Spain is a fantastic country for a European city break or a longer vacation. As Spain is divided into many regions, each bringing its own unique culture, food and traditions, you can visit the country multiple times and come away having discovered something new each time. Because of its size, Spain has a variety of climates year-round.
The southern coastal cities in Spain (Seville, Cadiz and Malaga) tend to see warmer weather, while northern Spanish cities like Bilbao and Donostia-San Sebastián experience greater changes in their weather and often have snowfall in winter. Spain is also a great country to explore as part of a European trip, as it has an excellent railway network that features high-speed lines between most major cities in Spain. These train networks also cross over into both France and Portugal.
Spain is well-connected to its Balearic islands through local airlines. Spain is packed with incredible history and ancient architecture perfectly positioned alongside the glittering glass skyscrapers in its major cities. Its rich history means many cities have ancient origins and feature medieval, Roman and Moorish architecture. Many visitors who choose Spain as a city-break destination overlook some of its lesser-known or smaller cities. These cities feature the most charm and history, leaving you with the greatest desire to return. Here are 20 cities in Spain, large and small, that you should visit.
Cities in Spain
Top Tours and Tickets
- Barcelona Sagrada Familia Tickets – skip the line and reserve your ticket now.
- Madrid Hop On Hop Off Sightseeing Bus – explore Madrid at your own pace.
- Valencia Hop On Hop Off Sightseeing Bus – enjoy the sights of Valencia.
- Seville: Cathedral, Giralda & Alcazar Entry – guided tour and entry.
- From Madrid: Valencia to Barcelona 4-Day Tour
- From Madrid: Cities of Andalusia 4-day tour
20 Spanish Cities To Visit
Madrid is Spain’s capital city and is on many people’s Spanish bucket lists.
This city in Spain is incredibly rich in culture and is the seat of the Spanish Royal Family and its government.
This means imposing and stunning architecture city-wide and plenty of things to do.
Head to Plaza Mayor, one of the most important squares in the city and where you can admire the renaissance buildings.
The square has several pleasant cafes to sit, sip coffee and watch the world go by.
A must in Madrid is a visit to 19th-century Chocolateria San Gines, a tiny chocolate shop that has been serving steaming cups of chocolate and sugary churros since 1894.
The prices are incredibly reasonable too.
If local lore interests you, look out for the bronze statue of a bear and a strawberry tree, a symbol of the city since the 13th century.
Recommended tour: Madrid Hop On Hop Off Sightseeing Bus
Barcelona, the capital of the Catalonia region, is known across the globe for football and stunning architecture.
Architect Antoni Gaudí was born in the city and devoted his life to creating pieces of nature-inspired architecture.
Pay a visit to La Sagrada Familia, a church designed by Gaudí in the early 1900s and, as yet, remains unfinished.
For some of the best views across Barcelona and out over the Mediterranean, visit Park Güell and its colourful tiled slopes.
Explore La Rambla, the city’s most famous avenue, to experience the feel of the neighbourhood.
Venture down one of its myriad of alleyways towards La Boqueria market.
Here you can try an incredible variety of fresh dishes, produce, drinks and sweet treats with a distinctly Catalan twist.
Valencia is a port city on Spain’s southeastern coast that is famous for being the birthplace of paella.
While in Valencia, sample some traditional paella, including rice as its base, a mixture of chicken and rabbit, and plenty of sweet paprika and saffron to give it a vibrant colour.
Visit the architectural masterpiece that is the City of Arts and Sciences, an impressive complex next to Turia Gardens that includes Les Arts, Hemispheric and L’Oceanografic, the city’s aquarium.
These incredible white and blue glass buildings are surrounded by tranquil pools of brilliant blue waters, perfect for photographs.
Recommended tour: Valencia Hop On Hop Off Sightseeing Bus
Seville is a walled city and the largest in the Andalusia region.
It’s filled with some of Spain’s most beautiful historic architecture, with many of its important and oldest buildings built in the Moorish and Mudejar style.
Visit Alcazar of Seville for some of the best examples of surviving and immaculately preserved Moorish architecture.
This UNESCO World Heritage site is still used by the Spanish Royal Family today.
Discover the streets of Seville on a walking tour which will lead you down orange tree-lined avenues and past some must-visit historical, cultural and foodie destinations.
Recommended tour: Seville: Cathedral, Giralda & Alcazar Entry
Bilbao is another of Spain’s port cities in the country’s north.
Lush green mountains and jaw-dropping natural landscapes surround this coastal city.
Visit the Guggenheim Museum and take a guided tour. Frank Gehry designed this unusual building to reflect the curves in the Nervion River.
The museum houses an impressive collection of Spanish and international art.
Look for Puppy, a living art installation in the shape of a dog designed by Jeff Koons, located at the museum’s entrance.
While in Basque Country, try the pintxos, small, delicious and typically savoury dishes served as an accompaniment to drinks at nearly all of Bilbao’s bars.
Granada is in the foothills of the dramatic Sierra Nevada Mountains in Andalusia.
When in Grenada, you must visit The Alhambra. This UNESCO World Heritage site is a Moorish palace dating back to the 13th century.
Its rich red brickwork facade and tall towers are a great way to explore the local history and to see a little more of the surroundings from a higher vantage point.
Get some fresh air and explore Carmen de los Martires gardens.
The gardens include a variety of plants, each interred into uniquely designed spaces dotted with fountains and statues.
Recommended tour: Granada: Alhambra & Nasrid Palaces Fast-Track Ticket
Malaga is the perfect Spanish city destination if you are seeking the sun.
Located on the Costa del Sol, Malaga is famous for its beaches.
Spend some time in the Port of Malaga.
This ancient Mediterranean port has been transformed into a popular destination for those seeking luxury.
You will find designer shops, fancy restaurants and an array of moored yachts.
If historical castles are your preferred style of luxury, head to Castillo de Gibralfaro.
This strategically located castle has excellent views over the city, the port and the sea.
The palace dates back to the 10th century when the Moors occupied Spain.
Expect to see impressive architecture and many artefacts displayed in the castle museum.
Recommended tour: Malaga: Sunset Sailing Catamaran Trip with Glass of Cava
8- Donostia – San Sebastián
Donostia – San Sebastián is a coastal city in Basque Country that goes by two names – Donostia is the traditional Basque, and San Sebastián is its Spanish name.
For the best views across the city and the bay, ascend Monte Igueldo aboard the antique funicular railway that takes you to the summit.
You can ascend higher still by climbing the 16th-century El Torreon.
Relax on the beach while you are in Donostia -San Sebastián. Playa de la Concha is one of the most popular beaches and has an excellent promenade.
To get the best foodie experience in Donostia – San Sebastián, book a pintxo tour and sample a range of Basque delicacies perfectly paired with local wines.
Pamplona is the capital city of Navarre, a region in northern Spain famous for the Running of the Bulls, held yearly in July.
Plaza del Castillo is a must-visit in Pamplona.
This square is the true centre of the city and is where locals meet, have drinks and get dinner.
Literary fans should head to Café Iruña. Ernest Hemingway penned ‘The Sun Also Rises’ here.
Explore the history of Pamplona by walking the Roman walls.
If you visit the city during the summer, look out for plays and reenactments of ancient battles in the Roman ruins.
Recommended tour: Pamplona City Private Tour
Another must-visit port city in Spain is the Andalusian city of Cadiz, the ancestral home of the Spanish navy.
The city has many imposing towers, keeps and other remnants of its naval history.
Immerse yourself in history when in Cadiz by heading to the castle of San Sebastián.
This castle dates to the 18th century and is only accessible after walking along a long causeway.
Moorish design is prevalent in Cadiz. Visit Gran Teatro Falla, which, while not built during the Moorish rule, the 19th-century building does incorporate Moorish stylistic touches to its design.
Recommended tour: Cadiz Hop On Hop Off
Many visitors to Spain may not have heard of the small northern city of Huesca, however, it is well worth a visit.
The medieval city is high on a hilltop giving some incredible views of the rolling hills surrounding it.
Huesca is perfect for history lovers.
Visit Monastery de San Pedro el Viejo, a 12th-century monastery that once formed part of a Roman temple.
Discover the city on foot by getting lost in the old town.
There are narrow cobblestone streets, medieval architecture, and plenty of places for a drink and a sit to watch the world go by.
Vitoria-Gasteiz is the capital city of the Basque Country.
This medieval city is an excellent city in Spain for its architecture, history and culture.
For an artistic day out, Artium is a museum packed with modern and contemporary works of art with the likes of Miró and Picasso paintings on display.
History lovers should visit Museo Bibat, which incorporates the Museo de Arqueología and Museo Fournier de Naipes.
Uncover the city’s history from its beginnings during the Palaeolithic era up until the Middle Ages.
If you are interested in food, splurge at the Michelin-starred restaurant Zaldiaran. Order the roasted flambéed lobster or try an unusual seafood salad with spider crab.
In the south of Spain lies Córdoba, a city in Andalusia that both Moorish and Roman rule heavily influenced.
Their influences, particularly in architecture, is one of this Spanish city’s drawcard.
Visit the famous Mezquita-Catedral, an 8th-century cathedral constructed over two centuries and a perfect example of Moorish architecture and structure.
During the reign of Charles V, a nave was added atop the original structure giving it a unique and fascinating architectural style.
After getting your fill of local history, explore Córdoba’s tapas scene.
Order the local version of gazpacho known as salmorejo, a substantial cold soup made from tomatoes, flavoured with garlic and thickened with bread.
Find a restaurant with outdoor seating to enjoy this refreshing meal while watching the world go by.
Recommended tour: Cordoba Mosque-Cathedral: Skip-the-Line Guided Tour
Toledo in central Spain is an ancient city packed with important ancient architectural landmarks reflecting different rulings throughout its history.
Some of the best views over the city are from the historic 10th century Alcázar.
This fortress was a key strategic military location due to its vantage point.
After taking in the view, explore the exhibitions at the historical museum now housed inside.
Another perfect place for panoramic views over the city is Mirador del Valle.
As the sun sets, take in the breathtaking views across the city, its major historical sites, and the river winding below.
Recommended tour: Toledo City Sightseeing Hop On Hop Off Bus
The northeastern city of Zaragoza is easily reached by high-speed trains departing from both Madrid and Barcelona.
Zaragoza is Spain’s fifth-largest city and one worth exploring.
Take the time to explore Aljafería Palace, an Islamic palace that is one of the best examples of 11th-century architecture remaining in Spain.
The walls of the palace are ornately decorated with sigils and carvings. Guided tours of the palace are available.
For those seeking more ancient history, stop by the Caesaraugusta Theatre Museum.
This ancient theatre dating back to Roman times, was excavated during the 1970s, with its artefacts now on display in the accompanying museum.
Visitors can walk around a specially built walkway to experience the theatre in all its glory.
Recommended tour: Zaragoza 3-hour evening tapas walking tour in the old town
Another city worth visiting in Spain’s Catalonia region is Girona.
The best way to explore the medieval city is on foot, simply allowing yourself to get lost in its myriad of cobbled and winding streets.
Another great way to explore the city on foot is by walking along the medieval walls, where you will find towers offering stunning views of the surrounding areas.
Girona is a must-visit Spanish city for fans of Game of Thrones, as multiple parts of the city were used throughout season 6.
Explore Girona Cathedral and the narrow streets of the Jewish Quarter, which were used to reflect the city of Braavos.
Recommended tour: Girona Game of Thrones small group tour
To the northwest of Madrid is the city of Segovia, which is often overlooked as a place to visit in favour of Spain’s capital.
This city has plenty to offer, from its history to its arts, culture and the incredible ancient aqueduct of Segovia.
This remnant of 1st-century Roman rule has 167 arches and covers more than 15 kilometres (miles) before it even reaches the city.
The city’s signature dish is suckling pig, which is slowly roasted until it is so tender it can be cut with a plate.
This added element of theatre is seen in many restaurants serving the dish across the city.
Recommended tour: Segovia guided walking tour with Alcazar entry
Laying between the Cantabrian Mountains and the Bay of Biscay is the medieval city of Oviedo.
Take to the city on foot and explore the beauty of Campo de San Francisco, a park in the heart of the city.
The park is huge, spanning 90,000 square metres (968,751 square feet), and is packed with flowers, beautiful ponds and ruins of an old 13th-century church.
Oviedo is famous for its cider. For the best cider choices, wander down Calle Gascona, where you will find bars serving a range of local ciders.
Look for a bar that pours its cider from a height, an old method of oxygenating the drink that gives it a more pleasurable taste and drinking experience.
19- A Coruña
Explore the north-western coast of Spain in the Galician city of A Coruña for spectacular coastal views and medieval history.
Climb the Torre de Hércules for some of the best views over the city.
The tower was built during the Roman rule of Spain and this UNESCO World Heritage site also features an interactive museum and plenty of nature walks.
For another way to see the city from above, board the unusual glass sphere funicular that heads to the top of San Pedro Hill.
On the way up, the views get better and better.
At the top, spend some time at the Mirador San Pedro before dining at the restaurant.
The restaurant is fine dining and serves fresh seafood caught from the city’s port.
Recommended tour: A Coruna City guided tour with food tasting
Spend some time in Murcia in the southern port city of Cartagena, a small city that is incredibly beautiful and packed with history and charm.
Teatro Romano de Cartagena is a Roman theatre with a museum outlining the city’s Roman past before opening onto the theatre itself.
It’s possible to walk around most of the theatre and even sit on the seats.
Take a stroll through the port area and visit the many Naval, military and seafaring-themed museums.
While in the harbour, look out for the whale tail sculpture.
Recommended tour: Cartagena Hop On Hop Off Bus