20 Best Places To Visit In Spain For First-Timers

20 Best Places to Visit in Spain for First-Timers

I’m so excited to share my favorite spots in Spain with you. As someone who’s explored this incredible country inside and out, I’ve put together a list of the 20 absolute best places for first-time visitors. Trust me, these destinations will knock your socks off!

1. Barcelona – The City of Gaudí

Oh man, where do I even start with Barcelona? This place is like a dream come true for architecture lovers. I remember the first time I laid eyes on the Sagrada Família – my jaw literally dropped. Gaudí’s masterpiece is unlike anything else in the world.

But Barcelona isn’t just about Gaudí (though his works are everywhere). The Gothic Quarter is a maze of narrow streets that’ll transport you back in time. And don’t get me started on the food! I still dream about the tapas I had at La Boqueria market.

Pro tip: Skip the touristy restaurants on Las Ramblas. Head to the El Born neighborhood for some authentic Catalan cuisine instead.

2. Madrid – The Heart of Spain

Madrid might not have Barcelona’s beaches, but it’s got soul in spades. The city’s energy is infectious – especially around Plaza Mayor at night. I love how the locals really know how to live it up.

Art lovers, you’re in for a treat. The Prado Museum is a treasure trove of masterpieces. I spent hours gawking at Velázquez’s Las Meninas. And if you’re into modern art, the Reina Sofia is a must-visit.

Don’t forget to grab some churros con chocolate at San Ginés. It’s open 24/7, perfect for those late-night munchies after bar-hopping in Malasaña.

3. Seville – Flamenco and Orange Trees

Seville stole my heart with its romantic streets and passionate flamenco. The scent of orange blossoms in spring is something I’ll never forget.

The Real Alcázar is like stepping into a fairy tale. Those intricate Moorish designs had me snapping photos non-stop. And the Plaza de España? It’s so grand it was used as a filming location for Star Wars!

If you’re visiting in April, try to catch the Feria de Abril. The whole city turns into one big party, with women in flamenco dresses and men on horseback. It’s a spectacle you won’t want to miss.

4. Granada – Home of the Alhambra

Granada is all about the Alhambra, and let me tell you, it lives up to the hype. I’d suggest booking your tickets well in advance – this place gets packed!

But there’s more to Granada than just the Alhambra. The Albaicín neighborhood is a labyrinth of white-washed houses and hidden plazas. I stumbled upon the most amazing viewpoint of the Alhambra at sunset – pure magic.

Oh, and did I mention the free tapas? Yep, in Granada, you get a free tapa with every drink. Budget traveler’s paradise!

5. Valencia – City of Arts and Sciences

Valencia surprised me in the best way possible. The futuristic City of Arts and Sciences looks like something out of a sci-fi movie. It’s a stark contrast to the charming old town.

But the real star of Valencia? The food! This is the birthplace of paella, and boy, do they do it right. I had the best paella of my life at a little place called La Pepica right on the beach.

Don’t miss out on trying horchata, a sweet drink made from tiger nuts. It’s refreshing and uniquely Valencian.

6. San Sebastián – Foodie Paradise

If you’re a food lover (and who isn’t?), San Sebastián should be at the top of your list. This coastal city in the Basque Country has more Michelin stars per capita than anywhere else in the world.

But you don’t need to break the bank to eat well here. The pintxos bars in the old town are an experience in themselves. I spent an entire evening hopping from bar to bar, trying different pintxos (Basque tapas) and local txakoli wine.

La Concha beach is often called one of the best city beaches in Europe, and I have to agree. The view from Monte Igueldo is breathtaking – don’t miss it!

7. Córdoba – The Mezquita and More

Córdoba might be smaller than some of the other cities on this list, but it packs a punch. The Mezquita, a mosque-turned-cathedral, is unlike anything I’ve ever seen. The forest of red and white arches is mesmerizing.

If you’re visiting in May, you’re in for a treat. The Patios Festival turns the city into a floral wonderland. I spent hours wandering through courtyards filled with colorful flowers – it’s Instagram heaven!

Don’t leave without trying salmorejo, a cold tomato soup that’s perfect for those hot Andalusian days.

8. Toledo – The City of Three Cultures

Just a short train ride from Madrid, Toledo feels like stepping back in time. The walled city on a hill is a maze of narrow streets and medieval buildings.

Toledo is known as the “City of Three Cultures” because Christians, Muslims, and Jews coexisted here for centuries. You can see this influence in the architecture – from synagogues to mosques to Gothic cathedrals.

Make sure to try some marzipan, a local specialty. And if you’re into art, the El Greco Museum is a must-visit.

9. Bilbao – More Than Just the Guggenheim

Bilbao put itself on the map with the Guggenheim Museum, and it’s truly a sight to behold. The titanium-clad building is a work of art in itself.

But there’s more to Bilbao than just the Guggenheim. The old town, or Casco Viejo, is full of character. I spent hours wandering its seven streets, popping into pintxos bars along the way.

Don’t miss out on trying some txakoli, the local white wine. It’s poured from a height to give it a slight fizz – quite the spectacle!

10. Málaga – Picasso’s Birthplace

Málaga is often overlooked in favor of other Andalusian cities, but it’s a gem in its own right. As Picasso’s birthplace, it’s got some serious artistic cred. The Picasso Museum is a must-visit for art lovers.

But Málaga isn’t just about art. The Alcazaba, a Moorish fortress, offers stunning views over the city. And the beaches? Perfect for soaking up that famous Costa del Sol sun.

I loved wandering through the Atarazanas market, sampling local produce and seafood. The building itself, with its Moorish arch, is a beauty.

11. Santiago de Compostela – End of the Camino

Even if you’re not doing the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage, Santiago de Compostela is worth a visit. The cathedral, the endpoint of the Camino, is breathtaking. I got goosebumps watching pilgrims arrive after their long journey.

The old town is a UNESCO World Heritage site, and it’s easy to see why. The granite buildings and narrow streets have a mystical quality, especially in the misty Galician weather.

Don’t leave without trying some Galician octopus. It’s simple but delicious – just like most Galician cuisine.

12. Segovia – Roman Aqueduct and Fairy Tale Castle

Segovia blew me away with its Roman aqueduct. It’s hard to believe this 2000-year-old structure is still standing! The old town is perched on a rocky hill, with the aqueduct at one end and the Alcázar at the other.

Speaking of the Alcázar, it looks like something straight out of a Disney movie. No wonder it inspired Walt Disney’s Cinderella Castle!

Segovia is famous for its roast suckling pig. I’m not usually a big meat eater, but when in Rome (or Segovia)…

13. Ronda – The City on the Cliff

Ronda is one of those places that makes you wonder, “How did they build this?” The city is dramatically perched on the edge of a deep gorge, connected by the impressive Puente Nuevo bridge.

The views from the bridge are spectacular, but for the best photo op, head to the Mirador de Aldehuela viewpoint. Trust me, your Instagram followers will thank you.

Ronda is also the birthplace of modern bullfighting. Even if you’re not into the sport (I’m certainly not), the bullring is worth a visit for its historical significance.

14. Cádiz – Europe’s Oldest City

Cádiz claims to be the oldest continuously inhabited city in Western Europe, and it certainly feels ancient. The old town is almost entirely surrounded by water, giving it a unique island-like feel.

I loved wandering through the narrow streets, popping into little shops and tapas bars. The fish market is a sight to behold – and the perfect place to try some fresh seafood.

Don’t miss the sunset from La Caleta beach. It’s one of the most beautiful urban beaches I’ve ever seen.

15. Salamanca – The Golden City

Salamanca is known as La Dorada (The Golden City) because of the glow of its sandstone buildings. The Plaza Mayor is one of the most beautiful squares in Spain – especially at night when it’s all lit up.

The city is home to one of the oldest universities in Europe, giving it a youthful, vibrant atmosphere. I loved the mix of ancient buildings and buzzing student life.

Try to spot the astronaut carved into the facade of the New Cathedral. It’s a modern addition that always makes me chuckle.

16. Girona – Game of Thrones Come to Life

Girona might look familiar if you’re a Game of Thrones fan – it was used as a filming location for Braavos and King’s Landing. But even if you’ve never seen the show, this Catalan city is worth a visit.

The old town is a maze of medieval streets and staircases. The view from the city walls is spectacular – you can see all the way to the Pyrenees on a clear day.

Don’t miss the colorful houses along the Onyar River. They’re one of the most photographed sights in the city.

17. Cuenca – The Hanging Houses

Cuenca is famous for its casas colgadas (hanging houses), which seem to defy gravity as they cling to the edge of a gorge. It’s a sight that’ll make you do a double-take!

The abstract art museum housed in one of these hanging houses is worth a visit, even if you’re not usually into modern art. The juxtaposition of contemporary art in such an ancient setting is really something.

If you’re feeling adventurous, cross the San Pablo bridge for amazing views of the hanging houses. Just don’t look down if you’re afraid of heights!

18. Ibiza – More Than Just Parties

Okay, I know what you’re thinking. Ibiza? For first-timers? But hear me out. While Ibiza is famous for its nightlife, there’s so much more to this Balearic island.

The old town of Ibiza (Dalt Vila) is a UNESCO World Heritage site, with winding cobblestone streets and amazing views. And the beaches? Some of the most beautiful I’ve seen in Spain.

If you’re into wellness, Ibiza has become a bit of a yoga and meditation hub in recent years. I had one of the most relaxing vacations of my life here – and I didn’t step foot in a club!

19. Zaragoza – The Hidden Gem

Zaragoza often flies under the radar, but it’s a city that deserves more attention. The Basílica de Nuestra Señora del Pilar is a baroque masterpiece that’ll take your breath away.

I was surprised by how lively the city is, especially around El Tubo area. It’s packed with tapas bars and has a great atmosphere, especially on weekends.

Don’t miss the Aljafería Palace, a beautiful example of Islamic architecture in Spain. It’s like a mini Alhambra, but without the crowds!

20. La Rioja – Wine Lover’s Paradise

Okay, so La Rioja is a region rather than a city, but I couldn’t leave it off this list. If you’re a wine lover, this is your paradise.

The landscapes of vineyards stretching as far as the eye can see are stunning. I took a wine tour that included visits to both modern and traditional bodegas (wineries). The contrast was fascinating.

Even if you’re not into wine, the region has some beautiful towns like Haro and Laguardia. And the food? Let’s just say it pairs perfectly with the wine!

So there you have it – my top 20 places to visit in Spain for first-timers. Each of these destinations has something unique to offer, from stunning architecture to mouthwatering cuisine.

Remember, Spain is a country best enjoyed slowly. Don’t try to cram too much into one trip. Take your time, enjoy long lunches, and don’t be afraid to get lost in the winding streets of these beautiful cities.

Buen viaje, amigos!

Al Amin Sagor

Hi, I'm Al Amin Sagor. Join me as I share travel tips, personal insights, and amazing experiences that have shaped my adventures. Let's explore together and make lasting memories.

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