So many travelers to Spain talk about seeing the “real Spain,” but don’t venture beyond the more popular cities and beaches. Do you actually want to see Spain beyond the more tourist-friendly places? The Spain that most visitors from abroad don’t see? Then make sure to include some of Spain’s smaller regional cities on your itinerary. Not only do these smaller cities offer a glimpse into how most Spaniards outside of the major cities live, but they tend to be a great bargain too. And their centros históricos are just as charming as those in Sevilla, Barcelona, or Granada. Here are a few of my favorite smaller, less trodden cities in Spain. Need help weaving some of these into your Spain itinerary? Let’s get in touch; I can help!
Teruel: Ask many madrileños, and they might question Teruel’s existence. It is a corner of Spain that most Spaniards have not even visited, as it is not very accessible by public transportation. But Teruel, the regional capital of Teruel province in Aragón is worth the hassle it takes to get there. A splendid combination of modernista and mudéjar architecture welcomes visitors to the city of Spain’s own Romeo and Juliet, Juan and Isabel, also known as los amantes (the lovers) de Teruel. Make sure to save some time to explore the towns near Teruel, Albarracín and Rubielos de Mora are my two personal favorites. In the cooler months, bring warm clothes. Teruel gets downright cold!
Murcia: Like the United States, Spain has many regional accents, some more famous (or infamous) than others. Meet Murcia, where the locals speak with such thick accents that national television has to use subtitles when interviewing a Murciano. The usually sunny regional capital, the City of Murcia, is a great place to listen to this amazingly confusing accent, achopijo! Here you can sample local tapas, made with fresh ingredients as Murcia is known as the huerta (orchard of Spain) while sipping on Murcia’s own beer, Estrella de Levante. Make sure not to miss the cathedral, with Baroque and Renaissance style architecture. Murcia comes even more alive during their local Bando de La Huerta festival, where locals dress in traditional Murciano garb and teenagers drink by the regions’ first Burger King (true story).
Oviedo: The largest city of the Principality of Asturias in the North of Spain, Oviedo is Spanish culinary heaven. Many consider Asturias to have the best food in Spain, and Oviedo is where you can easily and accessibly taste it all. Stroll down Calle Gascona and pick any sidería. The region’s specialties are cachopo (two breaded veal fillets stuffed with ham and cheese) and fabada (a thick stew made with white beans and chorizo). Not a meat eater? No problem! The region’s signature strong blue cabrales cheese is available everywhere. And don’t skip the sidra. If you are lucky, the bartender will give you a lesson on how to pour it. Aside from eating your way around the city, make sure to go up to the green hills surrounding Oviedo to visit the pre-Romanesque churches, Santa María del Naranco (pictured above), being the most impressive.
Jaén: Visitors to Andalucía, the South of Spain, often only include Granada, Sevilla, Córdoba, and some of the Mediterranean beaches, overlooking Jaén altogether. And that is a shame, especially for lovers of olive oil and beautiful ceramics. A bird’s eye view of the cathedral and centro histórico show a small city surrounded by olive groves as far as the eye can see. Many buses from Madrid to Granada stop in Jaén, making it a convenient location to break up the journey for a few nights. After you’ve explored the regional capital, make sure to head to the towns of Úbeda and Baeza famous for their green-glazed ceramics and (you guessed it) world-class olive oil.
Santander: Stately Santander, the capital of the autonomous community of Cantabria, was destroyed by a fire in 1941, destroying much its centro histórico. A few buildings survived, including the city’s cathedral. But what Santander lacks in old Spanish architecture, it makes up in a thriving culture and arts scene, with museums and art galleries. Centro Botín is one of its most visited, featuring rotating exhibitions. During the summer months, the locals flock to their favorite urban beach, Playa del Sardinero. If you are a cheese lover, be sure to try queso nata de Cantabria. For a beautiful view of the city, walk or take the public escalators/funicular up to Mirador Río de la Pila. The city’s Palacio de la Magdalena was the court’s official summer vacation home in the early 20th century, making it good enough for royalty.
Cáceres: Located in Spain’s least traveled autonomous region, Extremadura, Cáceres’ medieval walled city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Thanks to the Universidad de Extremadura, Cáceres is home to a large student population. With easy access to some of Extremadura’s most scenic natural sites, Cáceres is considered to be one of Spain’s most beautiful cities. A few days here, and you will think that you stepped back into the Middle Ages. A Day trip to the nearby Monfrague National Park can be arranged from several hotels in Cáceres.
Whether you are planning your first trip to Spain, or your a seasoned Spanish travel guru, make sure not to overlook Spain’s regional cities. They will give you a real taste of pure Spain, way beyond the standard spots most travelers hit. Need help with your Spain travel plans? Seeking a hand-crafted itinerary that suits your interests and your budget? Let’s chat With nearly 20 years in the professional travel industry, Spain is my specialty. I can work with you to make your trip to this country truly memorable.
My name is Karen & travel is not only my passion but also my profession.