Spain is a popular destination in southern Europe
. This Iberian nation has some incredible architecture thanks to the Moorish occupation and the reconquest by the Catholic monarchs. Each region of Spain has something special. While Madrid and Barcelona are the largest and most visited cities, there are some hidden gems to be found in some of the other urban centers of Spain. Visitors will enjoy the orange blossoms in Andalusia, the seafood along the Mediterranean Sea, and the flamenco bars in Granada.
Located in the southern region of Andalusia, Seville is one of Spain's most charming cities. The scent of orange blossoms fills the city and the locals tend to take life slow in the numerous parks and plazas. There are some stunning historical attractions in this city. The Alcázar Palace is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This incredible complex was built by the Moors back in 913. Expansive gardens surrounded by fortress walls give visitors a sense of seclusion in the midst of the city center. Intricate Moorish decorations and architecture mesh with Gothic designs by the Christian kings who took over the region in the 13th century.
Jardines Reales Alcazares
Avenida Menéndez Pelayo 10
41004 Seville, Spain
Another place to visit is the Cathedral. It is one of the largest in the world, built by the Christian conquerors after destroying the existing mosque left by the Moors. Completed in 1507, the cathedral is home to la Giralda, an iconic minaret that sits atop the highest bell tower as a symbol of the city. This minaret was taken from the original mosque and used to crown the new cathedral. Visitors can enter the bell tower and go up to the top for splendid views of the city.
Plaza del Triunfo
Avenida de la Constitución
Granada is an ancient city that sits at the base of the Sierra Nevada mountain range in southeastern Spain. This was the last city to be conquered by the Catholic monarchs in 1492. The Arab influence left by the Moorish inhabitants can still be seen today. Visit UNESCO World Heritage sites like the famous Alhambra. This site was used as a fortress and palace by the Moorish kings from the ninth to 14th century. High on a hillside overlooking the city below, the Alhambra is full of incredibly detailed designs on the floors, ceilings, and walls. This palace has lush gardens, sculpted fountains, and an impressive citadel set against the backdrop of the Sierra Nevada. Don't forget to visit the flamenco bars in Granada either. Check out places like Zambra Gitana La Rocio, a cool flamenco bar where guests can sip drinks in a gypsy-cave setting and see the Alhambra in the background. Bar Huerto del Loro next to Plaza Nueva is another good spot for flamenco. The mix of Arab and Spanish culture is tangible here, and it makes for a great night out on the town.
La Alhambra Fortress
Calle Real de la Alhambra, s/n 18009
(011) +34 90 244 1221
Valencia is the Spanish gateway to the Mediterranean Sea. Located on the coast, this metropolitan city has some beautiful beaches and nature reserves. It also has the best paella in the world. This tasty seafood rice dish is not to be missed. The best time to visit Valencia is in March, around the 19th. This is the start of Las Fallas. Each year the locals build massive cardboard sculptures in caricature form and place them in the plazas throughout the city. Some are up to four stories tall. Valencia comes alive for a week of food, fireworks and festivities. At the conclusion of the festival, all the monuments are lit on fire and the city appears to be burning throughout the night. This festival is not for the faint of heart and you can expect lots of smoke and noise with little rest throughout the week.
David Thyberg began his writing career in 2007. He is a professional writer, editor and translator. Thyberg has been published in various newspapers, websites and magazines. He enjoys writing about social issues, travel, music and sports. Thyberg holds a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Pittsburgh Honors College with a certificate in Spanish and Latin American studies.