Tapas and sangria, Gaudi and Picasso, flamenco and castanets, all-night parties and siestas, sunny coastlines and majestic plains: Spain is jam-packed with things to do, see and eat, and definitely deserves a place on your must-visit list. There are numerous Spain tour packages focused solely on the country itself, with visits to cities and regional areas that do a great job covering all the most important sights and experiences.
To help choose your dream Spain getaway, we’ve compiled a list of the best of the best below!
The Catalan capital of Barcelona
Le Gran Encisera (the Great Enchantress) struggles to unite with the rest of España in their bid for autonomy. The southern coastal city boasts Gaudi, Gothic architecture, hot nightlife with flamenco feet and tapping castanets, and a distinct Catalan dialect – and of course their claim to the greatest football club in the land.
Gaudi’s grand masterpiece: Sagrada Família
Catalans hold their heart to beloved modernist architect Antoni Gaudí, a master of originality who never saw all his works completed, though his artistic legend lives on in Barca. Marvel at the naturalist sculptures in Parc Guell and visit his most formidable ‘organic’ styled masterpiece – the incredible 16-spired basilica of Sagrada Familia, still under construction with an estimated date of completion in 2026.
In the dead centre of the country, numerous palaces and museums display the Spanish royal and artistic legacy of the conquistadors’ spoils from the New World. Madrid is a must if you want to unveil Spain’s history and visit important sites like the Puerto del Sol square, which is the centre of the radial network of Spanish roads.
After all that sightseeing it’s time for a party. The city comes alive at night with a vibrant social scene that lasts through to the early hours of the morning when cafes remain open for post-party churros and hot chocolate, no matter the day of the week.
Walk the Camino de Santiago De Compostela
‘The Way of St. James’ is an 800 km+ network of ancient pilgrim routes throughout northern Spain, ending in Galicia at the saint’s tomb in Santiago de Compostela. During your tour, you might bump into pilgrims seeking their next ‘credential’ passport stamp, along with Catholic churches praising the apostle.
Party up in Ibiza
Don’t expect much sleep if heading to the Balearic Islands in the summertime, as thousands of revellers descend to the ‘White Isle’ to party in mega nightclubs and chic beach villas. Outside of summer, ‘Eivissa’ old town is quiet and just as euphoric, but it’s always been the legendary DJ music scene that keeps bringing the hedonists back to this one-of-a-kind party island.
The mighty Alhambra
Granada’s Alhambra is regularly listed as one of the top tourist attractions not only in Spain or in Europe, but in the world. This magnificent palace, fortress and grounds were constructed in the ninth century atop Roman ruins, before being renovated in the 13th century to become the incredible example of Islamic architecture and UNESCO World Heritage Listed site they are today.
Get your hands on football tickets
Football is another religion in Spain. You can’t escape the star-studded line-up of FC Barcelona vs Real Madrid – the only trouble is choosing whose side you’re on. Visit Bernabéu or the Camp Nou stadium and you’ll see only one message: “Més que un club” – more than a club. They really are.
Choose your Tapas
The secret to finding a good tapas bar? Look to the serviette-strewn floor – a good sign it’s popular with the locals. Choose from a scattered feast of delicious snacks, washed down with some cool cerveza beer or a carafe jug of Sangria. It’s social, it’s sharing, it’s very ¡Viva España!
The home of Chupa Chups
Literally translating to ‘Sucky Sucks’, vivid surrealist Salvador Dali designed the wrapper, and this Spanish lollipop is now sold at check-out tills in over 150 countries in the world!
Take in the view of Toledo
The untouched medieval capital Toledo holds serious cultural significance in Spain, and it would be criminal to pass on a tour excursion to this city that lies not far outside Madrid. It’s a melting point of medieval architectural and religious treasures with Christian, Muslim and Jewish influences, with souvenir steel weaponry traded for centuries from Damascus. Be sure to walk outside the city walls for a spectacular view of the imposing castle overlooking beautiful architecture crisscrossed with cobble-stoned streets.
Resist tapping your feet at a flamenco show
Dead serious faces and emotional calling: Flamenco is the dance of Andalusia with classical Spanish guitar and fast clapping castanets. The soul of southern Spain expressed in a two-hour spectacle.
Run with/from the Bulls in San Fermín
Whether it’s fuelled by their siesta recharge naptimes or copious jugs of Sangria, the Spanish insist on a good party. Throw in some charging bulls let loose in Pamplona’s narrow streets, and you have a festival like no other!
Get messy at La Tomatina
Whoever thought up the squashed tomato throwing fiesta of the red fruit in the small Valencian town of Buñol must have been drunk or crazy. Leave your good clothes at home – though white is a must.
Surf up a storm in San Sebastian
San Sebastian is just one of Spain’s myriad sunny coastal getaways, with plenty of options to choose from on the north and south coast, not to mention islands like Tenerife. In San Sebastian, you’ll not only find some of Spain’s best waves, but also outstanding pintxos that draw foodies from all over the world.
Cordoba’s Mosque-Cathedral hybrid
Once the capital of Islamic Spain, Cordoba boasts the spectacular architectural wonder that is the Mezquita. This building alone is enough to entice travellers, though you will also find a beautiful old town and outstanding views from the city’s bridges. The historic old town is a UNESCO World Heritage site, with the Mezquita’s unique architecture due to its changing faith between Islam and Christianity during the course of its history.
Look out for Osborne bull signs
Originally created to advertise the Osborne sherry company, this iconic black silhouette of a bull first found its home along major roads throughout the country. Following the EU banning of roadside advertisements for alcohol, the signs were removed and only a handful remains – but the silhouette has since become something of an icon used to represent Spain.
Bull fighting and matadors
The origins of bullfighting are in Spain, particularly the southern regions, and there remain many places to see a bullfight today. Fair warning that the Spanish style of bullfighting usually ends in fatality for the animal, and this activity is therefore not for everyone – but there is no denying the thrill of watching the matador come within centimetres of the bull’s powerful horn as they make the final stab.
Courtney Gahan is a serial expat, traveller and freelance writer who has bartered with Moroccan marketeers, seen the sun rise at Angkor Wat and elbowed her way through crowds on NYE in NYC