Because it is one of the most popular countries for travel, Spain tourism has tons of destinations to choose from.
As a result, it can seem like a complicated situation.
However, it is really not.
As we go through this article, we are going to bring you everyday tourists doing traveler things.
For example, we talked to an American male tourist in Madrid.
Then, we talked to a German female tourist in Barcelona.
Likewise, we talked to a Canadian couple in Granada.
Similarly, we talked to a British tourist in the Canary Islands.
In other words, there are tons of destinations waiting for you in the beautiful Spain!
Meanwhile, make sure you do your own research and choose a destination that fits with your own personality.
So, here are the ones we love and ordered in terms of importance.
Spanish Tourism – Spain Basics
Because it is one of the largest countries in Europe, Spain is home to a lot of diverse cultures.
For instance, there are five languages currently spoken in the country.
These languages are Galician-Portuguese, Spanish (Castilian), Basque, Catalan and Occitan (aranès).
Spanish is the national language spoken in every region.
Meanwhile, Spain is divided into 19 autonomous communities, including the two cities of Ceuta and Melilla.
As a result, each autonomous community or region has its own unique culture.
In other words, there are no shortages of things to do, places to see, or any other tourist activities.
However, some basic things to keep in mind include politics, currency, and climate.
So, Spain is part of the European Union, which means you can easily enter the country through shared borders.
Likewise, Spain uses the Euro, the common currency in Westen Europe.
Similarly, the Spanish climate is not very different from the Portuguese or French environment.
In other words, parts of the country can be cold, and other regions can be super hot.
As a result, it depends on where you’re visiting and when.
For example, if visiting in the summer, then you will realize inland and southern regions can be very hot.
On the other hand, if you happen to be there in winter, you might decide to avoid northern areas.
No matter what or when Spain is incredible!
So, here are some of the destinations we love.
Because it is the capital of the country, Madrid is home to some incredible things like national museums.
So, as the center of the la movida, a 1970s artistic eruption similar to the Renaissance, Madrid became mega important.
As a result, top celebrated artists somehow seemed to grow out of there.
For example, filmmaker Almodóvar, actors Antonio Banderas and Penélope Cruz, and singer Julio Iglesias all came out of Madrid.
So, what should you do in Madrid?
For instance, must-see attractions include the Royal Palace, the El Rastro flea market, and the Prado Museum.
Likewise, visit the 19th-Century El Retiro Park, which has beautiful fountains and water on which you can use boats.
Similarly, the reconstructed ancient Egyptian temple of Debod is worthy of a visit!
And, of course, if you want to shop, then you can do so at Gran Vía.
Meanwhile, don’t forget to explore the medieval La Latina neighborhood, which is where that flea market is anyway.
At the same time, try the local food.
For instance, don’t miss famous madrileña dishes like “gallinejas,” which is a tapa of sheep chitterlings.
Likewise, try the popular tapa known as “caracoles a la madrileña,” which is spicy and is made from snails!
Finally, the tourist or high season is April to October.
However, this is a city that is enjoyable at any time of the year, as it has plenty of things to do!
Madrid Tourist Profile
So, in the heart of Madrid, in the famous Kilómetro Cero Square, an American tourist named Michael is taking photos.
Then, he turns the camera on himself and takes selfies with a neon sign in the background.
“I don’t know what it is,” says Michael, looking at the sign. “Earlier, I saw a bunch of people take photos here,” he adds.
I tell him that the Tío Pepe sign, which advertises for a sherry brand of the same name, is kind of well known.
Soon, I ask Michael about Madrid.
“Oh, it’s very cool,” he says, smiling. “Today is my last day here, but I will definitely come back.”
Michael, thinking Madrid was as “dull” as D.C., only planned a few days to spend in Madrid.
“You definitely need at least a week to really get a grasp,” he says.
Meanwhile, Michael had a chance to see at least some popular tourist stuff.
So, Madrid may be the capital, but it is Barcelona that will steal your heart.
After all, it is the capital of unique people and language.
Catalonia, where Barcelona is located, is distinctly different because they have their own language of the same name.
Similarly, the people are unique, which is why recently, a political referendum voted for separation.
Because of incredible things like the Sagrada Família church, this city bursts with architectural masterworks.
For instance, walking on the La Rambla promenade, you will be able to see Gothic meet the chic and modern.
Likewise, the city is home to super famous museums like the Museu Picasso, home to some magnificent Picasso pieces.
However, heading out to Parc Güell, a hilltop garden is a must.
Because of its colorful mosaics and incredible views of the city, Parc Güell is the place to enjoy Barcelona!
Meanwhile, the city is home to famous beaches like La Barceloneta beach.
Another great thing to explore is the food.
Because Catalan food is very unique, you really must try it!
For example, try any “calçots” dish, which is fried, cooked, or steamed local scallions and enjoyed with sauces.
Likewise, try any type of “xuixo,” which are fried pastries filled with a cream called “Catalan cream.”
So, as you can see, Barcelona is unique.
As a result, it can give you a feeling of having everything in one destination.
Barcelona Tourist Profile
Janna is a college student from Germany. She had about ten days for the Easter holidays and decided to come to Spain.
“I normally would go to several cities for that time, but this time I wanted to enjoy Barcelona,” she says.
So, Janna, who stays at a hotel near Barceloneta Beach, has been taking her time discovering the different neighborhoods.
“However, I’m not stressing myself,” she smiles. “Instead, I go to one area a day.”
Meanwhile, although she loves all of the neighborhoods, Janna says for her it is Ciutat Vella, the oldest district.
“Because here has the Gothic Quarter,” she says. “So, that is why I decided to stay here,” she adds. “Not just because of the beach.”
Due to the unrest in Barcelona because of the Catalan separatist movement, I ask Janna if she felt safe visiting the city.
“Of course,” she says. “It is a safe city, but I’m not sure I would come during protests,” she adds.
In other words, be careful but go enjoy Barcelona!
So, the Arabs controlled a large part of what is now Spain for over 500 years.
As a result, you can still find the Arabic influence in the country’s architecture, food, and even languages.
Because it was the last battleground between the Muslims and Christians, Granada has relics of both.
For example, the Alhambra, the royal palace of the Emir, which is now a museum open to the public.
So, the Alhambra museum gives you a sense of the way the Muslims lived in the 15th Century and beyond.
Meanwhile, Catedral de Granada, the main cathedral, has the relics of the other group.
For instance, it is home to the tombs of Isabella and Ferdinand, the ruling king and queen after the Muslims.
Likewise, the entire neighborhood of Albayzín, which is the Moorish quarter today, is essential and should be on your list!
It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
So, the food here is very diverse but has a lot of Arabic and Jewish influence.
For example, the spices can be varied and include Middle Eastern ones like cumin and coriander.
Some dishes are named after neighborhoods.
For example, “tortilla del sacromonte” is a type of omelet that originates in the neighborhood of the same name.
However, you should know this dish has brains and testicles in its ingredients!
Meanwhile, don’t forget to try “pestiños granadinos,” which are various pastries that are deep-fried and glazed.
Finally, if you’re hungry between lunch (1pm-ish) and dinner (9pm-ish), then don’t worry, as you’ll enjoy “ir de tapas.”
It is like bar hopping except it is with tapas!
Because between lunch and dinner drinks are served with tapas for free, you can experiment too!
However, be careful with how much you eat.
>> To Learn more about this region, visit our regional article Andalusia.
Granada Tourist Profile
It is very early in the morning, around 8am, as I start my day.
As soon as I leave the place I’m renting, I see a couple sitting on a bench in the square.
We are in Plaza de Fátima, a small square in the northern part of Albaicín.
They turn out to be Canadians.
“Alice was here during college,” says John, the husband.
So, John and Alice decided to retrace her footsteps some twenty years later.
“It is as though everything stood still all this time,” says Alice. “Very little has changed,” she adds, as she looks around.
Later, this square will have more activity, as the café will spread out its red seats, and more people will go out to the square.
However, now it is like a ghost town, and it is precisely as Alice remembered.
Of course, that is the beauty of Spanish cities like Granada—things remain.
After all, this is a neighborhood that dates back to the Roman period.
In other words, visit cities like Granada for history!
Vejer de la Frontera
So, Spain is home to a lot of villages, and you will see the most beautiful in Andalusia.
Because they are generally white-walled villages, they are called pueblo blancos (white towns).
Vejer de la Frontera is one of them, which is in the province of Cádiz within Andalusia.
Meanwhile, as it is small, there is not much to do except go see the village.
In other words, you might be able to see multiple of these villages in one day!
So, other white villages to visit include Arcos de la Frontera, Grazalema, Ronda, and Zahara de la Sierra.
Therefore, visit one for breakfast, another for lunch, one for tapas, and the other for dinner!
Hey, you’re Spain, it is perfectly normal!
Meanwhile, there is no tourist profile for this destination.
So, if you’re visiting Spain in the summer, then you can’t miss the Balearic island of Ibiza!
Because it’s truly the party capital of Europe, Ibiza has a fun atmosphere you won’t find anywhere else.
Meanwhile, your trip will probably start in what the locals call “Vila d’Eivissa” or Ibiza Town.
It is the center of fun!
For instance, check out Pacha, which is a large and famous nightclub that opened in the 1970s.
Likewise, check out mega-clubs like Amnesia, Space, and Ushuaïa.
So, world-famous DJs flock to the island in the summer and serve fresh music to their tourists.
Similarly, there is a significant sports tourism going on here in Ibiza.
For example, in the summer, there are things like windsurfing and flyboarding to keep you entertained.
However, Ibiza is more than just a fun island.
For instance, the island is part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
As a result, sites like Sa Caleta, which is a Phoenician settlement dating back to 650 BC, are protected.
Likewise, there is enormous biodiversity in Ibiza.
For instance, visit the limestone-rich Es Vedrà, the tiny island off of the southwestern side of the big island.
Es Vedrà is famous for its many legends.
For example, people believe it is the third most magnetic place on the planet!
Meanwhile, some believe it covers the lost city of Atlantis.
So, no shortages of coolness in Ibiza.
Ibiza Tourist Profile
It’s lunchtime, and there are a lot of tourists in a café on the pedestrian-only Passeig ses Pitiüses in Eivissa.
“No food, just coffee, please,” says a young man to a waiter.
His name is Carlos.
“I come here every summer,” says Carlos.
Carlos is visiting from Madrid, and he is originally from Venezuela.
Although it is after 1pm, for Carlos, the day is still early. He had just woken up about an hour earlier and is having his first coffee.
So, the night before, Carlos tells me he spent at a house party in the hills, near Castell de Eivissa.
“We were drinking and dancing until the sun came up,” says Carlos.
Later today, he will jump on a taxi and head to another house party in Sant Miquel de Balansat.
So, Sant Miquel de Balansat is a village around 10 miles (or 17 km) northeast of Eivissa or Ibiza Town.
“I will probably stay out there for a couple of days,” says Carlos. “Yeah, we are going to party!”
He is 24, gay, and single—the type of person who really can live it up in Ibiza.
“I love this life here,” he smiles.
Meanwhile, although there are a lot of parties on these islands, remember there are also people living here.
So, go for the parties but be mindful of local culture.
As the largest island of the Canary Islands, Gran Canaria is a fantastic place to visit.
Because of its black lava, exquisite white sand beaches, and unique culture, it is a popular destination.
So, chances are you will fly into or get off from your cruise on Las Palmas, the capital.
Las Palmas is located in the north, and the area has several things to see.
For example, the Casa de Colón is a museum in the city and the Bandama Caldera crater nearby.
So, while the museum houses Columbus era discoveries, the crater gives you a chance to see a post-volcanic reality.
Meanwhile, check out the famous Roque Nublo rock in the middle of the island.
Likewise, the Natural Dune Reserve of Maspalomas in the southern tip of the island is a must-see!
Similarly, there is the Playa de Veneguera beach and its volcanic ground—an amazing place.
So, this island has a lot to offer!
However, don’t forget to check out the food.
For example, the “conejo en salmorejo” is a must-try dish made from rabbit and unique sauce.
Likewise, the Canarian-originated “ropa vieja,” which is a mix of pulled beef chicken!
Finally, the locals are friendly and will tell you anything you need to know.
Just talk to them.
Gran Canaria Tourist Profile
Elizabeth is British and retired.
She spends her winters in the Canary Islands.
“Why stay in the cold of England when I could be here?” she asks mischievously.
She is “seventy-something” and very “alive,” she says.
Before frequenting in these islands, she used to hang out on the Coast of the Sun (costa del sol in Spanish).
“I had a flat in Torre del Mar,” she says. “Absolutely loathed it, as it wasn’t sunny enough for me,” she adds.
Meanwhile, Torre del Mar is a town that is about 20 miles (35 km) outside of Málaga.
“[Torre del Mar] wasn’t as cold as England, for sure,” she says, “But it was still cold.”
So, Elizabeth changed scenes.
Instead, she says she eats sushi twice a week in the afternoons on Paseo de las Meloneras in Maspalomas.
“I also have my glass of wine at the end of the day, gazing towards West Africa,” she smiles. “I have a neighbor here who I know is eyeing me, but I don’t want a man in my life,” she adds. “I’m absolutely clear about that!”
However, I can tell Elizabeth also enjoys the attention.
In the meantime, I ask her if she is worried about Brexit.
No, she doesn’t.
Why would she?
“I’m just a tourist,” she says. “I still love going back to my home for the spring, as I also enjoy gardening,” she adds.
But whether the United Kingdom is part of the European Union or not, Elizabeth will be in the sun for the winter.
So, visit these islands in the winter to beat the cold.
Spain Tourism – Final Thoughts
For years, Spain has been the second most visited country in the world—after its neighbor France.
As a result, it is a popular tourist destination that has incredible land, people, and culture.
Because it’s impossible to do Spain justice in one article, we decided to share our “best” mix.
So, we started with Madrid, the capital, and worked our way to the history of Granada, and to the islands.
Therefore, whether you’re looking for beaches, great food, or nightlife, Spain will make you very happy.
Of course, you can enjoy everything and see even more destinations.
For that, consult a local guide or purchase a more detailed guidebook.
No matter what, enjoy Spain!
AJ Paris is a travel photographer based in New York. He is the editor of Caravanzers.
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