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!
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.
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
North (Atlantic) Coast
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.
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.
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.
Valdemossa, Majorca (also known as Mallorca), Balearic Islands. Photo by Abrget47j
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.