My Top Five Favorite Cities in Spain

Picking out just five Spanish cities from the big list was not easy. In order to come up with my top favorite five, I had to ask myself: what if I only had two weeks to visit five Spanish cities, which ones would I pick? Which ones are a must see? Considering that I have already visited these cities, doesn’t exactly make it any easier either. But here it goes.

Sevilla: Naturally, I have a lot to say about this city as it is my favorite of them all. I fell in love with Sevilla!Seville is very diverse—thousands of tourists visit, study, work, and move to the city every year. Almost all the study abroad programs I’ve checked out offer Seville as a hot spot.

Plaza de España Sevilla

It’s no surprise so many people are interested in this Andalusian city, as its people are as warm as its weather. Temperatures reach the 100+ degrees Fahrenheit in the summer, but the weather remains perfect throughout the rest of the year. (It was one of my favorite things about Seville.) You can always take an hour drive ride or a Renfe train to the beach area, in Huelva.

Because it’s warm, there are always people out on the streets. The neighborhoods of La Macarena and Maria La Blanca are some of my favorites. The vibe feels incredible. There is lots of bars and restaurants to choose from.

If feeling like exploring beyond your horizons, there are bullfights throughout the year and flamenco shows at many different spots. Tip: sometimes the free ones are the better ones. But if interested in a good flamenco show, try to go to Casa de La Memoria.

The prices for meals and drinks in Sevilla were some of the cheapest I had seen in Spain.

I’m sure there are things to do with kids; I never explored it. The same shops they have in Madrid are also in Sevilla, and some other independent ones. There’s also a lot of gift shops with a lot of beautiful interesting little things. I talk about Seville here, here, and Seville food here.

Madrid: One thing about Madrid is that this city is always alive. This was a favorite characteristic as it was so hard to find open businesses during siesta time—from 2pm through 5:30pm. While the rest of Spain takes the siesta, Madrid stays open for business. Shopping stores in the heart of the city, like Puerta del Sol, rarely close.

Madrid is the capital of Spain, so naturally they have almost anything you need. People from everywhere visit Madrid, crowding the streets and train stations so much that it requires continuous surveillance. The presence of cops and security guards at the parks and shopping stores was totally normal.

Madrid has one of the best gastronomy there is. There’s a wide range selection of restaurants and bars and they’re on every corner. Not only do they have fine Spanish restaurants, but also cuisines from different countries and regions, such as Basque, Galician, Asian, Dominican, Peruvian, Cuban, etc.

I enjoyed the parks. The most popular, Parque del Retiro. Right in the center of Madrid. The park is huge! You can go for a walk, exercise, meet up with friends, or simply relax under a tree. It’s an incredibly beautiful park. (There’s another park I visited that was absolutely amazing, but which name escapes me right now. I’ll post it as soon as it comes back!)

Salamanca: Salamanca is a small city, but it is beautiful. It is a must-see. Salamanca is part of Castile and Leon. One of the places that blew me away was its Plaza Mayor (Main Square). The architecture and model are beautiful.

View from the Bell Tower

The city is a university city; it hosts hundreds of students each year. So the atmosphere is relatively young. It is recognized as a Spanish region where many go to learn Spanish as it is said that Castilian is the better Spanish. (Not sure about this statement.)

Salamanca has a lot of historical buildings and monuments, such as University of Salamanca, the Cathedral and the Old Roman Bridge, which you can visit all in one day. If you have an appreciation for art and Baroque architecture, this is the place to go. You feel like you’re walking through a medieval town.  The nightlife is not bad for a small city and the tapas and wine are really good. There’s more about Salamanca here.

Granda: I wasn’t sure whether to choose Bilbao or Granada for my fourth best, but I chose Granada because I just love everything about the region of Andalusia. Plus, Granada is so rich in culture and history, you have got to see it. It is easily accessible from any point in Spain via train or bus.

"La Alhambra" (The Red) of Granada, ...

Starting right off with the greatest monument in Granada:  the Alhambra. I can’t believe it was built by humans. It’s an incredible fortress, a humongous castle built centuries ago. The Alhambra was home to many Arabs rulers and it’s now a major tourist attraction of the city. Inside the Alhambra, you’ll find many palaces and gardens with ponds.  In addition to the Alhambra, there are also museums, churches and parks you can visit in Granada.

The Arab influence is obvious everywhere you look. A lot of Moroccans migrated to Granada and, honestly, it seemed to me that big part of the city is run by them. There are tons of Moroccan shops, tea houses and shops and restaurants. I tried the tea and the Moroccan food and everything was delicious.

Like everywhere in Spain, there are lots of restaurants and bars and a bunch of little streets packed with tourists and locals out for a good time.

Granada’s climate is mild; very hot in the summer, warm in the spring, but it cools off as the night falls. The winter is cold—the city is inside mountains. There’s more about Granada here.

Barcelona: I love energetic cities and diversity, so I love Barcelona. It’s not cliché—there’s a reason almost everyone wants to go to Barcelona. It really is an amazing city.

Barcelona is the capital of the region of Catalonia, which borders with France. Catalonia has its own language, but everybody understands and, as far as I know, can speak Castellano (Spanish). You’ll have to look deep into their history in order to understand this.

One of the most popular spots is Las Ramblas, which is just a long pedestrian mall that connects Plaça Catalunya and the seaport (not sure why it is so popular being what it is). At Las Ramblas, there are always a lot of pickpockets watching you, waiting for the best time to make their moves. I always tell everyone to be especially careful around there.

The nightlife in Barcelona is ahhmazing! Really fun bars and nightclubs. Incredible vibe. There’s a very popular market by Las Ramblas, Mercat de Sant Josep de la Boqueria, which carries anincredible selection of meats, seafood, fruits, and vegetables. For the seafood lovers, there are seafood restaurants with a big seafood selection menu around the market.

Other points of attraction are Camp Nou (Barcelona’s soccer team stadium), Park Güell (Antonio Gaudi’s park and architecture), the Sagrada Familia cathedral (which architecture is also by Gaudi). You can go eat tapas at any Pintxo bars (small-sized plates), visit the neighborhood of La Barceloneta, the Gothic Quarter, museums, and so much more.

Barcelona can be expensive for accommodations, but for young people there are a number of youth hostels and pensions. And for the not-so-young, there are also hostels and hotels that can be affordable if booked with time in advance. It is a very modern, touristy and very expensive city, that’s for sure, but it’s worth visiting. I talk about Barcelona here.

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Just when I thought Andalucia couldn’t get any better, I go to Granada

What an amazing place. Chris and I got on the 3hours+  Renfe train Altaria to Granada this past Friday, hoping to arrive in yet another beautiful and historic Spanish city. Beautiful, indeed.

First, let me start with this amazing picture which I am proud to say that I took with my crappy camera. 🙂 It was at the Alhambra.

Breathtaking.

You can’t go to Granada and not go to the Alhambra. We visited it on the very last day of our trip (Sunday), but before that, we had to get tickets at a tourist ticketing place some twenty-minute walk from Alhambra. We were hoping to catch the bus instead of walking since you have to walk uphill (and I wasn’t feeling that). But, as it tends to happen on the day least expected, there was an “Unfair Labor Laws” strike in Granada and the roads were closed. We had no choice but to walk.

By the way, there were thousands of people peacefully marching on Gran Vía , the main street.

If there’s one thing Spaniards organize themselves well for is strikes. And they like to speak out. Gotta give it to them.

So, other than the strike, there was a lot of energy in that city. I think I’ll add Granada to the list of my favorite Spanish cities. Well, I do love the whole Andalucia area. In Granada, though, there is a huge Arab influence. It is said that the region “has further experienced Phoenician, Greek, Punic, Roman and Visigothic influences.” Its history fascinates me.

We visited a few little Moroccan shops which are spread all over Granada. They have really inexpensive items at these shops, usually every store carries the same thing, but they’re worth checking out. (The Moroccan influence was also easy to see everywhere.) It felt as if we were in a foreign country and not in Spain. It was great though.

Since Chris is a tea drinker (I mean, the guy loves his teas), it was obligatory that we stopped at a tea place–we visited about three tea houses and drank yummy tea after midnight, poured in our teacups from ceiling-high heights by our super talented waiter. I am seriously intrigued, amazed (and everything bizarre) by the way they pour tea. If I tried serving tea the way Moroccans do, there would be tea all over our table AND the table next to us! haha It is so…fascinating.

Then we decided that we had to own one of these cute little sets:

Like I said, we had everything but Spanish traditional things in Granada. I ate Moroccan food for the first time and it was delicious. I still think Spaniards and Moroccans alike overdo it with the bread, but at least they don’t force you to eat it.

So we spent the weekend in Granada walking and eating and shopping and walking…it was a great time. The weather was nice, but I guess due to the geographic position of Granada in relation to the rest of Spain, it was a bit windy almost the whole time. Other than that, it was awesome. Oh, and we found a little OK-cocktail bar right on Gran Vía! mmmmm… How do I miss a good cocktail.

Bueno, here are pictures from our trip to Granada.

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