Mark your calendars and start brushing up on that high school Spanish.
If you’re planning an overseas vacation in 2019, put Spain at the top of the list. The country, which is coming out of years of economic struggle, is a thriving hotspot with tons to offer when it comes to history, culture, activities and, of course, the food. The 2008 financial crisis hit Spain hard. The country dealt with years of high unemployment and depressed housing prices. Thousands of people across Europe took notice and made Spain one of the hottest retirement and vacation home destinations on the continent. Now, as Spain comes roaring back, it’s the most diverse and electrifying it’s ever been. It’s got the best of everything. World-renowned, beautiful beaches on the coast, European architecture and history, and African influence due to its shared border with the continent. Another bit of good news is that the good life in Spain can still be had for less relative to other European countries. Visitors spend a fraction there compared to places like France, Sweden or the UK. So, mark your calendars and start brushing up on that high school Spanish for the best vacation location in 2019. Here are the top five places to visit in Spain this year.
If you’ve only got time for one stop, it’s got to be Barcelona. It’s the cultural capital of the country, housing the most unique architecture and art. Barcelona’s famous for Antoni Gaudi’s architectural creations that are landmarks across the city. The most prominent of Gaudi’s building, La Sagrada Familia is a world-class building and truly inspires a sense of awe. The building was started in 1882 and, believe it or not, is still under construction today. It’s projected to be complete in 2026, the 100-year anniversary of Gaudi’s death, so visitors can see a living work of art if they get there before then. Barcelona’s so rich in history you’ll spot Gaudi building’s dotting the landscape as you drive around.
Gaudi’s not the only thing that makes Barcelona such a draw. One of the most exciting places to visit there is the Barcelona Cathedral because it possesses such rich history. Excavations along the Cathedral’s eastern wall exposed a prior structure consisting of three naves with columns of white marble. These exquisite white marble columns extend from the floor to the ceiling, highlighting the grandeur of the Cathedral. These magnificent columns, created with authentic Spanish white marble, are truly an astounding sight to behold. The structure is thought to have kept the relics of Saint Eulalia in one of the chapels. There’s also the Picasso museum, Barri Gotic, a centuries-old neighborhood, and tons of small streets and markets to explore. There are also great beaches. Barceloneta beach is a nice spot to walk and take in views for couples or families. You’ll pinch yourself taking a morning job along the coast.
Madrid, the actual capital of Spain, should be your second stop. Madrid is a visitor’s fun paradise. The city’s known as a party location with great bars, clubs and other nightlife venues. If you’re looking to go all night like the locals, Madrid’s the place to be. It’s not all party hard, though. It’s fun with a Spanish flair. You’ll see flamenco dancers spinning and Spanish music flowing through the streets. People will be outside in the summer having their fill of Sangria and are always up to meet new faces. Madrid’s got a lot going for it when it comes to art and places to see as well. The famous Prado museum is there, and Plaza Mayor and Retiro Park are great for afternoon and evening strolls.
Even if you’ve never been to Spain, saying the word “Seville” evokes a sense of southern Andalusian romance and sunny afternoons spent exploring some hundred-year-old tiled alley. Seville is a cultural center of Spain known for its artistic influences and focus on quality of life. People don’t take themselves too seriously in Seville, they love to have a good time. Dinner is late but filled with wine and flamenco dancing in the streets. For famous sites, check out Plaza de Espana or Real Alcazar. A lot of visitors in Seville are intrigued by the thought of attending a bullfight. Just be warned, some people unfamiliar with the tradition come away a bit shocked by the brutality. The city’s filled with quality, affordable tapas restaurants and outdoor cafes where you can take in the scenery. As usual with prominent cities in Spain, there’s a good share of palaces and museums worth your time as well.
4. San Sebastian
San Sebastian is the perfect destination for people wanting to avoid hordes of tourists. It’s often left off a lot of must-do lists, but nonetheless is one of Spain’s hottest beach locations. Locals get it. They stream in from all around the country each summer to take in the sun and beautiful beaches. So, if you’re looking for a truly Spanish experience, put San Sebastian on the itinerary. San Sebastian used to be Queen Maria Cristina’s favorite vacation spot in the 19th and 20th centuries. The famous hillsides separate the city just enough to make it still feel like a small town. You’ll get to experience the Basque culture in the north and the city’s full of wonderful pintxos, or Basque tapas. When you’ve had your fill of the beaches, do a walking tour of the city dropping in a bunch of different cafes and restaurants to try out the small bites.
Following Spain’s theme of being so diverse and offering something for everybody, Granada is home to Spanish culture with Arabic influence. Granada used to be part of the Moorish Empire, so the city gives visitors a whole new perspective on Spanish culture. Guests are often stunned with the feeling that they’re somewhere unlike anywhere else in the world. Tapas and siesta meet up with Moroccan cafes and Arabian bathhouses. The city is a launching pad for visits to renowned Sierra Nevada National Park. The park boasts some of the most stunning natural landscapes anywhere in the world. Granada’s most famous site, the Alhambra is a UNESCO World Heritage site that graces the covers of magazines and postcards. Just a heads up, though, it draws around two million visitors each year, so expect some crowds.