Are you planning to visit Spain for the first time? Besides being famous for its football club, Spain is also the favorite destination of millions of tourists who wants to explore its charming attractions. It is known for its beautiful beaches, magnificent palace buildings, shopping tours, culinary tours, and much more.
It is very important to start organizing your trip as soon as possible. And I propose to help you with this guide, that’s why I have prepared the 13 best places to visit in Spain for first-timers so you can get to know the destination better and add various attractions to your itinerary. Take advantage of my tips and check out the best places to visit in Spain during your first trip.
1. Alhambra, Granada
This complex, both palace, and fortress, are located in Granada, Andalusia. The Alhambra is an exceptional building that is classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Wandering through the palaces and arcades of the Alhambra decorated with mosaics, I quickly recognized the influence of Arab architecture. Spain owes this to the colonization by Moorish peoples from the 7th to the 10th century. In addition, all parts of the palace are dominated by colors that symbolize life according to the Koran. Like red for blood, blue for the sky, green for earth, and gold for wealth.
This monument is the main attraction of the city of Granada, which is located in the Andalusia region. To get to know the entire Alhambra, it took me more than 3 hours, because the place is really big and all the places are worth the visit.
2. Sagrada Familia, Barcelona
This religious building may be unfinished, but it is the undisputed emblem of the city of Barcelona. The Sagrada Familia is one of the many imprints of the genius architect Gaudi. Started in 1882, the work continues today.
To give you an idea, the forecast for the completion of the Sagrada Familia is in 2026. Despite its unfinished character, it is possible to visit the Sagrada Familia. I had the opportunity to climb to the top of the building and was welcomed by the breathtaking panoramas over Barcelona. I also encourage you to reach the top of the building to enjoy the sights of Barcelona.
Its style is modernist and reflects Gaudi’s artistic fullness. It has a transverse Latin plan, five central naves, seven chapels, and three facades dedicated to Christianity. When finished, it will have a total of 18 upper towers: twelve for the apostles, four for the evangelists, one for the Virgin Mary, and the last for Jesus. In total, the temple will have a height of 172.5 meters.
In 2017, it received four and a half million visitors, a number three times greater than the population of the city itself. Being one of the main tourist attractions in Spain, the church is always packed. I recommend booking your tickets so as not to queue. So buy your ticket in advance to avoid the risk of being left out.
Want to know more about Barcelona? Check our article 14 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Barcelona
3. The Plaza Mayor
Once the center of old Madrid, the Plaza Mayor is one of the most famous and frequented public places in the Spanish capital. Both tourists and locals come to walk, shop, have lunch, etc. The square was built around the 1600s. Approximately 13,000 meters square, this rectangular square is distinguished by the uniformity of the architecture of the buildings that surround it.
Initially, it was the most important market square in Madrid. Today it is completely framed by time-honored buildings. All of its 237 balconies offer a view of the Plaza Mayor. In the past, these were the box seats for blasphemers and gossips.
The plaza is located directly on Calle Mayor, just a stone’s throw from the Puerta del Sol. You can enter it through nine entrances. The most famous is the Arco de Cuchilleros (Arcade of the Knife Sharpeners). Picturesque arcades run around the square, and in the middle, there is a lonely equestrian statue of Phillip III.
In this place, I recommend taking a walk or sit back and enjoy the foods that are being served at the cafes.
4. Real Alcazar, Seville
The Real Alcazar is another resplendent testimony to the Moorish presence in Spain. Located in the center of Seville, this UNESCO World Heritage Site stands out especially for its opulent gardens with arches, fountains, palm trees, and more. I recommend visiting this place if you want to immerse yourself in the history of Spain, but also to stroll through an oasis of serenity in the heart of Seville.
Today, it is the residence of the Spanish royal family during their stays in the Andalusian capital. But its rooms and gardens are dedicated throughout the year to hosting exhibitions and cultural events.
5. Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela
The Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela is the center for pilgrims. It is famous because it houses the tomb of the Apostle James, patron and protector of Spain. And for that reason, it is a place of great Christian pilgrimage.
Often cited as a masterpiece of Romanesque architecture, the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela nevertheless has a clever mix of many styles (Gothic, Neoclassical, Baroque, etc.). This is explained by the many expansion works to which it has been subjected during its history. The cathedral is characterized by its hundreds of statues that represent the Apocalypse.
The cathedral and its surroundings were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1985. Like the Pilar Basilica in Zaragoza, it receives many visits each year, many of them Christian, but also tourists impressed by its beauty. And just like the main tourist attractions in Spain, I recommend buying your ticket in advance to avoid the queues.
6. Royal Palace, Madrid
You can’t go to Madrid and miss the Royal Palace, one of the main buildings in Spain. Its origins date back to the ninth century when it was built as a fortress to protect the Muslim kingdom of Toledo from Christian invasions. And that is why I have to include it in the best places to visit in Spain for first-timers.
To this day, the Royal Palace of Madrid remains the official residence of the Spanish monarchy. But in fact, the palace is only used for special celebrations or official receptions.
You can already see the beauty of the place as soon as you see it. The artistic wealth of the palace is as much in the materials used in its construction and in its decoration, which includes works by Caravaggio, Velazquez, and Francisco de Goya. A tour of its rooms helped me understand the entire history of Spain.
7. Aqueduct, Segovia
14 km long and up to 28.5 m high, it is in Segovia that I found the best-preserved Roman aqueduct in the world. The main purpose of the construction was to transport water from the Fuenfria spring to the city, about 17 km away.
The aqueduct and the old town of Segovia have been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1985. With its 163 arches, it is up to 28 meters high and has been preserved to this day. It owes this to its ingenious architecture and building materials. Its pillar cores are made of antique concrete-walled with granite.
The aqueduct is considered to be the best-preserved example of Roman architecture on the entire Iberian Peninsula.
8. Casa Batllo, Barcelona
The city of Barcelona literally captivates me with numerous Gothic architecture and is, therefore, one best places to visit in Spain for first-timers. The most impressive house in the metropolis in Spanish Art Nouveau is the Casa Batllo by Antoni Gaudi. By taking a look from the outside alone, you can hardly overlook the house while strolling through the city.
This architectural work is also called “House of Bones” because of the balconies that are reminiscent of skulls and bones. The roof resembles the scaly skin of an animal. The sun makes the colorfully mixed mosaics and tiles shimmer and shine in the sunlight.
The interior of Casa Batllo attracts with artistic details, no matter where you look. Simply fascinating how Gaudi implemented colors, shapes, and lights in all of his masterpieces.
9. Plaza de Espana, Seville
The Plaza de Espana in Seville is, without a doubt, one of the best places to visit in Spain for first-timers. According to Travelers’ Choice 2018 Awards, it was chosen the second most interesting point in the world.
This is a square in Seville that has been used as the setting for numerous episodes in well-known films, for example, in Lawrence of Arabia, The Dictator, and Star Wars II. This is why the plaza has been one of the treasures of European film culture since 2017.
But the 50,000 meters square is also incredibly impressive. More than a thousand workers worked here simultaneously from 1924 to 1928 to get the square ready in time for the Ibero-American Exposition in 1929.
The Plaza de Espana was built in the form of a semicircle of brick and ceramic, two hundred meters in diameter. In addition, it is surrounded by an approximately 500 m long canal spanned by four bridges. They symbolize the ancient Spanish kingdoms. It is lavishly decorated with marble, clinker bricks, and ceramics.
10. Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao
How about a city trip to the lively city of Bilbao in the Basque Country? I was particularly drawn to this city with the flair to visit the famous Guggenheim Museum, which belongs to the Guggenheim Foundation and is one of four other art museums worldwide.
This great art museum has made the city shine in new splendor and has become a tourist magnet for the whole region. Its metal structure is made of huge corrugated plates of titanium, and glass has been specially designed to capture sunlight.
I took some time to photograph the exterior of this photogenic building, and inside, I just admired the contemporary and modern art collections that include works by Richard Serra, Jeff Koons, as well as Basque artists. This fantastic building will let you discover something new from every perspective. It’s best to see for yourself.
11. Mezquita of Cordoba
In the center of the old town of Cordoba is the mosque-cathedral Mezquita of Cordoba. It represents another impressive building of the Moors and is at the same time probably the most beautiful and unique form in the world.
Originally, it was shared by both Christians and Muslims. However, this changed in the 8th century with the construction of the mosque after the Islamic conquest. A cathedral was later built in the middle of the mosque with the Christian reconquest of the city in the 13th century.
From the outside, the building doesn’t look that spectacular, but I was more than impressed by the artistic splendor of its interior. You will be amazed when you stroll through the huge ancient patio under the colored arches.
The cathedral oozes with its Gothic style. And it was considered a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1984. This destination is an impressive highlight of Spain’s sights that should not be missing when visiting Cordoba.
12. Prado Museum
The Prado Museum has a complete collection of Spanish paintings. A collection of paintings from the 11th to 18th centuries can be seen here. Therefore, plan enough time, because, with several thousand paintings by world-famous artists such as Picasso or Goya, you will quickly forget the time around you. For art lovers like me and those who want to become one, this is an overwhelming place.
In addition, the Prado Museum has the largest collection of Spanish paintings in the world. The quality and variety of its collections make the museum one of the best art museums on the plains of Europe. To learn more about the great masters and their art, it is certainly an advantage to take a guided tour.
This neo-classical style museum building is also home to a variety of sculptures, sketches, coins, medals, and decorative arts.
13. Park Guell, Barcelona
I end this list of the best places to visit in Spain for first-timers by touring Park Guell. This is one of the most famous tourist spots in all of Spain. The place is beautiful, surrounded by greenery, fountains, monuments, and several flower beds.
Together with the Sagrada Familia and five other works by Antoni Gaudi, Park Guell in Barcelona is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The almost 18-hectare green area extends on the slopes of Montana and offers you a fantastic panoramic view of Barcelona and the sea.
From 1900 to 1914, Gaudi put all his skills into designing the park, which also houses his former home. With its innovative landscaping, Park Guell is one of the artistic highlights of modernism and one of the most beautiful sights in Spain.