When it comes to Spanish cities, you’ll find no shortage of small towns, coastal hamlets, modernist cities, and medieval villages. It all depends on what you like, but of all the best cities to visit in Spain, I know you’ll love at least one of them.
Due to its rich history and heritage, you can find beautiful cities in Spain on the peninsula and across the islands. In this guide, I’ll show you the best Spanish cities that you should visit at least once in your life. I can assure you that the monuments, museums, gastronomy, and people of these cities won’t disappoint you.
You’ll also see that one of the greatest attractions of this country is the number of gorgeous cities, so keep reading to see which ones I recommend you visit!
1. Madrid, one of the most beautiful cities in Spain
Hands down, Madrid is one of the best cities of Spain to visit, and it offers so much cultural and historical heritage.
To ensure that you don’t miss anything, I’ve written a complete guide on things to do in Madrid, so check it out to see all the wonderful places to visit here. It’s easy to spend hours getting lost in this city, although this free tour is a good place to start!
When I lived in Madrid, one of my favorite things to do was to walk to the Royal Palace; it’s one of the largest in Spain and all of Europe. To learn more about the secrets and history of the Spanish royals, do this guided tour, which takes you through the palace’s halls and gardens. Then, go to the Temple of Debod, a 2nd-century Egyptian temple in the middle of Madrid!
Another treasure in this Spanish city is the Prado Museum, the most-visited museum in Spain, and one of the most important in the world. Since it opened in 1819, the Prado has attracted thousands upon thousands of people who long to see masterpieces like Velázquez’s Las Meninas, Bosch’s The Garden of Earthly Delights, and Goya’s Black Paintings. If you visit, I suggest booking an advance ticket so you can avoid the long lines.
Some other must-dos in Madrid include strolling through Retiro Park, exploring the Gran Vía and Puerta del Sol, indulging in a “bocadillo de calamares” at Plaza Mayor, going out for tapas in La Latina (especially on Sundays), and bar-hopping in Malasaña, Madrid’s nightlife hub. Also, if you like soccer, take this tour of the Santiago Bernabéu Stadium, the most impressive stadium in the world.
- Recommended accommodation: The Palacio de los Duques Gran Meliá is a romantic hotel in a 19th-century palace with décor and private gardens inspired by the famous paintings of Velázquez.
2. Seville, one of the best cities to visit in Spain
Seville is another top Spanish city, and one of the best places to visit in Spain. Its beautiful Giralda is a majestic Almohad tower, which crowns the 800-year-old Cathedral. Together with the Real Alcázar and the Cathedral of Santa María de la Sede, they’re the most important monuments in the city. To see them for yourself, and learn more about their history, do this guided tour.
Also, the Plaza de España is one of the most symbolic places in the country and makes Seville among the best cities to visit in Spain. I recommend taking this free tour to see this plaza, the Church of the Divine Savior, Plaza Nueva, Puerta de Jerez, and the Royal Tobacco Factory.
Finally, you can’t leave without visiting the Triana neighborhood, a focal point for Sevillian culture and a cradle for singers, dancers, and artisans. You’ll see what I mean when you watch an incredible flamenco performance like this one. You can also take this boat trip on the Guadalquivir River, a romantic thing to do while discovering the magic of this city.
- Recommended accommodation: Stay at the luxurious Hotel Las Casas de la Judería in the Santa Cruz neighborhood. The resort features classic-style décor, a rooftop pool, a spa, and several Andalusian patios.
3. Barcelona, one of the most popular cities in Spain
Barcelona is internationally-recognized as one of the most beautiful cities in Spain, so it’s a must-see. I’ve already written a complete guide on things to do in Barcelona, but here, I’d like to explain what makes this one of the most charming cities in the country.
Many would agree that the modernist architecture of Gaudí is one of Barcelona’s crown jewels. In particular, you must visit Park Güell and book this self-guided tour of the Sagrada Familia.
Also, go to Plaza de Catalunya and the Gothic Quarter, where you can see the Plaza de Sant Jaume, Town Hall, and the Palacio de la Generalitat. Continue through the Born neighborhood, home to the famous Cathedral of the Sea. You can do all this and more on this free tour.
You can continue your walk through Barceloneta, where you can try its famous bombas. I also suggest visiting the Passeig de Gràcia and walking through its neighborhood, which is full of alternative boutiques, galleries, theaters, and squares. If you love soccer, take this tour of Camp Nou Stadium and its museum.
Moreover, Barcelona is one of the best cities in Spain to visit at Christmas since it has several markets. In particular, the Santa Llúcia Market on Avenida de la Catedral is the most popular.
- Recommended accommodation: The W Barcelona is the best 5-star hotels in Spain, with an impressive sailboat shape and lovely views of Barceloneta Beach. The resort has a spa, infinity pool, rooftop bar, and luxury rooms, so you’ll be well taken care of.
4. Granada, one of the most historic cities in Spain
With its undeniable beauty and charming atmosphere, Granada is one of the best university cities in Spain.
If there is one thing you must do here, it’s visiting the Alhambra, one of the best things to do in Spain. Reflecting the power and wealth of the Nasrid Kingdom that ruled the city until 1492, the Alhambra is a relic of the past. My favorite part of this place is the Generalife Gardens and its fountains, which you can see on this tour. Just be sure to book it in advance since tickets sell out quickly!
Also, you can’t leave Granada without seeing the Cathedral and the Royal Chapel, where the remains of King Ferdinand II and Queen Isabel I rest. If you do this free tour, you can also go through the Alcaicería (old silk market) and the Albaicín neighborhood, a modern hub for writers and bohemians. From here, you can get panoramic views of the Alhambra.
At sunset, I suggest going to the Carrera del Darro or the Mirador de San Nicolás to see the golden glow of this beautiful Spanish city.
- Recommended accommodation: My preferred hotel in Granada is the Alhambra Palace, next to the old walls of the Alhambra. It offers spectacular views of the city and the Sierra Nevada, and it’s just a 10-minute bus ride from the Albaicín neighborhood.
5. San Sebastián, one of the best cities in Spain to visit
San Sebastián is always included in any top list of cities in Spain, and I’ll tell you some of the main reasons why.
Its beautiful bay is framed by Mount Igueldo and the island of Santa Clara. Along with La Concha Beach, one of the best beaches in Spain, it has two other urban beaches, making it the best coastal city in Spain. Walk along the promenade at Zurriola Beach, take the Paseo Nuevo around Monte Urgull, and cross the bay to end at Ondarreata Beach. Here, you can see the Peine del Viento, an impressive sculpture by Eduardo Chillida and Peña Gantxegi.
Then, head into the city center to see the squares, bridges, and buildings. You can also take this free tour to see the best places in San Sebastián.
For lots of people, this is the best city in Spain for food, so if you want to experience San Sebastián’s gastronomy, don’t miss this gourmet pintxo tour. Over two hours (or more if you want), you’ll visit several traditional restaurants and try pintxos prepared by culinary experts.
- Recommended accommodation: The Axel Hotel San Sebastián is an adults-only hotel that’s guaranteed to please. Along with its pool, gym, and bar, it’s just 10 minutes from the beach.
6. Santiago de Compostela, another one of the best cities to visit in Spain
Without a doubt, Santiago de Compostela is the best city to visit in Spain. Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1985, this city in Galicia is a popular destination for the thousands of people who make the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage each year, one of the best hikes in Spain.
This beautiful Spanish city is also known for its Cathedral, which boasts an impressive history. In the 9th century, Bishop Teodomiro de Iria Flavia discovered the hidden tomb of the Apostle Santiago in the cathedral. This dramatically increased pilgrimages to the city, and in 1805, construction of the Romanesque cathedral began under Alfonso VI. If you’re interested in learning more and seeing the church for yourself, it’s worth taking this guided tour.
The Church of San Martiño Pinario is another temple you must visit, as well as the Parque de la Alameda and the Plaza de Cervantes. Also, since you’re there, take the opportunity to go bar-hopping and taste the different foods. It’s cheap and delicious.
To make sure you don’t miss anything, and to learn some hidden secrets about the city, take this guided tour. Be sure to book in advance since spots can fill up, especially when there’s an influx of pilgrims. The tour will also take you to the Palacio de Rajoy, the Plaza de Laterías, and the University of Santiago.
- Recommended accommodation: The Capitol Boutique Hotel is one of the best boutique hotels in Spain, with private terrace rooms. It’s located in the historic center, just 0.4 miles from the cathedral.
7. Toledo, one of the best cities in Spain to visit
Toledo is one of the best cities to visit in Spain since visiting it is like taking a trip to the past. Back in the time of Carlos V, Toledo was the imperial capital and home to Christians, Jews, and Muslims. For this reason, it was known as ‘the City of the Three Cultures’.
As you can imagine, this is one of the most important cities in Spain, and some of the must-sees here include Plaza Zocodover, the Alcázar, the Cathedral of Santa María, and the 13th-century synagogue of Santa María la Blanca. Nor can you leave here without seeing the impressive views from the Mirador del Valle or the Monastery of San Juan de los Reyes.
Since there are so many places to visit, I recommend getting the Toledo Card for skip-the-line access to the city’s main monuments. The card also grants you a spot on a guided tour of the Toledo Cathedral. If you want to see everything from an insider’s point of view, I also recommend this free tour. Among other places, it goes through the Jewish Quarter.
In addition, Toledo is one of the coolest cities in Spain to delve into black magic, witchcraft, paranormal phenomena, and haunted houses. You can experience all these mysterious things on this night tour (in Spanish).
- Recommended accommodation: The Eugenia de Montijo is the finishing touch for your visit to Toledo. Its rooms feature handmade rugs and period furniture, while the hotel has a spa with Arab vaults and Roman remains. It’s just a 10-minute walk from the cathedral, so it’s the perfect place to stay.
8. Salamanca, another important city in Spain to visit
Salamanca is one of the most famous cities in Spain, perhaps best known for its prestigious university. That said, its nerve center, Plaza Mayor, is a popular meeting place for locals, and Miguel de Unamuno defined it as “a quadrilateral, irregular but amazingly harmonious”. For this reason, this place has been declared a World Heritage Site.
I recommend following the route to the university, where you can marvel at its impressive façade, built in the Plateresque style. Look closely for the frog hidden in the architecture and, if you have time, go inside the school.
Moreover, Salamanca’s cathedrals and the Casa de las Conchas are also worth seeing. The city’s Roman Bridge and the tower at La Clerecía church offer spectacular views of the city, so you can’t miss them either. Many people consider this to be the most beautiful city in Spain, so check out this free tour (in Spanish) to make the most of your time here.
- Recommended accommodation: I recommend the Hospes Palacio de San Esteban, a renovated convent with relaxing gardens that you can rest in after exploring this university city.
9. Córdoba, one of the best cities in Southern Spain that you should see
Córdoba is one of the best cities in southern Spain thanks to its atmosphere, its flower-adorned patios, and of course, its Mosque-Cathedral.
The latter is one of the most visited monuments in the entire country, and the second-largest mosque in the world. Construction on it began in the 8th century, and by the 13th century, King Ferdinand III transformed it into a Catholic cathedral. The best way to visit it is by doing this guided tour or this one, which includes a walking tour of the Jewish Quarter too.
However, the Mosque-Cathedral isn’t the only thing that makes Córdoba such a magical city. In 2021, more than 50,000 Spanish Lonely Planet readers chose Córdoba as the most beautiful World Heritage city in Spain.
If you can, visit during the first two weeks of May when the Córdoba Patio Festival takes place and all the participants put their lovely patios on display for all to see. Also, stop by the Palacio de Viana in the Plaza de Don Gome, where different flowers decorate and perfume the entire building.
You already know that at Capture the Atlas, we’re big fans of free tours, and this one is a good way to see the main highlights of Córdoba, one of the best cheap cities in Spain.
- Recommended accommodation: The Hesperia Córdoba, located on the banks of the Guadalquivir River, offers views of the Mosque and the Alcázar. In addition, it has a seasonal rooftop pool, which you’ll appreciate when the temperatures soar in the summer.
10. Zaragoza, one of the most charming Spanish cities
Zaragoza is another major city in Spain that you can visit any time of year. One of its must-sees is the Cathedral-Basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar, better known here as ‘El Pilar’. It’s an important Baroque temple with frescoes by Goya. Admission is free, although if you want to climb to the top of the tower, you’ll have to pay a fee.
You can also see the Cathedral of the Savior, also known as La Seo de Zaragoza. It was built on top of a Muslim mosque and the Roman Forum of Caesaraugusta, so it’s quite a sight to see.
The Aljafería Palace, dating back to the 11th century, is another awesome thing to see in this Spanish city. Together with the Alhambra in Granada and the Mosque of Córdoba, it’s one of the great works from Spain’s Muslim era. To ensure you don’t miss anything here, I recommend this free tour (in Spanish).
In addition, Zaragoza is one of the most beautiful cheap cities in Spain, so it won’t cost you much to explore this place from top to bottom.
- Recommended accommodation: The Hotel Avenida in Zaragoza’s city center, is the perfect place to rest after a full day. It’s just three minutes from El Pilar, and five minutes from the famous street, El Tubo.
11. Cádiz, among the most beautiful and cheap cities in Spain
Cádiz is certainly one of the best coastal cities in Spain, which you’ll quickly notice just by walking along its promenade. Some say that it looks a lot like the famous Havana boardwalk, only with a large cathedral in the background. By the way, this temple is one of the things you must visit in Cádiz.
You should also see the Tavira Tower and the camera obscura observatory, the castle of Santa Catalina, and the monument to the Constitution of 1812. It’s also worth taking a good stroll along La Caleta Beach.
A good starting point for your visit is the Plaza de San Juan de Dios, the central square where this free tour begins. Do it and you’ll see why this is one of the best cities in southern Spain that I recommend. In addition, Cádiz is one of the greatest cheap cities in Spain, so you can enjoy beautiful sights and delicious food without draining your bank account.
- Recommended accommodation: The Tandem Torres de Cádiz Suites is my favorite place to stay in Cádiz. It’s a charming hotel with a seasonal outdoor pool and terrace.
12. Valencia, one of the most popular cities in Spain with a beach
Valencia is one of the best big cities in Spain with a beach, although it has a lot more to offer. In addition to eating delicious Paella, I recommend visiting Valencia’s Cathedral and historic center, as well as the Carmen neighborhood, which reflects the city’s Muslim and Christian heritage.
This city in Spain is also known for the City of Arts and Sciences, a grand architectural complex designed by the famous architect and engineer, Santiago Calatrava, and the late Félix Candela. It’s truly an amazing place to visit, and it gets crowded, so reserve a ticket in advance.
La Lonja is another significant building in Valencia, as well as one of the most important Gothic monuments in all of Europe. It has been a National Artistic Historical Monument since 1931 and was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996, so you can’t miss it.
To see the most iconic sites in Valencia, one of the best cities to visit in Spain, I recommend this free tour, which will take you to the Palace of the Generalitat, the Plaza de la Virgen, and the Central Market of Valencia.
- Recommended accommodation: The Valentia Cabillers, is located just 165 feet from the cathedral and features a rooftop terrace and outdoor pool.
13. Oviedo, one of the cleanest cities in Spain you should see
Oviedo is known as one of the cleanest cities in Spain and the headquarters of the Princess of Asturias Awards, which are known throughout the world.
As one of the best cities to visit in northern Spain, Oviedo is home to many important structures, such as its Cathedral and Gothic Tower. I also recommend climbing Mount Naranco and visiting the Church of Santa María del Naranco, a significant medieval monument in all of Europe. With this free tour (in Spanish), you can see other iconic sites in this Asturian capital, like the Plaza de Alfonso II El Casto, the Plaza de la Constitución, and the Plaza del Fontán.
In terms of gastronomy, I think Oviedo is one of the best cities in Spain for food, so don’t miss out on the cider bars along Calle Gascona. If you’re spending more than one day here, I recommend doing an excursion to Covadonga, in the Picos de Europa, which is one of the best national parks in Spain.
- Recommended accommodation: The Eurostars Hotel de la Reconquista hosts the annual Princess of Asturias Awards. Located in an 18th-century building and declared a National Monument, the hotel sits in the historic center, close to many main attractions in Oviedo.
14. Bilbao, one of the best cities to visit in Northern Spain
Bilbao has become more popular in recent years, so it’s one of the best cities to visit in Northern Spain.
If you go, I recommend watching the sunset from the Marzana Pier, a lovely place to sit down and enjoy a drink. You should also walk around the Arenal, see La Ribera Market, and visit Plaza Nueva to walk through its arches and taste the delicious pintxos in its restaurants. After all, Bilbao is probably the best city in Spain to indulge in food.
That said, the most iconic attraction here is the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao. This impressive architectural work by Frank Gehry marks the end of an era in the city, as well as a new beginning. The museum’s interior is also worth seeing, so I suggest getting a ticket in advance to avoid unnecessary queues.
Also, to make sure you don’t miss anything in this beautiful city in Spain, do this free tour.
- Recommended accommodation: The Hotel Carlton is in the well-known Plaza de Federico Moyúa, an iconic landmark. You’ll have the Gran Vía next door, and you’ll be less than 10 minutes’ walk from the Guggenheim Museum.
15. Palma de Mallorca, one of the best cities to visit in Spain in summer
Finally, Palma de Mallorca is one of the best cities to visit in Spain in the summer since it has a beautiful beach. Once you go, you’ll end up wanting to stay for much longer, thanks to the great atmosphere.
Its Gothic-style Cathedral is very close to the Almudaina Royal Palace, the former residence of the Kings of Mallorca, so they’re a good starting point to see this city’s heritage. Let yourself be carried away by the Old Town, and see the influence left behind by the Romans, Muslims, and Christians.
As the capital of the Balearic Islands and one of the best coastal cities in Spain, there is so much to see and do here. My recommendation is to book this free tour so you don’t miss anything. I also suggest making the trip to see the Castell de Bellver; it’s a bit out of the way, but one of the most spectacular places in Palma de Mallorca.
To sum up, if you’re on the island, you can’t miss this amazing city in Spain, especially during the summer months!
- Recommended accommodation: The Iberostar Cristina is one of the best all-inclusive hotels in Spain and is just a two-minute walk from Playa de Palma. Plus, the resort has a relaxing spa area and an outdoor pool.
Map of the best cities to visit in Spain
To help you locate each of these Spanish cities and plan your trip, here is a map of all the places I mentioned.
Of course, if you have any questions or you’d like to share with me your favorite cities in Spain, leave me a comment below. I’ll be delighted to answer you. Until then, have a great trip!