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

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


Granada

Andalusia

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

Biscay

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.

toledo-spain

Toledo

Toledo

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.

seville-spain

Seville

Andalusia

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.

valencia-spain

Valencia

Valencia

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.

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