20 must-visit cities in Spain

Benidorm beach

In 2016, the incredible 75,3 million people visited Spain, which means that the country takes the third place in the world after France and the United States as a number of foreign visitors. It is completely clear that such a large number of people cannot go wrong, and for sure something in Spain acts as a magnet for tourists. In fact, Spain is considered to be the country with some of the most beautiful cities in the world. If you consider to travel around the sunny Mediterranean country or if you just want to spend a long weekend there, you should definitely think about visiting some of these 20 cities.

L'Oceanogràfic, Valencia

L’Oceanogràfic, Valencia by Cata

1. Valencia

There is no doubt that Valencia is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. It is the third largest city in Spain and one of the most popular with tourists in Europe.

It successfully combines modern and historic architecture. As a whole, Valencia is dominated by different architectural styles but Art Deco certainly has the strongest influence over the city’s appearance.

In fact, visitors describe the city as a real architectural masterpiece. That’s why it is not surprising that it has inspired the architecture of many world class cities, especially in the United States.

Nowadays a number of American megalopolises, such as Miami and New York for example, obviously remind the Mediterranean pearl.

Moreover, Valencia is also popular for being the home of the fourth largest in the world oceanarium, which is also the biggest in Europe.

Gran Vía, Madrid

Gran Vía, Madrid by Felipe Gabaldón

2. Madrid

Madrid is one of the largest European cities, one of the largest Spanish speaking cities in the world, and in addition, one of the most important economic, cultural and historical centers in Europe.

The city offers something really beautiful at every turn, but if you really want to find the most amazing sights of the capital, you should visit the Escurial Monastery, which is under the auspices of UNESCO.

Other must visit sights of the city are the Royal Palace, Plaza Mayor, Buen Retiro Park and many others.

Alhambra of Granada

Alhambra of Granada by Sharon Mollerus

3. Granada

Located at the foot of the Sierra Nevada mountains in Andalusia, Granada is one of the most important tourist destinations in Spain. It is known for its perfect climate.

It offers warm temperatures, clear skies and is one of the places with the largest number of sunny days per year in Europe.

Despite of the wonderful weather, Granada actually attracts visitors not so much for its climate as for its incredible architecture and rich historical heritage.

The biggest attraction in the city is the world famous fortress and palace complex of Alhambra.

It is under the auspices of UNESCO and is considered one of the most important historical sights in Europe.

Cádiz coast

Cádiz coast by Pepe Rodríguez Cordon

4. Cadiz

In the hot and sunny South of Spain, in the heart of the famous for its fabulous beaches Costa de la Luz, you’ll find the oldest Spanish city – Cadiz.

In addition to its rich history and architecture, the city is popular for its interesting geographic location. It is situated on a long, thin peninsula, which is connected with the mainland only through a long and narrow isthmus.

The most exciting moment for you when arriving in Cadiz would be the passing through the gate of the fortress. The wall literally separate the old from the new part of the city.

In the past the wall used to play the role of a crucial part of the defense of the city. Nowadays, it is a favorite place for tourists and photographers.

When it comes to the largest tourist attraction of Cadiz, however, nothing else could compete the white stony building of the cathedral. Finished in the 19th century, it combines neoclassical architecture and baroque.

Playa Las Canteras, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria

Playa Las Canteras, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria by El Coleccionista de Instantes Fotografía & Video

5. Las Palmas

Las Palmas attracts people from all over the world with is beauty and spirit, and it is for sure a world class must visit city.

It is famous for its golden beach and coastal promenade, which offers numerous restaurants and cafes. However, the biggest attraction of Las Palmas is its wonderful carnival.

It is held each year and takes place in February, which here brings mild weather and plenty of sunshine. The carnival is considered to be the second largest in the world after the one in Rio de Janeiro.

Benidorm beach

Benidorm beach by Jose A.

6. Benidorm

Noisy and hectic, Benidorm is definitely not the best choice for everyone’s taste. However, the city is really very original and unique not only for Spain but for the continent as a whole.

It has a remarkable architecture and is well known for its skyscrapers, which is not something very typical for a European state. The city’s skyline looks rather American than European.

However, this is what makes it so interesting. While it looks like Manhattan, Benidorm has a population of less than 70,000 people.

Looking at the impressive skyline, you could say they are tens of times more. It is an interesting fact that it is the city with the most skyscrapers per capita in the world.

But Benidorm has not always looked like this. Until the 60s of the 20th century it was a quiet place, and most of its buildings were rising only a few meters above the ground.

Today everything is completely different, and the tallest building in the city, Intempo, reaches a height of 200 meters!

But Benidorm would be very different without its incredible geographic location and stunning golden beach, which is considered one of the most beautiful in Spain.

San Sebastian - view from Monte Igueldo

San Sebastian – view from Monte Igueldo by Harshil Shah

7. San Sebastian

Often compared to the British city of Brighton, San Sebastian has a strong aristocratic appearance and radiation.

Founded in the 11th century, today it is an amazing blend of beautiful historic and contemporary architecture, exquisite parks and gardens, and of course, incredible natural beauty.

It is a popular fact that the city is located at one of the most picturesque places in the Iberian Peninsula, which explains why so many people love to spend their holidays here.

The city is situated on the Bay of Biscay, on the northern Spanish coast and is located just a few kilometers from France.

It has two beautiful beaches, and one of them is situated in one of the most beautiful bays in Europe.

However, San Sebastian is not just a beautiful city. It is a very colourful destination where you could always find something interesting to visit or to do.

It is known for its festivals and other cultural events, which attract a large number of young people from all across of Europe.

Neighbourhood in Marbella

Neighbourhood in Marbella by Harvey Barrison

8. Marbella

Marbella is an upscale destination where a large number of rich and famous people from around the world, including many Hollywood celebrities and even royalty, own their luxury properties near the Mediterranean coast.

The place has earned the glory of the European Malibu. It is considered the most luxurious tourist center on the Iberian Peninsula and one of the best in Europe, alongside with Monaco and Nice.

But Marbella is much more than just a place where rich people come to extend the summer season until November. The old part of the town is really charming with its traditional two-storey buildings.

Bright-coloured flowers and other plants crawl the white-washed facades of the buildings, making the street so cozy, lovely and pretty.

The geographic location of Marbella contributes to its beauty. It is situated between the Mediterranean Sea to the south and the mountains of Cordillera Penibética to the north.

Let’s not forget also the beach of Marbella, which plays an important role in the lifestyle of local people.

Beach in Ibiza

Beach in Ibiza by Peter Fleskes

9. Ibiza

Ibiza (the city and the island) is one of the world capitals of entertainment and clubbing. If you are into nightlife but need something different of London for example, it is recommended to visit this place and you won’t regret.

However, Ibiza is much more than just a place to visit clubs and discos. This is a place with beautiful historical architecture, which since 1999 is under the auspices of UNESCO.

The island offers some of the best beaches in Europe, especially if you go further south and visit the small adjacent island of Formentera, which is only a few kilometers from the lively capital of Ibiza.

Alcázar of Seville

Alcázar of Seville by Maxim B.

10. Seville

Seville is one of the most important places to visit if you want to feel and touch the spirit and atmosphere of Spain.

It has always played a very important role in the history of the country, especially during the era of the great geographical discoveries.

Seville is famous for its architectural diversity and numerous historical buildings of great importance.

Probably the most important place to see here is the historical palace complex. It is considered one of the most beautiful in Europe and in the world.

Playa de las Teresitas, Santa Cruz de Tenerife

Playa de las Teresitas, Santa Cruz de Tenerife by jonathanfh

11. Santa Cruz de Tenerife and San Cristóbal de La Laguna

Santa Cruz de Tenerife and San Cristóbal de La Laguna are considered together the most good looking urban area in Spain.

This is one of the most favorite places for photographers in the country, and the main reason is the large number of historical buildings, monuments, squares and churches.

Most of the buildings are painted in bright and warm colours, such as pink, red, yellow and deep blue, which look different in the different parts of the day.

If you visit Santa Cruz de Tenerife, don’t miss to take a few pictures of Plaza de España, which is considered the most important part of the city.

When it comes to culture and architecture, however, San Cristóbal de La Laguna is the most important part of the urban area of Santa Cruz.

The town has a population of around 30 000 people and is located nearly 550 meters above sea level, just next to Santa Cruz.

San Cristóbal de La Laguna is under the auspices of UNESCO and is famous for its old historical buildings, many of which were built between the 16 and 18 century. It is one of the most important places to visit on the Canary Islands.

Street in Pamplona

Street in Pamplona by Mario Sánchez Prada

12. Pamplona

Pamplona is very well known for one of the most popular and dangerous festivals in the world.

Everybody has heard about the bulls running through the narrow streets of the historic Spanish city during the festival of San Fermin.

It takes place every year in July. It officially starts at 12 o’clock at noon on July 6 and ends at midnight on July 14.

However, the city is known not only for the dangerous street fiesta but also for its architectural heritage. Pamplona is an old city, which has preserved deeply the old traditional spirit of Spain.

It offers museums, churches, fortresses and everything you could expect from a European historical place.

Probably one of the biggest attractions is the Gothic Catedral de Santa Maria, which impresses with its monolithic facade.

Casino de Santander

Casino de Santander by Ramón Cutanda López

13. Santander

Santander is one of the most sophisticated and elegant cities in Spain. It is located on a picturesque bay on the coast of Cantabria, in one of the most beautiful parts of country.

The city is known for its beautiful coastline covered with fine golden sand, for its mild but changeable climate, and for the fact that during the winter months here you can see some of the biggest ocean waves in Europe.

Even if one of the most beautiful cities in Spain, most of the buildings in Santander are not historical. It was severely affected by fire, which destroyed many of the old buildings in 1941.

That’s why most of the architecture of this so clean and good looking Spanish city is dominated by buildings from the mid 20th century.

Lloret de Mar

Lloret de Mar by Martin Marti

14. Lloret de Mar

Lloret de Mar is a wonderful coastal town with a population of less than 40 000 people. It is located to the north of Barcelona and is considered to be the most attractive place to spend your holiday in Catalonia.

It is known for its superb golden beach and quiet pace of life. During the summer season, however, the town changes beyond recognition.

Crowds of tourists from across Europe flock here to enjoy its lifestyle, weather and Mediterranean beauty.

In the northern part of the town, on a small hill, is situated a small but really charming Sant Joan castle. It dates from the 11th century and is actually the most important tourist attraction in Lloret de Mar.

Another must-visit place is the Santa Clotilde Gardens. They amaze with their aristocratic appearance and wonderful views toward the azure water of the Mediterranean.

Pasarela Calatrava and Torres Isozaki in Bilbao

Pasarela Calatrava and Torres Isozaki in Bilbao by EUGENIO

15. Bilbao

If you are looking for a beautiful city to visit in the North of Spain, you should definitely consider to visit the city of Bilbao. In the past it was just an industrial city.

However, over the last two decades it has experienced an incredible transformation. Today it is a city of art, and we don’t say this accidentally.

Here, on the bank of Nervion River is situated one of the most important museums to visit in Europe – the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao. It opened in 1997, and since then, it attracts a large number of visitors every year.

Malaga Harbour

Malaga Harbour by Nick Kenrick

16. Malaga

They often call Malaga “the best of all Spanish cities”. But why? It is very simple. Malaga is one of the places with the most pleasant climate in the country.

It is also a place which very well combines old and modern architectural styles. The city is one of the most important cultural centers in Spain, and in addition, it is situated on the Mediterranean coast.

The walk through the streets of Malaga is a pleasure for all the senses.

If you want to get in touch with the spirit of the city, you have to visit the Picasso Museum, at least a small part of the chapels and churches in the city, some of its wonderful gardens and of course, Castle of Gibralfaro.

Palma Cathedral

Palma Cathedral by SBA73

17. Palma, Mallorca

Today Palma is considered one of the most eye-catching places in Europe to visit.

The city enchants with its wonderful narrow Arab-style cobbled streets but also with its modern architecture and charming yacht marina, which clearly talks about the lifestyle in the area.

One of the most important sites to visit in the city is Bellver Castle, which is situated 112 meters above sea level and reveals a wonderful view of the skyline of Palma.

In addition, Palma is just a few minutes drive from Serra de Tramuntana, which is known for its wonderful landscapes and cultural wealth.

Mahón, Menorca

Mahón, Menorca by Freebird

18. Mahon, Menorca

Mahon is known among tourists for being one of the quietest, safest and most relaxing tourist destinations in Spain.

The town is comfortably situated in a small and narrow bay on the east coast of the green Balearic island of Menorca.

It is very different from hectic and dynamic cities such as Barcelona or Madrid but is for sure no less beautiful.

It offers narrow historical streets, beautiful old building, charming small restaurants and cafes, and numerous options for entertainment.

In addition, every summer in September in the town is held an amazing fiesta. If you are searching for the most beautiful views, you will find them in the area of the Mahon’s harbour.

The orchid garden Sitio Litre in Puerto de la Cruz

The orchid garden Sitio Litre in Puerto de la Cruz by Till Krech

19. Puerto de la Cruz

When it comes to beauty and charm, very few places in Spain could compete the city of Puerto de la Cruz.

It is located on the northern coast of Tenerife and enchants with its beautiful architecture and black volcanic beaches. It is known as one of the places with the best entertainment options.

One of the most interesting zoological parks in Europe, Loro Park (which means Parrot Park), attracts more visitors than anything else on the island.

Because of its year-round fresh weather, which reminds of late spring or early summer, the city offers more vegetation than any other coastal city of Tenerife.

Street in Barcelona

Street in Barcelona by Luis Hernandez

20. Barcelona

When it comes to the total number of international visitors, Barcelona with its 8,2 million international arrivals takes the 12th position in the world for 2016.

If we talk only about tourists who come here to spend their holidays and not for business, however, Barcelona is the most visited by tourists city in Europe and one of the leaders in the world.

Anyone who has ever been in the second largest city in Spain already knows how incredible this place is. The urban architecture is unique and couldn’t be compared with that of other place in the world.

It is strongly influenced by the work of Antoni Gaudi, who has turned Barcelona into a masterpiece.

The most popular examples of his work are the Sagrada Familia, which is the largest cathedral in the world, Park Güell and Casa Mila.

Among the most famous places in Barcelona is also the Gothic Quarter. But Barcelona is not just a place with lovely and original architecture.

It is also a melting point of thousands of different cultures, which makes the city very attractive for young people.

In addition, the second largest urban center of the country has an outstanding location with gorgeous beaches.