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(2024 - Spring/Summer Issue)


La Sagrada Família, Barcelona’s nearly completed cathedral, is easily Spain’s most visited tourist sight. Antoni Gaudí’s design features give the soaring structure an organic feel. In fact, three Gaudí creations—including Parc Güell and Casa Milà—in Barcelona make Spain’s top five tourist sights. While Gaudí’s works make Barcelona popular with tourists, other Spanish cities where visitors can live like a local deserve much more attention. Here are five we recommend.


Madrid’s famous art museums, the Prado and the Reina Sofia, where works by Miró, Dalí and Picasso—including Picasso’s Guernica—are found, rank 8th and 9th on Spain’s most visited sights. Once the museum tours are over, it’s time to explore the capital’s abundant green spaces. Stroll beside Madrileños through Retiro Park, an urban oasis reputed for its formal design and crystal palace. In the much larger Casa de Campo, home of an artificial lake, follow cycling, walking and even rowing routes to terrace cafés.


On the northern coast, Spain’s 15th largest city of Gijón is defined by the twin beaches that frame tiny Cimavilla Peninsula, a Gijonés favourite for rest and play situated in the city’s historic heart. Roman thermal bath ruins discovered in 1903 are now a museum beneath the city’s cathedral square. Here, open air cafés overlook San Lorenzo Beach where surfers ride the waves against the city skyline. In traditional restaurants, waiters strike the escanciar pose, pouring still cider from green bottles high over their heads into glasses held at waist level. The scene is repeated at every table, each time a diner craves a drink, aerating the cider long enough for downing in one go.


In the south, the Alhambra in Granada—a city about the size of Gijón—is Spain’s most popular tourist attraction. The 13th century palatial fortress compound is one of the best-preserved Islamic structures in the world. The city’s deep Moorish influences blend together with local Andalusian and Jewish traditions to generate a rich culinary scene. Try piononos, a little roll of pastry soaked in syrup and topped with toasted cream that’s a favourite with Granadins.


About the size of Seville, Zaragoza is a gem of northeastern Spain. Like Seville, Zaragoza is the site of a magnificent cathedral, the Basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar on the banks of the Ebro River. The walls of the 11th century Aljafería Palace appear like a medieval castle with crenulated battlements atop rounded towers. You will certainly work up an appetite for dishes popular with Zaragozans like crespillos—crispy little fritters from leaves of borage, a favourite regional vegetable.


On the island of Mallorca, the city of Palma—population 483,000—also shares similarities with Seville. Palmesans stroll the streets of the Old Town, breathing in the aroma of orange blossoms. As in Seville, visitors wander through an eclectic collection of neighbourhoods, both historic and trendy. In Santa Catalina, visit Palma’s oldest market, which is a short walk from the cathedral at the water park by the sea. Crystal blue waters and white sand beaches like the four-kilometre Playa de Palma attract Palmesans and visitors alike.

Spain ranks second in the world in tourist visits, and for good reason. Rich in history, culture, scenery and cuisine, cities like Barcelona and Seville are world-class destinations, but Spain deserves to be explored in all its complexity, particularly in under-the-radar cities spread across the country. Explore its many corners. Mingle with those who love their urban lifestyles.

Fun Fact

Founded in 1725, Madrid’s Casa Botín is the world’s oldest restaurant. It makes an appearance in Ernest Hemingway’s first major novel, The Sun Also Rises. Suckling pig and roast lamb, Castilian style, have probably been served throughout its 299-year history.

New Urban Openings in Spain’s Top Cities

In Madrid, the Gallery of the Royal Collections, which is inside the Royal Palace, is located in a new building above the gardens of the Campo del Moro Park. The new Royal Collections Gallery offers a peek into the lives and luxuries of Spanish monarchs.

In Valencia, the Mercado de la Imprenta—calling itself a gastronomic temple—is now the city’s largest market. Food and drink stalls fill the second level. An open dining area spreads across the bottom floor.

Travel Planner

For more travel information about Spain, visit

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