Famous for friendly and helpful locals, sangria, tinto de verano (lemonade mixed with red wine), paella and tapas, bullfighting, Gibraltar, and Gaudí architecture to name a few sights and experiences, Spain should be on everyone’s travel bucket list.
I’ve had the pleasure of visiting this beautiful and diverse country a few times, and I have not yet seen everything there is to see (or done everything on my Spain to-do list!).
If you have not yet visited Las Españas, you may wonder what the best cities are to visit in Spain. Barcelona and Madrid surely come to mind. But there are many other beautiful cities to see.
Join me in discovering why you should explore these 5 most visited cities in Spain on your next trip.
The Top Cities to Visit in Spain During Your Travels
Many of the Spanish cities listed below are well known and, thus, it’ll come as no surprise that they’ve made my list of the best cities in Spain. However, the cities are well known for a reason or, as I’ll argue below, for many, many reasons.
Below this list of 5 cities in Spain, I’ll include more cities which you can visit if you’ve got extra time. You could spend a lifetime travelling in Spain and still not see it all, so it’s hard to narrow it down, but I’ll try.
Barcelona, also known as Gaudí’s city, is the top tourist attraction in Spain and the number one listed city in Spain. It is my number one too. Why?
Sunshine meets a colorful and laid-back city with sensational Gaudí architecture and coastlines. Barcelona also offers much more with many shopping destinations and a boisterous nightlife. There is even something for football fans: live games at Barcelona FC’s home stadium, Camp Nou.
When in Barcelona, make sure you don’t miss Basílica de la Sagrada Familia, Casa Milà (La Pedrera), Park Güell, the Gothic Quarter, the Picasso Museum, La Rambla, Casa Batlló, the Magic Fountain of Montjuïc, and La Barceloneta.
Want to sample some of the delicacies in Barcelona? Visit Mercat de la Boqueria, a market where you have a variety of options ranging from fruits and veggies, ready-made sandwiches and burritos, and sweet and savory pastries to candied fruits, magical marzipan figurines, and bright peppers for an on-the-go lunch or snack while you tour the city.
One of the most memorable and cosmopolitan cities in Spain, beautiful Madrid offers tourists and locals alike a legendary nightlife, stunning museums, and a variety of cultural places to visit.
If you love art, culture, and museums, don’t miss the Prado, one of the best art museums in the world, or the Royal Palace, Western Europe’s biggest royal palace with a blend of neoclassical and baroque styles. There is also the National Archeological Museum, Temple of Debod, and Plaza Mayor.
More of a nature lover? Explore Retiro Park where you will find elegant gardens, a glass and iron pavilion, and the city’s oldest tree that was planted in 1633. You can also opt to paddle on the Grand Pond for a fun-filled afternoon.
For the best lunch or snacks, visit Mercado San Miguel, an art nouveau marketplace and gastronomic destination, or head to Mercado de Maravillas. And if flea markets are your thing, then you’ll be sure to find treasures within one (or many!) of the 3,500 stalls at El Rastro.
The Chocolatería San Ginés is a must for any chocolate lover. Take a break from exploring the city by sipping on rich and thick hot chocolate. Don’t forget to order a sugary churro to go with your drink!
Many visitors choose to stay in Valencia even though they came to attend the tomato fight in Bunol, a nearby town. Yet, while in Valencia, they fall in love with all this city has to offer.
The third-largest city in Spain is the birthplace of paella. After exploring the city center that mixes old and new and La Lonja de la Seda, head to the sandy beaches. It seems that Valencia really does have it all!
One of the best attractions in the city is the City of Arts and Sciences with its complex of six ultra-modern buildings and a reflecting lake. It houses an IMAX cinema, planetarium, botanical garden, and multipurpose event space. The star feature is Oceanogràfic, an oceanarium with 500 species of marine life that occupies seven marine environments.
Other places to visit include La Lonja de la Seda, which is a UNESCO site and a gothic architecture masterpiece, Valencia Cathedral, the octagonal bell-tower at El Miguelete, and Barrio del Carmen for a more bohemian vibe.
The Central Market is foodie heaven with a selection of the best sea and farm produce you’ll find in Valencia. For lunch, visit Restaurante Navarro or La Ruiá for the best paella in town!
Have fun in the sun at Blue-Flag Malvarrosa Beach or the more private El Saler Beach.
Rich with Moorish history, this Andalusian capital flaunts colorful painted tiles, lobed arches, and the iconic Giralda Tower. When I think back to my visit to Seville, five things stand out: orange blossoms, bullfights, Alcázar, tapas, and the flamenco.
The top three attractions in this city are UNESCO World Heritage Sites. First, the Real Alcázar, a palace complex still used by the Spanish royal family. Second, the Seville Cathedral, housing the remains of Christopher Columbus. It is also the largest cathedral in the world with 80 chapels. Third, the General Archive of the Indies.
Not to be missed are the Peñas de Guardia where you can catch local flamenco talent and the best local tapas at Pelayo Bar de Tapas.
If you are into museums, the Museum of Fine Arts and its courtyards and the Museum of Arts and Traditions can teach you about the history of Seville.
La Giralda has 34 ramps leading to the top of the tower. Before you witness the amazing view, stop at the archaeological exhibits, which make the way up even more interesting.
Don’t forget to visit Plaza de España, Maria Luisa Park—the biggest green space in Seville—right next door to the Plaza. At the 250-year-old Plaza del Toros, you can watch Sunday bullfighting shows starting during the Feria de Abril until September.
If you are a Game of Thrones fan, Bilbao is a must-see on your best cities in Spain itinerary.
And even if you aren’t a fan, then the Guggenheim Museum, outstanding pintxos (which are Basque tapas), the medieval old quarter, shopping at Gran Vía, and Europe’s largest indoor market (Mercado de la Ribera) are sure you draw you to this Basque city.
View both art and architecture as you explore the city of Bilbao by boat down the estuary of Bilbao. Along the banks of the river, you can hop off and visit the Guggenheim to see one of the many art exhibits, or you can visit the market or the historic Arenal Bilbao hotel.
If you are like me and collect photos of stunning city panoramas, then Mount Artxanda is your place to be. Take the funicular (railway cable car) or bus to the top of the mountain and explore one of the many walkways or restaurants while you take in the views of the city.
On your way back to your hotel, stop at Plaza Nueva for drinks and dinner. On Sundays, the stalls sell antiques and collectible items at the Plaza.
Wrapping up the Most Visited Cities in Spain
I’ve covered merely 5 of the best cities to visit in Spain; however, there are many, many more that can and should make your list if you are visiting Spain and want to see more of what is on offer.
While every city has something exotic to offer for all visitors, my favorite attractions in Spain are:
The Gaudí buildings in Barcelona
The nightlife and Chocolatería San Ginés in Madrid
Valencia’s paella, beaches, and City of Arts and Science
Bullfights and tapas in Seville
Bilbao’s pintxos, the Guggenheim Museum, and city views from Mount Artxanda
OTHER CITIES IN SPAIN TO CONSIDER VISITING:
There are, of course, many other cities that you might want to visit in Spain during your travels. It’ll likely depend on what you’re interested in. Here are some that are worth considering, and I won’t list them in any particular order, just those cities which come to mind first from my Spanish travels.
Spain is a special country, and I hope that this article serves you well in your future travels. In writing this, I already can’t wait to return to a nation that is one-of-a-kind, and so much of that is because of its character-filled, memorable cities.