15 Finest cities in Spain to go to that aren’t Barcelona or Madrid
Attempting to outline one of the best cities in Spain to go to is one thing of an limitless job. In fact, Barcelona is famend for its golden seashores and flamboyant Gaudí structure. Madrid, the county’s capital, dazzles with world-class museums. Then you might have the year-round attract of the islands’ sun-kissed sands. But, past Spain’s most obvious metropolis breaks, there are a lot of extra provincial cities price visiting.
Right here, I’ll concentrate on one of the best cities to go to in Spain. Locations which can be ultimate should you’re in search of a weekend in Spain however are searching for an alternative choice to Barcelona or Madrid.
From a city-cum-beach island capital to mountain-backed aged alcázars, these stunning Spanish cities may also present an excellent base to discover a few of Spain’s ‘hidden gems’.
Listed here are my picks of one of the best cities in Spain.
Excellent for? A protracted weekend of late-nights, tradition and Islamic structure
The place and when? The southern metropolis of Seville sees temperatures soar within the peak summer season months, making it virtually unbearably scorching for sightseeing.
Andalusia’s heart-thumping, feet-stomping, and castanet-clapping capital of Seville is a metropolis of ardour. Fiery – each figuratively and actually in summer season – it is a Spanish metropolis break you gained’t overlook.
Right here, you’ll discover your senses frequently aroused. From the sounds of flamenco and the Andalusian desk’s flavours to the architectural eye-candy and fragrance of orange timber, Seville’s enchantment is unavoidable.
Be sure you watch a Flamenco present. Go to the hulking Gothic Cathedral and climb the La Giralda tower. Calm down amongst the leafy gardens and inexperienced areas. Discover time to admire the tilework of Plaza de España and tour the Seville Museum of Positive Arts. Then, devour all of the tapas earlier than sipping beers into the early hours. The town’s student-heavy inhabitants retains the nights lengthy.
In fact, a go to to Seville wouldn’t be full with out acquainting your self with Andalusia’s historical past. This itself will carry you to one of many metropolis’s best sights.
Closely influenced by some 5 centuries of Moorish rule, Seville’s structure exhibits typical Andalusian traits. But, being a metropolis of a lot significance, the ornament went far past whitewashed partitions. The par excellence is the Alcázar of Seville (e book your tickets upfront). This huge, intricate, patio-heavy palace was initially a fortress. Sadly, a lot was destroyed following the Christian conquest and later reconstruction. Nonetheless, the Eleventh-century partitions, some reception rooms, and different elements stay preserved. Whatever the timestamps, the complicated is one in all Spain’s greatest locations to go to.
Excellent for? A day journey from Madrid, or magnificent sundown keep
The place and when? Lower than an hour from Madrid by excessive pace practice, Cuenca is in Castela-Mancha, and is an efficient selection anytime of yr.
Since my first go to to Cuenca, I’ve waxed lyrically about the way it’s among the best cities to go to in Spain.
Perched upon a limestone ridge and with a historical past traced again some 1300 years, the UNESCO-listed Outdated City is enchanting. Famed for its Casa Colgados – hanging homes which overhang the rock face – it’s a well-liked day journey from Madrid.
Nonetheless, spending a couple of hours right here gained’t do Moorish-built Cuenca justice. From the colorful facades and chateau ruins to the cathedral’s medley of architectural kinds, town sparkles.
You’ll be able to even sleep in among the heritage buildings. Decide to in a single day within the upscale Parador, a former monastery. Or, for a extra wallet-friendly keep, choose the Seventeenth-century ex-cathedral’s choir house.
With loads of postcard-perfect views to take pleasure in, the rugged setting lends itself to exploring. Fortunately, loads of nature, and journey actions, await on Cuenca’s doorsteps. Many trails weave by way of the close by karst mountains, guaranteeing this metropolis break delivers a slice of the nice outdoor. Notably worthy of a go to is The Ciudad Encantada, a geological website of quirky rocky formations.
Excellent for? An architecture-heavy metropolis break served with scrumptious tapas
The place and when? León is in Spain’s northwest, and the local weather ranges from balmy summer season temperatures to generally below-freezing winter nights.
León doesn’t have big-ticket stunners like Granada’s Alhambra or Barcelona’s La Sagrada Familia, but it’s nonetheless some of the stunning cities in Spain for structure
Of the buildings that sparkle, Gaudi’s Casa Botines, the ‘Cathedral of Gentle’, and the ‘Sistine Chapel of Romanesque artwork’ shine brightest.
The primary, one in all Gaudi’s solely works outdoors of Catalonia, is a far cry from this normal type. For these searching for the flamboyant, you might be disenchanted. The straight traces and considerably typical facade of the constructing appear ‘easy’, but it surely’s not with out its quirks.
Constructed to be a home and material manufacturing facility in a modernist type, the design was restricted by the proprietor’s concepts somewhat than the artist’s creativeness. But, whenever you enterprise contained in the now museum and be part of a guided tour, they’ll level out a few of his signature whimsical inclusions.
The second, León Cathedral, is widely known for its stained glass home windows. Whereas lots of the authentic installations have been been broken, those preserved (from way back to the 14th century) are spectacular.
Third up, you might have the Royal Pantheon. A part of the bigger Basilica of San Isidoro de León, the frescoes on this room has earned the Sistine-esuqe moniker.
Past the buildings, town excels at feeding you properly. There are heaps of high quality bars and eating places, and an evening out right here feels native somewhat than touristy. One thing which is at all times a bonus in Europe’s historic cities. There’s additionally a sensible choice of heritage lodging to safe the deal, resembling this transformed basílica. So, should you’re searching for among the best cities in Spain for structure, which retains an understated allure, León may very well be simply the ticket.
San Sebastian (Donostia)
Excellent for? A foodie feast paired with golden sands
The place and when? San Sebastian, on the Bay of Biscay, is without doubt one of the greatest locations to go to in Spain year-round. Summer season is good for the seaside, whereas there are sufficient points of interest – and meals – to entertain on a winter trip.
You’ll be able to’t go improper right here should you’re searching for a Spain metropolis break that has all of it. Golden sands present seaside days. Hilltop trails provide the vistas. And the Parte Vieja (Outdated City) delivers on tradition. Then you might have the shimmering waters and verdant mountains creating a fairly backdrop.
However, the primary purpose to go to is easy: to eat.
San Sebastian is famend as among the best cities in Spain for culinary science, and pintxos are the speciality right here. These paid-for tapas are a step up and are normally piled excessive on each bar high. Usually mounted on bread, anticipate wealthy flavours of cheese, cured meats, and anchovies. But, different artistic morsels are additionally current.
Loved in a laid-back standing type, you merely pay for the variety of skewers you’ve savoured on the finish. Then, it’s time to repeat within the subsequent bar.
Gastronomy has lengthy been on the coronary heart of town. For a more in-depth encounter – and to be taught some abilities – enterprise to one in all San Sebastian’s personal underground cooking golf equipment. Hailing from days when residents’ houses weren’t sufficiently big for company, it is a group custom. These areas, known as ‘Sociedades Gastronómicas’ or ‘Txokos’, have been as soon as very personal. Nonetheless, lately, sure golf equipment have allowed guests by way of their inconspicuous doorways. When you’ve ventured into the basements, you’ll discover an ample, communal cooking house. Right here, among the metropolis’s greatest cooks have refined their abilities, so that you’ll undoubtedly acquire some suggestions and depart with a cheerful abdomen.
Excellent for? A weekend of Roman ruins and countryside delicacies
The place and when? Set in Spain’s sun-parched Extremadura area, bordering Portugal, intention to keep away from summer season when the warmth is relentless.
Extremadura is without doubt one of the least visited Spanish locations for Brits. But, the area’s capital Merida delivers a few of Spain’s best-preserved Roman sights.
The star is the well-conserved amphitheatre. Nonetheless standing proud after two thousand years, a daytime go to is unbelievable. Even higher nonetheless is to observe a night live performance right here in case your dates align.
Different unbelievable treasures are displayed contained in the Museum of Roman Artwork. This expansive house, a nationwide museum, is house to an unlimited assortment of mosaics and artefacts.
Equally attention-grabbing – if barely much less spectacular – are the aqueduct and Temple of Diana. Merida’s architectural wonders will transport you again in time, however don’t rush them. I’d recommend permitting your self not less than two days. To economize, purchase the multi-attraction ticket, which covers all the important thing points of interest. In the event you’re already in Seville, it’s straightforward to mix a journey to Extremadura with Andalusia.
Excellent for? A laid-back Spain metropolis break surrounded by greenery
The place and when? Set within the cooler northern area of Asturias, Oviedo is without doubt one of the greatest cities to go to in Spain throughout summer season.
Oviedo, the capital of the Asturias area, is often known as the capital of cider, or sidra, in Spanish. This area is widely known for its orchards, and city-dwellers love swigging the regionally fermented apple juice. So, observe their lead and head to one of many Chigre(cider homes in Asturias) across the metropolis.
In these bars, the uncarbonated alcoholic drink is expertly poured from excessive by an escanciador. This type of pour helps add air to the beverage. For one of the best pairing, order a collection of the area’s cheese – they’ve greater than 40 sorts.
After getting your fill, you’ll be able to hit the sights of this spotless metropolis. From the advantageous artwork within the Museo de Bellas Artes de Asturias to the archaeological museum, there’s sufficient to entertain.
Oviedo can also be celebrated for its statues, of which there are a lot of dotting town. From busts and bums, to notable figures, the sculptures present one thing of a strolling tour.
On town limits – heading in the direction of inexperienced mountains – you’ll discover a few of Oviedo’s World Heritage-listed websites. These pre-Romanesque church buildings are nonetheless standing proud, telling an over 1000-year-old story. If you wish to escape to the seaside, that’s simply performed, with the coastal metropolis of Gijón a brief hop away. Oviedo is a fairly and peaceable metropolis break – though you’ll need to maintain an ear out for the Gaita asturiana. On the weekends, strolling bands enjoying this native kind of bagpipe usually add a soundtrack to town.
Santiago de Compostela
Excellent for? A hallowed finish to an extended path
The place and when? Santiago de Compostela is within the northern area of Galicia, famend for its rains outdoors of summer season.
For greater than 1000 years, weary toes which have adopted the Camino de Santiago have discovered their exhausted finale right here. Serving as the ultimate level on the pilgrimage, Santiago de Compostela has turn into well-known worldwide. For that purpose, it’s usually thought-about some of the essential cities in Spain.
In recent times, nonetheless, the Camino has seen a new-found appreciation. Not is the route traversed solely by these wishing to pay respects to Saint James the Apostle, but it surely has additionally been commandeered by non-religious walkers searching for calming surroundings and house for ideas. This, and town’s 100,000-strong inhabitants, ensures it isn’t all concerning the cathedral as a metropolis break.
Nonetheless, the opulent and iconic constructing is undoubtedly Santiago’s crown jewel. Inside as as spectacular because the facade, because of the museum, crypt and climbable tower. Simply anticipate there to be loads of individuals, and don’t overlook to safe tickets upfront (entry to only the cathedral is free).
Away from the hoards of hikers, you’ll discover a relaxed mixture of craft beer bars and Galician eating places. Pulpo a la Gallega (boiled octopus) is a staple, and the almond-based Tarta de Santiago makes for a good dessert. There’s additionally a handful of museums – each sacred and art-focused – and loads of photogenic corners within the Medieval core. Certain, it’s not someplace you come for a celebration. However, even should you’re not paying your respects, you’ll discover a nice place, good as a base to discover Galicia’s lush lands.
Excellent for? A quadruple-hit of UNESCO World Heritage Websites
The place and when? Córdoba is without doubt one of the greatest cities in Spain to go to throughout Spring or Autumn. It’s infamous as one of many hottest cities on the peninsula, and summer season is solely not nice for exploring within the mid-day solar.
Córdoba, not even the primary or second metropolis of Andalusia, manages to boast a formidable resume. The town was house to at least 4 UNESCO listings – essentially the most of any metropolis on the planet. Fairly an achievement for someplace that isn’t on each must-visit Europe record. Sadly for tally counters, UNESCO just lately bundled two collectively, technically lowering the depend again to a few.
It’s not solely the titles that impressed me, although. No, it’s additionally the sun-bleached ambiance, the scrumptious chilly soups, and the structure is magnificent from all angles. There’s additionally an air of slumber which you could take pleasure in outdoors of the core, whereas late-night antics are additionally simply hunted out.
However, again to these heritage listings. First up, we’ve the Mosque-Cathedral, one in all Spain’s greatest monuments. Initially constructed within the mid-Eighth century as a mosque, it was spared the destiny of many Islamic buildings in Spain. Following the Christian re-conquest, it was as an alternative transformed right into a cathedral within the Thirteenth century. This preservation has created one of many world’s most original – and most vital – homes of worship. Arched pillars divide the house into isles; marble performs a starring position, and a towering belfry has changed the outdated minaret.
The second designation went to the Historic Quarter, which has now been rolled in with the Mosque-Cathedral. The third is the Caliphate Metropolis of Medina Azahara, on town’s fringes. A formidable archaeological website, right here you’ll discover the stays of a nearly-forgotten metropolis relationship again to the Umayyad instances. It’s a outstanding splendour as a consequence of its superior improvement for the tenth century.
I’ve expanded on the fourth accolade, for the Pageant of the Patios, in my Spain hidden gems article. However actually, sufficient stated already – Cordoba is a winner.
Excellent for? Basque tradition and delicacies in among the best cities to go to in Spain for Trendy Artwork
The place and when? Bilbao is a superb metropolis break yr spherical. Though, should you plan to hit up the seashores close by, late spring to early Autumn is the only option.
Having shaken off its barely rough-around-the-edges industrial previous – and as an alternative, embraced it as a UNESCO Metropolis of Design – Bilbao has turn into a beloved Spain metropolis break up to now many years.
A lot of that change will be accredited to the Guggenheim Museum. Whereas the spectacular and futuristic design remodeled the cityscape, the trendy and modern artwork collections inside pushed Bilbao ahead. Twenty-five years after the primary exhibition, town has endlessly modified, changing into one thing of a cultural hub.
This new lease of life has been greater than capitalised on, with a flurry of cultural choices. Now, Bilbao is commonly celebrated in journals and analysis for its extra equal society. Fortunately, nonetheless, it retains its Basque (and old-Bilbao) soul.
Like neighbouring San Sebastian, the eating scene right here is great. The area’s signature tapas, pintxos, are a go-to, and fine-dining and stylish bars at the moment are aplenty. You’ll additionally discover extra inexpensive choices right here than within the culinary-famed sister metropolis.
Begin your day rambling the river and admiring Guggenheim’s futuristic structure. Slip into the Ribera marketplace for a chunk, then delve into Azkuna Zentroa’s cultural programme. Amble amongst the alleys of the Casco Viejo (Medieval Quarter). Then, wrap up the day feasting on Basque specialities. Cod, fish stews and Txakoli, the native glowing wine, are at all times a good suggestion. Settle in for a feast, this is without doubt one of the high cities in Spain for high quality and fairly-priced grub.
Palma de Mallorca
Excellent for? An island metropolis break fringed with seashores
The place and when? Spring by way of Autumn are nice instances to go to the island. As Palma is a big metropolis, and doesn’t shut throughout the winter like resort cities, it’s additionally a superb winter solar spot.
Palma, the capital of Mallorca, is commonly neglected as among the best cities to go to in Spain. It’s comprehensible; the Balearic Islands are higher identified for seashores than metropolis breaks.
But, Palma de Mallorca offers one of the best of each worlds. There’s sufficient tradition and cosmopolitan stylish away from the sands, whereas the Mediterranean waters are at all times there whenever you fancy a dip. It could be among the best cities in Spain for a summer season vacation, but it surely will also be a standalone metropolis break.
There’s a compelling eating scene and first-class nightlife. In contrast to common Magaluf additional alongside the coast, town has primarily swayed away from revelry. As an alternative, Palma’s mixologists and cooks have focused on cocktail bars and culinary creativity.
Then you might have the primary course; the heritage and tradition lining the net of streets within the oldest a part of town. Most spectacular is Palma Cathedral, which towers above the city. The non secular masterpiece, well-endowed with Gothic grandeur, took almost 400 years to assemble. Different notable sights embrace the Royal Palace and the intriguingly-round Castell de Bellver. Artwork can also be properly represented in Mallorca, particularly the works of Balearic creatives. One of the best collections are on show at Es Baluard and Fundació Miró.
Excellent for? A energetic weekend in a student-heavy metropolis
The place and when? Located in Castile and León, Salamanca is reached from Madrid in lower than two hours by high-speed practice. Come within the time period time to witness town most alive.
Dwelling to one of many oldest universities on the planet – the fourth by opening date in Europe – Salamanca wears its historic significance with understated satisfaction.
Strolling these illustrious streets, flanked by town’s signature warm-sandstone buildings, a way of knowledge will eat you. From the purple calligraphy that decorates the grand buildings to the greenery and parks alongside the river, taking all of it in is a straightforward pleasure.
On the coronary heart of all of it is the huge and vibrant Baroque Plaza Mayor, celebrated as one in all Spain’s most spectacular. At night time, issues actually come alive. Tables spill out from candlelit eating places, dinner will be loved with views from the higher ranges, and youngsters play within the centre.
By day, there’s sufficient to entertain. Whether or not you’re touring the 2 cathedrals, venturing contained in the college, or marvelling on the Casa de las Conchas – uniquely embellished with shell shapes – structure is a standard theme. Of town’s museums, Casa Lis is my favorite. Housing an thrilling array of Artwork Deco works behind its stained glass facade, it’s a deal with.
By some means, Salamanca stays much less visited than lots of the different greatest cities to go to in Spain. And that, should you ask me, is tough to fathom.
Excellent for? Futuristic, conventional, modern and basic – Valencia wears its beguiling mix with satisfaction.
The place and when? With a primarily heat local weather, and many to do on wet days, Valencia is without doubt one of the greatest cities in Spain year-round.
Spain’s third largest metropolis has lots to supply, however there are three major causes to go to. Firstly, Paella, the area’s notorious dish. No journey is full with no necessary heaped skillet of seasoned rice. For a greater understanding, Paella cooking lessons are in no quick provide.
Secondly, there’s Valencia’s Outdated City, the place you’ll discover medieval Spain as it. Petty plazas present good people-watching. A plethora of panorama-boasting towers guarantees photogenic angles. And loads of non secular structure completes the image. Highlights embrace the Thirteenth-century Cathedral and the Artwork Nouveau Central Market.
Valencia’s most well-known storied sight, although, is the La Lonja de la Seda (The Silk Alternate). The grand UNESCO-listed constructing tells of a time when Valencia was a global powerhouse within the silk commerce. Admire the spectacular webbed-ceiling corridor, stroll the orange-scented courtyard, and climb the tower.
Thirdly, you might have town’s forward-thinking facet, the Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias. Dwelling to museums, a cinema, modern gardens and an aquarium, the complicated focuses on the humanities and science. Even with out venturing inside an exhibit, the trendy structure is certain to impress. Carry your digicam; Valencia appears to be like good from all angles.
Excellent for? For unending tapas and exploring The Alhambra
The place and when? Granada is without doubt one of the greatest cities to go to in Spain outdoors of summer season. Within the hottest months of the yr, it’s just too scorching to be sightseeing all day. Winter, nonetheless, will be fairly chilly – although, it’s an ideal time should you additionally need to ski within the Serra Nevada.
Overflowing tables of tapas, sun-drenched days and infrequently snow-capped mountains, some of the spectacular monuments of Islamic structure in Spain – or certainly the world – and an environment that’s each laid-back and spirited. Sure, Granada is fingers down one of many Spain’s greatest cities; no two methods about it.
Having spent a couple of months residing in Granada to be taught Spanish, it’s one of many Spanish cities I’m most conversant in. Nonetheless, even after that prolonged interval, a day doesn’t go by the place I don’t yearn to admire The Alhambra from afar once more.
For many guests, it’s this magnificent Thirteenth-century fortress from the times of Moorish rule that attracts them to Granada. Typically, simply as a day journey from Seville. However I promise you this; solely a day right here won’t ever be sufficient.
Even should you’re solely coming for The Alhambra, a powerful medley of ornate Islamic structure, courtyards, and embellished partitions, permitting an hour or two to tour the inside won’t ever do it justice. To understand Granada, and certainly The Alhambra, you must enable your self time.
Time to discover each nook, from the palaces to Generalife. Time to slowly mooch across the intensive gardens. Time to search out all one of the best viewpoints of the constructing from afar. Time to take in the golden-hour vitality of this magical metropolis. And time to devour each final morsel of tapas put in entrance of you.
You see, in Granada, Tapas is an age-old custom. In contrast to another cities in Spain, the place menus and costs are introduced, right here it comes because it was initially meant – free and as an accompaniment to your tipple of selection. Some nights I may simply order beers, and even earlier than that late-night meal time rolled round – after 9 pm is normal right here – I’d be stuffed.
Different metropolis highlights embrace the Cathedral, the Hammam, the outdated gipsy neighbourhood of Sacromonte, and, in fact, flamenco.
In the event you’re heading to The Alhambra, e book tickets upfront. In the event you don’t get them earlier than they promote out, look to e book a tour, as they usually have a couple of pre-purchased ticket areas left.
Excellent for? A Barcelona facet journey and Europe’s best-preserved Jewish quarter
The place and when? North of Barcelona, Girona is a dependable year-round metropolis break – though winter night’s is usually a little chilly.
Girona is probably greatest identified within the UK instead Barcelona finances airport and a gateway to the seashores of the Costa Brava. In the event you’re keen to offer it greater than a fleeting look from the aeroplane window, although, you’ll discover an inviting medieval labyrinth and some of the stunning cities in Spain.
Taking centre stage lately as a Sport of Thrones filming location the storied streets of Catalonia’s second metropolis are the place to be. Stroll atop town’s partitions for spectacular views. Marvel on the Arab Baths. And indulge your super-fan standing on Girona Cathedral’s stairs or a GOT strolling excursions.
Whereas a contemporary city sprawl envelops the historic centre, the Outdated City will take you to bygone days. The Jewish Quarter – El Name – specifically, is of nice significance. You’ll discover a genuinely Center Ages ambiance amongst these slim streets, thought-about the best-preserved Jewish Quarter in Iberia.
Excellent for? A cosmopolitan coastal Spain metropolis break
The place and when? On Spain’s southern coast, Málaga is a scorcher in summer season. That climate, although, ensures Málaga is without doubt one of the greatest cities to go to in Spain year-round.
For a lot of Brits, Málaga is a major gateway to the sun-kissed sands of the Costa del Sol. However, whereas making a beeline to the seaside is rarely a nasty thought, it’s additionally price spending a while in one in all Spain’s greatest cities.
Cosmopolitan and cultural, Andalusia’s second most populous metropolis packs a punch. Whether or not you’re wandering museums and galleries, admiring structure from the Moorish rule, or chowing down on recent seafood, you’ll discover town’s allure buried under the less-appealing skyline.
Historic highlights embrace the well-preserved Alcazaba of Malaga, a Moorish fortification complicated fronted by a Roman theatre, and the solo-towered cathedral.
You’ll additionally discover greater than 30 museums dotted throughout Malaga, with artwork and archaeology each represented. Because the birthplace of Picasso, it’s no shock one of many metropolis’s main galleries is devoted to his works. Different notable areas price a peek at are the avant-garde assortment within the Pompidou Centre and the Museo del Património Municipal. Contained in the MUPAM you’ll uncover Malaga’s historical past, from the Phoenicians to the current.
Need to dive even deeper into this magnificent and star-studded nation past one of the best cities in Spain? Uncover my favorite secret Spain spots for extra adventures barely ‘off the crushed path’.