The Five Must-See Cities in Spain
Because many travellers tend to combine multiple countries in tours of Europe, it’s sometimes hard to differentiate which European nations are the most popular among tourists. France certainly stands out, largely because Paris is at the very top of many international travellers’ tourism bucket lists. But you may be surprised to learn that Spain tends to rank just behind France in popularity among tourists.
In a ranking by Wild Junket based on actual numbers, Spain came in third among the 10 most visited countries of 2015. The article notes that there were approximately 65.0 million visitors that year (though the article came out with about a month to spare in 2015). Only France and the United States ranked higher (with 83.7 million and 74.8 million visitors, respectively).
When you think about it, this really shouldn’t be surprising. Spain is famous for its food and culture; it’s every bit as accessible for international travellers as France or the UK; and it’s known for some outstanding beach scenes and party destinations. But in addition to all of these attractions, Spain also has some of the most interesting cities in Europe, and these alone make the country well worth visiting if you ever get the chance. Below, you’ll see the cities which generate so much tourism for the country and my five must-see cities in Spain.
Visiting any major European country, it’s almost a necessity to stop by the capital. And in the case of Spain, Madrid may also happen to be the most enjoyable city to visit. In particular, those looking for a vibrant cultural experience and a more active vacation will love to be in the thick of the action in this wonderful city. Madrid is home to Puerta del Sol, a famous public plaza that hosts all kinds of activity. It’s also the place to go for some of the best nightlife in Europe, and in fact challenges New York City’s reputation as “the city that never sleeps.” Simply put, Madrid is buzzing.
Seville is sometimes left unmentioned in conversations about Spain’s great cities, though it actually has a lot going for it. An article by the EuroMillions lottery site Lottoland actually ranked Seville among the world’s ten most romantic cities earlier this year. The point of the list was to point out some appealing travel destinations to those who are hoping to win prizes through lottery games, but it also served to point to some of the appealing aspects of the cities included. Where Seville is concerned, the article pretty much covered everything: quaint tapas bars, flamenco dancing, stunning architecture, and the chance to simply walk the streets or even take a horse and carriage tour. Seville is a place to relax, ideally with a loved one or a close group of friends.
Granada has a lot to offer that’s typical of major Spanish cities: unique food, a vibrant nightlife, etc. But it’s also a particularly interesting stop for those who love stunning geography and historical significance. Both have an impact on Granada, the former in the presence of the Sierra Nevada mountains in the immediate surroundings and the latter through the Moorish fortress Alhambra that still stands in the city. You’d be hard pressed to find many cities in Europe with this combination of natural and man-made beauty to enjoy.
Located on the eastern coast of Spain, on the Mediterranean Sea, Valencia naturally has a lot to offer in terms of beauty and tranquillity. But the main draw here is a combination of arts and culture housed in a complex known as the City of Arts and Science. The city also hosts the Fallas Festival which takes place every March. This doesn’t get quite the same level of attention as some of Spain’s other massive cultural festivals, but it’s just as wild in its own way, and it consists of the design and torching of papier-maché figures by a whole city.
Finally, there’s Barcelona, which probably has the best reputation for tourism among all of Spain’s spectacular cities. Barcelona pretty much checks all the boxes travellers are interested in, and there’s really no other way to put it. There’s renowned architecture, terrific food, a lively culture, and an incredibly energetic nightlife. You can have just as much fun doing a guided sightseeing tour as you can walking around the city on your own, and you’ll never tire of the sights, sounds, and activity of the city. It’s exactly what many are looking for in a European destination.