Spain is a favorite of international travelers because of its warm climate, rich history, vibrant culture, and idyllic beaches.
From the national capital of Madrid, to the picturesque city of Barcelona, to the coastlines of Andalusia, to the Spanish Islands, there is a wide variety of things to see and do. Here’s a guide to the top places to see in Spain.
Many people base their visits in Madrid, in central Spain. They can tour museums and other attractions, do some shopping and dining, and attend a bullfight. For more than 400 years, Plaza Mayor has been a center of activity. The site features elegant architecture like the Royal Palace, an 18th century edifice reflecting baroque and classical styles. The square also is a great place to get a bite to eat.
This gorgeous city sits at the foot of mountains, beside the Mediterranean Sea, on the eastern edge of the Spanish mainland. A mecca for art lovers, Barcelona is home to magnificent palaces, cathedrals, and museums. The awe-inspiring Sagrada Familiar, a Catholic basilica with soaring towers, deserves to be on every traveler’s itinerary. The old town area, known as the Gothic Quarter, has stone buildings from the Middle Ages. The city offers seven fantastic strips of sand, including the famous Barcelona Beach.
More ocean beaches are found in this southern region. Among the best are Costa del Sol and Costa Blanco, which are popular resort areas. Tourists play water sports, sail, take boat tours, or just lie on the white sand. Nearby villages have colonial-style homes with red-tiled roofs. There is a picturesque lighthouse in Luarca and a 13th century church in Aviles.
Andalusia’s Islamic past is on display at Alhambra, an ornate Moorish palace and fortress from the 9th century in Granada; and the Mosque of Cordoba, an Islamic cathedral built in 987. Granada also boasts a 16th century cathedral. Alcazar de Seville, the third-largest house of worship in the world with 80 chapels, was erected in the 15th and 16th centuries. Christopher Columbus is buried there. Andalusia is wonderful place to soak in Spain’s culture, which consists of music and dance traditions such as flamenco.
Several archipelagoes just offshore draw sunbathers and anglers. Resort guests scuba dive, snorkel, water ski, windsurf, parasail, and sea kayak. They also go to amusement parks, play golf and tennis, skydive, and hike.
More than 23 million people flock to Majorca, part of the Balearic Islands, every year for the beaches and resorts. Another island in the chain, Ibiza, has similar amenities plus a castle, cathedral, and art museum. Nature lovers appreciate the Atlantic Ocean’s Canary Islands, which feature four national parks teeming with wildlife.
Festivals and Events In Spain
Festivals take place throughout the year. Those in Andalusia include the International Festival of Music and Dance in Granada; the Festival de la Guitarra de Cordoba; and a celebration involving sword dancers, fireworks, and games in Obejo.
The country’s best-known festival is the “running of the bulls,” in which people chase the animals through the streets of Pamplona. Bunol stages La Tomatina, with strange contests like climbing a greased pole to grab a ham mounted on top. Onlookers cheer while others spray them with water. Madrid sponsors the Veranos de la Ville (“Summer in the City”) festival, with musicians and theatrical performers.