I’ve written in another post here, on my recipes page, about paella and how much I love it. In fact, I love just about any Spanish food (I could eat a whole Chorizo in one sitting) and I’m BIG on tapas.
Spain is one of my favourite countries, and may well be my favourite European country – beating Italy, France, Germany and Greece, the usual favourites. Spain is often given a bad press, and every time you say you’re going to Spain people assume you mean Benidorm or some other cheap, Brit-infested hole of a place. They completely overlook the real Spain – the palaces, the shopping, the food, the people….I could visit every Spanish city and never want to leave, and on my list of places to go I currently count Grenada, Bilbao and Madrid within the Top 10.
Thankfully, I’ve already travelled a lot of Spain and so can give you a run-down of my Top 5 Spanish Cities.
Seville is my favourite Spanish city (so far!) for good reason. It is no-where near the coast, which means it is often overlooked by tourists to the Spanish peninsula, but this makes it incredibly authentic. The food is incredible – there are no shortage of restaurants, both Spanish and International, but Seville is a great place for tapas. The best thing to do is grab a table and point to what you want – who cares what it is! Just make sure you’re not going to be allergic anything by using a Spanish dictionary to make a note of what to avoid!
Seville isn’t just good for food and escaping tourists, though. It’s weather is almost guaranteed to be good – very hot, very sunny, when we went in April – and there is no shortage of things to see. The Alcazar Palace is easy to miss as the Cathedral looms large over the centre of the city, and but it’s worth the entrance fee (if just for some shade!). It is a great example of Spanish history, the inside intricately decorated in Moorish mosaics.
Seville is also the home of the Seville Orange (obviously…) and there is nothing better in the heat of the afternoon than to sit outside under an orange tree sipping freshly squeezed juice. If you’re not too squeamish, you can head to the bull ring – even if you are, you can still marvel at the young Matadors in training.
For a memorable afternoon, walk through the Jardines to the Plaza de Espana – you might even recognise it from Star Wars, although there is no R2D2 unfortunately. There is, however, a boating lake if you fancy a sail! After this, head to the Hotel Alfonso XIII to sample cocktails on their rooftop terrace, overlooking the whole city. You won’t even have to walk home if you take a classic horse and cart.
If you’re wondering when to go, Easter is the best time to experience Spanish culture, when the Catholic town closes down for an incredible parade.
Malaga is the best Spanish city I’ve been to for shopping, but it gets overlooked easily. Maybe it’s because people confuse it with that old Marbella place, but Malaga is a chic and sweet Spanish city, full of winding streets and hidden gems.
Malaga is known, however for being the birthplace of Pablo Picasso, and a trip to the Museo Picasso Malaga will bring you close to 204 of his works – as well as archaeological remains from Islamic and Roman Malaga.
There is also no shortage of beautiful architecture. The Cathedral was never completed, the beautiful Alcbaza palace is situated next to the Roman Amphitheatre and the magnificent Castillo de Gibralfaro overlooks the city.
If you want some time away from the hustle and bustle, you can head to one of the many beautiful beaches Malaga has to offer. You could always combine a trip between Seville, Cadiz, Malaga and Granada if you really want a taste of Spain – and interrail pass is a brilliant way to do this.
Valencia is the home of Paella, and is also the home of a brilliant Grand Prix! Believe it or not, Valencia is the third biggest Spanish city after Madrid and Barcelona. It’s situated on the Med coast 4 hours from Barcelona, but the beach is not a big pull. Valencia is famous for it’s science and arts culture, and the Science and Arts Park situated on the old river house an IMAX cinema, an art gallery, a science museum, a planetarium and an amazing aquarium.
Follow the Turia riverbed by strolling through the park it has become, complete with football and rugby fields and an athletics track.
The best time to visit is over March 19th, The Festival of San Jose, also known as the Fallas. The tradition harks back to the traditional carpentry days of Valencia, when wooden utensils and things from the winter would be burnt. Now, it is a mess of burning paper mache dolls and setting fireworks off wherever it is deemed necessary (which is apparently everywhere…)
Cadiz is a port city steeped in history, jutting out into the Atlantic. It’s also a great place to sip Sherry and watch a Flamenco show, and to stuff your face with yummy Andalucian food, such as courgette and prawn lasagne and pressed pork. Take a stroll to he Plaza del Flores, or Square of the Flowers, just for a brilliant photo opportunity, and walk the 750m causeway to the Castillo de San Sebastian.
Everybody loves Barca, and it’s easy to see why. Football, art, music, beaches….There’s probably not much I can realistically say about Barcelona without you knowing it already. The Gaudi Cathedral ( Sagrada Familia, The Sacred Family) is a must-see, as is a trip to Camp Nou and Las Ramblas. If you can, get tickets for Benicassim so you can laze the days away on the beach before partying all night.
Head to Carrer de la Riera Baixa if you’re inspired by the cool local dress- the street is great for vintage finds- or if you’re more of a foodie, the Mercat de la Boquera is the place to stock up on fruit, veg and nuts – or just watch the hustle and take in the smells! For art, see Gaudi’s Park Guell for some surreal landscape gardening, and Casa Batllo for his take on living accomodation. And if you just can’t get enough of FC Barcelona, spend the day at the Museu del Futbol Club Barcelona.
To get away from the city, you can head to Monserrat for the day – it’s only 31miles from the city and is home to hermit caves and a old monastery.