14 Places to Visit in Spain

by Sojourner
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I know, I know, we all love Madrid because it’s the partying capital of Spain and Barcelona because The Cheetah Girls taught us how to strut on the streets like a pro. They are the cities everyone goes to see and I agree you should visit one or both on your Spanish adventure. However, there is so much more Spain has to offer. Some of the best places in Spain aren’t the touristy spots, even though those are excellent to visit too. Expanding your itinerary to go to places such as Ronda or Bilbao could make your trip to Spain even better! For those who wanting to embark on this expansion, I have 14 of the best places in Spain to consider (in no particular order)!

Ronda
Autonomous Community: Andalusia

Ronda is a beautiful, less-traveled to town in southern Spain. This small town is located near Málaga, making it a perfect day trip from the busy beaches and city life. It’s walkable, cheap and the iconic Puente Nuevo (“New Bridge”) is one of the coolest bridges in Spain. Fun fact: writer and avid Ronda visitor Ernest Hemingway even has a street named after himself on one of the windy roads. The nature, small town vibes, and relaxed way of life make it one of the best destinations in Spain.

Bilbao​
Autonomous Community: Basque Country

On the opposite side of the country sits Bilbao, another walkable city known for their museum The Guggenheim. Riding the bus into Bilbao is gorgeous because it has the perfect balance of ​city and nature, with an industrial vibe mixed in due to the city’s building style. They also speak Basque in addition to Spanish and are really proud of it, so don’t confuse the two. You can even consider flying into or out of their airport. Though it can be expensive it’s worth a shot!

Bonus Destination Near Bilbao: San Juan de Gaztelugatxe in Bermeo!

The Game of Thrones nerd in me just had to include the infamous “Dragonstone” on the list! San Juan de Gaztelugatxe is located 45 minutes north of Bilbao in Bermeo. Hop on a green Bizkaia bus and you’ll be well on your way. Don’t forget to bring your best hiking or workout shoes, a water bottle and a lunch to eat at the top. For a full recap of my trip, click here.

Valencia
Autonomous Community:  Valencia

Valencia is the 3rd largest city in Spain, with Madrid and Barcelona taking the top two spots. It’s also the home of paella, a popular Spanish rice dish, and the infamous Las Fallas Festival where they literally burn down parade monuments in the streets! All of these events make it one the best places in Spain for tourists to see Spanish culture in action. It’s also home to the City of Arts and Sciences, a Santiago Calatrava creation that’s a combination of a planetarium, museum, IMAX, aquarium and much more.

Zaragoza
Autonomous Community:  Aragón

Zaragoza is another northern treasure that doesn’t get much love! The Basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar is a stunner with the artsy, tiled roofs. The stairs to get the Insta-worthy view left me panting for water yet was worth every step. It’s like a larger version of Logroño, including it’s own Puente de Piedra (“Stone Bridge”). For transportation you can walk or use the tram system if you want to give your legs a rest and the food up here is also called pinchos.

​León
Autonomous Community: Castile and León

Isn’t the she lovely? Spain loves their cathedrals and León’s is extremely photogenic. The college town has some museums, shopping streets and pretty gardens, but what makes it unique for a northern city are its tapas. Normally, northern Spanish cities call their tapas, which is a southern thing, another name: pinchos.  León does not and unlike pinchos where you pay for the plate of food and drink, you only pay for the drink and the food is free. Sounds like a deal to me, making it one of the best places in Spain (especially the north).

Sevilla
Autonomous Community: Andalusia

Sevilla is one of those places that photos don’t do it justice, especially on a raggedy iPhone 4 camera! Nevertheless, I tried. The culture is vibrant and their Plaza de España is by far the most artistic and colorful plaza I’ve seen in Spain. From eating tapas to seeing Las Setas (a mushroom-style structure in their old quarter) to The Alcazar (palace gardens that were also featured on Game of Thrones), there’s enough for you to do and see on your trip to southern Spain. If you’re lucky enough to come in April, you can catch their stylish Feria festival where women dress up in traditional flamenco-style outfits to experience their culture.

Málaga
Autonomous Community: Andalusia

Málaga is one of those cities where eating gelato, drinking sangria on the beach, and having pizza for dinner every night, is a way of life. It’s a great destination to relax and live the no pasa nada Spanish lifestyle. There are many day trips you can do from Málaga too, including Ronda. Thus, I highly recommend it for summer travels to visit more of the best places in Spain. Personal tip: bring your bug spray. The mosquitoes where out for blood (mainly mine) so have yours ready to avoid getting bit up while on vacation! ​

Toledo
Autonomous Community: Castile-La Mancha

The medieval town of Toledo is located right outside Madrid making it an ideal day trip from the capital. You can take a trolley-train tour to get some of the best views of the city and to avoid all the stairs and hills. The Spanish sun can get pretty hot in the summer!  Zip lining is surprisingly popular here too and changes your view (literally) of the city.

Salamanca
Autonomous Community: Castile-La Mancha

Don’t let Salamanca’s baroque-style fool you, it’s full of bars and clubs for nightlife. It houses the oldest university in Spain and is an excellent size for students to study abroad without being overwhelmed. The city is known for its hidden carvings on buildings and doors. The most popular is the hidden frog on the university! Salamanca is also on the cheaper side, perfect for budget-friendly travelers wanting to see the best destinations in Spain.

Logroño
​Autonomous Community: La Rioja

I couldn’t forget my home from last year! Logroño is the capital of Spanish Wine Country, La Rioja. There are bodegas in and around the capital to get your wine fix, no matter if you prefer red, white or rosé. The pincho street, Calle Laurel, is full of Spaniards and expats on the Camino de Santiago hopping from bar to bar and indulging in some of the best food in northern Spain.

​San Sebastián
Autonomous Community: Basque Country

San Sebastián is a fan-favorite. The food is delicious and the skyline shows its versatility by blending the beach, buildings and fluffy green trees together. Take the motorcar up to the amusement park for the best view of the city! Basque Country itself is the most expensive autonomous community in Spain so be prepared to expand your budget a bit here. But, the food and culture are worth every euro.

Pamplona
Autonomous Community: Navarra

Known for their busy streets during Running of the Bulls at San Fermín, Pamplona is a nice day trip any other time of the year. Like many Spanish cities it’s walkable, but it’s home to a fortress called The Citadel and their plaza, Castle Square. ​The plaza is full of cute cafes to have tea, wine, or a cafe con leche. One unexpected discovery? This row of Spring-colored apartments in the center!

Granada
Autonomous Community: Andalusia

Last, but certainly not least, is Granada. Known for their flamenco, classic tapas and the Alhambra, a Moorish castle, Granada is everything you think of when “Spain” comes to mind. The people are friendly, the street music puts a pep in your step and all the walking will make your calves look super-toned by the time you finish sight-seeing. I’ll admit I’m biased towards Granada as it was my first international city/living experience ever, but if you go nowhere else, go explore this southern paradise. It is hands-down my favorite destination in Spain.

There you have it. While Spain has many more places that even I haven’t seen (Segovia, Oviedo, Alicante, Santiago de Compostela, etc.), this list is just a start. Each autonomous community has its own style, making each city feel familiar yet distinct from the next one. Spain is full of big cities and tiny villages, so we all have lots a new places to explore. If you’re heading to Madrid or Barcelona, head to one of these other 14 destinations too! They are just some of the best places in Spain.

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