Malaga

Municipality in Spain

Málaga is a port city on southern Spain’s Costa del Sol, known for its high-rise hotels and resorts jutting up from yellow-sand beaches. Looming over that modern skyline are the city’s 2 massive hilltop citadels, the Alcazaba and ruined Gibralfaro, remnants of Moorish rule. The city’s soaring Renaissance cathedral is nicknamed La Manquita (“one-armedlady”) because one of its towers was curiously left unbuilt.

In the city center is the Picasso Museum, showcasing works of the famous artist, born in Málaga in 1881. There’s also the Fundación Picasso, dedicated to the study of the man.The city’s many other museums include the Museo Carmen Thyssen, focusing on 19th-century Andalusian painting, and the CAC Málaga, exhibiting pieces by up-and-coming artists. The 19th-century bullring La Malagueta still holds fights, especially during August’s famous Málaga Fair. Tapas restaurants and bars line the beachfront and harbor, serving fried anchovies and other regional staples, many reflecting a North African influence.

Barcelona

Capital of Catalonia

Barcelona, the cosmopolitan capital of Spain’s Catalonia region, is known for its art and architecture. The fantastical Sagrada Família church and other modernist landmarks designed by Antoni Gaudí dot the city. Museu Picasso and Fundació Joan Miró feature modern art by their namesakes. City history museum MUHBA, includes several Roman archaeological sites.

Barcelona’s medieval roots are seen in the mazelike Gothic Quarter. The bustling central promenade, La Rambla, is lined with cafes. North of La Barceloneta, a neighborhood with a wide beach and seafood restaurants, Parc de la Ciutadella is home to the Zoo Barcelona. Parc Güell is a hilltop garden with colorful Gaudí mosaics and panoramic views. A funicular climbs to the top of Montjuïc, where the Magic Fountain presents light and music shows, and the Palau Nacional displays Catalan art. The culinary scene, anchored by La Boqueria market, ranges from fine dining to tapas bars. Vibrant nightlife can be found in El Born and Eixample.

Valencia

City in Spain

The port city of Valencia lies on Spain’s southeastern coast, where the Turia River meets the Mediterranean Sea. It’s known for its City of Arts and Sciences, with futuristic structures including a planetarium, an oceanarium and an interactive museum. Valencia also has several beaches, including some within nearby Albufera Park, a wetlands reserve with a lake and walking trails.

Established in Roman times, Valencia has buildings dating back hundreds of years, including medieval city gate (and former prison) the Serranos Towers. The 16th-century Silk Exchange was built when the city was a wealthy and powerful mercantile hub. Opposite stands the vast Mercado Central (a covered market), built in 1914. In the medieval center, Valencia Cathedral is home to a 1st-century holy chalice and the octagonal Miguelete bell tower. The Turia Gardens form a green ribbon linking the Bioparc Zoo with the port and Malvarrosa Beach. The Museum of Fine Arts houses works by El Greco and Goya.

Tenerife

Island in Spain

Tenerife is the largest of Spain’s Canary Islands, off West Africa. It’s dominated by Mt. Teide, a dormant volcano that is Spain’s tallest peak. Tenerife may be best known for its Carnaval de Santa Cruz, a huge pre-Lent festival with parades, music, dancing and colorful costumes. The island has many beaches (with sands from yellow to black) and resort areas, including Los Cristianos and Playa de las Américas.

Resorts on the south and west coasts feature high-end restaurants, night clubs, golf courses and water sports like kiteboarding and diving. On the northern side, towns like Garachico and Puerto de la Cruz have more of a traditional, colonial feel, with restaurants serving seafood-focused native Canarian dishes. The capital, Santa Cruz, is a port city with wide, tree-lined boulevards. The island’s interior falls mostly within Teide National Park, encompassing the island’s 3 volcanoes, as well as lava fields, striking rock formations and ancient forests.

Mallorca

Island in Spain

Mallorca (Majorca) is one of Spain’s Balearic Islands in the Mediterranean. It’s known for beach resorts, sheltered coves, limestone mountains and Roman and Moorish remains. Capital Palma has nightlife, the Moorish Almudaina royal palace and 13th-century Santa María Cathedral. Stone-built villages include Pollença, with its art galleries and music festival, and hillside Fornalutx, surrounded by citrus plantations.

The northern Tramuntana range has steep mountain roads (popular for cycling) and hiking trails with coastal views. Old monasteries include Lluc, a pilgrimage site since the 13th century, and Valldemossa, which has an art museum with works by Miró and Picasso. Sailing and water sports are popular everywhere, and the island’s numerous beaches range from busy northern Port d’Alcudia resort to eastern Cala Mesquida for windsurfing and Cala Mondragó, a snorkeling beach in Mondragó Natural Park. Vineyards in the rural interior offer wine tours.

Madrid

Capital of Spain

Madrid, Spain’s central capital, is a city of elegant boulevards and expansive, manicured parks such as the Buen Retiro. It’s renowned for its rich repositories of European art, including the Prado Museum’s works by Goya, Velázquez and other Spanish masters. The heart of old Hapsburg Madrid is the portico-lined Plaza Mayor, and nearby is the baroque Royal Palace and Armory, displaying historic weaponry.

In the 1970s Madrid became the epicenter of La Movida, a burst of expression in the arts. The Prado forms a “Golden Triangle” with the Reina Sofía Museum (home to Picasso’s “Guernica”) and the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum. Sunday flea market El Rastro is in the medieval La Latina neighborhood, popular for nightlife, theater and tapas bars. Central square Puerta del Sol houses the statue of the Bear and Strawberry Tree from the city’s coat of arms, while the Museo Arqueológico Nacional displays a vast collection of historic artifacts. Real Madrid, the dominant soccer club, plays at the Santiago Bernabéu Stadium.

Seville

City in Spain

Seville is the capital of southern Spain’s Andalusia region. It’s famous for flamenco dancing, particularly in its Triana neighborhood. Major landmarks include the ornate Alcázar castle complex, built during the Moorish Almohad dynasty, and the 18th-century Plaza de Toros de la Maestranza bullring. The Gothic Seville Cathedral is the site of ChristopherColumbus’s tomb and a minaret turned bell tower, the Giralda.

Most of Seville’s major monuments lie within the walkable old city. The medieval Jewish quarter of Santa Cruz features winding, cobbled alleys lined with orange trees. The Arenal district is home to the Museum of Fine Arts, which showcases painting masterpieces by El Greco and Velázquez. Southwestern Los Remedios hosts the Seville April Fair, a festival of eating, sherry drinking and flamenco dancing, set in colorful casetas (tents) beside the River Guadalquivir. Tapas bars often offer the city’s famous gazpacho soup.

La Rioja

Autonomous community of Spain

La Rioja is a province and autonomous community in northern Spain with a renowned local wine industry. Below the Cantabrian Mountains, vineyards occupy the Ebro valley and surround the old town of Haro. There, the summer festival features the messy Batalla de Vino (wine battle). Local wineries (bodegas) range from small, traditional cellars to majorcommercial producers.

Logroño, the provincial capital, contains medieval churches linked to the Camino de Santiago pilgrim route. It’s also home to the Museo de La Rioja art museum. To the south, the village of San Millán de la Cogolla has 2 monasteries, 11th-century Yuso, and 6th-century Suso, regarded as the birthplace of the modern Spanish language. The peaks of the Sierra de la Demanda are home to hiking trails and the Valdezcaray ski resort. River canyons such as Najerilla and San Martín are popular for rock climbing and white-water rafting. The wetlands of the Sotos del Ebro Nature Reserve are a seasonal home for flocks of white storks and herons.

Ibiza

Island in Mediterranean Sea

Ibiza is one of the Balearic islands, an archipelago of Spain in the Mediterranean Sea. It’s well known for the lively nightlife in Ibiza Town and Sant Antoni, where major European nightclubs have summer outposts. It’s also home to quiet villages, yoga retreats and beaches, from Platja d’en Bossa, lined with hotels, bars and shops, to quieter sandy coves backed by pine-clad hills found all around the coast.

Southerly Ses Salinas National Park and the Es Vedrà nature reserve protect cliffs, offshore islets and salt lakes. Boat trips and water sports are popular, with dive sites like Pillars of Hercules caves and the Caves of Light on the northwest coast. The Sa Caleta ruins and Puig des Molins tombs (with museum) are evidence of Phoenician inhabitants from the 7th century B.C. On a hill above Ibiza Town’s harbor, the old quarter of D’Alt Vila has a primarily 16th-century cathedral dedicated to Our Lady of the Snows, plus panoramic views from its Renaissance-era fortifications.

Ronda

City in Spain

Ronda is a mountaintop city in Spain’s Malaga province that’s set dramatically above a deep gorge. This gorge (El Tajo) separates the city’s circa-15th-century new town from its old town, dating to Moorish rule. Puente Nuevo, a stone bridge spanning the gorge, has a lookout offering views. New town’s Plaza de Toros, a legendary 18th-century bullring, is one of the city’s most recognizable landmarks.

In old town, the 14th-century Palacio de Mondragón, a former Moorish palace, is decorated with ornate mosaics and surrounded by landscaped gardens. The Parroquia Santa María la Mayor, a church built upon the ruins of a mosque, showcases architectural styles ranging from Gothic to Renaissance. The nearby Museo Bandolero displays weapons owned by 18th- and 19th-century outlaws from the Andalusian region. Beyond old town, the restored 13th-century Baños Arabes (Arab baths) feature vaults with striking, star-shaped skylights. Just outside Ronda lie the ruins of Acinipo, a Roman-era settlement.

Santiago de Compostela

City in Spain

Santiago de Compostela is the capital of northwest Spain’s Galicia region. It’s known as the culmination of the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route, and the alleged burial site of the Biblical apostle St. James. His remains reputedly lie within the Catedral de Santiago de Compostela, consecrated in 1211, whose elaborately carved stone facades open onto grand plazas within the medieval walls of the old town.

The cathedral’s Romanesque Pórtico de la Gloria opens onto Praza das Praterías, which has an ornate 19th-century fountain. In Praza do Obradoiro, the 15th-century Hostal dos Reis Católicos, built to house pilgrims, is now a luxurious state-run hotel, and 18th-century neoclassical Palacio de Raxoi is the current city hall. The traditional produce and crafts market in nearby Praza de Abastos dates to the 1800s, while the Museo do Pobo Galego showcases the history and culture of Galicia. The city has a dynamic energy, catering to 40,000 students attending the 15th-century university, and hundreds of thousands of pilgrims every year.

Almeria

City in Spain

Almería is a city in southeast Spain. The Alcazaba is an imposing Moorish fortress overlooking the city. The fortified, 16th-century Almería Cathedral has a Gothic ribbed ceiling. The Museum of Almería displays archaeological finds from across the region. Underground lies a network of tunnels, the Civil War Shelters of Almería. The English Cable is a huge iron pier and symbol of the city’s former mining industry.