Spain’s artistic tradition is one of Europe’s richest and most original, from local masters to Europe’s finest, who flourished under Spanish royal patronage. The result? Art galleries of astonishing depth.
Museo del Prado Quite simply one of the world’s best galleries.
Museo de Bellas Artes Second only to the Prado for Spanish Golden Age art; in Seville.
Centro de Arte Reina Sofia Picasso’s Guernica, Dalí and Miró.
Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza Works by seemingly every European master.
Museo Picasso Málaga More than 200 works by Picasso, Málaga’s favourite son.
Museu Picasso Unrivalled collection from Picasso’s early years.
Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya Epic collection that includes some extraordinary Romanesque frescos.
Teatre-Museu Dalí As weird and wonderful as Salvador Dalí himself.
Museo Guggenheim Bilbao Showpiece architecture and world-class contemporary art.
Museo de Bellas Artes Goya, Velázquez, El Greco, Sorolla, and they're just the start; in Valencia.
Almost eight centuries of Muslim empires bequeathed to Spain Europe's finest accumulation of Islamic architecture, especially in Andalucía, the heartland of Al-Andalus (the Moorish-ruled areas of the Iberian Peninsula), which encompassed Granada, Córdoba and Seville.
Alhambra An extraordinary monument to the extravagance of Al-Andalus, breathtaking in scope and exquisite in its detail.
Mezquita Perfection wrought in stone in Córdoba’s one-time great mosque, one of Al-Andalus' finest architectural moments.
Real Alcázar Exquisite detail amid a perfectly proportioned whole in Seville.
Giralda The former minaret represents a high point in Seville’s Islamic skyline.
Aljafería A rare Moorish jewel in the north.
Alcazaba Málaga's 11th-century palace-fortress.
Teruel A splendid, little-known collection of Mudéjar design, proof that Islam's influence outlasted Islamic rule.
Medina Azahara One of the most poignant and ambitious Islamic structures, outside Córdoba.
Alcazaba Splendidlly preserved fortress overlooking Almería.
Hispania was an important part of the ancient Roman Empire for almost five centuries and it left behind a legacy of fine sites scattered around the country.
Mérida The most extensive Roman remains in the country.
Tarragona One of Spain's most imposing collections of Roman-era ruins.
Segovia An astonishing Roman aqueduct bisects the city.
Lugo Spain’s finest preserved Roman walls encircle this Galician city.
Itálica Iberia’s oldest Roman town with a fine amphitheatre; close to Seville.
Baelo Claudia Intact Roman town with views of Africa on Andalucía's far southern coast.
Zaragoza A fine theatre, intriguing forum remains, baths and a former river port.
Villa Romana La Olmeda Spain's best-preserved Roman villa laid with exquisite mosaic floors.
Torre de Hércules In A Coruña, this 1st-century-AD lighthouse sits on what was then the furthest tip of the civilised world.
Cartagena The downtown area is rich in archaeological remains.
Catholicism stands at the heart of Spanish identity, and cathedrals, with their rich accumulation of architectural styles, form the monumental and spiritual centrepiece of many Spanish towns.
La Sagrada Família Gaudí’s unfinished masterpiece rises above Barcelona like an apparition of some fevered imagination.
Catedral de Santiago de Compostela One of Spain’s most sacred (and beautiful) sites, with a magnificent Romanesque portico.
Catedral de Burgos A Gothic high point with legends of El Cid lording it over the old town.
Catedral de Toledo Extravagant monument to the power of Catholic Spain in its most devout heartland.
Catedral de Sevilla Vast and very beautiful Gothic cathedral with the stunning Giralda belltower.
Catedral de León Sublime 13th-century Gothic structure with Spain's best stained-glass windows.
Despite Spain’s summer popularity, the country’s surfeit of coastal riches means that an unspoiled beach experience remains a possibility. You just need to know where to look.
Cabo de Gata A wildly beautiful reminder of the Andalucían coast as it once was.
Costa de la Luz Unbroken stretches of sand along a beautiful coast from Tarifa to Cádiz.
Playa de la Concha One of the most beautiful city beaches anywhere in the world.
Costa Brava Rugged coast with windswept cliffs, pristine hidden coves and wide sandy beaches.
Rías Baixas Dramatic long ocean inlets and islands strung with many a fine sandy strand.
Formentera Platja de Migjorn and the Trucador Peninsula in particular are gorgeous.
Ibiza It's a close-run thing but Platja de ses Salines is our favourite.
Menorca Pick anywhere along Menorca's coast and you're unlikely to be disappointed.
Staying Out Late
From sophisticated cocktail bars to beachside chiringuitos (bars), from dance-until-dawn nightclubs to outdoor terrazas (bars with outdoor tables), Spanish nightlife is diverse, relentless and utterly intoxicating.
Madrid Bars, nightclubs, live-music venues and nights that roll effortlessly into one another.
Valencia Barrio del Carmen and Russafa nights are famous throughout Spain, with a roaring soundtrack in the city's oldest quarter.
Barcelona Glamorous and gritty nightspots for an international crowd.
Zaragoza The heartbeat of Aragón with fabulous tapas and drinking bars that don't crank up until well after midnight.
Seville Long, hot nights and the essence of Andalucia's passion come to life.
Sitges Gay-driven, but hetero-friendly, Sitges is coastal Catalonia's party town.
Spain obsesses about food with an eating public as eager to try something new as they are wary lest their chefs stray too far from one of Europe’s richest culinary traditions.
Pintxos in San Sebastián Spain’s culinary capital, with more Michelin stars than Paris and the country’s best pintxos (Basque tapas).
Paella in Valencia The birthplace of paella and still the place for the most authentic version – think chicken, beans and rabbit.
Catalan cooking in Barcelona Home city for Catalonia’s legendary cooking fuelled by Spain's finest food markets.
Tapas in La Latina, Madrid Rising above Madrid's modest home-grown cuisine, this inner-city barrio (district) showcases the best tapas from around Spain.
Seafood in Galicia The dark arts of boiling an octopus and the Atlantic's sea creatures (goose barnacles, anyone?) are pure culinary pleasure.
Roasted meats in the interior Cochinillo asado (roast suckling pig) and cordero asado lechal (roast spring lamb) are fabulous staples.
El Celler de Can Roca Girona's finest has been named the world’s best restaurant twice in recent years.
In many parts of the country you won’t find anything but wines from Spain. La Rioja is the king of Spanish wine regions, but there's so much more to be discovered.
La Rioja wine region Bodegas, wine museums and vineyards to the horizon – this is Spanish wine's heartland.
Ribera del Duero Spain's favourite wine region in waiting, with bodegas all along the valley.
Penedès wine country The cavas (sparkling wines) that are Spain’s favourite Christmas drink.
The Sherry Triangle Jerez de la Frontera, El Puerto de Santa María and Sanlúcar de Barrameda – the sherry capitals of the world, with numerous bodegas.
Somontano One of Spain's most underrated wine regions, with dozens of vineyards open to the public.
Galicia Up-and-coming region with fruity white albariño, and a revival of native grape varieties in areas like Ribeira Sacra and Monterrei.
Asturias Spain's cider capital where's it's poured expertly, straight from the barrel.
Priorat Some of Spain’s finest and most expensive wines, in Catalonia.
Spanish landscapes are continental in variety and include some of Europe’s premier hiking destinations, from the Pyrenees in the north to the quiet valleys of Andalucía in the south.
Parque Nacional de Ordesa y Monte Perdido Pyrenean high country at its most spectacular.
Camino de Santiago One of the world’s most famous walks, which can last a couple of days or weeks.
Picos de Europa Jagged peaks and steep trails inland from the Bay of Biscay.
Parc Nacional d'Aigüestortes i Estany de Sant Maurici Romanesque churches and rampart-like ridge lines in the Catalan Pyrenees.
Sierra Nevada Wildlife and stunning views in the shadow of mainland Spain’s highest mountain.
Sierra de Grazalema White villages and precipitous mountains in Andalucía.
Spain has exceptional wildlife-watching opportunities with a fine mix of charismatic carnivores, pretty pink flamingos and a bird list without peer in Europe.
Doñana Track down the stunning Iberian lynx, the world's most endangered species of wild cat, in Andalucía's far southwest.
Parque Natural Sierra de Andújar See the Iberian lynx; it's also possible to see wolf, black vulture, black stork and Spanish imperial eagle.
Parque Natural de Somiedo See big brown bears high in the Picos de Europa of southwestern Asturias.
Sierra de la Culebra Home to the Iberian wolf and the best place to watch wolves in Europe.
Tarifa Watch as whales and dolphins pass through the Straits of Gibraltar.
Parque Nacional de Monfragüe Birds of prey wheel high above a dramatic canyon.
Laguna de Gallocanta Grullas (cranes) winter here in their thousands in Aragón.
Laguna de Fuente de Piedra Andalucía's breeding home to the prolific flamenco (greater flamingo) in spring and summer.
Parque Natural Sierras de Cazorla, Segura y Las Villas Good for red and fallow deer, ibex, wild boar, mouflon, red squirrels, griffon vultures and golden eagles.
Spain's villages, especially those in the interior, are bastions of Old Spain, far from the cliches of 'sun, sand and sangría'. Many are spectacularly sited, most have made few concessions to the modern world, and each is worth the effort to get there.
Albarracín Draped around an Aragonese canyon and topped by a castle.
Arcos de la Frontera Andalucía's archetypal pueblo blanco.
Sierra de Francia Forgotten hamlets in southwestern Castilla y León.
Puebla de Sanabria As beautiful as any Tuscan hill town.
Sos del Rey Católico Honey-hued medieval village strung out along a ridge.
Vejer de la Frontera Artsy, whitewashed village in Andalucía's far south.
Medinaceli Hilltop village northeast of Madrid with Roman ruins.
Aínsa Stone-built village in the Pyrenean foothills.
Santillana del Mar Cantabria's prettiest settlement.
Cudillero A prime reason why Spaniards dream of coastal Asturias.
Segura de la Sierra Charming white village topped by a perfectly perched castle.
Big Screen Locations
So many of Spain's landscapes are cinematic in scope and so much of its architecture looks like it belongs on a film set.
Desierto de Tabernas Down in Almería, where they filmed so many spaghetti Westerns; also the Sergio Leone Dollar’s trilogy.
Playa de Monsul This Cabo de Gata beach featured in Indiana Jones & the Last Crusade (1989).
Calatañazor Doctor Zhivago (1965) was filmed partly in the tight huddle of buildings in this Castilian village
Las Barruecas The epic battle scenes in Series Seven of Game of Thrones were filmed here, near Cáceres.
Castillo de Loarre In the Pyrenean foothills, this fairytale castle starred in Kingdom of Heaven (2005), along with Orlando Bloom, Liam Neeson and Jeremy Irons.
Spain pulsates with music wherever you go, and whether it's the soulful strains of flamenco or a fantastic music festival, Spain has your soundtrack.
Jerez de la Frontera Spine-tingling live flamenco in the cradle of the genre.
Seville One of flamenco's most prestigious stages.
Córdoba Fabulous festivals, such as the Festival de la Guitarra de Córdoba and Noche Blanca del Flamenco.
Cafe Central One of Europe's most respected jazz venues, in Madrid.
Palau de la Música Catalana Marvellous classical performances in an extraordinary venue.
Casa das Crechas Wednesday-night Galician folk jam sessions in Santiago de Compostela feature bagpipes, fiddles and accordions.
Sónar World-class electronica festival in Barcelona, worth planning your trip around.
Suma Flamenca Madrid's best flamenco festival draws all the biggest names.
Getting active in the Spanish wilds is getting better with each passing year, and adventure sports are growing exponentially in popularity.
Alquézar This stunning Aragonese village is brilliant for canyoning.
Tarifa Mainland Spain's southernmost tip is Spain's centre for kitesurfing and windsurfing.
Zamora Natural Kayaking in Castilla y León's west is just the start of what they do.
Aínsa Not just a beautiful hill town, but increasingly a base for mountain-biking in Aragón.
Baqueira-Beret- Bonaigua Considered by many to have the Pyrenees' best snow.
Costa da Morte Surf the wild and windswept Galician coast all by yourself.
Sierra Nevada Europe's southernmost ski resort with 106km of runs.
Mundaka Unreliable, but one of Europe's most celebrated waves.
El Palmar Regarded as Andalucía's best surf beach.
Parque Natural Sierras de Cazorla An outstanding spot for paragliding.