Spain is absolutely bursting with places to see and things to do. These are my top ten must-see attractions.
THE ALHAMBRA PALACE – GRANADA
The ‘Red Palace’ is one of Spain’s most important historical monuments and tourist attractions. Having been under both Christian and Moslem control, The Alhambra has benefitted and blossomed as each of its owners has added more buildings. The oldest part of the Alahambra is the Alcazaba, which was built upon the ruins of a 9th century fort. The world famous gardens are unbelievably beautiful.
THE MEZQUITA – CORDOBA
It’s a Christian church, but you wouldn’t believe it at first glance; that’s because it used to be a Mosque. The pillars and arches you have to pass through to reach the Catholic shrines are wonderfully Arabic. The building dates back to 796 AD. If you’re within 200 miles, go and see it; you won’t be disappointed.
Revelling under Gaudi’s influence, Barcelona is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Both modern and historical; Spanish yet fiercely Catalan. Connected by the high speed train and excellent air links, this city is magnificent and accessible.
LA TOMATINA – BUNYOL NEAR VALENCIA
This has to be one of the craziest fiestas ever conceived. It is simply one giant tomato fight, taking place every August and transforming the normally sleepy village of Bunyol into a mad house. The population of 9,000 swells to 30,000 during the festival, so book early if you want to go, as every hotel and hostel puts up the ‘no vacancies sign months before the event. An hourly train service runs from Valencia, but take a change of clothes if you intend using it.
SKIING – SIERRA NEVADA
One of the wonderful, quirky features that Spain can boast is sunny beaches and skiing. From the Sierra Nevada Mountains, you can be on the beach sun-bathing within an hour, so it’s skiing in the morning and water skiing in the afternoon if you fancy it.
GUGGENHEIM MUSEUM – BILBAO
The American architect Frank O. Gehry designed this impressive structure. It sits on a 32,500 square metre site in the heart of Bilbao and has become a major icon of the city. The structure is an unusual amalgamation of blocks and curves covered by titanium scales. The vast La Salve Bridge actually passes through the building.
ROMAN RUINS – MERIDA
Able to hold 6000 spectators, the Roman Theatre is one of the premier sights of Merida. The nearby Anfiteatro was the site of battles between Roman gladiators and could hold as may as 15,000 people. The political and cultural centre of Hispania Rome, Merida was conquered by the Muslims in 713 A.D. After a 500 year period of decline the city was virtually abandoned until the 1500’s.
Somewhat of a hidden gem, Cuenca will leave a huge impression on you. Amongst its many impressive features are the ‘Hanging Houses’ which cling precariously to the side of the gorge. The Cathedral of Cuenca was built in the early 13th Century on the site of a former mosque. The facade had to be rebuilt in the early 20th Century after the collapse of the Giraldillo Tower.
TAPAS – ANYWHERE YOU LIKE
But preferably in Andalucía. There’s nothing quite like enjoying tapas with a glass of wine in the sunshine. The history of Tapas can be traced back to the Moorish presence in Spain between the 7th and 15th centuries AD. The Moors had a love for small dishes with exotic ingredients such as peppers, almonds, garlic and saffron. This influenced a cross over to Spanish culture and has become one of Spain’s most renowned culinary traditions.
It’s well worth the time and effort to visit one of Spain’s numerous white villages. The south of Spain is littered with these pueblos, some more accustomed to tourism than others. Bear in mind that even the busiest of villages will close up at two o’clock for a siesta. Of course the bars and cafes will remain open, so you’ll just have to chill with the rest of them.
Spain has much more to offer than the suggestions I have made, and as I said, this is just my opinion. The thing to do is get out there yourself and try it; you’ll have so much fun proving me wrong.