There are so many reasons that Spain has always fascinated me. I love Spanish, even though I regret to say that I am not fluent. I like knowing that I have ancestors who most likely came from Spain[i] before settling in Mexico, and later, Texas. I’ve seen some of the architecture in pictures in my high school Spanish classes, and it’s beautiful. I wish I’d made the trip while I was studying in Scotland, but I never left the British Isles. I was short on both time and money, but I’ll get there one day.
I know I want to go, but I needed a little help deciding how to structure this post, so I turned to the Travel Tips section in USA Today for a little advice. I found a wonderful list of the top 5 cities that people visit for vacations. And then I did the rest.
- Barcelona – The city by the sea. The Mediterranean Sea, that is. According to USA Today, it is near the Pyrenees Mountains in the Catalonia region, meaning they don’t speak Spanish there at all – they speak Catalán.[ii] The city itself is known for year-round mild temperatures and its architecture, but one of the reasons I really want to visit is that the Olympics were held here in 1992. And there’s a beach!
- Granada – Who wouldn’t want to see Granada? It is a small city in southern Spain with lots of Moorish and Islamic influences. There are two UNESCO World Heritage Sites there – the Alhambra, which is one of the architectural reasons I want to visit Spain in the first place, and Albayzin, the barrio where the first settlers of the Iberian tribe decided to make camp. Also, I hear the flamenco dancing here is to die for. Need more reasons to visit? I don’t.
- Madrid – The Capital![iii] The royal family lives here,[iv] and it is Spain’s largest city, located in almost the exact center of the country. There are many historical sites, a couple of big art museums, and more beautiful architecture.[v] Plus, bullfighting!
- Malaga – The coolest thing about this city is that I had never heard of it before reading this list. There are numerous historic sites (such as Alcazaba Tower and the Roman Theater), and the city boasts an ancient Moorish fortress called Gibralfaro Castle. It’s also the birthplace of Picasso! Located on the Mediterranean Sea not far from Gibraltar, I’d go. Definitely.
- Valencia – Last on USA Today’s list is Valencia, the third largest city in the country, which is also located on the Mediterranean. It is known as la Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias, and boasts the largest aquarium in Europe. It is also known for its orange groves and its beaches. But the coolest part here? A cathedral in the city claims to house the HOLY GRAIL. Like, what? GUYS! THE HOLY GRAIL!! Yep. I’m there.
- Bonus: Seville – I decided to also include Seville because I knew several people who studied abroad there while I was in college. And here we go again with the architecture. There are cathedrals, there are palaces, there are towers and historic barrios and a gorgeous university. I remember hearing that once people went there, they didn’t particularly want to leave. Now I understand why. And the flamenco here! Oh, I’d love to see that at the Feria de Abril.
Have I convinced you to go to Spain yet? Because that was my goal, since I am going to need a travel buddy.
[i] There is also a decent chance that some of my ancestors are indigenous people. I’ve asked my mom about her heritage, and she’s not exactly sure. Part of me really likes that mystery.
[ii] This is different from Spanish, but I can’t really tell you how. Read this for more information. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catalan_language
[iii] No… that wasn’t a Hunger Games reference…
[iv] I have a soft spot for history, and especially royal family history. I don’t know why. I am more familiar with English monarchs than Spanish, but I would still love to see where they live.
[v] I don’t think I’ve ever typed the word “architecture” this many times before. Ted Mosby, architect, would be proud.