Spain is one of my favourite countries in Europe that holds a special place in my heart. After working in different small towns across the country for my summers in college and living in Madrid for a student exchange in grade ten, I fell in love with everything Spain has to offer. From the vibrant culture and beautiful language to the delicious food like paella, tapas and of course, sangria, Spain is definitely a country that everyone needs to visit. I compiled this list of some of my favourite places I’ve visited in Spain, some that are more well known like the big cities of Madrid and Barcelona and some you may have never thought about visiting before but should.
Barcelona is one of my favourite cities in the world. I love the combination of beach town but chaotic city that you get when you visit. The city is located in the community of Catalonia and is the countries second biggest city in the country next to Madrid. It is known for the renowned architecture by Antoni Gaudí and Lluís Domènech i Montaner and has several UNESCO World Heritage Sites because of these two famed architects, including my personal favourites, Park Guell and La Sagrada Familia. La Sagrada Familia is actually still under construction to this day with the anticipated completion date of 2026. This seaside city is definitely one that has to be on the top of every persons list.
Check out my guide for how to spend two days in Barcelona.
The Pyrenees is a mountain range that borders France and Spain. The Spanish Pyrenees stretch for 450 kilometers and have peaks that reach 3,000 meters high. Nothing can beat the views of these mountains with the bright blue waters that fall in the valleys and picturesque old mountain towns and villages dotted throughout, the Pyrenees are a “can’t miss” destination. The mountains are home to 50 lakes, 14 rivers and 60 tributaries and there are plenty of activities for those looking to just kick back and enjoy the view or seeking adventure sports like fishing, kayaking, skiing and more. I was so lucky to live in the Pyrenees for a summer working and believe me when I say it, it’s hard to come back to the flatter cities after visiting here. It’s jawdroppingly gorgeous.
This guide from Independent Travel Cats will help you plan your perfect trip to the mountains.
Cantabria is a community in Spain with Santander as its capital city. I lived in this area for two months one summer and fell in love with the little beach towns that dot the Northern coast of the country. I spent most of my time between the beautiful city of Torrelavega and one of the most beautiful beaches I’ve been to in the world, Los Locos which is located in Suances. Torrelavega is this regions second largest town and sits between beautiful small villages and the coast. Visit during mid-August for the Virgen Grande Fiestas, a unique floral gala and parade of floats. Suances is a small coastal town that is home to Los Locos, a beach that is fantastic for surfers and those that just want to soak in the views (and the sun).
Madrid is the capital of Spain and is a city I’ve spent a lot of time in, returning back about five times and even living there as part of a student exchange in high school. Madrid is a gorgeous, busy city that is the financial and cultural hub of the country and also of Southern Europe. The architecture combined with the perfectly groomed parks and culture is what really makes the city come alive and what makes Madrid a hot spot on anyone’s Euro trip. The city has over 60 museums, is home to major world renowned galleries like the Prado Museum, and has so many interesting things for tourists to check out. I loved Retiro Park, the Royal Palace, and exploring all the plazas/squares in the city like Plaza Mayor. You also can’t beat the food here. All the sangria and tapas you could ever need or want!
Check out my guide for how to spend two days in Madrid.
Located in central Spain and only an hours drive away from Madrid, Toledo makes an excellent place for a day trip if you’re home base is Madrid. The town of Toledo is a UNESCO World Heritage Site for it’s cultural and monumental heritage. The city is known as the “City of the Three Cultures” due to it being influenced by the co-existence of Christians, Muslims and Jews. The town is also famous for the production of bladed weapons. Toledo is such a beautiful town filled with churches, palaces, fortresses, mosques and more. The mix of religions in the city really makes it a unique place to visit. Check out the Gothic architecture of Cathedral de Toledo, one of Spain’s most important Christian landmarks. Take in the views of the Alcazar that stands over the city, or see the multiculturalism in the city by visiting Cristo de la Luz, a mosque built on the site of a Visigothic church.
Here’s a great list of things to do and see in Toledo.
Located under 1.5 hours from Madrid, Segovia is a great destination for a day trip from the country’s capital. Segovia is another UNESCO World Heritage site and the city is said to be founded by Hercules or by the son of Noah. It is home to the gorgeous soaring aqueduct that sits in the heart of the mix of the modern and historical city. Walt Disney is said to have modeled Sleeping Beauty’s castle after the beautiful Alcazar and alongside the castle you’ll find the gorgeous Segovia Cathedral and numerous churches which make this city so beautiful.
This guide will help you see Segovia in one day.
Another city I lived in/near for a month one summer and I absolutely fell in love with. This city sits 2.5 hours from Madrid and the old part of the city is declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Salamanca is one of the most important university cities in Spain and attracts thousands of international students each school year. The University of Salamanca was founded in 1218 and is the oldest university in Spain and the first to be given its status by Pope Alexander IV. I find this city absolutely magical. It’s historical but not too small and not too big. The Plaza Mayor is illuminated beautifully at night, the old and new cathedrals that stand tall above the city and the yummy food that is unique to this area makes the city one for the books.
Culture Trip put together this great list of ten things to do in Salamanca.
I’d admit that this list is seriously lacking places to visit in the south of Spain and that’s only because I haven’t spent as much time on that coast. However, on my exchange in Spain I had the chance to spend Holy Week at my exchange families beach house in Marbella. Marbella is located in the province of Malaga and is filled with great restaurants (including Michelin-starred ones) serving fresh seafood, nightlife and luxury hotels. The charming Old Town is lined with white-wasted buildings on cobble stoned alleyways and streets. Sheltered by the Sierra Blanca mountains and sitting along the Mediterranean Sea, Marbella is the perfect destination for a little rest and relaxation.
This guide by the Travel Channel can help you plan your trip.
What are some of your favourite places in Spain? Share below in the comments!