Top Ten Places To Visit In Spain

Spain is a country famous for its vast culture and history, welcoming more than 50 million arrivals every year. It is one of the richest countries in terms of cultural landmarks, architectural masterpieces and stunning natural attractions, having the most UNESCO World Heritage Sites of any country in the world.

Its cities are filled with a plethora of historic buildings, squares, fortresses and its countryside is dotted with scenic landscapes, ranging from spectacular sandy beaches, to the magnificent slopes of the Pyrenees mountains. Spain is a country that has a little bit of something for everyone and it is a country where you will never feel bored, no matter the time of year you visit it.

Here is a list featuring the top ten places to visit in Spain, a country that continues to marvel and impress with its extraordinary heritage:

1. Madrid

Madridflickr/Gianni Capra

Madrid, the capital city of Spain, is the obvious place to start exploring the country, especially if you arrive by plane. Located in the central area of the country, the royal capital of Spain is dotted with interesting attractions and is rich in history, being one of the ancient cities in Europe. The most important and rich area of Madrid is the old town, which features the Royal Palace (Palacio Real), the Museo del Prado (consistently ranked among top art museums in the world), the Royal Gardens and Retiro Park. The old town is filled with a variety of old plazas, many designed in the Manuel style, a Spanish inspired baroque art style which is unique in Europe. Also, another attraction is just nearby Madrid, the El Escorial palace, the magnificent residence of King Phillip II.

2. Barcelona

Barcelonaflickr/Connie Ma

Barcelona ranks among the top destinations in Spain, attracting almost 8 million tourists yearly. This fabulous city is situated on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea and is the capital of Catalonia, an autonomous province. The city has a slightly different atmosphere when compared to the rest of the country, owing to its unique culture and history. Home to some of the most outstanding architecture in Europe, the city is home to the Sagrada Familia basilica, the masterpiece of Spanish architect Antonio Gaudi, resembling a miraculous sand castle. Complete your visit with a stroll along the La Rambla and head over to the Guell Park, and visit the Cathedral of the Holy Cross and Saint Eulalia, an icon of the city. Also, don't miss the Palau de la Musica and the Picasso Museum, which hosts some of the painter's main works.

3. Toledo

Toledoflickr/Nigel Swales

Nicknamed the “City of The Three Cultures” because Christians, Jews and Muslims have lived there for centuries in harmony, Toledo was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1986 for its outstanding cultural and monumental heritage. The city is one of the oldest in Spain, having been founded during Pre-Roman times, some 2,500 years ago and has played an important part in history, especially during the Reconquista. The main sites in Toledo include Castilo de San Servando, a huge medieval castle, the Monasterio de San Juan de los Reies and Santa Maria la Blanca, the oldest synagogue in Europe, the Jewish Quarter, the Museo El Greco, the Galiana Palace, Tornerias Mosque and the Alcazar Fortress.

4. Salamanca

Salamancaflickr/Olga Berrios

Salamanca is famous as the location of the oldest university in Spain and its wonderful Baroque architecture, like the Plaza Mayor, located in the middle of the city. Salamanca also hosts some architectural masterpieces that were named as UNESCO World Heritage Sites, such as the multiple Romanesque basilicas, the university buildings and the city's main cathedral. The old town features a plethora of buildings built with Baroque, Gothic and Renaissance elements, owing to the city's diverse cultural and historic background. The main attraction is the two interconnected cathedrals, with construction started in 1140 and finished over 400 years later.

5. Cordoba

Cordobaflickr/Guillermo Torres

The capital of the Islamic Umayyad Caliphate, Cordoba is widely considered as the most beautiful destination in southern Spain. Its superb Moorish architecture is visible in the Mezquita palace complex which also features a breathtaking mosque, a treasury and residential compounds, from which the Muslim leaders ruled the entire Anadalusia province between the 8th and 11th centuries. The entire city center of Cordoba is a UNESCO World Heritage site and features other attractions such as the Alcazar de los Reyes Christianos basilica and the Tower Fortress Calahora, perched on a hilltop overlooking the old town.

6. Granada

Granadaflickr/Nigel Swales

Alongside Cordoba, Granada is another jewel in the Moorish occupied Andalusia, located in wonderful setting at the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. The city is world famous for the Alhambra palace, widely regarded as being a great example of Moorish architecture. The intricate and delicate architectural details are absolutely staggering and the inner courtyards provide a lush green retreat, protecting you from the blistering Iberic sun. Other attractions are the Albaicin palace and the old city, with its winding streets and delightful markets.

7. Seville

Sevilleflickr/Michael Gaylard

Located in the southern part of Andalusia, Seville is home to three UNESCO World Heritage Sites, the Alcazar Palace Complex, the General Archives of the Indies and the Cathedral. The city also features a huge variety of monuments, palaces, wonderful plazas and refreshing parks. Having a long history as an important port, Seville is in fact located some 50 miles away from the Ocean, but the ships enter on the Guadalquivir river, the only navigable river in Spain. After the discovery of Americas, the harbor monopolized the entire trade with the New World, bringing immense wealth to its residents. The old town is one of the largest in Europe, covering an area of more than 4 square kilometers, filled with narrow pedestrian streets, plazas and public fountains that keep the city cool even the hottest summers.

8. Santiago de Compostella

Santiago de Compostellaflickr/Yellow.Cat

The capital of Galicia, Santiago de Compostella is one of the holiest cities in Spain, featuring a huge cathedral. Also, the city is home to multiple basilicas and edifices built in Gothic, Baroque and Romanesque styles. The city is the main terminus point for many pilgrimage routes, coming from as far away as Austria or France. The pilgrimage route that comes into the city features almost 1,800 historic buildings.

9. Avila

Avilaflickr/Nigel Swales

Avila is famous in Europe for being an extremely well preserved medieval city, complete with an almost intact medieval wall. Its old town is protected by this fortress and features multiple basilicas, plazas and important monuments. The city has a rich cuisine, fine wines, exquisite shopping areas and wonderful gardens. The main attractions are the Cathedral, the Art Museum and the Convento de San Jose where impressive religious relics are displayed for the public.

10. Segovia

Segoviaflickr/Osvaldo Gago

Another UNESCO World Heritage site city, Segovia is home to an extremely well preserved Roman piece of architecture and engineering technology, the tiered aqueduct that supplied the residents with drinking water from the nearby mountains. Also, the town is home to the Allcazar de Segovia, a stunning fortress overlooking the old city since the 13th century. Another great attraction is the La Dama de las Catedrales basilica, a wonderful example of Gothic architecture and intricate details.