Are you looking for new places to travel to? How about checking out the top cities in Spain for your next trip?
Spain, one of the largest in Europe, is a destination every hodophile wants to visit once in their lifetime. The cities in Spain boast their rich history, architectural wonders, remarkable economy, sports, and whatnot.
The diverse topography makes Spain home to not only beaches but also majestical mountains.
While Spain has recently gained much media attention after the success of popular shows shot there, La Casa De Papel, unanimously known as Money Heist, there’s a lot more to it. There are lots of fun facts about Spain that attract tourists to it.
47 heritage sites according to UNESCO can be found here, and just when you thought that it couldn’t make a history buff fall in love comes the fact that there is a Spanish Royal Family! The traditions and the festivals are unique too.
Anyone who has seen Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara has wanted to be a part of the La Tomatina, the world’s biggest food fight, which has a funny origin. A guy started throwing tomatoes at his friends.
Are you tired yet after reading about the vibrant life in Spain? Worry not; Siesta may be exactly what you need.
History of Spain
The origin of Spain is open to debate. According to the findings of Atapuerca, hominids probably traveled from Africa through the Straits of Gibraltar and settled in the Iberian Peninsula. After this, the region was under the influence of various communities.
Greeks, Romans, Carthaginians, and Phonecians are to name a few. Later in this article, we will be looking at the city of Cadiz, which may be the oldest city of western Europe found by Phoenicians in 1100 BCE.
The hilltops of Galicia provide us with traces of Celtic culture best manifested in the form of castros that were in use from the 6th century BCE to the 6th century CE.
Even the Egyptians influenced Spain. The only Egyptian temple in Spain is located in Madrid. Known as the Temple of Debod, the structure has stood mighty ever since its construction began in the 2nd century BCE.
Under the Roman Empire, Spain was known as Hispania and developed a lot. After the fall of the legendary empire, the Visigoths took charge, and that’s when Toledo came to be the capital of Spain.
In 711, the coming of Arab invaders changed the cultural dynamics altogether. The Muslims ruled Spain for eight centuries which is the longest duration of rule by Muslims in Europe.
The conquest of Granada by Catholic Monarchs ended the Muslim reign in 1492. Post this, the two art forms Romanesque, and Goth, gained prominence. Many changes in culture and lifestyle took place, and today Spain is on the bucket list of many people.
Popular Locations That Birthed Inspiration
The picturesque locations and the history that precedes them make cities in Spain worth traveling to. The very popular show Game of Thrones chose sites to shoot some of its important scenes in Spain for its sheer raw beauty.
You can visit the real-life dragonstone and other Westeros-based locations. Some sites include Seville, Almeria deserts, Basque country, Zafra Castle, and the Roman Bridge.
In Seville, we also have the Royal Alcazar, the old castle that inspired Walt Disney, making it another one of the must-visit places in the city of Seville.
However, this is not the end. Northern Spain houses Santiago de Compostela ( the route to the place is called Camino de Santiago), considered the burial place for St. James and Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao.
Here’s a glimpse into the seven best cities in Spain if you wish to have the best time there.
1. Top Cities in Spain: Madrid
When speaking about the best cities in Spain, Madrid is the name common to all.
The headquarters of the UN’s World Tourism Organisation is present here. The Capital city is located in the center, and being of great significance, the Spanish city is also a center to political, cultural, and economic matters.
Football fans are especially attracted to Madrid, as it has two of the world’s most famous football clubs, Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid.
The infrastructure is mostly modern but is successful in preserving sites of historical importance.
The famous landmarks include Plaza Mayor, the Royal Palace of Madrid, El Retiro Park (one of the largest leafy parks in Spain with a peaceful lake, beautiful sculptures, monuments, and galleries), and the National Library founded in 1712.
Interesting museums such as the three art museums: Prado Museum, the Reina Sofia Museum, and the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, are a part of the Golden Triangle of Art. Masterpieces of Picasso, Dali, Goya, and others can be found here.
Restaurante Botin, a popular food place in the city, holds the Guinness World Record as the oldest restaurant in Madrid. It is the most populous place and popular for its great nightlife. Spain alone is said to have the largest number of clubs in all of Europe.
Madrid’s international airport is perhaps the largest in Spain.
The vibe of Madrid is cosmopolitan, but the crowd is known to be jolly, which is also why it goes by the saying, “If you are in Madrid, you are from Madrid.”
2. Top Cities in Spain: Barcelona
Barcelona is one of the largest cities in Spain. Of all the cities in Spain, the well-known Sagrada Familia church is found here, and various other landmarks designed by Antoni Gaudi can be found in the town.
It is a cherished city by the football fans for FC Barcelona, the football club founded in 1899. Over the years, many football players have played for it, including Lionel Messi.
The architecture is amazing, the city dates back to the time of the Roman Empire, and it was earlier named Barcino.
As mentioned before, La Sagrada Familia church is incorporated into UNESCO world heritage sites, and it is truly breathtaking. La Sagrada Familia is a relatively new cathedral as it is in its final stage of construction.
Tourists visiting Spain visit this landmark, and it receives approximately 4.5 million visitors each year. Since it is the second-largest city, the population is about 1.6 million.
Then there is the gothic cathedral, the Cathedral of the Holy Cross, and Saint Eulalia constructed from the 13th to 15th Century.
Much of Barcelona’s architecture is modern, but it also has impressive modern architecture, including Frank Gehry’s golden fish canopy.
The city has its best-known beach Barceloneta. It is a popular city because it has long sandy beaches and people who enjoy sunbathe and drink at the cafes and bars find this destination a perfect place.
The Spanish cuisine, which includes dishes such as paella, serrano ham, and tapas, can be found in restaurants that specialize exclusively in these. The weather is good, and the quality of life is also improving continuously.
It is a futuristic city. You can find LED displays at bus stops indicating the bus arrivals in real-time. The TMB app helps the users find the nearest solar-powered bus stop, a free Wi-Fi network, and a bicycle sharing system is prevalent.
Spain’s cities know how to please a traveler, Barcelona counts as one of the top cities in Spain. The city offers a lot of scope for recreation, so a few days may not be sufficient to get the whole experience, but 4-5 are considered ideal.
3. Top Cities in Spain: Valencia
Valencia is the third-largest city amongst the cities in Spain and yet another futuristic one with leafy parks and several beaches. It is a perfect blend of historical and modern culture. On the one hand, there is the gothic cathedral, and on the other, there is the modernist Rococo Palace.
It can be counted as one of the most popular cities in Spain for being somewhat inexpensive. For people with tight budgets, it is a relatively friendly city being the eighth most expensive.
Some people believe that Valencia may be dreamy and stylish, but it still doesn’t have the same level of bewitching charm on its streets as other Spanish cities.
Paella was born here. You can eat authentic paella made with chicken or rabbit, snails, and white beans.
People of Valencia love to party. This wild five-day festival is celebrated in March, known as Las Fallas, where papier-mâché puppets are paraded later than set on fire. The city of offers great nightlife as well.
Its structures, such as planetarium, oceanarium, and museums, are a must-visit.
4. Top Cities in Spain: Granada
For the binge-watchers who enjoy K-dramas, the Spanish city of Granada is probably a city they know of.
In 2018 the popular Korean drama Memories of Alhambra particularly focused on this city in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range located in the southern Spain region. Granada is a worth visiting place if you want to chill out and visit iconic monuments.
Alhambra is a fortress complex with royal palaces, patios, and pools from the Nasrid Dynasty. It is also famous for La Tortilla del Sacromonte. It is a type of omelet made with sweet bread and ham.
You can also find fountains and orchards here. The Moorish fortress of Alhambra is a UNESCO world heritage site, and Moorish poets say it is a pearl set in emeralds.
It is a major tourist attraction since it exhibits Islamic architecture (Muslims ruled here for 800 years). The night view of The Alhambra is breathtaking.
A park attached to Alhambra called the Generalife used to be a place of recreation for the Muslim kings. Now, it is recognized by UNESCO as a heritage site.
Granada lies right to the Genil river and, interestingly, has hidden gardens all over the region. ‘Skiing in Swimming Suit Day’ is held in the Sierra Nevada as if you are lucky, you may be able to swim as well as ski at the same time during springtime.
A lot of parties, concerts and flamenco performances can be enjoyed here. A day at Granada if you visit Spain is definitely worth the time. For the best hotels, the city center area is recommended.
A fun fact: the city symbol is the pomegranate, as Granada in Spanish means pomegranate.
Also, since we are talking about beautiful cities in the south, one can find Costa del Sol. Two million visitors visit Costa del Sol for being a seaside town with lush parks and golf courses.
5. Top Cities in Spain: Cadiz
One of the port cities in Spain (being the most important port city in Spain) and an ancient city, Cadiz, is located in southwestern Spain.
It is one of the eight that constitute the autonomous community of Andalusia. It is the home to Spanish Navy, which makes sense since it has more than 100 watchtowers earlier used for spotting ships. The iconic landmark Torre Tavira is also found here.
The domed Cadiz Cathedral boasts of its neoclassical and baroque elements. It is referred to as an underrated corner of Spain. The delicious seafood is to drool for. More than 150 stalls are found at the Mercado Central de Abastos selling fresh tuna, snails, sushi, etc.
The nights can be fun with frequent live performances and dancing at clubs. The carnival of Cadiz is well known in today’s world.
El Gran Cabalgata (The Great Parade) and La Cabalgata del Humor (The Comedy Parade) are the two parades of this carnival where there is a display of fancy dresses and unique costumes. This makes it one of the popular cities.
This city experiences very mild winters and has a hot-summer Mediterranean climate, perfect for the beach type of vacation, as seen from the scene from the James Bond movie Die Another Day, whose scene was shot in Cadiz. You can bask in the sun during the early hours of the day to start fresh.
After Cadiz, Navarra is one of the oldest cities in Spain. Over the centuries, its name has undergone alterations. When the Phonecians first found the ancient city, they called it ‘Gadir,’ and according to Greek Legends, Hercules was the one to see the city and named it Gadeira.
In 1596, the Earl of Essex burned the city to the ground. Cadiz was often under attack by the English pirates.
A famous poet from history who lived in Cadiz was Lord Byron. A poem of his was also inspired by a beautiful girl he saw in Cadiz.
6. Top Cities in Spain: Toledo
The beautiful city has many associations. It is an ancient city and a walled city, also known as the “Imperial City,” for it served court to Charles V. The monuments range from Jewish, Arab, and Christian, making it the “City of the Three Cultures.”
The co-existence of Christian, Muslim, and Jewish cultures gives a wholesome Spanish experience to the visitors. Since inhabitants hail from distinct religions and communities, one can sightsee well-preserved monuments. In short, the city offers an amalgamation of cultures.
These include mosques, cathedrals, and synagogues. The Synagogue of El Transito and the Iglesia de Santo Tomé are two striking structures. Before Philip II made Madrid the capital of Spain, Toledo served the purpose of the center city.
The very alluring Moorish Bisagra Gate and Sol Gate make way to the old quarter. The old quarter has the Plaza de Zocodover. Toledo stands by its title of being imperial. It was regarded as the holiest city in Spain according to the Catholic faith.
In 1986, UNESCO’s world heritage site was declared because it has extensive monuments and rich cultural heritage.
The city has the Gothic cathedral known as The Primate Cathedral of Spain, which is popular for producing bladed weapons (these have become common souvenirs in the town now).
It is known to be a Visigothic marvel for its amazing exteriors and interiors. The tinted glass, when illuminated by the sunlight, appears romantic. Apart from this monument, Spain’s biggest bell weighing 20 tons can be found here.
Resembling cute animals like little pigs and bears, marzipan or mazipan as they call it, is a sweet but not too sweet confectionary item is beloved in the city. It is made out of almond paste, has egg filling, and is available in radiant colors.
As swords made in Toledo are famous worldwide, many passionate filmmakers prefer their props made in Toledo.
Locals suggest taking a view of the city from the Alcazar, which is a stone fortification, and also witness the beautiful architecture of Monasterio de San Juan de Los Reyes, a Franciscan monastery.
The street layout is considered confusing, so probably keep the GPS on if you are bad with directions.
7. Top Cities in Spain: San Sebastian
The resort town and port city of Donostia-San Sebastian are situated in Spain’s Basque Country.
Well known for its beautiful beaches and cuisine served at renowned restaurants, San Sebastian is a must-visit. People enjoy strolling around the maze-like Old Town lined with shops and bars.
The city may be small. It still manages to host large-scale events such as the film festival and the San Sebastián Jazz Festival.
In 2016, it was the European Capital of Culture, thanks to the international dimension.
Water sports such as sea kayaking can be done here alongside other fun leisure activities like sunbathing.
A panoramic view from Mount Igueldo is always suggested. Cliffs overlooking Concha Bay provide a calming effect. There’s an old-school amusement park and other attractions to visit too.
If you’re keen on learning about maritime history, then make a stop at the Aquarium. One can see over 200 local marine species, with the bull sharks giving you a close-up.
The vibrant city requires at least 3 days if you wish to get a taste of its incredible culture and the world’s best pintxos.
Circling the impressive cathedral, one can find local eateries and relish the cuisine of Spain as light mellow beach vibes hill the atmosphere.
It is about 251 miles away from Barcelona, so most travelers take a bus trip. Various Michelin Stars restaurants make San Sebastian an expensive beach city.
Throughout the year, the city experiences precipitation much more than other regions. To complement yourself with the gorgeous landscapes, dress casually in light denim.
A little into the history, we see the strong tradition of seamanship that developed here. Originally San Sebastián was found as a monastery in the Basque region, after which it became a fishing village. The seaport attribute of it came around the 13th Century.
Towards the End…
The European country Spain has more than just these seven cities to leave you mesmerized. Even the smaller towns can steal your heart. So if you’re planning on visiting someplace exotic and expecting a time of your life, your next trip should be to Spain.
Beware of the bulls though, did you know one of the prettiest cities, Pamplona, hosts the bulls festival where you have to run through the cobbled streets saving yourself from the bulls.
I hope knowing about these 7 cities in Spain made you feel like you need to visit them right away. If you think any other cities in Spain should make it to this list, let us know.
You can share your feedback with us in the comment section.