Here are my top 5 Most Underrated Cities in Spain that you simply can´t miss. If you´re searching for cool city breaks in Spain with no tourists on the radar – look no further, you’re in the right place.
5 Most Underrated Cities in Spain You Can´t Miss
You know how much I love exploring Undiscovered places in Spain. While with secret Spanish villages, I´m sure I´ll have blog material for the rest of my life, it becomes harder and harder to find Spanish cities untouched by mass international tourism.
The good news is that there are still a few places in Spain where one can enjoy a quiet city break and avoid the crowds at the same time. But don´t leave those on your Spain Bucket list for too long – as they say, the truth will out sooner or later.
What does underrated mean for me?
But first, let´s agree on the meaning of the underrated here.
For me, an underrated city is one that has something unique, but no one really pays attention to it across the media. It should be almost undiscovered by international tourism.
So, while all of the names on this list of The Most Underrated Cities in Spain have previously been mentioned on my blog quite a few times, I´ve never really thought of putting them all together in one blog post. Never … till I´ve seen what the internet editions suggest on this topic and realized that I completely disagree.
Of course, the meaning of underrated is really wide, but some authors seriously consider that Spanish tourism can be narrowed down to Madrid, Barcelona, Sevilla, Granada, and Malaga. The rest is underrated. Well, no.
This would be simple, except that it´s not. Valencia, Girona, San Sebastian, Cordoba, Segovia, Salamanca, etc. – all these might not be on the first-timers’ travel bucket list, but they are still quite well-established on the tourist track. For instance, I love the city of Valencia, it´s only 1h-long drive for me. Maybe, 20 years ago it was underrated. But as for today – visiting Museu de les Ciencies Principe Felipe is so tiring as the place is constantly flooded with visitors. Do you know that in Valencia city center at lunchtime you could barely hear a word of Spanish? – I mean, I can´t force myself to call the city underrated after that.
Especially as that would convey false expectations. Travelers who keep searching for underrated places always expect to discover something different from mass tourism.
Of course, this is my personal opinion only. As with cities, impressions, and experiences, there is no such thing as absolute truth.
5 Most Underrated Cities in Spain You Can´t Miss
Teruel is definitely one of the most underrated cities in Spain. It is a perfect match for those who want to dive into Spanish history while avoiding the crowds.
Visiting Teruel is partially like traveling back to Spain´s origins. The country appeared in 1492 as a nation from the union of the two Spanish kingdoms – Castilla and Aragon. You might already know that Aragon is formed by three provinces – Huesca, Zaragoza, and Teruel. Well, the last one is definitely my favorite when it comes to a citybreak. Although let me also admit that the Huesca region was a love at first sight thanks to my favorite Pyrenees – but that´s already another blog story).
So what´s Teruel known for? – Mostly, the city is famous in Spain for its beautiful Mudejar architecture and the romantic legend of The Lovers of Teruel.
The old city center of Teruel was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site back in 1986. My favorite thing about Teruel is definitely its unmatched Mudejar heritage.
If you ever visited Andalusia and the South of Spain you might know what I’m talking about. One of the most fairytale places in Spain and an iconic Game of Thrones filming location, the Real Alcazar de Sevilla, is one of the better-known Mudejar phenomenons. The lively geometry of decorations there literally teleports you to the pages of One Thousand and One Night. For me, the Mudejar Architecture of Teruel isn’t any less impressive. Top places you can´t miss – The Cathedral of Teruel, San Pedro Church, Escalinata Neomudejar, and the Towers of San Pedro, San Miguel, and Salvador.
Plus, if you travel by car and want to explore the surroundings, the region of Teruel is known for its secret villages, epic Spanish hikes (like Camino Natural del Rio Guadalaviar, Ruta del Barranco de La Hoz, Parrizal de Beceite, Ruta Estrechos del Rio Ebron), and natural wonders (like Grutas de Cristal, Organos de Montaro, Pinares de Rodeno, Sima de San Pedro).
Cartagena was another big revelation during my trip to the Murcia region. It is another one of the most underrated Spanish cities for me. The port city of Cartagena is full of ambitious Roman sites which literally take one back to the times of the ancient city of Carthago-Nova and the peak of the Empire´s glory in Hispania (e.g Spain). Cartagena is one of my favorite stops on a hunt for some impressive Roman ruins in Spain.
The city is also known for its rich naval history, so visiting Museo Naval is another must-do. In the port area of Cartagena, you can also enjoy ARQUA Museo Nacional de Arqueologia Subaquatica (a museum of underwater archaeology). Another interesting stop in the city for those seeking to absorb Spanish history is Museo de la Guerra Civil (a Spanish civil war museum).
During my last trip to Soria pretty much everything had overcome my initial expectations there. So, this hidden gem is definitely another one of the most underrated cities one can´t miss in Spain.
Soria is known worldwide for the heroic resistance of Numantia to the Great Roman Empire: when after 13 months of siege, the Numantians decided to burn the city before surrendering it to the Romans. Also, the region´s natural wonders are popular destinations in Spain for all nature lovers – Laguna Negra de Urbion and Cañon del Rio Lobos.
Aside from its unique landmarks, the region of Soria has given the world quite a few big names like Fray Tomas de Berlanga (advisor to the Spanish crown, the discoverer of the Galapagos Islands), and inspired numerous writers and poets, like Gustavo Adolfo Bequer, Gerardo Diego, and Antonio Machado.
Aside from Museo Numantino (The Museum of Numantia) and the famous Numancia Archaeological Site (located within a 15-min drive from the city), Soria has quite a few interesting places to visit. Don´t miss – Iglesia de Santo Domingo, Iglesia San Juan de Rabanera, Arcos de San Juan de Duero, Plaza Mayor, Palacio de los condes de Gomara.
Also, Soria´s central park Parque la Dehesa is amazing – full of refreshing greenery, including 127 types of trees and bushes.
My biggest surprise in the city of Soria was our evening walk along the Duero River to visit the local cave church – Ermita de San Saturio. We left a car at Parking Acceso Ermita San Saturio and walked 15min towards the cave church by the river at sunset. It was an easy walk, but the area looked so beautiful and peaceful. There were lots of locals renting small boats, jogging, or having picnics.
Caceres might soon be leaving this list of the most underrated cities in Spain. After my recent trip to the region of Extremadura I can state with all certainty that the area is still in the shadow for the mass international tourism. But the city of Caceres has recently appeared on the HBO´s Series House of the Dragon. And we all know what happened to the Game of Thrones filming locations in Spain. The authorities of Gaztelugatxe, in the Basque Country, now need to limit the number of daily visitors. So let´s leave an open ending here…
The Old Town of Caceres (declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site) is one of the most beautiful architectural gems in the whole of Spain. It ended up being my second favorite thing on this Extremadura road trip, after the Roman Heritage of Merida, of course. As we visited the city early in the morning, the tourists were not around yet and I had a magical feeling of time-traveling back to the Middle Ages.
Also read: The Borgia Route in Valencia
You should start your walking tour at Plaza Mayor Square and walk through the 15th-century arch Arco de la Estrella.
Keep your eyes open along the way. You´ll notice on the walls the marks of the filming locations of House of the Dragon. Don´t miss Cuesta de Adana, el Callejon de la Monja, la Casa de los Solis, la Casa de los Becerra, el Palacio de los Golfines, Cuesta de la Compañia, Plaza de San Mateo
The local Museum of Caceres is known for its famous sculpture Genio Androgino, dating back to the first century. Another emblematic place of the city is Torre de Bujaco, a beautiful tower from the XIIth century with great city views.
I know you might give me an argument on this one, as Cadiz gets more and more attention from international visitors. But I was really impressed by the city the last time I visited it in 2017. It definitely felt like one of the most underrated cities back then, especially after making a stop in the romantic Seville and a few days in Algarve.
Although I´m aware of the fact that Cadiz feels more and more touristic with each year. So, the city might be halfway out of this list as soon as I find a new city crush. In the meantime, I´m not ready to replace it. Not yet.
The whole post might not be enough to talk about all the cool things to do in Cadiz. The city took me by surprise with the tones of unique sights. I still can´t believe that during my first visit, I had initially planned to spend one single evening in Cadiz.
Aside from the magical ocean, in Cadiz, you´ll find some of the most epic Spanish landmarks. In between tiny cobbled streets of the city, you could find traces of different epochs and civilizations – from Phoenicians, Romans, and Moorish, to Christopher Columbus (who sailed from Cadiz on his second and fourth journeys to America), and the inaction of Spanish Liberal Constitution in 1812.