Ancient Roman forts and opulent Moorish palaces. Incredible food and wine. Beautiful landscapes and coasts. A rich culture born from the merging of European and Arabian influences. Visiting Spain is a feast for both the intellect and the senses – which makes building a comprehensive Spain bucket list a challenging task. But, as the experts on travel (and lifelong Spain enthusiasts), we can help you narrow down the list and plan your vacation to Spain.
Below, we’re listing the top 15 destinations in Spain that should be on any Spain bucket list. We’ll give you the inside scoop on which cities have the most delicious tapas, the best places to see flamenco, where to explore Spain’s outdoors, the top cities for Spain’s famous nightlife and so much more.
Or: skip the reading (we don’t judge) and connect with a Fora travel advisor to start planning your dream trip to Spain today. Fora Advisors will get you insider recommendations, free VIP perks and hotel upgrades that’ll truly level-up your Spanish vacation.
The top 15 destinations in Spain: planning your Spain bucket list
The top 15 destinations in Spain range from gorgeous historical centers to hidden mountain towns, buzzing party islands, cultural Meccas and more.
In no particular order…
1. Barcelona: Gaudí, shopping and so much more
Easily one of the best places to visit in Spain for first-timers, and located along Spain’s northeastern Mediterranean Coast, Barcelona is a beautiful historical city featuring much of the architecture of Antoni Gaudí, the most prolific architect of the Modernista school.
The Crypt of La Sagrada Familia, Park Güell and Casa Batlló, among others, collectively fall under the Works of Antoni Gaudí – a UNESCO World Heritage site – and are all worthy of exploration. In fact, Gaudí’s imprint on the city is unmistakable, making Barcelona one of the most artful and architecturally rich cities in the world. In other words, if you love Old-World styles, Barcelona is a can’t-miss destination on your Spain bucket list.
Beyond the aesthetics of the city, Barcelona still has so much to offer. From the beaches of La Barceloneta to luxury shopping on Plaza Catalunya, Barcelona is a top destination in Spain for its sheer variety. While we can make the argument that other Spanish cities have a better culinary or cultural scene, Barcelona offers a great sample of everything the country has to offer, making it one of our bucket list favorites.
Check out our city guide to Barcelona for more deets. And remember: your Fora Advisor can personalize your trip (maybe you’re visiting Barcelona with kids or looking for the top boutique hotels in Barcelona) and hook you up with VIP hotel perks to level up your trip to Barcelona even more.
2. Madrid: culture, nightlife & museums
Madrid doesn’t get as much attention as Barcelona because, as the capital, it’s Spain’s business and economic center. But don’t let that fool you into thinking Madrid is skippable; the city is entirely worthy of being featured as one of Spain’s top 15 destinations.
For one, the nightlife in Madrid is world-renowned, with rows of trendy bars and clubs, each flavored by their distinct neighborhoods. On the other end of the spectrum, Madrid is also home to many of Spain’s top museums like the Museo del Prado and the Reina Sofia.
There’s something in Madrid for every type of traveler: our local’s guide to the best of Madrid has more, as does our LGBTQ-friendly guide to Madrid. Or, check out a guide on Madrid and its surrounding cities. Of course, nothing compares to speaking with an expert when planning your Spanish bucket list, as our travel advisors for Spain can give you all the insider intel (including where to stay in Madrid, like the top boutique hotels in Madrid).
3. Seville: flamenco, architecture & beyond
There are a lot of things to do in Seville (especially if you’re visiting Spain with kids) that make it worthy of being featured on a Spain bucket list. Seville is the birthplace of flamenco, and it’s common to see people dancing to live music along the city’s vibrant and walkable narrow streets. The city has an exceptionally friendly vibe and the tapas crawls here are among the best in Spain.
The Real Alcazar Palace, featured in Game of Thrones, is a stunning example of the Moorish architecture you’ll find throughout Seville. These wonders of Islamic architecture are often right next door to amazing examples of European architectural styles too, like the Seville Cathedral (the world’s largest Gothic structure).
For more Seville, check out our express itinerary for the Iberian Peninsula.
4. Granada: beauty, Moorish architecture & more
Situated at the base of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, Granada is relatively close to Seville (if you were thinking about having an adventure in the Andalusia region of Spain) but has its own distinct appeal. Along with Seville and Córdoba, Granada was one of the major capitals of Al-Andalus — the grand Moorish, or Muslim, Spanish kingdom that lasted for almost 800 years.
The Alhambra is Granada’s top attraction within the city: the Moorish palace-slash-fortress is as beautiful as it is grandiose. Less imposing are the Arab Baths, some of which still offer spa treatments.
Outside the city, the Sierra Nevada National Park draws travelers of all kinds. Picturesque mountainscapes provide a beautiful backdrop for hiking, skiing and exploring the small towns and forts that pepper the park.
5. San Sebastián: for any foodie’s Spain bucket list
San Sebastián is one of Spain’s 15 top destinations for its inherent beauty, which stems from both its natural scenery and abundance of Old World architecture. The city was declared one of Europe’s Capitals of Culture in 2016, partly because of the city’s relevance to both music and cinema – particularly on the international stage.
Of course, as the food capital of the Basque region, San Sebastian is equally known for its amazing pintxo food bars, which are similar to tapas vendors (check out our luxury foodie’s guide to San Sebastian for more info on that). And you can’t forget chill beaches like La Concha or surfer-friendly shores like Zurriola, either.
Not sure how to go about visiting one of the most unique places in Spain? Let your Fora Advisor do the heavy lifting and get the VIP treatment for the same price as booking direct.
6. Córdoba: the capital of Al-Andalus
Córdoba is Spain’s hottest city with temperatures regularly hitting triple-digits in summer. Like many of the cities in Southern Spain, Córdoba’s draw is its exceptionally diverse architecture, particularly within the Historic Center of Córdoba – a UNESCO World Heritage Site – making it a can’t-miss on any Spain bucket list.
Over 2,000 years of architecture and history can be found within the center’s streets and monuments, spanning the time of the Ancient Romans, eight centuries of Moorish rule and the establishment of the Spanish Monarchy.
7. Valencia: one of the top 15 destinations in Spain for paella (and more)
Valencia is an ancient port city on Spain’s Mediterranean Coast, with a gorgeous, temperate climate. The city’s historic district is one of Spain’s largest, with a bounty of Gothic, Baroque and Romanesque influences. However, Valencia’s contemporary architecture might actually be its most exciting attraction: the City of Arts and Sciences is a colossal complex featuring museums, theaters, concert halls and more to explore.
For a less grandiose excursion, you can visit Albufera Natural Park and take advantage of the area’s natural beauty on boat rides, bike tours or hiking trails along the park’s protected freshwater lagoon. The urban center of the park also happens to be the origin of paella, Spain’s most famous dish.
Don’t forget: A Fora travel advisor can give you the rundown of the best of Valencia, plus A+ hotel perks and upgrades. And of course, they’ll tell you where to find the very best paella Valencia has to offer.
8. Ibiza: clubs, parties & relaxation
The Mediterranean Island of Ibiza is one of the world’s best party destinations – period. The island’s nightlife is unparalleled anywhere else in Spain and attracts hundreds of thousands of travelers in the spring and summer months when the weather’s at its peak.
Of course, if you want a more relaxing vacay, Ibiza still has much to offer that doesn’t involve dance clubs or spring breakers (or a Spain bachelorette party). If you’re visiting Ibiza with kids, for example, many of the newer hotels and resorts cater to a quieter and more relaxed crowd.
If you’re keen for coastal relaxation, consider a three-day beachside detox on Formentera, Ibiza’s island neighbor.
9. Santiago de Compostela: an Old World wonder
Put Santiago de Compostela on your Spain bucket list if you can’t get enough of all the Old World architecture! The Old Town area was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its stunning Gothic and Baroque buildings, many of which were built after the Moors destroyed the city in the 10th century.
Santiago de Compostela is also the final point along the Camino de Santiago, a Catholic pilgrimage trail that’s existed for over 1,000 years. Connect with a Fora Advisor for details on the top accommodations in the area and to learn about the best areas of the pilgrimage trail to walk.
10. Toledo: a capital of cultural confluence
Toledo can be found along the banks of the Tagus River, about an hour southwest-ish of Madrid by car or train (day trip, anyone?). Sometimes called the “city of three cultures” because of its strong Christian, Muslim and Jewish cultural roots, Toledo is best known for two things. One is architecture. The other? Here’s a curveball: the production of knives and swords.
We’re not saying you can become Don Quixote, but pretty cool, nonetheless.
11. Ronda: stunning beauty worthy of any Spanish bucket list
Ronda is a mountaintop town in the southern autonomous community of Andalusia. The town’s tight cobblestone streets are fun to explore, as are the gorgeous stone bridges that connect the two halves of the town. Puente Nuevo is especially intriguing as its support pillars and arches run the entire depth of the 100-meter-plus canyon.
The town is also located within the Sierra de las Nieves National Park, which features dozens of hiking trails through mountainous terrain that tends to see a healthy dose of snow in winter.
12. Cádiz: food, nature & beaches
The port city of Cádiz is situated at the southernmost tip of Andalusia’s Atlantic coast. Like much of Spain, Cádiz’s architectural scene is incredible. The rich blend of styles contrasts well with the city’s many botanical gardens.
You can also get a taste of nature at Cádiz’s many scenic beaches. Or for a more literal taste, get the lowdown on Cádiz’s top gastronomic adventures from a Fora travel advisor.
13. Salamanca: not to be missed if you love food
Salamanca was built along the banks of the Tormes River about halfway between Madrid and Portugal, and the architectural wonder known as the Old City of Salamanca is yet another one of Spain’s many UNESCO World Heritage sites.
Salamanca’s culinary prowess is among the best in Spain, with a number of unique and prized pork-based dishes like hornazo, cocido and chanfaina earning the city a spot on this Spain bucket list.
14. Bilbao: one of Spain’s modern marvels
Tucked between two mountain ranges in Spain’s northern Basque country, Bilbao is notable among the top 15 destinations in Spain for being one of the country’s newest cities.
You can still find gorgeous Old World architecture throughout Bilbao, but there’s a much greater emphasis on contemporary art and design – the Guggenheim Museum of modern art and the cultural center of Azkuna Zentroa being excellent examples. Or, read a full guide on where to go in the Basque country.
Sidenote: while there’s no one particular place to see in the region, exploring La Rioja to the south is a worthy addition to the wine connoisseur’s Spain bucket list. Alternatively, the rural and outdoors-friendly region of Asturias is only about three hours away to the east (check out our itinerary for Asturias, Spain).
15. Mallorca: a top-15 Spanish destination for culture & relaxation
Like Ibiza, Mallorca is an uber-trendy island retreat off Spain’s Mediterranean Coast. But unlike Ibiza, Mallorca’s appeal is much wider (i.e. it’s not just for parties). Case in point: check out our family-friendly guide to Mallorca.
But what makes Mallorca Spain bucket list-worthy? Well, aside from there being so many things to do in Mallorca, the island is a melting pot of travelers from all over the globe, lending to a cultural experience rivaled by few other places in the world.
Of course, of all the things to do on this Spanish seaside escape, none beat enjoying Mallorca’s island scenery. Turquoise waters kiss white-sand beaches surrounded by rocky outcroppings, stone seawalls and Neoclassical architecture for a truly unparalleled Spanish destination.
Build your Spain bucket list with a Fora Advisor
Ready to see one (or more) of the top 15 destinations in Spain? Let a Fora Advisor handle the details while you focus on the very best the country has to offer. And did we mention Fora Advisors unlock perks and upgrades (for free)?