cordoba patios spain

20 things to do in Spain at least once in your life

Whether you’ve been to Spain before, or are planning your first visit, you definitely won’t be short of things to do. We’ve lived in Spain for 5 years and are still finding new experiences and places to visit all the time. So if you’re adding things to your Spanish bucket list, read on for 20 things to do in Spain at least once in your life.

So many people go on holiday to Spain and don’t see much more than the nearest beach and bars, but these people are missing out on so much culture, history, and fun!

For those who, like us, want to experience Spain and everything it has to offer, there are some things that you should add to your Spanish travel itinerary.

We’ve put together a list of 20 things to do in Spain at least once in your life. No matter which part of Spain you find yourself in, there’s something on this list for you to try…

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Visit a Pueblo Blanco

A sight that’s very familiar when you picture Spain is a beautiful Pueblo Blanco, or white village. These pretty whitewashed villages can be found all over Spain but are mainly located in the South of the country.

If you’re looking for things to do in Southern Spain to absorb some Spanish culture, a visit to one of these traditional villages is a must.

Some of the best white villages in Spain can be found in the Andalucía region, particularly in the northern part of the provinces of Cádiz and Málaga. The best white villages in Andalucía that are very popular with tourists include Mojacar, Frigliana and Mijas Pubelo.

Mojacar

Eat a traditional Valencian paella

One of the main things that Spain is famous for is of course paella. But did you know that a truly authentic paella can only be found in the Valencia region?

The first paella is thought to have been cooked by Valencian farmers who used the ingredients they had in their hands usually tomatoes, onions, snails, and beans.

traditional valencian paella

You can’t really say you’ve had a Spanish paella until you’ve tried a Valencian paella and it should certainly be one of things to do in Spain at least once in your life.

An authentic Valencian paella recipe includes chicken, rabbit or snails and won’t contain any fish or shellfish. For the best paella in Valencia, Spain we recommend heading to a smaller village or town in the region and looking for a restaurant with a lot of locals in.

Avoid the tourist restaurants with photos on the menu, and to truly eat paella like the Spanish never eat paella for dinner, only lunch!

If you want to learn how to cook your own paella, you can join a Valencian paella cooking class to learn from an expert chef.

Visit Alhambra Palace

Visiting the Alhambra Palace in Granada should be at the top of any travel bucket list and is one of the most important places to see in Granada to learn more about the Moorish history of Spain.

The Alhambra has to be one of the most fascinating places I’ve ever visited, it’s a palace and fortress complex and one of the most famous monuments of Islamic architecture in the world. It has been perfectly preserved and as well as Moorish influences also has examples of Spanish Renaissance architecture.

view at alhambra palace

You can wander the Alhambra palace gardens for free but we highly recommend purchasing a ticket for the whole complex. Buy your Alhambra Palace ticket in advance as from personal experience they do sell out very quickly. You can also buy a ticket to see the Alhambra Palace at night for a really special view of the palace and surroundings.

If you’re looking for things to do in Granada, put the Alhambra at the top of your list!

Walk the Camino de Santiago

Maybe you’re looking for slightly unusual or crazy things to do in Spain? If so, I think this would make the list of things to do in Spain at least once in your life!

The Camino de Santiago, or the Pilgrimage of St James, is a legendary pilgrimage dating back to the 9th century that was recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1993.

People from across the globe head to Spain to take part in this once in a lifetime experience which finishes in Santigo de Compostela in Galicia, North West Spain. There are lots of different routes you can take with the longest Camino de Santiago distance being 500 miles.

signpost camino de santiago

The French way starts in Sarria, and the Portugese Way starts in Vigo, both of these routes are 100km long. You can of course join the camino at any point if you don’t fancy walking 100km. The Camino de Santiago routes are a network of many different paths that all lead to Santiago de Compostela – you can choose your route by studying the Camino de Santiago routes map.

For those walking over several days or weeks, there are plenty of Camino de Santiago albergues along the way to stay overnight and meet up with others doing the pilgrimage.

Watch a Flamenco show

When compiling a list of popular things in Spain, you can’t leave out Flamenco dancing. Although you’ll be able to see Flamenco dancers performing all over Spain, the most authentic and traditional Flamenco can be seen in Seville and Granada since Flamenco culture started in the Andalucía region.

flamenco dancing

Seville Flamenco shows are some of the best, and should be top of your list of things to do in Seville. Head away from the main tourist areas for the best Flamenco shows, you can even watch one for free every night in La Carbonería, a converted coal factory.

If you’re looking for a Flamenco show in Granada, head to the Sacromonte Caves to watch a traditional gitano Flamenco show in a unique location.

Enjoy a Spanish fiesta

You can’t truly experience Spain if you haven’t attended a fiesta! One of the best free things to do in Spain, fiestas are held across Spain for lots of different reasons and occasions, from weird fiestas to religious fiestas, you can usually find something going on.

The biggest festivals celebrated in Spain are held during the summer, Christmas, and Easter, but smaller fiestas can be found all year round.

Some of the most famous Spanish festivals include the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona and La Tomatina in Buñol. But you don’t have to be chased by bulls or covered in tomatoes! At a Spanish fiesta you’ll find music, dancing, food, drink, costumes, fireworks and lots more.

fiesta rojales spain

Personally I’d say attending a fiesta has to be at the very top of any list of things to do in Spain at least once in your life.

Eat tapas

In 2023 Spanish food was voted third best in the world, so when visiting Spain you have to make sure you try as much of the local cuisine as possible, and the best way to do this is with tapas.

Some of the best things to eat in Spain can be found on a tapas menu for a relatively low price which gives you the opportunity to sample as many different dishes as you can.

eating tapas in spain

If you’re looking for free tapas in Spain, many bars will offer a tapa with a drink so have a look around at what people are being served before choosing which bar to sit at. Free tapas are most common in the Andalucía region but can be found all over Spain.

In Northern Spain tapas are known as pintxos and are usually snacks on bread held together by toothpicks, whereas tapas are usually smaller versions of meals.

If you want to be guided by a local, you can find tapas tours in most cities like this walking and tapas tour in Alicante that we tried recently.

Visit an art museum

There are lots of famous artists who hail from Spain, so if you’re looking for family things to do in Spain then a visit to an art museum is must so you can experience some of the greatest works of art and teach your kids a bit about Spanish art history!

Famous paintings by Spanish artists can be found in most major cities, with museums dedicated to Spanish artists in Madrid, Barcelona, Malaga and more.

outside view of the museum nacional el prado madrid

The most famous art museums in Spain are the Museo Nacional del Prado in Madrid, the Guggenheim in Bilbao, the Picasso Museum in Barcelona, and the Dalí Theatre and Museum in Figueres.

One of the most famous paintings by a Spanish artist, and also a very powerful and moving picture of the Spanish Civil War, is Picasso’s Guernica which can be found in Museo Nacional del Prado in Madrid.

See the work of Antoni Gaudi in Barcelona

Barcelona is home to some of the most famous Spanish attractions, with the Sagrada Familia being at the top of most people’s lists when they think about Spain.

The work of Antoni Gaudi is unlike anything you’ll see elsewhere and these attractions are some of the most important things to see in Barcelona. Gaudi’s buildings such as the Sagrada Familia, Park Guell, and Casa Batlló are among some of the most famous Spanish architecture and are fascinating to see in real life.

budget friendly travel around Spain - Park Guell Barcelona

If admiring Spanish buildings are on your bucket list of things to do in Barcelona, you can book onto this Free Tour of Gaudi’s buildings to learn more.

I could visit Barcelona again and again to see the work of Gaudi, but if you can only do it once then make sure it’s on your travel bucket list.

Spend Semana Santa in Spain

Easter in Spain is something everyone should experience at least once in their life! The parades during Holy Week in Spain are totally unique and something you should definitely make time to see if you find yourself in Spain at Easter.

La Semana Santa is celebrated all over Spain with some of the biggest parades found in Seville, Malaga and Lorca.

Semana Santa parade at Easter in Spain

As well as watching the solemn processions you should also try some Semana Santa food which varies from region to region. You can read this blog post to find out more about what happens during Semana Santa in Spain.

Visit the Royal Palace in Madrid

When looking for things to do in Madrid, a visit to the Royal Palace should be at the top of your list.

El Palacio Real de Madrid is the official residence of the Spanish royal family, although now used only for state ceremonies, and the biggest royal palace in Europe – even bigger than Buckingham Palace!

palacio real de madrid

On a tour of the palace you can see the throne room, the ballroom, the hall of mirrors, the Royal Armoury, and lots more, there are over 3000 rooms in total. Visitors will also get to see many works of art and hear lots of stories about previous Spanish monarchs.

The Royal Palace Madrid ticket price is €18 for adults and €11 for children, with opening times varying throughout the year.

A must visit if you would like to see places to see in Madrid with a lot of history.

Eat churros with chocolate

No trip to Spain can be complete without eating churros!

This traditional Spanish food isn’t healthy but it is delicious and you’ll see many Spaniards eating churros and hot chocolate for breakfast in cafes across Spain.

churros in spain

We love to visit the Valor chocolate cafes for a treat, but the best churros can often be found from the mobile Churreria vans you’ll see in most towns and cities. Make sure you say yes to having your churros sprinkled with sugar and get a ‘taza de chocolate’ to dip them in.

Make sure you add this to your list of things to do in Spain with kids, they’ll love them!

See the bonfires at Las Fallas festival

One of the top things to see in Valencia and something you should definitely try to see at least once in your life, is Las Fallas de Valencia festival.

Held every year from the 14th – 19th March, the Fallas are a celebration held in commemoration of San Jose. Traditionally furniture was burnt on bonfires in honor of the patron saint of carpenters, but today large elaborate sculptures made from wood, card, and paper are burnt on the last day of the Fallas.

las fallas valencia

This Valencia festival involves days of street parties, music, fireworks, processions, and of course the bonfires across the city.

Visit the north of Spain

If you’re not too keen on the high temperatures and humidity found in the south, then you might prefer the weather in north Spain.

Most people visiting Spain choose the popular tourist hotspots of the Costa Blanca or Costa Del Sol rather than holidays in northern Spain, but you should definitely visit the north of the country at least once in your life.

A northern Spain road trip could include beautiful regions such as Basque Country, Cantabria, Asturias, and Galicia. These areas of Spain resemble Ireland or Wales more than Spain, with green fields, rocky cliffs, small fishing villages, and a lot more rain and lower temperatures.

View over cantabria spain

The best places to visit in northern Spain include Santiago de Compostela, Santander, Bilbao, A Coruña, and Gijón. If you like to stay off the beaten track then some hidden gems in northern Spain include Cangas de Onís in the foothills of the Picos de Europa in Asturias, Valderejo National Park in the Basque Country, and the medieval town of Santillana del Mar in Cantabria.

There are many stunning beaches in the north, usually much quieter and more natural than the beaches in the south. Some of the best beaches in northern Spain can be found in Galicia and Asturias.

Marvel at the patios of Cordoba

One of the most famous festivals in Spain is the Cordoba patios festival held during the first two weeks of May every year.

During this time the city is full of beautiful flowers covering balconies, windows, courtyards, and doorsteps, in a competition that most residents take part in.

cordoba patios spain

These courtyards are open to the public so visitors can see the best patios in Cordoba before the winners are crowned. You can also book onto a tour of Cordoba’s Authentic Patios to make sure you see the most beautiful patios and courtyards.

If you’re looking for things to see in Cordoba and visiting the city in May, these patios can’t be missed.

Climb Mount Teide

For those who like hiking and climbing, then climbing Mount Teide in Tenerife is one thing to add to your Spanish bucket list.

Visiting Teide is a great day trip for anyone, with some of the best Tenerife scenic drives on the way up to the volcano, plus some amazing views from Mount Teide itself.

mount teide tenerife

You can visit Mount Teide without having to hike or climb too far, there’s a cable car taking you from the base station to the top as well as various guided Mount Teide tours including a tour of Mount Teide at night.

However if you do want to hike Teide, you can either join a tour or apply for a permit to hike Teide on your own. Hiking to the very top will take around 6-7 hours, so probably only for the very fit!

There are some once in a lifetime Mount Teide excursions to check out including Mount Teide star gazing – how many people can say they were star gazing at the top of a volcano!

See snow in Spain

One of the most fun, and maybe unusual, things to do in Spain in winter is to find snow!

Snowfall in Spain is obviously not very common, but between December and February there are some places where you can experience a lot of snow.

snow sierra nevada

There are several places to see snow in Spain including the region of Madrid and the Sierra Nevada where you can also go skiing and stay in a snowy log cabin.

How many people can say they’ve seen snow in sunny Spain?

Experience the City of Arts and Sciences in Valencia

One of the most unique places to visit in Spain has to be the City of Arts and Sciences in Valencia. This futuristic location has been featured in many movies and TV shows and is unlike anything else you’ll see in Spain.

Spanish city breaks - Valencia city of arts and sciences

A great place to find things to do in Valencia with kids, the Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias is home to a science museum, cinema, and Europe’s largest aquarium as well as a concert hall. You can also hire a rowing boat or have a go at water zorbing.

City of Arts and Sciences Valencia tickets can be bought for the individual attractions or as ticket combos, and also include free parking on site.

Even if you don’t want to go in any of the attractions, it’s an amazing place to wander through and snap some photos.

Visit Europe’s only desert

With the only desert in Europe located in the Andalucia region, a trip to Tabernas is one of the most unique things to do in Spain.

Tabernas Desert in Spain is home to a few Western themed attractions since many Spaghetti Westerns were filmed here in the desert. Famous Tabernas Western movies include The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, and Lawrence of Arabia.

Tabernas - the only desert in Europe

As well as a visit to the Tabernas Western towns, you can hike, horse ride and more. Read this post to find out everything you need to know about the Tabernas Desert.

If you’re looking to tick some items off your Spanish bucket list, hopefully this post has given you plenty of ideas to get you started on things to do in Spain at least once in your life!

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