Spain is also known for its beautiful, romantic and architecturally stunning cites – perfect for independent travel. Here are ten of the most beautiful cities in Spain (in no particular order)…
The Spanish capital often gets overlooked in favour of the more popular costas, but spring and autumn are the perfect times to explore this historic gem. Soak up the beautiful architecture, shop ‘til you drop in the designer boutiques, dance to traditional flamenco music and wander through the spectacular botanic gardens. Madrid is also a gourmet hub, so make sure you sample the local tapas while you’re there.
The Mallorcan capital has recently come into its own, thanks to a multi-million pound facelift. With a new collection of art galleries, museums and a handful of swish boutique hotels, Palma is a newly trendy travel destination. Take a stroll (or a Segway ride!) down the landscaped promenade to the Portixol marina. The newly gentrified port area is home to a number of great eateries, swanky bars, hip beach clubs and of course more choice of tapas bars than you’ll know what to do with.
There’s a reason why Barcelona is so popular with stag groups. It’s one of the liveliest cities in Spain, with a string of year-round festivals as well as a vibrant nightlife scene – and it also has one of the most famous stadiums in the world. But this atmospheric city is also great for couples, thanks to the shopping, restaurants and luxury hotels. It also boasts stunning architecture in the form of Gaudi’s Sagrada Familila – a masterpiece of design that is yet to be completed. Visit in summer, so that you can follow up a morning in the city with an afternoon spent on the local beach.
Easily one of the most beautiful cities in Spain, Granada is famous for its ancient Moorish Alhambra Palace and beautiful Eastern-style architecture. It’s set in gorgeous natural surroundings, and when you’ve finished exploring the museums and art galleries head out of town to enjoy a walk in the nearby mountains. Return in time for an exquisite meal at famous bar and restaurant Totes y Amigos Bar.
This is a lively university city that many tourists seem to pass by. It is undoubtedly beautiful with a medieval charm, a mix of Plateresque and Renaissance styles and one of the grandest squares in Spain. The city was for four centuries the seat of one of the world’s most prestigious universities and now the still-thriving student population gives Salamanca a youthful, happy vibe. Choose from one of the many great bars, cafés and restaurants on offer to sample some of the city’s ‘joie de vivre’ for yourself.
The birthplace of Flamenco is unlikely to be anything less than beautiful and romantic. This popular Spanish city is also home to a Gothic superb cathedral and tower – La Giralda – and also the Royal Palaces with their gorgeous Mudejar architecture. As well as its fine cuisine, the city has a large community of artists, writers and composers giving Seville a free-spirited, bohemian feel.
Bilbao is another overlooked beautiful Spanish city. Although it’s officially in Spain, the residents are pushing for their own independence. In many schools, lessons are even taught in Basque, not Spanish. The architecture is a wonderful mix of the old and the new and Doña Casilda Iturrizar park is particularly special with an impressive dancing water fountain. The gothic St James’ Cathedral is a must-see, and for art lovers the impressive Guggenheim is seen as an image of modern Bilbao.
Santiago de Compostela
Santiago de Compostela – the capital city of Galicia – was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site because of its beautiful cathedral and ancient city centre. The main square is dominated by the cathedral which is easily one of the most impressive in Europe. It is a huge building smothered in Baroque swirls, statues and stalagmites. There are also many other fine examples of architecture dotted throughout the city. Make sure you also visit the San Martín Pinario Monastery, the baroque Benedictine monastery of the XI century and the Gelmírez Palace which is a great example of Romanesque civil architecture.
Spain’s third-largest city is also home to a mix of modern and ancient architecture. The city – which dates back to as early as 150BC – has a compact orientation with Gothic, Baroque and Roman architecture. The City of Arts and Sciences is a very popular attraction – designed by the wonderfully exuberant Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava – and is the pinnacle of modern architecture in Spain.
One of the most striking towns in Spain, Cuenca is a beautiful fortified town which has been amazingly well preserved – so much so it has been given world heritage status. The town is a superb example of medieval city but its location makes it really stand out from the crowd – it rests on the steep sides of a mountain and the manycasas colgadas (meaning “hanging houses”) are built right up to the cliff edge.