A holiday in Spain doesn’t have to mean just baking on the beach. Make time for some of these wonderful cities and we promise you won’t regret it. Spain's most alluring cities are packed with spectacular historic wonders, irresistible eateries and cultural attractions you’re sure to fall in love with.
And as a bonus, some of them have excellent beaches too, giving you the best of both worlds if you want it! Not sure where to begin your urban odyssey in Spain? Don’t worry, we have five fantastic suggestions to get you started!
LET BARCELONA BLOW YOU AWAY
If you like your cities lively, you’re in for a treat in Barcelona. It doesn’t get much livelier than this buzzing hub of Catalonian culture. The spirit of the place is summed up in many ways by its most recognisable landmark, the Sagrada Família, a towering cathedral designed by iconic architect Antoni Gaudí. Like the city itself, the building is a riot of Gothic, modern and Art Nouveau influences – and also like the city, it’s in a constant process of change. It’s still being built over 135 years after its foundation stone was laid. Down on Las Ramblas, the wide street that serves as the epicentre of tourist activity, you’re sure to find the frenetic atmosphere just as intoxicating as the chaotic beauty of the Sagrada Família. With all kinds of street performers showing off their unique skills, there’s always something new to look at here. Explore further afield, however, and you’ll find tranquillity in tiny pavement cafés down hidden lanes, perfect for kicking back with a sangria. And of course, the beach is always there if you need it.
TAKE A PEEK AT PALMA
Palma, capital of the Balearic Islands and pride of Mallorca, is in many ways the ideal coastal city. The golden stone of its older buildings is the perfect complement to the sunny weather. There’s a bustling waterfront and a long stretch of beach to explore. And the city centre is a shopping hub that rivals many of Spain's more famously cosmopolitan cities. Need to get out of the sun? The excellent local museums and art galleries offer a place to cool off and take in some culture all at the same time. And we haven’t even mentioned what’s probably the city’s biggest selling point, its high density of stunning historic buildings. They include a grand Gothic cathedral as well as a royal palace and a hilltop castle that both date from the 14th century.
JET OFF TO GIRONA
Situated just over an hour’s drive from Barcelona, Girona is ideal for a day trip as a well as a longer stay. Protected by ancient walls, the Barri Vell, or medieval quarter, is the city’s most intriguing neighbourhood. The cobbled lanes make for a picturesque walking tour and beautiful buildings abound. Make sure you go for a stroll along the riverfront Rambla de la Libertat, the vibrant riverside promenade. The street is home to the famous Cases de l’Onyar, pink and orange blocks of flats that will brighten up your photos. The city’s past has left Roman, Jewish and Moorish influences, which are drawn out in an array of museums.
STEP BACK IN TIME IN SANTIAGO DE COMPOSTELA
Santiago de Compostela’s historic core is often counted as one of Spain's most beautiful old towns – and once you lay eyes on it yourself, you’ll find it hard to argue with that. The sheer density of historic marvels that line these narrow streets is astonishing. But of course, the jewel in the city’s crown is the 11th century cathedral. This Gothic beauty is home to the tomb of St James, believed to be the burial site of one of Christ’s apostles. It’s the end point of the Way of St James pilgrimage route, one of the world’s most famous – and most beautiful – walks.
SOAK UP SEVILLE’S SPLENDOUR
Chilled out, laid back and very cool indeed, Seville has far more to it than its famous orange trees. The Andalucian capital is packed with tapas bars, making it an excellent place to go on a tapas crawl, stopping to sample a few delicious morsels in as many different locations as you can. We also recommend you catch a flamenco show – Andalucia is the home of this passionate dance, after all! But if you feel like drifting without a plan, you can’t go wrong here. Stroll across the stately Plaza de España, find your way to the leafy gardens of the magnificent Alcázar palace, or just drop into the many lovely churches you’ll discover as you explore.