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Spain is one of those countries I could visit again and again and always find somewhere new to explore. While it may be hard to choose, all these beautiful cities in Spain are well worth a visit. And even after living in Barcelona a few years back, I barely scratched the surface of all there is to discover.

Part of what makes Spain so incredible is its unique cities and towns. It’s the combination of natural and man-made features from the peaks of the Pyrenees to the architectural wonders of Granada’s Alhambra Palace. And of course the vibrant culture. Things like flamenco and bullfighting in Seville offer unique experiences to enjoy.

This list encapsulates 15 of the most beautiful cities in Spain that I’ve enjoyed on my travels. From the bustling and lively to the charming and cozy. There’s something here to suit every traveler’s taste and help you put together an unforgettable Spain trip.

Short on Time? Here Are My Top Picks for the Best Beautiful Cities in Spain:

  1. Barcelona (stay at Hotel Neri), for the best architecture and vibrant culture
  2. Madrid (stay at EDITION), for the best museums and public spaces
  3. Seville (stay at El Rey Moro), for the best Moorish landmarks and flamenco culture

Planning a trip to Spain, be sure to check out all my Spain resources here!

15 Best Beautiful Cities in Spain to Visit


1. Barcelona

Cities in Spain to Visit

If there’s one city in Spain to recommend everyone see, for me, it’s Barcelona. After a season living there, I only scratched the surface of all the city has to offer: magnificent architectural works by Gaudí, incredible restaurants and coffee shops, beautiful beaches, a Gothic Quarter showcasing the city’s history, and so much more.

My ideal itinerary would include all things Gaudí, like Park Güell, La Sagrada Familia, and Casa Batlló. Then see an FC Barcelona match, visit the Museu Picasso, and spend time in Placa Reial. The food in Barcelona won’t disappoint, and you can eat your way around the city with this ultimate food guide. Here’s a city guide, a hotel guide, and a guide for first-timers for more on what to do.

2. Madrid

Cities in Spain to Visit

You could spend a month in Spain’s capital and still not see and do it all. The city’s world-class museums hold some of Europe’s most important artifacts and art pieces, from remnants of the monarchy to masterworks by Picasso. Impressive parks, squares, and palaces steeped in history invite exploration, and a robust dining and nightlife scene awaits visitors.

Top attractions in Madrid include the cobblestoned Plaza Mayor, the city’s main square; the Royal Palace, now a museum; El Retiro Park, filled with monuments and a pond; and the Prado art museum featuring art from Spain’s most famous painters. The Reina Sofía art museum, home of Picasso’s Guernica, is another must-do for art lovers.

3. Seville

I fell in love with this city when I visited it a few years ago. It’s always lively, and it’s one of the prettiest places I’ve ever seen. Everything in the city center is walkable, making it easy to explore.

The best-known site is probably the Alcázar, a UNESCO-designated palace complex dating back to the 10th century and a breathtaking example of Mudejar, Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque architectural styles. Another can’t-miss architectural masterpiece is the semi-circular Plaza de España, built for the Ibero-American Exposition of 1929.

I loved staying in the Santa Cruz neighborhood, a romantic and historic area that was once the city’s Jewish quarter. Check out this post for more on places to stay in Seville and this guide for first-timers.

4. Granada

Cities in Spain to Visit

Surrounded by the towering Sierra Nevada Mountains, Granada is a stunning city packed with charm and incredible design. Gorgeous and intricate Moorish architecture, winding streets that traverse the hillsides, old-world bars serving regional small plates, and strong sweet wine are all hallmarks of the city and things you can’t miss during your visit.

Of course, the quintessential stop on any Granada itinerary is the Alhambra, which takes at least half a day to explore. The palace-fortress complex, built during the 1200s and designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, features incredible rooms and gardens and stunning architectural details throughout. Here’s a list of other things to do while you’re in town and my guide to the city.

5. San Sebastian

San Sebastian may surprise you if you’ve visited other parts of Spain. It’s part of the Basque Country in the north, which has its unique history, culture, topography, and even language. San Sebastian’s golden beaches and picturesque cliffs are reason enough to stop, and city beach Playa del a Concha should be on your itinerary.

But the dining in San Sebastian is what steals the show. The city has 19 total Michelin stars, a bounty of fresh local produce, and a local culture that’s devoted to good food. Try pintxos, or small snacks, at several different restaurants; you can jump between establishments and do your food crawl.

6. Girona

Cities in Spain to Visit

Girona is just a short train ride away from Barcelona, but it’s a world apart. This small city is divided by a slow-moving river into parts old and new, giving you the option to spend your time wandering through old cobblestone streets or exploring a more modern area. There’s plenty to do here, including learning about the fascinating local Jewish history dating back to the 9th century and visiting historic sites like Girona Cathedral, which appears in Game of Thrones.

To me, though, the biggest highlight was the food—and there are a few dining locations that should not be missed. La Fabrica is a must for breakfast and coffee; Rocambolesc Gelateria goes big with creative flavors and toppings; and Restaurante El Cul del Mon, a favorite of locals and foreigners alike, steals the show with delicious Catalan and Moroccan-influenced dishes. Check out this Girona-specific blog post for more on this gem of a city and this post for additional day trips outside of Barcelona.

7. Pamplona

Pamplona is known across the world for its Running of the Bulls, a festival that runs for nine days each July and involves music, parades, and fireworks. But if you’re visiting outside of the festival dates, you can still learn about the history of bullfighting at the Bull Ring and Bull Run Monument.

Of course, there’s much more to the northern city, which dates back to the 16th century. Its walls, towers, and bastions, originally constructed to keep out invaders, are well-preserved and stretch around the city, affording panoramic views. A citadel, complete with gates, moats, and barracks, is also worth checking out. The city’s main square, Plaza de Castillo, is another highlight and home to Café Iruña, a favorite haunt of Ernest Hemingway.

8. Tossa De Mar

Best Day Trips From Barcelona

If you drive just over an hour north of Barcelona along the coast, you’ll hit Tossa de Mar. It’s part of Costa Brava, a stretch of coast known in part for its diverse landscape and a historical and cultural legacy that stretches centuries. In the case of Tossa de Mar, that legacy dates back to prehistoric times and continues through the Roman Empire, the Middle Ages, and the modern day.

History enthusiasts will love exploring the old city walls, wandering the cobblestone streets, and viewing the seven towers of this fortified medieval village. Nature lovers are also in for a treat in Tossa. Sandy beaches and coves are ripe for snorkeling, and hiking trails meandering through pine forests are plentiful.

9. Bilbao

Bilbao is the largest city in Northern Spain’s Basque Country. An iron- and steel-making industrial hub throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, today, the city is best known for two things: the iconic Guggenheim Museum and its top-notch dining scene. Basque Country is the birthplace of pintxos, bite-sized snacks meant to be eaten with your hands, and you can hop around town tasting them at various venues.

The Guggenheim, which opened in 1997, is a world-class modern art museum designed by Frank Gehry, and it shouldn’t be missed while in the city. Bilbao also has several other architecturally important constructions spanning centuries, from the Gothic Santiago Cathedral to the neo-baroque Arriaga Theater to the contemporary Zubizuri Bridge.

10. Cádiz

At more than 3,000 years old, Cádiz has the special distinction of being the oldest city in Western Europe. Founded by the Phoenicians as a port city, it went on to serve as a trading hub and the home of the Spanish Navy. Many groups conquered the city, including the Romans, the Visigoths, and the Moors, with each leaving a cultural imprint.

Today, in addition to being an important historical site, Cádiz is a beautiful destination with standout cuisine and nature. At least a beach or two should be on your list of places to visit, as well as the baroque and neoclassical Cádiz Cathedral, the UNESCO-designated Doñana National Park, and the history-packed Gadir archeological site.

11. Córdoba

Córdoba is home to one of the most iconic buildings in the world—the Mezquita, a mosque-cathedral that’s reason enough to visit this city in Southern Spain. You can take a guided tour to see its 850 double-arched walls and learn about its history, or you can take an hour or so to show yourself around.

But the city is so much more than the Mezquita. It has a beautiful old town, trendy restaurants, and lush courtyards that are gorgeous to wander (and you can actually tour five of the city’s patios for a small fee, an attraction you won’t find anywhere else in Spain). On your trip, I recommend spending time at the Palacio de Viana, a 15th-century palace, and Garum 2.1 Bistronómic Tapas, a modern tapas restaurant with fantastic oxtail churros and small plates. Head to this blog post for more local things to do.

12. Valencia

Spain’s third-largest city is a study in contrasts where old meets new. Like many of Spain’s cities, it has a thriving old quarter. But it also has a spectacular collection of modern buildings and futuristic-looking architecture such as the Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias, a cultural complex and tourist destination housing attractions like the aquarium. Valencia is walkable and livable, with plenty of green space and Mediterranean beaches to explore during the city’s 300-plus days of sun per year.

A visit to Valencia is a chance to try the famous rice dish, paella, at its most authentic. But as a thriving food city, it also has an endless number of dishes to try. Other must-dos while in town include the Plaza de la Reina—the site of Valencia Cathedral and the Miguelete Tower—and the Silk Exchange, a UNESCO site with an idyllic courtyard full of orange trees.

13. Toledo

About an hour southwest of Madrid in Central Spain sits Toledo, an ancient city perched atop a gorge that overlooks a river. In the Middle Ages, Christian, Muslim, and Jewish communities lived side by side in the city, and these cultures left an enduring mark on the city that made it such an interesting place to visit.

Within the city’s historic center, explore the Cathedral of Toledo—one of Spain’s top cathedrals—and the Sinagoga del Tránsito, which dates back to 1355. Head to the highest point in the city to visit the Alcázar, a 10th-century Islamic fortress later altered by the Christians that now serves as a military museum. Toledo was also the home of El Greco, the Renaissance-era painter famed for his unique style, for much of his life, and a museum in Toledo housed within a restored home tells the story of his life and work.

14. Málaga

Cities in Spain to Visit

Málaga is a port city on the Costa Del Sol, part of Southern Spain’s Andalucía region, known for its many days of sunshine and for being Picasso’s birthplace. It’s easily walkable on foot and makes for a great day or single overnight trip.

While you’re there, don’t miss the Cathedral of Málaga, which towers over the city and allows visits to its rooftop, or the Picasso Museum, which showcases the artist’s life and works. I also loved visiting the Alcazaba, a medieval fortress that looks down over the city, and the Mercado Central de Atarazanas. Check out this blog post for more things to do in the city and this one for how to get around Andalucía without a car.

15. Salamanca

Called Spain’s “Golden City” for the way the light hits the signature blond sandstone of its buildings, Salamanca is a hub for architecture, religion, history, culture, and learning in the northwest part of the country. Its entire Old City is a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its architectural and historical importance, meaning you’ll have no shortage of beautiful buildings to explore.

Among them, the Old City’s two cathedrals—the Old Cathedral (Romanesque and Gothic styles) and the New Cathedral (Gothic and Baroque styles) stand out. Other sites of importance include the Plaza Mayor, Convento de San Esteban, and Casa de las Conchas.


Frequently Asked Questions: Visiting Spain

What is the Prettiest City in Spain?

There are so many gorgeous cities in Spain that it’s nearly impossible to pick a superlative. Beauty permeates the country in so many ways, from the coastal landscapes of San Sebastian to the incredible architecture of Cordoba to the snow-capped mountains of Granada.

What are the Five Largest Cities in Spain?

Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia, Seville, and Zaragoza are the five largest cities in Spain. Madrid is the largest by a wide margin, with its population topping 3 million.

Where is the Most Popular City in Spain?

Barcelona and Madrid draw the most visitors each year, each attracting millions of tourists from around the world.


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1. Book Your Flights

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2. Book Your Accommodations

I use Booking.com for hotels and guest houses. They have the biggest inventory and consistently offer the best rates.

3. Book Your Tours & Experiences

I use Viator or Get Your Guide to find the best tours and experiences. They are my favorite tour search engines. I always check both as their inventory varies depending on the destination.

4. Book Your Rental Car

Self-driving is the best way to explore most destinations. I use Discover Cars for our rental cars, select full coverage insurance, and opt for a reputable company like Alamo, Hertz, or Sixt.

5. Don’t Forget Airport Lounge Access

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I never leave the country without travel insurance. It provides comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong (ie. illness, injury, theft, and cancelations, etc.). I use it frequently for my travels to stay protected.

My favorite companies that offer the best coverage and rates are:


Xx,
Jessica

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