Spain is a vast country that you would need to visit for at least a few months to get to know perfectly. However, a classic sightseeing tour of Spain takes between 2 and 3 weeks. What should you definitely visit to get the perfect impression of this beautiful and contradictory country?
The capital is full of sights, exciting life day and night, and you'll even find a beautiful botanical garden. You can start your travels in Madrid. You'll probably arrive at Adolfo Suarez Airport in the Bajaras district, which is about 20 km from the centre of Madrid.
Definitely visit Madrid's landmark, the Palacio Real in the Plaza de la Armería, which is even ten times bigger than London's Buckingham Palace. The dining room with its impeccable decoration, the porcelain room and the armoury will certainly impress you.
Then it's worth visiting El Retiro Royal Park, which was a royal park until the end of the 19th century but then became a public park. The park is not far from the Prado Museum (see below), it is full of sculptures, galleries, there is a lake where you can picnic, and you can play sports in the park. It covers an impressive 1.5 km2.
Opened in 1819, the Prado Museum is a true showcase of what was created in Europe from the 12th to the 19th century. The royal collection was the basis for the museum itself. Most of the paintings are represented, you will see over 5000 of them, of course Spanish painters (Vélazquez, Francisco Goya, El Greco), but also other European ones (Titian, Hieronymus Bosch, Rembrandt, Rubens, for example.).
Spain's second largest city and the capital of Catalonia, Barcelona is located in the east of Spain on the Mediterranean coast. You'll be captivated by the diverse architecture, the chance to swim in the sea and the opportunity to visit the zoo.
Be sure to visit the Sagrada Familia, designed by Barcelona's most famous architect Gaudí – there are plenty of his buildings. Although construction began in 1882, the temple is still unfinished. However, its towers are accessible and you can climb the spiral staircase to get a breathtaking view of the city from above.
Because Barcelona is by the sea, shipping has flourished here since the Middle Ages. The medieval shipyards of Les Drassanes have been preserved to this day and are now the Maritime Museum. This contains the largest and best-preserved complex of its kind in all of Europe.
The marine aquarium is also an interesting spectacle. Here you will find 22 giant aquariums and a long tunnel through which you walk in a giant tank where you can see sharks, rays and moonfish.
But Barcelona also lives by day and night. Don't forget to try sangria, Clara beer, or café con leche (coffee with milk). In the evening, order tapas – Spanish appetizers and entrees – to go with your beer and wine.
You probably know this pilgrimage site at least by name, but have you been there to see it? The paths are now marked with modern tourist signs and run alongside landmarks, stone crosses and divine sacrifices from ancient times. There have been as many as 12 pilgrimage routes in history, from different countries (France, Italy, Portugal). Even if you are not religious, a pilgrimage will definitely appeal to you, especially with the beautiful nature you will pass through.
Valencia is the third largest city in Spain. Located on the Turia River near the Mediterranean Sea, it enjoys a mild Mediterranean climate. You should especially visit the Jardí de Turia Park, which was created in the original riverbed and is 9 km long, making it one of the largest urban parks in Europe. For lovers of old architecture, there is the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Three Gates, and for lovers of modern art, there is the so-called City of Arts and Sciences in the south-east of Valencia, a place built by the architect Calatrava, who is often considered controversial, especially in terms of the materials used and the durability of the buildings.
TIP: If you manage to visit Valencia between 12 and 19 March, you'll be able to enjoy the Las Fallas celebrations. In the past, this festival was mainly associated with carpenters (falla means figure, puppet), but nowadays it is almost a carnival-style celebration with fireworks at the end.
Seville is the 4th largest city in Spain and the capital of Andalusia. It is also the cultural centre of southern Spain. This city combines Spanish and Moorish (Arab) architecture. For example, there is the Alcazar, a royal palace converted from a Moorish fortress. The Seville Cathedral, which is the third largest in Europe, is certainly worth seeing. Try to visit Seville in spring or autumn, as it can get quite hot in summer.
Granada is a city in Andalusia, located at the foot of the Sierra Nevada mountains, and is also heavily influenced by Arabic architecture. Its symbol on its flag and emblem is the pomegranate. Particularly worth a visit is the Alhambra complex, a fortress and palace in one, which is still considered the pinnacle of Moorish architecture. NOTE: Tickets often have to be bought well in advance. You can also visit the Generalife Summer Palace or the Albaicín district with its winding streets in the Moorish style.
Cádiz is again in Andalusia. According to historical sources, it is probably the oldest city in southwestern Europe still standing. It was founded around 1000 BC by the Phoenicians. Today you may be tempted by the beautiful beaches, the museum, the cathedral and the ancient castles of Castillo de San Sebastián and Castillo de Santa Catalina. Although Cadiz is certainly not as fancy as other cities in Spain, it is definitely worth seeing.