As you consider where to go in Europe on vacation, let these top six reasons to visit Spain highlight what makes it an excellent destination for your first time in the Iberian Peninsula.
From a diverse blend of African and European cultures to a culinary legacy that is more famous than you realize, there are many reasons to go to Spain on vacation. Whether embracing surreal art and architecture reflective of the landscape or pairing your trip with easily accessible neighboring countries, you can appreciate what makes the country special.
Our reasons Spain should be at the top of your European travel list share insight into the local traditions and customs, as well as the types of memorable experiences that await you.
When thinking about Spain and its culture, splitting the country through the middle makes it easier to understand how global influences shape regions in the north and south. Northern and southern Spain are distinct, with different histories and traditions giving rise to unique culinary, musical, architectural, artistic, and local customs.
Southern Spain is famous for flamenco, Moorish palaces, tapas, Mediterranean beaches, and Valencian paella. On the other hand, northern Spain is famously fashionable, with modern museums, resort towns, traces of Europe’s medieval heritage, and spins on traditional tapas, known in the north as pintxos.
In southern Spain, you can see North African influences in the ornate horseshoe arches and marble columns of the Alhambra. In northern Spain, you can see European style in the Gothic cathedral facades and contemporary art galleries, among them the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao. From the buildings to the food and beverages, song and dance to city highlights, trips to Spain beg travelers to uncover what makes the two regions unique.
Highlights of Northern Spain: Pintxos food tours • San Sebastian beaches • Guggenheim Museum Bilbao • Antoni Gaudi architecture in Barcelona • La Rioja wine tasting
Highlights of Southern Spain: The Alhambra • El Tajo de Ronda • Flamenco performances • Valencian paella cooking classes • Tapas tasting tours • Costa del Sol beaches
Travel is an opportunity to see the world and you can see more of it on a single vacation from Spain, with Portugal, France, and Morocco easily accessible. Pairing Spain with these countries for multi-country or multi-continental trips is manageable.
Spain’s proximity to Portugal means you could unpack Seville's Moorish history and culture and then arrive in Portugal’s bustling capital of Lisbon within a few hours. From Spain’s Catalan capital, Barcelona, you can transfer to the Pyrenees mountains bordering France to visit ski resorts or enjoy alpine hiking before arriving in the pink city of Toulouse. You could also experience the Basque Country of Spain and France on one trip.
For a unique multi-continental journey, pair Spain with Morocco and truly reflect on the distinct influences that spread from North Africa’s Mediterranean jewel to southern Spanish cities. Ticking off travel in Europe and Africa in one trip is an unforgettable experience that brings you closer to a cross-continental culture that traces heritage to Middle-Age Moorish settlement.
Travelers flock to Europe and the Mediterranean in summer to spend time on breathtaking beaches, and Spain boasts islands that may be overlooked in favor of classics like Sicily in Italy or Mykonos in Greece. What separates the Spanish islands from the rest is value for travelers exploring these sun-kissed destinations.
Islands like Mallorca, Ibiza, and Minorca are popular destinations. Here, travelers can expect unparalleled luxuries at premier resorts, catamaran sailing to some of the most cinematic coves, and quiet beach days at secret spots local guides can show you.
The value for travelers is in the availability of luxury experiences and accessibility to enchanting beach paradises, with attentive staff available to assist you during your stay. Escaping the expected, you can experience the splendor of a Mediterranean summer without the overwhelming nature of peak-season travel in Europe.
Best Spanish Islands to Visit: Mallorca • Ibiza • Minorca • Formentera
Spain is one of the world's most famous food and wine destinations, even though places like Italy and France continue to steal the limelight. Spanish cuisine is so coveted that multiple Michelin-starred restaurants have set up in places like San Sebastian in the northern Spanish Basque Country.
Spain’s most famous culinary contribution to the world is tapas, bite-sized appetizers that reflect seasonal ingredients, local herbs and spices, and timeless traditions. Valencian paella is also among famous Spanish dishes, but the country’s cuisine is far more fascinating than tapas and paella. The culinary spirit born from generations of gastronomic tradition and innovation draws critics and enthusiasts from all over to the country’s shores.
Spain’s wine-making history is also iconic and the country is the second-largest wine producer in the world, ahead of France. From cava to albariño, you can explore the fame of Spanish wine in the 6 Best Wine Regions in Spain or enjoy the culinary creations Spain is world-famous for as you tour the 7 Best Places for Food and Wine in Spain.
Best Spanish Dishes & Drinks to Try: Jamón • Patatas bravas • Paella • Churros • Gazpacho • Tapas • Pintxos • Cava wine • Albariño wine
Learn more: Food & Wine Tours in Spain
Europe boasts many breathtaking landscapes, but Spain’s are reflective of the surrealist architecture dominating several of its cities. Most notably, the works of Antoni Gaudi serve as the backdrop for tours of Spain’s surrealism and several remarkable natural landscapes mirror the artist’s fairytale works.
In the Catalan capital of Barcelona, you can tour Gaudi’s most evocative pieces, including La Sagrada Familia, Casa Mila, Casa Batllo, and Park Guell for a look inside the mind of the surrealist genius. Then, transfer to Mallorca and see where natural art takes shape organically. The interior chambers of Mallorca’s Drach Caves are reminiscent of the stalagmite-like spires of La Sagrada Familia. The rolling hills around the Lakes of Covadonga in Asturias curve across the countryside like the balconies of Casa Mila.
Exploring the works of Gaudi, one of the Top 10 Things to Do in Spain, is a reminder that Spanish art comes in all forms and shapes, from architecture to dramatic landscapes, murals to far-flung lakes.
Most Surreal Landscapes in Spain: Drach Caves, Mallorca • Lakes of Covadonga, Asturias • Bardenas Reales, Navarra • Caminito del Rey, Malaga • El Tajo de Ronda, Ronda
Soccer, or futbol as it is called in Spain, is more than a game for locals. It is a part of daily life and passion for the game spills out of stadiums onto the city streets, where locals and tourists gather in restaurants and bars to cheer on their favorite teams. Spain’s passion for futbol is an extension of its passion as a country, reminding travelers that Spanish culture is one of the most spirited in the world.
Entire cities can erupt into song, cheers, and jeers during a game. Spain’s cities become new places to discover, with exciting opportunities around every corner as you wander the bustling neighborhoods searching for a spot to watch the match. Whether visiting a famous stadium like Camp Nou or the Bernabéu, meeting locals in a cafe, or listening from the vibrant streets, when you visit Spain, futbol can become an integral part of your authentic experience.
Experiencing a LaLiga match is one of the Top 8 Things to Do in Spain with Family, whether from the stands or a vibrant cafe, and understanding the close connection between the sport and Spanish passion makes for an inspiring experience.
Learn more: Barcelona and Madrid Vacation Packages & Tours
Spain is timeless, and the reasons to visit the country extend from the culture to the cinematic landscapes, the culinary traditions to the country’s proximity to other popular places. From the Alhambra to Michelin-starred restaurants, beautiful beaches to family-owned wineries, medieval cities to untamed wilderness, you can find the right inspiration for your perfect trip with our Spain Tours & Vacations.
For a wealth of information and more helpful tips to prepare for your custom vacation, visit our Spain Travel Guide.