Planning a trip to Spain can be difficult because there are so many places to see. Spain is home to some of the most beautiful cities in Europe and (at the moment of writing this article), 48 UNESCO World Heritage Sites. So, if you’re looking for some places to add to your Spain bucket list, you’re at the right place. Choosing the best of Spain was very difficult but we finally managed to compile a list of the top 85 attractions in Spain you should see before you die.
But first, let’s share a few…
Helpful Resources For Visiting Spain
In the past, we have extensively covered many different destinations in Spain and if you’re planning a trip to Spain, you may want to check out our regional guides to Spain- our Northern Spain itinerary, this Southern Spain itinerary, and last but not least, the ultimate guide to exploring Spain’s east coast. We have also covered some of Spain’s best hidden gems and the most underrated cities in Spain.
If you’re traveling in Spain alone, make sure to also check out our solo travel guide to Spain. Finally, if you want to learn a few more things about Spain before visiting, check out these fascinating facts about Spain.
If you’re looking to save on your flight to Spain, use our Qatar Airways referral to get up to 10% off on your flight.
If you’re thinking about renting a car in Spain (in my opinion, the best way to explore the country), use this special discount coupon to get 15% off on all car rentals in Spain. By using this link, you can also compare the prices of many different dealers to make sure that you’re always getting the best price.
If you’re looking to save on accommodation in Spain, use our Booking.com referral to get up to 20% off on all booking.com properties in Spain.
Last but not least, don’t forget about travel insurance. My personal go-to choice for travel insurance is World Nomads. They’re slightly more expensive than most other travel insurance providers on the market but their plans have you covered in case of many more different unpredictable situations that might happen to you on the road. And after all, this is why we get travel insurance- to remain protected in case something goes wrong, which unfortunately many travel insurance providers don’t offer in their plans. So, if you agree that it’s better to be safe than sorry, World Nomads should be your first choice.
With that being said, let’s get to the actual Spain bucket list!
Go Diving In the Medes Islands Natural Marine Reserve
We’re starting off this Spain bucket list with snorkelling in the Medes Islands Natural Marine Reserve. Situated in the heart of the Costa Brava, The Medes Islands is a protected nature and marine reserve that consists of seven islets in the northwestern Mediterranean Sea. The islands are famous for the significant amount of marine biodiversity in the waters off the islands that includes sea bass, groupers, scorpionfish, zebra seabreams, common stingrays, red mullets, starfish, sea urchins, red corals, and sponges.
Because of the rich marine life, the area is one of the best diving sites in Spain but having in mind the area’s protected status, the local authorities have decided to introduce special diving permits to control the number of divers in attempts to preserve the marine park.
Admire Contemporary Art The Guggenheim Museum In Bilbao
Even though not as old as some of the other museums on this list, the Guggenheim Museum has become a symbol of the city of Bilbao and arguably the most fascinating museum of modern and contemporary art in Spain. The museum has an unusual, recognizable shape and it stands out alongside the Nervion River. The museum features hundreds of permanent and visiting exhibits made by Spanish and international artists and is visited by millions of people from around the world every year.
If you would like to visit the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, I warmly recommend this skip-the-line tour (the queues in front of the museum more often than not get very long).
Be Enchanted In Oma
Located an hour’s drive away from Bilbao, the Enchanted Forest of Oma is a magical work of art hidden in the Udaibai Biosphere Reserve (a UNESCO-protected site). The open-air art gallery was created by Augustina Ibarrola who combined Paleolithic techniques of rock painting and land art to create shapes that change as you move and change your viewing point. The trail leading to the forest is called Bosque Animado de Oma and is accessible from the Lezika parking lot.
Enjoy The Coastal Landscapes Of San Juan De Gaztelugatxe
If you’re planning a Northern Spain road trip, San Juan de Gaztelugatxe is a must. Located around a 45-minute drive away from Bilbao, Gaztelugatxe was one of Spain’s best-kept secrets until it was featured in HBO’s Game Of Thrones, representing the fictional fort of Dragonstone. Gaztelugatxe is actually an important historic site in real life too. The stone footbridge and the monastery the bridge leads to are at least 1,000 years old. The hike to the monastery is amazing and the landscapes you’ll see along the way are nothing short of spectacular.
See The First European Cave Paintings In The Cave Of Altamira
This cave complex near the historic town of Santillana del Mar is worldwide-renowned for its prehistoric parietal cave art that features polychrome paintings and charcoal drawings of human hands and local fauna. The site was discovered in 1868 and extensive research has proven that the drawings are at least 36,000 years old and are the first European cave paintings. Therefore, it’s no wonder that the cave is a UNESCO World Heritage Site (one of Spain’s 48).
Update: Unfortunately, the cave is no longer open to visitors due to conservation reasons but there are a few replicas of a section at the site.
Try The Food In San Sebastian
Now, saying that San Sebastian is known only for food would not do justice to the city. San Sebastian has a little bit of everything- fascinating historical sites, vibrant cultural landmarks, beautiful beaches, and magnificent nature but the city is best known for being the culinary capital of Spain and one of the best food destinations in Europe. Hence, it’s no wonder that the city has become an absolute favorite among foodies from around the world. San Sebastian has 11 Michelin-star restaurants (0.18 per square mile which makes it one of the leading cities in Europe in this category), a plethora of fine dining options, and of course, fantastic street food.
Go Skiing In The Pyrenees
Most people associate Spain with hot weather, fiestas, beaches, and Mediterranean vibes but the Spanish Pyrenees are actually home to some of the best winter destinations in Europe. Now, Spain’s skiing destinations might not be as famous as the ones in France, Italy, Switzerland, and Austria but Spain still has a lot to offer and is a lot cheaper! Spain’s largest ski resort is Baqueira Beret (167 km of ski slopes) but Formigal (176 km of ski slopes) is also very nice.
Visit UNESCO-Listed Living Museum
Spanish people often jokingly refer to the city as The Town of Three Lies because it’s neither a saint (Santo), it’s not flat (llana), nor is it by the sea (Mar) as implied by its name. However, that doesn’t mean that the town doesn’t have anything to offer. Santillana del Mar has another nickname- “the jewel of Cantabria”, and this is not an exaggeration. The town, although small is a living museum of historical sites, Medieval architecture, Romanesque monuments, and charming cobbled streets.
Discover Spain’s Best Kept Secret- Asturias
Asturias is a beautiful principality in a mountainous setting with endless stretches of vast greenery and lush vegetation. The region is located in the heart of Green Spain, a lush natural region in the northern part of the country. In the northern part of the region, you’ll find a beautiful coast dotted with greenery and charming fishing villages, and some of the tastiest seafood in this part of Spain. Asturias is also home to several prehistoric caves, as well as Medieval castles, palaces, and other important historical sites.
Hike Picos De Europa National Park
Picos de Europa is one of Spain’s first and most iconic national parks. If you are an avid hiker, it’s safe to assume that you’ll have a great time here. Picos de Europa has hundreds of hiking trails (from easy to difficult ones) and a plethora of rock climbing opportunities. The total area of the park is 671 km² and is shared by three principalities- Asturias, Cantabria, and Castilla y León. If you’re in a good shape and are feeling adventuristic, you might even try to conquer the highest peak in the park is Torre de Cerredo, sitting at 2,648 above sea level.
Walk The Camino de Santiago
If you’re looking for a spiritual journey or you just want to complete the world’s longest pilgrimage walk, you should definitely add walking the Camino de Santiago to your Spain bucket list. The walk follows the footsteps of St. James the Apostle and covers more than 500 miles and takes roughly one month to complete the journey. The journey starts at the picturesque village of St. Jean Pied-du-Port in France, goes through mountains, rolling hills, and scenic plains until you finally reach the city of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia, speaking of which…
Visit The Remains Of St. James The Apostle
Santiago de Compostela is an important historical city, the capital of the Galicia region, and the culmination point of the iconic pilgrimage walk, Camino de Santiago (more about this below). The city also houses the remains of the Biblical apostle St. James, consecrated in 1211. Needless to say, the highlight of visiting Santiago de Compostela is the Old Town, home to a handful of important historical buildings and a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1985.
If you would like to visit the cathedral, I warmly recommend this amazing guided tour.
Find The Monastery Where The First Castillan Writing Was Written
Located in a 19-hectares area with a buffer zone in the hills of La Rioja, the San Millán Yuso and Suso monasteries are fascinating Medieval monasteries whose architecture combines elements of Visigothic, Moorish, Baroque, and Renaissance styles. The complex was founded by St. Millán in the 6th century and has since become an important pilgrimage site. Another reason why this monastery complex is very important for Spain is the fact that the first literature ever written in Castillian came out of this complex. Unsurprisingly, both monasteries are part of UNESCO’s World Heritage list.
Discover The Secret Fishing Village Cudillero
Cudillero is one place you might not expect to find on a Spain bucket list. Honestly, I’d be surprised if you even know about it because it’s still somewhat of a hidden gem. Cudillero is a charming fishing village in the Asturias region, located 45 minutes away from Oviedo. The town doesn’t lie on any major roads but it’s definitely worth taking a quick detour. Cudillero is a coastal village completely surrounded by hills and with contrasting landscapes of blue sea, colorful houses, and terra cotta roofs. According to locals, every house in the village matches the color of its owner’s fishing boat.
See The World’s Oldest Existing Lighthouse
Located near the center of A Coruña in Galicia (north-western Spain), The Tower Of Hercules is the oldest existing lighthouse in the world. The lighthouse has an ancient Roman origin and throughout most of history, it was known as Farum Brigantium, loosely translating to the Lighthouse of Alexandria. The tower is 55 meters tall and offers some of the most scenic views of Spain’s North Atlantic Coast.
See How It Feels Like To Be Buried Alive
You might have heard about some of Spain’s crazy festivals, but none compare to La Fiesta de Santa Marta de Ribarteme. This festival takes place every year in the town of Las Nieves in the part of Galicia that has been historically famous for paganism and witchcraft. Locals celebrate the festival by putting alive people who had a near-death experience recently in a coffin and carrying them through the city to the cemetery. It looks bizarre, but it’s one of the most popular festivals in town and low-key a great way to appreciate and celebrate being alive.
Relax At An Uninhabited Island
Off the coast of Galicia, you’ll find one of the most beautiful untouched islands in Spain and Europe that just need to be a part of your Spain bucket list. Cies Island is an uninhabited island and the only way to reach it is by ferry using the passenger transport ferries that
operate in and around the Ría de Vigo. If you decide to visit, please note that the ferry capacity and the number of ferries in a day are limited and therefore, it’s recommendable that you book your ticket in advance. If you want to spend the night on the island, you’ll need to apply for a camping permit (and the number of permits issued is also limited due to conservation efforts).
Sip Wine In The Rioja Region
With more than 1,000 wineries to choose from, La Rioja is probably Spain’s most popular wine region. In addition to some of the tastiest wine in Spain, La Rioja also offers plenty of amazing culinary experiences (like cheese-making) and there are plenty of tours that you can take where you can not only try local wine and delicious food but also learn about the winemaking process and regional culture as well as history.
Admire The Fascinating Burgos Cathedral
The Cathedral of Saint Mary of Burgos is a cathedral devoted to the Virgin Mary and an irreplaceable landmark of the city of Burgos. The construction of the church began in 1221 and it took close to 400 years to complete. Today, the cathedral is one of the most beautiful flamboyant Gothic cathedrals in Europe and inside it, you’ll find some extraordinary pieces of art from many famous Spanish artists but the most impressive thing about the cathedral is the façade that consists of three stories topped by two lateral square bell towers.
The cathedral has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984 and is the only Spanish cathedral on the list that’s listed independently, without being joined to the historic center of a city or in a union with other buildings.
See The Iconic León Cathedral
The León Cathedral is the episcopal seat of the diocese of León and the most famous landmark of the homonymous city. This cathedral was the first monument declared by the Royal Order of Spain on August 28, 1844. The cathedral was built in the 13th century and is an important stop on the Camino de Santiago. Another thing the cathedral is famous for is for taking the “dematerialization” of gothic art to the extreme in which walls are reduced to the bare minimum and are replaced by stained glass. The cathedral actually has one of the largest collections of Medieval stained glass in the world.
Try To Find Don Quixote’s Infamous Windmills
If you read Don Quixote, you’re probably familiar with the windmills of Castilla La Mancha. This is one of Spain’s largest and yet least frequented regions but don’t let this fool you- this is probably the part of Spain where you can get a most accurate representation of traditional Spain at its finest. There are dozens of old windmills across the region but probably the most famous ones are the windmills of Consuegra. The town is also home to a medieval castle and a few other important historic buildings.
Visit The First Church Dedicated To Mary In History
The Cathedral-Basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar is one of the main landmarks of Zaragoza and the world’s first church dedicated to Mother Mary. The site where the cathedral was built was consecrated in the first century and was supposedly visited by St. James the Apostle who is believed to have brought Christianity to the country. The cathedral itself, however, was built in the 17th century. Needless to say, this cathedral has an important historic significance and is, therefore, regularly visited by Spanish kings.
Explore The World’s Largest Unfinished Basilica
When someone mentions Barcelona, La Sagrada Familia is one of the first things that comes to mind. The basilica is arguably the most prominent architectural masterpiece of Antoni Gaudi, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and one of Barcelona’s most popular landmarks. La Sagrada Familia is also famous for being the world’s largest unfinished basilica. The basilica was roughly quarter-way done when Gaudi passed and construction is still taking place even today. Looking at its marvelous appearance and the complexity of the initial design, it’s no wonder that the basilica is taking this long to be completed.
See The Sunset From Park Guell
Park Guell is another one of Gaudi’s architectural masterpieces in Barcelona. As its name suggests, Park Guell is a public park composed of beautiful architectural elements that also happen to be one of the largest green surfaces in Barcelona. One of my personal favorite things about Park Guell are the sunsets. Words do little justice to the beautiful landscapes that are formed in front of your eyes as the sun sets over Barcelona reflecting from the colorful buildings in the park that tower over the beautiful green surface…
Explore The National Museum of Art of Catalonia
Barcelona’s National Museum of Art is home to the world’s finest collection of Romanesque mural paintings, modern art, sculptures, and some photography. The museum features work from worldwide famous artists, such as Casas, Gaudi, Velasquez, Tiziano, and many others. In addition to the magnificent Romanesque collection, the museum is also home to an impressive Gothic art collection from the period between the 13th and 15th centuries.
Looking for more interesting places to visit in Barcelona? Check out our list of hidden gems in Barcelona.
Discover A Beautiful Benedictine Monk Mountain Retreat
Located an hour’s drive away from Barcelona, Montserrat is one of the most interesting landmarks in Catalonia and a place you should definitely add to your Spain bucket list. Montserrat is a multi-peaked mountain range near Barcelona and a part of the Catalan Pre-Coastal Range. The mountain range is also home to the Abbey of Montserrat, a picturesque monastery that was built by Benedictine monks more than 1,000 years ago. The museum is notable for enshrining the image of the Virgin of Montserrat but inside you can also find some other rare, beautiful paintings by Dali, Picasso, and El Greco.
Check Out The Roman Amphitheatre Of Tarragona
If you’re a history buff, the Roman Amphitheatre of Tarragona definitely deserves a spot on your Spain bucket list. The amphitheater was erected in the 2nd century AD close to the city forum and in its heyday, could house up to 15,000 spectators. The amphitheater was serving its original function until Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire but it managed to survive not only the fall of the Empire but also the Moorish invasions, Medieval wars, as well as the civil war and is still proudly standing today as one of Tarragona’s most famous landmarks.
Visit The Incredibly Unique Dali Museum In Figueres
Dalí Theatre and Museum is a quirky museum dedicated to Salvador Dali located in his hometown- Figueres in Catalonia. The museum is also home to the remains of Salvador Dali, which are located in a crypt below the museum’s stage. Figueres is a small town that you might not visit otherwise but the Dali Theatre and Museum is definitely worth taking a quick detour. With more than 1.3 million visitors every year, the museum is the main driver of tourism in the small town.
Visit The Spanish City Of The Sea
The beautiful coastal town of Peniscola in the Castellon Province is one of Spain’s most beautiful coastal towns. Because of its beautiful, postcard-quality landscapes decorated with whitewashed buildings that look like they’re floating above the sea from afar, the town is nicknamed “city in the sea”. Peniscola is also famous for its charming cobbled streets, beautiful beaches, unique shops, and of course, its historic old town.
Sunbathe At The Beaches Of Mallorca
Mallorca is the largest island in the Balearic Islands located in the Mediterranean. This is one of the most popular summer destinations in Spain and if beaches are your thing, visiting Mallorca should definitely be a part of your Spain bucket list. In addition to beautiful beaches, Mallorca is also home to the Serra de Tramuntana Mountain which was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2011.
Party At The World’s Largest Club
If you know anything about Spanish culture, you know they’re all about that fiesta and that they love to party. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that Spain is home to the largest club in the world. The club Privilege was founded in the 1970s in Ibiza as a small bar but today, it has a capacity of more than 10,000 guests and according to the Guinness Book of Records, it is the world’s largest club.
Walk Avila’s Medieval Walls
The Medieval town of Avila is another UNESCO-listed town that should be a part of your Spain bucket list. Nicknamed “The Town of Stones and Saints” for its fascinating architecture and religious sites, Avila rivals Toledo (more about it below) as Spain’s most beautiful walled city.
The city is also known as Ávila de los Caballeros (Avila of the knights), Ávila del Rey (Avila of the king), and Ávila de los Leales (Avila of the loyal ones)- the three epithets that can be seen on the town’s coat of arms. Famous writer José Martínez Ruiz gives a rather accurate description of the city in his El alma Castellana (“The Castilian Soul”, Castilla being the province in which the town is located) as ), “perhaps the most 16th-century town in Spain”.
Are you planning to visit Avila? Then you may want to consider this private walking tour of Avila.
Visit One Of The Oldest Cities In Europe
Located an hour north of Madrid, Segovia is one of the oldest cities in Europe. The city lies in the Inner Plateau, near the confluence of the Eresma and Clamores rivers. Segovia is famous for its historical sites, especially its three main landmarks, the Roman aqueduct, the town’s cathedral, and the Alzacar de Segovia; a castle that served as inspiration for Disney’s Cinderella Castle. In addition to this, the entire central area of the city has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1985.
If you’re looking for a great guided tour that covers the city highlights, check out this Segovia walking tour.
Explore Spain’s Main Art Museum
When visiting Madrid, there are a lot of amazing places you might want to visit but the Prado Museum should definitely be on the top of your list. After all, this is the most famous museum in the country and if you’re into art, you just have to add this museum to your Spain bucket list. The museum houses one of the most impressive art collections in the world. Here, you’ll find fascinating samples of art from all corners of Europe from the period between the 12th and 20th centuries. Among others, you can admire the work of legendary painters, such as Goya, Rubens, El Greco, Velasquez, Bosch, and many others.
If you’re planning to visit, please note that the museum gets thousands of visitors every day and it might be a good idea to go for a skip-the-line guided tour.
Visit The Picasso Museum in Madrid
After the Prado Museum, the Picasso Museum is probably the second-most popular museum in Madrid. The Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia is dedicated to the life and work of Pablo Picasso and houses more than 35,000 pieces of art from this legendary Spanish artist and some artwork from his fellow colleague, Salvador Dali.
See The World’s Largest Royal Palace That’s Still In Use
Covering an area of 135,000 m2 of floor space and 3,418 rooms, the Royal Palace of Madrid is the world’s largest royal palace that’s still in use. With exception of state functions, the palace is open to visitors throughout most of the year. The palace was built on the site of a bygone Muslim-era fort constructed in the 9th century but it was burned down in 1734 after which it was reconstructed and got its current appearance. The interior features a lot of luxurious elements and paintings and frescoes from some of Spain’s most famous artists, including Caravaggio, de Flandes, de Goya, and many others.
If you’re thinking of visiting the Royal Palace, this skip-the-line guided tour is a great choice.
Dine At The World’s Oldest Restaurant
Dining in the oldest restaurant in the world is one of the most unique experiences you can find in Spain. Founded in 1725, Sobrino de Botin is the oldest functioning restaurant in the world. The food is amazing, prepared in an old-fashioned traditional way and the ambiance is just exquisite. Throughout the years, the restaurant has been visited by many famous people including European royalties, writer Ernest Hemingway, and many famous Spanish artists like Dali, De Goya, etc. There’s even a rumor that de Goya was waiting tables and washing dishes here before he became famous.
See The Hanging Houses Of Cuenca
If you like visiting underrated cities with fascinating history, interesting landmarks, and beautiful landscapes, you should definitely add Cuenca to your Spain bucket list. The entire walled town of Cuenca is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site but the city is probably best known for its hanging houses built on top of the hanging rocks that overlook the beautiful Hecar River gorge. Some other interesting things to see in Cuenca feature the beautiful Gothic Cathedral, the picturesque Saint Paul Bridge, the city’s ancient walls, and the vibrant Plaza Mayor.
Roam Around The Home Of The Royal Family
Built between 1563 and 1584, the Royal Site of San Lorenzo de El Escorial is a historical residence of the King of Spain. El Escorial is the largest Renaissance building in the world and today, it functions as a basilica, monastery, royal palace, museum, library, pantheon, university, school, and a hospital. Historically, this monastery-palace-university has been the symbol of Spanish glory and resistance to Protestanism. Inside the Royal Site, you can find the royal crypto, two museums, and the Patio of the Gospels.
Since there are so many things to see around, it’s recommended that you book a guided tour of the Royal site, unless, of course, you’re already well familiar with the history and interior of the building.
Explore The Historic City of Toledo
Toledo is a charming town that’s home to the government and parliament of the autonomous community of Castilla-La Mancha. The entire city is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and as soon as you set foot in Toledo, you’ll understand why. The town is also known as “Imperial City” because it housed the court of Charles V, the Holy Roman Emperor in Spain and some people also call the town “City of the three cultures” for the cultural influences of Christians, Jews, and Muslims that’s reflected in the city’s history, culture, and architecture.
If you’re looking to visit Toledo and make the most out of your money, I recommend this Toledo walking tour with a tourist wristband access pass.
Discover The Archaeological Ensemble of Mérida
Located in the province of Extremadura, the archaeological ensemble of Merida originates from 25th B.C. when emperor Augustus completed the conquest of Hispania and founded the colony of Augusta Emerita. The city was designed to be an idealized model of Rome and for years served as the capital of Lusitania (the western-most province of the Roman Empire).
The modern city of Merida was built on top of the ancient remains of Emerita but most of the archaeological remains are still well preserved. The ancient site stretches across 31 hectares and it features amphitheater remnants, the old Forum, a few old bridges and wastewater systems, and some religious buildings like the Temple of Diana.
Visit A Beautiful Hidden Town Lying On A Steep Cliff
Sitting at the foot of the western slope of the Sierra de Cazorla, Cazorla is a small but beautiful Spanish town that doesn’t get nearly enough attention as it should. The town is completely surrounded by nature from all sides and serves as an entry point to two national parks- the Natural Park of Sierras de Cazorla and the largest protected park in Spain- Segura y Las Villas Natural Park that stretches across 200,000 hectares of vast greenery. In addition to this, the town is also home to three historical squares and an austere Moorish Castle that towers over the city off a steep cliff which will definitely make some great, postcard-worthy photos.
Experience The Magical Atmosphere Of Andalusia’s White Towns
Cadiz is home to the largest and most important port in southwestern Spain and the capital of the homonymous province. Cadiz is an important historical city and one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities on the continent but it also boasts a marvelous coastline and beautiful beaches, There are a lot of exciting things to see in Cadiz but if you have to choose one thing in Cadiz that’s worth adding to your Spain bucket list, I would say that’s Los Pueblo Blancos De Cadiz.
The route of the White Towns of Cadiz is one of the most beautiful routes in Andalusia that passes through 19 villages with whitewashed buildings that were initially painted white to keep the houses cool during the scorching hot summers but throughout the years, this white color became a symbol of the region that soon became one of the most scenic routes in the south of Spain.
Check Out The World’s Olive Oil Capital
The city of Jaen in Andalusia is often deservingly referred to as the Olive oil capital of the world. The Jaen region has 550,000 hectares of olives that cover one-quarter of Spain’s total olive grove surface, 45% of the nation’s olive oil production, and 20% of the world’s total olive oil supply.
In addition to being the world’s olive oil capital, Jaen is also an amazing culinary hub, the city hosts a few very important cultural festivals like Feria de San Lucas and Romeria de Santa Catalina, and it’s home to a handful of important historic castles and cathedrals. More than enough to add Jaen to your Spain bucket list, wouldn’t you agree?
If you’re looking for a great tour of the city, check out this walking tour that covers most of Jaen’s highlights.
Admire The Iconic City Of Arts And Sciences in Valencia
Valencia is a coastal city on the east coast of Spain, the third-largest city in the country, and an important regional hub since Roman times. The City of Arts and Sciences is one of Valencia’s most iconic landmarks and a worthy addition to everyone’s Spain bucket list.
The complex consists of five buildings, a few bridges, and a tower. L’Hermisferic (one of the five buildings) features mind-blowing 3D projections, El Palau de les Arts Reina Sofia features one of Europe’s largest theaters, El Museu de les Ciencies- some hands-on science experiments, the Oceanográfico is the longest underwater tunnel in Europe, and the last but not least, The Umbracle is a scenic sculpture garden decorated with plant species indigenous to the Valencia province.
Book your skip-the-line entrance ticket to the City of Arts and Sciences here.
If you’re looking to visit some less-frequented sites in Valencia, make sure to check out our list of hidden gems in Valencia.
See The Holy Grail?
The quest for the Holy Grail is one of the world’s most popular unsolved mysteries and there are many different places around the world that claim to be home to the Holy Grail. One of those places is the Cathedral of Valencia and even the Vatican thinks that the Cathedral of Valencia has one of the strongest claims when it comes to housing the Holy Grail. The artifact is kept inside a cove in the wall of the chapel serving as a focal point in the praying room.
If you want to read more about this topic, make sure to check out our article about the Holy Grail and the claim of the Valencia Cathedral.
Try Paella and Orxata De Xufa In Valencia
If you’re going to visit Valencia, you really shouldn’t leave before trying the city’s most popular dish and most popular drink. Paella is an iconic dish that consists of rice, chicken, rabbit, vegetables, and saffron that’s considered to be Spain’s national dish by many Non-Spaniards (it’s not clear how paella became one of the most popular Spanish dishes abroad) while most Spaniards consider it as a dish characteristic for the Valencia region.
Orxata de xufa is a very popular plant-based beverage made with soaked, ground, and sweetened tiger nuts that’s typically consumed with breakfast or light snacks.
If you would like to get more familiar with local cuisine in Valencia, you may consider checking out this incredible food tour.
Take A Dip In The Montanejos Hot Springs In Valencia
If you like getting off the beaten track and exploring pristine destinations that most tourists are not aware of, you should definitely consider visiting the Montanejos hot springs. Located roughly 90 kilometers north of Valencia, the hot springs are one of the favorite getaways for locals looking to avoid the tourist crowds in Valencia. The springs are surrounded by mountains from all sides, which means avid hikers will find plenty of scenic and relatively unfrequented hiking trails.
Another reason why you should consider adding the Montanejos Springs to your Spain bucket list is the supposedly healing nature of the water in the springs. The water is known to have rejuvenating effects on one’s skin due to the abundant presence of essential minerals.
Participate In The World’s Largest Tomato Fight
La Tomatina is a festival that proudly claims to be the world’s largest tomato fight. This quirky tradition started after WWII unofficially as a joke but it managed to survive for over 80 years and the festival still takes place every year in the town of Bunol. It’s around this time of the year when thousands of people from different corners of the world come to the small town to participate and locals use plastic sheets and covers to protect their houses from the carnage that’s about to take place.
The festival has been criticized in the past for wasting food while people in different parts of the world are starving but the truth is, most of the tomatoes used for the festival are already rotten and don’t fulfill the criteria demanded to make it to most countries’ store shelves.
Go Diving In Calpe & Explore Parque Natural Penyal D’Ifac
Calpe is a beautiful coastal town in Alicante that lies at the foot of Penyal D’Ifac Natural Park. Due to its strategic location, Calpe has always been an important regional hub which is why even today, you’ll find some interesting historical places like the Gothic Catholic church, the 18th-century tower of La Peça, the queen’s baths, and a handful of other archaeological sites.
However, Calpe’s greatest treasures lie beneath its waters. With labyrinths of rock arches, colorful coral tunnels, and an abundance of sea life (lobsters, barracudas, damselfish, bream, etc.), Calpe is one of the top diving destinations in Spain. And if none of this is enough to satisfy your adventurist spirit, the Natural Park of Penyal D’Ifac is only a short walk away.
Discover The Historic Town Of Cartagena
Located in the southeast of Spain, Cartagena is a beautiful historic coastal town that has been continuously inhabited since the golden age of Carthage (it was founded by Hasdrubal the Fair more than 2,000 years ago). Not only did Cartagena outlive Carthage and the Roman Empire, but it also survived the Umayyad invasion of Hispania and even managed to become an important local hub during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance.
Some of the town’s most famous sites feature the ancient amphitheater (second-largest in Spain, falling behind only the one in Merida mentioned above), the Byzantine rampart, The Concepción Castle, as well as an abundance of Phoenician, Roman, and Moorish remains and a myriad of Art Nouveau buildings.
For a tour that covers the main historic sites in Cartagena, check out this page.
Check Out A Spanish Cave Town
The cathedral town of Guadix is a charming, off-the-beaten-track destination in southern Andalusia. Guadix lies roughly 45 minutes away from Granada and is famous for its house caves known as “Cuevas” in which the town’s inhabitants live in. The town lies in the northern foothills of the Sierra Nevada and its white Cuevas towering above the dry, desert-like foothills makeup one of the most unforgettable landscapes in all of Spain.
In addition to this, Guadix is also famous for its beautiful cathedral (Guadix Cathedral) and the old Moorish fortress (Alcazaba) that’s in surprisingly good condition.
Discover Spain’s Stonehenge
Located in the heart of Andalusia the Antequera megaliths are one of the country’s most important historic landmarks. The site is also known as Spain’s Stonehenge during its slight similarity with its Brtish counterpart. This landmark consists of three megalithic monuments- monuments- the Menga dolmen, the Viera dolmen, and the Tholos El Romeral. These three landmarks were erected during the Neolithic and Bronze Age buried beneath their original earth tumuli which means they were likely tombs and this makes these remains one of the most remarkable architectural works of European prehistory.
If you’re open to suggestions, I recommend you consider this guided tour of Antequera’s megaliths.
Admire Sierra Nevada National Park
Sierra Nevada National Park is Spain’s largest and probably most famous national park. The park is home to some of the most scenic landscapes in Spain and some of Europe’s highest mountains, including the highest peak in Spain, El Mulhacen (3,478 meters). The mountains are also home to a very unique species of flora and fauna due to their isolated location in the far south of Europe.
As far as activities go, you can obviously find a lot of hiking trails, go birdwatching, or try skiing or some other winter sports; the park is also home to The Sierra Nevada Ski Station which hosted the World Ski Championships of 1996.
Hiking Mulhacen, Spain’s Highest Peak
Your Spain bucket list can’t be complete without including the experience of climbing the highest peak in the Iberian Peninsula, Mulhacen (3,479 meters).
One of the absolute best bucket list experiences in Spain is to climb the highest peak in the Iberian peninsula, Mulhacen (3479m). The mountaintop is also supposedly home to the burial site of Abu I-Hasan Ali, one of the last Muslim kings of Granada. The nearest cities to Mulhacen are Granada and Malaga and the best place to start the trek towards the top is the whitewashed village of Capileira located in the Sierra Nevada National Park.
See Two Of Europe’s Three Deserts
Did you think that Europe is the only continent without a desert? Well, I’m sure you’re not alone. This is one of the most widely-spread geographical misrepresentations out there. In fact, Europe is home to three deserts, two of which (Desierto de Tabernas and the Bardenas Reales) in Spain and one in Ukraine (Oleshky Sands).
The Bardenas Reales is located in Northern Spain and it covers 420 square kilometers of desert landscapes while Desierto de Tabernas is located in Southern Spain, it covers 280 square kilometers, and is famous for being used as a backdrop for many famous movies, including “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” and “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly”.
Discover Cabo de Gata-Níjar Natural Park
Located in the southeastern corner of Spain, Cabo de Gata Nijar is the largest protected park in Andalusia. The coast surrounding the park was formed by form a volcanic rock formation that throughout the years created hidden coves and white sandy beaches. This coast is also the only region in mainland Europe that has a true hot desert climate. Close to the shore, you’ll be able to spot tiny rocky islands and extensive coral reefs with abundant marine life which was the main reason the whole area was designated as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in the 1990s.
A great way to explore the area is by taking a boat tour.
Discover Alhambra Palace
The beautiful Alhambra Palace of Granada is one of the most famous landmarks in Spain and one of the most popular tourist attractions in Europe. It was built in 889 AD on top of ancient Roman remains and it went under a few reconstructions during its lifetime. Today, the Alhambra Palace features a fortress, palaces, and gorgeous gardens and is one of the most beautiful examples of Andalusian and Moorish architecture in the world. And if that’s not enough, from the higher floors of the palace, you can enjoy breathtaking views of the Sierra Nevada and the city of Granada.
If you’re planning to visit, please note that it’s a good idea to pre-book your ticket or get a skip-the-line entrance pass.
Visit An Authentic Moorish Neigbhoorhod
Albaicin is a district in Granada famous for its narrow winding streets that date back to Medieval Moorish past and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The district is filled with beautiful authentic carmen houses that became popular in the region during the Moorish era. Many of the carmen houses today are converted into beautiful restaurants, modern stores, and luxury hotels. In a way, it’s a very interesting and unique mix of the old and the new that should be enough to add Albaicinto your Spain bucket list.
If you’re looking to explore the area, you may enjoy this walking tour combined with a Flamenco show.
Walk The Roman Bridge of Cordoba
Located in the historic center of Córdoba, the old Roman Bridge has been around for more than 2,000 years. It was initially built to help the ancient Romans pass across the Guadalquivir river but it was reconstructed several times in its history. Today, most of the structure dates back to the Arab reconstruction of the 8th century. The bridge is one of the oldest constructions in Spain, it’s on the list of National Landmarks and is also a part of the UNESCO World Heritage.
Check Out The Radiant City Of Madinat al-Zahra
Madinat al-Zahra which translates from Arabic to “the radiant city” was a fortified palace-city lying in the outskirts of Cordoba built by Abd-ar-Rahman III of the Umayyad dynasty and the first caliph of Al-Andalus. During Umayyad rule, Madinat al-Zahra was the capital of the Caliphate of Cordoba. The city was built to celebrate Abd ar-Rahman III and his new title of caliph and to demonstrate the power of the newly established caliphate.
During its heydays, Madinat al-Zahra was one of the most glorious cities in Spain but after the Spanish Reconquest, the city was abandoned and today, it serves as an archaeological site and a monument of a distant and somewhat forgotten part of Spain’s history…
If you would like to learn more about the history of Madinat al-Zahra, check out this guided tour.
Take A Look Inside The Mosque/Cathedral Of Cordoba
The Mosque/Cathedral of Cordoba is one of the best examples of Moorish architecture and one of Cordoba’s most popular attractions. This site was originally built as a church, after the Moor invasion, it was turned into a mosque, and after the Spanish Reconquest, it was turned back into a church. Today, the mosque/cathedral is considered to be one of the most important monuments of Islamic architecture and an inspiration for many of the subsequent “Moorish architecture” buildings on the Iberian Peninsula.
Take A Walk Around The Historic Centre Of Córdoba
This might come as a surprise but Cordoba is the only city in the world that’s home to 4 UNESCO World Heritage Sites. One of those sites is the entire historic center of Cordoba. Encompassing an area of 80.28 hectares, the historic center of Cordoba is one of the largest of its kind in Europe and the world. In its beginnings, the city was a Carthaginian township, during the Roman Empire, it was the capital of Hispania Citerior, and during the Moorish invasions, Cordoba was the provincial capital of the Muslim emirate of Al-Andalus.
During the Moorish era, the city was one of the most advanced capitals in the world, it housed one of the largest libraries in Europe, dozens of beautiful palaces, and more than 300 mosques, most of which were converted to churches after the Spanish Reconquest.
Today, you can still find many Carthaginian and Roman remains, old Caliphal Baths, and many beautiful medieval buildings, palaces, museums, and cathedrals.
Walk The World’s Scariest Pathway
The tiny village of El Choro in Malaga is home to the ultimate test for thrill-seeking adventurists. Nicknamed “the world’s scariest pathway” El Caminito Del Rey (the king’s little pathway) is a one-meter-wide pathway built in 1921 by King Alfonso XIII. The 3,000-meters long pathway is in a highly deteriorated state and it literally hangs off the sheer, vertical rocks, posing a real challenge to all hikers brave enough to step a foot on it. After several reported fatalities in the 2000s, the path was reconstructed in order to become safer but even after that, the pathway still looks pretty scary.
If you’re interested in walking the world’s scariest pathway, check out this El Caminito Del Rey guided tour.
Take A Walk Along Plaza de España
Plaza de Espana is one of the most prominent landmarks of Spain’s fourth-largest city, Seville. It was designed in 1928 by Anibal Gonzales for the Ibero-American Exposition who dedicated it to all things Spanish, including its history, culture, cuisine, and even regions. Architecturally, the square is a prime example of Regionalism Architecture, mixing elements of the Renaissance Revival, Baroque Revival, and Moorish Revival styles of local architecture.
Visit The Largest Gothic Church
Seville is also home to the world’s largest Gothic cathedral and the fourth-largest church in the world; a place that simply has to be a part of your Spain bucket list. It was built in the 1500s on the site of the 12th century Almohad Mosque to demonstrate the city’s power and prosperity after vanquishing the Moors during the Reconquista. The cathedral has always had an important place in Spain’s history.
It was the site of the baptism of Juan of Aragon, it holds the remains of Ferdinand III of Castile, his son and heir Alfonso the Wise, as well as their descendant, King Peter the Jest, and Cristopher Columbus (among others). The cathedral has an imposing exterior with the longest nave in the world, an even more imposing interior with unique relief and carvings, more than 80 chapels, glittering altars finished in gold leaf, and a scenic rooftop that gives one of the most fascinating views of the city of Seville.
Sounds interesting? Then you may want to check out this 3-hour private tour of the cathedral.
See The World’s Most Famous Bullring
Right off the bat, personally, I don’t support bullfighting or any other so-called types of entertainment that involve any forms of animal cruelty but the beauty of Plaza de Toros de la Real Maestranza de Caballería de Sevilla and its cultural significance cannot be denied. With a capacity of 12,000 visitors, this is the largest bullfighting ring in Spain and one of the largest ones in the world.
Attend A Flamenco Festival In Seville
There are many places where you can attend flamenco shows in Spain but if you have the choice, it’s best to do that in Andalusia where Flamenco originated from. And what better place than Andalusia’s largest city, Seville? Every two years since 1980, Seville hosts the Bienal de Flamenco, a festival that features performances in different theaters across the city ranging from flamenco puro (the traditional purest form of flamenco) to innovative new forms of the dance.
Experience The Arab Baths Of Andalusia
If you’re looking to add some luxury to your vacation, you should definitely add the Andalusian Arab baths to your Spain bucket list. The luxurious Arab baths in Andalusia are one of the most authentic remains from the Moorish invasions of Spain and places that can make you feel like you’ve traveled back in time as soon as you set foot inside. There are a handful of old Arab baths that kept their unique appearance but were equipped with modern facilities and became grandeur establishments for luxury tourism.
Upon entering inside, you’ll be greeted with jasmine scent and soothing Arabic music while your eyes are being treated to the dimmed, low lighting that accents the fascinating architecture the Moors left behind. Some of the most famous Arab baths in Andalusia are Hammam Al Ándalus in Granada, Aire de Sevilla in Seville, Hammam Al Ándalus in Cordoba, and Hammam Al Ándalus in Malaga.
Try Gazpacho In Andalusia
No trip to Andalusia is complete without trying some tasty gazpacho. In case you’re not familiar with it, gazpacho is a cold soup made of raw, blended vegetables. I know that might not sound very appealing but it tastes amazing. After all, there’s a good reason why this is one of the most popular dishes in Andalusia and even in parts of Portugal.
Explore Malaga’s Historic Center
Most of Malaga’s prominent landmarks are located in its central area that’s known as Malaga’s Historic Center. The area is dotted with picturesque streets and plazas, perfect for a lazy stroll, and every corner hides another museum, landmark, or buildings with unique architecture. Some of the Malaga’s highlights include La Alcazaba, Gibralfaro castle, the Roman Theatre, and Mercado de Atarazanas. There are also some interesting museums like the Picasso Museum (not to be confused with the one in Madrid), Centre Pompidou (not to be confused with the one in Paris), the Carmen Thyssen Museum, and Museo de Malaga.
Discover Ronda’s Stunning Puente Nuevo
Ronda is, among other things, famous for its beautiful, historic bridges that are real wonders of architecture- Puente Romano (an old bridge built by the Romans), Puente Viejo (an old, small bridge that divides the city into two parts), and the newest but perhaps most impressive Puente Nuevo (the New Bridge).
Puente Nuevo is a picturesque bridge with a single arch with a 120-meter-deep chasm that carries the Guadalevin River. Its name might make you think that the bridge is relatively new but it actually is not; it was built in the 18th century but is still relatively “young” compared to the other two bridges in Ronda. The construction of this bridge took 34 years and was one of the most fascinating achievements of 18th-century architecture in Spain.
Go Canyoning At Junta De Los Rios
Junta de los Rios is one of the best places in Andalusia for nature lovers and one of the best canyoning destinations in Spain. The name of the place translates to “joining of the rivers” referring to the confluence of the Rio Verde and Rio Negro rivers that forms beautiful waterfalls and crystal-clear, azure pools surrounded by untouched nature.
Go Whale Watching In The South
Your Spain bucket list wouldn’t be complete without a whale-watching tour in southern Spain. The best destination in Spain for whale watching is the Canary Islands but if you’re visiting around the right time of the year, you can even get the chance to see whales close to the coast of Tarifa or even Malaga. Most tours last for 2-3 hours and cost somewhere around 30-40 euros.
Zip Line Across The Border
The border between Spain and Portugal near the village of Sanlucar de Guadiana in Andalusia on the Spanish side and the town of Alcotium near Algarve on the Portuguese side is the only place in the world where you can hop on a zip line and travel to another country. The zip line gets you from Spain to Portugal in one minute and since the two countries are in different time zones, you can also say that you “traveled back in time”. A perfect addition to your Spain bucket list, wouldn’t you agree?
Set Foot On The Southernmost Point Of Mainland Europe
Tarifa is home to the southernmost point in the Iberian Peninsula and mainland Europe and is one of the premier wind sports destinations, especially kitesurfing. Because of the Gibraltar funnel effect, Tarifa experiences the rare natural phenomenon known as Levante and Poniente, meaning that the region gets easterly winds from Africa and Atlantic winds from the west. And if that’s not enough to add Tarifa to your Spain bucket list, you should also know that Tarifa also has a beautiful old town, a couple of medieval castles, a handful of sites of Roman ruins, and of course- stunning beaches.
Surf In The Canary Islands
If you like surfing, you should definitely hit the waves in one of the Canary Islands. The islands are an autonomous Spanish territory in the Atlantic Ocean where the waves are a lot more powerful compared to anywhere on the mainland. This makes the Canary Islands one of the best-surfing destinations in the world. From our experience, the best surfing spots on the Canary Islands can be found near Tenerife, Fuerteventura, Gran Canaria.
Have Barbecue Prepared On An Active Volcano
Another activity on the Canary Islands that deserves to be added to your Spain bucket list is dining at El Diablo Restaurante. The restaurant is located in the National Park of Timanfaya and is, to my knowledge, the only restaurant in the world that prepares food on a hot grill powered by the heat of an active volcano. This is an incredibly unique culinary experience that you just can’t miss if you’re a real gourmand.
Hike Spain’s Highest Volcano
In addition to being the largest one of the Canary Islands and a great surfing destination, Tenerife is also home to Mount Teide which is one of 300 volcanoes on the island, the world’s third-highest volcano (and Spain’s highest), and one of the rare snow-capped active volcanoes. If you’re looking for a real adventure, climbing up an active volcano should definitely be on your Spain bucket list. If you get the chance to spend the night on the top, you’ll also discover one of the best stargazing spots in Europe. Just make sure to dress warmly, the top sits at 3,715 meters and is very cold throughout most of the year.
Tapas & Sangria
Lastly, let’s not forget that Spanish cuisine is one of the world’s most popular cuisines and that
Spain is a paradise for foodies. That’s why we decided to round up this Spain bucket list with a few food/drink items whose trying should be your priority when visiting Spain. Tapas are arguably the most popular snack in Spain. In many bars and restaurants, it’s served for free alongside a drink or something else you order.
And if tapas are the most popular snack, sangria is obviously, the most popular drink. In case you’re not familiar with it, sangria is a punch with sweet flavor made of red wine and chopped fruits, often combined with other ingredients and/or spirits.
Eat Pan Con Tomate Y Jamón
Pan con Tomate is a traditional Catalan dish that’s very simple and easy to prepare, and yet one of the most elegant and delicious things you’ll find in Spain. It’s served tapa-style, meaning as a side dish and it’s prepared with tomatoes, olive oil, and dry-cured ham called Jamón.
Try Churros With Chocolate Sauce
Just when we thought churros cannot get any better, Spanish people found a way to make this incredible dessert they gifted to the world even better because dipping things that are already quite sweet in chocolate is never a bad idea, right?
Try Spain’s Version Of Champagne
Last but not least, while in Spain, you should definitely try some Spanish cava. Cava is a sparkling wine with a protected (DO) status that originates from Catalonia and is made from the Macabeo, Xarel-lo, and Parellada grape varieties.
Did you like our Spain bucket list? Are there any other items you think we should add to it? Which one was your favorite? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below.
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