Things To Do In Spain


To know it is to love it. And to know it well is to realize that your understanding of Spain's uniqueness depends on the extent to which you let yourself be drawn into its everyday affairs. Along stupefying architectural heritage and soothing natural beauty, what makes the image of Spain genuine is the busyness of El Rastro flea market in Madrit, the nightlife frenzy of Barrio del Carmen in Valencia, the fun of La Tomatina festival in Buñol, the terror of Pamplona Bull Running, the week long spectacle of flamenco during La Feria de Sevilla, the fiesta and siesta, the taste of tapas and wine, and finally, the corrida. All this could well take the whole year to embrace. And what's there to see regardless of when you're around?

Following some research into the preferences and opinions posted by users of various social media sites, such as Twitter and Facebook, as well as own resources and reviews by the most popular travel sites, Open Travel has compiled a list of top 25 things to see or do on your Spain Vacations. The county is like a virus - once you get infected with its allure, it will forever run in your blood, reminding you of the unique experience you had in that sun-kissed spot on the Iberian Peninsula.

  1. 1

    Balearic Islands

    Location: Spain

    Balearic Islands

    Photo by Lanci Daniele

    Floating in the Mediterranean off the east coast of mainland Spain, the Balearic Islands are four dramatically diverse gems in the Spanish crown. Sun-kissed Ibiza is all about a partying galore and the joys of life, pristine Menorca is an oasis of tranquility and natural grandeur, mountainous Mallorca has just about everything you could expect of a convenient holiday destination, and intact Formentera basically features nothing but the glory of fabulous beaches. Altogether, they make for a combination that can serve as a faithful insular reflection of continental Spain - versatile, untrammeled, fun, and beautiful.

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  2. 2

    The Alhambra

    Location: Granada, Spain

    The Alhambra

    Photo by Javier Carro

    Overlooking the city of Granada and chosen by the first Nasrid king, el Ahmar, as a prestigious location for his court, the fortified Alhambra was altered and enhanced by successive rulers to end up as a staggering complex that few can rival. Lofty halls, colossal chambers with imposing ceilings, intimate royal baths, marble fountains, and pomegranate gardens are all but a foretaste of the Moorish-Hispanic delight. A guided tour will reveal the shadiest of nooks and the spiciest of secrets that nest in the history-filled gem argued to be the eighth wonder of the world.

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  3. 3

    City of the Arts and Sciences (Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias)

    Location: Valencia, Spain

    City of the Arts and Sciences (Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias)

    Photo by teleyinex

    The futuristic construction sprawling along an axis of about 2 kilometers, Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias is cultural marvel and a bottomless well of attractions. Staggering on the outside, the alluring design is just a foretaste of what's hiding inside. The complex houses the Hemisfèric (Imax Cinema, Planetarium and Laserium), the Umbracle (with indigenous plants and an outdoor art gallery), the Príncipe Felipe Science Museum (an innovative center of interactive science), the Oceanográfico (the largest aquarium in Europe with over 500 marine species) and the Palau de les Arts Reina Sofía (a performing arts center and an opera house). This place will leave you gaping in wonder.

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  4. 4

    Great Cathedral and Mosque (Mezquita de Cordoba)

    Location: Córdoba, Spain

    Great Cathedral and Mosque (Mezquita de Cordoba)

    Photo by Guijarro85

    The Mezquita de Cordoba is by far the most exquisite example of the Muslim fabric in the Spanish cultural patchwork. Its giant arches, jasper columns, marble floors, richly gilded prayer niches, and the awe-inspiring domed shrine of Byzantine mosaics take you back to the 10th century Spain when Córdoba reached its zenith under a new emir, Abd ar-Rahman III. This wonder of the medieval world throws some light on how lavish decoration can be and how mystical an ambiance a place can unfold.

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  5. 5

    Historic City of Toledo

    Historic City of Toledo

    Photo by Diliff

    Toledo is a masterpiece of multinationality, with Judaism, Christianity and Islam playing key roles in its development. Sitting atop a rugged hill, surrounded by the meandering Tagus, this receptacle of 2-millennium history is so charming and complex that it takes a lot more than a weekend outing to do it justice. Yet 5 minutes in the Synagogue of Santa Maria La Blanca, a walk across the Alcántara bridge, and a glance at the Cathedral is enough to breath the air of historic excellence and appreciate the extent to which its products have been preserved for ages.

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  6. 6

    Costa del Sol

    Costa del Sol

    Photo by robbie jim

    Approximately 2 million non-residents breeze every year into the resorts of Costa del Sol to enjoy the multitude of cultural, recreational, and historic delights spread along the southernmost edge of Spain. Whether it's Torremolinos, Benalmadena, Marbella, or Puerto Banus, over 300 days of sunshine per year and the blessings of nature stretching from Gibraltar in the west to Nerja in the east make it simply impossible to hit amiss. With Ronda, Seville, Cordoba and Granada within a stone's throw, you're guaranteed to have the time of your life.

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  7. 7

    Ciudad de Ronda

    Location: Ronda, Spain

    Ciudad de Ronda

    Photo by Patstuart

    Resting at the very heart of Andalusia, little Ronda is by far one of the loveliest Spanish towns. Although developing at a sufficient pace, it retains much of its historic charm, and it is the old quarter, called La Ciudad, that tourists flock to looking for a speck of romance and adorable sights. Isolated from the new part by an immense river gorge, linked to it by means of a supposedly one of the most photographed structures in Spain, and marked by the casas colgadas precariously overlooking the void, La Ciudad is an enclave of cobblestone, folklore, and historic splendor.

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  8. 8

    Picos de Europa

    Location: Spain

    Picos de Europa

    Photo by lugarzen

    Straddling the provinces of Cantabria, Asturias and León, The Picos de Europa cast a spell on just about anyone who gazes at the snow-capped, rugged peaks, breathes the refreshing air, hikes the fabulous routes, and dines in any of the numerous lovely towns in the area. It is here that you can hide from the oppressive heat, regain balance, and realize that there's much more to Spain than just historical value. Be on the lookout for some of the rarest species of fauna and flora, and prepare for overwhelming vistas.

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  9. 9

    Church of the Sacred Family (Templo Expiatorio de la Sagrada Familia)

    Location: Barcelona, Spain

    Church of the Sacred Family (Templo Expiatorio de la Sagrada Familia)

    Photo by SlapBcn

    Some of the fascination in visiting the Sagrada Familia is the fact that it has been an ongoing project ever since it started in 1882. Legend has it that the world will end once the church is completed, which would explain why architects are estimated to be struggling with the fulfillment of Gaudi's flamboyant vision for years to come. Yet a more probable reason is that the young artist conceived of it as a memorial of remorse for modern materialism in Barcelona and envisioned it so elaborate that it's simply no way of telling where the structure ends and its decoration begins. A magnificent piece of architecture not to be missed!

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  10. 10

    Guell Park (Parc Guell)

    Location: Barcelona, Spain

    Guell Park (Parc Guell)

    Photo by Wolfgang Staudt

    Sitting on the hill of el Carmel in the Gràcia district of Barcelona, Park Guell is a tangible reflection of a surreal dream. Beside the wondrous Casa Batll, Sagrada Familia, and Casa Milà adorning the city, it is the most spectacular manifestation of Antoni Gaudi's unrivaled talent. Take your time in this refreshing wonderland of artistry, watch the quality spectacle of shape and color, rest on the mosaic seats, and let your imagination loose in the fairytale world created by Spain's most resourceful architect.

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  11. 11

    Santiago de Compostela (Old Town)

    Santiago de Compostela (Old Town)

    Photo by Julikeishon

    Recognized through legend as the resting-place of the Apostle James, Santiago de Compostela is so magnetic that even today numerous pilgrims decide to embark on the medieval Way of St. James - a route that traditionally began at one's home and ended at the splendid cathedral in the heart of the Old Town. Tourist soak up the solemn atmosphere of myriad sites honoring the Saint, stroll the winding narrow streets, and marvel at the artistic splendor of glistening facades. Outside the Historic quarter, Santiago the Compostela is a bustling university city, where visitor can couple the newly gained spiritual experience with some delights for the body.

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  12. 12

    Canary Islands

    Location: Spain

    Canary Islands

    Photo by monstermunch99

    Tenerife, known as the island of eternal spring, caresses with its temperate climate, appeases with historic residences of La Laguna, takes you high to scenic la Rambleta, and sets your senses ablaze with Santa Cruz festivals.

    La Palma, largely volcanic in character (and appearance), is not a place for beach-loving lazybones. Rocky cliffs hit by foamy waves neighbor vast avocado orchards, vine plantations and tobacco fields. Caldera de Taburiente, whose crater disappears is soft, multicolored clouds, can be pondered in awe from top of Roque de los Muchachos, where one of the world's largest astronomical observatories has been erected.

    El Hierro is untamed, inaccessible and uncommercialized. The view of the limitless ocean unfolding from Mirador de la Pena testifies to its wildness and the reddish Playa del Verodal reflects its lack of humility.

    Gran Canaria and its Maspalomas dunes compensate for the shortages of sand encountered on the antecedents. Called "Miniature Continent" due to the varying climates and multifarious landscapes, it will take you to lush Doramas's Jungle, rocky Parque Rural del Nublo, and paradisaical la Aldea beach in less than no time.

    Kindled with fire and dried with wind, Lanzarote is truly unparalleled. Buildings are kept low revealing the dramatic landscape of mountain ranges in full scale, Parque Nacional de Timanfaya holds you over the moon (literally!), and the absolutely staggering Jardin de Cactus pays tribute to its visionary architect, César Manrique.

    La Gomera, particularly known for its Parque Nacional de Garajonay, is perhaps the most magical and idyllic of all. Smallest and most accessible, it can be traversed in length and breadth in not more than a day, later offering a full selection of resorts to wind down after a challenging day.

    Last but not least, Fuerteventura. Here time seems to run slower and the simplicity of life is highly infectious. In no time will you be dragging your feet through pastoral villages and soaking up sun on kilometers of beaches, running your fingers through a mixture of Spanish snow-white sand and Saharan golden dust.

     

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  13. 13

    Golden Triangle of Art

    Location: Madrid, Spain

    Golden Triangle of Art

    Photo by van Ort

    A sparkling jewel in the Bourbon crown, this artistic trio consists of 3 most significant Spanish museums, or at least ones that cannot be missed on any account. The world-famous Museo del Prado, among its numerous treasures, glorifies the likes of Velázquez, Goya, and Rubens. The Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía is dedicated to the vast selection of Spanish art, but it's Picasso's Guernica that throws the museum into the limelight. The Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, in turn, may be the least popular, but it aptly makes up for the gaps in the collections of the other two by housing some of the best Impressionists, Expressionists, as well as European and American paintings from the second half of the 20th century.

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  14. 14

    The Walls of Avila

    The Walls of Avila

    Photo by Elena F D

    Cynics say that Avila has just two assets - high wall and low temperature. Much as they are right about the colossal wall embracing the city and the pleasant chill that offers some relief from the intense heat of the south, they obviously can't appreciate the romance that dwells in the finest remnants of Europe's medieval era, its atmospheric festivals, and the legend of Santa Teresa de Ávila. They haven't tried the sweetmeats made by local nuns and sold in small shops throughout the city; nor have they taken a tour around the museums, monuments, art galleries, restaurants, and bars that make the medieval settlement live with a modern flair.

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  15. 15

    Old City of Salamanca

    Location: Salamanca, Spain

    Old City of Salamanca

    Photo by kurtxio

    Shuffled among Carthaginian, Roman, and Moorish hands, Salamanca has developed so multifaceted and alluring an appearance that UNESCO decided to draw it on list of the World Heritage Sites. A unique type of sandstone gives its facades a gold-like glow, a maze of narrow streets endow it with a romantic feel, and the oldest Spanish university makes it bustle with youthfulness. Centered on the brilliant Plaza Mayor, spanning the river with an imposing Roman bridge, and cutting the sky with towering monuments, the Old City of Salamanca is a place everybody remembers with awe and fondness.

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  16. 16

    Archaeological Ensemble of Mérida

    Location: Mérida, Spain

    Archaeological Ensemble of Mérida

    Photo by Jorge6880

    Founded in 25 BC, Merida was once a thriving capital of Lucitania and can therefore boast the greatest number of ancient Roman trademarks of all Spanish cities. Today, its appearance may seem a bit down-at-heel at first sight, but once you get used to some modern eyesores, you'll discover that Merida is a gateway to the empire that is long gone, but whose glory is as vivid as the legend of its rulers. The Amphitheater, the Guadiana bridge, and the Temple of Diana are only some of the highlights that transport you right into the 1st century BC.

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  17. 17

    Las Médulas

    Las Médulas

    Photo by FCPB

    When you look at the fiercely orange protrusions poking out of the green chestnut mass, it's hard to believe the site is a product of human activity. Meanwhile, Las Medulas are traces of ancient technologies used by the Roman Imperial authorities to exploit the gold deposits by means of hydraulic power. A complex system of channels employed the force of running water, which gushed through galleries, lakes and tunnels to wash out the clayey foundation and, as a result, create this unbelievable reddish outline.

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  18. 18

    Guggenheim Museum Bilbao

    Location: Bilbao, Spain

    Guggenheim Museum Bilbao

    Photo by GViciano

    When it was revealed to the public, the Guggenheim Museum was immediately hailed as one of the world's most spectacular achievements of postmodern, deconstructivist architecture. And when you gaze at the randomness of form that the designer conceived of, you not only can't help but agree, but also may happen to wonder whether anything that is going to be found inside is able to outperform the very building that houses the museum. Yet with both permanent and rotating exhibits of works by Spanish and international contemporary artists the place is not going to disappoint, and may the Maman, a huge spider that guards the entrance, be a spooky incentive.

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  19. 19

    Royal Monastery of San Lorenzo de El Escorial

    Location: Madrid, Spain

    Royal Monastery of San Lorenzo de El Escorial

    Photo by IgnisFatuus

    Whether seen from afar or up close, the Monastery of San Lorenzo de El Escorial makes its royal connotations immediately obvious. The ideally symmetrical square, with four towers marking its corners, is home to a monastery, two palaces and a library that boasts as many as 40,000 volumes founded by Philip II. Built as a summer retreat that could serve all the functions of state and church, the complex is fascinating in its completeness and staggering in its wealth. One of Europe's finest tapestry collection, the tombs of Spanish monarchs, as well as magnificent works by Spanish and Italian masters are among the numerous highlights of the royal residence

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  20. 20

    Alcazar

    Location: Sevilla, Spain

    Alcazar

    Photo by clspeace

    Once a Moorish fort, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Alcázar of Seville is an astonishing complexed still used by the royal family when around. Less crowded than the Alhambra but not in the least bit less inspiring, the palace is worth exploring in length and breadth, from the underground bathhouse to the Salón de Carlos V. Its decoration reveals Christian attention to detail and Islamic finesse, the shady gardens replenish vital relief from the deadly heat outside, and the multiplicity of rooms gives one a vertigo. A truly royal attraction.

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  21. 21

    Palace of Catalan Music (Palau de la Musica Catalana)

    Location: Barcelona, Spain

    Palace of Catalan Music (Palau de la Musica Catalana)

    Photo by Lohen11

    Classical music may not be your cup of tea; nor do you have to be delighted with the fact that composers the likes of Prokofiev, Rachmaninov and Ravel have walked through its door. This architectural delight is well worth exploring in its own right, even without symphonic background. Endowed with the most exquisite form of the Catalan Art Nouveau style, this large concert hall stages a fabulous concerto of flowing stucco work, beamed ceilings, and lustrous facades, altogether making for one of the most unconventional modernistic designs to be found all over Spain.

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  22. 22

    Plaza de Espana

    Location: Sevilla, Spain

    Plaza de Espana

    Photo by Grez

    If statistics can be believed, this remnant of the 1929 Ibero-American Exposition is one of the most photographed sights in the world. If they cannot, the majority of photographers should certainly change their focus. This way or the other, fans of Star Wars II must be experiencing a jolt of recognition. This epitome of the Moorish Revival in Spanish architecture is so otherworldly beautiful that it has been featured in The Attack of the Clones, and whether you enjoyed the movie or not, the glamor that comes from the polychromatic ceramic tiles marking the semicircular Plaza de España will surely be to your liking.

     

     

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  23. 23

    Nou Camp

    Location: Barcelona, Spain

    Nou Camp

    Photo by Will Palmer

    Més que un club (More than a club). So goes the motto of FC Barcelona, and an extraordinary club needs an extraordinary stadium. With a capacity of 98,772 and the UEFA status of a 5-star venue, Camp Nou is the largest, most prestigious stadium in Europe, and much as crowds are virtually a nuisance, nothing can really compare to the fervor and excitement of almost 100,000 throats going into raptures over 20 guys running after a ball. Unforgettable!

     

     

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  24. 24

    El Eshavira

    Location: Granada, Spain

    El Eshavira

    Photo by Andrea Balducci

    The Andalusians say, "If you haven't seen Granada, you haven't seen anything." We say, "If you've been to Granada and haven't seen a live performance at El Eshavira, you're a fool." Here smooth jazz and sultry flamenco hold sway in the dim, smoky interior that draws you in like a whirlpool, and lets you out at the crack of dawn, disheveled but with a penchant for Granada instilled deep in your soul.

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  25. 25

    Sobrino de Botin

    Location: Madrid, Spain

    Sobrino de Botin

    Photo by Esetena

    When Jean Botin founded his modest inn at the beginning of the 18th century, little did he imagine that after nearly 300 years he will end up in The Guinness Book of Records. Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to the oldest restaurant in the world. Located just off Madrid's Plaza Mayor in a charming historic building in calle Cuchilleros, it will enchant you with its vintage decoration and endless palette of flavors. Hemingway pronounced it one of his favorite restaurants, and Goya supposedly worked here as a dish washer. Isn't that sufficient a testimony to Botin's excellence?

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