The fact is that you do not really need a reason to visit Spain. It is one of those places which is almost always on the ‘to visit’ list of any traveler around the world. Home to some of the best preserved ancient monuments and some of the cleanest and most beautiful beaches, a country where grand festivals are a part of everyday life, a place where sports are much more than just a part of life, and a land with much delectable cuisine, Spain has many faces, with each one being more beautiful than the others.
With so much to see and experience in Spain, it is impossible to list all the major tourist attractions in the country. However, if you are running low on time and want to gain each kind of experience that Spain has to offer, here is a list of things to do in Spain before you run out of vacation time:
Places to visit in Spain
One of the biggest attractions not just in Spain, but on the entire European continent, the city of Cordoba is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and it oozes diverse cultures from every nook and corner. This city holds the distinction of having been the capital of the fledgling Roman Empire, an Arab capital and a Caliphate at some points in its history. Many diverse cultural events are organized in the city all year long, making it an all-season tourist destination. Master class exhibitions of ballet, amazing flamenco festivals, an enviable nightlife scene, and a host of museums, make Cordoba a visitor’s delight. Don’t forget to visit the Mezquita, the old city, and Festival de los Patios.
2. The island of Mallorca / Majorca
Some of the most pristine beaches in the world can be found on Mallorca (also sometimes spelled as Majorca). A tailor-made holiday destination to enjoy golf, water sports, unexplored countryside and much more, Mallorca boasts a 550-kilometer-long (342-mile-long) coastline. Most of the white sand beaches are filled with citizens, but are not yet overcrowded. The island also offers exciting water-based activities, such as sailing, scuba diving, windsurfing and much more. On top of all that are the regular concerts, festivals and other events and exhibitions which are organized frequently on the island.
Top tip: Save some energy from your time at the beach for the entertaining nightlife the island has to offer.
3. Buildings designed by Antoní Gaudí
One of the most famous architects to come out of Spain, Antoní Gaudí is nothing short of a cult in the country. The mind behind some of the most unique architectural styles, Antoní Gaudí’s work gave a new life to the city of Barcelona. Inspired by nature, his works were extremely distinct from any of his contemporaries around the world. Some of his most famous works include Sagrada Familia, Casa Vicens and Casa Batlló in the city of Barcelona.
One of the most famous buildings in Spain, the Alhambra Palace is located in Granada and stands tall on the remains of Roman fortifications. The palace is Spain’s most well-known and renowned example of Islamic architecture. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Alhambra was originally built as a small palace and was later extended by successive Muslim rulers.
A regular guided tour of the monument is available for 55 EUR (about 62.22 USD).
The capital of Andalusia, Seville is easily one of the most attractive cities in all of Europe. Home to a series of exquisite monuments, including the third largest cathedral in the world, the ever-majestic palace of the Reales Alcázares, and a famous bullfighting ring, Seville has a lot to offer to every visitor. Known as the cultural capital of southern Spain, Seville is right on the banks of the Guadalquivir River. A well-connected airport and a bullet train connecting it to Madrid provide easy access to the city.
6. Camp Nou & Estadio Santiago Bernabeu
There are few bigger passions in Spain than football. And there are hardly any places in the world that football-lovers admire more than Camp Nou and Estadio Santiago Bernabeu. Home to two of the biggest clubs in the world of football, Barcelona FC and Real Madrid FC respectively, these stadiums are places where legends are made. Both the stadiums house museums and offer guided tours to visitors, taking them through their glorious histories. Visit these places and see the stuff the world’s best sportspersons are made of.
7. Montserrat Monastery
Situated about 45 kilometers (28 miles) from the city of Barcelona, and standing at around 1,200 meters (3937 feet) tall, this high mountain makes for an obligatory visit during your trip to Spain. The view from the top of the mountain is breathtaking. One of the major attractions of this spot is the statue of Black Madonna, who was Catalonia’s patron saint. The monastery also houses a museum, which exhibits works of renowned artists such as Monet, Dali, Giordano and El Greco. Hiking up to Montserrat Natural Park from the monastery is an experience in itself. A number of well-developed hiking trails make for an exciting trek. Montserrat can be easily reached by a car, motorcycle or train. (A rental car would be the best option if you wish to relish some of the best streets in the world!)
8. Volcan El Teide
Situated on the island of Tenerife, which is one of the Canary Islands, Mount Teide makes for an exciting day trip. It is the highest point in Spain. The third-largest ocean-island volcano in the entire world had its last eruption in 1909 (it is still active!). You can reach the top either by foot, which requires a permit, or by taking the cable car, which would cost you 25 EUR (28.4 USD). Either way, the serene view from the top makes it worth the effort. You can also take the car, provided that you have an expert driver with you. Don’t miss this magical experience for anything!
9. Timanfaya National Park
Made completely of volcanic soil, this national park covers an area greater than 50 square kilometers (19 square miles)! One of the major attractions of the place is a geyser of steam that erupts as one pours water into the ground. The underground volcanic activity, which raises the overall temperatures, results in this phenomenon. The park also houses an active volcano, Timanfaya Volcano, which is named after the park itself. Don’t miss the camel ride on offer!
Fun activities to do in Spain
10. Participate in the Running of the Bulls
One of the first things that you would associate with Spain is the tradition of bullfighting. An integral part of Spain’s indigenous culture and tradition, bullfighting also acts as one of the biggest crowd pullers in Spain. A somewhat safer form of this act, though not without its dangers, is the Running of the Bulls. It takes place in Pamplona each year between 6th and 14th July. The rules are simple – run to save yourself from the bulls coming at you in the street!
Pro tip – Don’t forget to loosen up before your sprint!
Easily the most-visited theme park in Spain, PortAventura houses as many as six hotels along with the Costa Caribe Aquatic Park. You can easily reach PortAventura using the train, which connects it with Salou and Barcelona. The park is divided into multiple areas, with each one exhibiting its own theme. Some of these themes include Mediterrania, Far West, and Mexico. A large number of rides, shows and water sports on offer make it an ideal place for a day-long outing.
12. Enjoy some watersports
Watersport enthusiasts from around the world make their way to Spain to quench their thirst for adrenaline. Home to a handful of islands, majestic beaches, and serene lakes, Spain is tailor-made for all sorts of water sports. Some of the sports on offer include windsurfing, canoeing, sailing, rafting, rowing, jetskiing and waterskiing. While Cantabria’s Atlantic coast provides ample opportunities for surfing, Descenso del Sella, the country’s top canoeing event, is the hub of watersports fans from across the world. You can also have a go at scuba diving, which is offered in many parts of Spain including on the Balearic Islands and Canary Islands.
13. See a flamenco show
No trip to Spain can be complete without witnessing a flamenco show. Flamenco is considered as one of the best preservations of Spain’s ancient folklore. One of the most expressive dance forms across the world, flamenco also includes singing, finger clicking, clapping, and guitar playing. It exhibits the true spirit of parts of Spain. Originally from the areas of Andalusia, Murcia, and Extremadura, you can see performances now in various places around the country. Some of the best places to watch a flamenco show include Corral de la Moreria in Madrid (considered the world’s best exhibition of Flamenco), Tablao Cordobes in Barcelona, and Tablao El Arenal in Seville.
14. Enjoy the gourmet food
Spain has as much variety to offer on the dinner table as it does off it. The country boasts a number of gourmet markets offering a wide variety of lip-smacking food. Some of these markets include San Miguel and San Antón in Madrid, La Boqueria and Santa Caterina and Princesa in Barcelona, Lonja del Barranco in Seville, and the Central Market in Valencia. Alternatively, if you wish to have the best food served to you without you exploring the markets, you may also opt for one of the various culinary tours offered in the country by different agencies. Most of these tours present you with the most delicious Spanish cuisine along with an unforgettable wine-tasting experience.
15. Watch a football match
There is no experience in the world quite like watching a football match in Spain. Home to one of the best football leagues in the world, the La Liga, Spain is drowned in football fever 12 months of the year. Along with some of the best clubs in football history, Spain is also home to some of the most enthusiastic fans of the game.
Here is how to prepare for a game: Bring a sandwich for halftime,preferably a very large one since you may have to share it, get ready to have your ears burst, and make sure you pick up a banner on your way in to support the team of your choice!
16. Eat paella in Valencia
If you are a foodie traveler, eating paella has to be a part of your Spanish adventure. An authentic Spanish cuisine, paella is served at many restaurants in Spain. It is Valencia whose Paella, however, makes it to the top of the charts in terms of taste and richness. While you are in Valencia, make your way to Bodega de la Sarieta for the best paella you will ever have a chance to try. Apart from paella, the restaurant is also known to offer a number of other mouth-watering dishes that will leave you spellbound!
17. Loro Parque
Situated on the island of Tenerife, Loro Parque is home to a number of exquisite plant and animal species. Over the years, this place has transformed into one of the biggest crowd-pullers on the Canary Islands. Some of the biggest attractions of the park include the shows featuring dolphins, sea lions, and parrots, as well as the renowned orca show. Bring your kids here with you and they will have the time of their lives! The park offers 5 different kinds of tickets, including a one-day ticket and a 4-day ticket.
18. Siam Park
A water park that is owned by Loro Parque, Siam Park is one of the best of its kind in all of Europe. Offering a large variety of rides and delectable Thai food, Siam Park makes for a perfect outing destination for people from all age groups. The park boasts the world’s largest dragon statue and the highest artificial waves in the entire world.
19. Visit the serene beaches
A country with over 5,000 miles (8,046 kilometers) of coastline is bound to have some great beaches. And Spain is no exception. Spain’s beaches are second-to-none. Extremely well-maintained and safe, these beaches offer a wide range of adventure activities for tourists. Some of the best beaches in Spain include Langre in Cantabria, Asturias in north-west Spain,, Playa de Ses Illetes in Formentera, along the west coast of Cantabria, and Cala Mesquida on Mallorca. Most of them offer beachview apartments for visitors to relish their stay.
20. Eat Tapas
Tapas are probably one of the most integral parts of the ancient Spanish traditions. Generally meant to be eaten between consecutive meals with wine or beer, tapas have gained a cult status over the years. Essentially snacks, the small dishes may be hot or cold. Tapas are usually given for free when you order a drink at a bar. From being just a snack with drinks, some restaurants have taken tapas to a whole new level with tons of varieties on offer now.
Pro tip – If you have no idea how and what to order in the bar just leave it at the hands of the waiter / waitress and let them know how hungry you are!
21. Take part in the La Tomatina festival
Want to be a part of a tomato war? Held on the last Wednesday of August, this is one tradition that is hard to find anywhere else in the world. Held annually in Bunol, Valencia, the La Tomatina festival has achieved global recognition over the years. The rules are simple: Pick up a tomato, squeeze it (so that it doesn’t hurt anyone), and target anyone on the streets. People from all around the globe take part in this crazy event each year. Participation is regulated by entry tickets. The official tickets come with a 3 - 4 day tour and a hotel stay is included. This one is not supposed to be missed!
Places to enjoy art in Spain
22. Madrid's three essential art museums
Madrid’s art scene is essentially comprised of the museums of Reina Sofia, Prado, and Thyssen. A special voucher worth 14.40 EUR (16.35 USD) is valid for entry at all these three places once at any time throughout the year. One of the most renowned art museums in Europe, Museo del Prado showcases a number of famous drawings, sculptures and paintings from Italian, German, English, Flemish and Dutch artists. Thyssen Museum was originally a private collection that was later taken over by the state authorities. Its exhibits date back to the 13th century! Works of some of the best known Spanish artists are kept on display at Reina Sofia. The artists whose works are exhibited here include Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dali and Juan Gris.
23. Palau de la Musica Catalana
One of the premier concert halls in Spain, Palau de la Musica Catalana is also one of the most-renowned buildings in Barcelona. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Palau de la Musica Catalana hosts some of the most high-profile music events in Spain. The concert hall has been witness to a number of world premieres of musical compositions in the past, each of them attended by the who’s who of Spain.
If not for any concert, visit this place for the breathtaking architecture and intricate designs it boasts.
24. Royal Palace of Madrid
Classified as a national monument in Spain, this isn’t the official residence of the Spanish Royal Family. Rather, it is used as the venue for major family and public functions, leaving it open for public tours. Housing over 3,400 rooms, this majestic building has stood witness to a number of historical events in the country. An 11 EUR (12.50 USD) admission fee lets you witness the fine architecture and exemplary designs of this building. Some of the other attractions inside the palace include the royal armory, the royal pharmacy and the majestic palace gardens.
25. Sorolla Museum
Exhibiting the works of Joaquin Sorolla, this building was originally his house and was later transformed into a museum after his widow’s death. Sorolla’s beautiful paintings make it an exciting place to visit. The unfinished painting he was working upon right before his death is also displayed at the museum, with his brushes kept right next to it. Most of Sorolla’s works include women, children and serene scenes.
Take a tour of this place to be pleasantly surprised by the simplicity and genius of Joaquin Sorolla.
26. Casa Batllo
No building speaks as much of Antoni Gaudi’s genius as Casa Batllo does. One of the best-designed buildings in Barcelona, Casa Batllo is not like any other architectural masterpiece. Irregular oval windows, sculpted stone work, and mosaics made of broken ceramic tiles make this building a masterpiece unlike any other. One of the most-crowded places in Barcelona, this stunningly-designed building is bizarre yet amazingly beautiful. The admission tickets are priced at 22.50 EUR (25.57 USD). Though it might seem overpriced at first sight, it is worth the money spent the moment you step inside the house.
27. Aqueduct, Segovia
Widely regarded as one of the best-preserved ancient monuments in the world, the Roman Aqueduct of Segovia is the stuff of dreams. This aqueduct is believed to have been originally used for transporting water to the La Acebeda Region from the Rio Frio River. Stretching 813 meters (2,667 feet) in length and standing with the help of 221 pillars, this structure stands tall as one of the most significant artifacts of the Roman history in the world. This is also perhaps the most stunning example of the civil engineering prowess prevalent at the time of the mighty Roman Empire.
Spain has so much more to offer
The list above is non-exhaustive and you can explore so much more in Spain. A generous climate throughout the year, state of the art infrastructure, a well-developed local transportation system, and an extremely helpful and friendly local culture make Spain an ideal tourist destination for people from all over the world.
Warning: By the time you end up completing your list, you might grow extremely jealous of the local Spanish people for the kind of places they have at their disposal! At that time, just remember that you are not alone!
Spain deserves a LONG vacation, so plan your trip accordingly or you will regret it later on!
Get Trip101 in your inbox
You can buy and claim online, even after you've left home. Travel insurance from WorldNomads.com is available to people from 140 countries. It’s designed for adventurous travellers with cover for overseas medical, evacuation, baggage and a range of adventure sports and activities.
*5% off when you book with our promo code: TRIP101
*For our Canadian and US travellers, unfortunately due to financial services laws, we cannot provide a discount. This promotional code cannot be used with any other discount offer, including World Nomads Members’ discount for travel insurance policy holders.