Tapas, sangria and sun: 5 Spanish cities you have to visit
Ranging from the dusty valleys of Andalusia to the verdant mountains of the Basque Country, the snow-capped Pyrenees to the salt-washed southern coast near Cadiz, Spain has got plenty of secrets up its sleeve. Traveling here means adding not only mouth-watering tapas and paella to the menu, but also the bucket-list cities of Madrid and Barcelona, not to mention a whole load of other enthralling urban spots. No siree, there ain’t nothing like a Spanish Fiesta!
Get the permanent marker ready for Barcelona; you’re about to check off one hefty line from that bucket list! Ranging from the otherworldly creations of Antoni Gaudí at the Park Güell and soaring Sagrada Familia to the golden sand stretches of Barceloneta and Sant Sebastià, Catalonia’s mighty capital is simply not to be missed. Cut through by the tree-spotted central drag of Las Ramblas, the heart of the city beats with cerveza bars and street entertainers. Meanwhile, tapa joints issue the smells of black bean stews and fried calamari on the streets of the Barri Gòtic, while cava gushes into glasses amidst Gracia district, and ancient Roman ruins lurk between the modern town. No wonder this one’s a favourite on our Spanish Fiesta itinerary!
Nestled between the sparkling whitewashed pueblos and coastal forts of the Costa del Azahar, Valencia boasts arguably one of the finest locations for any city in Spain. Not only does it come hemmed in by more golden sands and playas (that’s beaches) than you can shake a bubbling bowl of saffron-infused paella at, but it’s got two millennia of history hidden between its medley of Moorish towers and 15th-century palazzos (just check out all the winding streets and looming castles in the Barri del Carme!). And while all summertime means oodles of lazing on the sands and sipping horchata in Valencia’s al fresco bars, late august is high time to come – that’s when the iconic La Tomatina festivities erupt in nearby Buñol. Tomatoes at the ready folks!
One of the undisputed off-the-beaten-track gems of Spain, Zaragoza hails in as the great historic capital of Aragon. Over the centuries it has been the epicentre of its own kingdom, been conquered by Iberia’s medieval Muslim-Moorish invaders, trodden by the likes of Goya (the region’s most famous painter), and adorned with glorious Gothic spires and arabesque citadels alike. The city’s heart is crowned by the gorgeous Baroque steeples of the Basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar, its spires glowing copper-rust green over the Ebro River. There are crumbling Roman ruins too, and bubbling wine bars serving up some of northern Spain’s finest reds and whites. Oh, and all that just three hours away from Barcelona!
Europe’s third-largest metropolis is a veritable sangria-based cocktail of fun and fascination. From the grand statues of the country’s erstwhile monarchs on the Puerta del Sol to the pulsing Spanish chatter that twists and turns through the café terraces on lively Plaza Mayor, the El Greco and Goya masterworks of the so-called Museum Triangle to the hidden flamenco shows and endless patatas bravas of the night time tapas dives, this is a city that oozes enthralling character from every one of its regal pores. And when urban living gets too much, visitors can head for the hills of beautiful La Mancha, tracing Cervantes and the Bourbon dynasty through the UNESCO-attested towns.
Granada is a real beauty to behold. Its horizons are dominated by the snow-mantled ridges of the Sierra Nevada (a trekking AND skiing mecca!), spotted now and then with Andalusia’s iconic whitewashed pueblo villages. Its heart cascades down southern Spain’s dusty hills, showcasing a medley of gorgeous Islamic architecture (much of Granada was raised during the time of Nasrid rule) and earthy Mediterranean charm. The Sacromonte neighbourhood remains a microcosm of Gypsy Spain too, set to a backing track of flamenco and peppered with palm trees and plazas. And to top it all off, there’s that awesome Alhambra on the hill; a soaring, impossibly elegant example of Moorish power that’s got everything from enchanting Arabic gardens to formidable battlements from the 14th century.
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