Unknown and exciting Spain: information for tourists

The 28 most underrated cities in Spain to visit

Spain is one of the most visited countries in the world, and for good reason. About 90 million people visit Spain every year, but most of them stick to the same popular destinations. But Spain is a beautiful country with many interesting things to do that can only be found in Spain and nowhere else.

And unless you’re willing to explore new places away from big cities like Barcelona, Madrid or Seville, you won’t find most of these amazing things. That’s why we created this post about the most underrated cities in Spain that most people either don’t know about at all or don’t understand what’s so special about them.

Durango, Basque Country

A short drive from Bilbao, at the foot of the Urquiola Natural Park, you’ll find beautiful Durango, a prime example of the Basque Country’s quaint charm. The city is located in the heart of the historic province of Biscay and is the capital of Durangaldea, one of the comarca of the Basque Country. The city is surrounded on all sides by mountains and crossed by three rivers, which means that in Durango you will find a lot of natural beauty. The city also has a charming old town, a quaint downtown and a surprisingly well-developed bar scene.

Peñiscola, Valencia

Speaking of Spain’s most underrated cities, we just have to mention Peniscola. Peniscola is a completely walled medieval town on the coast of Valencia, 80 miles from Valencia. The city has a beautiful old town, stunning architecture, including a 14th century castle, and several interesting historical sites. Until a few years ago, it was relatively little visited by tourists, but that’s slowly changing after the city was featured in Game of Thrones as the city of Myrin, the greatest of the three great city-states in Slaver’s Bay.

Cudillero, Asturias

Cudillero, with its sleeping city atmosphere, is one of our favorite hidden gems in Spain. The town is located around a small bay in Asturias on the north coast of the Atlantic Ocean. Cudillero is known for its beautiful colorful houses surrounding the harbor, delicious seafood, charming narrow streets and pristine beaches.

Gijon, Asturias

Despite being the largest city in Asturias, Gijon may be one of the most underrated cities in Spain considering what it has to offer. Gijon has many Roman ruins, spectacular scenery, beautiful beaches, interesting museums and monuments, the most famous of which is probably the iconic statue of the “Praise of the Horizon. In addition, as the largest city in the region, Gijon also has many amazing restaurants, bars and vibrant nightclubs.

Vigo, Galicia

Some may argue that the whole region of Galicia is underrated, but for now, the largest city of the region will do. Vigo is a large port city with a charming old town, delicious seafood, especially pulpo (octopus), sandy beaches and probably the best place in Spain to experience Galician culture. And if that’s not enough, Vigo is located in close proximity to the Cies Islands, a protected natural area with some of the cleanest beaches in Europe.

Orense, Galicia

Orense is another underrated city of Galicia, surrounded by beautiful nature, very reminiscent of the Pacific Northwest of the United States. The city is also the center of the local Galician-Celtic culture, but don’t worry, you haven’t teleported to Ireland, you’re still in Spain. Some of the most famous attractions in Ourense include the Ourense hot springs, the ancient Roman bridge, the Cathedral of Ourense and several interesting museums.

Leon, Castile and Leon

Castile and Leon is the largest autonomous region in Spain, but it ranks ninth in the number of visitors from other countries. Leon is the provincial capital. While it’s not exactly another hidden gem and many people know about the place, I think it’s one of the most underrated cities in Spain. The city dates back to 29 BC, when it was founded as a Roman military camp. Leon is an important historical city, and even today you can find some ancient Roman remains throughout the city.

But that’s not all. Leon is also home to the famous Cathedral of Leon (aka House of Light), the Basilica of San Isidoro, the Palace-Museum of Botines and many others. If you plan to visit Leon, I recommend visiting during Holy Week (Semana Santa). At this time of year, the city becomes even busier.

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Burgos, Castile and Leon

Burgos is the perfect stop if you’re traveling in Northern Spain from Madrid because it’s halfway between Madrid and Bilbao. The city’s most famous landmark is probably the Cathedral of Burgos, home to Spanish national hero El Cid and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Some other important landmarks include the medieval monastery of Huelgas, the Museum of Human Evolution (one of the most underrated museums in Spain) and the medieval gate, which resembles the falling tower of Pisa (Arco de Santa Maria).

Avila, Castile and Leon

Ávila is known for being one of the last remaining fortress cities in Spain. At 1,130 meters above sea level, Ávila is the highest provincial capital in Spain. The medieval walls of the city are very well preserved and have eight gates, 88 towers and over 2000 towers. Ávila is also proud to be one of the cities with the highest number of Romanesque and Gothic churches per capita in Spain. Its proximity to the Spanish capital makes it a great option for a day trip from Madrid. Even so, I don’t think the city still receives as many visitors as it could, given all that it offers.

Pedraza, Castilla y Leon

Pedraza is another medieval fortress town near Madrid. It is probably even less known than Avilla, and I can say that it is one of Central Spain’s best-kept secrets. The city is dotted with stone houses with colorful balconies studded with flowers and charming narrow streets that will make you feel like you’ve taken a trip back in time.

Salamanca, Castile & Leon

Even if you’re not in your 20s, there’s something special about college towns, and Salamanca is one of the oldest in Spain. The city is home to the University of Salamanca, founded in 1134, making it the fourth oldest university in the Western Hemisphere. Thus, the city has a rich history and tradition as one of the main student centers of Spain. Like most other college towns, Salamanca has a vibrant and exciting nightlife, but it is also home to some of Spain’s most interesting museums (like the Art Nouveau Museum and Art Deco Casa Lis) as well as several important historic buildings.

Consuegra, Castile-La Mancha

If you’ve read Don Quixote, you’ve probably heard about the famous windmills of La Mancha. Today, this part of Spain is one of the least visited parts of the country and is a wonderful representation of traditional Spain at its best. The city is also home to a medieval castle and several other important historic buildings, and if you’re looking for another experience in Spain, you should definitely consider adding Consuegra to your list.

Cuenca, Castile-La Mancha

Speaking of underrated cities in Spain, our list wouldn’t be complete without Cuenca. Cuenca is an amazing city, and I was genuinely surprised by the small number of tourists who visit it every year. The city is home to Cuenca’s legendary Hanging Houses, a landmark that could become one of Spain’s most popular tourist attractions. In addition, the entire city has an intact medieval atmosphere, many old, well-preserved buildings, including a medieval cathedral, and is known as the “capital of Spanish abstract art.”

Cáceres, Extremadura

One could argue that the entire province of Extremadura is severely underrated, but the city of Cáceres definitely deserves a place on this list. Cáceres doesn’t have beautiful beaches or mesmerizing national parks, but it does have some of the best restaurants in southern Spain, medieval walls, castles and Moorish-era buildings, and it is one of the largest cities in Extremadura.

Merida, Extremadura

Mérida is another underrated city in Extremadura. The city was founded by the Romans, and today it has some of the best-preserved Roman ruins in Europe. This includes a 2,000-year-old Roman amphitheater, a colosseum, and a large museum filled with Roman artifacts. Amazingly, you can enjoy all of these sites without hearing dozens of different guides shouting in different languages or losing elbows with hundreds of other tourists (as is the case with some other Roman-era tourist sites).

Arcos de la Frontera, Andalusia

Arcos de la Frontera is a charming Andalusian town located on the edge of a large plateau, surrounded by the northern, western and southern banks of the Guadalete River, with spectacular views of San Cristobal Peak, the coast of Cadiz and the Guadalete Valley. The town is surrounded by high sheer cliffs and has an authentic medieval charm with many narrow winding streets, interesting architecture and many whitewashed buildings.

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Setenil de las Bodegas, Andalucía

Setenil de las Bodegas is a picturesque town literally carved into the rock. Needless to say, the rock-cut town has a unique charm, but the main reason we decided to include Setenil de las Bodegas in this list of underrated cities in Spain is its unique architecture. Most of the houses in the town are mostly whitewashed buildings built into the cliffs. I guess you could say that technically the people of Setenil de las Bodegas live under the rock (as well as inside the rock).

Priego de Córdova, Andalucía

I would not be surprised if Priego de Córdova becomes one of the most visited places in southern Spain in the near future. The city has all the prerequisites for a future tourist center. It has one of the most beautiful Baroque cathedrals in Spain (Church of Asunción), one of the most underrated old quarters in Spain and beautiful surrounding nature that connects the city to the Subbeticas National Park.

Estepona, Andalucía

Estepona is one of the most charming towns in the Malaga countryside. And yet, it is very easy to walk past it without knowing it exists, even though the city is only an hour away from Marbella; one of the most popular tourist destinations in the province of Málaga. Estepona is a beautiful coastal city with some of the most pristine beaches in the region, making it a true hidden gem of the Costa del Sol. In addition to its beautiful beaches, the city is famous for its bright colorful houses that adorn its charming streets, filled with a typical casual Mediterranean atmosphere.

Tarifa, Andalusia

You might think that Europe’s southernmost point is a very popular tourist attraction, but that’s not entirely true. Tarifa does get visited by tourists more often than some of the other cities on this list, but we think it’s still one of the most underrated cities in Spain in terms of what it has to offer. The city was founded as a Roman settlement more than 2,000 years ago, and many of its oldest buildings are remarkably well-preserved.

Tarifa has a beautiful old town, beautiful beaches, and is one of the best places in Europe for windsurfing. Because of the effect of the Gibraltar funnel, Tarifa experiences a natural phenomenon known as Levante and Poniente (east winds from Africa and Atlantic winds).

Bubion, Andalusia

Bubion is one of those rare places in Spain that has remained relatively unchanged over the years. The city is located 1,350 meters above sea level in the Rio Pequeira Gorge and below the peaks of the Sierra Nevada. The town has distinctive white-washed buildings with flat roofs, narrow winding streets, many remnants of Moorish architecture and, of course, some of the most spectacular views of the Sierra Nevada National Park.

Almuñecar, Andalusia

Almuñecar was a former fishing village that is gradually turning into a charming coastal town. The town is located along El Costa del Sol about 30 kilometers from the resort town of Nerja, but is much less popular despite its beautiful, unspoiled beaches. In addition, the city also has a rich history, and you can find many interesting historical sites in the vicinity of Almunecar, including a Roman aqueduct and a medieval castle.

Cazorla, Andalusia

Cazorla is a beautiful, postcard-like town located at the foot of the Pena de los Chalcones, with the beautiful Yedra Castle towering over the town from a steep cliff. To make things better, the town is technically within Las Villas National Park (the largest protected park in Spain) and is part of the Sierras de Cazorla (mountain range).

Murcia, Murcia

Murcia is the biggest city on this list, but we just had to mention it here because it really is one of the most underrated cities in Spain. The city is the capital of the autonomous county of the same name and boasts more than 500 years of Moorish history, which has had a strong influence. Highlights of the city include the Murcia Cathedral (which took 300 years to build), Moorish architecture, Baroque buildings and one of the most vibrant festivals in Spain, the Fiestas de Primavera (Spring Festival).

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Zaragoza, Aragon

Zaragoza is another major city that is the capital of another autonomous region (Aragon), and is probably the city with the most tourists on this list, but I can’t help but feel that the city is still underrated. Overall, Zaragoza is an impressive city with a rich culture and tradition. The local cuisine is one of the best in Spain, it is one of the best places to learn and experience Aragonese folklore, and there are many notable sights, such as the Basilica del Pilar, the Aljafería Palace, La Seo Cathedral, and the failed restoration of the Christ painting.

In addition, Zaragoza is also (arguably) the birthplace of Aragon’s Mudejar architecture, an aesthetic architectural style recognized and protected by UNESCO, and can be seen in almost every corner of the city.

Albarracín, Aragon

The entire city of Albarracín has been a national monument since 1961, and tourism is slowly growing, but the city is still greatly underrated. Albarracín is known for its light pink buildings, which take your breath away, especially during sunsets. The city also has a charming old town with beautiful cobblestone streets, a charming promenade and a beautiful surrounding landscape dominated by the Guadalaviar River and the Sierra de Albarracín-Comarca.

Girona, Catalonia

While it could be argued that no city on the east coast of Spain could be considered underrated because it’s the most popular part of the country, we still think Girona doesn’t get as much attention as it should. The city has an incredibly rich offer of museums, galleries and impressive architecture. In addition, Girona is one of the most important historical cities in Spain. Because of its rich tradition and history of resisting invasions, the city is also known as the “City of a Thousand Sieges,” and once you start exploring its history, you will be amazed.

Mahon, Menorca

Finally, we conclude our list of underrated cities in Spain with Maona. Located near the Mediterranean coast of Spain, the island of Menorca has lived for centuries in the shadow of Mallorca and Ibiza. Even its name (Menorca) translates as “secondary,” but that too has its advantages. In contrast to the vibrant nightlife and parties in Ibiza and Majorca, Menorca offers a relaxing holiday in a beautiful city with unspoiled beaches and picturesque nature.

Barcelona’s Unseen Places

The capital of Catalonia manages to surprise

Barcelona is a city full of surprises. When all the main sights have been seen, and the camera carefully keeps the unchanged views of the Church of the Holy Family and the Singing Fountains, it turns out that away from the tourist trails there are still many corners, capable of surprising the curious traveler. Barcelona’s nontouristy places are hidden from the ubiquitous guides, but it’s all the more pleasant to be alone in a big city that opens up its secrets to you. If it is the unexplored paths that interest you, we invite you to use our guide to the unknown corners of the capital of Catalonia.

Statue of Liberty

You can see the Statue of Liberty in the library building.An elegant marble staircase leads to the statue.

The top little-known sights of Barcelona opens. the Statue of Liberty. You can argue that this monument is the one you least expect to find in the capital of Catalonia. However, a copy of the original sculpture, donated by France to the United States and which has become a symbol of New York, does adorn the Catalan capital. It is located in the public library of Arus (Passeig de Sant Joan, 26), incidentally, the oldest in Barcelona, and is a little over two meters in height.

The figure differs from the original not only in size. It is almost black, and in the book, which is in her hand, is engraved not the date of signing the Declaration of Independence of the United States, July 4, 1776, but the word combination Anima Libertas, which means “liberty of the soul” in Latin.

Temple of Augustus

In Barcelona, even an ordinary-looking courtyard can keep its secretsLooking at the majestic columns, it's hard to believe this is 21st century Barcelona.

Is it possible to walk through a modern cosmopolitan city and suddenly be transported two thousand years back to the times of the Roman Empire? Yes, and it’s enough to turn into an unremarkable courtyard (Carrer del Paradís, 10). Just there, among the narrow streets of the Gothic Quarter, is another little-known landmark of Barcelona – the four ancient columns, once part of the Temple of Augustus. They are more than two thousand years, and the height of these ancient columns is as much as nine meters.

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The columns are almost as old as Barcelona itself and remember the time when the small Roman colony of Barcino appeared on Mount Taber. At that time its top was crowned with a temple dedicated to Emperor Octavian Augustus, who completed the conquest of the Iberian Peninsula.

Church of San Felipe Neri

This church has a sad historyThe courtyard is a quiet place.

Walking around the Gothic Quarter you can stumble upon the small square of San Felipe Neri, where the church stands, its facade pockmarked with potholes and depressions. But these are not, as you might think, marks of inexorable time or negligence on the part of the local authorities. This is where Barcelona preserves one of the saddest pages of its history. In 1938, during the Civil War between supporters of Franco and the defenders of the Republic, a shell that hit the square killed 42 people who had taken refuge in the basement of the church. Most of them were children, students of the parochial school.

Subsequently, during the reconstruction it was decided not to restore the façade that had survived in order to preserve the memory of this unfortunate event. This place, where there is a special silence and tranquility, can undoubtedly be classified as one of the most little-known attractions of Barcelona.

Library of Catalonia

The library building is known not only for its many books, but also for its long history.The vaults of the library make you forget time and lose yourself in reading.

The Library of Catalonia (Carrer de l’Hospital, 56) is an ancient Gothic building in the former Santa Cruz Hospital, where the first stone was laid back in 1401. The majestic building of about 9 thousand square meters keeps almost three million books and documents and is the main library of Barcelona.

It offers guided tours of the building and if you want access to the books you must get a library card or a temporary pass. The main entrance of the building is decorated by a monumental staircase that leads to the reading room of the library.

Orta’s Labyrinth

Once in Barcelona, it's worth making time for this unusual attraction.The park labyrinth can be great fun for kids

Get lost in the labyrinth of pruned cypress trees, relax by the spring water pond and stroll through the romantic garden full of fresh flowers. This is why visitors come to the Parque Labyrinth Horta, the city’s oldest park, located on the slopes of the Collserola mountain range (Passeig Castanyers 1). It was designed by the Marquis of Desvalles and belonged to this noble family for a long time, as did the palace nearby.

Sculptures, bas-reliefs with mythical stories, fountains, pavilions and roofed pavilions adorn this three-tiered park, where it is so nice to relax from the bustle of the city, plunged into the solemn and measured atmosphere of the XIX century.

The Collserola Forest Reserve itself in Spain is also worth a visit. This natural massif is considered the largest urban park in the world and is eight times larger than the territory of the Bois de Boulogne in Paris. It takes about 15 minutes to reach it from the labyrinth by bus.

Fabre Observatory

From the top of the mountain where the observatory is located, you can admire spectacular views.The observatory is surrounded by green space

“Beloved, I will give you this star!” – so said the hero of a famous Soviet cartoon to his beloved. If you’ve ever made such a frivolous promise, there’s nothing easier than fulfilling it in Barcelona. The Observatory Fabra, located on Mount Tibidabo on the outskirts of the city (Camí de l’Observatori, s/n), is a scientific institution, but it is also open to tourists.

The tours take place on certain days, when guests are invited to observe through an ancient telescope the movements of the planets or, say, the Orion Nebula. And from mid-June to mid-September, the visit can be completed with a dinner under the stars. All visitors note the magnificent views of the city from the observatory observation deck. The number of seats is limited, so booking and payment must be made in advance.

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Mossen Gardens Costa y Llobera

From the gardens, visitors can see Barcelona portIn the park there are many different kinds of cacti

This is actually one of the most little-known places in Barcelona, not only for tourists, but also for residents, many of whom don’t even know about the existence of this natural corner. The gardens owe this primarily to their location. They are located on the sea-facing slope of Mount Montjuïc and although visitors can enjoy beautiful views of the coastal areas and port, they are invisible from the city. Even just ten minutes away, at the Columbus Monument, you would not know that this secluded corner of Barcelona is so close.

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The gardens are sheltered from the wind and almost devoid of shade, so they have their own microclimate. The temperature there is usually 2-3 degrees higher than the average city temperature. This undoubtedly benefits the cacti, which grow in abundance, but the visitors do not. So, when going for a walk in the Mossen Costa y Llobera Gardens, lovers of the unknown sights of Barcelona should take care of a hat and an ample supply of water. In total, more than 800 species of exotic plants grow there.

Entrance to the gardens is free and you can reach them from the Paral-lel metro station, where you must walk to Plaza l’Armada, where one of the five entrances is located.

Baro de Cuadras Palace

The palace surprises you with its mix of stylesThe palace interiors are amazing in their luxury

The main feature of the Palacio Baro de Cuadras (Avenida Diagonal, 373) is its multifaceted architecture. From the Diagonal, it looks like a true Gothic palace, magnificently decorated with Medieval or Renaissance stucco busts, floral decorations and coats of arms. From the Rosselló, the facade gives the impression of a modernist building. The surprises don’t end there, as inside the palace is richly decorated with Roman mosaics, Arabic motifs and other decorative elements.

This mixture of styles is the fruit of the work of an architect who was commissioned to redesign the building in the early 20th century. Perhaps in this way the industrialist Manuel de Cuadras decided to celebrate the title of baron awarded to him by King Alfonso XIII, so that the dwelling would be worthy of his new position. One way or another, the result is beyond praise. And you can see for yourself, because the palace was recently opened to the public, which gives us the right to include it in the list of little-known attractions in Barcelona.

Chocolate Museum

It's a must for any sweet tooth.Even the Sagrada Familia cathedral is among the chocolate figures

To eat or not to eat – no doubt, this question tormented more than one visitor to the Chocolate Museum in Barcelona (Carrer del Comerç, 36). In this chocolate lover’s paradise, not only can you learn about the history of chocolate and its origins in Europe, but also explore the manufacturing process of this famous delicacy and see works of art made of this sweet material, such as a replica of the Church of the Holy Family.

This museum is also suitable for holidays with children in Barcelona, because both the youngest and adults can take part in master classes and learn the refinements of confectionery craftsmanship. In the museum cafe, you can taste hot chocolate and buy chocolate gifts.

The Raval Cat

The colorful cat figure fits well on a Barcelona streetYou can make a wish in this place in Barcelona

When you come to Barcelona, it is also worth going to see the Raval cat by the famous sculptor and artist Fernando Botero (Rambla del Raval). The bronze cat weighs a mere two tons and, judging by its rounded shape, is also a big eater. But connoisseurs of Colombia’s works will immediately recognize Botero’s distinctive style in his monumental outlines.

It is believed that the “cat Behemoth” is able to grant wishes, and to do this, you just need to rub his nose. Not all guides know about the existence of this sculpture, so it rightly takes its place in the list of little-known places in Barcelona.

All the places listed in the article can be found on the map:

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Tags: spain, saint-family cathedral, barcelona tourism, barcelona attractions, no-tourist places in barcelona, little-known places in barcelona, unknown attractions in barcelona, vacation with children in barcelona

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