Spain is a bright, vibrant and exciting place to visit. Steeped in culture and with a wealth of history to discover Spain is the perfect destination for a European vacation. I've compiled a list of the top cities in Spain that you must visit.
Whether you are looking to explore on a slow and steady full immersion excursion.
Or whether you just have 10 days in Spain there are a whole host of places to explore.
Diverse and dynamic each Spanish city has its own unique pace of life, own traditions, and festivities.
Top 10 Cities You Must Visit in Spain
The most popular destinations that spring to mind when planning a trip to Spain are of course the capital city of Madrid and secondly Barcelona.
Madrid and Barcelona are simply the tips of the iceberg when it comes to exploring Spain’s wondrous cityscapes and urban environments.
Lesser-known cities like Toledo and Donostia are a little off the beaten track for most travelers.
For that reason, they are perfect places to explore to gain a genuine and authentic understanding of this European nation.
Travel in Spain is very easy. All the major cities and towns are connected by rail and even many of the smaller villages are too.
Major Cities in Spain to Visit
You can travel cheaply and easily throughout Spain using train travel alone. What’s more, it is possible to book your train tickets online before you even leave home.
For those who like to be super organized, they can have their trip ready and in place months before they even land in Spain!
Here are our 10 must-visit cities in Spain. How many will visit?
The Spanish capital city of Madrid is a great destination for a European vacation or a short weekend mini-break.
Madrid is elegant and classy with ornate architecture and perfectly manicured gardens and parks to match.
For lovers of fine art, Madrid is a must.
Home to The Prado which is filled with spectacular works that date back to the 12th Century it is easy to see why art fanatics from across the globe flock to Madrid to get their cultural fix.
With lavish water fountains and expansive greenery, the park is a great place to escape Madrid’s busy and bustling city center.
Barcelona is Spain’s second-largest city.
Found in the Catalunya region of Spain, Barcelona offers the perfect mix of culture and history within a modern cosmopolitan metropolis.
Bright, colourful and memorable Barcelona is beyond photogenic and provides picture-perfect city vistas wherever you turn!
Home to the famous Barcelona FC the city sees football fans head to Camp Nou to watch the Barça boys work their magic on the field.
The nightlife in Barcelona is fantastic and don't forget the works of Gaudi.
Bars and clubs line the streets and music is played until the early hours.
Head to Barcelona if you want a party, for sure!
Seville is Spain’s third-largest city and the capital of the Andalusia region.
It is widely regarded as the home of classic flamenco dancing and has become world-famous for it.
If you want to learn this traditional dance or watch the professionals perform, head to the Triana neighbourhood and watch the story unfold!
Other key sights and attractions in Seville include the Alcázar Castle complex and Seville’s Gothic cathedral.
The Alcázar Castle complex was constructed within the Moorish Almohad dynasty and has an interesting history.
Another must-visit place in Seville is the 18th-century bullring named the Plaza de Toros de la Maestranza where for hundreds of years man has fought the beast in the ultimate test of strength and bravery.
Home to just 350,000 people Bilbao is often missed when on a whistle-stop tour of Spain which is a shame as this small port city tucked away in Northern Spain is a great vacation location.
Bilbao is the capital of the Basque Country in Spain and incorporates some traditional Spanish architecture with towering skyscrapers in the downtown area too.
The Guggenheim Museum is Bilbao’s most visited attraction, built in 1997 by Frank Gehry. The museum is home to contemporary works within its modern, undulating titanium building.
Valencia is home to the Mediterranean side of Spain. This vibrant city is home to an abundance of culture and art.
It has its own International airport that flies to other European destinations and domestic flights too.
Valencia is considered the City of Arts and Sciences and is home to some impressive and futuristic buildings like the oceanarium and planetarium and the interactive museum.
As it is located on the coast Valencia boasts some beautiful beaches.
During the summer months, these coastal patches fill with tourists but with warm weather running long into the autumn months Valencia can be enjoyed year-round.
If you’re looking for a more sedate but still very authentic Spanish experience look no further than Granada.
This laid back city boasts breathtaking views of the Alhambra and the Sierra Nevada mountains.
Take a day trip from the city and ramble through the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains and breathe in some fresh clean air.
Head back to the city for a late afternoon snooze before heading out on the town!
The BoogaClub is a great night time destination with wild parties and live music every night of the week!
Get your dancing shoes on in Granada!
The Old City of Salamanca was granted UNESCO World Heritage Site status in 1988. Found in northwestern Spain, Salamanca is part of the Castile and León region.
Home to many international students Salamanca has a great vibe that instantly makes you feel at ease.
Many people chose to visit the Case de las Conchas and the Plaza Mayor.
The New Cathedral of Salamanca is a must-visit!
As we mentioned before, big and beautiful Barcelona and Madrid may take the limelight but smaller cities like Toledo are well worth a visit too. This ancient city is located high on a hill looking over the plains of the Castilla-La Mancha in the heart of Spain itself.
Toledo is a walled city with a rich and varied past; home to monuments and statues for Arab, Jewish and Christian communities. Toledo has a lot to explore.
Must-visit places in Toledo include the Sol Gate as well as the Moorish Bisagra Gate.
The Sol Gate can be found in the old quarter, close to the buzzing Plaza de Zocodover.
Nestled away on the Costa del Sol, Malaga is a well-known destination for European tourists. Home to big high-rise holiday resorts and hotels the city does have some nice clean beaches.
Many tourists often neglect Malaga’s wonderful architecture and rich heritage in favor of beach parties and water sports.
Whatever your reason for going to Malaga be assured that you will be welcomed with a smile and a great sense of hospitality.
Like Valencia, Malaga has an international airport that flies regularly to many European destinations with a range of budget airlines.
Tucked away in southern Spain in the region of Andalusia, the same region as Seville, Córdoba was a key city during the Roman times and an important Islamic hub during the Middle Ages.
Córdoba is most famed for the impressive and ornate La Mezquita mosque that was built way back in 784 AD!
The La Mezquita has an interesting history. In 1236 it became a Catholic Church with Renaissance influences was built in the 17th-century.
5 More Spanish Cities by Dave and Deb
We love visiting Girona in Costa Brava. If you are visiting Spain, make sure to add this to your itinerary.
The old city is beautifully located on the Onyar River, surrounded by medieval walls.
Game of Thrones filmed in Girona and there are plenty of sights to see like the Jewish Quarter, Cathedral and cobblestone walking streets.
Whether you choose to visit the big and bustling cities or the smaller history-filled cities Spain has the city for every occasion!
One of the first cities we ever visited in Spain was Cuenca. We really wanted to see the Colgadas with our own eyes.
These precarious houses built on the side of a high ridge hanging over a deep gorge are a sight to see.
During that same road trip through central Spain where we saw the Colgadas, we stopped at the beach city of Alicante.
Filled with walking streets and markets, delicious restaurants and nightlife, it was an amazing Spanish vacation.
Castillo de Santa Bárbara is the most prominent site to see when visiting this energetic city.
Home to San Fermin Festival, Pamplona is famous for the running of the bulls but there are plenty of things to do besides taking part in the controversial festival.
There are the magnificent city walls date back to Roman times, the lovely walking streets and food scenes, it's an incredible city park and the Plaza del Castillo makes it a worthwhile stop on your route into Basque country.
It is also a major stop on the Camino de Santiago. That pilgrimage is high on our list of must things to do!
15. San Sebastián
Located just a short drive from Pamplona is the lovely coastal city of San Sebastián.
After the San Fermin Festival, we took a break at San Sebastián to eat a lot of Pinchos.
Located on the sea, this city in Basque Country is known for its food. It also has an incredible beach.
Looking for the Cheapest Flights to Spain?
Getting Around Spain
- Travelers who wish to explore as much of Spain as they possibly can may want to hire a car for the duration of their stay.
- Provided you are over the age of 21 and have a driving license then hiring a car is hassle-free and can work out cheaper than train travel in the long run.
- If you chose to hire a car, it can easily be arranged for the hiring company to bring your car to the airport to meet you so you can hit the ground running…or rather, driving!
- Remember to check whether your car needs diesel or petrol or else you’ll have a nightmare on your hands!
- Bus travel is also a great option in Spain.
- For example, a bus from Madrid to Granada takes just four short hours and runs two or three times daily, more frequently in the high season.
- Buses are cheap and cheerful and a nice way to see the Spanish countryside sprawl away from outside your window. Rest assured, buses in Spain do take breaks for food and toilet stops. No need to strategically dehydrate for your long journey here!
- Spain is an vivid and welcoming place filled with passionate and caring people who are only too happy to accommodate tourists and travellers.
- Learning a little of the language can get you a long way and even if you make mistakes the Spanish always appreciate the effort.
How many will you visit on your next European vacation?
Linda Smith is a travel writer and the founder/main editor of easytravel4u.com.
Her passion for travel inspires her to seek new places, new adventures and sharing her travel experience to everyone.