So it’s been awhile since I’ve written for the blog. I took a “break” in Madrid for about 5 weeks. I was hanging out with one of my good friends from Northeastern University, who so kindly invited me to crash with her in her apartment in Madrid free of charge. So a big shout out to Debora Almeida, AKA _deb_downer forever, for saving me and my budget.
While I was on my “break,” I was still traveling all over Spain. Instead of writing a post for each city, I figured I would share what my five favorite cities were from this leg of my trip. The five cities that captured my heart, which of course is a challenging feat considering I didn’t leave my favorite country for 5 weeks and traveled to over 20 cities in the country during my time there. So without further ado, here are the top five favorite cities I visited during my time in Spain (of course, not including Barcelona, which will likely always hold the spot of #1 place on Earth but I’m biased).
Starting off strong, because I absolutely fell in love with Calpe. The picturesque beaches, the natural swimming pools, and the beautiful hike, Calpe is somewhere I could see myself visiting time and time again. Calpe is perfect for nature and beach lovers. The city resides on beautiful coastline, sits between two mountains that are fairly easy to scale even on a hot August day, and provides calm waters for sitting in to cool off from the hot Spanish sun.
I originally came to Calpe to only stay for about a half day to do the beautiful hike, however, I ended up falling in love with the city and stayed for a couple extra days. There’s not much in terms of tips of things to do, except to do the hike and relax in the sun and the water.
As you can probably tell, I was more focused on relaxing than taking photos! The city is absolutely gorgeous and a perfect getaway.
A wonderful day trip out of Madrid that is the intersection of three distinct cultures: Muslim , Jewish, and Christian. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, and it’s clear why. Toledo is full of things to do and see and if you are in Madrid and looking for a day trip, it’s the one I would say I recommend the most (followed by Avila to see some beautiful city walls that rival Dubrovnik’s).
Toledo is a LOT of walking and even more stairs. But the city is worth the extra effort. The biggest thing to do is actually not the famed castle, but instead is to visit the Cathedral. However, I found that the church was actually pretty expensive. It was the one thing I allowed myself to splurge on. Looking back, I think I might have skipped the church, but if you are really into churches than the Cathedral is not to be missed. I had just been seeing so many churches that I was a little bit churched-out.
My favorite thing about Toledo was actually not the attractions, but the beautiful sights it provides, and if you’re anything like me, you’ll see that it’s a ripe with photo opportunities. Here are some of my favorites from my time in Toledo.
The sunset provides infinite lighting options and all occurs within about 30 minutes. Cross the river for beautiful views of the castle before sunset for the best photo ops.
Sevilla is just full of magic. Sevilla is somewhere I NEED to return to because I simply didn’t get enough time there, and some of the major attractions I wanted to visit were closed. Any Game of Thrones fans will surely recognize the Kingdom of Dorne at the Alcazar of Sevilla. The Cathedral in Sevilla I’ve heard was not to be missed. Of course, I missed both.
However, when you go to Sevilla, the absolute #1 thing to do is the incredible Plaza de España. The creme de la creme of Spanish plazas, at least in my mind. At sunset, the entire plaza is swept up in the most magnificent of pastel colors. I couldn’t even believe the sunset, it was like fire in the sky. The sky spilled cans of pink, blue, orange, and yellow paint into the sky. Absolutely will be a sunset to remember.
Also notable for Sevilla is the number of day trips that are at your disposal when visiting. My favorite was Ronda, but also not to be missed is Córdoba. Ronda is famed for the cliffside houses connected by a beautiful bridge, while Córdoba is more popular for the famed Mezquita de Córdoba, a mosque that was later converted into a Cathedral once the Catholics threw up the Islamic population.
“Every year he goes to Malaga, with all the fellas.” Oh if only I could Ed Sheeran. Malaga one of the more famous destinations in the South of Spain. The best parts of Malaga are of course the beaches. Malagueta is a beautiful beach, but even better is a short bus ride away (assuming you don’t mess it up, cough cough, I did) in Nerja. Also not to miss in Malaga include the beautiful Alcazaba of Malaga, showing the influence of Islamic architecture during the Moorish rule in Spain.
More beautiful sights include the famed Bull Ring and if you do choose to make a day trip to Nerja, which I highly recommend, the Balcon de Europa is not to be missed.
And of course, the grand finale, I have to say my favorite spot in Spain, this time around, goes to Bilbao. With Bilbao I can’t even really explain what I loved about it. It just had ~vibes~ and was so different than the rest of Spain. The language of Basque Country is Euskera and is so different from Spanish it felt like an entirely different country.
The top attraction in Bilbao is the Guggenheim Museum, which I will say I’m pretty torn about. On one hand, it was a modern art museum and consisted a lot of things that aren’t necessarily the type of art I seek out when visiting museums. Yet, of course on the other hand, as my good friend Debora pointed out, the art we were looking at facilitated 10x more conversation between us than any painting in the Louvre ever had. It was funky, it was creepy, it was bizarre. It was a multitude of things that I will never understand, and I’m happy I experienced this museum, designed by the architect Frank Gehry, one of the coolest buildings I’ve seen.
Another great day trip out of Bilbao is to go to Gaztelugatxe, now famous for being a Game of Thrones filming location (again) for Dragonstone. A wonderful walk to the island to see the beautiful stairway to a church on a small island. You’ll feel like you’re in Ireland with these views.
There you have it! My five favorite trips throughout Spain this time around. And now, some honorable mentions, of course, because how could I forget some other great destinations.
Art Buffs! If you love art, be sure to visit Madrid. With the Prado, the Reina Sofia, and Thyssen-Bornemisza, you’ll be sure to find some famed pieces of art that you recognize from your favorite artists, including Picasso, el Greco, Velazquez, Van Gogh, amongst others.
Traveling between Barcelona and Madrid overland? Break it up with a nice day in Zaragoza to visit one of the most visited tourist attractions in Spain: the Cathedral of Zaragoza. I don’t think you need much more than a day in Zaragoza, though.
Another great day trip from Madrid is Segovia, famed for an incredible Roman Aqueduct and their signature dish: suckling pig.
There you have it! My favorite spots in the world’s greatest destination: Spain. Until next time!