Five Beautiful Cities in Spain (If You've Done Barcelona and Madrid)

Forget Barcelona and Madrid: these are the Spanish cities to make tracks for when in the mood for heritage architecture, eclectic culture and towers of tapas.

City-hopping through Spain? Already seen Barcelona and Madrid's best bits? These five smaller cities couldn't be more attractive.

Our pick of Spain's most enticing smaller cities



Backdropped by the evocative Alhambra complex, the Moorish city of Granada is a real charmer. The romantic palace-fortress - built by the Nasrid sultans, rulers of the last Spanish Muslim kingdom - is one of the city's most alluring attributes.

Granada offers an eclectic mishmash of Muslim and Spanish culture, and the food - from old-school tapas bars to family-style restaurants - reflects the city's melting-pot past. Sip a glass of the sherry-like wine preferred by locals, or stick with tea at one of the traditional teterías (Moorish tea rooms) scattered through the city. The best are in the Albaicín quarter.



Bilbao, known worldwide for its impressive architectural credentials, is a sight to behold. A hive of abstract design awaits exploration in this Basque Country city, including Frank Gehry's titanium-clad Guggenheim Museum and Philippe Starck's Alhóndiga cultural centre (formerly a wine cellar) and neo-baroque beauties aplenty. Still, this is no urban metropolis. Surrounded by hills and with a breathtaking coastline an easy jaunt from town, this lush corner of northeastern Spain is an easy sell.




Although Unesco World Heritage site Toledo is particularly popular with day-trippers, we recommend lingering a little longer to truly appreciate its beauty. Located on the Tagus River, this peach-hued, ancient city sits above the plains of Castilla-La Mancha and is home to one of Spain's finest gothic cathedrals, which stands on the site of a former mosque.

After ogling towering steeples and imposing buttresses, turn your attention to the city's art collections. Scout out works by El Greco, an artist synonymous with the city, as well as other Spanish masters such as Zurbarán, Goya and Velazquez.




Favoured by foodies and flamenco fans, Seville is a delightful destination. Mudéjar palaces and baroque churches are easily reached down winding medieval lanes, which, come summer, are shaded from the broiling heat by leafy citrus trees.

Head to the Moorish capital's historic centre to discover Seville's robust gastronomic offering. Tapas is best enjoyed in a crowded bar and, according to young locals, La Brunilda Tapas is the preferred table in town. When you've conquered the city, make a day trip to the ancient Andalusian city of Córdoba.




Spain's third-largest city was once considered little more than an industrial hub - but times have changed. This year, the southeastern city was awarded World Design Capital status, in recognition of its transformation into a creative leader: head down to the ultra-modern waterfront to catch a piece of the action. This futuristic quarter houses exhibition spaces, a concert hall and an oceanarium, but we'd advise also setting some time aside to enjoy the gardens that fan out around the space-age structures.

Once you've gazed at the architecture, head into the old quarter to wander a tangle of gothic streets. Start explorations with a horchata (a traditional sweet drink) at Horchatería Daniel, then settle on a good paella spot, of which there are many - the dish was created here. Our favourite eatery? Bodega Anyora, housed in the old fishing quarter of El Cabanyal, which serves traditional seafood dishes with a modern twist.

This article was updated on 17 May 2022.

Discover More
The Best Boutique Stays In Rural Spain