Best Places to visit in Spain on your first trip
Wondering which places to visit in Spain? The hardest part about planning your first Spanish holiday is narrowing down which of the major cities will make your Spain itinerary. There are just so many amazing places dotted all over the country – below we have listed the key ones, especially for your first Spain vacation.
Spain’s capital is regal and beautiful, yet it has a vibrancy and joy for life that makes it a true joy to visit. If exploring the stunning streets and vast parks doesn’t leave you with sore feet, the salsa dancing surely will! In Madrid, there’s no escaping the fiesta.
Madrid certainly is an all-day and all-night kind of place, so you will certainly never find yourself without options of what to do. Sprawling Madrid’s diversity means that whether you’re a foodie, history buff, art lover or wine enthusiast, you will find plenty that’s right up your alley.
As much as we loved Barcelona, we fell under the spell of Madrid. Our 5-day stay was too short and we will be back on future trips!
- The Royal Palace, an incredibly grandiose building that is Europe’s largest functioning Royal palace.
- A day trip to stunning Toledo, a beautifully preserved medieval city. The entire historic centre is UNESCO World Heritage listed.
- El Retiro, a beautiful and expansive park that’s a perfect break from the concrete jungle, if you need it!
There are some cities that you explore slowly and gently, and then there’s Barcelona. It’s the kind of place that grabs you immediately, tempting you to dance salsa, drink sangria and live the good life.
With fabulous festivals, fascinating architecture and brilliant foodie hotspots, it’s no wonder that Barcelona’s unique culture makes it one of the world’s great cities.
Plus, as the capital of the fiercely proud and independent Catalonia region, Barcelona has quite a different feel than elsewhere in Spain. Don’t be surprised if you don’t get much sleep in Barcelona: there’s much to explore and experience.
- La Sagrada Familia, Antoni Gaudi’s famously unfinished surreal Church. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is an incredible sight to behold.
- Las Ramblas, possibly the busiest street in the world. Filled with buskers, shops, restaurants and lots and lots of people, you never know what you’ll see!
- Casa Batlló, another beautifully bizarre building (nicknamed ‘the House of Bones’) that finds itself on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
Visiting the capital of Spain’s Andalusia region, Seville, seems a little like stepping into an open-air museum at first. Narrow laneways are flanked by exquisite Gothic and Baroque buildings, while the UNESCO World Heritage Listed Seville Cathedral seems to hover over the city. It’s a truly stunning place.
Stay a little while, however, and you will realise that Seville is very much a living, dynamic city. Let the sound of flamenco (for which the region is famous) guide you into charming little bars, where locals and tourists alike are delighted by the beautiful sounds and atmosphere.
- Real Alcázar, the former Royal Castle and one of Seville’s several UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Game of Thrones might also recognise this landmark.
- The Seville Cathedral, a gothic masterpiece that was built in the 16th century during Seville’s heyday.
- Metropol Parasol, a modern art piece that has provided a juxtaposition to the historic streets since opening in 2011.
Granada is one of the most charming towns in Southern Spain with a mix of Moorish architecture, great food culture and a strong hippie vibe, it draws you under its spell.
Granada is a university town with over 80k students living here, meaning there is always something happening. The city has such a great vibe that just being here wandering the streets and people watching is special. Oh, and it’s a brilliant spot to save money, they still give decent free tapas everywhere you go!
The Sierra Nevada Mountains provide a gorgeous backdrop and the sea is only an hour away providing a landscape that is fertile and so beautiful.
- Sunset from Mirador San Nicolas and as many other miradors as you can!
- The Alhambra and Generalife Gardens – book early they are beyond popular
- Albaicin – Wandering the narrow streets allows you to get a great feel for times past.
The largest city along Spain’s Costa del Sol, Malaga is a beachside city with plenty of heart. While some destinations may lose their charm with the arrival of resorts and high rises, Malaga has managed to stay true to its artistic roots, while also offering plenty of amenities to sunseekers.
Aside from its glorious beaches, Malaga is most famously the birthplace of Pablo Picasso and has enchanted many other artists. As such, there is an abundance of galleries and museums in the city. One of the top attractions is the Picasso Museum.
Foodies are also sure to delight in visiting Malaga. As a port side city, there’s a focus on seafood, both the humble fish shack variety and that prepared in luxurious Michelin starred restaurants.
- The Museo Picasso de Malaga (Picasso Museum), which features over 200 works of the surrealist master, who was born in Malaga.
- The Alcazaba, an Islamic-inspired 11th-century fortification that was built on still-visible Roman ruins that date back from the 1st century.
- Visit a beach like the Playa de La Malagueta and find out why it’s called the “Costa de Sol” (Sun Coast)
One of the world’s most famous walking trails, ‘The Camino’, formally known as Camino de Santiago, is described by many as a life-changing experience. Every year, over 200,000 people complete the hike, escaping busy everyday life to take in the countryside’s beauty as well as the many stunning sights along the way. It’s an opportunity for contemplation, relaxation and perhaps to meet some fellow hikers.
The entire trail is approximately 800 kilometres however, it can easily be broken up into smaller sections. There are many trails, but the most famous through the Pyrenees, which separate France and Spain, before snaking through some of Spain’s most beautiful terrain and arriving at the Santiago de Compostela and the Tomb of St James in northwest Spain.
- The highlights depend on which route you take – but whichever you choose; the experience will be a magical one.
If you love wine, chances are you have heard of Spain’s La Rioja region. It’s one of the world’s great wine-producing places and a favourite of sommeliers all over the world. Visiting it, however, you may be surprised. Despite its big reputation, it remains humble – with dozens of beautiful family-owned bodegas dotted throughout the rolling hills, as well as larger producers.
You certainly don’t need to be a wine expert to enjoy a visit to La Rioja. In fact, just exploring the countryside and stopping in for a bite to eat is glorious, although those who love wine will probably not be able to pass up the opportunity for a tasting or two!
- Museo de la Rioja, which will give you an insight into the region’s history (and is about more than just wine!)
- A wine tour, stopping in at beautiful wineries like Bodegas Ysios and Muga.
A visit to San Sebastian requires a little planning. This can be an expensive city to visit at certain times of year. If you are visiting for a major event like the film festival unless you have buckets of money. Even 6 months out it can be hard to find affordable accommodation.