Top 5 Most Underrated Cities in Spain
Oh, España! You have become both the thorn in my thumb and the rose under my nose, but there is no denying your beauty. This is especially true for the mid-sized cities that dot the peninsula. While many extranjeros may be aware of the heavy hitters like Madrid, Barcelona, and Ibiza, but there are plenty of other smaller cities that just don't get enough love.
Here is a list of my top five favorite cities in Spain, that you may not have heard of, but are more than worth the trip!
Salamanca, Castile and León, Spain
Now, I have a confession. This is the only city on the list that I have not actually visited, but it is one that virtually everyone raves about. A university town that is the capital of Castile and León, Salamanca is a must-see for anyone who is a lover of Spain.
Why? Because this region Castile and León is the birthplace of the language we commonly refer to as "Spanish." In Spain, there are several different languages spoken, but Castellano is named for its home region. As such, a huge draw to the city are tourists looking to learn the language. If this sounds like you, perhaps you should join them.
While you are there, you should visit the university. Renown throughout Spain for its beauty it is one of the biggest draws to the city for both students and tourists.
In many ways, this city and region are as Spanish and it gets. You should find out for yourself. And perhaps while you are there, you'll see me passing you in the square. This city is high on the list of places that I want to visit for myself!
A Coruña, Galicia, Spain
This is by far one of my favorite places in Spain. I ended up here rather by accident while I was teaching in an ESL camp. I hated the job but loved the city. And was happy to be introduced to a region that I probably never would have otherwise ventured to. But I was delighted to have gone and have done so for free.
Because it was July, I spent nearly every free hour at the beach. The northern Atlantic breeze was a welcome reprieve from the sweltering heat of Madrid. And this Jersey girl was happy to see the ocean again. Now, let me tell you some more about it:
Galicia, which is located above Portugal, is full of kind and friendly people who will go out of their way to make you feel comfortable. While the city is not particularly large, my friend and I did get lost trying to find our way back to the center of the city from one of the many beaches. We asked a local woman for directions. Instead of just telling us and heading along her merry way, she walked with us nearly the 10 minutes out of her way to our destination. It was a level of kindness that I have rarely encountered anywhere in the world.
In direct contrast to Salamanca, which literally sits at the heart of Spain, A Coruña feels a bit more like its cousins in the British Isles. Perhaps it is due to the fact that Galicia is also home to those of Celtic heritage. Or it is perhaps because this region is usually covered in rain nearly 200 days out of the year. In other words, if you are from or have spent time in the UK, Galicia will feel very familiar.
A Coruña is also home to an old Roman lighthouse that is situated directly over a cliff. It makes for spectacular views and a great location for Instagram photos. When you get hungry, you can also chow down on some seafood. And anyone who traverses to Galicia must try pulpo, an octopus dish that is covered in paprika and butter. It is one of the few Spanish dishes that is actually seasoned. After dinner, head to Bico a farm to table ice cream shop that serves the most deliciously rich ice cream you will taste this side of the Atlantic.
If you haven't gathered it already, the best time to visit is during the summertime. The rain dries up and everyone heads to the beach. If you have the money, you can also go boating. And if you have the coordination, you can try surfing. All in all, it is a wonderful place to take some time for yourself.
San Sebastian, Pais Vasco, Spain
Oh , País Vasco how may I count the ways that I love you. Like its northern cousin, Galicia, the Basque country is much greener and rainier than other parts of Spain. But in the summertime, the moderate temperatures are in direct contrast to the sweltering heat found on the rest of the peninsula. San Sebastian or Donostia, sits at the southern edge of the Bay of Biscay and is only 12 miles from the French border.
It is a small city with a storied history in a contested region of the country. Like their Catalonian neighbors, the people of the Basque country also fought to gain independence from Spain. They also have their own language and cultural identity, but unlike the people of Catalonia their language does not same the same Latin or roots. Euskara Batua, the native language, is a language isolate that predates the Indo-European Language family. In layman's terms it is one of the oldest languages in Europe and does not have any relation to any other language on the continent. This gives the people of the region a particular sense of pride that is easy to understand.
In more modern times, San Sebastian was considered a jewel of the bay and was frequented by the bourgeoisie of the late 19th century. Even now, due to the Basque Country's economic separateness from the rest of Spain, it feels much wealthier than many other regions. And to add opulence to riches, it is also considered to have to best food in the world as there are more Michelin Star Restaurants here than any other city in the world. While I think that is a load of crap, (I like my food liberally seasoned) I can say that the pixtos are delicious and are worth eating by the handfuls.
Unfortunately, I don't have many great photos from my journeys there, but trust me when I tell you that the city itself is gorgeous! Guess you will just have to see for yourself!
The Whole Island Of Minorca, Spain
While its big sisters Ibiza and Majorca get all the buzz, I was lucky enough to have spent nearly a year living in this virtual paradise. And I just have to say that it just doesn't get its just due. It is by far the most gorgeous place I have ever visited. And even though it is an island and not a municipality, it is so small that the entire thing could be considered a city unto itself. To my point, it only takes 45 minutes to ride from one side to the other something Los Angelenos or Houstonians could never dream of, so I'm putting it on the list.
To be fair, the island is a huge travel destination for Europeans, but most of us across the pond have never heard of it--and that is a shame. But get to know it. It doesn't matter where you stay on the island, just as long as you get there. In the summertime, everything and everywhere is packed, so it is best to come in late May, early June or early September.
If you are the outdoorsy type, it is the perfect location for you. There are bike paths all around the city and there are plenty of rock climbing and hiking trails to keep you occupied. And if you really just want to lay out on the beach, I suggest going to Cala Macarelleta it is just south of Citutadella and is a short hike from the larger beach Cala Galdana. You can reach Galdana by bus from either of the larger cities, then follow the path to Macarelleta. You won't be disappointed.
Granada, Andalusia, Spain
Last but certainly not least is the glorious city of Granada. While it may not be unknown, the gloriousness of this city cannot be understated. Home of Al Hambra, Albaicín and tapas culture, the culture of this city is what I imagine when I think of Spain.
As the last stronghold of the Caliphate of Granada, the city retains more of its Moorish roots than its norther neighbors. This can be seen in the architecture, and even the faces of the locals. Although it is a small city, it is full of hidden surprises, so you never run out of places to explore. And if ever you grow tired of the city, you can always head for a hike to the mountains. As the city is surrounded by the Sierra Nevada Mountains, you are treated to beautiful mountain fews everywhere you look.
There is music everywhere and during the Spring, the smell of jasmine wafts through the air. Point blank, the city is incredible and if you are a lover of Spain or Spanish culture, you need to go there.
So that's it! My list of the most underrated cities in Spain. I hope that I inspired you to add a few more locations to your wish list.
Happy travels Strangers!