you will find yourself falling in love with the country. Explore the countryside but make time to see the great cities as well. They are some of Europe’s best.

Cover photo:


About the author

Heather B

Heather is an avid traveller, lover of dogs, and baker supreme. She lives in a small town in Ontario, Canada where she raises German Shorthaired Pointers with her family. An explorer at heart, she travels whenever she can, wherever she can.

Add Comment

Click here to post a comment