This page is divided into to sections. The first section contains general information about Spain and the second part contains information about all the cities I have been to. In addition to this page you might find my page Roundtrip Iberia usefully with some additional information.
General information about Spain
Spain is the largest country on the Iberian Peninsula and the second largest country in Europe next to France. Tapas, flamenco, great architecture, great nature, bullfighting, sangria and wine are some of the most famous things from Spain. In Spain you will find great beaches, fun nightlife and diverse cultural regions and historic cities. It makes a great destination for any kind of trip. The country is a lot more than sunny beaches if you have a look under the surface. There is everything from lush meadows and snowy mountains to huge marshes and deserts in the south east. While summer is the peak for sun you should try Spain in the other seasons as well. As a former world dominating power there are so many interesting historical places to visit.
I have done some extensive travelling all over mainland Spain and I love the country. While travelling the country I have avoided travelling during summer because of the heat. The southernmost region, which is named Andalucía, is one of the warmest places in Europe. If you want to travel around and do some sightseeing I recommend to get there from September to April. because I am from Norway I am used to what's known as "cold weather" in other parts of the world, and I have worn clothes accordingly whilst visiting Spain. The locals have glared and looked upon me as if i have been a crazy person. I have been travelling Spain looking at the country through cultural and historical eyes.
Travelling to Spain
There are a number of ways to get into Spain. From neighbouring European countries, a drive with the car is convenient. Visitors from further away will probably be using air travel. Iberia is the national carrier in Spain but there are numerous other carriers flying to different destinations in Spain. Most large cities in Spain have international flights to their airports.
Travelling within Spain
Travelling within Spain is quite easy. Alsa is the largest bus company offering transportation to and from most cities. There are also a number of other bus companies with fewer departures but they fill out the offer that Alsa is not running. Renfe the the railway company. It is somewhat less expensive to travel by train and it is somewhat faster. Even if the bus is more expensive the comfort is better and you get to see more of the Spanish landscape and the people living there. In addition to Renfe there is AVE which is the bullet train that travels up to 350 km/h. It is a lot faster than the regular train but is is also quite more expensive. A trip from Madrid to Barcelona takes about 2.5 hours with the AVE-train and about 8 hours by Renfe which costs half the price compared to AVE. If you have planned to travel by train keep in mind that they have a strict security on the train station before they let you enter the platform. On most train stations I have been to they scan your luggage the same way the do at airports. If you bring knives or other illegal things the security guards is likely to ask you questions.
Places to visit and when to go there
When to visit Spain depends of what you want to see and experience. If you want to are planning your first trip to Spain and want the real McCoy go everywhere else than to Barcelona. Barcelona is a nice city but it is in many ways non-typical Spanish and packed with tourists. If you want to become nut-brown and visit the beach the summer months and anywhere on the Mediterranean coast is great. If you want to party the Balearic Islands, Madrid or Valencia are great choices. Are you looking for nice beaches Benidorm, Alicante or the Canary islands may suit you. If you are looking for nice places for shopping Madrid and Barcelona are waiting for you and if you are into kiting or wind surfing Tarifa is probably the best place in Europe to do so. You will find historic places all over Spain. My personal favourite regions are Navarra and Galicia, both situated in northern Spain.
Semana Santa (means "Holy week" in Spanish and is Easter week) is the most important celebration in Spain. The celebrations lasts from Palm Sunday and continue until Easter Sunday. During my visit to Cadíz I woke up 4.30 AM because of a parade outside so they do parades all day long during Semana Santa. If you have planned to visit Spain during Easter be prepared to meet large crowds of people and closed shops. Book hotels or whatever well ahead of you travels. The Easter celebrations in Spain is an experience you will probably never forget and if you have planned to stay at a hotel or hostel book well in advance. If you don't you will have a hard time finding somewhere to sleep.
Places to sleep
There are many types of tourist accommodation, ranging from hotels, pensions and villas, to camping and even monasteries. You may use i.e. hotels.com, booking.com or hostelworld.com to find somewhere to sleep. If you want to rent a private home Airbnb.com is somewhere you could check out.
Money and banking
Spain is part of the European Union and the Eurozone; as such Euro replaced Spanish Pesetas in 2002. If you want to exchange money, you can do so at any bank where you can also cash in your traveller's cheques. Credit cards are well accepted in Spain. It's more difficult to find a place where credit card is not accepted. Most ATMs will allow you to withdraw money with your credit card, but you'll need to know your card's PIN for that. The Spanish word for ATM is Cajero automático and was the first Spanish expression I learned. You should learn some basic Spanish before visiting as they are not fluent in English everywhere in Spain. Even if you don't speak Spanish fluently it is appreciated if you make an effort using some phrases.
Vaccine and health
Medicine is sold at farmacias and are identified with a green cross or a Hygeia's cup. Nearly every city and town has at least one 24 hour pharmacy; for those where it closes for night, there should be a poster on a door with an address of the nearest pharmacy, possibly in one of the nearest towns. This is required by law.
If you live in another country that is member of the European Union be sure to bring your European Health Insurance Card along with your travel insurance. That card does not work in private hospitals. Do not hesitate to go to any healthcare facility should you be injured or seriously ill, as it would be illegal for them not to treat you, even if you are uninsured.
Spain is a member of the Schengen Agreement and there are no border controls between countries that have signed and implemented the treaty. Likewise, a visa granted for any Schengen member is valid in all other countries that have signed and implemented the treaty. But be careful: not all EU members have signed the Schengen treaty, and not all Schengen members are part of the European Union. Airports in Europe are thus divided into "Schengen" and "non-Schengen" sections, which effectively act like "domestic" and "international" sections elsewhere. If you are flying from outside Europe into one Schengen country and continuing to another, you will clear Immigration and Customs at the first country and then continue to your destination with no further checks. Travel between a Schengen member and a non-Schengen country will result in the normal border checks. Note that regardless of whether you are travelling within the Schengen area or not, many airlines will still insist on seeing your ID card or passport. Travel in the Schengen zone is an informative article which provides additional information.
Spain is a safe country to travel in. I have been backpacking Spain for 17 weeks altogether and have most often felt safe. Travelers who remain aware of their surroundings, and keep an eye on their belongings should have little to worry about. Do not expect the Spanish police in the streets to be much help, as police officers generally do not speak English - instead they will direct you to the police station, connect you with someone who can understand your language and have you make a report. If you are visiting Barcelona keep in mind that this city is the pick pocketing capital of Europe.
Madrid has a significant amount of nonviolent pickpocket crime so always watch any bags you have with you especially on the Metro and in busier public spaces. It is important for your safety to avoid falling asleep in the metro, which can leave you particularly vulnerable to thefts. It is not unknown for thieves to cut jean trouser pockets in order to steal belongings.
Be careful when carrying luggage, especially if anyone approaches you with an outspread map in hand asking for directions. It's entirely possible that this is a trap to distract you while an accomplice steals your luggage.
When using ATM machines, be aware of your surroundings, just as you would be anywhere. Bring a friend if you need to withdraw cash after dark.
Beware of thieves preying on people leaving nightclubs who have had a lot to drink. Do NOT carry valuables on a night out.
Be aware of young men and boys who are indicating they are deaf or homeless and trying to get you to sign a piece of paper. This also can be a ruse to distract you in order to steal your belongings. These thieves sometimes enter cafes/bars so make sure you do not leave wallets or phones on the table as possessions on show make for easy targets. The area around Calle de las Infantes near Gran Via is particularly renowned for this.
Avoid people offering massages. Be firm and say "No me toques" (Don't touch me) or "No tengo dinero" (I don't have any money) and keep walking. This is often a scam to extort money.
Coffee shops such as Starbucks are typically full of locals and tourists playing with mobile phones, laptops, and tablets. Groups of gypsy kids are often seen raiding such establishments - they favor branches with two exits and run from one to the other, grabbing whatever they can. Control yourself and hold onto your belongings if something is suspicious.
Street drinking (Botellón) is a very popular and cheap night out. However, be careful as drinking in the street is against the law and the police can and will fine you.
Spanish cuisine and drink
The Spanish are very passionate about their Spanish cuisine. Spanish food can be described as quite light with a lot of vegetables and a huge variety of meat and fish. It does not use many spices; it relies only on the use of high quality ingredients to give a good taste.
Spaniards have a different eating timetable than many people are used to. Breakfast for most Spaniards is light and consists of just coffee and perhaps a galleta or magdalena. Later, some will go to a cafe for a pastry midmorning, but not too close to lunchtime. The Spaniards eat a light snack around 12:00. This could include a couple of glasses of beer and a large filled baguette. Lunch starts at 13:30-14:30 and was once typically followed by a short siesta, usually in southern Spain at summer when temperatures can be quite hot in the afternoon. The siesta is not that common in northern Spain. Lunch is the main meal of the day with two courses followed by dessert. These meals are usually over by 16:00 at the latest. Dinner starts at 20:30 or 21, with most clientèle coming after 21. It is a lighter meal than lunch.
In Madrid restaurants rarely open before 20:00 and most customers do not appear before 23:00. There is also an afternoon snack that some take between lunch and dinner. It is similar to a tea time and is taken around 18:00. Between the lunch and dinner times, most restaurants and cafes are closed, and it takes extra effort to find a place to eat if you missed lunch time. Despite of this, you can always look for a bar and ask for a bocadillo, a baguette sandwich. There are bocadillos fríos, cold sandwiches, which can be filled with ham, cheese or any kind of embutido, and bocadillos calientes, hot sandwiches, filled with pork loin, tortilla, bacon, sausage and similar options with cheese. This can be a really cheap and tasty option if you find a good place. Normally, restaurants in big cities don't close until midnight during the week and 2-3 AM during the weekend.
In Spain tapas is considered side orders to accompany your drink. Some bars will offer a wide variety of different tapas; others specialise on a specific kind (like seafood-based). A Spanish custom is to have one tapas and one small drink at a bar, then go to the next bar and do the same. A group of two or more individuals may order two or more tapas or order raciones instead, which are a bit larger in order to share. In addition to tapas paella is one of the most famous dishes in Spain. When looking for authentic restaurants look for napkins on the floor. The more napkins the better and more authentic.
Gioco grill serves one of the best burgers I have tasted and are present in several Spanish cities.
Now follows descriptions of the cities I have been to in Spain.
A Coruña is situated in the nortwestern part of Spain. Tourism in A Coruña have increased the resent years because of all the cruise ships visiting. This city have the longest promenade in Europe and because of this the night-life flourishes during summer. The most famous places in A Coruña is Tower of Hercules which was build by the Romans. Apart from this I didn't really find that much interesting to see in A Coruña.
Alicante is located in the southeastern part of Spain and is visited by millions of tourists each year. If you want to become nut-brown this is the place for you but from a cultural-historic perspective there is not really much to see in this city. From Castle of Santa Bárbara it is possible to see the surrounding area and coastline. On Mount Benacantil is the Castle of Santa Bárbara which dates to the Muslim control of the Iberian Peninsula and offering an amazing view of the surrounding area. If you have time (and is fit enough) walk up to the castle on the sea-side of the mountain.
Algeciras is located in the southwestern part of Spain. Its an industrial town and there is really nothing interesting to see in this city. Because it is close to Gibraltar you are most likely to visit (or at least drive through) this city anyhow. This place offers inexpensive places to sleep compared to Gibraltar and the bus uses less than half an hour to Gibraltar.
Even if Andorra is not a part of Spain I have decided to write about it in this article. Andorra la Vella is the capital in Andorra. The nature in Andorra is amazing and I have not been to many places with such magnificent nature. This is because it is situated in the eastern part of the Pyrenees mountain range. Andorra is looked upon as a "tax free heaven" but during my visit I discovered that it was not as cheap as I thought it would be. When I was in Andorra I where looking for Dior aftershave which turned out to be 20 Euro cheaper on the airport in Lisbon than in Andorra. If you have planned to do some tax free shopping I recomend you not to be uncritical of what you buy. The only way to visit Andorra is by bus or car. If you are going to travel by bus from Spain you have to travel from Lleida or Barcelona. You may find the timetable at the homepage of Alsa.
Barcelona is one of the most popular cities in northern Spain among tourists and offers lots of sites to visit. It is the capital of the autonomous community of Catalonia. Catalonia have had two golden ages and is now in it's third golden age. The first golden age was in the medievaltimes and as a coastal territory, Catalonia became the base of the Aragonese Crown's maritime forces, which spread the power of the Aragonese Crown in the Mediterranean, and made Barcelona into a powerful and wealthy city. In the period of 1164–1410, new territories, the Kingdom of Valencia, the Kingdom of Majorca, Sardinia, the Kingdom of Sicily, Corsica, and (briefly) the Duchies of Athens and Neopatras, were incorporated into the dynastic domains of the House of Aragon. The second golden age was during the industrialisation. The third golden age basically started during the preparation for the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona. The city was refurbished, cleaned and became much of what it is today.
Plaça de Catalunya is the main square in the city and is close to the historic places in the city. The square is a hub when it comes to the metro, new and historic part of town and shopping area. Barri Gòtic is the main part of the old city and many of the buildings in this part of town date from mediaeval times. La Rambla is most popular street for tourists to visit in Barcelona but the locals usually don't go there unless they work in one of the restaurants which serve overprized, bad foot, is a street entertainer or is thinking about robbing rich tourists. In my point of view the best part of Barcelona city centre is the area between Plaça de Catalunya, La Rambla and Barri Góthic.
Montjuïc is the largest park in Barcelona. The most famous places in this park are Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya (National Art Museum of Catalonia), the Olympic arena from the 1992 Olympics, Funicular de Montjuïc and Castell de Montjuïc. During summer there is a concert every day at Font Màgica fountains at the foot of Montjuïc.
Another park you should visit is Park Güell which is designed by Antoni Gaudí and gives a nice overview over the city. The park lies a hill on a opposite side of the city than Montjuïc. Gaudí have designed several buildings in old part of Barcelona and these buildings are also some of the most famous one in the city.
Visiting Barcelona you should visit Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Família (often simply called the Sagrada Família) which is designed by Antoni Gaudí. They started building Sagrada Família in 1882 and it is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Spain. If you are travelling with kids you should visit the aquarium in Barcelona and if you are travelling with adults I recommend you to visit the Picasso Museum which has has one of the most extensive collections of artworks by Pablo Picasso. Due to the size you are most likely to use 3-4 hours visiting this museum.
Are you planning on visiting Barcelona for a week? Here is a suggestion for what you should see.
Day 1: Travel to Barcelona.
Day 2: Get to know the city centre and visit La Rambla which is the main street in Barcelona. In the middle of this street is Plaça de Catalunya which in a sense is the main square in the city. The square is a hub in public transportation in the city.
Day 3: Visit Park Güel. This park, as lots of other stuff in Barcelona, designed by Antoni Gaudí. Next to Montjuïc this place gives you the best view over Barcelona.
Day 4: Visit Montjuïc. This is one of few tops which goves you a nice view of the city. On this location you will find Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya (The national art museum in Catalonia). The Olympic stadium from the summer Olympics in 1992 and Castell de Montjuïc, a huge fortress on the top of the mountain, is worth a visit.
Day 5: La sagrada Familia. A frigin' huge cathedral which they startet to build in 1882 and still is not complete. I have read the have planned to finish the building process within 60 years.
Day 6: Barri Gòtic and Ciutat Vella is the old town in Barcelona. In this part of town you will also find the old cathedral where you may use an elevator to the roof. From the roof you got a quite good view of Barcelona.
Day 7: Travel home.
Somodo is a nice restaurant in Barcelona and is situated not far from Sagrada Familia. Another nice place is Can Recasens which serves typical Catalunya food but it's often busy. El filete ruso and The Andilana Group are other good options for food in Barcelona. For more recommendations for good restaurant here is a link to Google maps with the restaurants highlighted. Anotehr nice restaurant I have tried in Barcelona is Suarna. The restaurant is situated close to Montjuïc and Plaça d'Espanya.
Bilbao is situated in the northern coast of Spain and is the home town of Athletic Bilbao which is one of the best football teams in Spain. One of the most famous buildings in Bilbao (and probably Spain) is the Guggenheim Museum. If you are visiting Bilbao you should visit the old town and the town centre in addition to the Guggenheim. Beside these places there is nothing interesting to see in Bilbao.
Cadíz is the oldest continuously-inhabited city in the Iberian Peninsula and possibly of all south-western Europe and was founded in 1104 BC. Christopher Columbus sailed from Cadíz on his second and fourth voyage to the new world. In the same period the city became the home port of the Spanish fleet. Because of this the city became one of the wealthiest cities in Spain it became a target for the enemies of Spain. Due to its history Cadís have lots of interesting museums, architecture and fortifications.
Córdoba is a city located in inland Andalucía and is dated back to Roman times. The old town contains many impressive architectural reminders of when Córdoba was capital of the area that governed almost all of the Iberian peninsula. At that time it was one of the most advanced and largest cities in the world. If you go to Córdoba visit Great Mosque of Córdoba. It is problaby one of the most fantastic religious buildings I have ever been to. Other places is Alcázar of the Christian Kings and the Jewish quarter.
Even if Gibraltar is a part of Great Britain I have chosen to mention the place on this page. It is a self-governing British overseas territory located on the southern coast in Spain and an important base for the British armed forces. The rock is also important strategic from a military point of view. The independent status of Gibraltar is a issue between Spain and Great Britain. Spain still got several territories in continental North Africa which is called (Plazas de soberanía). If you have planned to travel to Gibraltar from Spain look for a bus (or road sign) to La Linea. There really is not that much to see in Gibraltar in a cultural-historic perspective. The main street is packed with tourists and inexpensive shops. You should go to the top of The rock using a cable car to see the magnificent view of the Spanish and Moroccan coastline. The hotels in Gibraltar are somewhat expensive and if you want a inexpensive alternative you may want to sleep in Algeciras. A ferry travels from Gibraltar to Tangier in Morocco.
It is said that Granada will steal your heart and after spending 5 days in this city I understand why. This is one of my favourite cities in Spain and one of the places I am definitely going to visit again. The city is placed at the foot of the Sierra Nevada mountains and is situated at 800 meters above sea. The Sierra Nevada got the highest mountains in continental Spain and the southermost ski-resort in Europe. The city has been inhabited from the dawn of history. The old part of the city, called Albayzín, is placed on a hill and the Alhambra on another hill nearby. The moors looked upon these hills as close to heaven and I really understand why. On the same hill as the old part of town you will find caves which people live in. The neighbourhood in which the caves are situated is called Sacromonte. Sacromonte is originally a gypsy quarter and the caves dates back to the 16th century. The inhabitant in the caves does not pay any taxes and when they decide to move out they give their cave to someone else. The 1492 surrender of the Islamic Emirate of Granada to the Catholic Monarchs is one of the more significant events in Granada's history together with the completion of the Reconquista of Al-Andalus. This event completed the Reconquista of the eight hundred year-long Moorish civilization in the Iberian Peninsula. The greatest artistic wealth of Granada is its Spanish-muslim art — in particular, the palace city of the Alhambra and the Generalife. The Generalife was more or less a pleasure palace and its romantic garden is remarkable. The Alhambra is the culmination of the works of Nasrid art that were undertaken in the 13th and 14th centuries, with most of the Alhambra having been built at the time of Yusuf I and Mohammed V, between 1333 and 1354. This complex is huge and time flies when you visit the site. I used 5 hours to see everything. There are lots fountains and running all over the place so prepare yourself to visit the toilet often. Due to restrictions on how many people they let visit Alhambra each day you should buy a ticket at least the day before. The ticket is valid only on a specific time of the day and is not valid after this time. If you miss your spot you have to buy a new ticket. The university of Granada is prestigious and famous within Spain and enrols approximately 80,000 students. The cathedral of Granada is built over the Nasrid Great Mosque of Granada, in the centre of the city. The tombs of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella are in the cathedral in Granada. Around the Cathedral, try to be very, very careful about your bag as there are many thieves walking around who will wait for the suitable moment and then take your bag, run and disappear in the small streets. Other places to visit in Granada are The Royal Chapel (Capilla Real), Plaza de Bib-Rambla, Corral del Carbón and Plaza Nueva.
La Linea is the border between Spain and Gibraltar (Great Britain). The parking lot and the bus-station are the most exiting places at La Linea. If you have planned to go to Gibraltar look for street signs or buses to this place.
Madrid is the third-most populous municipality in the European Union after Greater London and Berlin, and its metropolitan area is the fourth-most populous urban area in the European Union after Paris, London, and the Ruhr Area. The city is located in the geographical centre of the Iberian peninsula and is located at approximately 650 meters (2600 feet) above sea. The metro in Madrid is one of the largest metro systems in the world.
Four soccer teams from Madrid play in La Liga, which is Spain's premier division. The matches between Real Madrid and Atlético de Madrid are known as "El Derbi Madrileño" (English: Madrid Derby).
On most of my visits in Madrid I attended walking tours with SANDEMANs NEW Europe Tours. Walking tours is a great way to get to know the city you are visiting.
The most famous museums are The Prado, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía and Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum. These museums are often called The Golden Triangle of Art and a visit is highly recommended. If you are want more information about galleries in Madrid check out this page,
The main street is named Gran Vía and is part of one of the most important shopping areas in Madrid. If you are into markeds El Rastro and Market of San Miguel are worth a visit. El Rastro is an outdoor flea market that is held every Sunday and public holiday during the year and is located along Plaza de Cascorro and Ribera de Curtidores, between Calle Embajadores and the Ronda de Toled. San Miguel market is an indoor food marked that was reopened in 2009 after a renovation of the building.
The first times I stayed in Madrid I stayed in and area in the city centre called La Latina. It is is one of the most authentic neighbourhoods in the city. It's mediaeval streets are arranged around the squares of La Cebada and La Paja. The streets in this neighbourhood are an illustration of the most popular side of Madrid. This district is much frequented by Madrid locals thanks to its numerous bars, pubs and traditional taverns full of character in streets such as Cava Baja and Cava Alta. Although it tends to be very lively all the time, the atmosphere is particularly animated in the evenings and at weekends. Additionally, every Sunday the neighbouring streets are home to Madrid's famous El Rastro open-air street market. Another good time to visit this neighbourhood is during the festivities in honour of the Virgin of La Paloma, which take place around 15 August and are some of the most authentic celebrations in Madrid. The streets are filled with cheerful high spirits, there is popular dancing for all, and many madrileños dress up as chulapos and chulapas in the typical regional costumes.
Other sights of interest in the La Latina quarter are the basilica of San Francisco el Grande and the park of Las Vistillas, which is the ideal spot for watching the sunset against the backdrop of the cathedral of Santa María Real de la Almudena. This neighbourhood today is on the site of what was Madrid's first urban walled enclosure in the Middle Ages, and even now some remains of the defensive wall which originally surrounded it can still be seen. In the past this area was mainly occupied by artisans and manual workers, and the squares of both the Plaza de la Cebada ('barley square') and the Plaza de la Paja ('straw square') were home to busy markets selling farm produce and fodder respectively.
Above this section about Madrid is a map I have made in Google MyMaps with lots of points of interesnts, places to eat and so on. Here is a link to more Google maps in Spain that I have made containing recommendations on places to eat, clubs, shopping and other interesting places to visit in various cities in Spain.
I had no high expectations to Málaga when I arrived the city. Both my guidebook and people I had spoken to about Málaga had given it a bad reputation because of theft and robbery. I was surprised by the charm of this city and the cathedral is one of the most beautiful cathedrals I have ever been to. The Alcazaba is built on a hill in the centre of the city and offers a nice view of the city and the surrounding area. If you have planned to visit the Alcazaba I recommend you to walk on a small road on the seaside the mountain. It is steep but worth it when you make it to the top. Málaga is the birthplace of the famous painter Pablo Picasso and his family lived in Málaga until he was 10 years. He lived in Barcelona for 40 years and the Picaso museum in Barcelona is worth a visit. His real name is Pablo Diego José Francisco de Paula Juan Nepomuceno María de los Remedios Cipriano de la Santísima Trinidad Ruiz y Picasso which is a series of names honouring various saints and relatives. The Semana Santa (Holy week/Easter) celebrations in Málaga are famous countrywide.
I have never been to Ronda myself but everybody I know who have been there says its a amazing city. Around the city are remains of prehistoric settlements dating to the Neolithic Age, including the rock paintings of Cueva de la Pileta. Ronda was however first settled by the early Celts, who, in the 6th century BC, called it Arunda. Later Phoenician settlers established themselves nearby to found Acinipo, known locally as Ronda la Vieja, Arunda or Old Ronda. The current Ronda is however of Roman origins, having been founded as a fortified post in the Second Punic War, by Scipio Africanus. Ronda received the title of city at the time of Julius Caesar. Ronda is situated in a very mountainous area about 750 m above mean sea level. The Guadalevín River runs through the city, dividing it in two and carving out the steep, 100 plus meters deep El Tajo canyon upon which the city perches. The Spanish Fir (Abies pinsapo) is endemic to the mountains surrounding Ronda.
Salamanca is situated somewhat less than 3 hours by car Northwest of Madrid and is a university city. The city was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1988. I have never been to a Spanish city with that many English-speaking people in the streets and this is because of the universities in Salamanca. The university of Salamanca is one of the oldest universities in Spain and Europe. The city is also known for teaching Spanish which attracts thousands of foreign students each year. it is said that the Spanish you learn in Salamanca is the purest Spanish there is. Because of the sandstone buildings Salamanca received the nickname La Ciudad Dorada (which means The golden city). This glow is unique in Spain and is due to the type of sandstone coming from a quarry situated in a village close to Salamanca. Everything is within walking distance in Salamaca which makes it easy to walk the city. The Plaza Mayor is the main square in the city. As in many other Spanish cities the plaza mayor was designed for bullfighting. The cathedral is a 5 minutes walk from the plaza mayor. Roman bridge over the Tormes which is dating from the year 89 AD and Convento de San Esteban is worth a visit. Salamanca also has many museums of interest.
Donostia - San Sebastián San Sebastián is one of my favourite cities in Spain. In Basque the city is called Donostia which is why the official name is Donostia-San Sebastián. The city is situated in northern Spain on the coast of the Bay of Biscay. Because of its beaches it is a popular beach resort and a popular place for Spaniards to spend their vacation. It is quite unusual feeling that you can sunbathe and swim right next to major historical buildings and churches. The people in San Sebastian is friendly and open minded. Everything in San Sebastián is within walking distance. Mount Ulia is located close to Parte Vieja (the old town) and offers a nice view of San Sebastián.
Santiago de Compostela
Santiago de Compostela is one of the most important cities in the catholic world and The cathedral is one of the most popular places to visit in the city. The pilgrimage route, which is called Way of St. James, starts in France and ends in Santiago de Compostela. Saint James the Greater, one of the apostles of Jesus Christ, are buried in the cathedral. Next to the cathedral is Praza do Obradoiro which is the heart of the city. Hostal dos Reis Católicos (Catholic Kings Hostal) lies at the same square and was build by Queen Isabella and king Ferdiand with the money they earned when they captured Granada in 1492. Colexio de San Xerome, Palacio de Xelmírez, Praza da Quintana and Praza de Abastos are important places to visit in Santiago de Compostela.
Segovia is about an hour by bus or 35 mins by train north of Madrid. As with Toledo it is possible to spend a few hours here to check out the town and head back to Madrid. The most famous buildings in Segovia are the Roman aqueduct, the cathedral (which is amazing), the old town and the Alcázar. The Alcázar is located on a cliff above the town and offers a nice view of the surroundings. The Roman aqueduct where build at the end of the 1st to early 2nd century AD by the Romans during their occupation of the Iberian Peninsula.
Seville is a lovely city situated in the southwestern part of Spain. It is the historic, cultural, and financial capital of southern Spain and the capital of Andalucía. Unless you feel like doing a lot of walking I recommend you do buy a bus card at one of the many news stands. The buses run frequently and cover the majority of the city in their routes. The cathedralis the largest Gothic cathedral and the third-largest church in the world. La Giralda is a large minaret tower which originally where intended for the mosque. The cathedral is build on the site where the mosque where sited and is rebuild to become the bell tower of the Cathedral and is a symbol of Seville. The tower is 104.5 meters tall and offers a great view of the city. If you climb the tower you should remember it is a bell tower and the bells are in use. The Real Alcázar is a beautiful palace build by the Moors. The upper levels of the Alcázar are still used by the royal family as the official Seville residence. The Jewish Quarter is situated around the Cathedral and is filled with small winding streets and is generally regarded as the most charming part of the city, but it is also fairly touristy. Torre de Oro is a thirteenth century tower originally build as a whatch tower. it is rumored that the top have once been covered in gold. It now houses as small maritime museum. even though Seville is an innland city maritime life was importen for Seville due to the Guadalquivir river. Plaza de España is an amazing building and square in Parque de María Luisa. Even though is was build in 1928 it looks quite older because its build in Renaissance Revival style. Its a really nice complex worth a visit. Plaza de Toros de la Real Maestranza is the bullfighting ring in Seville. Inside the bullfighting ring is a museum telling you the history of bullfighting. It is considered the most attractive bull arena in Spain due to its history.
Tarifa is the capital of windsurfing and kiting in Europe. The day I was visiting Tarifa the wind blew constantly and 26 knots strong. Because of the strong winds the town is popular among kiters and wind surfers. It got a really friendly atmosphere and is one of my favourite places in Europe. Castillo de Guzmán is a castle in Tarifa. Alonso Pérez de Guzmán protected the town from an attack by the Moors is 1296. Guzmán's son had been placed under the care of Don Juan who attempted to kill the captive unless Guzmán surrendered the city. According to legend, Guzmán rebuffed the demand with dramatic words: according to one rendition, "I did not beget a son to be made use of against my country, but that he should serve her against her foes. Should Don Juan put him to death, he will but confer honour on me, true life on my son, and on himself eternal shame in this world and everlasting wrath after death." Guzman puncuated his words by throwing his own knife down for the besiegers to use in killing his son. The episode mirrors a supposed episode involving Colonel Moscardo's son during the 1936 Siege of the Alcázar of Toledo. Tarifa is the southernmost city in Europe and there are ferries travelling to Tangier in Morocco. The town is also popular place to watch migrating birds.
Toledo is located about an hour by bus south of Madrid. Because it is so close to Madrid you could spend a few hours in Toledo and drive back to Madrid. It is one of the former capitals of the Spanish Empire and place of coexistence of Christian, Jewish and Moorish cultures. Many famous people and artists were born or lived in Toledo, including Al-Zarqali, Garcilaso de la Vega, Alfonso X and El Greco. It was also the place of important historic events such as the Visigothic Councils of Toledo. Toledo sword blades were famous for their strength, elasticity, and craftsmanship; the art was introduced by Moorish artisans, and it is still carried on. Other important products from Toledo were silk and wool textiles. The souvenir-shops are selling nothing but daggers and swords. One of the most famous buildings in Toledo is Alcázar. Once used as a Roman palace in the 3rd century a nationalist Colonel held the building against overwhelming Spanish Republican forces during the Spanish Civil War. Today the building is housing a library and museum. Toledo was a centre of the Moorish, Spanish, and Jewish cultures and a centre for translation. There is no doubt Toledo is a place where lots of historic events happened and the place have a rich heritage from the Moorish rule and the Jews populating the city. Today the town would not survive if it weren't for all the tourists visiting. If it weren't for Alcázar and the cathedral (which is one of the most amazing cathedrals I have ever been to) you cold see almost the same old buildings elsewhere.
Valencia is located on the mediterranean coast of Spain and is the third largest city in Spain. It is is a charming old city and the capital of the Old Kingdom of Valencia province of Spain that is worth a visit. The Roman historian Tito Livio explains that the foundation of Valentia in the 2nd century BC was due to the settling of the Roman soldiers who fought against Iberian local rebel Viriatus. During the Spanish civil war in the 1930s Valencia was the capital of the Republic. They eventually lost to Franco's forces and Franco then prohibited the use of the Valencian language. The Valencian language is somewhat different from Spanish and because of this using street maps is somewhat confusing in Valencia. Street signs and the street names on the maps are in different languages. If the map and street signs are similar enough you are probably in the right street. Valencia is famous for its Fallas Festival in March, for being the birthplace of paella and for the architectural project Ciutat de les Arts i les Ciències (City of Arts and Sciences). One of the most remarkable places in Valencia is the dry riverbank of the river Turia which runs through the city. The river was redirected after a series of flooding and the riverbank is now a lovely park. Ciutat de les Arts i les Ciències is situated in the dry riverbed and is an impressive example of modern architecture. Another place worth visiting in Valencia is The Barri del Carme which is the old town. On the gates to the old city wall you may still see bullet holes from previous wars. The Mercat Central, the dazzling nightlife and the white beaches is also worth a visit.
Vitória - Gasteiz
Vitoria is the capital in the Basque part of Spain and is called Gasteiz in Basque. The Basque parliament is located in this town. The city is one of the nicest cities I have been to in Spain and it got a relaxing atmosphere. You should spend some time in the old quarter. In Vitória there are two cathedrals; Cathedral of Santa Maria (build in the 14th century) and Cathedral of Mary Immaculate (build in the 20th century). Cathedral of Mary Immaculate is build in a High Gothic style. Other places to see in Vítoria is Plaza de la Virgen Blanca, Church of St. Peter the Apostle, Basilica of San Prudencio, Museum of Archaeology, Basque Museum of Contemporary Art and Museum of Fine Arts. Vítoria is close to Bilbao and Pamplona so it is easy to spend a day in the city and head back to one of the other cities in the evening.