Spain is one of the MOST popular European destinations. When you think of Spain, a variety of things come to mind – food, football, beaches, history, Gaudi. In this post we have rounded up 15 most beautiful places in Spain that you MUST visit!
Discover hidden gems as well the most beautiful cities in Spain. We have also included essential tips including distances from a prime city/airport as well as day trip options. The country is huge, but using our tips, you can combine many places in your upcoming Spain trip.
15 Most Beautiful Places in Spain – Hidden gems & most beautiful cities in Spain
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Spain has a very distinct culture and as you go from north to south – you will experience a change in culture, food and people. Northern Spain is the Catalonian side with Barcelona as its capital. Seville is the capital of southern Spain Andalusian region.
Northern part of Spain is characterized by the most popular city of Barcelona, the coastline with the beaches of Costa Brava, the unique mountains of Montserrat and the mighty Pyrenees.
Andalucía is a melting pot of Muslim and Christian art and style of living. The African Moors left a lot of influence in the way Andalusians eat, drink and built houses.
The central part of Spain is the seat of the government and the constitutional monarchy – Madrid, with a strong GDP and is considered one of the finest global cities.
These are some of the big names in our list of most beautiful places in Spain, but there are many smaller towns and hidden gems that you will discover. With such a variety of things to see in Spain, we are certain you will find one (or many) personal favorites to add to your trip.
Here is the list of the most beautiful places in Spain
Northern Region – Most Beautiful Cities in Spain
We will start the roll call of most beautiful places in Spain with Barcelona. It is not the capital of Spain, but it is the capital of Catalonia and is located in the northern part of the country.
Barcelona is a big city, with so many amazing things to do – that just one trip may not be enough. Some of the city’s highlights include the architecture of Anthony Gaudi like the unfinished Sagrada Familia, Casa Mila, Casa Batllo and the beautiful Park Guell.
Barcelona is very proud of its art nouveau history and creations. And this is evident when you search for Barcelona and the images of Sagrada Familia pops up.
But don’t ignore some of the other touristy attractions, which are also our favorite. You know how much we love history. The Gothic quarter with Roman ruins (of what is left) will not disappoint you. You should set aside a day for the Gothic Quarter, Las Ramblas, endless food stall hopping at the La Boqueria and take a stroll along the Port Vell.
Port Vell is a perfect place to enjoy a nice evening with a sunset boat cruise. The history of sea discoveries is commemorated here – with a Christopher Columbus Colon, pointing at the sea. (There is a lot of debate as to which continent he is pointing at, but for now – let’s say it’s the sea).
For all football and sports lovers, Barcelona is heaven. Barcelona hosted the Olympics in 1992. And the Mont Montjuïc still beams with that proud history. You can take a funicular to reach the top of Mont Montjuïc and admire the city views.
Camp Nou is a soccer fanatic’s paradise.
A city as extensive as Barcelona, there is something to see in every neighborhood. Barcelona metro system is very efficient and perfect for exploring the city and beyond including Montjuïc and Montserrat.
And while you are out and about exploring the city, you will see many important landmark buildings and squares like the Plaza Catalunya, the Arena and the Plaza de España.
Getting to Barcelona: Barcelona has an international airport – Barcelona–El Prat Josep Tarradellas Airport/El Prat Airport. It is located 40 minutes away from the city center (travel by public transport). You can use airport bus, metro or private taxi to reach the central area or your hotel.
Montserrat is a mountain range near Barcelona. One of the striking things about this mountain range is their unique formations, something that inspired Antony Gaudi – the Catalan artist in his works.
The landscape of Montserrat is so different from its big brother Barcelona, the town is small – but the mountains steal all the glory, making it one of the most beautiful places in Spain.
Located in Montserrat is the Benedictine abbey of Montserrat, dedicated to Virgin Mary. It is a holy shrine and currently 40 monks live here at the monastery. If you are visiting the monastery you will be amazed at the stunning views from up there.
There is a funicular that takes you up to the monastery, which is located at a height – thus welcoming you with beautiful mountain views as you go towards the summit.
The Montserrat Abbey site dates back to 888 AD. The original spot where the black Madonna was found, is different from the abbey. The original site of Virgin Mary is located at the Santa Cova de Montserrat – a church located further away from the monastery, but within the Montserrat mountain complex.
The highest peak of Montserrat is the Sant Jeroni peak, standing tall at 1236 metres. It is a popular spot for climbers and hikers. Access to the peak is via well marked trails and the Sant Jeroni funicular.
Distance from Barcelona: Barcelona is only an hour away from Montserrat. Public transportation with a mix of metro and funicular will take you to the monastery in 2 hours one way.
There are day tours available from Barcelona as well, including half day tour to the Abbey of Montserrat. Click to view this full day tour from Barcelona to Montserrat.
Nearest Airport: Barcelona.
Another beautiful city located in Catalonia that you must visit is Girona. Girona is one of the most beautiful places in Spain where you will find a pretty medieval city, mixed with a unique cultural vibe and good food (good food is a given in Spain).
Located between Barcelona and Costa Brava, Girona makes for an easy day trip from Barcelona. For travelers, who wish to cover more ground in less time, can combine Girona and Costa Brava in a day.
Girona is a good destination as a base to explore more of Catalonia like the Pyrenees and the coast lines.
Girona is a medieval city with a charming river, bridge, cathedral with big steps and a pretty old town.
The city is known for its walled city and medieval cobbled stone lanes. River Onyar, along with the Pont de Sant Felieu makes the city very picturesque, as it welcomes tourists to visit the old town.
Cathedral de Santa Maria de Girona stands tall in the heart of the city and is the prime church. The church was built in the 11th century, with a mixed Roman and Gothic style architecture.
Located very close to the Girona Cathedral are Arab baths – inspired by Turkish, Arab and Jewish styles. They are from the 12th century.
Girona has one of the well preserved Jewish quarters in Europe and are a must visit.
If you are a Game of Thrones fan, Girona should be added to your Spain trip to explore the shooting locations. Click to view GoT tour in Girona
Distance from Barcelona: It takes 40 minutes by public transport to reach Girona and 1.50 hours drive from Barcelona.
Nearest Airport: Barcelona
Located in the Girona region of Catalonia is the beautiful coastal town of Costa Brava. Costa Brava belongs to the north eastern part of Spain, above Barcelona and goes all the way to the French Border.
To visit the many beaches of Costa Brava, you can take a day tour from Barcelona or stay in Girona city.
Costa Brava is a huge area, it does include beaches, but also includes charming medieval towns and a town center with fascinating museums and natural parks.
The beaches of Costa Brava are small and provides a very romantic and intimate experience with cliffs and stunning rock formations. The water is safe for swimming, and some are also optimal for snorkeling and diving (must bring your equipment).
Many beaches in Costa Brava are accessible by public transport, but expect for a long day. But the good thing is that it will stop by many small, but beautiful Spanish towns. There are many coves and hidden beaches in Costa Brava’s Natural Parks and reserves that are best discovered and explored on foot.
Cap de Creus Natural Park is home to a pebble beach – Cala Portalo. Considered a nudist beach, but you are welcome to wear what you desire. This beach was a favorite of Girona native and popular artist -Salvador Dali.
From Dali’s works you will see how much he was inspired by this landscape. To learn more about Dali and his life, visit the Dali Theatre Museum, which was transformed by the artist himself.
There are many other interesting museums sprinkled across the region including the Museu del Cinema or the Cinema Museum.
Costa Brava is surrounded by quintessential medieval towns with castles and forts. Besalu and Begur are such 2 villages and historic towns near Costa Brava that are blessed medieval remnants and beaches at your door step. Costa Brava is one of the most beautiful places in Spain.
Nearest Town/s: Barcelona and Girona. It is best to stay in Girona to explore Costa Brava intimately. But you can also take a day tour from Barcelona to Costa Brava to explore in a day.
Barcelona to Costa Brava is 2 hours drive and 2.50 hours train ride, one way.
Girona to Costa Brava is 45 minutes by car and 2 hour train ride, one way.
Nearest Airport: Barcelona.
Baga is a municipality town in the Bergueda region of Catalonia in Spain. Baga is marked by mountainous terrain and many medieval creations.
It is located close to the French border on their south western side and you will be surprised to see many French symbols, including coat of arms in the central square in Baga.
Baga is super small and quaint, but the mountain backdrop with a picturesque river makes my heart melt and that’s why it made it to the most beautiful places in Spain.
Baga was founded in the 9th century by a noble family. Later, between the 13-15th centuries, Baga underwent major planning and phase of building new structures. What you see today in Baga were built in those centuries – it’s like time had stood still.
The central square of Baga called the Placa Porxada is surrounded by medieval structures and adorned by their founder. His legendary story includes surviving captivity from Andalusian kings.
There are many viewpoints in town, from where you can admire the mountains as well the medieval gems including the 15th century church – St Esteve de Baga. The church took almost a century to complete and it is a mix of Romanesque and Gothic style of architecture. Because the town is so small and not enough people to look after the church, it is not open everyday.
You can easily explore Baga in a day trip from Barcelona. The town has cute bars and bakeries where you can stop for meals and pretty much enjoy a laid back day.
During winters, Baga swells to twice the size of its regular population. The town is used as a base for skiing in the region.
Also popular in winter, especially around Christmas Eve is the festival of Fia-Faia. Fia-faia is the celebration of winter solstice with bonfire and bread. The fire is set when the sun goes down in the mountains and then the celebration is taken to the town center to rejoice with friends and family.
Baga is one of those most beautiful places in Spain that are tucked away from the lime light of bigger cities.
Distance from Barcelona: It is a 2 hour drive to Baga from Barcelona, one way. Train ride is 2.50 hour from Barcelona.
Nearest airport: Barcelona
San Sebastian is the answer to travelers looking for a relaxed time out with food, booze and beaches. Located in the Basque Country about 101 kilometers from Bilbao, San Sebastian is a popular resort town in the northern coast of Spain.
Food and beaches top the list of things to do in San Sebastián. The town is known to have the highest number of Michelin star restaurants in the country. And they have a unique way to do tapas, called the pintxos. If you wish to eat and eat at a local’s favorite La Fabrica is a good start.
Due to its amazing location, San Sebastian will welcome you with warm beaches and gorgeous hill sides. Beach promenades and resorts are where you will spend most of your day here. Playa de la Concho beach is the absolute winner with locals and travelers alike.
The mountain views are mesmerizing and makes the list of one of the most beautiful places in Spain. You should take the funicular up to Monte Igueldo, to take in the views of La Concha Bay and San Sebastian.
If you love to hike, take the Monte Urgull route. Pack some warm clothes as it gets chilly up there. And when you head down, the warmth of the blue seas will engulf you.
Such a great mix landscape of warmth and cold, with great food.
Nearest Airport: San Sebastián Airport, Bilbao Airport (Distance from Barcelona – Barcelona to San Sebastián is 5.50 drive and train ride, one way).
Central Region – Most Beautiful Cities in Spain
The capital city of Spain is Madrid and it is located in the central region. And of course, we have to include Madrid amongst one of the best places in Spain. And here’s why.
Madrid’s historical past is equally fascinating like its northern and southern counterparts. The city’s original site was known from pre-historic times and was passed down from one dynasty to another, ultimately becoming the seat of the government and the constitutional monarchy in the modern times.
Madrid was the most impacted from the Spanish Civil War of the 20th century, but the way it uplifted itself from that devastation to a sprawling urban city is commendable. Madrid is ONE the largest economies of the European Union (after Paris and Berlin) and is considered as one of the most livable cities of the world.
Jobs, a better life and great living conditions pull tourists and interested residents to Madrid – today it is the third most populous city in the continent and the commercial hub of Southern Europe.
When you visit Madrid, you have to admire the richness of history as well as the modern amenities like solid good infrastructure and their beautiful buildings.
A visit to the Royal Palace of Madrid is a MUST – it is the largest palace by size, in the European continent. Guided tours are available to the palace. The monarch used to reside here, once upon a time but not anymore. Notable attractions in the city include the Cibeles Palace and fountains and the Plaza Mayor.
To learn about Spanish monarchy and the country’s history, visit one of the many museums in the city. Art museums are also popular in Madrid – the Golden Triangle of Art – steals the cake here. These are the three most important arts museum located in the Paseo del Prado area.
Madrid is also home to many theatres and arts. Stop by the Royal Theatre for a memorable evening.
Nearest airport: Madrid has an international airport, connecting it to the rest of the world – Madrid-Barajas Airport.
Toledo is another city located in the central region of Spain. Toledo’s landscape and history will take you eons away from the vibes of the capital city of Madrid. This ancient and medieval city was home to the Arabs, Jews and Christians.
Located on a hill top with a landscape to die for – Toledo is an amazing mix of city with history and nature. Toledo’s prized monument is the Alcazar of Toledo, which was built as a fortified defensive castle. The current complex was built as a royal palace by Emperor Carlos V on the remains of a former medieval castle.
The Toledo Cathedral is another attraction that shouldn’t be missed. The cathedral’s construction began in the 13th century and is considered as one of the finest examples of Gothic edifices in Europe.
If castles are your thing, you won’t be disappointed in Toledo. There is an Arab castle turn monastery called the Castle of San Servando in the city. This castle is open for travelers for stay.
Another must see attraction in Toledo are the Caves of Hercules. This site speaks volume of the rich historic past of the city. The Caves of Hercules were set up as a water tank and then a temple was erected by the Visigoths. Later on during the Moorish conquest, a mosque was built here.
Being a historic city, Toledo is filled with museums. The museum of Santa Cruz (provincial museum of history of dynasties, arts and industrial art), El Greco Museum (arts), Toledo and the Synagogue of El Transito (Rococo style architecture) are worth your time.
For the nature lover, Toledo brings in gorgeous landscape open to adventurers and hikers. Toledo also has the longest zip liner in Europe and offers romantic hot air balloon rides over the city.
Distance from Madrid: Toledo can be easily accessed via Madrid in one hour. Day tours from Madrid covers a return trip and exploring of the major attractions in the city. Book this one day tour of Toledo from Madrid.
Nearest Airport: Madrid-Barajas Airport
South of Spain – Most Beautiful Cities in Spain
Seville is one of the most beautiful places in Spain. Located in Andalucía, Seville is the largest city and the capital of the southern region of Spain. There are so many amazing things to see and do in Seville. Get the ultimate list of things to do in Seville Spain
Starting with the three UNESCO World Heritage Sites of Seville – the Reales Alcázares palace, the Seville Cathedral and the General Archive of the Indies and hidden gems like Tirana and other bohemian neighborhoods.
The Real Alcazar Palace is a beautiful Moorish and Christian palace with a stunning garden and fountains. The interiors of the palace are beautifully decorated in Islamic style of architecture. Seville Cathedral is located very close to the palace and a trip inside the church will reveal how it is so different and unique from other cathedrals.
Not to forget the church tower (which was a Muslim tower or minaret before).
Christopher Columbus remains are kept at the Seville Cathedral.
Although not a UNESCO site, but the Plaza de Espanya – a large pavilion built for the 1929 World Trade Fair is a MUST visit. You can easily spend hours here strolling and photographing the plaza. A lot of the things that you will see in Seville are a result of the World Trade Fairs and there are many pavilions in the city (1929 and 1992 fairs) that you can check out.
Andalusian tapas are the yummiest. To explore the city center area and learn more about Seville’s history, it is a great idea to go on a tapas tour that combines history and a lot of good food. Here is the tour that were invited to and we really enjoyed it – Spain Food Sherpas. Our guide was nice to answer all of our questions about Spain and Seville! Highly recommend it. (Disclosure: We were invited for the tapas tour. However, views and opinions about the tour are our own).
Nearest Airport: Seville Airport.
Granada is a beautiful city located in southern Spain in Andalusia. The entire city is filled with UNESCO World Heritage sites – there is no dearth of sightseeing spots here. Granada’s beauty is also enhanced due to the stunning Sierre Nevada Mountains.
La Alhambra is the jewel of Granada. It is a beautiful Moorish castle (larger than the one in Seville, which is a palace) adorned with ornate gardens and spectacular Moorish decorations inside. La Alhambra stands on a fortified hill top and when you head to the helm of the Alhambra, you are greeted with incredible views of the entire city of Granada.
With the backdrop of the Sierra Nevada and the Moorish castles, you will easily want to stay here for long. La Alhambra is not only one of the most beautiful places in Spain, but in Europe.
The Granada Cathedral or the Cathedral of the Incarnation is the central seat of archbishop in Granada. The entire complex is stunningly beautiful and is quite spread out. The ornate designs inside the cathedral will keep you hooked.
Located close to the Granada Cathedral is the Royal Chapel of Granada. This is the burial site of Isabella I and her husband Ferdinand II, King of Spain.
Granada was the capital of Moorish Andalusia and their influence is evident from the city’s architecture. Take the Palacio de Generalife for example, which is a sprawling garden complex where the Muslim royalty used to spend their summers. Visit this place in the late afternoon for a relaxing stroll.
For a memorable evening in Granada, the city’s most famous viewpoint shouldn’t be missed – Mirador de San Nicolas. You can watch the sun go down on this beautiful city and the mountains (watch out for your belongings here, as it is very touristy and is an easy target for pick pockets)
Just like Seville, go tapas hopping in Granada.
Nearest Airport: Málaga is the closest international airport to Granada. (You can explore Granada in a day with all the above highlights or in a day tour from Seville. Check out this day tour to Granada here).
Córdoba is yet another stunning city in Andalusian Spain. For centuries, Córdoba has been a shining example of peaceful existence of many culture, particularly of the Muslims, Jews and Christians.
As a city Córdoba can be easily explored in a day. The prime attraction – La Mesquita de Córdoba is the largest mosque in the world. It was the seat of Spain’s Islamic rulers for a long time. La Mesquite was founded as a mosque and later turned into a church. It is a fine example of how multi-cultured city should look like, with religious structures hand in hand.
Córdoba’s Jewish quarters are well preserved and they will give you an instant postcard shot with white washed lanes and houses with pretty blue pots.
The old town of Córdoba is also stunning with colorful streets and intricate architectural buildings, making it one of the most beautiful places in Spain to visit. A beautiful Roman Bridge will welcome you to the old town.
The Palacio de Viana is a popular Renaissance palace with stunning patios – this is an awesome photo spot in Córdoba as well.
With so much history, there is one more important chapter of world history that happened here – Christopher Columbus received support from Isabella and Fernando, the Spanish monarchs here in Cordova for his sea journey.
Nearest Airport: Seville and Malaga
Distance from: Seville to Cordoba is 30 minutes and Malaga is 50 minutes.
Canary Islands is an archipelago of 7 Spanish islands located in the north west of Africa. There are many things to see in the Canary Islands and each island is special with its unique landscape and nature.
Tenerife is the largest of the Canary Islands with amazing panoramic views. It is home to black sand beaches that are a result of eruption of Mt Teide volcanic ash. This lovely beach town is known for its vibrant night life and it hosts the Santa Cruz de Tenerife festival each year (pre-Lent Carnival).
Gran Canaria is another beautiful island in the Canary Islands. The town is sprinkled with colorful houses and gorgeous landscape and beaches. Hikers would love to try new ground here at Gran Canaria.
Another popular spot in the Canary Islands is Lanzarote. Lanzarote is a perfect beach holiday for families. Together with the beauty of other islands, Lanzarote stands out due to the Timanfaya National Park. This park is located in the southwestern part of island of Lanzarote.
The island comprises of volcanic landscape with geysers and is also a gastronomic heaven.
Nearest Airport: Las Palmas Gran Canaria Airport
Ronda is another Andalusian city which comes packed with a ton of history, legendary stories and gorgeous landscape. Ronda’s highlight is the historic arch bridge that connects the old and new town, called the Puente Nuevo.
Legend has it that the gods split this town as a punishment due to the on-going battles in the region. This town has a unique landscape where a deep gorge splits the city into two parts. The gorge is called the El Tajo and the Puente Nuevo sits beautifully on top of it.
The new bridge or the Puente Nuevo took 40 years to complete (18th century) and offers some of the stunning views of this mountaintop city. This bridge was created to support other 2 existing bridges over the gorge, namely Puente Viejo or Old Bridge (17th century) and Puente Romano (9th-15th century).
The bridge and the El Tajo views from above is best explored on foot.
Ronda is also home to bullfighting and the city has one of the largest bullrings – Bullring of the Royal Cavalry, Ronda.
Other attractions in Ronda include many natural caves and canyons like the Cueva del Gato and Guadalevin. Ronda is also home a palace of hanging gardens and a water mine called the La Casa del Rey Moro.
To explore Ronda’s highlights you can take a day tour from any of the popular southern cities. Ronda is geographically located in the province of Malaga. Here is a day tour from Seville to Ronda.
Nearest airport: The nearest airport to Ronda is Malaga Airport which is 60.7 km away.
Valencia is a colorful port city located in the south eastern part of Spain and one of the most beautiful cities in Spain. Valencia’s Turia River meets the Mediterranean Sea, which makes it a historically important meeting place for traders.
The Silk Exchange or the La Lonja de la Seda is a 15th century UNESCO World Heritage site, which is a testimony to Valencia’s Golden period. The building is a fine example of grand Gothic architecture. This is where traders from all over the world came to Valencia via the Mediterranean.
Right opposite to the Silk Exchange is the central market of Valencia. Central Market of Valencia is the hauntingly beautiful art nouveau metal and glass creation (for a covered marketplace).
Valencia Cathedral is another historic building that must be added to your sightseeing in the city. This Gothic Cathedral dates back to the 13th and 14th centuries. One of the popular yet controversial item in the cathedral complex is the altar of the Chapel of the Holy Chalice, which is said belong to the 4th century BC and used by Jesus in his last supper.
Apart from historical remnants, today Valencia is known for its pristine beaches, carnivals and the unique City of Arts and Sciences.
The City of Arts and Sciences is a recent addition and development to the city and it boasts of a larger than life complex with a planetarium, oceanarium, movie halls and a botanical garden. The Oceanografic is one of the amazing things to experience in Valencia’s City of Arts and Sciences.
Nearest Airport: Castellon de la Plana airport (93 km)
Alicante & Pink Lake
Alicante is a port city located in south-eastern Spain. Located in Costa Blanca coastal area, Alicante is blessed with an amazing weather and the Mediterranean Sea side. The houses in Alicante are the prettiest with white washed walls and colorful flower pots.
Alicante brings in coastal awesomeness, with a ton of history. The city’s prime historical monument is the Castle of Santa Barbara that towers from the Benacantil Mountain. There are many historical remnants in the old town of Alicante, so set aside some strolling time.
There are arts and archeological museums in the city that are worth adding to your Alicante trip as well.
However, the biggest pride of Alicante lies in their beach-y town vibes, and a walk at the Explanada de Espanya explains it. This stunning marble promenade will take you from the old town to the marina.
Also located near the old town, is a nice well serviced Postiguet Beach – see you don’t have to go too far for a beach day out.
Alicante is a great place for a relaxed romantic getaway, with a medieval town vibe. If you are staying in Alicante for a couple of days, it is worth driving to the Pink Lake of Torrevieja, which is only an hour away from the city (one way).
Pink Lake of Torrevieja is a pink lake and the landscape is stunning with salt beds around. The beauty of the pink lakes makes it a unique and one of the most beautiful places in Spain.
How to get to Alicante : Alicante Airport or Alicante-Elche Airport
We hope you enjoyed our list of hidden gems and the most beautiful places in Spain. We hope to add more items to this bucket list as we continue our exploration into the Iberian Peninsula!
Read the following posts on Spain and Europe Travel Planning and Tips
- 2-3 days in Seville Itinerary suggestions
- Guide to Tapas in Seville Spain
- Guide to planning your trip to Europe
- Europe in one week – Sample Itineraries
- Best Winter Destinations to visit in Europe
- Get the ultimate Packing list for Europe
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Late Update: October 24 2019