Choose from 459 Fun Things to Do in Spain
The Puerta de Alcalá - or Alcalá Gate - stands in the center of the Plaza de la Independencia - Independence Square - and just outside of the Parque de Buen Retiro - Park of the Pleasant Retreat. This Neo-classical monument was commissioned by King Carlos III in the mid-18th century to replace the 16th century gate that served as the entrance to Madrid from what was then the eastern border.
Italian architect Francesco Sabatini was given the job and with help from two French and Spanish sculptors created what is now recognized as a symbol of Madrid. The Puerta de Alcalá is one of the city's most historic and beautiful landmarks.
The Alcalá Gate is bisected by Calle de Alcalá and is at the northwest corner of the expansive Parque de Buen Retiro. Other nearby points of interest include the Museo Arqueologico Nacional - National Archaeological Museum - and Biblioteca Nacional de España - Spanish National Library. It is accessible via the Retiro metro stop.
- Bioparc Valencia is a must-visit for animal lovers and families traveling with kids.
- Wear comfortable shoes and be prepared to do a fair amount of walking.
- Don’t forget to bring sunscreen, sunglasses, and a hat.
- The entire zoo park is wheelchair accessible.
The Albaicin (also spelled Albayzin or Albaycin) is Granada's old Muslim quarter, and its steep twisting streets still have a medieval feel. With its white buildings and deep-gardened mansions spilling down the hill, the Albaicin is beautiful in itself, but what makes it particularly stunning is its views of the Alhambra. (The views of the Albaicin from the Alhambra enhance that experience as well!) There's a viewing point by the church of St. Nicolas that offers particularly good Alhambra vistas.
The Albaicin was heritage-listed in 1984. Its name may have derived from settlers fleeing the Christian invasion of the town Baeza, or it may derive from an Arabic phrase meaning 'quarter of the falconers.' Despite the Christian conquest of the city in 1492, it survived as a Muslim quarter for some decades, and you can still see the remains of Islamic bathhouses, mansions and fountains.
Buses 31 and 32 from Plaza Nueva will take you on a circular route around the Albaicin. They run roughly every 10 minutes.
- The Albufera Natural Park is a must-see for bird-watchers and nature lovers.
- Guided tours from Valencia can last anywhere from 90 minutes to six hours, depending on the option you choose.
- Don’t forget to bring sunglasses, sunscreen, and a sun hat, as La Albufera offers little in the way of shade.
- Come hungry, and don’t leave without trying traditional paella in the very region where the dish was born.
Less than an hour from Barcelona, the Torres Winery makes a popular day trip for both locals and tourists, where you’ll not only get the chance to sample some of the world-class wine varieties, but to tour the winery and learn about the winemaking process. Founded in 1870, the historic vineyards produce some of the region’s most acclaimed grapes, maturing their wines in small oak barrels similar to those produced in Bordeaux and exporting to over 120 countries around the globe. The barrels, wine cellars, fermentation tanks and bottling plants are all open to the public on the tours, along with the fascinating Torres Museum, where a multi-language audio visual presentation will fill you in on the area’s rich wine culture. Best of all, a small train will whisk you on a tour of the vineyards, where around 1,300 hectares of vines lie basking in the Catalonian sun.
Despite it’s pared down size, the Alcaicería is still one of Granada’s most atmospheric areas, with a plethora of traditional craft and souvenir stores crammed with ceramics, silver jewelry, and alpaca knitwear, and stalls hawking an array of exotic spices, silks and incense. Wandering around the markets is an experience in itself, but with vendors happy to barter for goods, it’s also a great place to pick up some bargains. Look out for local specialties like fajalauza (hand painted ceramics), granadino farolas (stained-glass lamps) and taracea items (traditional wooden goods).
The building itself dates back to the 16th century, when it was constructed as a mansion by a viceroy from the Indies. Since then, the structure has been transformed into a hammam – the type of Arab bath once so common in Spain's south -- transporting you to another time with its tranquil pools, hypnotic music, and historical setting of brick-vaulted ceilings dimly lit by Moroccan-style lanterns.
During your two-hour visit, you'll be able to alternate between Aire de Sevilla's pools, of which there are several. Wash away the day's heat and wallow in relaxation while taking dips in the cool-, warm- and hot-water baths. Then, you can find bliss in the sauna, or while relaxing in other baths too, such as the jacuzzi jet-filled hydrotherapy pool or the buoyancy-boosting salt-water one. At some point during your visit, you'll be whisked away for your massage (the length and type of which is based on the package you purchase), before returning to the pools for more time to unwind.
Las Rablas is the Old City’s main thoroughfare, separating the residential neighborhood and red light district of El Raval from the largely pedestrianized Barri Gotic, or Gothic Quarter. The Barri Gotic makes a popular starting point for a walking tour of the city, with sights including the historic Placa del Rei; the 14th century Palau Reial Major; the Gothic Barcelona Cathedral; the glitzy shopping street of Portal del Angel; the lively La Boqueria food market; and several Gaudi masterpieces, including the Palau Güell.
East of the Barri Gotic is the fashionable district of La Ribera and the small sub-neighborhood of El Born, also encompassing a number popular attractions. Key sights include the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Palau de la Musica Catalana, designed by modernist architect Lluís Domènech i Montaner; the Gothic Santa Maria del Mar Cathedral; the Picasso Museum; and the vast Parc de la Ciutadella, the city’s largest park, lying south of the landmark Arc de Triomf and including the Catalan Parliament building and Barcelona Zoo. Finally, the Barceloneta area runs along the coastline and is most famous for its eponymous beach – the city’s busiest beach, with 4.2 km of sandy coastline and a lively nightlife.
International visitors and residents alike routinely flock to the Almudaina Palace in order to see how antiquity lived throughout the centuries and to catch a glimpse of this venerated architecture. Muslim kings living in Roman-built archways lead to a unique blend of culture which has infused the palace, as told by the magnificent tapestries on the wall telling stories long lost to time. The throne room from the 14th century, with huge pointed-arch ceilings, and the Santa Praxedis Chapel are highlights of any tour, and walking out into the courtyard with the smell of the ocean salts just beyond the parapet is second-to-none.
Today's cathedral – which shouldn't be confused with the much larger one of the same name located in Santiago de Compostela, at the end of the Camino de Santiago – has expanded over the course of time, growing to the cathedral that you see now. During a visit, you can peruse its many chapels, wander the peaceful 15th-century gothic-style cloister, or just take in the exterior with its 19th-century gothic-revival facade and spire.
Santiago Cathedral is located amidst the original seven streets of Bilbao's Casco Viejo (old quarter). While the interior is quite humble compared to many of its other European cathedral counterparts, it serves as a tranquil respite from the busy medieval barrio, and of course provides a unique look into Bilbao's past.
- The Alcazar is a must-see for first-time visitors to Andalucia.
- Remember to bring water and sunscreen, as some areas of the palace have very little shade.
- Wear comfortable shoes, and dress in layers, as conditions within the palace can vary.
- Give yourself two to three hours to explore the palace complex.
The Almudena Cathedral is the official Cathedral of Madrid and is dedicated to the Virgin of Almudena. Taking over a century to complete, the Almudena is one of the youngest cathedrals in Europe, consecrated by Pope John II himself in 1993. A statue of the pope stands outside of the cathedral to mark the momentous occasion.
The lengthy construction process was due to the change in status from a church to a cathedral a year after breaking ground, which warranted an upgrade in style from Neo-Gothic to Neo-Classic and required new blueprints. Another event that put construction on hold was the Spanish Civil War of the 1930s, during which building stopped entirely until 1944.
What the cathedral lacks in historical significance and architectural merit it makes up for in sheer size - it's 104 m long and 76 m wide (340 ft by 250 ft), with a cupola measuring 20 m (65 ft) across. It is also conveniently located adjacent to the Palacio Real - Royal Palace, which is sure to be on everyone's list of must-see attractions.