Of all the countries I’ve been to, Spain is number one. I’ve lived there for six months and traveled to every major city on the mainland. I don’t know how to explain it, but I feel a special bond with this wonderful country and every time I go there, I always want to go back. In fact, I’m there right now studying Spanish.
One thing to know about Spain is it is like the United States. Each region has its own autonomous government and the people are fiercely proud of their regional culture and history. It’s hard to believe that in a small country like this, the food, architecture and dialect changes from region to region.
Having traveled all over this country, I’d like to mention some places YOU MUST VISIT if you happen to be traveling to Spain this summer. Hope you find these places inspiring!
1. Seville – if I could recommend just one city to visit in Spain, it would be this. Locally referred to as Sevilla, this is Spain’s fourth largest city and capital of the Andalusia region. It is one where you experience Spain’s moorish history through its architecture. It is also home of flamenco and you can even go to see an authentic flamenco show in a tavern for free; you would have to pay to see one in Madrid and Barcelona and it would be mostly touristy. Seville can be reached via Spain’s high-speed train from Madrid – a two and a half journey, whereas a car ride would be five hours. There are trains every hour between the two cities, so you could even go there for the day if you were staying in Madrid.
2. Toledo – Sorry no pic available for this one. This town makes the perfect day trip from Madrid as the journey takes one hour by car. You can get there via bus or train and if you are on an organized tour of Spain, you’ll likely be stopping here. This was Spain’s first capital city and here there is a museum dedicated to El Greco. The locals pronounce Toledo as To-leh-do, rather than Tol-ee-do. Be forewarned: bring comfortable walking shoes as the streets are cobble-stoned and hilly, so expect a lot of climbing.
3. Oviedo – No pic for this either. this city is located in Spain’s northern region of Asturias. The Asturias is one of the four regions that makes up Green Spain. When you’re in this city, you feel like you’re in Ireland or Britain due to the climate and rugged hills. This is one city where you won’t be drinking beer or sangria; instead you’ll be delighting on its’ local drink – cider or sidra. This cider is different from any cider drinks you may have tasted in the past. You can barely taste the alcohol and it’s cheap – 3 euro a bottle. What is more interesting is when you order this, the servers pour the bottle into the glass with their arm raised above their heads, so you can see the drink cascade into the glass. What first attracted me to this city was its historical significance. The former Spanish dictator, Francisco Franco, spent part of his earlier life here. In fact, he met and married his wife in Oviedo and this is where is only daughter was born. Call me corny, but I was very interested in Franco.
4. Córdoba – Located in Spain’s Andalusia, this is a smaller version of Seville in my opinion. It makes an ideal day trip from Seville since it takes 45 minutes to reach it by train. As you can see in the photo, it is known for the Mezquita, a former Moorish mosque. It is wonderful to see, and I recommend visiting it. Córdoba is a great way to experience Andalusia in a small city sense and the narrow, winding streets are perfect for getting lost in.
5. La Coruña – Known locally as A Coruña, this port city is located in Spain’s northwestern region of Galicia. This is where Spain meets the Atlantic and has a quaint promenade that runs along the shore. Though this city is not as popular with tourists as its’ neighbor Santiago de Compostela, it is still a great city visit. If you want to experience Spain, you have to go to the north. This city is similar to New England in the fact that it is a maritime city. One sight of note is the Torre de Hercules, which is one of Europe’s oldest light houses. Locals here speak their own distinct language, which is Galician – a mix of Spanish and Portuguese. Galicia actually borders Portugal and the language was once used in medieval Spanish literature. Like the Asturias, Galicia sees a lot more rainy and cooler days than those in the central and southern parts of the country. However, when the central and southern regions of Spain are baking in the summer heat, La Coruña is usually 15 degrees or 59 Fahrenheit.