Travel Tips: 12 Must Visit Cities in Spain
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The Kingdom of Spain has been one of the world’s most visited destinations. In 2015, more than 68 million tourists from all over the world came to visit the country, the largest recorded tourist influx, third to France and the United States in that year.
That estimate continues to grow through time, and if you’re planning to add to that, you might be at a loss about which specific place in the 506,000 km2 you should go to. While each place in Spain is different and beautiful in their own way, here are the 12 must-visit cities that you should definitely see for starters:
Madrid, the capital of Spain, is the third largest city in the European Union. For many years, it has been one of the most visited cities in the country, with attractions that exude history, culture, and arts. The bustling Plaza Mayor, the Royal Palace of Madrid, and the Museo Nacional Del Prado that exhibits some of the best art collections in the region are just three things that guests can see here.
Featured hotel: Catalonia Gran Via (hotel info) is a hotel that is the epitome of Madrid hospitality—with a rooftop heated pool that offers absolutely stunning sights of Madrid at night, elegant rooms that are extra comfy, and a convenient location.
Nearest airport: International flights land and depart from the Aeropuerto Adolfo Suárez Madrid-Barajas, also called Madrid-Barajas Airport (MAD), daily. The Madrid Municipal Transport Company bus line and the Madrid Metro Line are very accessible from there.
Capital of autonomous Catalonia and the second most populous in the city, Barcelona is home to the genius architect Antoni Gaudi’s most well-known works of art, such as the still-incomplete Sagrada Familia, the colorful Casa Batllo, Casa Mila, and Park Guell.
Featured hotel: I stayed in Hotel del Mar (hotel info) during my most recent trip to Barcelona. The rooms are clean and had a homey feel. My room had a veranda that overlooked the city, and made my stay unforgettable.
Nearest airport: The Barcelona–El Prat Airport (BCN) is just 14 kilometers from central Barcelona, which major airlines like Air Canada, All Nippon Airways and American Airlines utilize.
Quaint Salamanca gives off a very historical feel, and some infrastructures are so old and well-preserved that they can be compared to places like Hogwarts. The oldest building in the city dates back to the 1200s. In fact, the oldest university in the entire country, the University of Salamanca, is located here. In 1998, the Old City Salamanca was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Featured hotel: Hotel Rector (hotel info) is an attractively old fashioned hotel that goes well with the city vibes. It is conveniently located in the heart of the city. The hotel has a consistent spot in the travel magazine Conde Nast Traveler’s annual Gold List of City Hotels.
Nearest airport: 15 kilometers east of the city is Salamanca Airport, and is located near a train station that directly passes by the city.
Aside from being -blended with nature, Granada is known for its architecture. Buildings such as the Granada Cathedral, the gardens of Generalife, and the Palace of Charles V, are just some of the sights here in the city. The UNESCO World Heritage Site Alhambra, an ancient fortress that started off as a small one in AD 889, is also located in this city.
Featured hotel: NH Granada Centro (hotel info) is 4-star hotel that offers rooms at affordable rates, and is located near landmarks like Calle Navas and the Corral del Carbon.
Nearest airport: The closest airport to the city is Federico García Lorca Granada-Jaén Airport, alternatively called Granada Airport. It has accommodated more than 753,000 passengers in 2016.
Dubbed the Spanish Gastronomy Capital in 2013, Burgos is a city that should not be missed by anyone. Here, dishes are still cooked in traditional ways, such as morcilla de burgos, tender lechazo cuts, and the city’s signature Queso de Burgos. Notable landmarks include the towering Burgos Cathedral and the modern Museum of Human Evolution.
Featured hotel: Hotel Forum Evolution (hotel info) is a 3-star hotel that is located right beside the Museum of Human Evolution. Despite its accessibility, however, the hotel premises maintain a quiet atmosphere with cozy rooms.
Nearest airport: Four kilometers east of central Burgos is Burgos Airport. Unfortunately, this airport only opens seasonally.
6. San Sebastian
The Basque city of San Sebastian is probably the most unique Spanish destination in this city. Bordered by three coastal mountains (one of which had an amusement park), a pure-white beach, and six bridges that run throughout the city, San Sebastian is ideal for short, walking tours, oh, and yes, pintxos.
Featured hotel: Hotel Zenit (hotel info) was our official accommodation when I recently toured San Sebastian. The hotel had a very luxurious feel that stuck out in town. It had a pool in the rooftop that overlooked the small San Sebastian wonderfully.
Nearest airport: The city’s closest airport is the San Sebastian Airport that serves domestic flights to and from capital city Madrid and Barcelona.
Home to the 165-meter tall Iberdrola Tower, the metropolitan area of Bilbao is the economic hub of Basque Country. Known for its urbanized streets, Bilbao is the region’s leading producer of iron and other minerals. The Guggenheim Museum and the Basilica of Begoña are some of the iconic landmarks here.
Featured hotel: If you plan to explore Bilbao right away, then Miro Hotel (hotel info) is a good choice. It is located right in the heart of town, and is just a few minutes away from the Iberdrola Tower.
Nearest airport: Bilbao Airport serves mostly European airlines that come from France, Switzerland, and Germany. Domestic flights from Barcelona and Madrid also land in this airport.
Pamplona is most known for its annual San Fermin Festival, which involves the iconic running of the bulls. The city has a very relaxing atmosphere suitable for walking tours, with its narrow, sloped streets in the residential areas and the eye-catching City Hall.
Featured hotel: With luxury and coziness combined, Hotel Albret (hotel info) is one of the most highly rated hotels in the city. It is located at a convenient distance from must-see spots like Calle de la Rioja.
Nearest airport: Roughly 6 km from the town center is Pamplona Airport. The airport only serves flights from and bound to Madrid, with occasional Barcelonan flights as well.
Valencia is a highly-urbanized city, yet is also has its quaint sides. The Tower of Serrans is an example of a 14th century structure that stands proudly alongside the modern architecture of the entertainment complex City of Arts and Sciences and the Town Hall.
Featured hotel: Located near the major tourist destinations in the city, Caro Hotel (hotel info) redefines luxury. Each of the 26 rooms in the hotel are designed differently, with the street-side rooms having verandas with a beautiful view of the city, and hotel property’s environment.
Nearest airport: Valencia Airport is 8 km away from the city center, and is highly accessible by the metro rail and by bus lines. Airlines that use the airport are mostly European.
There are three UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Seville: The Alcazar, 15th-century Cathedral of Seville, and the General Archive of the Indies. The city is the fourth largest in Spain and is known for its grandiose celebration of Semana Santa (Holy Week).
Featured hotel: Each of the rooms and suites in Hotel Palacio de Villapanes (hotel info) are exquisitely designed to look like an 18th-century palace. It has just the right distance away from town and gives a sense of exclusivity and royalty.
Nearest airport: Seville Airport services international airlines in the southern regions of Spain, and is just 10 km from downtown Seville.
Come to Toledo for the historic sights, and stay for the quiet and home-like vibes. Stop by the 13th century Gothic Toledo Cathedral, and maybe spend time in the Alcazar of Toledo, a 16th-century palace that was converted into a military museum.
Featured Hotel: A city with idyllic sights can only be made perfect if you stay in a hotel that offers the same. Eurostars Palacio Buenavista (hotel info), although located rather far from sights like Plaza Paris and the Alcazar, is the perfect place. Nearby is the Tagus River, which you can go to for an early morning walk.
Nearest airport: Madrid-Barajas Airport is the nearest airport in the city, which is a 75-minute train or bus ride from central Toledo.
Cordoba sometimes spelled Cordova, is a southern Spanish city with a long history. It was colonized by Muslim forces and much of the local culture and buildings continue to be influenced by it. The city is also known for its natural tourist spots, like the Jardines de la Victoria and the Parque de Miraflores.
Featured hotel: After exploring the streets of Cordoba, take time to relax in Hotel Viento 10’s (hotel info) sauna and Jacuzzi, and get a comfy sleep in the hotel’s old fashioned but elegant rooms.
Nearest airport: Cordoba Airport is 6 km from the city. Domestic flights and Schengen countries are served by this airport.