Pope Luna's Castle in Valencia overlooking the Mediterranean Sea and traditional white houses

The Best Cities to Visit in Spain Without a Doubt

27 Apr 2019 By Adele Grant
Pope Luna's Castle in Valencia overlooking the Mediterranean Sea and traditional white houses

Spain’s charms are endless, whether you want to unravel the country’s Moorish history, immerse yourself in its flamenco-filled culture or visit as many tapas bars as possible. But its true identity lies in its biggest cities, from the mainland to its islands – there’s a Spanish getaway for everyone.

See the country’s urban side or kick-back in one of its coastal hotspots, with so many different  landscapes on offer you’ll be spoilt for choice. Now get ready to experience every inch of this British favourite as we reveal the best cities to visit in Spain.

Madrid

A view of Calle de Alcala and Gran Via in Madrid surrounded by blue skies

Location: Madrid has a central position at the geographic centre of the Iberian Peninsula.

Why visit? As the country’s thriving capital, you can expect great things from this European hotspot. Often overshadowed by Barcelona, this city has its own style and its beauty is inescapable. Known for its get-up-and-go attitude and extensive list of bars – Madrid is Spain’s beating heart. Despite its cosmopolitan vibe, it is said to be over 2,000 years old.

And you can’t miss its art museums, rivalling some of the best in the world, you’ll find pieces dating back to the Renaissance period, from Europe and beyond. When you’re not visiting its many galleries, its architectural wonders are just as impressive. Foodies will also be in their element with its blend of traditional and cutting-edge flavours, not to mention its home to the oldest restaurant in the world – Sobrino de Botín.

Top attractions

  • Gran Vía
  • Palacio Real (Royal Palace)
  • Museo del Prado
  • Retiro Park
  • Santiago Bernabéu Stadium
  • National Archaeological Museum
  • Puerta del Sol
  • Plaza Mayor
  • Reina Sofia National Art Museum

Best for: Artistic heritage

Top tip: Why flag a taxi when you can hop on a bus or take the metro? Madrid is known for its fantastic transport links with buses running 24/7 and the metro until 1.30am. This means you don’t even have to cut your night short.

Top hotels:

  • Hotel Senator Castellana: Situated in a central spot close to Plaza de Cuzco and Paseo de la Castellan, this well-appointed hotel guarantees a comfortable stay. Styled with contemporary interiors, you can take advantage of free Wi-Fi, a pool and a buffet restaurant.
  • Elba Madrid Alcalá: Inviting you in with its deluxe furnishings and a showy reception area, Elba Madrid Alcalá promises a lavish stay. Head to the restaurant for buffet favourites or fancy a la carte plates before retiring to your snug room where you’ll find a mini bar, a flat screen TV and safety deposit box.

Malaga

A view of Malaga city in Spain with the stunning Mediterranean Sea in the background

Location: Found in the south of Spain and part of the Costa del Sol coast, Malaga sits on the northern side of the Mediterranean Sea.

Why visit? Often described as the gateway to the Costa del Sol and its endless beaches, this large city also gave birth to Pablo Picasso – one of the most influential painters of the 20th century. Its coastal location promises wind-free sunbathing thanks to its mountain surroundings.

Gaining more and more popularity with British tourists due to its mix of swanky hotels, art exhibitions and vibrant nightlife – get ready for a memorable stay. And you may be surprised to discover Malaga is one of the oldest cities in the world. With a history spanning for 3,000 years, its ancient attractions are extensive from a Moorish castle to a Roman theatre and a Renaissance cathedral alongside some of the best museums in the country.

This Spanish hotspot also offers the perfect combination of sightseeing opportunities and beach days with urban shores on hand when you want to make the most of its toasty climate or escape its bustling streets.

Top attractions

  • La Alcazaba
  • Roman Amphitheatre
  • La Concepión Botanic Garden
  • Malaga Cathedral
  • Castillo de Gibralfaro
  • Museo del Vidrio
  • Ataranzas Market
  • Parque de Málaga
  • Museo Picasso Málaga
  • Casa Natal de Picasso
  • Centre Pompidou Málaga
  • Puerto de Málaga

Best for: Historical must-sees

Did you know? You can enter many of Malaga’s museums and monuments without handing over a single euro. The Picasso Museum is free on Sunday afternoons as is the cathedral from 2pm.

Top hotels:

  • Parador de Malaga Gibralfara: This fancy hotel is one of Malaga’s most prestigious stays. With views of the city from its stylish rooftop pool, luxurious touches such as chocolates on your pillow and a restaurant showcasing the finest local flavours – Parador de Malaga Gibralfara has gone all out to impress you.
  • Barcelo Malaga: Built in a cutting-edge design and boasting 4 stars, Barcelo Malaga is your home away from home. Everything has slick feel from its chilled lounge bar to its rooms equipped with whirlpool tubs and a la carte restaurant. Sitting between the coast and the historic centre, you’re in a prime location too.

Palma De Mallorca

A beautiful view of the famous Cathedral of Palma de Majorca surrounded by water

Location: You’ll find Palma in the popular Balearic island Majorca overlooking the western Mediterranean.

Why visit? This vibrant capital is no one-trick pony. Whether you’re looking for lively nightlife, shopping opportunities or historical lures – Majorca has you covered. You can enjoy the best of both worlds here – spend your morning taking in the city’s biggest sights before hitting its Blue Flag stretches for an afternoon soaking up the sun.

If you’re a lover of all things local, you’re in luck. Known for its contemporary art houses, flamenco performances, collection of coffee stops, traditional Old Town and authentic food markets – Palma’s cultural highlights are endless.

Come nightfall, the stylish marina is the place to head before you move onto the clubs in Santa Catalina that is.

Top attractions

  • La Seu Cathedral
  • Old Town
  • Castell de Bellver
  • Paseo Marítimo
  • Passeig des Born
  • L’Almudaina Palace
  • Santa Catalina
  • Es Baluard Contemporary Art Museum
  • Playa de Palma
  • Arab Baths
  • Church of Santa Eulalia

Best for: Cultural spectacles

Top tip: If you’re looking for the best panoramas of the city from up high, nothing beats the view from the top of Castell de Bellver.

Top hotels:

  • HM Balanguera Hotel: It doesn’t get much more stylish than this modern hotel. Everything has a fresh vibe with white interiors everywhere you look, while the rooftop terrace is the place to grab a drink in the sun. Sitting close to the beach and the city, you can enjoy the best of both worlds here.
  • Isla Mallorca Hotel & Spa: Take full advantage of top-class facilities and a relaxing atmosphere at this swanky hotel. Just down the road from Palma’s towering cathedral, you’re in a handy location when you want to explore the city’s biggest sights. Back at your accommodation, indulge a la carte style, unwind with a spa treatment or get some shut-eye in your well-equipped room.

Barcelona

Park Guell in Barcelona overlooking Gaudi's famous architecture

Location: Barcelona is the capital of Catalonia, which is cradled in the northeastern Mediterranean coast of mainland Spain.

Why visit? As the second-largest city in Spain, Barcelona certainly packs a lot in. Not only is it one of the greenest cities in the world with 68 parks to work your way through, but its famous beach didn’t exist until 1992.

This unique hotspot is also adored by football fanatics thanks to Camp Nou, the largest stadium in Europe and the permanent residence of the almighty Barcelona FC. But the biggest attraction has to be its enchanting architecture, and we’re not talking grey dull buildings.

With Gaudi’s wonderful imagination dominating the city, admire colourful tile work, iron balconies and mythical sculptures. La Sagrada Família is an architectural must-see, this unfinished masterpiece has taken longer to complete than some of the world’s most famed structures.

After taking in its iconic sights, wander down the tree-lined Las Rambla, head to the Gothic Quarter and stumble upon tucked-away tapas bars or treat yourself to some retail therapy with more than 35,000 shops on your doorstep.

Top attractions

  • La Sagrada Família
  • Casa Batlló
  • Park Güell
  • Picasso Museum
  • La Rambla
  • Camp Nou Stadium
  • Casa Mila
  • The Magic Fountain
  • Gothic Quarter
  • Barceloneta Beach
  • Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya

Best for: Architectural beauty

Top tip:If you want to visit Gaudi’s three main sites – La Sagrada Família, Park Guell or La Pedrera at Casa Milà – you need to book in advance! With tickets sold out days in advance, planning ahead is a must to avoid disappointment.

Top hotels:

  • Senator Barcelona Spa Hotel: Equipped with a gym, swimming pool and a restaurant, this hotel offers everything you need during your time in Barcelona. Placed in the Les Corts area, it’s a fantastic choice if you’re planning on visiting the stadium, while it’s also a few metro stops from the centre.
  • Hotel Vincci Bit: With a close to the beach location, there’s plenty of opportunity to soak up the Spanish sunshine. When you’re not taking in the views from your rooftop pool, head to the a la carte restaurant for some tasty gourmet surprises.

Santa Cruz de Tenerife

Santa Cruz in Tenerife at sunset with a backdrop of mountains and sea

Location: Situated in the Canary Islands on the eastern tip of Tenerife overlooking Atlantic Ocean, Santa Cruz de Tenerife lies just 210 kilometres off the northwestern coast of Africa.

Why visit? This port city is Tenerife’s capital and is home to one of most historically important harbours in the Atlantic Ocean. Filled with colourful buildings and found at the foot of the striking Anaga Mountains, its beauty never fails to impress.

When it comes to attractions you’ve got a stunning auditorium which doesn’t look dissimilar to the Sydney Opera House, a park designed by the Lanzarote-born artist César Manrique and a museum detailing the island’s volcanic past. While, Playa de las Teresitas is the best place to take advantage of the island’s year-round balmy temperatures with its imported Sahara sand.

This vibrant city is also home to the second most popular carnival after the one held in Rio de Janeiro. With 250,000 people attending this 15-day fiesta, it’s an experience like no other.

Top attractions

  • Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de la Concepción
  • Tenerife Espacio de las Artes
  • Auditorio de Tenerife
  • Carnival
  • Museo de Bellas Artes
  • Fort de San Juan
  • Market of Nuestra Señora de Africa
  • Museum of Man and Nature
  • Plaza de España
  • Parque Maritimo Cesar Manrique
  • Military Museum Santa Cruz
  • Playa de las Teresitas

Best for: Carnival fun

Did you know? Santa Cruz de Tenerife is the perfect spot for visiting one of Tenerife’s biggest attractions – Teide National Park. Taking around 1 hour and 30 minutes to get there, step away from the busy streets and explore this natural marvel in half a day.

Top hotels:

  • Iberostar Grand Hotel Mencey: Despite being in the heart of Santa Cruz, this hotel’s concealed location will leave you feeling like your miles away from everything. Oozing style and sophistication, this colonial stay is the ideal base when you’re not hitting the city.
  • NH Tenerife: This modern hotel places you in a fantastic location just footsteps away from the city’s biggest attractions. High up on the sixth floor you’ll find a rooftop terrace where the views are spectacular. Offering perks such as room service, free Wi-Fi and tapas for lunch –  we can’t recommend this establishment enough.

Alicante

The stunning Alicante coast with Castillo de Santa Bárbara sitting atop of the city

Location: Bagging a central location on Spain’s Mediterranean coast and part of the popular Costa Blanca region, Alicante is the second-biggest city in the Valencia Community.

Why visit? When you first arrive in the Spanish hotspot, one thing will demand your attention, and that’s the astonishing Castle of Santa Barbara, which sits high above the coast on Mount Benacantil. Offering a blend of lazy beach days and antique sights – it’s the ultimate city break in the sun.

When you’re not sampling its tasty seafood restaurants and tapas spots in its port area, get your historical fix in the Old Quarter, where you’ll find a cathedral dating back to the 17th century alongside a fine example of Baroque architecture. In fact, the city is worlds away from the British focused resorts Costa Blanca is famous for. With traditional cobblestone streets and pristine whitewashed houses, it has an authentic air.

As for beaches, Alicante is adored for its lengthy white stretches. It’s hard to believe you’re in a city when you step on Playa del Postiguet, which sits close to the Old Town. Welcoming you with the softest golden sand and far-stretching shallows, don’t be surprised if you lose track of time.

Top attractions

  • Playa del Postiguet
  • Castle of Santa Barbara
  • Explanada de España
  • Archaeological Museum
  • Basilica of Santa María
  • Contemporary Art Museum
  • Mercado Central
  • Playa de San Juan
  • Tabarca Island
  • Old Quarter

Best for: Stunning beaches

Top tip:The tram is the easiest way to get around Alicante. With four different lines taking you right across the city and costing €1.45, it’s a great way to explore this magnificent metropolis.

Top hotels:

  • El Plantio Golf Resort: Encircled by gardens, this 4 star hotel comes with a duo of golf course and pools. Sitting 10 kilometres from the centre of Alicante, you could be taking in the city’s top attractions in no time. When it comes to your in-room facilities guests can take full advantage of a kitchenette, TV and dining area.
  • Melia Alicante: With a city meets beach location, Melia Alicante is the perfect pick if you want a mix of lazy and action-packed days. The main restaurant is a real highlight with its contemporary take on Mediterranean cooking, while its outdoor swimming pool is the place to relax thank to its snug loungers.

Seville

Plaza de Espana in Seville surrounded by glistening water and ornate bridges

Location: Forming part of the Andalusia region, you’ll find Seville in the south of Spain.

Why visit? It doesn’t get much more Spanish than a trip to Seville. It’s a place where flamenco clubs mingle with quaint courtyards and horse-drawn carriages line the streets. The city is truly beautiful, so much so, it has caught the eye of numerous film makers across the globe with on screen appearances in Lawrence of Arabia, Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones, and more recently, the hit TV series Game of Thrones.

When you’re not admiring its captivating structures from a Gothic church to a UNESCO-listed palace and one of the oldest bullrings in the world, this magical city has plenty of charm. Stumble upon orange blossom trees and old-fashioned street lamps as you head for its buzzing paella spots and rooftop bars.

Top attractions

  • Royal Alcazar Palace
  • Giralda Bell Tower
  • Casa de Pilatos
  • Real Maestranza bullring
  • Torre de Oro
  • Plaza España
  • Catedral de Sevilla
  • Barrio Santa Cruz
  • Museo de Bellas Artes
  • Iglesia Colegial del Salvador
  • Museo del Baile Flamenco
  • Casa de Pilatos

Best for: Romantic ambiance

Top tip: Despite being packed with romantic spots – you can’t beat the views of the lit-up cathedral and bell tower from the bar-terrace at the conveniently placed hotel EME.

Top hotels:

  • Bellavista Sevilla: Just seven kilometres from the centre of Seville in a peaceful location sits this four-story hotel. The decor is traditional yet luxurious and promises a comfortable stay with in-room amenities such as satellite TV and air conditioning. There’s also a restaurant on hand where you can grab lunch and dinner.
  • Hotel San Gil: Found in Seville’s downtown area, just a 20-minute walk from the city’s cathedral, there’s also ample opportunities to soak up those warm Spanish rays with a well-placed pool area and a central backyard. Decorated in a classic style with marble floors and dark wood furnishings – it doesn’t get much more traditional.

Valencia

A view of the sun shining over Valencia's beautiful buildings in Spain

Location: Taking up a central position on Spain’s east coast, Valencia is where the Turia River hits the Mediterranean Sea.

Why visit? As Spain’s third-largest city, Valencia is the perfect combination of sun-filled beach days and busy streets bursting with impressive architecture. People come here for all kinds of reasons, but most are captivated by the thought of seeing the Holy Grail – the cup which Jesus allegedly drank from at the famous Last Supper. Said to be on display in Valencia Cathedral, see the historic chalice for yourself.

The city’s skyline is a contrast of ultra-modern buildings like the City of the Arts and Sciences and grand 15th century structures like La Lonja de la Seda – offering a unique sightseeing experience. Shopping is also a huge part of its spirit, considering it is home to one of Europe’s longest-running markets – The Mercado Central. Selling all kinds of local items there’s no better way to immerse yourself in the culture.

As the birthplace of paella, the country’s most famed dish, food lovers will be in their element. But be warned – a Valencian paella has some slight variations when compared to the tourist offerings you’ll find in Spain’s most popular resorts. Typically consisting of green and white beans, chicken or rabbit, snails and saffron – it’s a lot tastier than it sounds.

For the best flavours, head to the city’s beachside eateries at Paseo Marítimo, a promenade buzzing with activity.

Top attractions

  • City of the Arts and Sciences
  • Oceanogràfic
  • La Lonja de la Seda
  • Casco Histórico
  • Jardín del Turia
  • Valencia Cathedral
  • The Mercado Central
  • Paseo Marítimo
  • Plaza de la Reina
  • Valencia’s Town Hall
  • La Malvarrosa Beach

Best for: Foodies

Did you know? If you were hoping to brush up on your Spanish during a visit to Valencia, think again. In fact, Valencia has its own language known as Spanish (Castellano) which is widely spoken here.

Top hotels:

  • Senator Parque Central Hotel: Right next to Valencia’s Old Town is this 4 star stay featuring modern rooms and a breakfast buffet. You can benefit from free Wi-Fi, a great way to stay connected with your friends and family back home.
  • Hotel Sercotel Sorolla Palace: Boasting a flashy 4 star rating, this swanky hotel is conveniently placed near a tram stop, so getting around the city couldn’t be easier. The outdoor pool tends to be the biggest draw with its chic cabanas and incredible views. As for the rooms, you can look forward to mod-cons including a flat screen TV and air conditioning.

So, which Spanish city will you be adding to your travel bucket list?

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