Things to see and do in Spain
Attractions in Spain
Alhambra: Prepared to be awestruck
The impressive palace-fortress of Alhambra is a supreme creation of Moorish Spain, featuring majestic Arabic gates, intricate carvings and patios – Spain's most significant Islamic architecture. Perched on the hilltop of Granada city, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is one of the most visited monuments in Spain.
Asturias: Hear the blast of bagpipes
The green valleys and picturesque fishing villages of this northern province don't feel like traditional Spain, and when you encounter the cider culture and bagpipes you'll wonder just how strong Celtic roots can be. Super seafood and hospitality redeem the regular rain showers.
Barcelona: Explore the Catalan capital
Immerse yourself in Barcelona, from the cramped alleyways of the Barri Gótic (Gothic quarter) to the 19th-century Eixample quarter where many Gaudi buildings lie. Stroll along La Rambla and onto old Barceloneta and the seafront. Sights include La Sagrada Familia (Holy Family), the Seu (old cathedral), the Episcopal Palace and the Palau de la Generalitat.
Bilbao: Savour the delights
Visit Frank Gehry's marvellous Guggenheim Museum, which has turned the main city of the Basque region into a top tourist destination. The museum is a masterpiece of 20th-century architecture. Bilbao's Old Town is extensive with a gothic cathedral and atmospheric shopping streets studded with gourmet pintxo bars.
Bullfight: Brave a bullfight or take a bull ring tour
The controversial tradition of bullfighting is still very much alive in Spain, especially so in Madrid. Most towns only hold bullfights during their annual spring or summer fiestas, but Madrid's Las Ventas Bullfighting Ring hold regular corridas. If an actual bullfight seems too much, Las Ventas also offer guided tours for those that wish to understand the history.
Camino de Santiago: Trek the pilgrim way
Known as The Way of St James, the pilgrimage route encompasses a number of different walking trails that lead to the St James Cathedral in Santiago de Compostela, Galicia in northwest Spain. This was originally a pilgrimage route, although it has become a recreational trail. The route is marked with a scallop shell, the symbol of St James.
Canary Islands: Discover the dazzling Garajonay National Park
Situated in the very centre of La Gomera in the Canary Islands, Garajonay National Park boasts stunning scenery set amongst rocky vistas. Measuring 3,984 hectares (9,845 acres), the area was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage list in 1986 in recognition of the its outstanding natural beauty. Well-marked trails make it a popular visit for outdoor enthusiasts.
Cádiz: Feast on Sanlucar prawns
With archaeological finds dating 3100 years, Cádiz has a wealth of well-preserved historical landmarks in the Old Town which is bordered by the sea on one side and the city walls on another. Visitors also like to spend some time on its breezy Atlantic beaches and enjoy world-famous Sanlúcar prawns. Beyond the city, the Cádiz province could take weeks of your time if you like to hike around the picturesque white villages inland.
Córdoba: Discover Moorish Spain
Discover Moorish Spain in the winding streets of Córdoba, the former seat of the 10th-century Caliphate. The Mezquita (Great Mosque) is a mystic wonder and World Heritage Site. Originally a pagan temple, then a Christian Church, before the Moors converted it into a mosque. Just outside the city, the ruins of Medina Azahara are similarly atmospheric.
Madrid: Be captivated by culture
Culture lovers should explore Spain's capital, Madrid. Museu del Prado is a must; it boasts one of Europe's finest collections of art. Also worthy of a visit is the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, which focuses on modern art and houses Picasso's famous Guernica. Also, don't miss Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid's Royal Palace, the atmosphere around Puerta del Sol and Madrid's historic square, the Plaza Mayor.
Mallorca: The Caves of Drach (Cuevas del Drach)
Explore the Caves of Drach on the island of Mallorca. There are three chambers inside, Cueva Negra (Black Cave), Cueva Blanca (White Cave) and Cueva Luis Salvator (Luis Salvator Cave), as well as Lago Martel (Lake Martel), one of the largest subterranean lakes in the world. Take a boat ride to this otherworldly spot and see the beautiful limestone formations.
Monasteries throughout Spain
Heartbreakingly beautiful Romanesque and gothic architecture can be found across the north of the country, with the lonely San Juan de la Peña in the Pyrenees competing with Soria's San Juan de Duero and Burgos province's Santo Domingo de Silos as the most atmospheric cloisters.
Pamplona: Run with bulls
Run with (or rather, from) the Jandilla fighting bulls or join with the crowds at the Festival of San Fermín in Pamplona. The famous Running of the Bulls takes place in the streets of the centre in July and attracts huge numbers of thrill-seeking tourists trying their luck at this famous festival.
San Lorenzo de El Escorial: See the symmetrical monastery
The Monastery of San Lorenzo de El Escorial was built in the 16th century by King Philip II of Spain. Famed for its symmetrical design, with four towers marking each of the monastery's four corners, the magnificent interior houses amazing art and a truly remarkable library. Its baroque Royal Pantheon is the resting place of many Spanish monarchs.
Seaside resorts: Hit the coast for some watersports
Swimming, jetskiing and waterskiing facilities can be found at nearly all seaside resorts. Spain's premier resort for windsurfing and kitesurfing is Tarifa, on the Atlantic coast, and it is blessed with strong winds and a beautiful stretch of aqua-blue sea. Surfing is big in the north, particularly around the Basque village of Mundaka. Spain is also great for sailing.
Sevilla: Seek out the sights of Sevilla
Andalucía's hedonistic capital, Sevilla, is the romantic heart of Spain and home of flamenco, Carmen and Don Juan. Wander the narrow streets of the Jewish quarter, snack on tapas, and admire the immense Seville Cathedral (the world's largest gothic church) and the adjoining Alcázar palace complex, a superb example of Mudéjar (Christian-Moorish) architecture.
Southern Spain: Play a round of Golf
Golf is immensely popular in southern Spain stretching from border with Portugal to La Manga in the region of Murcia. One of the most popular spots, Costa del Sol is home to 60 golf courses including the famed fairways of Valderrama (in the resort of Sotogrande).
Toledo: Stroll Spain's ancient capital
Head south of Madrid to this ancient Spanish capital, which is dominated by the magnificent cathedral and the Alcázar of Toledo. The cathedral has a magnificent series of paintings by El Greco, who made his home here; his Burial of the Count of Orgaz is featured in the Santo Tomé Church.
Valencia: Uncover the Holy Grail
Check out Santiago Calatrava's City of Arts and Science Park in this forward-looking southeastern city. The Hemispheric, an amazing glass structure, houses a planetarium, IMAX dome and laserium. While in Valencia, visit the cathedral, it claims possession of the Holy Grail, the chalice used at the Last Supper.
Spanish Tourist Office in the USAAddress: 60 East 42nd Street, Suite 5300 (53rd Floor), New York City, NY 10165-0039
This office is not open to the public; enquiries via the website only.
Spanish Tourist Office in the UKAddress: 100 George St, London, W1U 8NU
Telephone: +44 20 7317 2011.
By appointment only; open 0900-1600 Mon-Thurs, 0900-1400 Fri.