City Break, Guide, Spain, Travel

The best cities to visit in Spain

It’s difficult for me to choose a favourite city in Spain. There are just so many awesome cities across the country and they are all so very different. Each one offers a range of sights and activities that differs from the next.

There is a lot of rivalry among the regions of Spain and you often hear “Barcelona is the most visited city in Spain so it’s the best” or “Madrid is the capital of Spain so it’s the best”.

All the regions have their own identities, local culture, food and traditions. This reflects in the towns and cities within the regions and, for me that’s what makes Spain so amazing.

These are my top 6 cities to visit in Spain:

  • Barcelona
  • Madrid
  • Granada
  • Bilbao
  • Valencia
  • Seville

In my opinion they are ALL the best just for different reasons. I will give you a little insight into each of these great Spanish cities and discuss the why, what, when and who for each location.

Giving you some inspiration for your next Spanish city-break and to help you decide which city might be your favourite.

Best cities to visit in Spain

Barcelona

Why Barcelona is one of the best cities in Spain

Barcelona is home to some of Spain’s most famous sights as well as great beaches on the nearby Costa Brava, so it’s easy to see why it’s the most visited city in Spain. It’s within easy reach of major European cities and it’s distinctly Catalan style always draws repeat visitors.

What to see & do in Barcelona

  • Sagrada Familia – The huge unfinished Gaudi designed building
  • Park Guell – A lovely park with views over the city and more Gaudi work
  • La Rambla – Tree lined avenue that runs from Plaza Cataluna to the Port
  • Barceloneta – The city beach that leads onto the Costa Brava coast
  • LaBoqueria – The bustling food market located just off the La Rambla
  • Gothic Quarter – The old town area of the city where you see Gothic architecture and the city Cathedral
  • Harbour area – Barcelona is a main port for cruises, sail boats and yachts
  • Font Magica – The big Fountain at Montjuic Is the sight of a big light and water display
  • Camp Nou – The stadium for Barcelona FC football club
  • Drink Cava – Most of Spain’s bubbly white wine production is in Catalonia, so you can get delicious cava very cheap here
  • Eat Fideua – A Catalan style paella where rice is swapped for noodles
  • Drink Clara – a shandy type drink of draught beer mixed with lemonade. It’s on tap everywhere in Barcelona
  • Costa Brava – from Barcelona it is easy to access many wonderful beaches along the North east coats of Spain

Best cities to visit in Spain - Barcelona

*RELATED: Read more Seeking the Spanish Sun guides to Barcelona – A weekend in Barcelona

When to go to Barcelona

The climate is quite mild all year round. The hottest month is August when temperatures average 24°c and the coldest is January when you can expect 10°c and some rain. It gets very busy in central Barcelona during the school holidays July-Sept. I personally like to visit Barcelona in March-April when its crisp but bright and sunny

Who will love Barcelona

  • Those seeking a city-break that’s just a short flight away from London
  • Gothic style architecture lovers
  • Fans of Gaudi or Dali
  • Beach lovers who want to be close to the city amenities
  • Football fans who want to see the Nou Camp
  • Anyone interested in Catalonia’s folk-lore, traditions and customs

Madrid

Why Madrid is one of the best cities in Spain

Madrid is the big capital city of Spain, where the Royal family reside and the countries parliament governs. It’s a city rich with history & culture and there are many heritage sites nearby full of Gothic and Medieval architecture.

What to see & do in Madrid

  • The Royal Palace – The imposing old Royal residence building is open to the public
  • Prado Museum – A collection of some of Spain’s most well-regarded art
  • Reina Sofia – A big contemporary art museum
  • Retiro Park – A lovely park and gardens, a boating lake and Crystal Palace
  • Casa de Campo – A huge wild green space with a zoo and amusement park
  • Plaza Mayor – Large square of shops, bars and restaurants. Usually full of people taking photos and laughing at street performers
  • Gran Via – Shopping area with all the usual Spanish high street stores
  • La Latina – The oldest area of the city and where you’ll find the most famous street to get tapas, Cava Baja
  • Bernabeu – The stadium for Real Madrid football club
  • Eat Castilian food – The areas around Madrid have lots of traditional dishes of meats and stews, you can try them all over the city
  • Drink Tinto de Verano – Red wine mixed with lemonade served on ice
  • Mercado San Miguel – A street food market full of local snacks and drinks
  • Toledo & Segovia – Two of many UNESCO World Heritage sites in Spain, within easy reach of Madrid and great for day trips

Best cities to visit in Spain - Madrid

*RELATED: Read more of Seeking the Spanish Sun guides to Madrid – What you need to know before visiting Madrid

When to go to Madrid

Madrid has very extreme weather. June-Aug is very hot with averages pushing 30°c and often hitting 40°c, Jan-Feb averages around 6°c. I like Madrid in the Autumn time, October-November when it’s still warm but not unbearably so and the days are long.

Who will love Madrid

  • History fans who want to witness some nearby UNESCO World Heritage sites
  • Those looking for a great base from which to explore Spain via public transport access
  • Royal family lovers who long to see grand residences and palaces
  • Art fans who want to visit the Prado museum
  • Football fans who want to visit the Bernabeu

Granada

Why Granada is one of the best cities in Spain

The biggest icon of Granada is the Alhambra but this area of Spain also boasts snow-capped mountains in the Sierra Nevada and warm blue seas on the Costa Tropical. Both are within 1-hour drive of Granada city and surrounded by pretty little Andalusian style towns and villages.

What to see and do in Granada

  • Alhambra – the grand fortress built in the 9th century
  • Free tapas – everywhere in Spain serves tapas but in Granada you get free tapas with every drink you buy and each plate just gets better and better
  • Plaza Nueva – The oldest square in Granada
  • Mirador de San Nicolas – Famous view point of Alhambra with the mountains in the background
  • Carrera del Darro – Scenic walk by the river
  • Sierra Nevada – The mountain range and ski resort is just 32km from Granada
  • Albaycin – Old Arab quarter famous for its narrow streets of white washed buildings
  • Sacromonte – The gypsy caves
  • Carmen de los Martires – Park area surrounding the Alhambra and home to lots of lovely peacocks
  • Generalife – A series of Arab architecture, buildings and pretty gardens
  • Drink tea in an Arab teahouse – Sample exotic teas and try hookah in these Arabian décor cafes

Best cities to visit in Spain - Granada

When to go to Granada

Summer temperatures average 24°c and winter is around 6°c. I think it’s best to visit Granada May-June and incorporate a little stop down on the coast for some beach time.

Who will love Granada

  • Anyone interested in the history of Spain’s Moorish rule or Arab style architecture
  • Those interested in learning more about Spain’s gypsy culture
  • Fans of good local beer who want to try cerveza Alhambra
  • Food lovers who want free tapas with every drink they buy

Bilbao

Why Bilbao is one of the best cities in Spain

Bilbao is a port city on the Northern coast of Spain in the Basque region. This area is known for its lush green, rugged coastline but the city of Bilbao itself is full of surprising skyscrapers and huge, modern sculptures.

What to see and do in Bilbao

  • Guggenheim museum – The building wrapped in titanium panels, creating an unusual curved shape, guarded by a big topiary puppy and steel spider
  • Casco Viejo – The old town area and best place to try pintxos
  • Eat Pintxos – Finger food, usually a slice of bread topped with savoury treats and skewered with a tooth-pick. Nowhere does pintxos like the Basque country
  • Begona Basilica and Santiago Cathedral – Two important Gothic style religious buildings
  • Gran Via – Where you’ll find some if the city’s most important building
  • Market la Ribera – A huge open market on the riverbank
  • Zibizuri bridge – Designed by the Spanish architect Calatrava, it has a glass floor and iconic curve
  • Artxanda – The best lookout-point over the city, you can walk up or take the little train/cable car
  • Drink local red wine – There are many wineries around Bilbao
  • Surfing – The nearby Northern coast of Spain is great for surfing

Best cities to visit in Spain - Bilbao

When to go to Bilbao

There is quite a lot of rain fall in Bilbao during the Winter and Spring. Average temperatures in July-September a 21°c and Jan-March is 10°c. I think Bilbao is perfect to visit June-August, then you are likely to avoid the rain and get some lovely sunshine.

Who will love Bilbao

  • Contemporary art lovers who want to visit the Guggenheim museum
  • Those who want to learn more about the Basque culture and language
  • Food lovers who want to sample the culinary delights of pintxos
  • Seafood lovers who want to try the delicious local seafood
  • Surfers and nature lovers who will love the wild coast of the Bay of Biscay

Valencia

Why Valencia is one of the best cities in Spain

Valencia is one of those cities that manages to marry the old and the new together and celebrate both. In the old town you can enjoy lots of historical architecture and in the city of arts and science you can enjoy the modern.

What to see in Valencia

  • Old town – Historical area with old plazas, important buildings and churches
  • Mercat Central – A big working local market
  • City of Arts and Science – The futuristic buildings housing the science museum cinema, aquarium and opera house
  • Turia park – The old river bed now turned into a long, lush city park
  • Malvarossa beach – Within a short drive from the city you can reach clear white sand beaches
  • Albufera nature reserve – A wetland area protected and accessible by boat
  • Eat Paella – Valencia is the home of the authentic traditional recipe paella
  • Try Horchata y fartons – A local sweet delicacy that’s unique to the area
  • Drink Agua de Valencia – Cocktail made from orange juice, gin, vodka and cava

Best cities to visit in Spain - Valencia

*RELATED: Read more of Seeking the Spanish Sun guides to Valencia – What you need to know before visiting Valencia

When to go to Valencia

Valencia has a hot and dry Summer, wet Autumn and cold Winter. Average temperatures in July-August are 25°c and January-February 9°c. The most rainfall occurs in October. I like to visit Valencia in September, when the beaches are less crowded but the rain isn’t yet expected.

Who will love Valencia

  • Sun worshippers who want a good stretch of beach all to themselves
  • Food lovers who want to try the real authentic paella
  • Fans of science, technology and unusual modern architecture
  • Street art lovers and photographers

Seville

Why Seville is one of the best cities in Spain

Seville is known for its flamboyant party life and the fun drinking and dancing culture around Flamenco. Its quickly becoming one of the top places to visit in Spain and has been hotly tipped in many “must-see destination” lists across the World.

What to see and do in Seville

  • Alcazar – The grand Palace, a fortress of buildings containing lots of opulent Royal rooms
  • Plaza de España – The beautiful square with wonderful ceramic, brick and iron work
  • Maria Luisa park – A garden of fountains and statues
  • Metropol Parasol – An impressive wooden structure you can walk atop
  • Plaza de Torros de la Maestranza – The iconic bull fighting ring
  • Torre del Oro – The Naval Museum, that’s part of the city wall down by the river
  • Flamenco dancing – Seville is home to some of the best Spanish folk music and dance
  • Triana – The working-class district and important area for the progression of flamenco
  • Giralda tower – Ornate bell tower surrounded by orange trees and great view-point
  • Cathedral – Christian Church on the site of a Grand Mosque
  • Drink Cruzcampo – The local beers that locals are very proud of
  • Drink Sherry – A really popular drink to have with dinner in Seville

Best cities to visit in Spain - Seville

When to go to Seville

Summers in Seville are scorching, July is the hottest month when temperatures are usually around 36°c. The summer average is 28°c and the lows in January-February are around 11°c. I’d say April-May is the best time to visit Seville, before it gets too hot.

Who will love Seville

  • Flamenco fans who want to learn more about the music and dance origins
  • History and architecture lovers
  • Those interested in the history of bull fighting
  • Party people who want to enjoy a vibrant nightlife

If you’ve managed to select your favourite city in Spain, well done you, I just still can’t decide.

If not, I hope some of this info will give you some ideas for your next trip to Spain 🙂

There really is so much to see and do in Spain, it is amazing!

Other Seeking the Spanish Sun information you might enjoy reading…

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If you’re looking for a guide book to help research your next trip to Spain, take a look at these awesome books…

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10 thoughts on “The best cities to visit in Spain”

  1. I live in Madrid and have been trying to decide where to take my in-laws when they visit over Semana Santa, so thank you for this list. I’ve been to all these places except Bilbao and I think you helped seal the deal to explore the Basque region. Thanks and great blog!

    Like

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