Spain is one of the world’s biggest tourist destinations, welcoming over 83 million visitors in 2019. While many are attracted to the country’s sun, sea and sangria, there is much more to the country than its (amazing) beaches. We take a look at some of Spain’s must-visit attractions.
Barcelona architect Antoni Gaudí began work on the Sagrada Familia in 1883 and it remains unfinished to this day. His other-worldly design, featuring his signature mosaics and modernist flourishes, is due to be completed in 2026, the centenary of Gaudí’s death.
The magnificent Moorish fortress sitting on a hill above Granada is one of Spain’s most-visited tourist sites for good reason. Its beautiful mosaics, marble fountains and intricate detailing are some of the best-preserved examples of Islamic architecture in the world.
Art Gallery, Museum
Madrid’s golden triangle of art museums holds some of the world’s most famous works. From the Spanish masters of the Prado to Picasso’s masterpiece Guernica in the Reina Sofía and the eclectic collection of the Thyssen-Bornemisza, you can’t leave Madrid without discovering its rich artistic heritage.
Frank Gehry’s design for Bilbao’s Guggenheim Museum has quickly become a classic of contemporary architecture since it was inaugurated in 1997. Gehry called upon the city’s industrial and seafaring heritage in the design of the museum, a giant, curved, boat-like structure made of titanium and glass.
Spain has the largest number of vineyards of any country in the world, and nowhere are they more beautiful than in the Rioja wine region. It’s the ideal place to discover Spanish wine, tour some vineyards and explore the beautiful Spanish landscape.
One of Spain’s stand-out architectural gems, Córdoba’s Mezquita, now its cathedral, is an excellent example of the grandeur and intricacy of Islamic architecture, and of the Moorish influence on southern Spain.
It is the largest Gothic church in the world, and has been a Unesco World Heritage Site since 1987, along with Seville’s Alcázar palace, originally built by the city’s Moorish kings. The Alcázar is renowned as one of the best examples of mudéjar architecture in Spain and is still used today by the royal family as their Seville base, making it the oldest royal palace still in use in Europe.
Building, Cinema, Museum, Opera House
A dried-out river bed in Valencia was given a new lease of life by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava when he built the City of Arts and Sciences, a cultural and entertainment complex comprising a series of domed glass buildings housing a planetarium, science museum and an open-air aquarium that is the largest in Europe.
Madrid’s famous park began life as a royal garden, and was opened to the public at the end of the 19th century. A popular destination for locals, especially at the weekends, it is a great place for picnics, sport or just getting away from the hectic pace of city life.
Building, Historical Landmark
The largest royal palace in Western Europe is a great example of Baroque architecture and, unlike other European palaces, is not protected by a huge gate; you can walk right up to it. Nowadays, it is only used by the royal family for state occasions (they live in the more modest Zarzuela Palace on the outskirts of Madrid), but it is open to the public.
The shell, named for its shape, is one of Spain’s most beautiful beaches. The picturesque cove looks out towards Mount Urgull, where the bay meets the Bay of Biscay.
This feat of Roman engineering looms large over the city of Segovia, also home to the magical Alcázar, which started life as Moorish fort in the 12th century. Its turrets and hilltop location could be straight out of Disneyland.
The end point for the thousands of pilgrims who embark on the Camino de Santiago each year, Santiago’s cathedral is said to hold the remains of St James. Expect jubilant scenes in the square in front of the cathedral, as walkers take the very last few steps of their long journey.
The highest point in Spain, this volcano in the Canary Islands is part of an other-worldly landscape more akin to Mars than Spain. Part of the Teide National Park, the whole area is beautiful and ideal for hiking.
Toledo’s Old Town has a rich history of coexistence between Christians, Jews and Muslims, leaving a rich cultural and monumental heritage. Sitting high on a hill above the Tagus River, the city is a stunning sight. Its winding, narrow alleyways, Jewish quarter, Gothic cathedral and Moorish architectural influences are fascinating to explore.
Whether it’s laid-back Menorca, family-friendly Mallorca or hedonistic Ibiza, Spain’s Balearic Islands are a popular holiday destination for all ages. From partying the night away in Ibiza’s clubs to cycling around Mallorca and lazing on the islands’ incredible beaches, however you prefer to spend your holidays, the Balearics are the perfect location.
Natural Feature, Historical Landmark
The old quarter of this Andalusian town is separated from the rest of the town by a huge gorge, spanned by a bridge that is one of Spain’s most-photographed structures.
Separating Spain from the rest of Europe, the mighty Pyrenees stretch nearly 500km (311mi) from the Bay of Biscay to the Mediterranean Sea. A great place for hiking and other sporting activities, they are one of Spain’s most beautiful natural wonders.
One of Spain’s most beautiful squares, Salamanca’s Plaza Mayor is, like many other buildings in the city, constructed from sandstone. It is a good example of the city’s Baroque architecture and is a popular meeting place, lined with cafés and restaurants.
Tabernas Desert, in southeastern Spain, doesn’t feel like Spain at all. Its arid landscapes have doubled for the Wild West in films such as The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966), and since many spaghetti westerns used it for filming in the 1960s, it has become a favourite location for Hollywood shoots.
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