If Spain is the country that inspires you – do not miss my Ultimate Spain Bucket List for beginners. I hope that this article will give you a global view of top Spanish travel destinations and help you decide on where to set off for your next Spanish vacation.
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The Ultimate Spain Bucket List For Beginners
How can this post help you with travel planning
This post is a sort of shortcut to the upcoming extensive article The Extended Spain Bucket List For Each Province.
This Spain Bucket List For Beginners was created for those of you planning one of your first trips to Spain. But I hope it will be handy for everyone. You can use it to check up on how much of Spain you have already seen, as well as setting new travel goals across the Iberian Peninsula.
Spain Travel Tips
If you are not a Spain travel pro yet – do not miss my posts about Spain Virtual Tours, Famous Spaniards & Their House Museums, Unique Legends of Spain, Local Food Souvenirs, Top Spanish Landmarks, Popular Spanish TV Shows, Top Spanish Festivities, Quotes about Spain, and Spain Travel Tips.
All these will help you to get into the cultural context and prepare yourself for the upcoming trip to Spain.
How much time do you need in Spain?
While Pinterest is full of 7/10-day itineraries for Spain, you need to keep in mind that the most unique Spanish landmarks are actually widely spread across the whole of the Iberian Peninsula.
Plus, Spain is such a versatile country: most of the regions have their own language, cuisine, and unique festivities. To be able to experience all of it fully, the best way is to give every Spain bucket list destination at least a week.
Most of the Spain travel itineraries cover the three main tourist regions – Catalonia, Madrid, and Andalusia. These three are doable in two weeks, but almost half of the time you will end up spending on the road.
The Spanish are known for their siesta and mañana – do not expect to travel in a rush and be efficient in your sightseeing (while literally swimming against the tide of the local culture). Less is more. The best way to explore the Iberian Peninsula is to relax, focus on one province (or a maximum of two), and explore the rest of your Spain bucket list step by step.
Spain Bucket List: Top Spain Travel Destinations
1. Barcelona & Gaudi Architecture
What you can not miss in Barcelona
Barcelona is the city every traveler should visit at least once in a lifetime.
Usually, it´s either hit or miss: some fall in love undeniably, others get disappointed and do not click with the city. While I wrote a whole article comparing Madrid and Barcelona, people who prefer Barcelona usually do not base it on logic. They just love it, end of the story. So, Barcelona´s charm is pretty undeniable.
The city of Barcelona is full of architectural marvels created by Antonio Gaudi, one of the most famous Spaniards ever. Even though George Orwell in one of his wanderlust books called Barcelona’s La Sagrada Familia “one of the most hideous buildings in the world” – officially, it´s one of the most unique cathedrals in Spain.
As it appears in one of Woody Allen´s romantic travel movies, Vicky Cristina Barcelona(2008), the enchantment with Gaudi´s fantastical creations constantly keeps attracting millions of visitors to the Catalonia region.
More impressive Gaudi landmarks in Barcelona include Park Guell, La Pedrera, Las Farolas del Pla de Palau, Puerta de la Finca Miralles, Colegio de las Teresianas, Casa Calvet, Bellesguard, Casa Vicens, Palacio Guell, Pabellones Guell, Casa Batllo, Casa Mila, Casa-museo Gaudi. (Blog subscribers don´t forget your Free Gaudi Checklist pdf.)
If Barcelona is your top Spain Bucket List destination, you can also plan a few unique day trips to see more of the Catalonia region. Actually, while being based in Barcelona, you can easily plan a whole road trip across the Catalonia region. Head to my article Top Places to See in Catalonia and check the blog section Catalonia for more ideas.
Unique experiences to book in Barcelona
- Park Guell Guided Tour with Skip-the-Line Access
- Sagrada Familia Skip-the-Line Guided Tour
- Gaudi’s Casa Vicens Skip-the-Line Entrance Ticket
- Flamenco Show at Tablao Flamenco Cordobes
- La Pedrera Night Experience
- Tapas Walking Tour with Food, Wine, and History
- From Barcelona: 8-Hour Costa Brava Kayak and Snorkel Tour
- From Barcelona: Penedés Vineyards Tour
Another must-have experience in Barcelona is FC Barcelona soccer match (you should get tickets in advance). Since my husband is a fan, I have already been to Camp Nou stadium a few times: once for el clasico (the most popular match in Spain between FC Barcelona and FC Real Madrid), and once for the final match of Copa de España (when FC Barcelona played against FC Atletico Madrid).
2. Madrid & The Spanish Royal Heritage
What you can not miss in Madrid
As the country´s capital city, Madrid is obviously a must-stop on every Spain Bucket List.
Over my 10+ expat years in Spain, I have lost count of times I visited Madrid. Either for a new temporary exposition, art/theatre performance, or even a new restaurant. Last December we made a spontaneous getaway with kids to Christmas Madrid and enjoyed it so much.
The two most iconic Spanish landmarks of Madrid are The Royal Palace and Museo Del Prado. Usually, you can see the top Madrid sights in 3 days. But in fact, if you add to your plans several Madrid day trips – you can easily spend in the city a few weeks.
Actually, it´s one of the reasons I have always enjoyed Madrid more than Barcelona: there are countless jaw-dropping landmarks in its surroundings, like my favorite Toledo, fairytale-looking Alcazar of Segovia, Salamanca with its oldest university in Europe, Escorial Monastery, Valley of the Fallen, the medieval walls of Avila.
You can even add a few off-the-beaten-path places into your Madrid Itinerary and head to Cuenca. Nature lovers will enjoy the numerous hikes in Guadarrama National Park.
Unique experiences to book in Madrid
- Go City All-Inclusive Pass with 15+ Attractions
- Royal Palace Tour with Optional Royal Collections
- Wine and Tapas Madrid Walking Tour
- Skip-the-Line Prado Museum Guided Tour
- “Emociones” Live Flamenco Performance
- FC Real Madrid Tour Bernabéu Entry Ticket
- Avila and Segovia Day Trip
3. Andalusia & The Mudejar Architecture
What you can not miss in Andalusia
Andalusia (or Southern Spain) usually follows Madrid and Barcelona on every Spain Bucket List, thanks to its iconic landmarks left from the time of the Arab presence in Spain: The Alhambra of Granada, The Mosque–Cathedral of Cordoba, and Alcazar of Seville.
Then you have Las Tabernas Desert – one of the top otherworldly landscapes on the Iberian Peninsula and an unmatched GOT filming location. It is located in the province of Almeria, worldwide famous for its wide and dry expanses and the iconic Wild West Town experience.
If you want to check all the unique landmarks and experiences of Southern Spain head to this post –16 Best Places to Visit in Andalusia. Also, feel free to grab my 7-day itinerary for Andalusia and 10 days in Southern Spain: Itinerary.
Unique experiences to book in Andalusia
- Alhambra Skip-the-Line Tour with Nasrid Palaces
- Caminito del Rey Guided Tour with Bus
- Jerez de la Frontera: How the Andalusian Horses Dance
- Seville: Live Flamenco Dancing Show Ticket at the Theater
- Seville: Alcázar Skip-the-Line Tickets and Guided Tour
- Seville: Cathedral, Giralda, and Royal Alcázar Guided Tour
- Pueblos Blancos and Ronda Full-Day Trip
4. Don Quixote Route & Castile La-Mancha
What not to miss in Castile La-Mancha
If you could pick only one thing that represents Spain internationally, what would it be? – I do realize that your mind might actually roll around fiesta, siesta, sangria, or even the bullfights. But you won´t give me an argument on this: there´s nothing as authentically Spanish as Don Quixote, a worldwide-famous Spanish novel by Miguel de Cervantes.
One of the top experiences on a first-timer Spain Bucket List should be a book-themed road trip through the Spanish region of Castile-La Mancha following the steps of Don Quixote.
While you can visit some of the Don Quixote places on a day trip from Madrid, ideally, you´ll need 3-4 days to see it all and soak into the rural atmosphere of Castile La-Mancha. The very same region that inspired Miguel de Cervantes to create one of the world’s best-selling books of all time (500 million copies), an actual prototype of a modern novel.
You can easily make your trip longer and spend another week exploring all of the top landmarks in Castile-La Mancha.
Unique experiences to book in Castile La-Mancha
5. Valencia & The Authentic Spanish Paella
What you can not miss in Valencia
Even though I am a bit biased with Valencia (since this region has been my home for 10+ years) – I do believe that this city deserves every bit of its growing international fame. I have tons of articles on the Valencia region and its hidden gems, but if you are a new reader around – start learning more about Valencia with One Day in Valencia, Solo in Valencia, and My Perfect Weekend in Valencia.
Valencia is internationally famous as the birthplace of the Spanish paella, which is still a favorite meal for the locals on Sundays. While you can find paella everywhere in Spain, Spaniards will claim with all certainty that in order to try an authentic one – you need to go to Valencia. There´s no way around it.
Also, Valencia was once the birthplace of a few famous Spaniards in history: painters Joaquin Sorolla and Vicente Benllure, the writer Vicente Blasco Ibañez, the movie director Luis Garcia Berlanga, and the composer Vicente Martin y Soler. Also, don’t forget the architect Santiago Calatrava (who created the iconic local landmark City of Arts and Sciences of Valencia) and the Borgia family (check the full list of Valencia sites related to them).
Another unique fact you should know about Valencia: the city is the official home to the Holy Grail (the cup from which Jesus drank at the Last Supper) – one of Christianity´s most elusive relics.
As I often spend my weekends exploring the city of Valencia, you can check out my IG Highlight Valencia City to get a sneak peek of all the trendy local places.
Unique experiences to book in Valencia
- Traditional Paella Cooking Class and Dinner
- Valencia: Oceanogràfic Entry Ticket
- Valencia Old Town Tour, Wine & Tapas
- Valencia City Highlights Guided Bike Tour
- Orange Farm and Orchard Trip with Tastings
- Boat Tour Little Venice Portsaplaya
6. Camino de Santiago & A Spiritual Journey to Spain
What you need to know about El Camino de Santiago
El Camino de Santiago or The Way of Saint James is an extensive network of ancient pilgrim routes stretching across Europe and coming together at the tomb of St.James in the City of Santiago de Compostela (Galicia).
While some simply call it one of the oldest hikes in the world, Camino de Santiago is so much more: it´s about the long-rooted Catholic tradition in Spain, personal challenge, contact with nature, and a unique spiritual journey.
You can find lots of books on Camino de Santiago where authors confess that walking The Way of Saint James has changed their lives forever.
El Camino de Santiago has existed for twelve centuries (since the discovery of the tomb of Apostol St.James in 820). The first pilgrims that we know of were the kings of Asturias, French and German monks. In 1214 the pilgrimage to the tomb was done by the apostle of Saint Francis of Assisi: this moment is often referred to as the resurrection of the Western spirituality.
Over the ages, the Spanish monarchs would create a large number of hostels along the Camino de Santiago routes to show the Crown’s support of Christian virtues. Walking The Way of Saint James (or at least a part of it) once in a lifetime is on the top of the Spain bucket list for many Europeans and simply all the adventure seekers across the globe.
The most popular route of the Way of Saint James, The French Way, begins in Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port (France) and ends in Santiago de Compostela (Spain). Some start it in Roncesvalles (as the trail is easier this way). The full French way will take you 30 days and 772 km. Although, most people I know did Camino de Santiago walk by parts. It´s usually a 7-day route per trip (called etapa in Spanish).
Walking a part of El Camino de Santiago is on my personal Spain bucket list for the next spring. Follow my IG: @at_lifestyle_crossroads and TikTok: @lifestyle_roads to see the details with your own eyes -I plan to film a daily diary of The Way of Saint James.
Unique experiences related to Camino de Santiago
- Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela: Tour and Portico Option
- From Santiago de Compostela: Finisterre and Muxía Day Trip
- From Oviedo: Half-Day Camino de Santiago Hike
7. Pamplona & San Fermin
What you need to know about San Fermin
One of the top well-known Spanish festivities across the globe is definitely San Fermin.
I bet even people who have never visited Spain, have occasionally heard about the crazy local Spanish feast where people run in front of the bulls. Yes, this is the very same fiesta.
San Fermin celebrations take place every year from July 6 to July 14 in the city of Pamplona. In between the older generations (and even the younger Spaniards from more traditional and rural areas of the country), it is still popular to watch encierro (eg. the bulls running) every morning during the Festival of San Fermin (as I´ve already shared in my post about the almuerzo culture in Valencia).
Visiting San Fermin is not easy, since lots of Spaniards book hotels almost a year in advance (not to mention that prices do go crazy for these two weeks of celebrations). Nevertheless, you can still visit the city of Pamplona all year round, walk the famous bull-running street, Calle Estafeta, and even plan the whole road trip to explore all the attractions of the Navarra Region.
If you do not want to focus your trip exclusively on the region of Navarra – you can easily include Pamplona in any Nothern Spain Road Trip Itinerary.
Unique experiences to book in Pamplona
8. La Rioja & The Most Iconic Spanish Wineries
What you can not miss in La Rioja
La Rioja is the smallest region in Spain, but it is an absolute must on every Spain bucket list.
This tiny Spanish autonomous community is an actual synonym for top-class quality wine. You simply can´t visit Spain and miss some of the best wineries in the world.
Within the La Rioja region, you will find hundreds of bodegas (e.g. wineries) where you can follow the traditional Spanish wine-making process in detail: from wandering around the vineyards and harvesting grapes to buying the artsy bottles and enjoying wine-tasting tours.
During my recent weekend in La Rioja with the kids, we had lots of fun and visited Bodegas Franco-Españolas. However, a week in La Rioja is a great option for a Romantic trip to Spain. If you enjoy high-quality wine, roaming together from vineyard to vineyard in search of your perfect sip is meant for you. In La Rioja, you’ll be surrounded by picture-perfect sceneries, which might slightly remind you of Italian Tuscany (but way less touristy).
Some of the most iconic wineries in La Rioja are Marques de Riscal, Ysios, Baigorri, Amaren, Cune, Viña Real, Solar de Samaniego, Torre de Oña, Valdemar, Bodegas Franco Españolas, and Muga.
If you plan to visit La Rioja, do not miss my quick guide to La Rioja Region.
Unique experiences to book in La Rioja
- La Rioja Wineries Tour
- La Rioja Boutique Wine Tour & Magical Picnic (From Bilbao)
- Jamon Iberico Farm Tour and Tasting with Wine
- Tour Olive Groves and Mill with Tasting
- From Bilbao: Rioja Architecture and Wine Tour
9. The Spanish Islands for Every Taste
What you need to know about the Spanish Islands
It´s no secret that for many travelers an island getaway represents the best vacation choice ever.
Every Spain-lover should visit The Balearic Islands in the Mediterranean and The Canary Islands in the Atlantic at least once in a lifetime. Both are really different in terms of landscapes and atmosphere – here, I’ll send you to my full article about the Best islands in Spain for more details.
For now, I have visited all of the Balearic Islands quite a few times: got to explore the secrets of Ibiza had an off-season getaway to the paradise of Formentera, enjoyed Mallorca with kids, and had a daily stop in Menorca during one of my Mediterranean Cruises.
While we can already virtually travel to the moon, The Canary Islands might give one a similar experience in real life. The impressive and unique landscapes of these exotic Spanish islands deserve a separate post. But if I were to pick one epic national gem it would definitely be Teide National Park in Tenerife, with its peak being the highest one in Spain.
To sum up, if I were to choose one island for each Spanish archipelago to place on my Spain bucket list – I’d stick with Mallorca for the Balearic islands, and Tenerife for the Canary Islands. Don´t get me wrong – the rest are not any less impressive. It´s simply that Mallorca and Tenerife have the biggest offer in terms of unique things to see and do.
Unique experiences to book in the Spanish Islands
- Teide National Park Night Sky Star Safari & Dinner
- Tenerife Siam Park Entry Tickets
- Tenerife Kayaking and Snorkeling with Turtles
- Guided Off-Road Volcano Buggy Tour in Lanzarote
- Lanzarote Real Submarine Dive with Hotel Pickup
- Mallorca Island Tour with Boat, Tram & Train
10. The Spanish Pyrenees & Spain for Nature Lovers
What you need to know about The Spanish Pyrenees
The Spanish Pyrenees somehow end up on the list of my favorite travel experiences in Spain every year. This mountain range is a must-stop in Europe for all nature lovers.
Some of my most unforgettable Spanish hikes were discovered during the mountain getaways to the Spanish Pyrenees.
First time in the Pyrenees we went for a nice resort stay and explored the main cities and villages of Aragon. On my second trip, we focused on the Pyrenees of Aragon and even made a few epic memories with the kids. This year we returned to Aragon for another secret road trip. My most recent Pyrenees experience is an amazing weekend getaway with my parents in Catalonia.
Also, right in the Pyrenees, you will find Andorra – one of the smallest states in the world, nestled between Spain and France (you can check my posts Andorra Travel Guide, and Romantic things to do in Andorra). It´s another great travel destination that you can combine with any trip to the Spanish Pyrenees.
Unique experiences to book in the Spanish Pyrenees
- Via Ferrata K3. Climbing Experience
- Pyrenees Paragliding Experience
- Ordesa National Park Guided Snowshoeing Tour
- Hot Air Balloon Ride and Breakfast over the Volcanoes of la Garrotxa
Do you have your own Spain Bucket List? – Let me know your dream destinations in Spain.
- Accommodation: For short stays, I usually book via Agoda, Booking, and Hotellook
- Tours&excursions: My favorites for guided tours are GetYourGuide and Viator
- City breaks&sightseeing: Go City helps to avoid multiple entry fees and paper tickets
- Travel Insurance: find the best trip insurance plans via VisitorsCoverage, EKTA, and Insubuy
- Flights: To find the best deals I like WayAway and Aviasales
- Airport Lounge: Get independent airport lounge access worldwide via Priority Pass
- Train&bus tickets: Currently, I book via RailEurope, Omio, and Busbud
- Car rental: To find the best deals I use Rental Cars, Discover Cars, and GetRentalCar
- Transfers: For individual transfer services I like Kiwitaxi
- For Foodies: Eatwith is great for finding culinary experiences with locals
- Cruise Reviews: To find the best cruise offer I check out Cruise Critic
- Suitcases&Luggage: To eliminate problems of early arrivals/late departures I find helpful Radical Storage
- Compensation for delayed/canceled flights: AirHelp is useful for all flight cancellation or delay claims
- To avoid roaming fees I use Airalo eSIMs around the world
- Budget-friendly stays: Check Hostelworld to find the best deals around the world
- Events: To find the best offers I use Ticketmaster and TicketNetwork
- Renting Bikes: to find motorcycles, scooters, quads, and bicycles I use BikesBooking
- Package Tours: head to CheapOair, Expedia UK, Tourhub, and loveholidays
- For Bloggers: To monetize my blog I use Travelpayouts