Sun-kissed beaches, incredible cuisine, a rich and diverse culture and historic architecture. It’s easy to see why Spain is such a popular destination for holidaymakers and expats alike. Spain is a truly fascinating place to explore and with so many different regions, it can be hard to narrow down your search of where to visit first, But while the top picks of Barcelona and Tenerfie may be a hit for getaways, there’s so much more to see.. Here’s a rundown of the standout places to explore when sightseeing in Spain, with a few off-the-beaten track suggestions to inspire you to venture a little further afield.
A 2000-year-old walled city with an incredibly rich history, Toledo is a fantastic destination to explore if you’re a lover of history, architecture and culture. Toledo was the former capital of the Visigothic Kingdom and the former capital of Spain until 1560. It’s now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with diverse cultural influences from Jewish, Christian and Islamic cultures, earning it the nickname the ‘City of Three Cultures’.
In particular, the Mirador del Valle delivers unbelievable views over the city and the Tagus River, but there’s also the El Transito Synagogue and the Catedral del Toledo to see too. Why not take part in a walking tour through the cobbled streets of this fascinating destination to really soak up the rich history? It’s a great way to really delve into everything a destination has to offer.
Marbella is renowned for its golden beaches and lively nightclubs, but it’s so much more than that. It also has world-class museums, galleries and beautiful architecture. And while it may be a fun and popular holiday destination, it also offers plenty of quiet hideaways to relax and soak up the atmosphere and take a break from the hustle and bustle of this party destination.
With lifestyle more important than ever before, and an increased demand for luxury travel, it’s no wonder that Marbella is such a popular destination for holiday lets, as it offers the perfect balance of amenities and laidback living. If a relaxing getaway is what you’re looking for, Marbella’s Paseo de La Alameda is the ideal attraction to visit — especially in the spring. With a fountain dating back to 1792 surrounded by beautiful botanic gardens, marble walkways and lush foliage, it’s a surprising and lesser-known attraction that’s away from the busier parts of this city.
Madrid is a vibrant city with beautiful weather year-round and lively neighborhoods, studded with architectural highlights and galleries. Art lovers will enjoy wandering around Madrid’s Golden Triangle of Art, which includes three of the world’s best museums: the Museo del Prado, Reina Sofia and the Thyssen-Bornemisza. It’s a city that’s deceptive — on the surface, it feels as though there’s not as much to explore compared to the likes of other capitals, but dig deeper and you’ll find that it’s a city that never sleeps, from shops and markets to museums, theaters and parks, it has plenty to offer.
One of the real highlights of Madrid is its unbeatable street culture, in particular its food. Cava Baja, situated in the historic La Latina neighborhood, is packed with tapas bars and taverns, so you can hop between each one sampling the local cuisine and chatting with the locals. With over 8000 restaurants here, you’re sure to find something to whet your appetite.
Set at the foot of the Sierra Nevada mountains in eastern Andalusia is the impressive city of Granada. It’s certainly one of the most interesting destinations Spain has to offer, yet one of the lesser-mentioned when up against the likes of Barcelona. One of the main highlights of Granada is the Moorish fortress, Alhambra, which sits on a hill overlooking the city.
Decorated with stunning mosaics, intricate details and beautiful gardens, the Alhambra palace was built in the 14th century and many tourists visit Granada purely to see this incredible landmark. If you’re traveling to Spain, it’s well worth adding Granada to your list of places to explore just to spend time browsing this spectacular structure and one of the world’s best-preserved examples of Islamic architecture.
Seville is classically Spanish, from its intricately designed architecture to the year-round sunny weather and multi-layered culinary delights. The intricate tapestry of Seville’s rich past and cultural influences makes it a fascinating place to explore. From Seville Cathedral, the world’s largest Gothic cathedral, to the Real Alcazar which is a spectacle of architecture influenced by Islamic, Gothic and Renaissance designs.
Fans of TV and film trivia will love exploring Seville to spot its many filming locations, from Star Wars to the Game of Thrones series. But this region is also home to many annual festivals, such as the Semana Santa and Feria de Abril, so it’s well worth timing your visit carefully to enjoy the festivities.
Galicia offers something a little different from the dry, hot landscapes we associate with Spain. The northwest region of Galicia is lush and humid, resulting in a verdant landscape that looks straight out of a fairytale. The wilder surroundings can be found in the Cies Islands, a nature reserve and archipelago that forms part of the Galicia National Park. Galicia is known as the land of a thousand rivers, with numerous estuaries and bays flowing into the sea. If you’re looking for something a little different from Spain’s usual golden beaches, this area is a must-see.
The wooded valleys and incredible beaches are what make Galicia special, but there are also countless charming villages here that are home to magnificent monuments like the Tower of Hercules or Lugo’s city walls, designated as UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
The resort city of San Sebastian is situated on the north coast of Spain, set on the Bay of Biscay. The Basque region of Spain, San Sebastian is a popular surf town with a thriving surfing scene, but it also offers an opportunity to dive into the Basque culture. One of the best ways to get to know the city and its seaside views is with a walk along the beautiful La Concha promenade which is a short but stunning coastal walk that is the perfect introduction to this area.
But the real heart of San Sebastian is in its Parte Vieja or Old Town, which is a labyrinth of cobbled streets, bars and restaurants, and historic buildings. It’s one of the real highlights of this city and there’s no better way to get a feel for what it has to offer than visiting this culturally rich and atmospheric spot.
Spain is more than just beautiful beaches, though it’s a wonderful reason to visit. From its friendly atmosphere and verdant landscapes to coastal towns and a multi-layered history that shows up in its cuisine and architecture, there’s truly something for everyone here. If Spain is on your travel bucket list and you’re keen to see more than just the usual destinations, this list will hopefully inspire you to check out some of the country’s more unusual highlights and lesser-talked-about destinations.