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The 25 best things to do in Spain in 2022

50 provinces, 17 autonomous regions, at least five languages; the best things to do in Spain are a real rollercoaster

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With 50 provinces, 17 autonomous regions and at least five languages, Spain is just about as diverse as it gets. Every corner seems to throw up something new, with an incredible architectural variety and delicious food at the head of the table. The gorgeous beaches might have something to say about that, as will the cultural heritage, the vibrant festivals, the natural wonders and the achingly-beautiful people. Come to think of it, Spain is just one big top table.


The best things to do in Spain showcase everything that makes it a special country. Sandy beaches and skiing bookend the experiences, with everything in between seemingly available. From Galicia to Catalonia, the Basque Country to Andalusia and the Canaries to the Balearics, this is Spain.

Best things to do in Spain

Walking the Camino de Santiago? Try the northern route

1. Walking the Camino de Santiago? Try the northern route

We've got to go back to the year 812 to talk about the origins of the Camino de Santiago (aka The Way of Saint James), the most travelled pilgrimage route in Europe. It was then that the apostle's relics were discovered in Galicia, and ever since, pilgrims from around the globe have made the trek. Catholocism aside, the Camino (which really should be plural because there are so many ways to go) is quite the experience for anyone. Though there are dozens of possible routes, and the French Camino is the most popular and well-travelled, we recommend the Camino del Norte, the northern route. It is a wonder to behold with all the lush greenery along the peninsular coast from east to west, bordering the Cantabria province. 

Everyone knows Antoni Gaudí as the king of Catalan modernism (or 'modernisme'), and his works are not to be missed. But when you're ready to explore modernisme beyond Gaudí, there's plenty to admire right within the Barcelona city limits. Shift your eyes to the left when you're in front of Gaudí's Casa Batlló, for example, to see Josep Puig i Cadafalch's Casa Amatller; it's only been standing there since 1900. Up the road from the Sagrada Família is a former hospital, now a modernista building you can visit, the Sant Pau Art Nouveau Site (thank you, Lluís Domènech i Montaner). And for double your pleasure, you can marvel at the architecture of Puig i Cadafalch's Casaramona, a former yarn and textile factory that now houses the Caixaforum, one of the city's best art museums.

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The Doñana National Park is one of the most impressive in Spain. Covering 116,000 hectares, much of which is in Huelva, the park spreads further into Seville and Cádiz. The park features lakes, pine forests, streams, dunes, cliffs and beaches. To fully enjoy all the ecosystems and the 200,000+ aquatic birds that inhabit the marshlands, take a four-hour tour of the park in a 4x4 with a driver (who doubles up as a guide). Other activities available in the park are horse riding, kayaking, hot-air ballooning, mountain biking, kite surfing and more.

Dig in to the exquisite almadraba tuna in Cádiz

Andalusia is much more than sun, tapas and rebujito (but do try the sherry-based drink!). Besides its impressive monuments like the Alhambra in Granada, the Giralda in Seville, and the mosque in Córdoba, Spain's southernmost province boasts stellar gastronomy. If you get as far as Cádiz, don't miss your chance to try the gorgeous almadraba tuna. 'Almadraba' is quite an old way of catching Atlantic bluefin on its way from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean, or vice versa, and the result is the jewel of the Andalusian coastal fishing community.

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You don't have to go all the way to Japan to see cherry blossoms in full bloom. You do, however, have to visit Extremadura's Valle del Jerte (Jerte Valley), to the north of Cáceres, in spring. To be exact, you'll need to get there during the 15 days they're in bloom, a period that spans late March and early April. Of course, that means everyone else is there as well, but it's the ideal time to walk among the fields dotted with cherry trees when you can be wowed by the view of endless white flowers that mean the delicious bright red fruit is just about to come in for the season.

Go on a rooftop crawl in Madrid
Photograph: Courtesy Booking.com

6. Go on a rooftop crawl in Madrid

There's a famous saying in Madrid, 'De Madrid al Cielo ("From Madrid to the sky", bearing in mind that 'Cielo' also translates to 'heaven'). What better way to try making that literal than by hanging out on some of the best-known (and lesser-visited) rooftops around town? There are few experiences as pleasurable as watching the sunset over Gran Vía with a cold beer in hand at Picalagartos, or taking a dip in the big swimming pool atop the Hotel Emperador, or having a bite to eat on the legendary rooftop of the Círculo de Bellas Artes

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The capital of Castilla-La Mancha is a monumental city where you can get lost in its historic, walled old town. Just a few kilometres from Madrid, Toledo is home to monuments from Jewish, Muslim and Christian cultures that are well worth a visit, including the cathedral, the Alcázar and the El Greco museum. A wander through the Jewish quarter, with its narrow cobblestone streets and synagogue, is one of the best ways to discover the most authentic side of Toledo. The city is known for its steel; swords have been forged in Toledo for over 2,000 years.

Gastronomy in the north of Spain is a source of pride in the region. Asturian 'fabada' (bean and sausage stew) is the most typical dish you'll, but also look for others such as 'Cachopo' (similar to Veal cordon bleu) and 'Arroz con leche' (rice pudding). And then there's the hard cider ('sidra'), the star among Asturian beverages. The best way to try the food and drink together is to find an 'espicha' (cider party) in a traditional Asturian establishment, where the drink is made and poured according to tradition. The pouring, with the bottle held above the head and the glass by the hips, the pourer staring off into the middle distance and still making most of the cider into the glass is a show in itself. You can also get cider in most bars, pintxos places and sidrerias.

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Many restaurants in all of Catalonia have one or two Michelin stars, but El Celler de Can Roca in Girona has earned the big three. Naturally, the waiting list is longer than time (okay, it's a bit over a year), so if you want to shed tears of emotion while you rediscover what it means to eat well, consider booking now for your next birthday. Or the one after that. Okay, the one after that.

In a former 1930s factory that made industrial valves and hydraulic pumps is an ultra-modern art centre, Bomba Gens; yet another good reason to fall for Valencia. Discover exhibitions, workshops for the whole family, and guided tours around the building – which itself hides surprises like a 15th-century wine cellar, a medieval jewel uncovered in 2016 during the digs and renovation process. Splash out and book a table before or after your visit at haute cuisine Ricard Camarena Restaurant, located inside the Bombas Gens building.

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When you consider visiting the Basque Country, you may think of eating your fill in 'pintxos' in San Sebastián and visiting its Playa de la Concha or marvelling at the architecture and art inside Bilbao's Guggenheim museum. But for something different, awe-inspiring and created by Mother Nature herself, try a hiking route that remains delightfully undiscovered by mass tourism. This is the Ruta del Flysch (named for the rocks the sea has been eroding), about 10 kilometres of cliffs that extend between Zumaia, Deba and Mutriku, in the province of Gipuzkoa. If you're not able to hike it, you can still enjoy the view from a boat and get some truly spectacular photos.

Drink Rioja in La Rioja
Photograph: Unsplash

12. Drink Rioja in La Rioja

You may have heard – or tasted for yourself – that Spanish wines are among the best in the world. And if there's one area in Spain known internationally for its vineyards and wine production, it's got to be La Rioja. The region's grapes produce some of the most coveted bottles on the market. And you'll also find state-of-the-art wineries like those of Ysios (in Laguardia), designed by the architect Santiago Calatrava, and (in Elciego), turned out by Frank Gehry. Plus, Rioja wine in Spain is much more economical than you might get back home.

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When you are in Palma de Mallorca and want a guaranteed excellent ensaïmada (the Mallorcan pastry), head to El Fornet de la Soca. It is not the oldest bakery on the island, but its recipes might be. Owner and pastry chef Tomeu Arbona realised he could make a mean ensaïmada, and he kept working to improve even on that, researching and discovering recipes used in the 18th and 19th centuries. Ingredients are high-quality, with organic flours and lard from black pork (sorry, vegans). The space itself is out of a fairytale as well, and every other type of pastry – whether it’s sweet or savoury – is just as amazing as the last.

In Granada, you'll be visiting the Alhambra no matter what. This palace and fortress of the Moorish kings are not to be missed. When you want to admire it from afar, the popular Mirador de San Nicolás is just opposite in the hilly Albaicín neighbourhood. The lookout point is in a large square, with as many visitors filling it up to enjoy the view as buskers and vendors. If you prefer more tranquil environs, head back down (or stop on your way up) to the Mirador de Los Carvajales in Placeta Carvajales. Or have a drink or bite to eat at El Huerto de Juan Ranas, where sunset affords you a stellar vista of the Alhambra turning from its daytime red to its nighttime silhouette ablaze in lights. The spot may be pricey, but you're paying for that view!

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Fancy a bit of action? Try your feet at walking along the Caminito del Rey (King's Pathway). It may have a diminutive name, but it takes big bravery to head along the almost 8 kilometres of the trail via the Desfiladero de los Gaitanes in the province of Málaga. About a third of that has you reminding yourself to breathe along dizzying wooden-plank walkways hanging about 100 meters above the river, built – with great skill – into the rocky walls of the gorge. Expect adrenaline aplenty, take in the overwhelming beauty of the landscape and, above all, be patient because there is about two months' worth of thrill-seekers booked in before you.

Madrid's markets are an integral part of the city's identity. More traditional stalls selling only fish or meat have closed, and in their place are veritable restaurants where you can sample traditional Spanish dishes, like the 'tortilla de patata' (potato omelette) at Casa Dani in the Mercado de la Paz or more daring culinary treats from Tripea in the Mercado de Vallehermoso. Los MostensesAntón Martín, San Fernando... the list grows practically daily. Don't stop yourself from exploring beyond the more touristy Mercado de San Miguel.

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It's no secret; Papagayo Beach on the Canary Island of Lanzarote is well-known, but thanks to its extension and many nooks and crannies, it's still one of the few spots that are not as saturated by the influx of tourists as other beaches around the island. Papagayo boasts nearly 6 kilometres of inlets, coves, solitary beaches separated by low crags. And the best bit is that this is a paradise where you can lose yourself nearly any month of the year, not just in summer.

Hit as many summer music festivals as possible in Barcelona and beyond
Photograph: Maria Dias

18. Hit as many summer music festivals as possible in Barcelona and beyond

In Barcelona, 'primavera' ('spring') means flowers in bloom, the first dip of the toes in the sea, and being able to sit outside again after the chill of winter. But it's also synonymous with the arrival of the music festival season. It kicks off with Primavera Sound at the beginning of June, a week of music on stages all across the city culminating in three days at the Parc del Fòrum, where you get to dance and sing your heart out to some of the biggest acts on the international scene. With just a couple of short weeks to recover, it's time for the Sónar festival of advanced music that brings some of the most innovative and state-of-the-art music (and not all of it electronic) to Barcelona. In July, it is time for Cruïlla, an eclectic and magical festival where anything can happen. If three-in-one isn't enough for you, head off BBK Live in Bilbao, FIB in Benicàssim, Arenal Sound in Burriana (Castellón), or the massive MadCool in Madrid, to name a few. Plan well, though, as some of these do overlap.

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It's no wonder that Galicia's only half-jokingly referred to as 'Galifornia', thanks to its extensive white-sand beaches and crystalline (though icy) waters. After you've tried the local obligatory 'Polbo á feira' octopus dish with a good albariño white wine, the next thing on your list is to take a cruise along the idyllic Rías Baixas and discover the Islas Atlánticas National Park, which comprises the impressive islands of Ons, Cíes, Sálvora and Cortegada. Be aware you've got to book in advance; summer spaces are limited to preserve this protected environment.

Get the real thing: 'horchata' in Valencia
Photograph: Shutterstock

20. Get the real thing: 'horchata' in Valencia

No other corner of the world is as good for savouring a 'horchata' as Valencia and its surroundings. This popular non-alcoholic beverage took off in medieval Muslim Spain when tiger nut was introduced to the region; this little tuber's milk provides the base for traditional horchata. If you're in the centre of Valencia, one of the top spots for a refreshing taste is Horchatería Santa Catalina, which has been around for two centuries. Once you realise you can't get enough of the stuff, head to nearby Alboraia, the horchata capital, where you can get your fix in Horchatería Daniel – in summer, the place practically turns into a spiritual centre dedicated to this Valencian national drink.

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The Cap de Creus (Creus Cape) is one of the most amazing places on the Costa Brava. When you want to explore, and you're up for a nice long walk (14km), try the Camí Antic, from Cadaqués (where you've been visiting that charming fishing village) to Cap de Creus. During the first bit, you walk along roads, but once you get to Portlligat (where Salvador Dalí once lived – you can tour his house), it gets good: the beaches of Sant Lluís and La Guillola, expansive lands featuring abandoned vineyards, and the famous local lighthouse. For the return journey, some hikers opt for the road only, while some mix road and path. In total, it's about four hours of walking, and every minute is really, really worth it.

It's all going down at Matadero Madrid. This centre is constantly abuzz with the Spanish capital's most alternative culture, art and entertainment. There's a constant programme of plays, film cycles, a library and an outdoor square that hosts everything from street markets to summer festivals. And now you've got even more reasons to go to this hot spot: there's a new bar area with an oven where it always smells like pizza, and a patio in the back with lovely evening lighting, inviting you to relax into the night while the weather is agreeable.

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There's no better Sunday tradition than enjoying pre-lunch vermouth along with its accompanying snacks – olives, crisps and any tinned treat, such as anchovies – to whet your appetite. Years ago, that fortified wine our grandparents sipped when they were young was rediscovered by a new generation of devotees in Barcelona, and it seems it's here to stay. For proof, head to C/Parlament in the Sant Antoni neighbourhood around midday and into Bar CaldersEls Sortidors del Parlament and others, and you'll see (and taste) that vermouth is the common denominator among the clientele.

Try the world's best 'torreznos' in Soria
Photograph: Shutterstock

24. Try the world's best 'torreznos' in Soria

The Spanish Netflix hit show 'Paquita Salas' has the main character declaring that the best 'torreznos' in Spain are in Tarazona, in the province of Zaragoza. But real-life Spanish citizens, visitors and gastronomic award-bestowers have Soria down as the true torrezno capital. These crunchy, salty treats similar to pork scratchings are considered a snack of the gods, and if you want some of the best, head to places like Mesón CastellanoLa Chistera or Mesón Círculo Católico (in El Burgo de Osma). 

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Between Navarra and Aragón in the Bardenas Reales lies an impressive semi-desert landscape of more than 40,000 hectares that brings to mind those NASA pictures of Mars or the Grand Canyon itself, with its rocks and cliffs. If you like bicycling, hop on and take the 75-kilometre circular route covering nearly the whole area. Tip; try to avoid the summer months, as the high temperatures might not be ideal for it.

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