Like a grandpa bouncing a baby on his knee, Spain is a mix of old and new, modern and traditional. For the traveler, Spain means many things: bullfights, massive cathedrals, world-class art, Muslim palaces, whitewashed villages, delicious paella, sunny beaches, and lively nightlife. You'll find all those things, but the country's charm really lies in its people and their unique lifestyle. From the stirring communal 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 heart of Catalan culture, this trendy seaside city has an atmospheric old town, an elegant new town, strollable boulevards, and a Modernista skyline. Hometown talents Gaudí, Picasso, and Miró all left their mark on this arty city.
▲▲▲ Madrid Spain's dynamic capital, with a huge central square (Puerta del Sol), the Royal Palace (2,000 rooms), and top-notch art treasures. This livable city has an unsurpassed tapas scene, street markets, and flamenco shows.
▲▲▲ Granada Fun-to-explore city that pairs evocative history with good living, from its magnificent Alhambra palace of Moorish legacy to the bustling shopping lanes and funky tea shops of its distinctive neighborhoods.
▲▲▲ Sevilla Soulful, nonstop city that boasts of Spain's bests: flamenco, Holy Week fervor, bullfighting, and the late-night paseo.
▲▲ Basque Country Vibrant region overlapping southwest France, anchored on the Spanish side by the beach resort town of San Sebastián and neighboring Bilbao, with its striking Guggenheim modern art museum.
▲▲ Toledo Hill-capping former capital, with a wonderfully rich history, an outstanding cathedral, and works by hometown boy El Greco.
▲▲ Andalucía's White Hill Towns Classic heartland of southern Spain, famous for its windswept hills and scenically perched towns, including Arcos de la Frontera and livelier Ronda, with its massive, gorge-straddling bridge.
▲▲ Tangier, Morocco Revitalized gateway that offers a fascinating look at North Africa and the Muslim culture, with a winding maze of shops and tea houses — all just a quick ferry ride from Spain.
▲ Near Barcelona Beyond Barcelona, pilgrims and photographers can head to the rugged mountain retreat of Montserrat, while fans of Salvador Dalí visit Figueres for its Dalí Theater- Museum and Cadaqués for the artist’s house.
▲ Camino de Santiago Centuries-old pilgrimage route running across the top of Spain from France to Santiago, with stops at charming villages (Puente de la Reina, O Cebreiro) and interesting cities (Pamplona, Burgos, León).
▲ Santiago de Compostela Moss-covered city that marks the end of the trail for pilgrims walking the Camino de Santiago.
▲ 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 (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 huge and marvelous Mezquita.
▲ Spain's South Coast Spain's beach-resort zone, featuring a few charming towns (Nerja, Tarifa, and British-flavored Gibraltar) tucked away from the concrete and traffic jams of the Costa del Sol.
Cantabria Rustic northern coast of Spain, featuring world-class prehistoric art (Altamira Caves), the pleasant town of Comillas, and the mountainous Picos de Europa.