Best Places to Visit in Spain

Spain's dynamic metropolises, breathtaking landscapes and cultural offerings are second to none, making the country an undisputed stop on many travelers' European vacation itineraries. With so many varied destinations, each with its own celebrated sites, it may be hard deciding which cities are worth traveling for. U.S. News factored in sights, culture, seasonality and expert opinion to come up with the best places to visit in Spain for all types of travelers – from city slickers to beach bums to outdoorsy types. Have an opinion? Vote below to influence next year's ranking. (Note: Some of the below destinations may be affected by the coronavirus outbreak. Check with the CDC and the U.S. Department of State before traveling.)

SUMMARY

Best Places to Visit in Spain

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    Barcelona

    #1 in Best Places to Visit in Spain

    Barcelona is without a doubt Spain's cultural capital. The Catalonian city's urban sprawl is dotted with Antoni Gaudí's whimsical architecture, including La Sagrada Família, as well as museums carrying the masters, such as the Picasso Museum. You can also explore centuries-old neighborhoods like Barri Gòtic, which dates back to the Roman Empire. Don't forget to take advantage of the city's equally magnificent outdoor offerings, too, including Park Güell and La Barceloneta beach.

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    Seville

    #2 in Best Places to Visit in Spain

    This beautiful Andalusian city is awash with romantic allure. During the day, you'll find outdoor cafes along cobblestone streets and horse-drawn carriages meandering through pastel-colored plazas. And when night falls, flamenco dancing comes out in full force. This is the kind of place you should allow yourself to get lost in, but if you carve out time for popular sites such as the Plaza de España and the Real Alcázar, you won't be disappointed, either.

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    Madrid

    #3 in Best Places to Visit in Spain

    Of all the cities in Spain, Madrid is the one that knows how to show travelers the best time. The city's party-hard reputation is really all it's cracked up to be, but that's not all Spain's capital has going for it. Madrid is filled with varied, vibrant neighborhoods, plus stunning parks, enviable shopping and some of the best art institutions in Europe, including the world-renowned Prado Museum and the Thyssen-Bornemisza National Museum.

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    Granada

    #4 in Best Places to Visit in Spain

    Granada's Arabic influence makes this destination different from the rest of Spain. Thanks to its history as part of the Moorish Empire, Granada is home to tapas bars and flamenco venues that rub elbows with Moroccan tea cafes and Arab bathhouses. This confluence allows you to experience two cultures simultaneously. And you must make time to behold the breathtaking local treasures, including the Alhambra and Sierra Nevada National Park.

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    Mallorca

    #5 in Best Places to Visit in Spain

    Mallorca is easily one of Spain's greatest assets. This dreamy island getaway features beautiful beaches, picturesque small towns and outdoors pursuits that draw tourists in droves. Revel in the see-through blue waters of Playa de Muro and Cala Llombards, then hop in a car and drive around the striking mountains that make up Serra de Tramuntana, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Make sure you spend your downtime taking leisurely strolls along the darling streets of Alcúdia's old town and by the water to admire the awe-inspiring Palma Cathedral.

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    Bilbao

    #6 in Best Places to Visit in Spain

    Although this northern Spanish city is best known for housing the Guggenheim, there's more to Bilbao than its famed museum. Bilbao sits in the middle of a beautiful valley, affording incredible views of the city and its rolling hills. Visit Casco Viejo (the city's old town) for delectable pintxos (Basque tapas) and to explore Parque Etxebarria, where you'll find some of Bilbao's best vistas. Or, ride the Funicular de Artxanda for even more spectacular panoramas. No visit would be complete without checking out the world-renowned Guggenheim and other local cultural institutions, such as the Museo de Bellas Artes de Bilbao.

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    Ibiza

    #7 in Best Places to Visit in Spain

    If you live to party, there's no better place to go than Ibiza. This Spanish island is known worldwide for its nightlife scene, so much so that people often say you must visit during the peak summer season. However, one look at Ibiza's natural offerings and you'll understand how this island stands on its own outside of its party-hardy reputation. Beaches here are so clear that you can see your feet touch the sand as they enter the ocean. Plus, the historical charm found in UNESCO World Heritage-listed Dalt Vila, Ibiza's old town, will certainly stop you in your tracks.

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    Canary Islands

    #8 in Best Places to Visit in Spain

    This cluster of Spanish islands located off the northwestern coast of Africa is one of Spain's premier beach destinations. In addition to sultry shorelines, the Canary Islands are also teeming with outdoor attractions that will make any adventurer swoon, including three national parks. In between hiking and relaxing on the beach, take some time to stroll the neighborhoods of Santa Cruz or Las Palmas to get a taste of local life.

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    Valencia

    #9 in Best Places to Visit in Spain

    Valencia stands out for offering a little taste of both the old and the new. You'll get to experience classic architecture at the Valencia Cathedral and the Plaza del Ayuntamiento, as well as modern sites like the City of Arts and Sciences and the Valencia Institute of Modern Art. After you've gotten your fill of the city, take a detour to breathe in some fresh air at the Albufera Natural Park or unwind at nearby beaches.

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    San Sebastian

    #10 in Best Places to Visit in Spain

    Situated along the northern coast, San Sebastian is one of the most underrated destinations in Spain. Locals understand its majesty and every summer flock to this beach destination for its breathtaking shorelines, hiker-friendly mountains and unmatched foodie scene that's world-famous for its pintxos. For a quintessentially Basque experience, travelers suggest pintxo bar hopping in the city's center, Parte Vieja, or signing up for a pintxos food tour.

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    Alicante

    #11 in Best Places to Visit in Spain

    Alicante is a great destination for those who want to beach it while still experiencing the hustle and bustle of city life. This city of more than 1 million residents offers plenty of life on and off the shore. To start, hit up Playa del Postiguet, which is located in the heart of the city, or Playa de San Juan, Alicante's most popular beach. For fun away from the sand, head to the Castillo de Santa Bárbara (which provides incredible city views), the vibrant neighborhood of Santa Cruz and cultural institutions like the Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Alicante.

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    Rioja

    #12 in Best Places to Visit in Spain

    Rioja is Spain's wine country. Like France's Champagne, you can't label a wine "Rioja" unless that wine is produced and distributed from the Rioja region of Spain. As such, you'll want to sample plenty of vino while you visit, which will be pretty easy to do since there are more than 500 wineries plus many restaurants that exclusively serve Rioja wine. If you're looking for other things to do, take advantage of Rioja's Michelin-starred restaurants and lively tapas bars when you're not hiking or skiing its surrounding mountains.

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    Cordoba

    #13 in Best Places to Visit in Spain

    The old town section of Cordoba is the stuff of Spanish dreams. Its winding, compact cobblestone streets are lined with whitewashed inns, shops, restaurants and homes that feature stunning Andalusian accents, including wrought-iron balconies, bright blue planters and painted archways. Cordoba becomes even more romantic in spring, when the patios that connect these buildings overflow with flowers. But if you can't make it during spring, don't fret: You'll no doubt enjoy all of the city's famous historical sites, such as the Mosque-Cathedral of Cordoba and the Castle of the Christian Monarchs.

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    Toledo, Spain

    #14 in Best Places to Visit in Spain

    Travelers who want to experience small-town Spain without venturing far from a big city will love visiting Toledo. This UNESCO World Heritage-listed city, which sits 45 miles southwest of Madrid, is breathtaking thanks to its location on a hilltop overlooking the Tagus River and its historical architecture. For the best views, visit Mirador del Valle. Then, get a sense of Toledo's rich history by checking out attractions like Catedral Primada and Monasterio de San Juan de los Reyes. Don't forget to try some of the city's famous marzipan before you leave.

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    Costa del Sol

    #15 in Best Places to Visit in Spain

    Costa del Sol is easily one of Spain's most popular beach destinations. Travelers consistently laud the region for its natural beauty. Not only do visitors have a variety of beaches to choose from – such as Playa de Burriana and Playa de la Bajadilla – but they can also enjoy countless outdoor pursuits thanks to Costa del Sol's proximity to Sierra de las Nieves Natural Park and the Guadalmina River. Plus, they'll find plenty of kid-friendly attractions, including a theme park, a zoo, a water park and a marine animal park.

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    Santander

    #16 in Best Places to Visit in Spain

    Santander is a breath of fresh air. Situated on the coast in the northern province of Cantabria, Santander boasts a slower pace of life and an abundance of gorgeous natural wonders, both of which give it a relaxing, easygoing vibe. To see the best of Santander's offerings, take a long walk along the city's waterfront (starting at the Paseo de Pereda). Also save time for swimming and sunbathing at popular stretches of sand like El Sardinero and Playa de Mataleñas. The latter overlooks the striking Magdalena Peninsula.

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    Marbella

    #17 in Best Places to Visit in Spain

    Spend some time in this beach town if you want to unwind while visiting Costa del Sol. Marbella is home to a variety of resorts, plus can't-miss beaches and golf courses. What's more, the city boasts a stunning old quarter that features picturesque details like whitewashed buildings with iron balconies and compact cobblestone streets. Take a nice long stroll here to feel as if you've stepped back in time, then make your way to flora-filled Alameda Park.

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    Benidorm

    #18 in Best Places to Visit in Spain

    Benidorm appeals to beach bums looking to enjoy a resort-style experience when they're on vacation. Everything visitors could possibly need – including hotels, restaurants, shops and family-friendly attractions like Aqualandia and Festilandia – is conveniently located near the city's main beach (Playa de Levante). But travelers who need a break from Benidorm's busy city center are in luck: To get away from the action, all vacationers have to do is head to the eastern edge of the city, where Sierra Helada Natural Park and smaller beaches like Cala Tio Ximo and Cala Almadraba are located.

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    Ronda

    #19 in Best Places to Visit in Spain

    Plan a trip to this small Andalusian town if you enjoy visiting destinations with unique geography and stunning architecture. Ronda sits atop a striking gorge that separates the town. To cross the gorge, walk across the Puente Nuevo, a beautiful bridge built in the 18th century. Below, you'll get an eyeful of El Tajo canyon – which reportedly inspired a scene in Ernest Hemingway's "For Whom the Bell Tolls" – and the Guadalevín River. After admiring your surroundings from the Puente Nuevo, visit the Plaza de Toros de Ronda, the historic old town and the 13th- and 14th-century Baños Árabes.

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    Menorca

    #20 in Best Places to Visit in Spain

    Mallorca's smaller sister island is a solid option for travelers wanting to visit the Balearic Islands without dealing with the crowds commonly found on Ibiza and Mallorca. Menorca offers the same kind of jaw-dropping scenery (think: incredible beaches overlooking clear turquoise waters) you'd expect to find on other Balearic Islands. Plus, you'll discover architectural marvels throughout the island. Hit up Cala Mitjana, Cala Macarelleta and Cala Pregonda if you want to feel like you're in a postcard. Also check out Ciutadella (the island's original capital) to see old-world structures like the Catedral de Menorca and the Palau Salort.

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