Spain Attractions

Central Spain

Not a good place to drive to, too hot in the summer and too cold in winter, but otherwise a magnificent, baroque and late-partying capital with terrific museums such as the world famous El Prado, impressive buildings and parks. If you’re on wheels, park them asap and drag the legs into action or hop onto the efficient metro network!

**Toledo

This stunning medieval city – home to El Greco and an easy ride from Madrid – is packed with castles, churches and tourists. Stay the night, mid-week if possible, and enjoy it early/late.

***Cuenca

Halfway from Madrid to the Mediterranean, Cuenca is a medieval World Heritage Site in a stunning location on a precipitous ridge teetering between two gorges. The rustic region is heaving with castles, while the town offers gothic churches and hanging houses – hanging over the Huecar Gorge.

North East Coast

Casa Batllo, Eixample, Barcelona, Spain

Barcelona, Catalonia (Catalunya)

Not as grand as Madrid but just as lively, with a better climate, a good beach, excellent cuisine and totally unique and spectacular attractions in the organic shape of Gaudi architecture. But it’s also the pick-pocket capital of Spain. Barcelona Pictures, Map, Weather.

** Figueres

About 2 hours north of Barcelona (via train from Barcelona Sants, bus or drive) is Dali’s birthplace and home to the mad Dali Museum. It’s not so much the exhibits, which are quite limited considering the artist’s staggering output, but the building itself is wacky, red walls decorated with golden turds for a start! And there’s another Dali Museum in his old home of Port Lligat, see below.

** Cadaques

In 1920 Dali said, “I have spent a delightful summer, as always, in the perfect and dreamy town of Cadaqués. There, alongside the Latin sea, I have been quenched by light and colour. ” Not far from Cadaques – in fact 15 minutes walk – is Dali and Gala’s (his wife) home in Port Lligat, now the fascinating though small Port Lligat Dali House-Museum, which must be booked in advance.

**Valencia

On the central east coast of Spain, this large and lively city surrounded by farmland offers a warm coastal climate, a magnificent old city centre with baroque palace, some excellent museums and the amazing new City of Arts and Sciences. A few kms east are some OK beaches and the dunes of La Albufera lagoon, while 30km away is the tomato madness of Buñol.
Ferries go to the Balearic islands from here.
A good source of information in English is the Valencia website.

North (Atlantic) Coast

**San Sebastian and the (north) Basque country

Heroic sculpture in San Sebastian Donostia, North Spain

Heroic sculpture in San Sebastian.

Less ‘Spain’ and more rain than the south, so less moronic beer/beach louts, San Sebastian is a pretty, relaxed resort town with a superb beach and matching cuisine.

And not far away recently transformed **Bilbao is now a Guggenheim-led arts and culture centre, sporting one of the wildest buildings in Europe, while Pamplona is definitely bullish. Want to run for your life? Try the bull running from 6-14 July; when you get to Pamplona go to Plaza del Castillo Tourist Office for a timetable, map, red scarf and spare underpants.

*** Cantabria

El Capricho de Gaudi, Comillas, Cantabria, Spain

*** Galicia

as catedrais beach, galicia, spain

Cathedral beach, (As Catedrais), on the Atlantic Coast, Galicia.

In the wild west is a pilgrim’s paradise with beautiful, cheerful Santiago de Compostela at the end of the Camino trail, as well as great beaches such as As Catadreis, one of the world’s most famous sights and the pretty coasts of Rias Baixas.

Altar piece, Santiago de Compostela Cathedral, Galicia, Spain

Altar piece, Santiago de Compostela Cathedral, Galicia, Spain

Southern Spain

*** Andalusia

Semana Santa hoodies procession, Seville, Spain, Europe April

Seville, Andalusia (Andalucia)

A magical region, truly the traditional heart of Spain, with a cluster of magnificent cities such as Seville, Granada, Cordoba, Malaga, Cadiz, and pueblos blancos such as gorgeous Ronda. Andalusia has all the heat, Moorish magnificence, flamenco and festivals you ever dreamed of, along with some of Spain’s best beaches on the southern Costa de la Luz too – breezy Tarifa or La Caleta in Cadiz for example, or the less brilliant but more popular Costa del Sol beaches – when culture overload kicks in.
p. s. don’t forget to explore Cordoba’s palace gardens too, they’re lush and spectacular.

Concha Bay beaches, San Sebastian-Donostia, North Spain guide

Magnificent La Concha beach in San Sebastian, and there’s a surf beach hidden round the corner too!

Massive stretches of golden Spanish sand, but there are few easily accessible beaches between France and Gibraltar that are not lined with grotesque high rises and low culture sand addicts. Still, they are cheap and cheerful.

Spain’s Atlantic Coast up north-northwest is the best option for grand landscapes, soft sand and less wallies though the weather can go wobbly all of a sudden and the water is chilly most of the time, though the sea in shallow protected bays like La Concha warms up quickly.

The Costa Brava in the north-east has some pretty little towns, smallish but characterful beaches and cooler weather (as well as big, bad Barcelona and its handful of excellent beaches), while the Costa del Sol in the south-centre gets the most sunshine and most foreigners – primarily interested in cheap booze, cheap rent and plentiful sunshine rather than local culture, though there is actually a lot of wonderful, traditional Spain nearby in that province of Andalusia if you care to take a drive or tour.

The Costa de la Luz in the far south west (also Andalucia) offers spacious, scenic, soft sand beaches, perfect for wind and kitesurfing and even regular board surfing but often it’s a little windy for loafing unless it’s a protected beach, such as Playa de la Caleta in Cadiz, one of our favourites.
FRS run hi-speed ferries across to Morocco’s Tangier from lovely little Tarifa several times a day.

*Gibraltar

Hmm. Well it’s certainly an oddity, a little piece of England surrounded by foreigners. Everything focuses on the Rock and views from it, on it or of it. Not Bugbog’s cup of tea, but if you can handle the frequent, massive queue to get in by car (due to Spanish border guards taking a siesta at 10am) the apes await your handbags.

**Balearic islands

Valdemossa, Majorca, Spain

Valdemossa, Majorca (also known as Mallorca), Balearic Islands. Photo by Abrget47j

(Majorca {aka Mallorca}, Menorca, Ibiza, Formentera)

Great beaches, constant sunshine and wild nights are not all attractions that the Balearics have to offer. With package tourists clustered in varied enclaves it is easy enough to escape to traditional little towns, isolated beaches and high peaks.

Mallorca/Majorca offers most variety, ranging from the grand buildings of Palma, through the old town to superb beaches and hikes in the mountains of Tramuntana.

Menorca is less developed, with plenty of lovely old buildings, quiet beaches and even prehistoric remains.

Ibiza is party central, but quiet little alleys, city walls and wooded hills still give refuge to those of a quieter disposition.
Formentera’s undeveloped flat beauty and unspoiled beaches are accessible by ferry from Ibiza.

Playa Teresitas on Tenerife island, Canary islands, Spain

Playa de las Teresitas, Tenerife, Canary Islands (Canaries)

Way south of Spain, off the coast of Morocco are primarily a winter sun package destination though tourists do go there all year round and many hikers don’t even go near the beaches. Wind is fairly constant, as is sunshine, so the Canaries are HOT for windsurfers, kiteboarders and even plain old surfers.

Gran Canaria is the perhaps the most varied island, with history, culture, mini-mountains, forests, dunes, the pretty colonial town of Las Palmas, and a couple of mega beach resorts.

Lanzarote is dry and has an artistic bent, with a volcanically bizarre landscape and fine beaches, while Fuerteventura is a pure beach destination, with over 150 beaches, many enthusiastic Germans, plenty of wind and more nudists than goats.

Tenerife offers both scenic variety and wild nightlife possibilities, and includes a wild Carnival before Easter, volcanoes, great water sports options and lots of new man-made ‘golden’ sand beaches (as in the picture above).

For excellent, tranquil walking in dramatic landscapes try the quieter islands of La Palma, La Gomera and El Hierro.

Safety

Violent crime is rare, but pickpockets and bag snatchers may take advantage of carelessness. Barcelona has a particularly bad record and the bugcrew were mug-pocketed there a couple of years ago. We still love the city but protective advice needs to be taken seriously.

Spanish is just about the easiest common language. Learn a few words. . . You already know ‘Hasta la vista (baby)! ‘