The running of the bulls is what first comes to mind when one thinks of Spain. Thousands of men and women running down the streets of Pamplona during the San Fermin Festival while being chased by raging bulls, that’s not what you call a relaxing holiday.
Spain has some of the most beautifully preserved architecture in all of Europe that includes medieval, gothic, roman and historical Spanish styles. Along with a rich history and beautifully preserved historic buildings and sites, Spain also has some of the most beautiful beaches in Europe at San Sebastian and it is also home to the party capital of the world, Ibiza. Once you have booked your flights to Spain, these are our top 5 cities to visit in Spain where you can take in the sites and soak up the local history without having to run away from a couple of raging bulls.
The Historic city of Alicante affords access to the stunning beaches of Postiguet Playa del Coco and San Juan. The city also gives visitors the opportunity to view a great many sites relating to the history and culture of Spain. The most famous of these historic attractions is the Castle of Santa Barbara which is situated atop of Mount Benacanti, overlooking the city of Alicante.
The castle dates back to the 9th Century and because it was used for military purposes it has a display of various military regalia dating back hundreds of years. The castle also provides spectacular views of Alicante and the Mediterranean Ocean. If you decide to visit Alicante consider the month of June as this is when the Saint John’s Bonfires festival is held. Live music, local wine and food are all offered in opulence with the grand finale being the fireworks show that can be seen from all around Alicante.
The Capital of Spain, Madrid, is known for great football and a fast paced local scene with popular bars and restaurant seemingly never switching off their lights. The architecture is a beautiful mix of modern and historic with the Palacio Real, Plaza de Cibeles and the Gran Vía arguably the most famous attractions.
The Gran Vía is known as the Broadway of Madrid because of the “streets that never sleep” a la New York City. Here you can find local bars and restaurants that are open all night long for your enjoyment. La Fábrica, Museo de la Cerveza is the beer museum of Madrid and it is well worth a visit for those craving some local brews. For a local feel be sure to visit the Plaza Santa Ana where the city’s most famous bars and pavement terraces are located. Order a local beer with some fried calamari and you might just look like one of the locals.
Arguably the most famous Spanish city Barcelona is known for its festive and romantic atmosphere. Barcelona is home to some of Europe’s most famous attractions and buildings. The famous La Rambla, Park Güell and Sagrada Familia are amoung these attractions the latter being the most famous of them all and the oldest, still-under-construction, site in the world.
Barcelona simply has too many attractions to mention because of so many famous people and cultures who have had an influence on the modern and historic architecture of Barcelona. The most famous must be the work of Antoni Gaudí who was the figurehead of Catalan Modernism before he was run down by one of the trams in Barcelona. His work is a mix of the weird and wonderful using beautiful colours and unconventional shapes in his designs.
Around almost every corner in Barcelona you can find an historic site or attraction worth a visit but there are some local activities to consider that are off the beaten track. Visit the local fresh foods market where you will find all sorts of fresh foods from fish to juices to meats, perfect for those renting a self catering holiday apartment. One of the true joys of visiting Barcelona is enjoying the local tapas. Visit any tapas bar on the famous La Rambla pedestrian street and order an array of tapas with your travel partners and you will get a true feel how locals past and present enjoy their evenings out.
Seville, or Sevilla in Spanish is the spiritual home of both flamenco dancing and bullfighting and it has some of the most beautiful gardens and buildings in all of Spain. The city has been inhabited and visited by many artists and poets seeking inspiration for their work for hundreds of years. This is because of the rich history of Seville, the beautiful architecture and the contrasts of cultures because of the different cultures and religions that have ruled over the city.
The Seville Cathedral is the biggest gothic cathedral in the word. It hosts countless priceless artworks but the most famous attraction of this Cathedral is the tomb of Christopher Columbus. Columbus lived in the city and Seville was the port from which Columbus and the Spanish conquistadors set off for the New World, some 510 years ago. The Seville bullring Plaza de Toros is the oldest of its kind in the world and the most famous, all matador’s dream of one day slaying a bull in this famous arena.
The legendary flamingo dancing scene of Seville is one of the cities must see attractions. The Tablao El Arenal is an intimate flamingo dancing venue where you can experience this famous dance in the city where it originated. In the old town go to the Plaza del Salvador and get something to drink at one of the small bars on the square. Outside on the square you can stand at one of the small cocktail tables that scatter this Plaza, in the shade of the beautiful El Salvador Church, a true local experience.
San Sebastian boasts one of the best in-city beaches in Europe and indeed the world. The beaches are not only special because they are so beautiful but also because they are so close to major historical buildings and churches. The Playa de la Concha is the most famous beach in San Sebastian, a long sandy beach on the edge of the city. San Sebastian’s most famous attraction is the beach but there are many more sights to see here.
The lively Parte Vieja (old town) is where the most popular pintxo bars are located and some of the best preserved historical buildings are also situated here. Centro Romántico is the fishing district of San Sebastian and has beautiful 19th century buildings with many fresh fish restaurants that are worth a visit. Playa de Gros is the cities surfer beach, it makes a cheerful alternative to the more popular main beach, the Playa de la Concha. The best views of the city and the beach is from Monte Urgull where a statue of Christ looking over the city can be seen, the view from the top of the mountain is well worth the walk.