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  • Writer's pictureYllara Maia

The Most Beautiful Cities to Visit in Spain 2023

Updated: Mar 27, 2023

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Are you trying to decide where in Spain to visit this year? This article is your go-to guide for uncovering the best locations in this incredible country. From awe-inspiring architecture and modern art to flavorful cuisine and dynamic cultural scenes, Spain has something for everyone.

As one of the most beautiful and diverse countries in Europe, Spain has much to offer visitors – from sun-kissed beaches on its Mediterranean coastline to rolling hills and snow-topped mountains in its interior.


The country is home to several major cities, all with unique cultures. From the charms of Valencia in the east, to Madrid's trendy shopping in the center, and chic Barcelona along the coast of Catalonia – cities across Spain come alive with character.


Travelers can explore everything from modern buildings to quaint villages tucked away in lush countryside or whitewashed towns on mountaintops. Whether you come for the history and art or you're all in for the food – Spain will not disappoint!


Click the link below to find out how you can tour multiple cities in Spain with a group of like-minded travelers through EF Ultimate Break.


Why Visit in 2023?


The tourism industry in Spain took a hard hit after the COVID pandemic. Relying heavily on travelers for income, major destinations like Barcelona struggled to recover.

Thankfully, things started to improve after the travel demand spiked in 2022. Now that its borders have been opened to tourists for two consecutive years, there's never been a better time to visit Spain.


2023 is an exciting year to visit Spain for many reasons. One of them is that Madrid just finished constructing its new Plaza Mayor – a massive plaza and market space in the heart of the city that’s sure to be full of life this year.



However, Madrid and Barcelona aren't the only places you should visit in Spain. The country is beautiful all-around and there are so many hidden gems for you to discover along the way. With so many destinations to choose from, how do we narrow down to the best ones?

Don't worry, we did the work so you won't have to. The cities that we feature in this post were picked because they ranked highest in these categories: culture, food, architecture, accessibility, cleanliness, and entertainment.


Our Ultimate List


Although Spain has so many incredible places to visit, we had to narrow down the long list for the purpose of this post. Below are our top picks for the best and most beautiful Spanish cities that you should visit in 2023.


 



Madrid


Madrid is Spain's capital city and it's one of the best places to visit in Europe. Located in central Spain, it's home to a plethora of cultural attractions, monuments, and activities, it's a great stop for tourists visiting Spain for the first time.


The city has been around for centuries, and it's now the largest city in Spain by population It was first founded by the Moors in 852 AD. The architecture here offers an interesting blend of old and new, with iconic locations offering stunning views of Baroque buildings mixed with contemporary structures.



What to Do


When it comes to activities, Madrid offers a wide range of options - from traditional flamenco shows and visiting historic landmarks like the Royal Palace, to shopping for local souvenirs in the Mercado de San Miguel or taking a break at one of the city's many parks.


Everything is pretty much situated around the city centre, so the city is very walkable and accessible. Madrid also has a vibrant nightlife – you can take a stroll around town to find the best bars and clubs or explore the Latina district for some great live music venues.

If you'd like to go shopping, Madrid's Gran Via is a long avenue filled with some of the most iconic retailers in Europe - including H&M, Zara, and others. Even if you don't want to shop, taking a stroll down this bustling street is a fun activity to do in the city.


What to Eat


In terms of food, there are plenty of places to eat and drink in Madrid. The city offers a variety of traditional tapas restaurants where you can sample delicious Spanish cuisine, as well as plenty of other international options.


If you're a foodie, definitely visit Mercado de San Miguel. This indoor food hall serves all kinds of delicious tapas and several local drinks. While you're there, don't forget to try Jamon Iberico.


Jamon Iberico - or Iberian Ham - is basically the Spanish version of prosciutto and it's delicious. Other traditional dishes to try in Madrid are chocolate churros and calamares.


Ultimate Tip: When searching for places to eat, stay away from the touristy plazas like Plaza de Espana and Plaza Mayor. The food is more authentic and tastes a lot better the further you go from the tourist spots.


Where to Stay


Finally, you'll need to decide on your accommodation when visiting Madrid. You can find locations ranging from budget hostels to luxury hotels - depending on your budget and preference. Whatever your choice is, Madrid will provide you with a great place to stay during your time in the city.


On my last visit to Madrid, we stayed at the Generator. It's a hostel located right off Gran Via - one of the best shopping streets in the city. The accommodations were comfortable and incredibly clean. I was impressed and would definitely stay there again.


No doubt about it - Madrid is one of the most beautiful locations Spain has to offer! So why not consider a visit here this year? With plenty of culture, cuisine, and attractions to explore, it'll be an unforgettable experience.



Barcelona


Barcelona is the perfect destination for people who want to experience vibrant culture, stunning architecture, and delightful cuisine. With locations such as La Rambla and Parc Guell, it's easy to see why this city is one of the most popular locations in Spain.

Located in northeastern Spain and right by the Mediterranean sea, Barcelona has a spectacular coastline. The history of Barcelona dates back to the Roman empire, and it has since grown to become one of the most vibrant locations in Europe.


From its stunning Gothic architecture to its lively nightlife, Barcelona will have something for everyone - even the pickiest of travelers!


What to Do


When it comes to activities, you'll never run out of options here. From the Sagrada Familia and Park Guell - to La Rambla and Barceloneta Beach, there's so much to see in Barcelona.


Alternatively, you can take a stroll along the Gothic Quarter and its cobblestone streets to soak in this historic city. Head over to the gothic cathedral and don't forget to take a picture in front of its iconic entrance. There are several other gothic churches to see around this area if you have extra time.


What to Eat


When it comes to food, Barcelona has plenty of options to choose from. Whether you're looking for traditional Spanish tapas or something more international, you'll find whatever you're craving here - and it won't break the bank either!

Tapas are a big thing in Barcelona, but you should be picky about where you get them. Since the city is one of the most visited destinations in Europe, there are a lot of tourist traps when it comes to food. Stay away from La Rambla if you want to get some authentic tapas.



The one spot that I do recommend that you stop at for food along la Rambla is Boqueria Market. This outdoor market offers everything from fresh fruit and vegetables to delicious street food. Paying a visit to La Boqueria is definitely something you won't regret.


Where to Stay


Finally, there's accommodation. You can easily find locations ranging from budget hostels to luxury hotels - depending on your preference and budget. Since the city sees a lot of young visitors each year, Barcelona is famous for having a lot of hostels to choose from.

If you're looking for something a little fancier, don't worry. There are several great hotel options as well. Check out our top picks below:


No doubt about it, Barcelona is the perfect destination for anyone who loves experiencing beautiful architecture and unforgettable nightlife. This city is definitely worth visiting, so don't miss it while in Spain.


Seville


Seville is one of the most beautiful locations in Europe and in my opinion, the best city in all of Spain. This location is full of colors, incredible Islamic architecture, and vibrant culture - making it a must-see destination for any traveler.


From its stunning Moorish architecture to its lively street life, this city is a real-life Instagram filter. Everywhere you go in Seville, you'll find colorful buildings and quaint narrow streets. It's a very picturesque city, and the locals are super friendly.



What to Do


Whether you're looking for some shopping or wish to explore locations like the Plaza Mayor and Guadalquivir River, you'll find plenty to keep you occupied here. Some can't-miss attractions are the Plaza de Espana, Las Setas de Seville, The Seville Cathedral, and the Royal Alcazar.



Out of these four attractions, my favorite is definitely the Royal Alcazar. Once featured in Game of Thrones, this former palace has some of the most beautiful gardens I've ever seen. Make sure you take your time to explore the entire grounds, you will thank me later.


What to Eat


When it comes to food, Seville has plenty of locations to choose from. Everywhere you go in this city, you'll find several outdoor cafes. Since the weather here is typically nice, the locals love to sit outside for their meals.


I'd recommend sitting down at a restaurant or café for carrillada de cerdo or churros con chocolate. If you want to indulge more in the food scene, consider taking a food tour.



Where to Stay


There are plenty of accommodation options in Seville. As long as you stay within the city center, you should have no trouble getting around. The attractions in this city aren't as close in proximity as they are in Madrid, but you can certainly still get around on foot.


If you're considering visiting Spain this year, put Seville at the top of your list. Just like Barcelona, Seville offers a vibrant nightlife scene and fine architecture. I used to rave about Barcelona until Seville in the Andalusia region of Spain, and now I recommend this city every time. It's one of the best places to visit in the entire country.



Granada


Granada is a beautiful city located in southern Spain, near the Mediterranean coast. The city has a long and vibrant history that can be seen through its stunning architecture – from the grandiose Alhambra Palace to the intricate Arabic-style buildings throughout town.



What to Do


This city is famous for housing one of Spain's most incredible and interesting sites - the Alhambra. A UNESCO World Heritage site, the Alhambra is a historic royal palace and fortress dating back to the 14th century. It's an incredible piece of architecture and one hundred percent worth the visit.



Before you go, keep in mind that the hill you'll have to climb to reach the entrance to the Alhambra is very steep. I recommend getting a cab instead if physical exercise isn't for you.


Also, the grounds of the Alhambra are extensive and there's plenty to see once you're inside the fortress walls. I would plan out at least half the day to fully embrace the beauty of this site.


The aerial view of Granada from the Alhambra is priceless and if you can stay for the sunset - please do. I was heading out of the palace when I looked up and noticed it. I ended up staying for another hour just to watch the sky.


It was the most beautiful sunset I've ever seen, and I promise it will be worth your time.



If you're planning on spending a few days in Granada, consider taking a day trip to the Sierra Nevada National Park or watching a flamenco show at Cuevas los Tarantos. Granada is famous for flamenco dancing and the performances you'll see here are some of the best in the country.


What to Eat


Granada is a city that has something for everyone when it comes to food. From traditional Spanish tapas and paellas, to more international cuisine like falafel wraps, you will never be bored of the options here.


For mouth-watering tapas, head down to Bodegas Castaneda, a traditional tapas bar with an amazing selection of local dishes. Another great spot is Taberna El Pasaje, which has some of the best seafood in Granada. For heartier meals, try Restaurante Siete Cines or La Bicicleta for some delicious Spanish dishes.


Where to Stay


Finally, there are accommodation options to suit any budget. Whether you're looking for a budget hostel or a luxury hotel, Granada has something for everyone. The place that we stayed at during my Spanish road trip with EF Ultimate Break was great and had an incredible view.


Valencia


Valencia is one of Spain's most modern locations, with plenty of things to see and places to explore. It is definitely a more industrial city - compared to the others previously mentioned - but it also has pristine beaches and rich history.



What to Do


When it comes to activities, Valencia has something for everyone. For example, why not visit locations such as the City of Arts and Sciences or take a stroll along La Alameda? Alternatively, you can take a boat trip on the Turia River and enjoy some of the city's stunning scenery.


Although Valencia has some very futuristic buildings, it's also a historic city. Old Town Valencia is home to structures dating back to the middle ages, and you can even find Roman ruins here in the La Almoina Archaeological Museum.


What to Eat


This is a big city with lots of monuments to see and also several local dishes to try. Valencia is most famous for its paella. If you've been dying to try this Spanish dish, this is the place to do it.


Where to Stay


If you're wondering where to stay in Valencia, consider staying closer to the beach. The beautiful beaches of Valencia are some of the city's best features. So if you're looking for a Mediterranean escape or a romantic getaway, consider these hotels below.

Valencia is a great place for anyone who loves exploring different cultures and trying new food! With plenty of beautiful places to see and exciting things to do, it's sure to become one of your most cherished memories.



Toledo


The old city of Toledo, Spain is an enchanting place to visit with a rich history, diverse architecture, and vibrant culture. Toledo is known for its old buildings and monuments that offer visitors magical views and plenty of opportunities for exploring. It's one of Spain's most well-preserved medieval cities.

The old city is like stepping back in time, a collage of civilizations featuring Arab baths, Christian churches, and Jewish quarters all nestled together. Sitting on a hill and surrounded by a fortress - Toledo truly looks like something out of a storybook.



What to Do


While you're there, make a pit stop at Mezquita Cristo de la Luz and the El Alcazar. Another must-see is El Greco’s Burial cloth at San Juan de los Reyes as well as learning about the traditional art of sword making at Toledo’s old steel foundry.



What to Eat


Toledo has some amazing cuisine that should not be missed. Located in the south-central region of the country, Toledo is known for its unique culinary offerings. From traditional Spanish dishes like paella and gazpacho to heavenly churros con chocolate and spicy salmorejo, you won't go hungry!


And don't forget to try the local wines - they are some of the best in Spain. Once in town, try some local delicacies like ‘migas’ which are fried pork crumbled or pan de albondiga which are round, flaky buns filled with pork.



Where to Stay


If you're looking for a place to stay in Toledo, Spain, you've come to the right place! This historic city offers plenty of options from luxury hotels to budget-friendly hostels. One of the most popular locations is the heart of the city: Plaza Mayor.


Here you'll find plenty of accommodation choices ranging from small, family-run guesthouses to high-end hotels. You'll also be in the center of it all, surrounded by museums and cultural attractions like the Cathedral of Toledo, which is a must-see.

Another great option for visitors is staying in one of the nearby villages around Toledo. These locations often have beautiful views of the city and provide a more tranquil atmosphere. Plus, they are usually very affordable and offer all the amenities you need.


No matter where you choose to stay in Toledo, you're sure to have a wonderful experience! The city has something for everyone and is sure to make your Spanish holiday one of the most memorable ones yet.


Cordoba


Cordoba Spain is an amazing city that is full of culture, history and delicious food. Highlights of Cordoba include the Mezquita mosque, the hanging houses along the banks of the Guadalquivir River, and beautiful plazas to soak up the atmosphere.



What to Do


When visiting Cordoba, a must-see experience is definitely exploring the Mesquita - or Mosque-Cathedral of Cordoba; this great mosque is one of the greatest works of Islamic architecture in Spain.


After spending some time at the mosque, don’t forget to learn about Cordoba’s historical importance by visiting interesting museums such as La Casa Andalusí and Capilla Mudéjar.


The city also hosts exciting fiestas every June when locals take to the streets in traditional costumes wielding colorful umbrellas. Local foods to try include Seville oranges, jamon serrano and sherry from nearby Jerez.


What to Eat


Cordoba also has plenty of tapas restaurants where visitors can enjoy an array of local dishes - including salmorejo (a cold tomato soup), pisto manchego (sautéed vegetables), as well as freshly caught seafood.


One great spot is the Plaza Mayor, where you’ll find a range of restaurants serving up delicious dishes. Try some classic Spanish favorites such as patatas bravas or a refreshing gazpacho soup.



If you want something more unique, why not sample some locally-sourced Iberico ham and cheese? Or, for a real taste of Andalusia, try the traditional salmorejo dish.


Another popular option is the La Judería district, where you’ll find plenty of cozy spots to enjoy some tasty tapas. Whether you want to go for classic favorites like croquetas or something more inventive like marinated anchovies, you’ll find something to tantalize your taste buds.

No trip to Cordoba would be complete without a visit to one of the city’s top-rated restaurants. Here, you can sample modern takes on traditional Spanish cuisine or opt for something more international.


Whatever you choose, you’re sure to have an unforgettable culinary experience.



Where to Stay


The capital city of the region of Andalusia is full of culture and history, not to mention some incredible food! When visiting Cordoba, there's something to suit every price range and preference. From compact hostels all the way up to lavish hotels, you're sure to find a perfect place for your stay.


One area you might want to consider staying in is the Plaza Mayor. This historic square was once home to Roman and Moorish civilizations and still has plenty of reminders of its past, including a 16th-century fountain.

The area is filled with cafes and shops, making it a great place to stay if you’re looking for some culture and convenience. If you’d prefer something more peaceful, the nearby Calleja de las Flores is worth considering.


This winding, cobbled street is lined with gorgeous flowers and is home to many boutiques and restaurants. It’s the perfect place to find some peace and quiet away from the hustle and bustle of Cordoba’s Plaza Mayor.



How to Get Around Spain


Navigating around Spain is a breeze no matter your preferences. Whether you prefer to get behind the wheel of a car, hop on public transportation, or take a leisurely stroll, each type of transportation has its own benefits and unique experiences that make exploring Spain memorable.


To get to and from major cities that are further apart, like from northern Spain to the Costa Del Sol, for example, it's best to take the train. Another way to do so is by taking a coach bus. However, this usually takes longer and can be a bit less comfortable.


Renting a car is another option and it's ideal for those who want flexible ways to explore the country's rural villages at their own pace. The only downside to renting is traffic in bigger cities can be intense! I also wouldn't recommend driving across the country if it's your first time in Spain.



Nevertheless, if you're just exploring a limited area such as Basque Country, and navigating over short distances, it could be worth your while to rent a car.


For example, driving from Bilbao to San Sebastian would take you about an hour and a half - and you could make pit stops along the coast to see some beautiful beaches.


Lastly, if you're looking to explore beyond the mainland of Spain - such as the Canary Islands or Mallorca - your best options are to either fly or take a ferry.


From Valencia, you can take a boat ride to Ibiza Town and Palma de Mallorca - but keep in mind that these journeys are long. If you don't want to be in a boat for over five hours, stick to flying.


Whether you're just visiting the major cities or exploring hidden gems, there are plenty of transportation options for whichever way you choose to explore fabulous Spain!


Final Thoughts


When planning your trip to Spain in 2023, there are plenty of locations to choose from. From the capital city Madrid, full of stunning plazas and monuments to the ancient cities of Toledo and Cordoba, there's something for everyone to enjoy.


Whether it's exploring cultural sites such as the Mezquita Mosque in Cordoba or trying delicious local dishes like paella in Valencia - you're sure to have a memorable experience.


To get the most out of your trip, be sure to plan ahead by researching locations, booking hotels and looking up local attractions that interest you. Additionally, don't forget to sample some authentic Spanish cuisine while you're here! With all these recommendations in mind, you'll definitely be in for a great time in Spain.


With these tips and ideas in mind, you're sure to have an amazing time exploring all that Spain has to offer! So get ready - you're only a few steps away from having the adventure of a lifetime. Bon Voyage!

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