With a wealth of historical sites, fantastic monuments, beautiful architecture and lovely, leafy parks, Spain’s cities are magical to explore. World-class restaurants and lively bars dot the streets, where locals and foreigners stay out until the early morning enjoying the pounding nightlife on offer. Often set in gorgeous locations, sun, sea and silky sands add yet another welcome dimension to all that there is to see and do.
With fantastic cultural attractions in the shape of museums and galleries, as well as a plethora of local events and festivals highlighting the country’s diverse cultural makeup, the best cities in Spain have everything you’ve dreamed of and more.
Map of cities in Spain
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Lying upon the Galician coast, this port city is often overlooked by visitors even though it has a lot to offer. Sitting on an isthmus, the ocean lies to one side and the port to the other. As such, there are numerous attractive beaches to explore. Picturesque to behold, its cultural attractions perfectly complement its bustling commercial center, fine dining options and lively nightlife scene. Surrounding A Coruna are some pleasant walks and beaches for you to discover.
Renowned for the Running of the Bulls festival, when the city is packed to the brim, Pamplona has much more to offer than this debatable infamous event. Its beautiful medieval alleys give way to leafy parks and numerous archaeological sites, bordering the old city center that has an impressive cathedral and old fortifications. With many great dining and drinking options, the capital of the semi-autonomous Kingdom of Navarra is interesting to visit, and many pilgrims stop by while walking the Camino de Santiago.
Simply spectacular to behold, there is a graceful air about Salamanca. Many of its fine and elegant buildings date back to Spain’s Golden Age. With two stunning cathedrals, numerous Renaissance palaces, churches, museums and galleries, it is a magical place to explore, as its warm sandstone tones follow you throughout your adventure. A renowned seat of learning with a prestigious university, its huge student body makes it a lively city with endless entertainment options to enjoy.
With an alluring mix of African, Chinese and Indian influences, among others, this lively port city has a sunny disposition and is a fun place to spend time. The oldest part of town has upmarket bars and boutiques, while some great restaurants are hidden away amidst the tangled streets. A working city, certain parts of Las Palmas are a tad grimy, although they are not without their charm. The sweeping Playa de las Canteras is a picturesque spot to relax on the beach.
One of the oldest cities in Europe, Cadiz’s ancient heart is almost completely surrounded by the Atlantic, and a wealth of riches once poured into its port from the Americas. Funded by this gold rush, decadent mansions lie next to decaying warehouses and churches, while little cafes and restaurants dot its winding streets. With delicious seafood, a welcoming atmosphere and sandy beaches, it’s a strangely alluring place.
With an idyllic setting alongside beautiful beaches and lovely verdant hills, San Sebastián is an attractive place full of grand buildings and numerous cultural attractions. Formerly a favorite with the Spanish monarchy, its lavish architecture and sense of grandeur is befitting, while its delightful parks and plazas only add to the charm. With a myriad of music, arts and cultural festivals taking part throughout the year, its rich Basque culture is on show for all to enjoy. In addition to this, the world-renowned dining options make San Sebastián a city to savor.
Read more: Top San Sebastian Attractions
With an international airport and numerous resorts along its coastline, Alicante welcomes scores of tourists to its shores every year. Its lovely Mediterranean waterfront and picturesque old quarter, as well as a castle, museums and more, prove that the alluring, sandy beaches are just one aspect of it. A lively place with great eating options and legendary nightlife, Alicante’s bars and clubs make it an upbeat place to hang out for a few days.
The capital of the Balearic Islands, Palma is a beautiful sight. It features a lovely old cathedral that towers over the waterfront and numerous historical sites dating back to the Moors, Romans and Talayotics. While the Gothic cathedral is arguably a highlight, wandering its medieval streets lined with old townhouses and churches is delightful, and there are lots of galleries, cafes, bars and restaurants to check out. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at all that Palma de Mallorca has to offer.
The beautiful Basilica del Pilar is the city’s main landmark and, imperiously rising above the waters of the Rio Ebro, it really does look spectacular. The fifth largest city in the country, Zaragoza has a wealth of fantastic architecture to explore, with some ancient Roman remains and an old castle just a fraction of what it has to offer. With the famous painter, Goya, born nearby, there are many galleries showcasing fantastic art pieces. Add to this a great tapas and bar scene and you’ll find that Zaragoza is certainly worth visiting.
8. Cordoba Where to Stay in Cordoba
Once the largest city in Western Europe, Córdoba’s stunning Mezquita testifies to the city’s former prestige and grandeur and is the undoubted highlight to see. The incredible Moorish mosque has lavish architecture and beautiful arches. It is located in the middle of the historic part of Córdoba, which is an exciting area to explore – just be warned that its immediate surroundings are often full of tourists. A charming place, there are lots of historic sites to get lost in and the architecture on show is divine. With more than enough restaurants and bars to keep you occupied, Córdoba, with its winding alleys, is a pleasure to visit.
Read more: Top Cordoba Attractions
Located along the Costa del Sol, Malaga’s soulless high-rises hide a city that is rapidly reimagining itself. Numerous art galleries have sprung up in recent years – which seems appropriate since it is Picasso’s birthplace. Coupled with some delightful historic sites, such as an amphitheater dating back to Roman times and a Moorish fortress, it has a thriving culinary scene, as well as some great nightlife for visitors to let their hair down. The recently renovated port area is breathing fresh life into this already lively city. On top of this there are some nice beaches to lounge around on.
Lying alongside the banks of the Rio Nervion in northern Spain, Bilbao’s iconic Guggenheim museum is probably what the city is best known for, although it certainly has much more to offer and is a bastion of Basque culture. Numerous architectural wonders line its lovely waterfront, highlighting a mix of traditional and contemporary styles, with some delightful cathedrals spread around the city. Leafy parks and atmospheric plazas are surrounded by world-class restaurants and atmospheric eateries, showing off the best of Basque cuisine. The vibrant local culture is fascinating to learn about in its brilliant museums, galleries and theatres. Lying in Basque Country, the city has some picturesque hills overlooking it, from which there are some stunning views of the buildings below.
5. Granada Where to Stay in Granada
With the enchanting Alhambra set amidst such gorgeous scenery, most visitors to Granada descend upon the city to explore the breathtaking palace fortress that once housed the Moorish rulers. Spectacular to behold and stroll around, its amazing gardens and lovely Islamic architecture is the undoubted highlight of what Granada has to offer. The city center itself is wonderful to get lost in, as impressive churches and atmospheric bars are interspersed amongst fantastic Islamic architecture; the old Arab quarter is particularly beautiful due to its alluring alleys. Set on the lower slopes of the Sierra Nevada, Granada is a lively place that should not be missed.
Read more: Top Granada Attractions
Lying alongside the Mediterranean, the third largest city in the country is often overlooked in favor of Barcelona and Madrid, although it has plenty of attractions to woo visitors. Great to live in, Valencia’s vibrant cultural scene, hopping nightlife and fine beaches mean that there’s something for everyone to enjoy. With lovely, leafy parks snaking their way along the old riverbed that cuts through its center, the old quarter is great to explore, and there are lots of interesting museums to visit and many fine dining options available.
Read more: Top Valencia Attractions
3. Seville Where to Stay in Seville
With its cavernous Gothic cathedral lying at the heart of a picturesque historic center, Seville perfectly mixes the old with the new as life courses through its streets. With some great bars, restaurants and nightclubs, the city is especially fun to visit during the Feria de April and the Semana Santa festivals, which are absolutely huge. The capital of Andalusia has some fascinating palaces, churches and streets to explore, with the medieval Jewish quarter the area that most tourists gravitate towards. With Moorish influences on show, Seville has a rich cultural heritage to delve into.
Read more: Top Seville Attractions
2. Madrid Where to Stay in Madrid
Lying at the heart of Spain, the capital is a dynamic place brimming with life and energy which is infectious to experience. Stunning to look upon, the architectural styles at the city’s heart are varied and grand, with palaces and mansions rubbing shoulders with the more contemporary buildings lining its avenues. Once funded by the Spanish royals, its incredible galleries and museums are home to the best of Picasso, Dali, Goya, and more, with sumptuous masterpieces everywhere you look. Dripping with art and culture, its gastronomic scene is one to savor, as creative and innovative food styles make the restaurants a culinary delight. If you’re looking for some fun well into the early hours, Madrid has a thriving and lively nightlife scene.
Read more: Top Madrid Attractions
1. Barcelona Where to Stay in Barcelona
Bathed in sunshine, the capital city of Catalunya is mesmerizing to navigate, thanks to its incredible architecture that spans the ages. The old Gothic quarter is an intriguing mishmash of narrow alleys, huge cathedrals and peaceful plazas, while other neighborhoods are home to some of Gaudi’s inspired creations, such as La Sagrada Familia – the iconic landmark of the city. Lying next to the sea, there are some great seafood restaurants to check out, as well as the city’s lovely beaches with a range of water activities to enjoy. Dripping with culture, fine cuisine, and with a lively buzz to it, wandering along streets such as the famous Ramblas makes Barcelona a delight to visit. For outdoor lovers, the hills that loom over the city make for some great hiking, and there are lots of nice parks scattered about. Football fans will want to go and watch Barcelona FC. In addition to this, its lively nightlife and boisterous bars definitely make Barcelona a fun and entertaining city to explore.
Read more: Top Barcelona Attractions