15 places to visit in Spain

15 places to visit in Spain

Our recommendations for top cities to visit in Spain in 2021

Kasper Christiansen
Text & photos: Kasper Christiansen
2. July 2021

Spain is a vibrant and exciting country to visit, that offers both gastronomy & wine, culture & history, skiing, and swimming. Spain offers a wealth of history, from the prehistoric cave paintings in the north of Spain to the Islamic Heritage in Andalucía, and the Roman cities spread over the whole country.

‘‘Spain as a country has an impressive cultural richness - and there are enormous differences between south and north, west and east’’

If you plan to visit Spain, we have compiled the following 15 destinations as the best places to go in 2021. From Madrid's enormously wide offer on the art scene, Mallorca's beautiful nature, beaches and charming Palma de Mallorca to Greco paintings, Jewish synagogues and Muslim mosques in Toledo.

Best places to visit in Spain

15. Valladolid

Valladolid is a small city north west of Madrid (approximately 2 hour's drive). The city itself has a good restaurant scene, several parks, and the historic monuments, but foremost the city is the perfect base for exploring some of the best wine producers in Spain. Just 30 minutes' drive from Valladolid you will find two of Spain's best wine regions: Ribera del Duero and Rueda.

Ribera del Duero is mainly known for its high-quality red wine, from producers like Aalto, Dominio de Pingus, Viña Pedrosa, and Vega Sicilia. Rueda produces excellent white wines

Valladolid - an excellent base for exploring the wine regions Rueda and Ribera del Duero
Wine production in the Rueda Wine Region - Valladolid is an excellent base for exploring the wine regions Rueda and Ribera del Duero

14. Ronda

Ronda in Andalucía is a charming city with a dramatic location on top of a rock. Ronda is also a favourite city of Ernest Hemmingway. He loved the city for its bullfight arena, the oldest in Spain.

In 1937 Hemmingway came to Spain to cover the Spanish Civil War for the North American Newspaper Alliance. In 1940 he wrote For Whom the Bell Tolls. In the last part of the novel, Hemmingway describes how a group of fascists are pushed off the high cliffs towards the abyss.

Portal in the Mosque of Córdoba
Ronda - the city of Ronda has a dramatic location on the top of a cliff

13. Córdoba

Another of Andalucía's wonderful cities: Córdoba is a must if you like Islamic Art and Architecture. The Great Mosque of Córdoba has long since been converted into a church with the official name the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption - but most people come to see the mosque and not the cathedral in its centre.

Córdoba also offer interesting gardens: visit the Gardens of the Alcázar de los Reyes Cristianos in southern Córdoba or the Viana Palace's beautiful 9 patios in the northern part of the city. Also remember to see the Roman temple and the Roman Museum of Córdoba.

Portal in the Mosque of Córdoba
Portal in the Mosque of Córdoba - two coloured voussoirs hold the horseshue arch

12. Seville

Seville has a wide variety of offers for the visitor. visit Seville's massive cathedral (the biggest in Europe) and end the visit by walking up the 35 ramps and 17 steps to the top of Seville's Giralda, the old Mosque that is now turned into the belltower in the cahtedral's belltower. After the hike to the top of what was Spain's tallest structure for centuries. Afterwards, enjoy the local tapas with a glass of sherry (produced in nearby D.O. Jerez - just a short drive south of Seville).

To experience Seville's modern architecture, head to the Metropol Parasol - also called the mushroom of Seville, designed by German architect, Jürgen Mayer. Afterwards croos the Guadalquivir river one Santiago Calatrava's Alamilla bridge. In the evening, head to a tablao to listen to local flamenco music.

La Giralda
The Giralda in Seville - the tower was built

11. Ibiza

The beautiful island of Ibiza is foremost known for its discotheques. However, there is much more to Ibiza than electronic music, and Ibiza is on UNESCO's World Heritage list for its biodiversity and culture. The UNESCO listing includes the Dalt Vila and defence walls and the Puig des Molins with its carthaginian necropolis.

We recommend you take a walking tour in the historic centre to experience the history of Ibiza and the Dalt Villa. From atop you will be able to enjoy the beautiful views of the Mediterranean.

San Sebastián
San Sebastián - San Sebastian might be the Spanish city with the most beautiful location

10. Segovia

Segovia's Roman Aqueduct is one of the most impressive monuments in Spain. Segovia also offers a wide variety of awe-inspiring churches: start with the Cathedral, then go to San Miguel and end with the small and charming Ermita de la Virgen de las Vegas.

After walking Segovia, enjoy a nice meal at the historic restaurant José María, founded in 1982 and famous for its delicious cochinillo (suckling pic) - the most traditional dish in Segovia. If you are up for a lighter and more modern meal, we recommend enjoying the lunch at Restaurante Pasapán, that has salads, tacos and raviolis on the menu. The restaurant also has several vegetarian and gluten-free options, and an extensive wine list (choose between wines from Ribera del Duero, Rioja, Valtiendas, Toro, Jumilla, Bierzo or La Mancha) and many Spanish and international beers to offer.

Segovia - view of the Roman Aqueduct
Segovia - view of the Roman Aqueduct - the aqueduct of Segovia goes right through the city center of Segovia

9. Valencia

The hip city of Valencia combines modern design& arhitecture, historic churches, beaches and relaxation. The architecture of Valencia-born architect Santiago Calatrava is a must-see: the City of Arts and Sciences offers more than enough to see to spend at least half a day here - or a full day if you include the Aquarium and a big lunch in the excellent restaurant of the Oceanographic - choose paella paired with a local white wine!

In the old city centre, the historic Llotja de la seda ('the silk exchange') is another must-see. Built between 1482 and 1548, this impressive piece of late gothic was used for merchants to settle for a value of contracts. The building is on the UNESCO's World Heritage List. Head to Valencia's cathedral next.

Valencia - City of Arts and Sciences
Valencia - the Oceanografic is a must-see in Valencia and part of the City of Arts and Sciences

8. San Sebastián

San Sabastían is a beautiful city by the sea in north Spain. The small island in front of its white beaches is called La Concha ('The Pearl'). San Sebastián is known as the place with the best restaurants in Spain, and no-where in the world do you have more Michelin-starred restaurants per inhabitant. The city also holds the internationally acclaimed San Sebastián Film Festival every year in September.

Just outside the city, there are many interesting places to visit. The border of France is just one hours' drive away and towards south you will find the Rioja Wine Region, with more than 1000 wineries.

San Sebastián
San Sebastián - San Sebastian might be the Spanish city with the most beautiful location

7. Tarragona

The City of Tarragona was founded by the Romans, and it was the capital of Hispania Citerior, the Roman province closest to Rome on the Iberian Peninsula. When you are in Tarragona, we recommend you visit the Roman Circus, the Amphitheatre and the city's Historic Museum, but do not forget the cathedral and the cozy plazas within the Roman walls.

When in Tarragona, we recommend you to take an excursion to the wine region of Priorat, just 30 minutes' drive from the center of the city. This wine region produce some of the best wines in Europe.

San Sebastián
San Sebastián - San Sebastian might be the Spanish city with the most beautiful location

6. Mallorca

Mallorca has it all: beaches, mountains, medieval towns, wine regions and national parks. On top of this, the island's busling capital, Palma, offers many excellent restaurants and high-quality hotels.

You can reach Mallorca with direct flight from Madrid, Barcelona, Bilbao or Malaga - or you can sail to the island by ferry from Barcelona, Valencia or one of the other Balearic Islands (Menorca, Ibiza or Formentera).


The island of Mallorca
The island of Mallorca - Mallorca is one of the most beautiful islands in Spain, on the photo the cathedral of Palma

5. Bilbao

The main reason for many people to visit Bilbao is the Guggenheim Museum - one of the most spectacular buildings in the world. The Museum was designed by American architect Frank Gehry. The building is covered by no less than 42,875 titanium panels.

Bilbao is also home to another interesting Museum: The Fine Arts Museum. And - as it is the case with San Sebastián - you do not have to walk many steps to find the next tapas restaurant. Eating tapas is almost like a sport: the locals walks from restaurant to restaurant to try the specialty of each restaurant.

The Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao
The Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao - a masterpiece designed by Frank Gehry, and one of the must-sees in Bilbao

4. Granada

Granada is a spectacular city, famous for its Islamic architecture. The highlight is of course the Alhambra Palace: mostly built in the 14th century, the palaces are the best preserved example of Islamic medieval architecture in Europe. It is important to book tickets ahead through the official web site of Alhambra, since there are limits on the numbers of visits permitted to visit daily.

Besides the Alhambra, we also recommend visiting the Cathedral of Granada, the Albaycín neighbourhood and the Sacromonte. If you come during wintertime, you can even ski very close to Granada in the Sierra Nevada.

The Alhambra palace in Granada
The Alhambra palace in Granada - a must-see in Spain

3. Barcelona

Barcelona has it all: the beach to the east, mountains to the west, and the city itself is blessed with museums, art nouveau architecture and more than 9.000 restaurants. If you have the time, a short ride from Barcelona you have other wonderful cities like Tarragona, Girona and the wine regions Alella, Penedès and Priorat.

The locals call the Barcelona the City of the Counts (la Ciudad Condal), since in the Middle ages the counties around Barcelona united with the Kingdom of Aragon and formed an important union that would be Barcelona the capital of an important empire in the 13th and 14th century. Most buildings in the old city centre are remains from this golden age. Remember to visit the gothic church Santa María del Mar, The Royal Palace (Palau del Rei) and the royal shipyard Drassanes.

Read more about Barcelona
Barcelona - one the photo Gaudí's magnificent Casa Batlló built 1904-06

2. Madrid

Madrid has some of the world best museums: head to the Museum Triangle and see if you dare visiting all three in a day: El Prado, Reina Sofía and Thyssen-Bornemisza. Lunch can be enjoyed at the oldest restaurant in the world: El Bótin (founded in 1725).

If you have several days in Madrid, we recommend you do an excursion to nearby towns or cities like La Granja de San Ildefonso, Ávila or Segovia (all north of Madrid) or Toledo south of Madrid. Also, just 30 minutes' drive from the city you will find several excellent wineries in the wine region D.O. Vinos de Madrid.

Madrid - the Royal Palace seen from Northwest

1. Toledo

Toledo is our favourite city to visit in Spain. No other city in the Spain has so much to offer in so little space! Toledo is known as 'The city of tree culture', and indeen you will find a peciluar mix of Christian, Jewish and Islamic architecture in the city.

Besides the myriad of historic churches, synagogues and mosques, you can find many museums with art by the famous Greek-Spanish painter El Greco.

Toledo - a magnificent city in Spain that we highly recommend to visit
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Get out of the city on a wine tour to one of the wine regions south of the city, like Ribera del Duero or Priorat.
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