Get Your Bucket List Ready – Here are the Most Interesting Attractions in Spain.
Your favourite penguins are back – and this time we’re heading back to Spain! In our first post about Spain, we covered some of the best cities that you should visit. Well, now it’s time to talk about what you shouldn’t miss while you’re traveling through Spain! Here is a list of some of the top attractions you can see all over the country.
Admittedly, Lisa has been to most of these because she did live in Bilbao for awhile. The best advice we can give you before diving into the post is to seriously book your tickets ahead of time for some attractions. It’s no secret how busy Spain can get in the summertime. The last thing you want is missing out on seeing the buildings or attractions you’re passionate about because there are so many people and attractions are at capacity. A great example is, of course, Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, but it’s busy and popular for a reason, right? We cover it below in detail.
Overall, we hope this is a helpful guide that gives you options and the right websites to make your Spain trip the best that it can be! Ready to explore, Spanish waddler? Let’s go!
San Juan de Gaztelugatxe – Between Bakio and Bermeo
Located close to Bilbao, San Juan de Gaztelugatxe can be easily reached by bus. It’s one of the main attractions in the Basque country for obvious reasons. What are the reasons? Well, it’s one of the filming locations for television show Game of Thrones and the scenery is absolutely stunning!
So what is San Juan de Gaztelugatxe exactly? An island of course! This small Island features a stone church at the very top. You can climb the 241 steps to the top and you’ll get an incredible view of the surrounding landscape. Lisa went there with a group of friends while she studied in Bilbao – it was absolutely worth it! On the Tourism Website for the Basque Country you can read more about this special attraction.
La Sagrada de la Familia – Barcelona
As one of Gaudi’s most famous works, the Sagrada Familia is well-known around the world. Too bad its still not finished – it’s been under construction since the 19th century. The church is absolutely beautiful on the inside with a stunning attention to details – especially on the ceiling and the doors. As such a beautiful sight, it’s a very popular attraction in Barcelona. You will need to be prepared for the line-up to get inside but it’s well worth the wait. Alternatively, you could buy a line skip ticket for Sagrada Familia beforehand if you know when you’ll be checking out Barcelona. Might be worth the extra few dollars!
Dalt Vila – Ibiza
Dalt Vila is referring to Ibiza’s old town – which has aged well as a UNESCO world heritage site. The old town itself is enclosed in walls – and you actually have to cross a drawbridge in order to get inside! Once inside, you’ll feel like you’ve been transported back in time by the narrow, cobblestone streets. From up on the hilltop, you’ll have great views of the surrounding areas!
Alhambra – Granada
Alhambra is both a palace and a fortress complex located on top of a hill in Granada. It was completed towards the end of Muslim rule in the 14th century. Today, it’s one of the most popular buildings constructed with a Moorish design. As a UNESCO world heritage site, it’s a very popular tourist attraction. It’s important to know that only a limited amount of visitors are allowed to enter on a daily basis so be sure to buy your ticket well in advance. You can also buy an Alhambra line skip and small tour ticket to avoid disappointment and learn more about the complex as you walk around. It’s quick and easy and you’ll know your bases are covered when you travel!
Clerecía Towers – Salamanca
If you’re in Salamanca, you should absolutely go up the towers of the church Clerecía. Built in the 17th century, today the church belongs to the university. The towers were originally designed to bring people closer to heaven. These days, they bring visitors great views of Salamanca and the cathedral. Lisa can vouch for that and has many great photos to prove it. (Psst, actually Salamanca is one of her favourite Spanish cities and there are many great photo spots all across the city.) For an incredible photo opportunity and a great experience in general, you can visit the website to learn more information. Tickets cost approximately 3 euro for adults.
Royal Palace – Madrid
The Royal Palace – or the Palacio Real – is one of the main attractions in Madrid. Lisa says its something you absolutely have to go and see – even if it’s just from the outside! The Palace is the official residence of the Spanish royal family. They don’t actually live there but it’s used for all the big official functions. The Palace was actually built in the 18th century after a fire destroyed the castle that previously stood.
At its time of completion, it was one of the largest buildings at the time with over 2000 rooms! Today, you can go inside and take a tour of the Palace. They have a weapons collection that is the largest in the world. You can find more information about opening hours and ticket prices on the official website or you can purchase a line skip ticket and tour with an expert before you go!
El Teide – Tenerife
El Teide is a volcano on Tenerife. Rising up to 3718 m above sea level, it’s the highest point in all of Spain! It’s been described by the UNESCO as world’s third-tallest volcanic structure – and it is technically an active volcano! Together with the Teide National Park, the volcano is one of the most visited natural wonders in Spain. For the astronomy buffs out there, there is also an observatory which is perfect if you want to learn more about the stars. If you’re looking to spend any time in Tenerife anyways, El Teide is certainly worth the visit. Oh, and don’t forget about the cable car ride for the stunning views! Just remember to apply for a permit beforehand to ascend the peak!
Santiago de Compostela Cathedral
The cathedral itself is part of the larger UNESCO world heritage site. Construction began in the 11th century, and it is supposedly the burial place of Saint James the Great. Because of this reason, Santiago de Compostela has served as a place of pilgrimage since the Middle Ages as it marks the end of the Way of St. James. You can see the cathedral from the inside and even book a guided tour of the cathedral and museum if you’re keen to learn more. Here’s the official website for opening hours and other details.
Park Güell – Barcelona
Again with the Barcelona tips – there’s Park Guell. The park is one of the absolute top attractions in Spain that everyone knows about. Designed by Antoni Gaudí and built between 1900 and 1914, the Park is a mix of gardens and architectural elements. In 1984, the Park was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The most popular parts of the Park are the intricately detailed mosaic work that you can find on the main terrace and all across the park. The Park is very popular so you might have to wait until you are allowed to enter certain parts of the park (and with a ticket) while other parts of the park are accessible for free and to anyone. You can learn more about the details at the official website or choose to book a line skip ticket for entrance to the Monumental Core.
Mezquita-Catedral de Córdoba
The Mezquita of Cordoba – also known as the Great Mosque of Cordoba – is one of the main attractions in the city. The Mosque is another great example of Moorish architecture in Spain. Originally designed to be a Catholic church, it was shared by both Muslims and Christians after the Islamic conquest. This changed in the 8th century when the Mosque was constructed on these grounds. The rule was changed again in 1236 and the Mosque was converted to a Roman Catholic Church.
In 1994, the church and the surrounding streets and buildings were declared a UNESCO world heritage site – so be sure to see the old town surrounding it as well! As you can see, there is a rich history to the area so be sure to take your time when walking around. If you want to learn more about the city and the church’s past, it would be worth doing a guided tour of the Mosque.
Guggenheim Museum – Bilbao
For a museum of Modern and Contemporary Art built in the north of Spain, the Guggenheim was actually completed on time and within budget! The museum was inaugurated in 1997 and has since played a huge role in the development of the city. No, seriously, there’s actually a term called the “Bilbao effect” which describes exactly that – how the museum helped transform the whole city. It became a popular tourist attraction and brought lots of visitors which helped fuel the economy. It doesn’t hurt that the museum is also one of the largest museums in Spain. Lisa has been there a couple time and thinks it’s worth to check out. You can find the official website here.
Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias – Valencia
Translated into English, it’s called the “City of Arts and Sciences”. As a cultural/architectural complex in Valencia, it’s one of the main tourist attractions. Located at the end of the city park which was a former riverbed, construction was started in 1996 and it was inaugurated two years later.
The “city” itself is made out of different buildings. In the photo above, you can see the L’Hemisfèric – which contains an IMAX cinema, a planetarium, and laserium, and six other buildings – one of which is an open-air aquarium! Lisa’s tip: once again, definitely worth to go there and see it – even if it is just from the outside. The photographs are stunning! Here’s the official website to learn more information.
Retiro Park – Madrid
Retiro Park is a massive and beautiful park in the middle of Madrid. How big? Well, the park is over 125 hectares that include over 15,000 trees! Visitors will also find fountains and monuments throughout the park. The park has a small lake (which you can see in the photo above) and you can even rent a boat and take it out to enjoy the sunshine.
Tourists and locals alike flock to Retiro when the weather is nice to escape the hot sun either in the shade or to sunbathe. To each their own! Here’s the website to learn more about Retiro Park and if you’re feeling active you can book a bicycle tour around Madrid that includes Retiro!
Aqueduct of Segovia
As one of the best preserved Roman aqueducts still standing in the world, the Segovia aqueducts serve as the city’s most important architectural landmark. While historians are not exactly sure when it was built (estimated to be around the first century AD), the aqueducts were still in use until the middle of the 19th century. The aqueduct has been reconstructed and preserved throughout history – and it’s worth seeing while you’re in Segovia! The city is easy to get to from Madrid and you can book a Segovia/Toledo city tour to make sure you experience both!
Seville Cathedral and Real Alcázar
These adjoining buildings will blow you away. The cathedral was completed in the early 16th century. At the time, it was the largest cathedral in the world (23,5000 square metres). From the inside, you’ll get a firsthand look at how impressive the detailing is. Christopher Columbus is actually buried in the cathedral – fun fact!
Real Alcazar is a royal palace originally built by Moorish Muslim Kings – and you can clearly see this reflected in the architecture. First built in the 10th century, it was rebuilt the 11th. Considered to be one of the most beautiful palaces in Spain, can find out more information at the website or choose to see these UNESCO world heritage sites on a guided tour.
Camp Nou – Barcelona
If you’re a football fan (soccer for the North Americans) then seeing the home of FC Barcelona is for you! Completed in 1957, the impressive stadium has a seating capacity of 99,354. Yes, this makes it the largest stadium in Europe! Camp Nou is also home to the Catalan National Team but the Spanish National Team hasn’t played there since the middle of the 1980s.
The stadium itself is connected to the museum which is worth checking out if you are interested in soccer and/or the history of the FC Barcelona. They have stadium tours that run regularly and you can find more information on the website.
Toledo Cathedral is a stunning centrepiece in a picturesque city. Built in the 13th century, the cathedral is a fantastic example of Gothic architecture. Currently, the cathedral serves as the seat of the Metropolitan Archdiocese of Toledo. Like other religious sites in Spain, the building itself sits on the grounds of the Great Mosque of Toldeo – which once replaced a Visigothic Church. For the history lovers, this place is your temple – literally. Once again, you can see Toldeo from Madrid and take in all the rich history by booking a full day tour to Toledo that comes with a Cathedral ticket!
And there you have it – 17 of the top attractions in Spain! Obviously, there are lots more that you can see but these are some of our favourites. Have you been to any of these before? What was your experience like? Let us know!
As always, Happy Spanish Waddlin’,