Like a grandpa bouncing a baby on his knee, Spain is a mix of old and new, modern and traditional. For the tourist, Spain means bullfights, massive cathedrals, world-class art, Muslim palaces, vibrant folk life, whitewashed villages, and bright sunshine. Yes, you'll find those things...but the country's special charm lies in its people and their unique lifestyle. From the stirring sardana dance in Barcelona to the sizzling rat-a-tat-tat of flamenco in Sevilla, this country creates its own beat amid the heat.
At a Glance
▲▲▲ Barcelona The Catalan capital, with famous Ramblas people zone, atmospheric Gothic old town, and works by native sons Antoni Gaudí, Pablo Picasso, and Joan Miró.
▲▲▲ Madrid The lively Spanish capital, boasting top-notch art treasures (Prado Museum collection, Picasso's Guernica), an unsurpassed tapas scene, and urban Spain at its best.
▲▲▲ Granada Grand Moorish capital, home to the magnificent Alhambra palace and still-pungent North African culture.
▲▲▲ Sevilla Soulful, flamenco-flavored cultural capital of southern Spain.
▲▲ Basque Country Feisty would-be breakaway region, anchored by the culinary capital of San Sebastián and the iconic modern Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, with other attractions scattered through the countryside and across the border into France.
▲▲ Toledo Hill-capping former capital, with a colorfully complex history, a magnificent cathedral, and works by hometown boy El Greco.
▲▲ Tangier, Morocco Revitalized gateway to Africa, and an easy day trip from the Costa del Sol.
▲ Near Barcelona Top stops in Catalunya, including Salvador Dalí sights (Figueres and Cadaqués), pilgrimage to a rugged mountain retreat (Montserrat), and beach resort (Sitges).
▲ Camino de Santiago Centuries-old pilgrimage route running across the top of Spain from France to Santiago, with stops at big cities (Pamplona, Burgos, León) and charming villages (Puente de la Reina, O Cebreiro)...and plenty of pilgrim bonding.
▲ Santiago de Compostela Moss-covered pilgrim capital, and the top town in green Galicia.
▲ Salamanca Spain's quintessential university town, with the country's finest main square.
▲ Northwest of Madrid Sights ranging from El Escorial (imposing Inquisition palace of Spanish royalty) and the Valley of the Fallen (a stern, underground Franco-era monument to the Spanish Civil War) to the pleasant towns of Segovia (with a towering Roman aqueduct) and Ávila (encircled by a medieval wall).
▲ Córdoba Home to Spain's top surviving Moorish mosque, the Mezquita.
▲ Andalucía's White Hill Towns Classic heartland of southern Spain, famous for its windswept landscape and idyllic towns, including Arcos de la Frontera, Ronda, and Grazalema.
Cantabria The rustic northern coast of Spain, featuring world-class prehistoric art (Altamira Caves), Modernista architecture (Comillas), and high-mountain scenery (Picos de Europa).
Costa del Sol Spain's beach-resort zone, featuring a few charming towns (Nerja, Tarifa, and British-flavored Gibraltar) tucked between the concrete and traffic jams.