Whittling down a list of the most beautiful cities in Spain isn’t the easiest.
Awash with all different styles of architecture – not limited to Romanesque, Moorish, Gothic, and avant-garde – all Spanish cities and towns are a joy to explore.
Meanwhile, a mountainous hinterland plus 5,000 miles of coastline and two major archipelagos illustrate the natural beauty of the country.
But if you’re deciding where to go, cast an eye over our shortlist of the prettiest places in Spain first.
Most Beautiful Cities in Spain
We’ve rounded up stunning places to visit in Spain, focusing predominantly on cities as well as noteworthy towns. As some of these locations are close, it’s possible to plan a day trip or two as part of your Spanish travel itinerary.
By the time you finish this post, you’ll know what you consider to be the most beautiful city in Spain.
1. San Sebastián
Generally, Spain is better known for its southern and eastern coastline. However, the north of the country is rife with lush greenery and rugged seaside towns overlooking the Bay of Biscay. San Sebastian (Donostia-San Sebastian) is one of the prettiest towns in Spain’s Basque Country.
Although much of the medieval Parte Vieja was damaged in a fire, the city was rebuilt. Grand Baroque, Romanesque, and Gothic structures rise above the tiny narrow streets.
City Hall is a marvel that started life as a casino while the Plaza de la Constitución is an elegant square that was formerly a bullfighting arena.
Note that San Sebastian residents speak Basque rather than Spanish as the local tongue.
Undoubtedly a contender for the most beautiful city in Spain, the Andalusian capital is the epicenter for Moorish heritage. There are so many cool things to pack into a Seville itinerary that include history, culture, architecture, and amazing food.
Seville was once Ishbiliyah, the seat of the Moorish dynasties. The city flourished under the Moors with ambitious architecture showcasing the might of the taifa kingdom in the Iberian Peninsula.
After falling to Ferdinand III of Castile, most of the Moorish buildings were dismantled or repurposed. Seville’s main church, Catedral de Santa María de la Sede, is one of the few examples where you can see the Islamic foundations.
What is now called the Giralda bell tower was originally the minaret of Ishbiliyah’s principal mosque.
However, it’s the Real Alcázar that the city is best known for. Formerly the royal residence of the Almohads, the palace has been modified since Seville was claimed by King Ferdinand but still features Moorish patios.
Another of the prettiest places in Spain’s Andalusia region, Granada is situated in the foothills of the dramatic Sierra Nevada National Park. If that’s not enough to paint a picture of this stunning city, this is also the setting of the Alhambra.
Alongside the Real Alcázar and La Sagrada Família, the hilltop Alhambra is one of the most recognizable tourist attractions in Spain.
Essentially, the medieval compound is the setting for royal palaces built in the Islamic style. It features residential chambers, scenic terraces, and reflecting pools from the Nasrid dynasty. In general, it makes sense to visit the moment in tandem with the Generalife gardens.
As well as visiting during the day, you’ll appreciate swinging by the Mirador de San Nicolás at sundown to see the Alhambra illuminated.
As the capital, Madrid is also one of the most beautiful cities in Spain.
It is a great hub thanks to its international airport and you can easily spend a few days here at the start or end of a trip that you plan to take elsewhere in Spain.
Marking the heart of the country, Madrid is far from the sea which means it’s oft-overlooked in favor of seaside cities. However, Madrid more than makes up for its lack of ocean with landscaped parks and ornate buildings.
Plaza de la Armería, Palacio Real de Madrid, and the Catedral de Santa María form a triumvirate that shows off the architectural prowess of the capital. East of the center, Paseo del Prado provides the setting for the Museo Nacional del Prado and the Cibeles Fountain.
This connects to the breathtaking Parque del Retiro with its boating lake and flower displays. It’s easy to spend an entire day roaming the vast garden and picnicking with your travel buddy or diving into a book.
In addition to being one of the most beautiful cities in Spain, Málaga is an extremely popular resort on the southern coast.
This is another city within the autonomous community of Andalusia. However, Málaga is also a destination on the Costa del Sol – the coast of the sun.
Málaga’s main claim to fame is that it’s where Pablo Picasso was born and raised. Naturally, that makes the Picasso Museum one of the principal attractions.
However, it’s the Alcazaba that dominates the skyline. Constructed at the demand of Badis ibn Habus, the Berber king of the Granada taifa, in the 11th century this Moorish citadel defended the city from attacks. Visit the Alcazaba in tandem with the Castillo de Gibralfaro and you can pluck out which beaches to visit afterward!
It’s impossible to run out of things to do in Málaga. But if you do fancy a change of scenery, there are plenty of amazing day trips from Málaga to extend your Spanish itinerary.
Many visitors claim Marbella is the most beautiful city in Spain. With a backdrop of the Parque Nacional Sierra de las Nieves and a golden stretch of coastline, it’s hard to argue otherwise
Often visited in conjunction with Málaga, Marbella’s beauty lies in the low-rise whitewashed buildings of the Old Town. Draped with bougainvillea and fragrant with the scene of oranges courtesy of the Plaza de los Naranjos, you can settle into a cafe and unwind under the Costa del Sol sunshine.
As it’s not a large place, a vacation in Marbella generally revolves around wandering the Old Town and basking on the gorgeous beaches. As one of the warmest places in Spain in winter, Marbella is perfect for a winter sun escape when the summer crowds dissipate.
Known for its luxury resorts, prices can soar in the high season but you can find bargains during the shoulder and low seasons.
Teror is one of the prettiest towns in Spain that you might not have heard of.
This is an inland settlement in Gran Canaria of the Canary Islands. While the main lure of these volcanic islands is the black sand beaches and year-round warm temperatures, it’s worth exploring the interior of your chosen Canary.
Teror comprises double-storied traditional buildings with wooden balconies that have stood since the 15th century. It’s one of the best examples of Canarian architecture, made all the more glorious by the mountains of the Parque Rural de Doramas looming in the background. Incidentally, this is another of the beautiful places to visit in Spain while in Gran Canaria.
It’s best to visit Teror on a Saturday when the weekly market occurs, with vendors selling local and regionally made gift items. You can also pick up dulces<– sweets and biscuits – made by the nuns at Monasterio Cisterciense.
Home to masterpieces by the Catalan architect Gaudí and fringed by sweeping beaches, Barcelona is easily one of the most beautiful cities in Spain.
There’s so much to see in Barcelona, and you’ll likely prioritize La Sagrada Família. Controversially, some might say that Casa Batlló, Casa Milà, and Parc Güell are even more exciting examples of Gaudí’s legacy.
Parc de la Ciutadella is one of the prettiest parks in Barcelona, containing a marvelous fountain that’ll cool you down during the scorching summer months. You can also look forward to stretching your legs with a hike up Montjuïc Hill and catching a ray in La Barceloneta where swimming, surfing, and seafood are the way of life.
Oviedo is another of the most beautiful towns in Spain’s northern region.
Founded in the 8th century, Oviedo was once the Kingdom of Asturias, and the town clings to its splendid history through its UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Starting at Campo San Francisco, you can wander through the Old Town and take in the ornate buildings painted in pretty much every color under the sun. The Catedral Metropolitana de El Salvador de Oviedo is a fusion of multiple architectural orders.
As you explore, you’ll notice that there are statues all over the town representing important figures, traditional culture, and even Mafalda – the Argentinian cartoon character.
Just on the periphery of town, the Iglesia de Santa María del Naranco is an example of a pre-Romanesque palace later modified into a church. It’s built close to the 9th century-built Iglesia de San Miguel de Lillo.
With its riverside setting and medieval buildings, Girona is one of the most beautiful cities in Spain’s Catalonia region.
Medieval buildings are painted in colors that evoke the Mediterranean – the city actually has parallels with some Italian cities. As Girona sits inland from the Costa Brava, it’s often skipped in favor of coastal towns.
However, with its walled Old Quarter and ruined fortress, the city has more than enough appeal to history-minded travelers.
Girona is a particularly exciting choice for photographers, especially if you time your photo walk with the soft morning light or golden hour.
Located 40 minutes north of Barcelona, this is a straightforward day trip that you can manage independently or with a tour. Check out our guide to all of the best things to do in Girona.
A vision of majestic sandstone, Salamanca is often referred to as the Golden City. Located on the banks of the River Tormes, the city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the setting for one of the most beautiful universities in the world.
Two cathedrals built beside one another rule over the city skyline. The older of the duo was constructed in the Romanesque style while the later addition is a blend of Gothic, Baroque, and Renaissance features.
If you have time, you can actually visit Salamanca as part of your Madrid itinerary.
Although if you plan a couple of nights in the city you can visit the Parque Natural de Arribes del Duero, which forms the border with Portugal.
No guide to beautiful cities in Spain can forget València, home to a striking juxtaposition of old and new structures.
This port city on the Mediterranean coast is divided into the City of Arts and Sciences and the Old Town.
Complete with an ultra-modern planetarium and oceanarium, the Ciutat de les Arts i les Ciències is surrounded by water pools.
On the other hand, the Ciutat Vella is where you’ll find more traditional plazas and churches.
The ceiling frescoes at San Nicolás de Bari y San Pedro Mártirt rival the Sistine Chapel. It’s rare not to feel the sun on your neck in València, which means that a wander along the palm tree-lined Paseo Maríto is always on the table.
Furthermore, València is where paella originated. What could be more perfect than a huge plate of the classic Spanish dish?
The western neighbor of Marbella, Estepona is another resort on the Costa del Sol. In fact, these towns are fairly similar in terms of style with their whitewashed buildings and floral displays.
You can spend hours roaming the Old Quarter, photographing the picturesque Plaza de las Flores, and sipping cerveza in one of the open-air tapas bars. The Paseo Marítimo de Estepona stretches along the central beach and rewards you with lovely ocean views.
While Estepona sits alongside Marbella as one of the most beautiful towns in Spain, it’s usually quieter in summer. Estepona enjoys a micro-climate with warm weather and over 320 days of sun – a contender for a shoulder season vacation.
Segovia is another of the most beautiful cities in Spain’s central Castile and León region. With buildings chronicling the various eras Segovia has stood through, this is a city for travelers with a thing for history.
Key sites in Segovia include a two-tiered Roman aqueduct, a commanding Gothic cathedral, and the Romanesque Iglesia de la Vera Cruz.
You’ll also see the Alcázar de Segovia presiding over the center of town. Although it has Moorish and Roman origins, the turreted castle that remains today is predominantly medieval. Apparently, this fairytale build was used to inspire the Walt Disney castle!
Seeing that the cities are neighbors, Segovia is another contender for a day trip from Madrid.
Signing off with one of the most beautiful places in Spain‘s Costa Blanca coastline, Alicante is a compact seaside town with a huge seaport.
The Santa Bárbara Castle, which looks a little like a sandcastle, watches over the sandy urban beach. This is a great spot to catch the sunset over the harbor before sitting down to a dinner of fresh seafood.
Down at the seafront, the Explanada de España is another of the prettiest parts of Alicante.
This decorative promenade is lined by exotic palm trees and fills up with couples and families in the late afternoon. It runs parallel to the sea and features little souvenir shops and bars overlooking the water.