My Path in the World

20 Beautiful Places to Visit in Northern Spain on a Road Trip

Northern Spain is still an underrated destination, even though it offers the perfect combination of magical villages, wide green landscapes, and dreamy beaches. If it’s not yet on your Spain bucket list , add it now! To convince you, here are amazing places to visit in northern Spain that will surely put a smile on your face.

* This post may contain affiliate links from which I earn a commission (for more info, read my disclosure ). As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

* I try to keep the information on this blog as updated as possible, but I still recommend consulting the latest prices, opening hours, and other details on the official website of each site, hotel, and tour, as well as checking the updated public transport routes and timetables.

Wondering about things to do in northern Spain? Here are 20 places to visit in northern Spain you have to add to your north Spain road trip itinerary!

Table of Contents

Northern Spain Road Trip Itinerary Summary

Tip: After accessing the map, you can also open it on your Google Maps app. Simply open your app, tap the ‘saved’ icon at the bottom, scroll down and tap the ‘maps’ icon, and choose the MyMaps map you want to see (you can do the same on your computer).

To give you some inspiration, here’s what my northern Spain itinerary looked like:

Day 1: San Sebastian (suggested hotel: Atotxa Rooms in San Sebastian or Olaskoaga Goikoa in a nearby village).

Day 2: San Juan de Gaztelugatxe + Bilbao (suggested hotel: Hotel Los Angeles or Posada Araceli in Santillana del Mar).

Day 3: Comillas + Santillana del Mar (suggested hotel: Hotel Los Angeles or Posada Araceli in Santillana del Mar).

Day 4: San Vicente de la Barquera + Llanes + Playa del Gulpiyuri (suggested hotel: Hostal Poncebos in Poncebos or Logis Hotel Restaurante La Casa de Juansabeli in Arenas de Cabrales).

Day 5: Covadonga Lakes + Oviedo (suggested hotel: Hotel Casona Selgas or Casona de La Paca in Cudillero).

Day 6: Cudillero + Luarca + Playa del las Catedrales (suggested hotel: Hotel San Briz in A Pontenova or Casas Rurales TAReira in Taramundi).

Day 7: Os Teixois + driving through Ribeira Sacra + Ribadavia (suggested hotel: Hotel Panton or Agua de Mar Hotel Boutique in Vigo).

Day 8: Islas Cies + evening in Vigo (suggested hotel: Hotel Panton or Agua de Mar Hotel Boutique in Vigo).

Day 9: Combarro + Santiago de Compostela (suggested hotel: PR Blanco in Santiago de Compostela).

Day 10: A Coruña (suggested hotel: Hotel Brisa or Hotel Lois in A Coruña).

A harbor in northern Spain

Northern Spain Travel Tips

Is northern spain worth visiting what is it known for.

If you love a combo of unspoiled ocean beaches, sleepy fishing villages, historical cities, and vast green landscapes, you’ll love northern Spain.

It’s an incredible area where you can reconnect with nature, enjoy amazing food, visit intriguing manmade landmarks, and discover a unique side of Spain.

When to Visit Northern Spain

In terms of weather and crowds, late spring and early summer are ideal for traveling through northern Spain.

I visited in late June and absolutely loved it – it gets darker very late, so you can really make the most of every day.

Where Should You Base Yourself

You can plan so many different itineraries when visiting northern Spain.

If you want to see several regions (like I did), you should travel from one place to another because there’s a lot of distance to cover.

If you want to focus on one region, base yourself in one spot. Traveling by car, you don’t have to stay in a big city, and you can enjoy the fantastic rural accommodations northern Spain has to offer.

Start by marking all the places you want to visit on a map and see where it makes sense to base yourself because the options are endless.

Places to Visit in Northern Spain’s Basque Country Region

San sebastian.

With one of the dreamiest beaches in Spain ( La Concha ), stunning lookout points, and a beautiful old town, San Sebastian is easily one of the best cities to visit in northern Spain.

It’s worth spending at least 24- 48 hours in San Sebastian , but it can also be a great base for exploring the Basque Country region.

Beyond its charm and beauty, it is also a HUGE foodie destination. If you’re a hardcore foodie, you’ll be delighted to know this city is home to an astonishing number of Michelin-starred restaurants .

It also invented the pintxo, so San Sebastian is where you’ll find some of the best pintxo bars in Spain .

What exactly are those? They are a type of tapas/snack/mini-meal popular in northern Spain, and they consist of a piece of bread with different toppings.

The old town is filled with these pintxo bars, so you can take a guided food tour or create your own tour.

Be sure to also head to La Viña , the restaurant that invented the world’s creamiest and best cheesecake.

San Sebastian

Other things to do in San Sebastian:

  • Take the funicular to get to Monte Igueldo lookout point, overlooking La Concha beach
  • Wander through the old town and see the San Sebastián Cathedral
  • Take a Basque history bike tour
  • Visit the San Telmo Museum
  • Take a tour of a traditional cider house
  • Take a day tour to the town of Hondarribia and other nearby fishing towns

How much time to spend there: 1-2 days.

Where to stay: After spending the day in the city, I actually stayed at a cozy rural accommodation called Olaskoaga Goikoa in a nearby village called Aia (perfect for those looking for utter quiet). You can browse its latest prices or find plenty of highly-rated accommodations in San Sebastian itself like Atotxa Rooms , Aldamar , and the luxurious Hotel Maria Cristina.

La Concha Beach

San Juan de Gaztelugatxe

One of the best things to do in northern Spain is to visit San Juan de Gaztelugatxe, an islet on the Basque coast.

It’s connected to the mainland by a bridge, and a small church dating from the 10th century stands on top of it.

You can have a full view of it from the parking lot, but if you want to get to the islet itself, you’ll need to walk down the road and climb over 200 steps.

Fun fact:  Scenes for the 7th season of ‘Game of Thrones’ were shot in San Juan de Gaztelugatxe (hint: Dragonstone). You can even take a Game of Thrones guided tour from the city of Bilbao.

How much time to spend there: A couple of hours.

San Juan de Gaztelugatxe

If you’re an architecture and culture lover, the unique city of Bilbao is for you.

With its unique structure, its most famous highlight is, of course, the Guggenheim Museum of Art (designed by infamous architect Frank Gehry), but there’s so much more to it.

Architecture fans will love beautiful buildings in the city center like the Arriaga Theater, Chavarri Palace, and Basilica de Begoña while culture lovers will enjoy the Bilbao Fine Arts Museum, Itsasmuseum (maritime museum), and the iconic Guggenheim Museum .

Whether you have a few hours or a weekend in Bilbao , you can also wander through the Casco Viejo (old quarter), relax in Doña Casilda Iturrizar Park, and explore Mercado de la Ribera, Europe’s largest indoor market.

Other things to do in Bilbao:

  • Take a free walking tour of Bilbao
  • Take a free walking tour of modernist Bilbao
  • Take a food tour

How much time to spend there: 1 day.

Flower sculpture in Bilbao

Best Places to Visit in North Spain’s Cantabria Region

Santillana del mar.

Fun fact: Santillana del Mar is known as ‘The Town of Three Lies’ since it is neither holy (Santa), nor flat (Llana), nor is it by the sea (Mar). It is also known as one of the prettiest medieval towns in northern Spain.

But pretty is an understatement – it is pure magic! The rustic stone buildings, flower-adorned balconies, and enchanting vibe make it a real must-see gem.

How much time to spend there: Half a day.

Where to stay: I loved staying at Hotel Los Angeles . The staff was incredibly welcoming and the hotel was very cozy and felt authentic. Browse its latest prices and availability. A higher-rated option is Posada Araceli .

Santillana del Mar

Even if you’ve never been to Barcelona, I’m quite sure you’ve heard about Antoni Gaudi.

If you haven’t, it’s time to get to know the genius architecture behind some of Barcelona’s most beautiful and unique buildings.

Each one of them is a work of art, and I am a true fan of his. Luckily, he also scattered some of his gems outside of the Catalonia region.

In the small town of Comillas, you can find ‘El Capricho de Gaudi’ (Gaudi’s Caprice). It was built as a summer villa for Máximo Díaz de Quijano, a Spanish immigrant who returned to Spain after having made his fortune.

During your visit, you can enjoy all areas of the building including the interior and the gardens.

Even if you’re not an architecture fan, give this treasure a moment of appreciation, as it is one of the most unique things to see in northern Spain.

El Capricho de Gaudi

San Vicente de la Barquera

Although there isn’t a whole lot to do in San Vicente de la Barquera, this sleepy fishing village/town is worthy of at least a coffee or lunch break.

Whether you’re entering San Vicente de la Barquera from the bridge on the East (on the N-634) or walking up to the medieval San Vicente Castle and Church of Santa María de los Ángeles, you’ll be rewarded with some remarkable views.

There are also quite a few beaches nearby that you can check out, like Playa de Meron, Playa de Gerra, and Playa de Oyambre.

San Vicente de la Barquera

Stunning Places to See in Northern Spain’s Asturias Region

Llanes is the perfect little coastal town.

Not only does it have two fantastic beaches, Sablon Beach and Puerto Chico Beach, but also an adorable port and old town with cobbled alleys and a few landmarks (like the Duque de Estrada Palace).

It’s also a great base for exploring the Picos de Europa National Park.

How much time to spend there: A few hours – half a day.

Playa de Gulpiyuri

Located only 100 meters from the Cantabrian Sea, Playa de Gulpiyuri is a flooded sinkhole that creates a 40-meter magical little beach.

Although the water level isn’t high enough to take a proper swim, it’s still one of the greatest hidden gems in Spain and one of the best beaches in Asturias .

Also, try to visit when the tide is high, or else the water will almost completely disappear.

Getting there: Navigate to Playa de Gulpiyuri, and you should be getting to a parking lot. From there, you’ll see signs leading to the beach within only a few minutes.

How much time to spend there: A few hours.

Gulpiyuri Beach in northern Spain

Lagos de Covadonga

Located in the national park of Picos De Europa, the beautiful lakes of Covadonga are one of the best places in northern Spain.

Going up the winding road to see them, you’ll need a moment to truly understand that you’re not actually in Switzerland!

The landscape is wide and green, the lakes are mesmerizing, and completing the scenery, cows, goats, and sheep are wandering around. Yes, I’ll repeat it, it’s Spain!

Covadonga Lakes

Getting there:  I think the easiest way to get to the lakes is by car all the way to the parking lot near the Entrelagos lookout point and Bar Restaurante Mª Rosa.

However, from late spring to early fall, access to the lakes by car is restricted, and you may need to use public transportation if you don’t get there very early in the morning. Get all the details here.

You can also visit the lakes with a guided day trip from Gijon or a day tour from Oviedo .

Where to stay near Lagos de Covadonga: If you want to wake up to magnificent views, I recommend staying at Hostal Poncebos which sits on the turquoise Cares River (I specifically wanted to stay there because of the surrounding scenery, which didn’t disappoint). Browse its latest prices and availability. Another highly-rated nearby option is Logis Hotel Restaurante La Casa de Juansabeli .

Covadonga Lakes in northern Spain

Oviedo is a city like no other. Its history, culture, gastronomy, elegance, peacefulness, and enchantment will win you over in a second, and you’ll love the mix of modern and old.

On the one hand, it’s a great place to go shopping and feast on Michelin-starred meals.

On the other hand, it has a medieval flavor, and it’s home to a few UNESCO sites like the Basilica of San Julián de los Prados and the Church of Santa María del Naranco.

On your visit, you can also admire the Catedral Metropolitana de El Salvador de Oviedo, visit the Archaeological Museum of Asturias or the Museum of Fine Arts of Asturias, and wander through the El Fontan market.

It really is one of the best cities in northern Spain, and it is one of a kind, so you should definitely put it on your itinerary.

How much time to spend there: Half a day – one day.

city of Oviedo

Your north Spain trip would not be complete without visiting Cudillero. It is a small, charming fisherman’s village, packed with colorful houses, that seem to be built one on top of the other.

You don’t need much more than a stroll in the village’s streets, and a cup of coffee in front of the colorful scenery.

Fun fact #1: A legend says that Vikings were the ones to found Cudillero.

Fun fact #2:  Each house in the village matches the color of its owner’s fishing boat.

Where to stay: I loved staying at Hotel Casona Selgas . It ticked all the boxes for me – clean, comfortable, beautiful decor, and great hosts. Read more reviews and check the latest prices. A higher-rated option is Casona de La Paca .

Village of Cudillero from above

Another gem that’s worth visiting on Spain’s northern coast is the town of Luarca.

Its streets are full of old town charm and there are many cafes and traditional taverns, but the crowning glory is its beautiful big harbor.

OS Teixois Ethnographic Site

The ethnographic site of Os Teixois demonstrates the use of several hydraulic devices used by local villagers in their daily life, for several centuries running.

It also showcases traditional rustic stone buildings, which are my favorite kind of buildings.

Unfortunately, I didn’t get the chance to take a guided tour, but I am quite sure that it helps to fully learn everything there is to know about this place.

Where to stay near Os Teixois: Only a few miles away, I stayed at Hotel San Briz . I loved its location in a quiet town, as well as its on-site restaurant, and the staff was more than welcoming. Browse the latest prices and availability here. A higher-rated option is Casas Rurales TAReira en Taramundi .

Os Teixois Spain

Most Beautiful Places in Northern Spain’s Galicia Region

Playa de las catedrales.

Cathedrals Beach is an amazing and unique beach on the Galician coast. Its name derives from the natural architecture which was created by the Atlantic Ocean.

During high tide, the waves make the beach almost completely disappear, so it is something to consider when planning a visit.

When the low tide arrives, it reveals the true majestic beauty of this beach: magnificent cliffs, rocky arched formations, and hidden caves free for you to explore.

Access:  Access to the beach is free , but during summer and Easter it is limited . All you need to do is make a reservation , and you are ready to go!

Cathedrals Beach

Ribeira Sacra Wine Region

Probably one of the lesser-known wine regions in Spain , Ribeira Sacra is located in the eastern part of Galicia in the valleys of the rivers Miño and Sil.

The Romans made wine in this area more than 2,000 years ago, and monks continued to do so in the Middle Ages.

Apart from driving through the beautiful vineyards, you can also check out local wineries, but be sure to contact them in advance for tours in English.

You can also check out this day tour to Ribeira Sacra from Santiago de Compostela .

Ribeira Sacra wine region

Have you ever wanted to visit a place just because of a very specific spot? I’ve added Ribadavia to my northern Spain road trip itinerary because of a unique bakery.

I’m always happy to explore my Jewish heritage around the world, so I was thrilled to visit La Tafona da Herminia, a tiny bakery dedicated to the Hebrew sweets of Spain, which was once home to a thriving Jewish community.

Update: Herminia has retired and the place is currently closed.

But beyond this little gem, Ribadavia is a town that will make you feel like you’ve stepped back in time.

It is a former seat of the Kingdom of Galicia, its Jewish quarter is one of the best in Galicia, and its medieval atmosphere is well-preserved. You can also visit the Ribadavia Castle and the Ethnological Museum.

A bakery in Ribadavia Spain

Cies Islands, I’m yours.

The Cies Islands were one of my favorite places to see in northern Spain. They consist of three islands: Monte Agudo, O Faro, and San Martiño.

The first two islands are connected by a strip of sand, also known as Rodas Beach. Its white sand and turquoise water are all you need on a hot summer day.

Along with the dreamy beaches, there are walking trails for you to enjoy the wild nature surrounding you.

For me, that’s the best thing about these islands; you get to combine relaxation in the sun, with hikes that reveal amazing views.

Rodas beach in northern Spain

Getting there:  Luckily, the islands are only a 30-minute ferry ride away from the city of Vigo , and I booked my ticket via Naviera Nabia .

Good to know #1:  Currently, you also need a permit to visit the islands ( easily request it here ), so consider purchasing these ferry tickets that already include the permit (note that the confirmation email will also tell you to get them physically at the ticket office).

Good to know #2:  The Cies Islands are a natural reserve and a part of the Atlantic Islands National Park. Therefore, there is no accommodation on the islands except for a camping area .

Good to know #3:  There are no waste bins on the islands. So, make sure to take your litter with you back to the mainland.

Good to know #4: Get to the port in advance because it can be a bit confusing to find your ferry (lots of people, lots of ferries), even though you’ll see plenty of service providers that will direct you to the right spot.

Where to stay in Vigo: I stayed at Hotel Panton , a family-run hotel in central Vigo. Read reviews and check its latest prices. A higher-rated option is the Agua de Mar Hotel Boutique .

lookout point over the Cies Islands

It is impossible not to fall in love with Combarro, the sweetest little fisherman’s village, which proudly displays Galician traditional stone houses and granaries (that are still in use!).

Besides the captivating architecture, the place has a unique feel to it, something magical I can’t quite explain. Being one of the highlights of my northern Spain trip, it is deserving of at least a short stroll.

Combarro village

Santiago de Compostela

As the final destination of the famous pilgrimage route, Camino de Santiago (Way of Saint James), Santiago de Compostela is a must-see in north Spain.

The legend says that to honor St. James, the impressive Santiago de Compostela Cathedral was built on the spot where his remains were supposedly found, so there’s no wonder why the entire Old Town is a listed UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Santiago de Compostela is also home to a few other Spanish landmarks like the 18th-century Palace of Raxoi and the medieval Monastery of San Martiño Pinario, but I admit that beyond the cathedral, this city didn’t wow me as other places in Galicia did.

I don’t usually do this, but there was a tourist train going out of the cathedral’s square, and it was actually a nice way to see a little bit of the city.

You can also take a free walking tour and visit the cathedral with a guide .

Where to stay: I stayed at PR Blanco , located near the cathedral, offering private parking and comfortable rooms and apartments. Browse its latest prices and availability.

Santiago de Compostela Cathedral

Both lively and laid back and both traditional and modern, A Coruña is an easy-to-love city.

On one hand, you’ll find historic buildings like the town hall at María Pita Square, San Anton Castle, and UNESCO listed Tower of Hercules, which dates back to Roman times.

On the other hand, you can enjoy attractions like the National Museum of Science and Technology, the Fenosa Museum of Contemporary Art, and the Finisterrae Aquarium.

A Coruña is home to many other museums, as well as scenic viewpoints overlooking the city and the Atlantic coast, fantastic restaurants, and relaxing beaches like Playa del Riazor and Playa de las Lapas.

How much time to spend there: One day.

Where to stay: I stayed at Hotel Brisa , which is located right near Riazor Beach (some of the hotel’s rooms also offer beach views). Read reviews and book it here. A higher-rated option is Hotel Lois .

Places I Wish I Hadn’t Missed in Northern Spain

My northern Spain bucket list is huge (I even had to skip out on regions like La Rioja And Navarre on my trip), but here are a few of the top places I wish I hadn’t missed.

Potes, Cantabria

Situated on the Cantabrian side of the Picos de Europa National Park, Potes is a village that seems like an ideal stop on a road trip.

Not only is it surrounded by the mountainous scenery of the park, but it also has an old quarter with centuries-old houses and landmarks.

I love places that combine historical and traditional architecture with nature, so Potes would have probably been right up my alley.

For that reason, I would have also loved to visit  Barcena Mayor , considered the oldest village in Cantabria.

Playa Del Silencio, Asturias

The untamed coastline of northern Spain boasts hundreds of picture-perfect beaches, but the one that got my attention was Playa del Silencio (also known as Playa de Gavieiru).

It is a part of the Protected Landscape of the Western Coast of Asturias and is considered one of the most beautiful beaches in the region.

I honestly don’t know why I didn’t include it in my itinerary because it’s located right between Cudillero and Luarca.

Somiedo Natural Park, Asturias

Road-tripping through the Picos de Europa National Park was an incredible experience, so I wish I had time to visit Somiedo Natural Park, another notable natural space in the area.

There’s a lot to do in this park, but I would have loved to see its lakes (Lagos de Saliencia and Lago del Valle) and visit its  brañas , which are groups of  teitos , traditional stone huts with straw roofs once used as houses by shepherds.

Lugo, Galicia

Being the only city in the world surrounded by intact Roman walls (which were listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site), Lugo is literally one of a kind.

In addition, the 12th-century Lugo Cathedral is a well-known stop on the Camino Primitivo (one of the paths of the Camino de Santiago).

If these famous Spanish landmarks are not enough, the entire historic center seems like a wonderful place to explore. 

Cape Finisterre, Galicia

What makes the rugged Cape Finisterre (Cabo Fisterra in Galician) intriguing to me is that the Romans believed it was the ‘end of the earth’ ( Finis Terrae  in Latin).

It’s actually close to being Europe’s westernmost point, but that title goes to Cabo da Roca in Portugal.

That said, its 19th-century lighthouse IS the westernmost in Europe, and the entire peninsula is a popular destination on the Camino de Santiago.

Other Spain Travel Guides

Read more about Spain:

  • Best Spanish road trips (including a road trip itinerary for southern Spain )
  • Long weekend breaks in Spain
  • 55 things you need to know before visiting Spain
  • Novels set in Spain
  • Spain themed gifts
  • Spain travel quotes
  • Unusual things to do in Barcelona

Read more on European road trips:

  • Best road trips in Portugal
  • Lisbon to Porto road trip
  • Northern Portugal road trip
  • Best road trips in Italy
  • Best road trips from Milan
  • Northern Italy road trip
  • Northwest Italy road trip itinerary

When are you planning on visiting northern Spain ? Tell me in the comments and pin this northern Spain travel guide for later using the share icon on the right bottom corner!

About Or Amir

Hey, I'm Or! I'm a passionate traveler with a severe coffee, chocolate, and pastry addiction (or any other carb for that matter). I'm always planning my next trip to Spain, Italy, or any other country in Europe, and my goal is to help you make the most of each destination.

18 thoughts on “20 Beautiful Places to Visit in Northern Spain on a Road Trip”

Northern Spain is absolutely amazing!! Delicious food all around, long beaches, green forests, plenty of outdoor activities with breathtaking views… The perfect holiday destination!

Couldn’t agree more!

Hi Or, Great post, lots of useful information! Looking for my trip to the area 😎

Thank you! Let me know if you have any questions 🙂

Do you have a map of your Northern Spain Roadtrip?

Hey, Becky! I’ve added a map – I hope it helps 🙂

I love your recommendations! But I keep my land Asturias! Although luckily in Spain we have some fantastic places to not get bored. Regards

Thanks, Sergio! I agree, it’s impossible to get bored in Spain 🙂

Amazing post! I have been to Southern Spain last year & I really enjoyed it. However, your blog is making me think whether I should’ve visited Northern Spain as it does feature some beautiful tourist attractions. I’ll share this blog with my wife & we’ll then see if we want to Apply for Spain Visa to explore these alluring attractions. Keep sharing such helpful information about other European countries as well.

Thank you and you should most definitely visit northern Spain too 🙂

Hi Or you post is great. Booked to visit northern Spain beginning of August starting off in Burgos but your post has wetted out appetite you have covered all the sort of places we like and in great detail, learnt more from your post than dozens of other offerings. Thanks

Thanks, Russell! This is what I’ve managed to see on my road trip and that’s after somehow prioritizing which places to visit in each region (mission impossible), so I’m happy you find this post inspiring and helpful 🙂

Thank you so much for this post. Can you let me know how much time you allocated to this trip if you were to do in one hit ?

You’re welcome, Lisa! I’m happy this is helpful. This road trip took me about 9 days. I’d say you need at least say 9-10 days to enjoy each and every place. Plus, it’s a lot of distance to cover since this route goes through several regions.

my daughter is attending her first semester of college in Valencia. thank you so much for the blog it has really helped with planning my trip there to see her in October

Thank you so much, Michelle! I’m really happy to know my blog was helpful! I hope you have a great time in Valencia 🙂

I haven’t been to Spain yet but your photos are making me itch to go! Especially Cudillero – it looks adorable!

Spain is incredible, and there are so many places to visit 🙂 Cudillero is such a charming village, and you should definitely go someday!

*Your emil address will not be published. By using this form you agree with the storage and handling of your data by this website

Leave a Comment Cancel reply

Save my name, email, and website in this browser for the next time I comment.

Hi, I'm Or!

I'm a passionate traveler obsessed with traveling in Europe and discovering hidden gems in each place I visit. For me, it's not about ticking destinations off the bucket list but experiencing each one of them to the fullest. Read more about me and my story.

northern spain places to visit

San Sebastián, cities in northern spain

10 Best Places to Visit in Northern Spain | Itineraries + Map

Home | Travel | Europe | Spain | 10 Best Places to Visit in Northern Spain | Itineraries + Map

When traveling abroad, get a policy from one of the  best travel insurance companies . You can get a  15% discount   on Heymondo , the only insurance that pays medical bills upfront for you, HERE! (ONLY TIL JUNE 30TH)

Deciding where to go and what to see in northern Spain is no easy feat. There are so many beautiful places worth visiting, so your itinerary will depend on your interests and the length of your trip. Regardless, I can assure you that the north of Spain is full of green landscapes and delicious food, so you won’t be disappointed.

The biggest challenge when traveling in northern Spain is choosing a route since there are different autonomous communities you can go through. The northern part of the country generally refers to the regions of Galicia , Asturias , Cantabria , and the Basque Country , so those are the areas I’m focusing on in this guide.

Each of these communities has lovely places and attractions, so keep reading to discover the best northern Spain itinerary and travel ideas.

Guide to planning your northern Spain road trip

There are numerous beaches, mountains, and cities in northern Spain ’s four autonomous communities, so I recommend planning ahead. This way, you can make the most of your trip and see all the places that match your interests and preferences.

In this guide, I’ll include several itineraries through the north of Spain to help you organize a route through this region. You’ll find travel ideas for a weekend getaway as well as longer trips up to two weeks. I’m also sharing some tips for your vacation and my top 10 best places to visit in northern Spain .

  • 10 Best places to visit in northern Spain

Northern Spain map

  • Weekend getaway
  • 10-day trip
  • 15-day trip
  • Other tips for traveling to northern Spain

1. Bilbao, one of the best cities in northern Spain

First, Bilbao is one of the most popular cities in northern Spain , so it’s a must-see. It’s located in the Basque Country and has undergone some impressive changes in recent years, making it a hub for culture and history.

One of the crown jewels of Bilbao is the Guggenheim Museum , which was designed by famous architect Frank Gehry. In addition to its iconic façade, floral puppy sculpture, and unique structure, the inside of the museum is full of intriguing contemporary art exhibits. If you plan on visiting, I recommend getting your tickets in advance to avoid long lines.

Bilbao, cities in northern spain

Besides the Guggenheim, I also suggest watching the sunset from the Marzana Pier, a fun place to socialize and grab drinks. You should also stroll through the Arenal, La Ribera Market, and the arches of Plaza Nueva.

You can get a general overview of the city by taking this free tour . Also, Bilbao has some of the best food in northern Spain , so I recommend going out for pintxos , or tapas. Some common pintxos here include gilda (green olives, gherkins, pickled green chiles, and anchovies) as well as various cheeses and meats.

  • Recommended accommodation : If you can, book a room at the Gran Hotel Domine Bilbao , one of the best 5-star hotels in Spain that’s located in front of the Guggenheim Museum. It was designed by Spanish artist Javier Mariscal and has a spectacular rooftop terrace overlooking the city.

2. San Sebasti án, a city with some of the best food in northern Spain

Another city in northern Spain ’s Basque Country that you must visit is San Sebastián . It’s always included in the top 5 lists of the most beautiful cities in Spain , and it’s not hard to see why.

One of the most striking features of San Sebastián is that its bay is framed by Mount Igueldo and the island of Santa Clara. This city is home to a couple of urban beaches as well as Playa de la Concha , one of the best beaches in Spain . So, if you’re traveling during the summer, this is a stop you must make along the north coast of Spain .

San Sebastián, cities in northern spain

2. San Sebastián, a city with some of the best food in northern Spain

While you’re here, I recommend taking a stroll along the Zurriola Beach Promenade. Follow it around Monte Urgull, along the Paseo Nuevo, and cross the bay to Ondarreata Beach. There, you can see the Peine del Viento , an impressive sculpture by Spanish artists Eduardo Chillida and Peña Gantxegi.

It’s also worth visiting the city center, which is full of plazas, bridges, buildings, and restaurants. In fact, San Sebastián is another great place to eat in northern Spain , thanks to its delicious pintxos . The best way to sample all the delicious options is by taking this gourmet pintxos tour .

  • Recommended accommodation : This city is home to one of the best luxury hotels in Spain that has welcomed famous faces like Woody Allen and Elizabeth Taylor. The Hotel María Cristina, a Luxury Collection Hotel is across from the Victoria Eugenia Theater and offers stunning views of the Cantabrian Sea and the Urumea River, so it’s a phenomenal place to stay.

3. Cudillero, one of the most charming places in northern Spain

Over in Asturias, Cudillero is considered one of the most beautiful towns in Spain , so I highly recommend adding it to your northern Spain itinerary . The town’s biggest draw is its unique landscape, which features colorful houses nestled around the blue sea and among the green trees.

Cudillero, best things to do in northern spain

In addition, the nearby community of Castañeras is home to Playa del Silencio , one of the best beaches in Spain with virgin sands and a rustic environment. It’s in the shape of a shell that curves around a rocky cliff, which acts as a natural barrier against the wind. This makes the waters here very calm, so it’s a pleasant beach in northern Spain that you can visit for some peace and quiet.

  • Recommended accommodation : Stay at Casona de La Paca , an old Asturian country house with a welcoming atmosphere. It’s surrounded by lush gardens filled with the typical vegetation of Asturias, so it’s a relaxing place to rest before continuing your trip.

4. Santiago de Compostela, a must-see on your route through the north of Spain

If there’s one thing in the north of Spain that you must do at least once in your life, it’s the Camino de Santiago . This is one of the most important hikes in Spain and a sacred pilgrimage that ends in Santiago de Compostela in Galicia.

This city is the perfect place to end such a monumental hike, as it’s full of history and religious significance. One of its most iconic landmarks is its cathedral, which was built at the site where the hidden tomb of the Apostle Santiago was discovered in the 9 th century. Since then, devout followers have been making the pilgrimage here, and in 1805, King Alfonso VI ordered that a Romanesque cathedral be built. You can learn more about the Santiago Cathedral on this guided tour .

Santiago de Compostela, northern spain road trip

I also suggest you go to the Church of San Martiño Pinario, Alameda Park, and the Plaza de Cervantes, as well as stop at some of the bars and restaurants for some delicious Galician food. Another excellent city tour is this one , which goes to sites like the Palacio de Rajoy, the Plaza de Laterías, and the University of Santiago.

  • Recommended accommodation : Stay at the Parador de Santiago – Hostal Reis Católicos , a beautiful 15 th -century building next to the Santiago Cathedral. It used to be an accommodation for traveling pilgrims, and it still has its original vaulted ceilings, stone arches, and tapestries. It also has two restaurants where you can order Mediterranean and Galician dishes.

5. The Lakes of Covadonga, another place to visit in northern Spain

While you’re exploring the northern region of Spain , you can’t miss the Picos de Europa. Not only is this one of the top national parks in Spain, but it’s also home to the Lakes of Covadonga , a magnificent natural treasure.

If you love nature, I can’t recommend this place enough since it has the most beautiful landscapes in the north of Spain . The famous Enol and Ercina Lakes are gorgeous, and the Queen Viewpoint is the perfect spot to look for native birds like bearded vultures and golden eagles.

Lakes of Covadonga, best things to do in northern spain

Also, some of the best tours through the north of Spain leave from the Lakes of Covadonga, so if you want to discover more about this incredible environment, you can do so. I recommend this excursion , which includes a visit to a vega , a dwelling where shepherds live during the summer to rest and make Gamoneu cheese, a famous product of this area.

  • Recommended accommodation : The Arcea Gran Hotel Pelayo is in the center of the Picos de Europa National Park, so it’s a good place to spend the night. From here, you’ll have nice views of the Cathedral of Covadonga.

6. Santillana del Mar, a medieval town in the north of Spain

Santillana del Mar is another one of the best places to visit in northern Spain . While its name refers to the town being holy, flat, and by the sea, it has none of these characteristics, which is why it’s also known as “the town of the three lies”. That said, there is a lot to do and see in this Asturian town, so I recommend adding it to your northern Spain itinerary .

First, this is one of the most important medieval towns in the country, with thousands of years of history. The best way to learn more about its great historical and artistic value is by taking this free tour (in Spanish). A guide will lead you through the cobbled streets and past iconic landmarks like the House of the Marqués de Santillana and the House of the Archduchess of Austria.

Santillana del Mar, northern spain weather

If you prefer something more adventurous, check out the Altamira Museum and the Neocave, a life-size replica of the original Paleolithic caves. This excursion includes a guided tour of the archaeological wonder, its cave paintings, and other curiosities.

  • Recommended accommodation : To make your stay extra special, stay at the Parador de Santillana Gil Blas , one of the best paradores in Spain . This modern hotel is in the town’s main square and has a private patio.

7. Playa de las Catedrales, one of the best beaches in northern Spain

The northern coast of Spain is absolutely gorgeous, and it has one of the most unique beaches in the entire country. Playa de las Catedrales in Lugo, Galicia is considered one of the best beaches in Spain , so you must include it in your travel plans.

Playa de las Catedrales is one of the most popular tourist attractions in northern Spain , so much so that it’s known by its nickname rather than its original name of Aguas Santas (Holy Waters). Tourists began calling it the “Beach of the Cathedrals” since the gigantic rock formations here create arches and towers that resemble churches.

Playa de las Catedrales, beaches in northern spain

If you want to visit this beach in northern Spain but if you don’t have a car, consider this excursion from La Coruña. It’ll take you to Playa de las Catedrales as well as the city of Lugo so you can see its Roman wall.

  • Recommended accommodation : Stay at the Hotel Playa de las Catedrales , which faces the Cantabrian Sea and is within walking distance of Playa de las Catedrales and Arealonga Beach.

8. San Juan de Gaztelugatxe, an amazing place to see in northern Spain

Back in the Basque Country, in the town of Bermeo, the island of San Juan de Gaztelugatxe is a unique place to add to your northern Spain road trip . This gorgeous setting looks like a fantasy land, and it kind of is since it was one of the filming locations for Game of Thrones .

The island is connected to the mainland by a stone bridge, and you can walk along the 241-stepped path to reach the top. It’s worth the effort to climb these famous stone steps, which lead to a hermitage and a place that’s believed to have been visited by John the Baptist. The hermitage has a bell, and it’s said that if you touch it three times, you’ll have good luck, while others think that if you make a wish here, it’ll come true.

San Juan de Gaztelugatxe, northern spain itinerary

San Juan de Gaztelugatxe is just over 20 miles from Bilbao, another must-see city in northern Spain . You can easily drive there or take this tour from Bilbao if you don’t have a car. The tour includes a stop at the historic city of Guernica, where the first Nazi air raid occurred.

  • Recommended accommodation : The Ureta Landa Gaztelugatxe apartments are a good option since they are surrounded by a beautiful landscape and are located just over a mile from Areaga Beach.

9. C íes Islands, a dreamy place to visit on the coast of northern Spain

Another wonderful stop to include on your itinerary through northern Spain is the Cíes Islands . These islands have a privileged location in Galicia and are full of history and beauty.

Back when the Romans passed through this archipelago, they left behind traces of their culture, including pottery and artifacts. Today, you can see these objects in the Pontevedra Museum along the Lérez River in Galicia. Legend has it that Julius Caesar came here during the persecution of the Portuguese people of herminios, who sailed here after fleeing the troops of the Empire.

Cíes Islands, most beautiful places in northern spain

9. Cíes Islands, a dreamy place to visit on the coast of northern Spain

In the Middle Ages, various religious communities began to inhabit the Cíes Islands, but they were wiped out in the mid-18 th century by pirates and the English navy. After this, people began repopulating the island, and by the late 20 th century, the area had become a declared Natural Park and a Special Protection Area for Birds.

Since 2002, the Cíes Islands have been part of the Atlantic Islands of Galicia National Park, along with the archipelagos of Ons, Sálvora, and Cortegada. If you come here, you must visit Playa de Rodas , one of the best beaches in northern Spain with impressive pine forests. Be aware that only 2,200 people can visit per day, so it’s best to book this ticket in advance, which includes the ferry ride and permit to access the beach.

  • Recommended accommodation : Stay at the Pazo Los Escudos Hotel Spa & Resort , which offers ocean and garden views as well as relaxing spa facilities.

10. San Vicente de la Barquera, the perfect place for a northern Spain holiday

Finally, San Vicente de la Barquera is a spectacular destination in northern Spain that you should visit. This fishing village is on the western coast of Cantabria and is surrounded by one of the most beautiful landscapes in the country.

What stands out about this place is its medieval history and architecture, including the Puente de la Maza and the ruins of the Convent of San Luis. You should also check out the old town ( Puebla Vieja ), which has been declared a Historic-Artistic Site.

San Vicente de la Barquera, north of spain tours

From there, you can continue along Calle Alta to the Palacio de los Corro, which has been converted into the Town Hall. The Church of Santa María de Los Angeles is at the end of the street, and the Castillo del Rey is also nearby.

Of course, a different way to explore this northern Spanish town is by taking this kayaking excursion through the San Vicente estuary. You’ll get great views of the historic town center while enjoying some exercise.

  • Recommended accommodation : Just over a mile from the town center, you’ll find the Posada Punta Liñera . This charming rural property has a terrace overlooking the countryside, the Bay of Biscay, and the beautiful surroundings of Cantabria .

To help you organize your northern Spain itinerary , here is a map with all the attractions and cities I mentioned:

I’m also sharing some ideas for planning a road trip through northern Spain , whether you just have a weekend, or you can stay for a couple of weeks .

Best road trip itineraries in northern Spain

Now that you know the best places to visit in northern Spain , here are some itinerary suggestions for a weekend trip and longer road trips of 4, 7, 10, and 15 days .

Weekend trip to northern Spain

For the best weekend visit in northern Spain , consider spending some time exploring the Basque Country. Below you’ll find the route we took during one of our trips.

Day 1: Bilbao

Bilbao is one of the best cities in northern Spain ’s Basque Country, so I definitely recommend adding it to your itinerary. It’s not very big, so you should be able to see most of it in one day.

If you prefer a guided overview of the city, consider doing this free tour in the morning. If you’re exploring on your own, check out the Guggenheim Museum. It’s worth seeing both the outside and inside of the museum, so book your ticket in advance to avoid long lines.

In the afternoon, walk along the water toward Casco Viejo, where you can see the beautiful Arriaga Theater. This area is also full of bars and restaurants where you can try the most delicious pintxos .

I also recommend visiting La Ribera Market and the Santiago Cathedral, then ending your day in Plaza Nueva.

  • Recommended accommodation : Stay at the Gran Hotel Domine Bilbao , one of the best 5-star hotels in Spain that’s across from the Guggenheim Museum.

Day 2: San Sebastián

The next day, get up early and head to San Sebastián , another lovely city in northern Spain . It’s about 60 miles away, so it’ll take about an hour and 15 minutes to drive there.

Once you reach San Sebastián, check out the Zurriola Beach Promenade and walk around Monte Urgull and Paseo Nuevo. From there, you can cross the bay to Ondarreta Beach, where you’ll find the Peine del Viento sculpture.

Then, head into the city center and discover its plazas, bridges, and buildings. It’s also worth doing this gourmet pintxos tour to try some delicious food. Also, a visit to San Sebastián isn’t complete without a stop at La Concha Beach, one of the best beaches in Spain .

  • Recommended accommodation : You’ll love the Hotel María Cristina , one of the most luxurious hotels in northern Spain with great views of the Cantabrian Sea and the Urumea River.

4-day trip through the north of Spain

If you have a couple more days to add to your itinerary through northern Spain , you’ll be able to discover some of the charming areas in Cantabria and Asturias.

Day 1: Santander and San Vicente de la Barquera

Start your northern Spain road trip in Santander , Cantabria with a tour of the Magdalena Peninsula. Then, continue along the Sardinero to see the most beautiful beaches in Santander, including Mataleñas Beach and the Cabo Mayor Lighthouse. Finish up the morning with a visit to the Botín Center and the Paseo Marítimo.

For the second half of the day, go to San Vicente de la Barquera , which is about 35 miles (30 minutes) from Santander.

Start your visit here by crossing the Puente de la Maza to the ruins of the Convent of San Luis. Then, follow Mata Linares Street to the Puebla Vieja (old town) and see the Tower of the Provost. Along Calle Alta, you can see the Palacio de los Corro, which is now the Town Hall, as well as the Church of Santa María de Los Angeles. If you have time, go to the Castillo del Rey.

  • Recommended accommodation : Stay at the Posada Punta Liñera , a rural estate that’s a mile from San Vicente de la Barquera’s city center. It has a lovely terrace that overlooks the countryside and the Bay of Biscay.

Day 2: Llanes and its beaches

After spending the night in San Vicente de la Barquera, get up early and head to Llanes , Asturias. It’s 25 miles away, so it’s only about a 30-minute drive.

Take this opportunity to visit beautiful Gulpiyuri Beach, one of the best beaches in Spain and one of the smallest beaches in the world. It’s also worth seeing Playa de Poo, a family-friendly beach with gentle waves.

In the afternoon, you can visit the port of Llanes and its famous Cubes of Memory, which are painted rocks that serve as a breakwater. Then, take a walk through Llanes’ historic center, which is an Asset of Cultural Interest and a Historic-Artistic Site. Later, enjoy a nice dinner to end your day.

  • Recommended accommodation: One of the best places to stay is the Hotel Sablón , which is located on a cliff. Along with lovely views, it offers direct beach access.

Day 3: Ribadesella, Lastres, and Tazones

The next stop on this northern Spain road trip is Ribadesella . It’s also in Asturias, and it takes less than 30 minutes to drive the 20 miles to Ribadesella from Llanes.

Once you arrive, head to the pier where you can take a stroll along the water and through the old town. Check out the Casa de los Ardines, the Casona del Escudo, and the Prieto Cutre Palace, which is now the Town Hall.

Before lunch, I suggest going to Lastres , one of the most beautiful towns in Spain that’s about 20 miles from Ribadesella. It’s known for its steep and narrow streets as well as the Mirador de San Roque, an incredible viewpoint where you can see the town, the sea, and the mountains.

Then, end the day at Tazones , which is less than 20 miles from Lastres. You must walk through the town center and see the iconic shell house (Casa de las Conchas).

  • Recommended accommodation : The Apartamentos Rurales Les Mestes has super cozy rooms in a peaceful area of Tazones.

Day 4: Cangas de Onís and Lakes of Covadonga

To start the fourth day of your northern Spain itinerary , go to Cangas de Onís in Asturias. It’s about 45 miles (1 hour) from Tazones, so I recommend getting up early to maximize your time.

The highlights of this city include the Roman Bridge and the old town, where you can people-watch and relax at a cider house ( sagardotegi ), a staple of Basque Country culture.

Then, go to the Lakes of Covadonga , the most beautiful place in northern Spain to end your trip. The Lakes of Covadonga is one of the best national parks in Spain and home to magnificent natural wonders like the Enol and Ercina Lakes. You must explore this impressive landscape, and if you prefer a guide, I suggest this excursion .

  • Recommended accommodation : I highly recommend staying at the Arcea Gran Hotel Pelayo , which is in the middle of the Picos de Europa National Park and overlooks the stunning Covadonga Cathedral.

7-day northern Spain road trip

A 7-day itinerary through northern Spain is ideal if you want to explore the areas of the Basque Country, Cantabria, and Asturias. You can see my top destinations and recommendations below, but feel free to change things around to suit your travel plans.

Day 1: Hondarribia and San Sebastián

I’d start this trip through the north of Spain in Hondarribia , in the Basque Country. If you have a rental car, you can park it in the lot by the Puerta de Santa María, then walk into the walled city to see landmarks like Plaza del Obispo, Calle Mayor, and Plaza de Armas.

In the afternoon, head to San Sebastián , which is about a 30-minute (15-mile) drive away. San Sebastián is one of the most charming Spanish cities with an impressive town center. It’s also home to some of Spain’s best beaches , including La Concha Beach.

  • Recommended accommodation : The best place to stay in is the Hotel María Cristina , one of the best luxury hotels in Spain . it’s across from the Victoria Eugenia Theater and offers great views of the Cantabrian Sea and the Urumea River.

The next day, take some time to explore the hidden gems of San Sebastián. Walk along Zurriola Beach and go around Monte Urgull. If you follow the Paseo Nuevo and cross the bay, you’ll find Ondarreata Beach and the Peine del Viento sculpture by Spanish artists Eduardo Chillida and Peña Gantxegi.

Afterwards, you can go back to the town center to enjoy some delicious pintxos and Spanish cuisine. This gourmet tour is the best option if you want to try all the typical pintxos of this region.

  • Recommended accommodation : Return to the Hotel María Cristina for a good night’s sleep before continuing your northern Spain road trip .

Day 3: Bilbao

For day three, wake up early and make the drive to Bilbao , one of the best cities in northern Spain . It’s about 65 miles away, so it’ll take about an hour and 15 minutes by car.

Check out the famous Guggenheim Museum and its stunning exterior, which was designed by architect Frank Gehry. It’s also worth browsing the art exhibits inside, so if you plan on visiting, get your ticket in advance.

I also recommend going past the Arenal, La Ribera Market, and the arches of Plaza Nueva. Depending on your interests, it’s worth doing a pintxos tasting or taking this free tour for more insights into the city.

To end your day, you must watch the sunset from the Marzana Pier. It’s a dreamy location where you can spend a romantic evening with your partner and grab a drink.

  • Recommended accommodation : If you can, book a room at the Gran Hotel Domine Bilbao , one of the best 5-star hotels in Spain . It was designed by Spanish architect Javier Mariscal and has an impressive rooftop terrace where you can see the city and its surroundings.

Day 4: Santillana del Mar and Comillas

To start this fourth day of your northern Spain trip , get up early and make your way to Santillana del Mar in Cantabria. It’s 75 miles away, so it’s about a 1.5-hour drive.

Santillana del Mar is a medieval Spanish town with lots of historical and artistic value. You’ll love strolling through its cobblestone streets and past picturesque landmarks like the House of the Marqués de Santillana or the Palace of the Archduchess Margarita of Austria. If you have time, book this free tour (in Spanish) or this guided tour to visit the Altamira Museum and Neocave.

Next, continue your journey by visiting the beautiful town of Comillas , which is about a 20-minute (15-mile) drive away. Don’t miss the most important monuments here like the Plaza de los Tres Caños, the Plaza de la Constitución, the Church of San Cristóbal, and the Capricho Villa by Gaudí.

  • Recommended accommodation : I suggest returning to Santillana del Mar and spending the night at the Parador de Santillana Gil Blas , a modern hotel in the main square.

Day 5: Llanes and Ribadesella

If you spent the night in Santillana del Mar, then you can wake up early and drive to Llanes , Asturias. It’s about 40 miles away, so the drive takes about 45 minutes. Once you reach Llanes, check out the port and see the famous Cubes of Memory along the shoreline. Then, take a walk through the old town, which is a declared Historic-Artistic Site and Asset of Cultural Interest.

Grab some lunch, then drive to Ribadesella , which is just 20 miles from Llanes. You should have enough time to stroll along the pier and see the most famous sights in Ribadesella’s old town.

  • Recommended accommodation : Stay at the Hotel Don Pepe in Ribadesella, a clean hotel with bright and spacious rooms.

Day 6: Cudillero and Luarca

Next, it’s time to visit Cudillero , a must-see area of northern Spain . It’s about 70 miles from Ribadesella, so I suggest getting up early to make the 1 hour and 15-minute drive.

Cudillero is one of the most beautiful towns in Spain and is located on a cliff, so it’s quite scenic. Go up to the La Garita Viewpoint for an amazing perspective of the town, then spend some time exploring the narrow streets of the center. Make your way to the Plaza de la Marina, where you can grab a bite to eat and see the port.

Since Cudillero is pretty small, you should have time to also visit Luarca , which is less than 30 minutes away. This is another charming Spanish town with a bustling port. Take a walk through this small seaside town and discover the Puente del Beso, the Casas de Indianos, and the Gardens of the Fonte Baxa.

  • Recommended accommodation : The Hotel Villa de Luarca is an elegant accommodation with a great location by the town center and the beach.

Day 7: Ribadeo, Playa de las Catedrales, and A Coruña

For the last day of this week-long holiday in northern Spain , go to Ribadeo , which is 30 miles from Luarca and a 30-minute drive away.

One of the sites here that you can’t miss is the Plaza de España. It’s where several iconic buildings and monuments are located, such as the Pazo de Ibáñez and the Torre de los Moreno. Some other places to see in town include the Convent of Santa Clara, the lively port, and the Chapel of San Miguel, which has lovely views.

Also, before leaving Ribadeo, you must visit Playa de las Catedrales , a National Monument and one of the top beaches in Spain . Then, get in the car and head to A Coruña , which is about an hour and a half (95 miles) away.

There are many beautiful things to see in this city, so I suggest taking this free tour (in Spanish) to see as much as possible. You could also visit the historic center on your own and check out popular sites like the Galerías la Marina, the Plaza de María Pita, and the Jardines de Santiago.

  • Recommended accommodation : The NH Collection A Coruña Finisterre has a great location that’s within walking distance of the center and some of the city’s main attractions.

10-day itinerary for northern Spain

With 10 days in northern Spain , you can expand your itinerary to include the Basque Country, Cantabria, Asturias, and Galicia.

Day 1: San Sebastián

San Sebastián is one of the most beautiful Spanish cities , as well as an excellent starting point for your northern Spain itinerary . Begin your visit with a stroll along Zurriola Beach, then go around Monte Urgull and follow the Paseo Nuevo to Ondarreta Beach. There, you can see the famous Peine del Viento sculpture.

Continue your adventure by walking through the city center and getting lost among the streets, squares, bridges, and historical buildings. To all this, I must add La Concha Beach, one of the best beaches in Spain . I also recommend this gourmet tour , especially if you want to try the most popular pintxos in San Sebastián.

  • Recommended accommodation : Stay at the Hotel María Cristina , one of the best 5-star hotels in Spain that’s across from the Victoria Eugenia Theater. Not only is the inside gorgeous, but you’ll have great views of the Cantabrian Sea and the Urumea River.

Day 2: Bilbao

Bilbao is another city in northern Spain that you can easily explore on foot, and you can see all its main tourist attractions in one day. It’s 65 miles from San Sebastián, so I recommend waking up early to make the one hour and 15-minute drive.

Start your visit to Bilbao with this free tour , or check out the famous Guggenheim Museum . It was built by famed architect Frank Gehry and is known for its floral puppy sculpture out front. If you plan on looking at the art exhibits inside, I suggest getting your ticket in advance.

Afterwards, head toward the estuary and follow it to the Casco Viejo, where you can see the Arriaga Theater. It’s also worth visiting La Ribera Market, the Santiago Cathedral, and Plaza Nueva. Along the way, be sure to stop for delectable pintxos .

  • Recommended accommodation : Stay at the Gran Hotel Domine Bilbao , one of the best 5-star hotels in Spain . It was designed by Spanish architect Javier Mariscal and is in front of the Guggenheim Museum.

Day 3: Castro Urdiales, Faro del Caballo, and Santander

The third day of this northern Spain road trip begins with a visit to Castro Urdiales , a city in Cantabria with beautiful beaches, a lively port, and an interesting old town. It’s just 20 miles from Bilbao, so it’ll only take about a half hour to drive there.

After spending the morning discovering Castro Urdiales, make your way to Santander, stopping at the Faro del Caballo along the way. This picturesque place is located between some seaside cliffs, and it’s about 25 from Castro Urdiales. Be aware that if you make this pitstop and climb the 763 steps of the cliffs, it’ll cut into your time at Santander, which is 30 miles from here.

Regardless of whether or not you take this detour, you should get to Santander with enough time to walk through the Sardinero and enjoy a cold beer at the Cabo Mayor Lighthouse, which offers stunning views.

  • Recommended accommodation : The NH Ciudad de Santander is a simple, clean hotel with a great location, so it’s a good value for your money.

Day 4: Santillana del Mar, Altamira Caves, and Comillas

For day four, I suggest making a stop in Santillana del Mar , where you can see the famous Cuevas de Altamira , one of the most important Paleolithic sites in the world. Santillana del Mar is an intriguing medieval town in northern Spain that’s less than 20 miles from Santander, so it’ll only take a half hour to get there.

Use your time in Santillana del Mar to visit the Collegiate Church of Santa Juliana, Plaza Mayor, and the historic town center, which is characterized by cobblestone streets and small mountain homes. You can either do this free tour to learn more about the city, or this guided tour , which takes you to the Altamira Museum and the Neocave.

Later, make the 20-minute drive to Comillas , one of the most scenic towns in Cantabria. Here, you can see one of the few works by Gaudí that’s outside of Catalonia, the Capricho Villa. Some other highlights of this city include the Sobrellano Palace, the Chapel Pantheon of the Marquises of Comillas, and the historic center, where you’ll find the Fuente de los Tres Caños (the Fountain of the Three Pipes).

I recommend returning back to Santillana del Mar to spend the night.

  • Recommended accommodation : Stay at the Parador de Santillana Gil Blas , a modern hotel located in the main square.

Day 5: Cabezón de la Sal Sequoia Forest, Llanes, and its beaches

If you spent the night in Santillana del Mar, you’ll be less than 20 minutes from the Cabezón de la Sal Sequoia Forest . This is one of the best places to visit in northern Spain , especially for nature lovers, as the redwoods here reach up to 130 feet tall. The route through the forest takes about two hours and is absolutely breathtaking.

After your forest trek, go to Llanes , which is just 30 minutes away. This Asturian city is full of beaches and coves, although it also has a lovely historic center. Take some time to enjoy the coast as well as the interesting monuments and buildings in town.

  • Recommended accommodation : Sleep at the Hotel Sablón , a cliffside accommodation with amazing views and direct beach access.

Day 6: Lakes of Covadonga, Covadonga, and Cangas de Onís

Next, it’s best to get up early so you can make the one hour and 20-minute drive to the Lakes of Covadonga with time to spare. This place is within the Picos de Europa National Park, one of the best national parks in Spain and a must-see during your tour of northern Spain .

This natural wonder is full of pristine landscapes, the glacial lakes of Enol and Ercina, as well as incredible attractions like the Sanctuary of Covadonga. This is where you can take a nature walk, breathe the fresh mountain air, and mingle with the grazing cows.

You can visit the Lakes of Covadonga for free, although I like this guided tour since it starts from Cangas de Onís , another place I recommend visiting. There, you can see the old Roman Bridge and the historic center. It’s full of churches and hermitages, most notably the Church of Our Lady of the Assumption of St. Mary and the hermitage of Santa Cruz.

  • Recommended accommodation : The Arcea Gran Hotel Pelayo is in the middle of the Picos de Europa National Park and offers beautiful views of the Covadonga Cathedral, so it’s the perfect place to rest after a full day.

Day 7: Gijón and Oviedo

The next stop is Gijón , which is about 60 miles away, so get up early to make the 1.5-hour drive. Once you get there, start with a walk along San Lorenzo Beach, then go up to the Cerro de Santa Catalina and see the Elogio del Horizonte sculpture over the water.

Later, check out the Cimadevilla neighborhood, the oldest part of the city with interesting sites like the Palacio de Revillagigedo, Plaza del Marqués, and Plaza Mayor. You can also do this free tour (in Spanish) if you prefer a guided walk through the city.

Depending on how much time you have, you can stop by the port or go to Oviedo , which is about a 30-minute drive away. This city in northern Spain is full of historic attractions like El Fontán Square and the Plaza de la Catedral, where you can see the Cathedral of San Salvador.

I also recommend walking through the city center and looking for the interesting statues of famous figures. For example, on Calle Milicias Nacionales, you’ll find a Woody Allen statue, while San Francisco Park has a statue of the Argentine cartoon character Mafalda. Finally, you can’t leave Oviedo without stopping at La Gascona for delicious cider.

  • Recommended accommodation : The beautiful Gran Hotel España is the best place to stay thanks to its spacious rooms and great location by the city center.

Day 8: Ribadeo and Playa de las Catedrales

Ribadeo should be included in any northern Spain itinerary , so don’t miss it. Make sure you get up early so you can drive the 85 miles to Ribadeo from Oviedo, which will take about 1.5 hours.

Among the many attractions here, the Plaza de España stands out. It’s home to two historical monuments, the Pazo de Ibáñez and the Torre de los Moreno. You should also walk through the streets of the city center to see the Convent of Santa Clara and the Chapel of San Miguel, as well as the port.

There are also excellent lookout points here, such as the Ribadeo Watchtower and the Isla Pancha Viewpoint. That said, you should definitely make time to visit Playa de las Catedrales , one of the best beaches in Spain that’s also a National Monument.

  • Recommended accommodation : Stay at the Hotel Playa de las Catedrales , which faces the Cantabrian Sea and is next to Arealonga Beach. Plus, it’s just a ten-minute walk from Playa de las Catedrales.

Day 9: A Coruña

If you’re leaving from Playa de las Catedrales, then make sure you wake up early enough to make the 1.5-hour drive (95 miles) to A Coruña . This city in northern Spain ’s Galicia region is a must-see, and if it’s your first time here, consider taking this free tour .

If you’re visiting the city on your own, I recommend stopping by the promenade, where you can see the Castle of San Antón and the Sculpture Park of the Tower of Hercules. Another iconic site is the Ciudad Vieja, the old part of the city with some of the best tapas.

You’ll also find some of the best beaches in Galicia here, such as Riazor Beach, a beautiful place in northern Spain to go swimming or sunbathing. Finally, I suggest ending your day with a walk around the port and admiring the amazing views of A Coruña from Monte de San Pedro.

  • Recommended accommodation : The NH Collection A Coruña Finisterre has a great location that’s within walking distance of the city center and main attractions.

Day 10: Santiago de Compostela

The last day of this northern Spain itinerary involves a visit to Santiago de Compostela , which is about 50 minutes from A Coruña by car.

Once you reach the city, consider taking this free tour or exploring the tourist attractions on your own. Of course, one of the sites you must see is the Santiago Cathedral, which is the final destination for pilgrims making the trek along the Camino de Santiago, one of the most important hikes in Spain . You can learn all about the secrets of this church by taking this guided tour .

I also recommend roaming the streets of the old city and walking through the Parque de la Alameda, an urban park full of chestnut, eucalyptus, and oak trees. The Mercado de Abastos is a market that’s been around for over a century, so I suggest stopping by to browse or pick up some products. If you like art, the City of Culture of Galicia is a complex of cultural and artistic buildings that you’ll find interesting.

  • Recommended accommodation : Stay at the Parador de Santiago – Hostal Reis Católicos , a beautiful 15 th -century building next to the Santiago Cathedral. It still has some of its original architecture, as well as two delicious restaurants specializing in Mediterranean and Galician food.

15-day road trip through northern Spain

A 15-day road trip through northern Spain is the perfect opportunity to get to know this area of the country in depth. Here is the route I suggest following:

This 15-day northern Spain itinerary begins in Hondarribia in the Basque Country. I recommend leaving your rental car in the parking lot by the Puerta de Santa María and heading into the city on foot. There, you can visit points of interest like Plaza del Obispo, Calle Mayor, and Plaza de Armas.

After strolling through town, head to San Sebastián , which is about a 30-minute (15-mile) drive from Hondarribia. San Sebastián is one of the most beautiful cities in Spain , as well as where you can see La Concha Beach, one of Spain’s best beaches .

  • Recommended accommodation : Stay at the Hotel María Cristina , one of the best luxury hotels in Spain . It’s across from the Victoria Eugenia Theater and offers great views of the Cantabrian Sea and the Urumea River.

Dedicate day two of your tour through northern Spain by exploring the ins and outs of San Sebastián . I recommend going around Monte Urgull, where you’ll find the Paseo Nuevo. If you follow it to the end, you’ll reach Ondarreta Beach and the famous Peine del Viento sculpture.

Continue your visit by spending some time in the city center, which is full of interesting plazas, bridges, and historical buildings. You also can’t leave San Sebastián without trying the typical pintxos , either by stopping at a café or taking this gourmet tour .

  • Recommended accommodation : Spend another night at the Hotel María Cristina , or book this place for your second night if you didn’t stay here the first night.

On day three, wake up early and head to Bilbao , which is 65 miles from San Sebastián, or about a one hour and 15-minute drive away. This is another city in northern Spain that you can explore on foot, so consider taking this free tour to get to know all the main attractions.

Of course, the crown jewel of Bilbao is the Guggenheim Museum , which is known for its floral puppy sculpture and mesmerizing architecture by Frank Gehry. If you want to go inside the museum and peruse the art collection, I recommend getting your tickets in advance.

Afterwards, follow the estuary to the Casco Viejo (old town), where you can see the Arriaga Theater. Some other cool places in Bilbao include La Ribera Market, the Santiago Cathedral, and Plaza Nueva. Of course, be sure to stop and try some pintxos that are typical to Bilbao.

  • Recommended accommodation : Located by the Guggenheim Museum, the Gran Hotel Domine Bilbao is one of the best 5-star hotels in Spain and has a beautiful structure designed by Spanish architect Javier Mariscal.

Day 4: Santander

The next day, take some time to discover the beautiful city of Santander . This free tour is a great introduction to Santander, although you can also explore the city on your own. If you do, I recommend starting with a little tour around the Magdalena Peninsula, one of the most beautiful places in northern Spain .

For your next stop, head to El Sardinero, one of the most popular beaches in Santander. It’s also worth visiting Mataleñas Beach, where you can admire the lovely views from the Cabo Mayor Lighthouse. Another way to get a panoramic perspective of the area is by taking the Río de la Pila funicular.

End your day with a visit to two iconic places in the city, the Botín Center and the Paseo Marítimo.

  • Recommended accommodation : The NH Ciudad de Santander is a simple hotel, but it’s clean, well-located, and a great value for your money.

Day 5: Santillana del Mar and Comillas

Santillana del Mar is a must-see in northern Spain , so for day five of your itinerary, I suggest heading there. This medieval Spanish town is less than 20 miles from Santander, so it’s only about a 30-minute drive.

The Cuevas de Altamira is the most famous attraction in the city, although you should also check out the Collegiate Church of Santa Juliana, Plaza Mayor, and the historic old town, with its cobbled streets and small mountain homes. If you have time, consider this free tour (in Spanish) or this guided tour to the Altamira Museum and Neocave.

That same day, you can go to Comillas since it’s just 12 miles (20 minutes by car) from Santillana del Mar. This city is home to some beautiful structures, like the Sobrellano Palace, the Chapel Pantheon of the Marqueses de Comillas, and the Fuente de Tres Caños (The Fountain of Three Pipes). This is also where you can see one of the few works by Gaudí outside of Catalonia, the Capricho Villa.

  • Recommended accommodation : Return to Santillana del Mar and spend the night at the Parador de Santillana Gil Blas , a modern hotel in the main square.

Day 6: San Vicente de la Barquera and Cueva del Soplao

The sixth day of this northern Spain itinerary begins in San Vicente de la Barquera in Cantabria, just 25 minutes away. I suggest starting your visit here by crossing the Puente de la Maza and seeing the Convent of San Luis, an iconic landmark in the city.

Then, cross the town and follow Mata Linares Street to Puebla Vieja , or the old town. Here, you can see the Provost Tower and the Palacio de los Corro, which is now the Town Hall. If you have time, you can visit the Castillo del Rey, although I highly recommend seeing the Cueva del Soplao . This impressive rock formation is a must-see in northern Spain, and you can book a guided tour and entry ticket here .

  • Recommended accommodation : Spend another night at the Parador de Santillana Gil Blas , which is very close by.

Day 7: Llanes and Ribadesella

If you spent the night at the Parador de Santillana Gil Blas , you’ll be just 45 minutes from Llanes , Asturias, the next stop on this northern Spain road trip .

Llanes is a city that’s full of lovely beaches and coves, although the historic old town is also worth seeing. In fact, it has been declared an Asset of Cultural Interest and a Historic-Artistic Site, so check it out and be sure to see the Cubes of Memory breakwater rocks.

Then, you can grab something to eat and head to Ribadesella , which is 20 miles away. Take a walk through the port and stroll through the old town, which is super scenic and full of historic structures.

  • Recommended accommodation : The Hotel Don Pepe is a nice place to stay with spacious rooms and a good location.

Day 8: Gijón

For day eight, drive to Gijón , Asturias, which is 40 miles, or about 45 minutes, from Ribadesella. You can start your visit here with this free tour (in Spanish) or by exploring on your own. There are lots of cool places to check out, such as San Lorenzo Beach, the Cerro de Santa Catalina, and the Elogio del Horizonte, a sculpture by the water.

Then, journey into the Cimadevilla neighborhood, the oldest part of the city where you can see Revillagigedo Palace, Plaza del Marqués, and Plaza Mayor. To end the day, go to the port and Poniente Beach, where you can watch one of the most beautiful sunsets in the north of Spain .

  • Recommended accommodation : Hotel Begoña is quite basic, but it’s clean, comfortable, and situated in the heart of the city.

Day 9: Oviedo

Oviedo is another city in northern Spain you can’t miss, and it’s only 30 minutes from Gijón. Among the many attractions here, the Plaza del Fontán, the Plaza de la Catedral, and the Cathedral of San Salvador stand out.

I also suggest going into the city center and looking for some of the interesting statues here, like those of Woody Allen or the Argentine character Mafalda. The former is on Calle Milicias Nacionales, while the latter is in San Francisco Park, another place in Oviedo you should spend some time at.

Moreover, Oviedo is home to three pre-Romanesque churches that you should see: Santa María del Naranco, San Miguel de Lillo, and San Julián de los Prados. If you feel like going shopping, you’ll find all kinds of goodies on Calle Uría, and for the most delicious food, go to La Gascona.

  • Recommended accommodation : The Gran Hotel España is one of the best places to stay. In addition to its spacious, beautiful rooms, it’s close to the city center and several tourist attractions.

Day 10: Cudillero and Luarca

Cudillero is a beautiful Asturian town situated on a cliff, making it one of the best places to visit in northern Spain . It’s about 40 miles from Oviedo, so wake up early in the morning and make the 45-minute drive to this gorgeous city.

Once you arrive, go to the La Garita Viewpoint for a spectacular overview of the town. Then, head down into the city center and walk among the narrow streets as you make your way to Plaza de la Marina. This is one of the liveliest areas of Cudillero with numerous bars and restaurants.

Check out the port, then make the 30-minute drive to Luarca , another lovely city in northern Spain . Here, you can stroll through the town center and see the most popular attractions, such as the Puente del Beso, the Casas de Indianos, and the Jardines de la Fonte Baxa.

  • Recommended accommodation : The Hotel Villa de Luarca is an elegant hotel with a great location by the town center and the beach.

Day 11: Ribadeo and Playa de las Catedrales

Spend the next day visiting Ribadeo , another beautiful city in the north of Spain that’s just 30 minutes from Luarca. Among the many attractions in Ribadeo, you can’t miss Plaza de España, which is where the Pazo de Ibáñez and the Torre de los Moreno are located.

As you walk through the town’s streets, you’ll find other interesting sites like the Convent of Santa Clara and the Chapel of San Miguel. It’s worth going inside the chapel for the views, although you’ll also get a nice perspective of the city from the port.

Also, if you want to capture some amazing photos, go to the Ribadeo Watchtower or the Isla Pancha Viewpoint. Finally, make sure you leave enough time to visit Playa de las Catedrales , a National Monument and one of the best beaches in Spain .

  • Recommended accommodation : Have a good night’s sleep at the Hotel Playa de las Catedrales , which faces the Cantabrian Sea. It’s right next to Arealonga Beach and just a ten-minute walk from Playa de las Catedrales.

Day 12: A Coruña

For day 12, it’s time to visit A Coruña , an incredible area of northern Spain . It’s about 95 miles from Playa de las Catedrales, so get up early and get the 1.5-hour drive out of the way.

In A Coruña, you can take this free tour (in Spanish) to visit some of the city’s highlights and learn more about its history. If you’re touring the city on your own, I recommend starting at the promenade, which leads to the Castle of San Antón and the Sculpture Park of the Tower of Hercules. Also, be sure to check out the Ciudad Vieja (Old Town), where you can stop for yummy tapas.

After lunch, take a walk along Riazor Beach, one of the most picturesque beaches in Galicia. Then, stroll around the port and end your day by watching the sunset from Mount San Pedro.

  • Recommended accommodation : You’ll have a comfortable stay at the NH Collection A Coruña Finisterre , which is just a short distance from the city center and several main attractions.

Day 13: Santiago de Compostela

One of the best places in northern Spain that you must add to your route is Santiago de Compostela , which is a 50-minute drive from A Coruña.

Have fun exploring the city on your own or taking this free tour . Santiago de Compostela is the final stop on the Camino de Santiago, a religious pilgrimage and one of the most important hikes in Spain . The route specifically ends at the Santiago Cathedral, which you can learn more about on this guided tour .

You should also spend some time wandering the streets of the Old City, as well as visiting Alameda Park. I also recommend browsing the Mercado de Abastos, where you can buy fresh Galician cheeses and products. If you’re an art lover, you can’t miss the City of Culture of Galicia, a complex full of contemporary galleries and artistic spaces.

  • Recommended accommodation : Stay at the Parador de Santiago – Hostal Reis Católicos , an old pilgrim accommodation that’s inside a 15 th -century building. It’s next to the Santiago Cathedral and has some original architectural elements as well as a Mediterranean and Galician restaurant.

Day 14: Vigo

People sometimes overlook the city of Vigo , but if you’re taking a 15-day road trip through northern Spain , you’ll have time to visit it. Vigo is 55 miles (one hour) from Santiago de Compostela, so get up early and make your way there in the morning.

You can take this free tour of Vigo to get a general overview of the city and learn more about its top attractions. Some of the most famous places here include the Praza da Constitución, the Mercado da Pedra, the Plaza de los Pescadores, and the Praza do Berbés.

You should also check out the Bouzas neighborhood, a traditional seafaring community. For the best views, go to Mount O Castro, where you can see the entire city and the Cíes Islands.

  • Recommended accommodation : The Hotel Pazo Los Escudos Spa & Beach is one of the best options with a spa and rooms overlooking the ocean and the gardens.

Day 15: Cíes Islands

For the last day of this northern Spain itinerary , take a boat from Vigo and go to the Cíes Islands . You can book this ferry ride , which also includes your permit to access the islands.

These paradisiacal islands are home to Playa de Rodas, one of the best beaches in northern Spain , and the entire world. There are also four awesome trails, so you can find a northern Spain hike to suit your fitness level. The trails are the Cíes Lighthouse (2.1 miles), the Faro da Porta (1.6 miles), the Alto do Príncipe (1.1 miles), and the Faro do Peito (1.6 miles).

Without a doubt, this day out in nature is the best way to end your two-week trip through the north of Spain .

  • Recommended accommodation: Spend another night at the Hotel Pazo Los Escudos Spa & Beach .

Best time to visit the north of Spain

The best time to visit northern Spain is during the spring and autumn months when the temperatures are milder. If you plan on going to some parks or natural areas, the autumn season offers the most stunning colors.

Playa del Silencio, Asturias, beaches in northern spain

That said, the summer weather in northern Spain is more pleasant compared to other areas of the country, so this time of year can also be a good time to visit. You can take advantage of the summer temperatures to enjoy the best beaches in northern Spain .

If you planned on going to the north of Spain in the winter, you still can, although you should be aware that there will be much more precipitation. On the other hand, the prices for flights and hotels will be cheaper.

Main airports in northern Spain and other ways to get there

There are several airports in northern Spain , so you shouldn’t have trouble finding a good place to arrive in the country, regardless of your starting point.

In Galicia :

  • A Coruña Airport
  • Santiago-Rosalía de Castro Airport
  • Vigo Airport

In Asturias :

  • Asturias Airport

In Cantabria :

  • Santander Airport

In the Basque Country :

  • Bilbao Airport
  • San Sebastián Airport
  • Vitoria Airport

To find the best flight deals to the north of Spain , I recommend using Kiwi and Skyscanner . We’ve had the best luck finding cheap flights with Kiwi, and you can even activate price-drop alerts and keep track of the flights that interest you.

How to get around the north of Spain

The easiest way to get around during your northern Spain road trip is by renting a car. We have a complete guide on how to rent a cheap car , although I’ll tell you now that we always use DiscoverCars since they offer the best prices.

Of course, if you don’t want to drive, you won’t have any problems getting around since there are all kinds of tours in northern Spain . You can also get to different towns by train or bus, and I recommend checking Omio and Flixbus for discounted tickets .

Other tips for your road trip through northern Spain

If you’ve decided to take a road trip through northern Spain by car, make sure you calculate the driving times in advance so you can plan your route as accurately as possible. This is particularly important if you’re visiting two towns in one day since you’ll want to spend half the day in one town, then head to the other town and spend the night there.

Remember, there are many beautiful places in northern Spain , and the cities I mentioned are just my recommendations. Feel free to add or replace any attractions that don’t fit your schedule or interests. It’s also important to consider the weather, especially if you’re traveling in the winter. You may need snow tires or chains for the car depending on which area you go to.

Best food in northern Spain, itinerary for north of Spain

Always keep water and some food with you in the car and try to keep your cell phone charged so you can make emergency calls or locate the nearest gas station.

Finally, if you want to enjoy the best food in northern Spain , try to avoid the more touristy areas. When in doubt, ask the locals and they’ll give you some great restaurant suggestions.

That’s it for this guide to the north of Spain ! I hope you feel better prepared to organize your northern Spain itinerary , and that you have the best time exploring this gorgeous part of the country.

If you have any questions, or if you want to share your favorite destinations in northern Spain , leave me a comment below. I’d love to hear from you. Have a fantastic trip!

Don't miss a 15% discount on your HeyMondo travel insurance  

and the only one that pays all your medical bills upfront for you!

northern spain places to visit

Ascen Aynat

Gran Balneario de La Toja

Leave a Reply Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

northern spain places to visit

SUMMER PROMO

heymondo travel insurance

  • COVID-19 coverage (treatment, testing, and cancelation)
  • Valid for any future trips 
  • Offer valid through June 30th
  • All medical expenses paid upfront
  • 24h Telemedicine service included

PlanetWare.com

20 Best Places to Visit in Northern Spain

Written by Lisa Alexander Updated Nov 26, 2021 We may earn a commission from affiliate links ( )

Northern Spain extends from the Mediterranean Sea to the Atlantic Ocean, bounded by the Pyrenees Mountains at the border with France. With its diverse landscapes and distinct provinces, this beautiful area of Spain offers something for every type of traveler.

The energetic, culture-packed city of Barcelona has fabulous art museums and fantastic architecture. San Sebastián is an elegant beach resort with a quaint Old Town and an outstanding restaurant scene. The ultimate destination of the medieval Way of Saint James pilgrimage, Santiago de Compostela immerses visitors in the spiritual ambience that has animated the city for a millennia.

Besides Barcelona's Gaudí monuments and Santiago de Compostela's historic center, other UNESCO World Heritage sites are scattered throughout northern Spain, including a breathtaking cathedral in Burgos , the Roman ruins of Tarragona , pre-Romanesque churches near Oviedo, and the Ordesa and Monte Perdido Natural Park in the Huesca province.

Travelers searching for a soul-inspiring experience should take a journey to the remote Monastery of Montserrat . For picturesque fishing villages and coastal scenery, the Costa Brava in Catalonia is sure to impress. Thrill-seekers flock to Pamplona for its annual Running of the Bulls event, but the town itself is an interesting place to visit any time of year, and the nearby Navarra countryside has wonderful hiking trails.

Plan your Spanish sightseeing itinerary with our list of the best places to visit in Northern Spain.

1. Barcelona

2. san sebastián & hondarribia, 3. santiago de compostela, 4. seaside resorts on the costa brava, 6. pamplona, 7. tarragona, 11. zaragoza, 12. monastery of montserrat, 13. santander, 15. heusca province, 16. ponferrada, 17. la coruña & rías altas villages, 18. santillana del mar, 19. picos de europa natural park, 20. la rioja region, map of places to visit in northern spain.

Parc Güell in Barcelona

The sparkling crown jewel of Catalonia , the region's vibrant capital boasts an alluring seaside setting, fabulous Modernist architecture, and a delightful medieval quarter.

Visitors can soak up the city's ambience by strolling the bustling La Rambla boulevard, stopping at the colorful La Boqueria covered marketplace, getting lost in the narrow pedestrian streets of the Barri Gòtic , admiring the whimsical Gaudí monuments, and basking in the sun on sandy beaches.

Must-see tourist attractions include the Basílica de la Sagrada Família , created by Antoni Gaudí in his signature surrealistic style; the Picasso Museum in the Gothic Quarter ; the Casa Milà and the Casa Batlló , UNESCO-listed buildings designed by Gaudí; and the Parc Güell , with its splendid landscaping and sweeping city vistas.

Barcelona is also well known for its gastronomy. Near the Casa Batlló is Moments restaurant , an award-winning fine-dining establishment within the Mandarin Oriental, Barcelona that has earned two Michelin stars and specializes in contemporary Catalan cuisine.

Within walking distance of the Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya in Montjuic is a gourmet destination run by renowned chef Albert Adrià. This trendy restaurant serves tasting menus in an intimate dining room that channels a fantastical modern speakeasy.

The surroundings of Barcelona appeal to travelers in search of a beautiful coastline, cute fishing villages, and culture-rich medieval towns. Popular day trips from Barcelona are the majestic hilltop Montserrat Monastery , the seaside resort of Sitges , and the Costa Brava beaches.

San Sebastian

One of Spain's most stylish beach resorts, San Sebastián dazzles visitors with its dreamy natural scenery and refined urban elegance.

The town is ensconced along the Bahía de la Concha, a crescent-shaped bay that encloses a sheltered sandy beach, called La Perla . A spacious pedestrian promenade invites seaside strolls, while many shops and restaurants are found on the Alameda del Boulevard just steps away from the beach.

Among the highlights of San Sebastián are the 12th-century Castillo de la Mota on Monte Urgull, the Museo San Telmo (fine arts museum), and the Parte Vieja (Old Town), where locals and tourists enjoy wandering the cobblestone streets in search of authentic pintxo s (Basque tapas) restaurants. San Sebastián is well known for its superb gastronomy.

For exceptional meals and stunning sea views, the Mirador de Ulía is a wonderful choice. This Michelin-starred restaurant serves traditional Basque cuisine, as well as vegetarian and vegan menus prepared from seasonal ingredients.

A worthwhile detour (about 20 kilometers from San Sebastián) is the Basque filling village of Hondarribia , which has a walled medieval Old Town and an expansive beach that is popular during summertime.

Renowned for its cuisine, Hondarribia is brimming with excellent restaurants helmed by top chefs, and authentic pintxos bars that serve Basque tapas. (Most of the restaurants and pintxos bars are found in the seaside Marina neighborhood.)

Santiago de Compostela

During the 11th and 12th centuries, Santiago de Compostela was Europe's most important pilgrimage destination. The faithful endured long, treacherous journeys by foot, from France, Spain, Portugal, and other European countries, to arrive at the hallowed Catedral de Santiago .

The Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela contains the Crypt of Saint James , the venerated tomb that is the ultimate pilgrimage object and explains why the pilgrimage routes are called the "Way of Saint James." Modern-day pilgrims still embark on the Camino de Santiago , following the medieval pilgrimage routes.

A marvelous example of early Romanesque architecture, the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela is Spain's most important Christian monument. The ornate exterior blends the original 12th-century sculpted doorway with lavish Baroque twin towers, while the grandiose sanctuary offers a sense of serenity.

In the late 15th century, the Catholic Monarchs created the Hostal de los Reyes Católicos to provide lodging for pilgrims. Today, this gorgeous Gothic Plateresque building still welcomes overnight guests as the Parador Santiago de Compostela , considered to be the world's oldest hotel. This luxurious five-star hotel has magnificent reception halls, sumptuous guest rooms decorated in traditional style, and two restaurants that specialize in the cuisine of Galicia.

Other must-see attractions of Santiago de Compostela include the Old Town ( Casco Antiguo ) of Santiago de Compostela, around the Plaza del Obradoiro and the Hostal de Los Reyes Católicos. Designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site , this pedestrianized area is an appealing jumble of narrow medieval streets, historic churches, and monasteries.

Santiago de Compostela is located in the Galicia region and is a good starting point to discover northern Spain's west coast, including La Coruña, Ferrol, and Cedeira.

Calella de Palafrugell

Rated as one of Spain's top beach destinations , the Costa Brava is a delightful stretch of coastline characterized by its rugged natural beauty and charming coastal villages. The Costa Brava extends along a hilly landscape for over 200 kilometers from Blanes to the border between Catalonia and France. Alongside the Mediterranean Sea, secluded golden-sand beaches are surrounded by cliffs and tucked into coves.

Popular beach resorts are found in Blanes , a historic town with expansive beaches; Tossa de Mar , a walled medieval town; Lloret de Mar , which has elegant gardens and pristine waters; and Santa Susanna prized for its wide sandy beaches backed by groves of fragrant pine trees.

Cadaqués is a quaint fishing village nestled on the Cadaqués Bay of the Cap de Creus (peninsula), a rocky coastline with sheer cliffs and peaceful coves. This historic whitewashed town attracted famous painters during the 20th century. Several art galleries and museums attest to the town's artistic heritage.

One of the houses in the Old Town of Cadaqués was the home of Salvador Dalí and is now the Salvador Dalí House - Portlligat Museum . Fans of Salvador Dali and surrealist art should also visit the Dalí Theatre-Museum in Figueres and the Gala Dalí Castle in Púbol .

Calella de Palafrugell has retained the feel of a small fishing village even though its sandy beaches get very crowded during summertime. Tourists also adore the old-world charm of the perched town of Begur overlooking the sea and L'Escala , which has an atmospheric historic quarter and Greek ruins from the 2nd-century BC at the Empúries archaeological site.

Water sports enthusiasts find plenty of things to do on the Costa Brava, from snorkeling to sailing and windsurfing. The uninhabited nature preserve of the Medes Islands (boat ride from L'Estartit) is a great place for snorkeling and scuba diving.

Perched on the Punta d'es Muts cliffs, a supremely picturesque spot on the Costa Brava, the Parador de Aiguablava (46 kilometers from Girona) affords panoramic vistas of the coastline and the Aiguablava Beach, where azure waters lap up against golden sandy shores. This contemporary-style resort hotel has an outdoor terrace, swimming pool, sauna, fitness center, and beachside restaurant that serves traditional cuisine of the region.

La Ribera market, Bilbao, Spain

The spectacular modern architecture and avant-garde art of the Guggenheim Museum draw many visitors to Bilbao. This world-class museum was designed by the famous architect Frank Gehry. Masterpieces of modern and contemporary paintings and sculptures are presented in twenty galleries covering 24,000 square meters of exhibition space.

To learn about the art from an official guide, tourists can take a Guggenheim Bilbao Museum Private Tour , which covers many of the collection's highlights.

Another must-see museum among the top attractions of Bilbao is the Museo de Bellas Artes de Bilbao (Museum of Fine Arts), which displays a collection of European paintings from the 14th to 17th centuries. The Spanish Old Masters are well represented, including El Greco, Zurbarán, and Velázquez. There is also an assortment of paintings by Francisco de Goya.

Besides art and architecture, Bibao is renowned for its gastronomy. The city boasts six Michelin-starred restaurants, including Nerua at the Guggenheim Museum. For more casual and convivial dining, traditional pintxos (tapas) restaurants are the best choice.

Town Hall in Pamplona

Pamplona owes its fame to the religious festival in July, the Fiesta de San Fermín , devoted to the patron saint of the Navarra province, San Fermín. Although the Fiesta de San Fermin begins with a Catholic Mass at the Chapel of San Fermín and includes a traditional procession, it is the Running of the Bulls (El Encierro) event during the festival that really put Pamplona on the tourist map. The legendary event draws thrill-seeking visitors from all over the world.

For those who want to watch the Running of the Bulls from the safe space of a private balcony, the five-star Gran Hotel La Perla is a perfect choice. Some of the hotel's exterior rooms overlook the Calle de la Estafeta, where a portion of the Running of the Bulls course takes place.

When the festival crowds leave town, it's worth exploring the attractions of Pamplona , especially the Casco Viejo . Partially enclosed by medieval ramparts, this warren of narrow cobblestone streets and elegant squares is brimming with historic monuments: the Gothic and Neoclassical cathedral ; the 16th-century citadel built by King Felipe II; the Plaza del Castillo , where locals hang out at sidewalk cafés; and the opulent Baroque town hall .

Outside Pamplona, the Navarra countryside is a paradise for nature lovers. The Parque Natural Urbasa-Andía (70 kilometers from Pamplona) is a lush mountainous terrain with scenic hiking trails.

Worthwhile detours in the Pamplona surroundings include the Museo Oteiza in the idyllic pastoral landscape of Alzuza (10 kilometers from Pamplona) and the 11th-century Monasterio de Leyre (50 kilometers from Pamplona), which holds church services, including Gregorian chants, and also has a small hotel, the two-star Hotel Hospedería de Leyre , with a traditional Spanish restaurant.

Roman amphitheater in Tarragona

The sun-soaked seaside city of Tarragona seems to have it all: stunning coastal scenery, alluring old-world ambience, and fascinating historic monuments.

The setting couldn't get much better than Tarragona's, along the Catalonian Costa Dorada (the Golden Coast), named for its fine sandy beaches. Playa El Milagro is a lovely beach within easy walking distance of the historic center of town.

Tarragona has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site , because of its archaeological structures. Modern-day Tarragona was built above remains of the Roman-era city of Tárraco. The Roman ruins reveal an ancient town that was well planned, with a port, forum, theater, aqueduct, and defensive fortifications.

The most impressive site is the 2nd-century AD Roman amphitheater that overlooks the Mediterranean. Built during the reign of Emperor Augustus, this enormous stadium was designed to seat an audience of 12,000 spectators.

Plaza Mayor in León

Remarkable historic monuments distinguish León , which displays its impressive heritage through architectural masterpieces such as a 10th-century Romanesque church, an Early Gothic cathedral, and a Spanish Plateresque monastery. In addition to the amazing landmarks, the charming Old Town ( Casco Antiguo ) and several top-notch museums provide enough cultural attractions to keep visitors busy.

For atmospheric dining, locals and tourists alike head to the Plaza Mayor (public square). Enclosed by 17th-century Baroque buildings, this elegant square is the center of the city and a hub of social activity. Within the square's arcaded buildings are several restaurants, many of which have terraces that spill out onto the sunny square.

The Plaza Mayor hosts a traditional, open-air farmers market on Wednesday and Saturday mornings.

Within a short walk from the Plaza Mayor is the Palacio del Conde Luna , a 14th-century Gothic-Mudéjar palace that was the residence of the valiant Count Luna. The palace served as a court during the Spanish Inquisition. Today, the Palacio del Conde Luna is a museum that presents exhibits of León's history.

A truly special place to spend the night is at the luxurious Parador de León . This five-star hotel occupies the 16th-century Convento de San Marcos , considered a gem of Spanish Plateresque style and one of the most important Renaissance monuments in Spain.

Since the 12th century, this convent has welcomed pilgrims on the way to Santiago de Compostela. However, the original building was reconstructed in the 16th century by the Catholic Monarchs. Hotel amenities include a concierge, garden, sun terrace, and a gastronomic restaurant that specializes in traditional cuisine of the Castile-León region.

View of Burgos

Spanish Gothic architecture finds perfect expression in the magnificent Catedral de Burgos . This soaring UNESCO-listed monument features an extravagantly decorated twin-towered exterior and an immense interior of breathtaking proportions, which makes it the third-largest church in Spain after the cathedral of Seville and Toledo.

Other must-see sights in Burgos include the ancient hilltop Castillo (castle) and the Monasterio de las Huelgas , an austere 12th-century Cistercian monastery built in the Mudéjar style and later converted to a Royal Pantheon.

Burgos has been welcoming visitors since the Middle Ages, when pilgrims stopped here on the Way of Saint James route to Santiago de Compostela. The town's legendary Christian heritage imbues the place with a special ambience, while historic buildings and cobblestone streets add to the old-world charm.

Along the riverbanks is a pleasant tree-shaded promenade, and nearby are many inviting restaurants.

View of Girona, Spain

An enchanting medieval city in the Catalonia region, Girona packs an incredible wealth of attractions into the historic areas within its ancient walls. The Força Vella follows the outline of a Roman fortress dating to the 1st-century BC (portions of the ramparts are still visible), while the walled Medieval Quarter is a maze of narrow, winding pedestrian streets and hidden squares.

The rich multicultural heritage of Girona can be discovered through its remarkable monuments, including a Romanesque basilica, the Gothic convent of Sant Doménech , and 12th-century Arab Baths . Girona also has a well-preserved Jewish Quarter .

Basilica de Nuestra Senora del Pilar and the Ebro River in Zaragoza

Steeped in two millennia of history, Zaragoza is the capital of the Aragon region and has a fascinating multicultural heritage. Splendid old monuments reveal the legacy of Roman, Moorish, Jewish, and Christian civilizations.

The remnants of ancient Roman walls are found in the city center, and two museums contain archaeological sites dating to the 1st century AD (including the Roman Theater and the Roman Forum ). Several historic churches exemplify Aragon Mudéjar architecture , influenced by the geometric details of Islamic design.

Presiding over the banks of the Ebro River, the Basílica de Nuestra Señora del Pilar is the city's most iconic landmark. This exuberant Baroque building was built in the 17th and 18th centuries. A noteworthy fresco by Goya titled Queen of Martyrs adorns the interior.

Zaragoza is also known for its cultural events and gastronomy. The local cuisine features hearty regional dishes such as pan-fried trout, huevos en salmorejo (baked eggs with sausage), and bacalao al ajoarriero (salted cod fish in tomato and garlic sauce).

The biggest festival, the Fiestas del Pilar , takes place in mid-October to celebrate the feast of the city's patron saint, the Virgin del Pilar. A mass is held on October 12th, and the festival continues for a week with music concerts, puppet shows, dance performances, fireworks, and a parade.

Monastery of Montserrat

As early as the year 1025, Montserrat Mountain was the site of a little hermitage devoted to Santa Maria de Montserrat. Soon after it was founded, the monastery became associated with miracles. Faithful pilgrims have traveled here for a thousand years. The basilica's main object of adoration is the Romanesque Black Madonna ( Our Lady of Montserrat ), a 12th-century sculpture called La Moreneta.

The Monastery of Montserrat still functions as a working monastery (approximately 80 Benedictine monks live here) and continues to be an important pilgrimage site. The monastery's difficult-to-access location creates the sense of being a world apart. However, it is easy to get here thanks to a cable car (Aeri) that conveys visitors on a 1,350-meter journey to the top of the mountain.

As one of Catalonia's top tourist attractions, the Monastery of Montserrat is well prepared to welcome visitors. The monastery grounds include a basilica , a noteworthy art collection at the Museum of Montserrat , and several shops. Tourists will appreciate the meal options, including a food market that sells local products, two fine-dining restaurants , a casual cafeteria that offers buffet meals, and a picnic area .

For those who would like to spend the night at Montserrat, there is three-star lodging, the Hotel Abat Cisneros , and a budget-friendly hostel.

Listening to the Escolania boys' choir sing at the basilica (which occurs daily) is an essential experience at the Monastery of Montserrat. Visitors may also participate in prayer services (mass and vespers), which are held several times a day. One of the shops at Montserrat sells CDs of the choir's musical sessions.

Montserrat Mountain is a place of serenity and sublime natural beauty, protected as a natural park. Many scenic hiking trails begin at the monastery and offer spectacular panoramic views of the Catalonian countryside.

Santander

The sophisticated city of Santander nestles on a small peninsula between the Cantabrian Sea and a wide bay. This picturesque coastline is prized for its soft sandy shores and crystalline turquoise waters.

The city's main beach, the Playa del Sardinero , draws many vacationers during the sunny summer months. Another centrally located beach, the Playa del Magdelena has a shoreline of fine golden sand and an area for recreational sports.

Besides being a fun-loving holiday destination, Santander appeals to those who appreciate culture and history.

The Museo de Prehistoria y Arqueología has an exceptional archaeology collection, ranging from Paleolithic-era artifacts to Roman antiquities. Two other museums are dedicated to contemporary art: the Centro Botín and the Museo de Arte Moderno y Contemporáneo de Santander y Cantabria .

Santander's most beautiful architectural landmarks are the Palacio Real de la Magdelena (a royal palace built in 1911) and the medieval Catedral de Nuestra Señora de la Asunciónare . The cathedral features an exquisite 15th-century cloister and a somber 13th-century crypt.

Oviedo cathedral

A remarkable number of pre-Romanesque churches sets Oviedo apart from other historic towns in northern Spain. The architectural heritage speaks to the importance of this city as the 9th-century capital of the Asturias kingdom.

King Alfonso II chose the location in the rolling hills of the Picos de Europa mountains because the remoteness made the town less vulnerable to attacks from the Moors of Córdoba.

Today, visitors enjoy the peacefulness of Oviedo's natural landscape, as well as the historic ambience of the Old Town with its pedestrian lanes and inspiring architecture. Oviedo's striking, single-towered cathedral is considered one of the finest Gothic monuments in Spain.

Outside of Oviedo's historic center are three UNESCO-listed pre-Romanesque churches (built in the 9th and 10th centuries): the Iglesia de Santa Maria del Naranco, the Iglesia de San Miguel de Lillo, and the Iglesia de San Julián de los Prados.

Oviedo has noteworthy museums of fine arts and archeology, and the town is equally renowned for its gastronomy. Local cuisine of the Asturias region includes delicious specialties such as bean stew and braised chicken with peppers.

Village below the Aguero Mountains in Heusca Province

The medieval town of Heusca captivates visitors with its labyrinth of narrow, winding streets and historic monuments, including an impressive 13th-century cathedral and 12th-century Romanesque church.

Heusca is a good base for exploring the UNESCO-listed Parque Nacional Ordesa y Monte Perdido in the Pyrenees Mountains, which is a great place for hiking and other outdoor sports. This national park features rushing rivers, lush canyons, dramatic gorges, and soaring rocky peaks.

12th-century Templar castle

A formidable 12th-century castle stands guard over the historic town of Ponferrada, which was on the medieval pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela. The Knights Templar castle now houses a museum that presents the history of Ponferrada.

A short drive (20 kilometers) from Ponferrada in a tranquil valley is the ancient Monasterio de San Pedro de Montes , a rare example of pre-Romanesque architecture dating to the 7th century. The monastery's Romanesque church was renovated in the 18th century.

Buildings in La Coruna, Spain

In the Galicia region, La Coruña is a historic port town with a bustling harbor and superb beaches. The city center, bordering the waterfront, is a captivating collection of winding streets, pleasant squares, and medieval churches.

The most iconic monument in La Coruña is the 1st-century Tower of Hercules , designated as a National Monument and a UNESCO World Heritage site .

La Coruña is also well known for its aquarium and restaurant scene. Many local establishments serve delicious meals, featuring regional cuisine based on fresh-caught seafood.

Nearby are the Rías Altas villages in the northern estuaries of the Galicia region. Some of the top destinations within easy driving distance are Betanzos , which has an interesting Old Town that is listed as an Historic-Artistic Site; Pontedeume , a picturesque seaside village; and Ferrol , a fishing village (and military port) that is known for its Easter celebrations.

For relaxing seaside accommodations, travelers will appreciate the Parador de Ferrol , which occupies a stately Galician-style mansion overlooking the waterfront. The traditional decor includes nautical touches. A gourmet restaurant treats guests to sea views and superb Galician cuisine, with specialties such as fish stew and filloas , a special type of crêpe prepared in the region.

Santillana del Mar

About a 30-minute drive from Santander is the lovely historic town of Santillana del Mar, which was a stop on the medieval pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela.

Santillana del Mar dates back to the 8th century, and the entire town center is designated as a National Monument . The 12th-century Collegiate Church of Santa María is remarkable for its sculpted facade and Romanesque capitals in the cloister.

Snowcapped mountains in the Picos de Europa Natural Park

The Picos de Europa Natural Park delights visitors with its awe-inspiring scenery and refreshing mountain air. The Picos de Europa are the Cantabrian Mountains' highest peaks, and the 646-square-kilometer natural park covers terrain in the Asturias, Cantabria, and León provinces.

Dramatic alpine landscapes define the Picos de Europa. The terrain includes jagged mountain peaks, verdant valleys, deep gorges, pristine rivers and lakes, and dense woodlands.

Three distinct massifs form the Picos de Europa mountain range. The loftiest, Urriellu Peak (the central massif, also known as the " Naranjo de Bulnes "), reaches an elevation of 2,648 meters. The Urriellu Peak is a legendary destination for mountaineering and rock climbing in Northern Spain.

The enchanting mountain village of Bulnes on the Urriellu Peak may be reached by hiking up a steep pedestrian path or by taking a funicular railway from the town of Poncebos.

Another charming village in the Picos de Europa is Potes , built up along the rushing Quiviesa River. The village has many historic bridges that span the river, as well as old buildings that date back to the 14th and 15th centuries. The area around Potes is popular for hiking, fishing, and mountain biking.

Also not to be missed, the town of Cangas de Onís is nestled alongside the Sella River in the valley of the Picos de Europa. The town boasts an ancient Roman Bridge and a chapel that stands on the site of an 8th-century hermitage.

San Vicente de la Sonsierra in La Rioja

La Rioja is a gorgeous region in Northern Spain, prized for its idyllic scenery of vine-covered rolling hills and lush oak forests. The region also has a rich cultural heritage, linked with the medieval Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela.

The town of Santo Domingo de la Calzada reveals the legacy of the medieval pilgrims. In the 12th century, Santo Domingo de la Calzada offered lodging for pilgrims at a hostel (now converted to the four-star Parador de Santo Domingo de la Calzada ), and its cathedral provided a place for pilgrims to pray. The entire town, with its narrow stone-paved streets and attractive squares, is classified as a National Historic Interest Site .

Another destination tied to the Way of Saint James (Camino de Santiago) pilgrimage route is the town of San Millán de la Cogolla , tucked away in a valley traversed by the Cárdenas River. San Millán de la Cogolla has two UNESCO-listed monuments: the Monastery of Suso (built between the 6th and 11th centuries), which blends Visigothic, Mozarab, and Romanesque architectural styles, and the Monastery of Yuso , an 11th-century Romanesque monument.

More Related Articles on PlanetWare.com

image

Other Top Destinations in Spain : With so many cultural treasures, Spain gives travelers endless reasons to extend a vacation. Among the best places to visit in Spain are the capital city of Madrid and the cultured port town of Valencia on the Mediterranean Sea. The UNESCO-listed Old Town of Segovia and the historic city of Toledo fascinate visitors with their marvelous Gothic monuments that seem out of a fairy tale.

image

Highlights of Southern Spain : Steeped in the legacy of its multicultural past, Andalusia is an emblematic region famous for flamenco, festivals, and a sociable spirit. Granada boasts amazing Islamic architecture seen in the UNESCO-listed Alhambra palaces and Generalife gardens. Córdoba dazzles visitors with its 8th-century Great Mosque, another UNESCO World Heritage site. The romantic city of Seville is home to the largest Gothic church in the Christian world, as well as a medieval Moorish palace.

instagram logo

More on Spain

Spain Travel Guide

17 Best Things to do in Northern Spain (2024)

This post may contain compensated links. Find more info in our disclosure policy

northern spain places to visit

From Santiago de Compostela to Bilbao to Salamanca, a road trip along the coast of Northern Spain is an eclectic mix of quaint villages, stunning coastline, diverse cities, historic gems, world-class vineyards and gastronomical delights! We had an incredible time exploring all it has to offer on a road trip across the region and wanted to share our travel guide to Northern Spain: our favorite sights and the best things to do in Northern Spain.

Table of Contents

The Best Things to do in Northern Spain

There are so many highlights of Northern Spain that it’s impossible to list them all so we’ve included our favorites to help you plan your adventure! We recommend at least one week in order to see all the main sights, however, two weeks is ideal and allows more time to explore the bigger cities like Bilbao and San Sebastian as well as the Alpine landscapes of the Picos de Europa.

Getting to and around Northern Spain

We’re incredibly lucky that Northern Spain is easily accessible from the UK and Ireland by ferry which is perfect for traveling by our car on a road trip through the region.

If you arrive by air a rental car is the best way to get around. Renting a car in Spain is a great way to explore the country and with a world leading motorway network you can see a lot of the country in a short space of time. We use RentalCars.com , where we always find the best rental car selection and prices.

Book your Spain rental car now with RentalCars.com

Basque Country

Spain’s Basque Country is a unique region in the north that has its own language, local food delicacies and stunning landscape all of which are remarkably distinctive from the rest of the country. Our Basque Country favorites are Bilbao, San Sebastian and Juan de Gaztelgatxe together with some of the quaint little villages along the way!

At the heart of the Basque Country, Bilbao is known for its spectacular architecture, amazing cuisine and dramatic coastline which featured on Game of Thrones . The shimmering Guggenheim Museum, designed by Frank Gehry, is an architectural masterpiece and one of the stars of the city. Food is also at the forefront of Bilbao and Michelin Star eateries sit alongside Pintxos Bars, the Basque Country equivalent of Spanish tapas, and traditional family restaurants serving Basque dishes.

northern spain places to visit

2 | San Sebastian

The picturesque San Sebastian on the Bay of Biscay is a world-renowned foodie destination with a charming Old Town and one of the best beaches in Spain. Foodies can rejoice as San Sebastian boasts the second-highest number of Michelin Stars than any other city, only Kyoto in Japan has more. The city has an incredible 17 Michelin Star restaurants, including three of the 7 Spanish Three-Star Michelin restaurants. San Sebastian was once the chosen holiday destination of Spanish Royalty and the beautiful mix of elegant buildings, cobblestone streets and stunning architecture continues to draw visitors today.

Things to do in Northern Spain

3 | Vizcaya Bridge

The Vizcaya Bridge, a UNESCO World Heritage site, connects the neighbouring towns of Getxo and Portugalete between which the Nervion River passes. It was the first bridge in the world to carry people and vehicles on a suspended gondola which is high enough to allow boats to navigate underneath. The Vizcaya Bridge is located close to Bilbao and is more than worth the trip to experience the gondola crossing!

Things to do in Northern Spain

4 | San Juan de Gaztelugatxe

The tiny island of Gaztelugatxe is connected to the Basque mainland by 241 steps and a rugged stone bridge and is one of the most stunning sites in the region. Visitors to the island can explore the historic church, San Juan de Gaztelugatxe, where it’s common practice to ring the bell three times and make a wish. The picturesque island recently shot to fame after featuring in Season 7 of Game of Thrones where it doubled as Dragonstone.

Things to do in Northern Spain

5 | Santiago de Compostela

The beautiful town of Santiago de Compostela is best known as the final stop of the world-renowned Camino de Santiago pilgrimage. The town is an intriguing mix of history and the vibrant energy brought by a jubilant stream of pilgrims arriving after completing the Camino. The Old town is a UNESCO World Heritage site and is considered one of the world’s most beautiful urban areas. It’s incredible to meander through its narrow streets, where wine and tapas bars spill out onto the lively squares, and visit the historic Cathedral de Santiago de Compostela where the remains of Saint James are said to be buried.

Things to do in Northern Spain

6 | Las Médulas

The burnt orange clay mountains of Las Médulas, once the most important gold mine in the Roman Empire, are one of the most fascinating sights we saw in Northern Spain. The Romans used a complicated aqueduct system to force the water through and, ultimately, rearrange the mountains and are believed to have extracted almost 1,000 tonnes of gold. The viewing platforms offer a stunning panorama of the area and it is also possible to explore the mines by guided tour.

Things to do in Northern Spain

7 | Burgos

The charming city of Burgos is located just south of Bilbao and is one of the main crossroads of the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage. The stunning Gothic Burgos Cathedral in the city centre is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is one of the finest pieces of religious architecture you’re likely to visit.

Things to do in Northern Spain

8 | Monasteries of San Millán de la Cogolla

The village of San Millán de la Cogolla is a short drive from Burgos and is home to both the Suso and Yuso Monasteries. Set in the middle of the La Rioja wine region and awarded UNESCO World Heritage status in 1997, the monasteries are a must for anyone visiting Northern Spain. Now uninhabited, tours of the monasteries take visitors through their ornate interiors and the monks living quarters. The first written Spanish and Basque texts have been traced to the Suso monastery.

Things to do in Northern Spain

9 | Atapuerca

For the opportunity to explore millions of years of history, the Archaeological site of Atapuerca is a short drive from Burgos. It contains traces of hominid life from a million years ago and one of the major finds included a cave with bones of 32 male and female bodies of all different ages.

Things to do in Northern Spain

The Asturias region is one of Northern Spain’s hidden gems. From Oviedo, the capital, to the stunning Alpine landscapes of the Picos de Europa, to its renowned cider and cheese, Asturias has a lot to offer.

10 | Oviedo

Oviedo is a charming city and a lovely mix of Old Town and modern. It was founded in 761AD and is home to some of the oldest religious buildings in Spain. The streets are picturesque and there are sculptures dotted throughout the city: if you come across a Woody Allen sculpture it’s because he filmed the movie Vicky Cristina Barcelona in Oviedo! Make sure to sample the Asturian sweet treat Carbayones and get merry on Sidra, the local cider.

northern spain places to visit

11 | Monuments of Oviedo and the Kingdom of the Asturias

Asturias, founded in 761AD, is credited with keeping Christianity alive in the Iberian Peninsula during the 9th Century and the monuments of Oviedo and the Kingdom are a series of pre-Romanesque constructions from the period. The Oviedo Cathedral and the hilltop Roman churches of Santa María del Naranco and San Miguel de Lillo are our highlights.

Things to do in Northern Spain

12 | A Coruña, Galicia

The beautiful coastal town of A Coruña boasts sweeping coastal views and incredible food due to its history as a major Spanish fishing port. A Coruña is definitely not to be missed and is most well known for its iconic lighthouse, the Tower of Hercules.

A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Tower of Hercules towers 50metres above the harbour protecting the entrance to A Coruña. The Tower of Hercules is one of the oldest Roman lighthouses still in operation and is visible for miles.

Things to do in Northern Spain

13 | Salamanca

The vibrant university city of Salamanca is a northern Spain gem and one of our favourite cities in the region. The magnificent main square, Plaza Mayor, is the heart of the city and its dramatic architecture is breathtaking. The Old and New Cathedrals dominate the city skyline and a climb up their towers rewards with panoramic views of Salamanca. The university, founded in the 15th Century, is the oldest in Spain and continues to attract a young population which adds to the vibrancy of the city.

Things to do in Northern Spain

14 | Segovia

Segovia was a Spanish town that really surprised us with its charms! We spent an afternoon exploring the old Jewish quarter, the cathedral and chilling in the park which is overlooked by the beautiful castle of Alcázar de Segovia. Along with Neuschwanstein Castle in Germany, it’s believed that Alcázar de Segovia was the inspiration for Walt Disney’s Cinderella castle and it is easy to spot the similarities and inspirations! Segovia is most well known for the massive Roman aqueduct which runs through the town centre and, together with the old town, forms part of the Segovia UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Things to do in Northern Spain

15 | Avila

The old town of Avila is spectacularly surrounded by towering city walls and it is one of the most remarkable and beautiful medieval cities in Spain. Construction of the walls began at the end of the 11th Century and are at their finest in the evening when they are bathed in light. Pilgrims flock to the Convent of St Teresa, a convent and shrine built at the birthplace of St Teresa.

Things to do in Northern Spain

16 | Valley of the Fallen

The Valley of the Fallen is one of the most controversial memorials in Spain. The memorial, consisting of a huge basilica and a towering hilltop cross, was constructed on the orders of the military dictator Franco as a burial place and tribute to those who died in the Spanish Civil War.

Over 30,000 people from both sides of the war are buried in the valley alongside Franco: his tomb is located in the basilica and he is the only person buried in the Valley of the Fallen who did not die in the Civil War.

The monument was completed in 1959 and continues to provoke controversy for a number of reasons: the memorial was constructed through the forced labour of political prisoners some of whom who died as a result, the presence of Franco’s corpse and the lack of a proper burial for so many of those resting in the Valley.

Things to do in Northern Spain

17 | San Lorenzo de El Escorial

Visitors flock to the Monastery of El Escorial in the quaint little town of San Lorenzo de El Escorial. The stunning monastery houses an incredible art collection and boasts stunning frescoes.

The library has a collection of over 40,000 books and the Royal Parthenon contains 26 gold and marble tombs of former Spanish Royalty, both of which are highlights of a visit. The surrounding hills offer some nice hiking opportunities and the town is full of quirky shops and traditional restaurants.

Things to do in Northern Spain

1 thought on “17 Best Things to do in Northern Spain (2024)”

Included in my fave cities in Northern Spain is Santander. Its has a beautiful maritime feel and the beaches are gorgeous.

Leave a Comment Cancel reply

Save my name, email, and website in this browser for the next time I comment.

Disclaimer:  As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Touropia Logo

Touropia Travel

Discover the World

10 Most Amazing Destinations in Northern Spain

By Carl Austin · Last updated on February 5, 2024

A good many travelers to Spain start their visit to this Iberian Peninsula country in Madrid. Then they’re likely to head south where the climate is more temperate to see historic Moorish castles or east to Barcelona or Valencia.

They don’t realize what they’re missing by ignoring northern Spain . Well-preserved medieval villages, picturesque wine regions, the beautiful Bay of Biscay coastline, Basque country and more are just waiting to be explored.

10. Picos de Europa National Park [SEE MAP]

Picos de Europa National Park

Picos de Europa National Park is Spain’s first national park, founded in 1918 when it was known as Montana de Covadonga National Park; its name was changed in 1995. The park’s high mountains and deep ravines appeal to hikers, who need to be alert for deep fog banks.

Snow is possible year ‘round. This biosphere reserve also boasts forests, oak groves and four rivers. Non-hikers may want to ride the Fuentede cable car that reaches more than a mile above sea level, providing stunning views of the park.

9. Santander [SEE MAP]

Santander

The beaches of Santander are the main attractions of this port city on the Bay of Biscay. With its wide stretch of golden sand, the long curving arc of the Playa el Sardinero is one of the most beautiful beaches in Northern Spain. Approaching the beach through the pathways of the beautiful Piquio Gardens enhances the experience.

Although Santander is an ancient city, much of the old quarter was destroyed by a fire in 1941. Since then, the Municipal Museum of Arts has been revamped to include local contemporary Cantabrian artists as well as old masters like Goya.

8. Rioja Wine Region [SEE MAP]

Rioja Wine Region

Travelers who enjoy their vino will definitely enjoy a visit to La Rioja Wine Region, home to more than 500 wineries. What makes these vineyards so unique is that some wineries allow horseback and all-terrain vehicle riding within the vineyards.

In addition to sampling their wines, some wineries offer classes on how to become a winemaker. With vineyards dotting the hills of northern Spain, vintners have perfected the art of making world-famous wines; after all, they’ve been doing it for more than a thousand years. The main wine regions are Rio Baja, Rio Alta and Rio Alavesa.

7. Oviedo [SEE MAP]

Oviedo

Oviedo, the capital of Asturias province, is well known for its religious monuments. Also a stop on the Pilgrims Road to Santiago, Oviedo has churches that date back to the eighth century, including the Cathedral of San Salvador and the well-preserved Basilica of San Julian de los Prados.

Another top architectural draw is La Foncalada, a ninth century pre-Romanesque fountain. Movie trivia fans may be interested to know Oviedo was featured in Woody Allen’s Vicky Cristina Barcelona.

6. Bilbao [SEE MAP]

Bilbao

Once known primarily as an industrial port city, Bilbao has reinvented herself as a center for modern art and architecture. Set amidst the rolling green hills of Basque country, Bilbao is home to the Guggenheim Bilbao Museum, a gleaming, modernistic structure clad in titanium designed by famed architect Frank Gehry.

Bilbao’s historic architecture is a stunner as well, featuring many beautiful buildings like the 14th century Gothic Cathedral of Santiago and the Basilica de Begoña.

5. Gaztelugatxe [SEE MAP]

Gaztelugatxe

Gaztelugatxe is a small peninsular island in the Bay of Biscay that resembles a castle; in fact, its name translates as “castle rock.” It is accessible from land via a footbridge over the rocks. A small chapel dedicated to San Juan (St. John) sits atop the island.

The top of Gaztelugatxe is reachable by climbing 231 steps up a rocky slope. Past visitors recommend taking the steps slowly as rushing can be a pain; but, they say, the breathtaking views are well worth the exertion.

4. Pamplona [SEE MAP]

Pamplona

Pamplona is an historic city that once served as the capital of the Kingdom of Navarre. It is better known today for its annual San Fermin festival in which fearless souls try to outrun a herd of bulls through city streets; the festival takes place over six days in July.

Bullfighting is another popular activity here, with the city having the fourth largest bullring in the world. Pamplona also is the first city on the Camino de Santiago or Pilgrims Road to Santiago. Its many parks and historic buildings are just made for strollers.

3. Santiago de Compostela [SEE MAP]

Santiago de Compostela

The capital city of Galicia, Santiago de Compostela is famous as the final destination of the traditional pilgrimage known as Camino de Santiago. Also called the Way of St. James, this pilgrimage dates back to Medieval times and is important to many because it is believed that Santiago de Compostela is where St. James, an Apostle of Jesus Christ, is buried.

The arriving point for most pilgrims is the main square. Situated in the heart of the city, this bustling plaza is the scene of many important landmarks, particularly the Santiago Cathedral where the tomb of St. James is located.

2. Santillana del Mar [SEE MAP]

Santillana del Mar

Comfortable shoes are a must for visitors to Santillana del Mar, a perfectly preserved medieval village that is limited to foot traffic. Located on Spain’s west coast, this Cantabrian treasure is less than 30 km (20 miles) from Santander and near the Caves of Altamira that are famous for its prehistoric paintings.

There is an old saying that Santillana del Mar is The Town of Three Lies, since it is neither a Saint (Santo), nor flat (llana), nor is it by the sea (Mar). However, the town actually takes its name from Santa Juliana who is buried here in the Colegata, the most famous church in Cantabria . Another top attraction is the Museum of the Inquisition with its instruments of torture.

1. San Sebastian [SEE MAP]

#1 of Destinations In Northern Spain

Found in Basque country, just 19 km (12 miles) from France, this popular beach resort is surrounded by hills that add to its beauty. San Sebastián’s most famous attraction is La Concha, one of the world’s best urban beaches. Parte Vieja or Old Town has many bars, making it popular with partiers.

Most buildings date from the 19th century, since San Sebastián was destroyed by the English and Portuguese in 1813. The city is well known for its July jazz festival, the oldest in Europe, as well as other festivals and cultural events throughout the year.

Map of Northern Spain

Map of Northern Spain

Share this post:

northern spain places to visit

19 Top Tourist Attractions in San Sebastian, Spain

Places to Visit in Extremadura, Spain

12 Best Places to Visit in Extremadura, Spain

Places to Visit in Catalonia, Spain

19 Best Places to Visit in Catalonia, Spain

northern spain places to visit

10 Best Places to Visit in Mallorca

northern spain places to visit

10 Top Destinations in Southern Spain

northern spain places to visit

Where to Stay in Seville: 7 Best Neighborhoods

Things to do in Girona, Spain

17 Best Things to do in Girona, Spain

northern spain places to visit

11 Most Amazing Hotels in Spain

Things to do in Zaragoza, Spain

18 Best Things to do in Zaragoza, Spain

northern spain places to visit

Where to Stay in Ibiza: 9 Top Destinations

Reader interactions.

' src=

May 9, 2017 at 7:09 am

Elizabeth, I suggest visiting the coast between Suances and Ribadesella for their beaches and cute cliffs. For a virtual visit use the coastal blue spots of the standard Goo.. map of North Spain. Also, within a few miles, for culture, visit Comillas, Santillana de Mar, Altamira, Picos de Europa from Potes, Covadonga and Cangas de Onis. A bit further, the cities of Gijon, Oviedo and Santander. Always check the weather forecast for good weather, it is humid otherwise. Enjoy.

' src=

August 11, 2016 at 5:24 pm

Where’s the best place in Northern Spain to go with my seven year old daughter in August that won’t be too touristy, some beach, some cultural/historical beauty, but relaxing and off the beaten path?

' src=

July 10, 2016 at 7:33 pm

Hola. Wife and I went to Madrid, then down to Toledo, Seville, Granada, Valencia, then back to Madrid. From Madrid came back home to LA. The idea, next, if possible, definitely we are visiting northern Spain.

' src=

April 27, 2015 at 11:29 pm

Rioja Wine Region is definitely on my list of places to visit – obviously! 😀 And lately I’ve been looking into Santiago de Compostela a fair bit as well.

Leave a Reply Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed .

Wanderlust Chloe

The Ultimate Northern Spain Road Trip: Routes, Sights, Guides, Maps And More

northern spain road trip itinerary

From Catalonia’s unspoilt coastline and Aragon’s scenic architecture to quaint cities in the Basque Country, this northern Spain road trip offers something for everyone.

Is there any better way to see a country than grabbing a set of car keys and having the freedom to explore at your own pace? If this is your favourite way to travel, then how about exploring the north of Spain?

Often it’s when you decide to travel slowly and go off the beaten track, you start stumbling across hidden gems. You’ll take a wrong turning and end up in an authentic Spanish town that isn’t in any of the tourist guide books!

While this road trip through northern Spain takes you to a few famous places, it also gives you the opportunity to explore lesser-known regions. You’ll experience spectacular vineyards a short drive from San Sebastian, the hiker’s paradise that is Ordesa y Monte Perdido National Park and stop by some truly underrated Spanish cities.

catalonia road trip view from siurana

A road trip here through the north of Spain offers so much. Spend your time admiring the scenic coastlines in Catalonia and Asturias, before marvelling at the architecture of Castille and León.

If you’re a foodie, you’ll fall in love with the culinary scene in the Basque Country. It’s absolute pintxos heaven! Meanwhile, if you’re keen on the great outdoors, there are plenty of gorgeous green spaces and natural wonders to explore.

La Concha beach in San Sebastian

Spain is often associated with summer beach holidays, but it’s worth remembering that many of the interior parts of the country offer just as much natural beauty, with vineyards, mountains, canyons, olive groves and picturesque towns! This road trip itinerary will introduce you to several authentic experiences.

So, whether you’re looking for travel inspiration or you want to start planning your itinerary, this guide will cover all of the best places to visit in Northern Spain on a road trip.

Weather in Northern Spain

This region of Europe has warm summers and cool winters. The majority of people visit during the summer holiday season, when the weather is warmest.

If you want to make the most of the great outdoors, time your trip between May and September. It’s the ideal time for beach days or countryside hikes. During this time, temperatures range between lows of 16°C (61°F) and highs of 26°C (79°F). If possible, I’d suggest avoiding the peak summer (July and August) and travel in May, June or September. You’ll enjoy cheaper prices and won’t be battling against big crowds at the big attractions!

It gets pretty chilly in Spain in winter , but there’s a bit of magic to it! Between January and March the temperatures in the north of Spain range from 4°C (39°F) to 15°C (59°F).

San Sebastian road trip

Northern Spain Road Trip Map

If you’re happy to move at a pretty moderate pace, moving on every single day, you could just about fit this itinerary into one week.

However, I’d recommend moving a little slower so you can soak up all the little details in each destination.

Here’s a handy map to go with this northern Spain road trip itinerary, which you can save to make your planning stress-free.

Tarragona, Catalonia

What to pack for your road trip

If you’re wondering what to pack for your trip, this guide to road trip essentials has you covered. From portable chargers to ways to stay entertained on long journeys, it’ll help you create your road trip packing list.

Northern Spain Road Trip Itinerary – Places to Visit in Northern Spain

Northern spain road trip: stop 1 – barcelona.

Barcelona is a great city to start your road trip from. Not only is it an incredible destination in its own right, but it’s also easy to reach by plane. There are lots of car rental options too, both from the airport or the city centre.

Parc Guell, Barcelona

Marking the start of your Catalonia road trip , you’ll quickly fall in love with Barcelona’s scenic shoreline with sweeping views of the Balearic Sea. Enjoy the city’s unique ambience courtesy of street musicians and tapas bars dotted in the atmospheric Gothic Quarter’s narrow streets. I challenge you not to get lost in this mini maze – it’s very easily done, especially after a few glasses of Cava!

Pinxtos at El Pinxto de Petritxol, Barcelona

At the centre of Barcelona’s bustling social scene is tree-lined La Rambla, which boasts restaurants, cafés, and avant-garde architecture. It’s always busy with tourists, but I’d avoid most of the restaurants around here! Many are classic tourist traps, serving vats of low-quality paella at inflated prices. You’ll find more authentic dining experiences in the small bars in the Gothic Quarter.

Beautiful Barcelona streets

La Boqueria food market is located just off this main street and is an excellent place to take in the amazing ingredients of Catalonia. For a very special meal, book in for a tasting menu experience at Michelin-starred Disfrutar . I’ve been lucky enough to visit twice and I would regard these meals as the best meals I’ve ever eaten! Genuinely!

If you’re interested in art there are lots of great attractions in Barcelona. You could visit the Picasso Museum , the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya or the Fundacio Joan Miro . Oh, and don’t miss a visit to one of Gaudi’s many masterpieces. His unique style is visible throughout the city at locations such as La Sagrada Familia and Parc Guell. I was enchanted by these spots – I’m sure you will be too!

Beautiful stained glass windows at the Sagrada Familia

If you fancy a beach day, there’s also a large beach in the city centre, lined with beach bars. It’s amazing how much there is to do in this Spanish city. There really is something for everyone!

Barceloneta Beach

Northern Spain Road Trip: Stop 2 – Costa Brava or Catalonia

If time permits, you might want to head north of Barcelona to Costa Brava, before heading to Montserrat. One of Spain’s most mesmerising coastlines, the area oozes charm with its whitewashed towns and fishing villages.

Alternatively, I loved the area south of here, which includes the underrated Tarragona, Reus and Siurana.

Siurana was a new discovery for me on one of my most recent trips. It’s one of the prettiest villages in Spain and sits on top of a hill in the Prades Mountains. I’d recommend spending a couple of hours there. It’s pretty small so you can wander the streets looking at the Moorish castle, the pretty houses and perhaps stop for a coffee.

The best part about Siurana? The views! Head towards the rocky cliffs and look out over the huge gorge which is filled with a bright turquoise reservoir. I’d suggest visiting first thing in the morning and you should have it all to yourself!

If you want to learn more about Gaudi, but don’t fancy tackling the crowds in Barcelona, I’d suggest stopping by Reus. This small city is where Gaudi was born. You can learn all about his life and architectural wonders at The Gaudi Centre , before checking out some of the city’s buildings which inspired him.

You can read my detailed guide on how to tour this region by car in my Catalonia road trip post.

Costa Brava, Spain

Northern Spain Road Trip: Stop 3 – Montserrat

Montserrat is another must-visit on your road trip through Northern Spain. The area’s top attraction is the Benedictine Montserrat Monastery, perched on a rocky crag surrounded by magnificent cliffs.

Montserrat, Spain

Just getting there is a bit of an adventure, as you reach the monastery via cable car! Once there, enjoy panoramic views of the Catalonian countryside while soaking in the sights and history of the monastery.

Montserrat to Zaragoza: 266 km / 2h 46min approx.

Northern Spain Road Trip: Stop 4 – Zaragoza

Next stop on your journey from Montserrat is Zaragoza, the capital of the Aragon region. This is a great place for museums, architecture, and historical monuments, including the Basílica de Nuestra Señora del Pilar .

Zaragoza, Spain

In between sightseeing, I’d recommend a bit of restaurant-hopping at Plaza del Pilar so you can taste some authentically Spanish delights. For a real flavour of the region, sit down to dinner at Restaurante La Borde de Chema . This rustic restaurant offers Aragonese dishes including roast goat, along with plenty of regional wines.

Northern Spain Road Trip: Stop 5 – Ordesa y Monte Perdido National Park

Step away from the glitz and glamour of city life with a visit to the Ordesa y Monte Perdido National Park. This hiker’s paradise has several trails to choose from, each leading to sweeping views of the mountains.  

Ordesa y Monte Perdido National Park

Be sure to pack your camera for this stop on your road trip! It’s one of the most photogenic places on this itinerary, so no doubt you’ll want to snap a lot of photos!

Ordesa y Monte Perdido National Park

Ordesa y Monte Perdido National Park to San Sebastian: 252 km / 3h 10 min approx.

Northern Spain Road Trip: Stop 6 – San Sebastian

The Basque Country is renowned for its food scene. Every year, many people visit Northern Spain (myself included!) purely for a wining and dining experience like no other. It’s hardly surprising, after all San Sebastian in the Basque Country has the most Michelin-starred eateries per capita in Europe! In fact, there are more in this one city per capita than in London, and that’s really saying something!

The Basque Country even has two restaurants with ‘Green Stars’, Azurmendi and Enoko, which have been recognised for their sustainable, ethical and environmental approach.

San Sebastian

There are two sides to eating out in San Sebastian. You can either go high end with Michelin starred tasting menus, or eat the local way with dish after dish of pintxos (small dishes).

The old town of San Sebastian is filled with tiny restaurants specialising in individual dishes such as Spanish tortillas, prawns on skewers and slow cooked pork. The best way to enjoy a trip like this, is by stopping for food and drinks at multiple bars across an evening – like your very own pintxos tour .

San Sebastian pintxos

It can be difficult knowing what to eat at each place, so I’d thoroughly recommend a pintxos tour like this one . The guide will give you tips on what to order, how to eat it and all the insider knowledge to make the most of your time in San Sebastian.

Pretty streets of San Sebastian

While you can’t go wrong with most restaurants here, I’d recommend the incredible steak, tomatoes and fried padron peppers at Bar Nestor as well as the famous San Sebastian cheesecake at La Viña! I popped all my top recommendations together in my post about the best pintxos in San Sebastian .

Also, if you’re looking for an extra special meal, how about going for a Michelin Starred meal with a view at Mirador de Ulia? We had a very memorable meal there!

San Sebastian is also a great beach destination, with turquoise waters, white sand and some great surf spots too!

Enjoying the beach in San Sebastian

If you want to get off the beaten track in this region, how about spending a day wine tasting? Just 30-minutes away by car you’ll find wineries including   Hirutza , where the local Txakoli wine is produced. This is a dry and lightly sparkling white wine, which is absolutely delicious!

The vineyards are in a really spectacular location too, with huge mountains and lush green valleys all around. Once you’ve toured the winery, you’ll get to taste some of the wines for yourself, paired with a few pintxos of course!

Walking through Hiruzta vineyard

Northern Spain Road Trip: Stop 7 – Bilbao

Bilbao, the capital of the Basque Country, is home to centuries-old alleyways and modern-day architecture. The bustling city is small enough that you can explore it on foot, but big enough to keep you entertained for many hours.

bilbao, spain

One place you simple have to visit is the world-famous Guggenheim Museum , set by the Nervión River. This art gallery has an incredible collection, as well as being housed inside a curved metal masterpiece by one of my favourite architects, Frank Gehry.

Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao, Spain

This is another great city for pintxos, so be sure to spend some time in the Old Town refuelling. You could also dine at one of the many Michelin-starred restaurants in Bilbao.

For one of the best viewpoints in the Basque Country, make your way to Gaztelugatxeko Doniene, made famous by Game of Thrones. The scenic hike is around 3km and features several fortified viewpoints. The views are worth the tired legs, I promise you!

Northern Spain Road Trip: Stop 8 – Santander

Afterwards, stop by Santander, where you can enjoy some seaside fun on the small town’s myriad of beaches. Dive into the water or enjoy a trek to the Cabo Mayor Lighthouse.

Santander, Spain

Away from the coastline, grab a bite at Plaza de Canadio before exploring Santander’s Cathedral. It features two churches built on top of one another.

Santander to Llanes: 89 km / 56 min approx.

Northern Spain Road Trip: Stop 9 – Llanes and Piloña

As you drive from Bilbao to Llanes and Piloña, the road trip scenery really steps up a notch! Take in the views of the mountains and rolling hills which serve as the ultimate driving backdrop!

Llanes, Spain

Llanes is a small-town region boasting medieval magic at every corner, as well as beautiful beach views. After some of the more touristy stops on this trip, this area is more chilled out and authentic.

Once in Piloña, you could hike up to the Area Recreativa del Monte Cayon, where sweeping views over Asturias’ Picos de Europa await. Alternatively, opt for a more strenuous hike at Picos de Europa, a green paradise surrounded by mountains.

Pilona, Spain

Northern Spain Road Trip: Stop 10 – Gijon and Oviedo

Gijon has a whole load of charm! The city’s old town, nestled on top of a cliff, is filled with a mix of fine-dining and casual eateries and boasts iconic Roman baths and a scenic promenade.

Gijon, Spain

Oviedo, the region’s capital, is a compact city with a lively atmosphere owing to its student population. Enjoy a culinary extravaganza at the city’s many tapas bars ( Gloria Oviedo isn’t to be missed) and fine dining spots. There’s plenty more to do in Oviedo too, including shopping, museum-hopping, and marvelling at the city’s architecture.

Oviedo, Spain

Oviedo to León: 125 km / 1h 28 min approx.

Northern Spain Road Trip: Stop 11 – León

León, the northernmost city in the region, is ready to welcome you with open arms. Top of the list of attractions here is the Catedral de León, which boasts impressive towers and colourful windows.

Leon, Spain

For a quintessential Leon experience, stroll through Plaza Mayor and enjoy a bit of people watching. This is also a great area for trendy restaurants, tapas bars, and impressive architecture.

Northern Spain Road Trip: Stop 12 – Valladolid and Salamanca

South of León is Valladolid, a small city famed for its architecture. The Cathedral of Valladolid is a sight to behold, as is the Museo Nacional de Escultura and the exhibits inside.

Valladolid, Spain

The final stop in the region is Salamanca, which has a burgeoning foodie scene that really delivers the heart and soul of Northern Spanish cuisine. In between the culinary experiences, enjoy visits to the Old and New Cathedral , Clerecía Church, and the Convento de San Esteban’s plateresque. For incredible viewpoints over some of the city’s attractions, be sure to visit the Roman Bridge.

Salamanca, Spain

Where to Stay on a Northern Spain Road Trip

If you’re wondering where to stay in northern Spain, here are a few of my top choices along this route.

Hotel Palafox , Zaragoza

This is a great luxury hotel, offering sweeping city views from the rooftop pool.

Villa Palafox

Hotel Carlton , Bilbao

This grand hotel in Bilbao offers spacious rooms with chic decor and a great restaurant serving regional delicacies.

Hotel Carlton, Spain

Hotel Villa Soro , San Sebastian

Enjoy a tranquil and chic hotel stay, just a short walk from the old town. This smart villa offers a country-house feel for your foodie city trip. Wondering how to get around? This hotel offers free bikes, making it easy to get around and see the sights. 

Villa Soro, San Sebastian

Parador de Turismo de León , León

This luxury hotel’s rooms feature antique furnishings and a balcony. There’s also a restaurant serving the region’s top wines.

Parador de Turismo de León

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading my Northern Spain road trip itinerary. There are so many great places you could visit, it’s been hard to narrow it down to just a handful.

My best advice is to use this guide as a starting point, but don’t be afraid to add some extra spots along the way too. If you’re wondering where else to visit in Spain, check out my southern Spain road trip itinerary .

For more great road trip itineraries, check out my detailed guides to driving northern Italy and southern Italy .

Chloe Gunning

With a passion for food, fun and adventure, Chloe is the content creator behind one of the UK's top travel blogs Wanderlust Chloe. From volcano boarding in Nicaragua, to sailing around Sicily and eating her way around Japan, her travels have taken her to some of the coolest spots on the planet. Named Travel Influencer of the Year in 2022, Chloe regularly works with a number of tourism boards, producing inspirational travel content across multiple platforms. Find out more about Chloe here.

Leave a comment Cancel reply

The Geographical Cure

One Week In Northern Spain, The Perfect Itinerary For “Green Spain”

Planning a vacation in northern Spain? Here’s my guide to an epic one week road trip in northern Spain.

This itinerary starts and ends in the exciting cultural and culinary city of Bilbao. It covers all the top must visit attractions, towns, and historic landmarks in the Basque, Cantabria, and Asturias regions of Spain.

I fell utterly in love with northern Spain on a recent geographical cure. It earns its nickname of the “Natural Paradise.”

Pinterest pin for one week in northern Spain

I’ve written about Barcelona in many other posts.

This itinerary focuses on the less touristy and drop dead gorgeous regions of natural beauty — the Basque country, Cantabria, and Asturias.

If you’re an “is it pretty?” person, northern Spain is for you.

coastline in Cantabria Spain

Overview Of One Week In Northern Spain

Here’s a quick snapshot of my recommended one week itinerary for a self drive road trip in northern Spain. It’s a loop that starts and ends in Bilbao.

You’ll have two bases, Bilbao and Oviedo. I give you tips on where to stay in each city.

  • Day 1 : Explore Bilbao
  • Day 2 : Day Trip To San Sebastian
  • Day 3 : Day Trip To San Juan de Gaztelugatxe
  • Day 4 : Drive To Oviedo, stops in Santillana del Mar and Comillas
  • Day 5 : Explore Oviedo
  • Day 6 : Day Trips to Cudillero and Gijon
  • Day 7 : Drive Back To Bilbao, stop en route in coastal villages

Torimbia Beach near LLanes Spain

One Week In Northern Spain Itinerary

I drove to northern Spain by car from southern France .

If you’re doing the same, I stopped in two idyllic little towns on the way, the elegant town of Pau France in the French Pyrenees and the colorful Basque town of Hondaribbia just over the Spanish border.

READ : 10 Day itinerary for Southern France

Because I don’t like to switch hotels or Air Bnbs every night, I based myself in two cities in northern Spain, Bilbao and Oviedo.

From there, I could access the best sites — spectacular coastlines and natural wonders, tiny medieval villages that seem stuck in time, and the cultural hotspots of the two cities.

aerial view of the elegant town of Pau France

If you’ve been to sunny Andalusia in southern Spain, you’ll find that these two regions of Spain are utterly different. You’d hardly believe you were in the same country.

Andalusia is sunny and sand-baked with Moorish goodies galore. In contrast, Northern Spain is a glossy green, with mountains reaching to the sky and rocky coves and crescent beaches that beckon.

READ : Most Beautiful Towns in Andalusia

Here’s my step by step guide to touring northern Spain by car in one week. A car will give you much more flexibility. It’s not that expensive, if you can drive a clutch.

And it’s perfectly safe and easy to drive, as long as you don’t venture into a busy city center or a tiny medieval village with one way lanes. Most of the places on my itinerary can be accessed by bus, but it won’t always be easy.

READ : Tips for Renting a Car and Driving in Europe

the Nervion River in old town Bilbao

Here’s how you should spend 7 blissful days in northern Spain

Day 1: Bilbao: Art and Starchitecture

On day 1, explore your starting point, Bilbao, pronounced Bilbow.

It’s the cultural hotspot of the Basque region. Bilbao is beautifully situated amid rolling green hills and tucked between mountain ranges.

It’s a surprising and avant garde place, casually combining historic Spanish flair with modern starchitecture.

Bilbao is no longer the industrial city that people think of from past decades, though it’s still agreeably down to earth.

READ : Complete Two Day Itinerary for Bilbao

La Salve Bridge in Bilbao, also known as the Prince and Princess of Spain Bridge

Bilbao is a great Spanish city to explore if you fancy art, culture, and ancient cobbled lanes. It’s alive with local energy.

Bilbao is a hip haven for foodies, overflowing with fantastic restaurants, many of the Michelin variety.

While you’re there, visit the iconic Gehry-designed Guggenheim Museum, stroll the “seven streets” of the historic center (Casco Viejo), and indulge in the inventive tapas.

Click here to book a guided walking tour of historic Bilbao. Click  here  to book a skip the line ticket and tour of the stunning Guggenheim Museum. Bilbao is also a fantastic place to take a guided gourmet food tour .

I have big love for Bilbao. Here’s my complete guide to the must see sites in Bilbao .

the bay of La Concha in San Sebastian

Day 2: San Sebastian: International Culinary and Beach Capital

Bilbao is a great base for day trips in northern Spain . Your first point of call is San Sebastian.

This Basque city is objectively beautiful, and tourists flock there. It’s renowned as a foodie resort town and beachy playground. Its stunning beach, La Concha, is world famous and considered one of Europe’s best beaches.

If you’re a food traveler, you’ll be in seventh heaven.

San Sebastian is frequently called the “ food capitol of the world. It boasts three restaurants with the rarest of accolades: a three star Michelin rating.

San Sebastian also has a thriving pintxos scene. Pintxos are the Basque version of tapas.

view from Mount Urgull

You can spend the day wandering around and indulging in these haute cuisine mini meals.

San Sebastian’s historic center, Parte Vieja, is picturesque, though I found it fairly underwhelming. It’s much tinier than Bilbao’s Casco Viejo and the sites will be quickly exhausted.

It’s also quite touristy. If you don’t like crowds, try to visit San Sebastian in the off season.

While you’re in San Sebastián, you may want to book a guided walking tour of the old town . If your’e a foodie, you should definitely consider a guided food tour when you’re there. I booked this 3 hour I Travel Food Food tour and loved it.

You can get from Bilbao to San Sebastian by train or bus. You can also book a full day guided day tour from Bilbao . Or book a guided day tour that includes San Sebastián and winery visit .

the island of San Juan de Gaztelugatxe, a perfect day trip from Bilbao

Day 3: Gaztelugatxe: a Natural Wonder

On day 3 of your on week in northern Spain itinerary, take an easy day trip to the absolutely jaw dropping San Juan de Gaztelugatxe .

It’s a magical spot only about 45 minutes from Bilbao. Gaztelugatxe is really a must see destination in the Basque Region. And now it’s TV-famous.

In the wildly popular HBO series Game of Thrones, Gaztelugatxe appears as Dragonstone — the haunting ancestral home of Daenerys Targaryen, the Mother of Dragons.

In real life, Gaztelugatxe is a fantastical ancient stone foot bridge winding up to a tiny hermitage chapel on Spain’s Bay of Biscay.

northern spain places to visit

Here’s my complete guide to visiting Gaztelugatxe , and hiking to the chapel.

It’s easiest to drive to Gaztelgatxe. But you can also book a guided day tour from Bilbao .

When you’re done with your hike, head to nearby Bakio beach to cool off. But if you want a more beautiful beach, drive a little further to beautiful Sopalena Beach. It’s one of the best beaches in Basque Country, where cliffs drop into the ocean.

When you’re done gasping over the ethereal place, head back to Bilbao. Tuck into some nummy food at one of its fine restaurants. Bilbao has 22 Michelin starred restaurants.

Like San Sebastian, it’s considered a foodie haven. Azurmendi is the jewel of Bilbao and this restaurant alone is worth a trip to city. Restaurant Mina is also quite wonderful. You can also book an evening guided food tour .

the El Ensache neighborhood of Bilbao

Where To Stay In Bilbao

Bilbao has some beautiful hotels. Check out  Vincci Consulado de Bilbao , a Riverside landmark with a nautical theme and views of the Guggenheim. The  Occidental Bilbao  has smart guest rooms and a massive swimming pool. 

For a real splurge, check out the Hotel Carlton , a five star beauty with old world charm.

There are some nice boutique hotels too, like the artsy designer-styled  Hotel Miro  near the Guggenheim Museum. Gran  Hotel Domine  has sleek modern decor and views of Jeff Koon’s  Puppy  sculpture.

the medieval village of Santillana del mar in Cantabria

Day 4: Drive to Oviedo with Beautiful Stops En Route

Now, it’s time to head to your next base, Oviedo.

The distance between Bilbao and Oviedo isn’t that far, about 2:45. So if you start early, you’ll have time for two stops along the way.

To my mind, the best two places to spend half a day are Santillana del Mar and Comillas in the Cantabria region.

Cantabria is spectacularly beautiful, dotted with rolling hills and cows. It’s so verdant and eye catching, you can almost imagine that you’re in a Van Gogh painting.

pretty house sin Santillana Del Mar

1. Santillana del Mar: a Magical Medieval Village

There’s a car park right outside Santilla del Mar. Park and take your pedestrian only stroll in the jewel of Cantabria.

Santillana del Mar is Cantabria’s most charming hamlet and one of the prettiest villages in all of Spain.

It’s a “living museum” — a delightful warren of dreamy cobbled streets, caramel colored architecture, and romantic wrought iron Juliet type balconies.

At the end of its main drag, Calle Santa Dominga, is the Collegiate Church, which is the most important religious Romanesque monument in Cantabria.

La Colegiata, an important Romanesque church in Santillan del Mar

Here’s my complete guide to Santilla del Mar . To see all the sites and secret spots, you may want to book a 2 hour guided walking tour .

By northern Spain standards, the town is somewhat touristy. But, hey, it’s in rural Spain and nothing like busy Barcelona , so don’t be put off. I wasn’t even remotely fazed.

2. Comillas: Unexpected Architectural Gems

After you’ve fueled up on some hot chocolate and churros, it’s time to head to Comillas.

The town isn’t as picturesque as Santillana del Mar, though it has a wide beach for you to sun bathe when you’re done site seeing.

But mainly it’s impressive for its architecture. You’d never expect to fin such treasures in an unassuming, almost unknown, small town in Spain.

Gaudi's El Capricho in Comillas

Comillas has two main sites, both architecturally interesting — Gaudi’s El Capricho and Sobrellano Palace.

El Capricho is a rare Gaudi building outside his more well known Modernist architecture in Barcelona .

I like to think of El Capricho as Gaudi’s sunflower villa. El Capricho was a youthful project for Gaudí.

In 1883, Máximo Díaz de Quijano commissioned Gaudí to build him a summer villa. Quijano, an amateur musician and botanist, chose the lilting name El Capricho, which means whim or folly in Spanish.

me hanging out with a statue of Gaudi at El Capricho in Comillas in the Cantabrian region of northern Spain

Gaudí designed the villa. But he’d also begun work on his famous opus, the Sagrada Familia . So his fellow architect Cristóbal Cascante supervised the villa’s construction.

The villa became a museum in 2010. When you enter, you can sit down and watch an orientation video with English subtitles.

A short walk up the hill, not far from El Capricho, you’ll find Sobrellano Palace.

The rather over the top Neo-Gothic palace was commissioned by Antonio López, the first Marques of Comillas, and designed by Juan Martorell.

Sobrellano Palace

The palace was a vanity project. It was the fashion for aristocrats to have fancy country estates. Interestingly, Sobrellano Palace was the first building in Spain to have electricity.

You can only visit the palace on a guided tour. There’s hourly tours (in Spanish) that last 40 minutes.

But you can cast your eyes on Gaudi-designed furniture, magnificent fireplaces, paintings, and stained glass. Outside the palace is a beautiful chapel-pantheon, also Gothic in design.

the UNESCO-listed San Miguel de Lillo chapel in Oviedo

Day 5: Fairytale Oviedo: Sculptures & Cider

I just loved storybook Oviedo. The sparkling clean capitol of the Asturias region of Spain is a vibrant and enchanting place.

Like a giant museum, it’s filled with beautiful architecture and dotted with whimsical sculptures. It’s surely one of the most beautiful and historic places in northern Spain. To see it all, you can book a guided walking tour .

Woody Allen famously loves Oviedo, which he describes as “a delicious, exotic, beautiful, clean, pleasant, tranquil and pedestrianised city, like it didn’t belong to this world, like it didn’t exist … Oviedo is like a fairy tale.”

San Salvador Cathedral in Oviedo Spain

Allen filmed portions of his 2008 film Vicky Cristina Barcelona in Oviedo. There’s a statue-monument to him on Calle Milicias Nacionales, created by the Spanish artist known as Santarúa.

Founded in the 8th century, Oviedo is also an ancient place. It’s delightful old town makes you want to stroll endlessly through its parks and plazas, gazing in admiration at its colorful terraces and balconies.

During your walkabout, be sure to take in Oviedo’s must see sites — the flamboyant San Salvador Cathedral, the Romanesque churches, the stately Plaza Alfonso II, and the university.

Of special note is the San Miguel de Lillo chapel, just outside Oviedo. It’s a pre-Romanesque royal chapel from the 9th century used by King Ramiro I.

colorful facades in Oviedo

It was designated a UNESCO heritage site in 1985. It’s a 30-40 minute uphill walk or 10 minute drive from the Oviedo city center.

Be sure to indulge in the local Asturias cuisine while in Oviedo. It’s hearty, to say the least. Think meat, fish, and strong stinky cheeses.

Be sure to try fabada, which is a local dish made of beans, sausage, bacon, and ham. Oviedo has many fine restaurants. But I recommend La Corte de Pelayo or La Genuine de Cimadevilla.

Try the the local tipple, Asturias cider. For a proper Sideria, head to Calle Gascona to best sample the local drink. Cider is poured from an impressive height — performance art style — and meant to inject effervescence into a flat drink.

To me, it seemed a little bitter and acidic. I think it’s best sipped with food.

the fishing village of Cudillero in Asturias Spain

Day 6: Cudillero: Color by the Sea

The next day you’re off to the ridiculously eye catching fishing village of Cudillero, which might be Spain’s prettiest seaside village.

Cudillero is just 40 minutes from Oviedo and well worth the detour. A place of hills, you’ll have to park outside the teeny tiny town and walk in.

In Cudillero, white and pastel houses are piled in a mishmash on top of each other.

There’s a pleasingly startling contrast between the terra cotta roofs and the blue sea. It’s said that each house in the village matches the color of the owner’s fishing boat.

the pretty town of Cudillero, a must visit town on any northern Spain itinerary

There are ample cafes to rest your feet, feast on seafood, and take in the sweeping views of the village and the sea.

Picture perfect Cudillero is really a must see gem in northern Spain. Don’t miss it; it only takes a half day.

If you’re feeling ambitious, you can add nearby Gijon to your itinerary for Day 6. It’s less than 40 minutes from Cudillero. Spend a half day there or relax over cocktails and dinner.

Or you can book a guided day tour from Oviedo that includes Cudillero and other villages in Asturias .

Gijon is a handsome oceanfront city. It’s packed with buzzy cider bars, cafes, and fishing village vibes.

the seaside city of Gijon in Asturias Spain

It doesn’t have the crumbling old world charm of Cudillero. But it’s definitely worth a visit.

If you have enough time, take a walk along Gijon’s coastal path. Hugging the crystal clear Bay of Biscay, it goes from Playa de San Lorenzo, Gijon’s main beach, towards La Nora.

Where To Stay In Oviedo

The Eurostars Palacio de Cristal is a luxury hotel with minimalist modern architecture and great city views. The Hotel and Spa Princesa Munia is a hotel fit for royalty. It has beautifully decorated rooms and a stunning spa.

Hotel Fruela is more low key luxury in the historic heart of Oviedo. Barcelo Oviedo Cervantes is in a handsomely restored mansion. It boats designer rooms and an excellent superfood oriented breakfast.

LLanes Spain

Day 7: Oviedo To Bilbao

On day 7 of your one week in northern Spain, you’ll drive back to Bilbao. Ah, what a beautiful drive this is. The coast is spectacular.

My flight back to the US was from Bilbao, a much more central hub than Oviedo.

I stopped in 3 villages — Llanes, Ribadesella, and St. Vicente de la Barquero.

They were all incredibly lovely in their own distinct way. You could easily plop yourself down for a week to admire them, preferably in Llanes.

St. Vicente de la Barquero

1. St Vicente de la Barquera: a Town Awash in Water

The beautiful village of St. Vicente de la Barquera had my heart at first sight. The drive toward the town is breathtaking.

The ancient Puente de la Maza, with its 28 arches over the river, welcomes you. St. Vicente is surrounded by gorgeous beaches — Meron, Tostadero, and Oyambre.

The pretty village dates from Roman times. For centuries, St. Vicente de la Barquera was a stop on the pilgrimmage to Santiago de Compostela.

Step back in history at the Castillo del Rey, San Vicente’s 13th century medieval castle. From atop the hill, you have beautiful views of the town and, on a clear day, the Picos de Europe mountain range.

panoramic views to San Vicente de la Barquera

2. LLanes: Sophisticated Beach Resort

You don’t necessarily expect sophisticated charm in Asturias, a Spanish region known mostly for its incredible natural beauty.

But LLanes is a cosmopolitan European town. In fact, I was quite captivated by Llanes.

Others adored the beachy town too, judging from the number of people strolling through the vibrant old center, eating and drinking at the many restaurants and cider houses.

Try Covadonga Restaurant on Street Manuel Cue, if you’re hungry and need a lunch break.

the Playa de Toro beach in LLanes Spain

Llanes boasts a well preserved medieval city with ancient palaces, still housed within the remains of crumbling city walls. It has a doughty defensive tower, an active harbor, fantastic beaches, and top notch views.

LLanes would make a good base for Asturias, if you want to settle in and relax. It has 32 beaches within its jurisdiction.

Walk out to the breakwater to see Los Cubos de Memoria or The Cubes of Memory. It’s an installation of 66 cubes designed and painted by famous Basque artist Augustin Ibarrola.

The brightly colored work (which was a bit faded when I clapped eyes on it), is the artist’s Andy Warhol -like unsettling contrast between art and nature.

the Cubes of Memory in Llanes Spain

3. Ribadesella: Pretty Port Town

Ribadesella is an old port city, and also very picturesque. Its beautiful broad beach makes it a popular holiday spot.

For a little history, take the 10 minute stroll inland to the UNESCO-listed Cueva de Tito Bustillo .

It’s a series of connected caves with a veritable feast of prehistoric drawing. They date back 35,000 years to the Palaeolithic era.

Ribadesella Spain

More Than One Week In Spain?

If you have more than 7 days in northern Spain, there are some great things to add to your itinerary.

1. Picos de Europe

If you have extra time before landing in Bilbao or elsewhere, take a day or two to explore the Picos de Europe, a national park.

The park’s quite large, covering the Asturias, Cantabrian, and Castilla regions. With its breathtaking scenery, it attracts mountaineers and regular adventurers alike.

There are mountains, gorges, verdant valleys, and the stunning Lakes of Covadonga. You may think you’ve fallen into Switzerland.

The atmospheric villages in the Picos de Europe are worth visiting too — Covadonga, Canga de Onis, and beautiful medieval Potas.

Fuente De in the Picos de Europe National Park

If you’re brave, take the Fuente De cable car, named Teleferico Fuente De. You’ll ascend to a rocky plateau, at an elevation of over 6200 feet.

Once there, from the Miradour del Cable, you’ll have epic panoramic views over the Picos (if it’s not a foggy day).

You can book a guided day tour to the Picos from Oviedo or Dijon.

2. Bilbao To Barcelona

Since you are landing in Bilbao at the end of this one week in Spain itinerary, you can keep on driving to Barcelona.

I have a 10 day itinerary that takes you from Barcelona to Bilbao . You can reverse the itinerary and trek from Bilbao to Barcelona.

Plaza de la Virgen Blanc in Vitoria-Gasteiz

3. Basque Spain

Alternatively, from Bilbao, you can explore more of Basque Spain.

Basque Spain is unexpectedly and energetically diverse. Every time I’ve traveled there, I’ve been seduced by its breathtaking landscapes, art-filled museums, and UNESCO landmarks, north to south.

This 10 days in Basque Spain itinerary coves Bilbao and San Sebastián. But it also take you to some beautiful small towns and wine regions in Basque Spain.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my one week in northern Spain itinerary. You may enjoy these other Spain travel guides and resources:

  • 30+ Hidden Gem Towns in Spain
  • 3 Day Itinerary for Barcelona
  • 3 Day Seville Itinerary
  • 2 Day Itinerary for Madrid
  • 10 Day Road Trip From Madrid to Seville
  • 10 Day Road Trip in Basque Spain
  • Six 1 Week Itineraries for Spain
  • 25 Famous Landmarks in Spain
  • 10 Day Itinerary for Andalusia

If you’d like to visit northern Spain, pin it for later.

Pinterest pin for one week in northern Spain itinerary

7 thoughts on “One Week In Northern Spain, The Perfect Itinerary For “Green Spain””

Hello! I’m really enjoying your Basque and Northern Spain posts but I’m curious – why don’t you mention the Rioja wine country as somewhere to stay/visit? Is it not that popular for tourists? (I live in Northern California and the wine country is a huge travel destination here!) I’m curious if you have insights about the Rioja area as a place to spend a few nights between Bilbao and San Sebastian.

Yes, it’s popular. I think I mentioned it in my Basque Spain article and in my article on day trips from Bilbao.

Hi! I am curious to know if you had any encounters with the asian hornet (vespa velutina) on your trip? At what time (and year) did you go?

No, I didn’t. I was there in late June to early July.

How is the train system in northern Spain?We are planning on starting in Lisbon and heading north. Is mid-September a good time of year to visit? Beautiful website! Inspiring! We were thinking about doing this, but now we are sure. Thank you. Jean

Thank you Jean! I don’t have first hand experienced with the trains in northern Spain because I drove there. But I’m sure you could get around just fine, except perhaps to some very small towns.

Leave a Comment Cancel reply

Save my name, email, and website in this browser for the next time I comment.

Last Updated on March 21, 2023 by Leslie Livingston

Spain Guides

Best Places To Visit In Northern Spain

Bilbao City Spain

Northern Spain offers extraordinary cultural, culinary and natural diversity for visitors within its four main regions: Galicia , Asturias, Cantabria and Basque Country.

Each area provides unique attractions and beauty spanning lush forests to rugged coastlines.

Galicia is one of the best places to visit in Northern Spain. The stunning city of Santiago de Compostela draws pilgrims to its ornate cathedral and lively old town.

Seaside towns like A Coruna punctuate the wild, rocky coastline while vineyards thrive inland.

Asturias captivates with its mountain wilderness and vibrant cities like Oviedo which blends pretty plazas with pre-Romanesque architecture. Trying cider poured from great heights is a must.

Cantabria flaunts elegant belle epoque beach towns like Santander and Santillana del Mar alongside spectacular caves and the towering Picos de Europa mountains.

The cute capital of Santander provides a gateway to quiet coastal villages and lush nature reserves perfect for hiking.

The Basque Country tempts with fantastic food from San Sebastian , a world-class culinary capital.

Vitoria's medieval old town and show-stopping modern Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao demonstrate the region's diversity.

Basque Country coastal villages like Getaria and Zumaia lend charm.

From the peaks of the Picos de Europa to the tapas bars of San Sebastian , northern Spain promises astonishing culture, nature and cuisine of the typical Spanish tourist trail but worth discovering.

5 Interesting Facts About Bilbao

1. Bilbao is home to an impressive fine  arts museum housing works from Gaugin to Goya, entrance is FREE every day from 6 pm to 8 pm. 2. The  Mercado de Ribera market , located by the estuary, built in 1929 covering over 10.000 m2 is the largest indoor market in Europe. 3.  The two impressive   Izosaki  twin towers which soar 23 stories and 83 meters above the Bilbao skyline were created by Japanese architect Arata Isozaki. 4.  The Basque language  ( Euskara)  is the oldest European language and has been traced back to a language spoken 20,000 years ago in Europe. 5.  Basque cuisine is highly regarded with numerous Michelin-starred Restaurants .

Bilbao Coastline

Bilbao is set amid green hills where the Nervion River meets the Bay of Biscay. Once focused on heavy industries like shipbuilding, today Bilbao has transformed into a cultural and architectural gem where historic sites mingle with modern masterpieces.

The city is most famous for the Frank Gehry-designed Guggenheim Museum, an architectural marvel clad in curving titanium that draws art aficionados from around the world.

Antoni Gaudí also left his mark with buildings like the Algoibar House. Casco Viejo, the atmospheric medieval quarter, charms with bustling plazas and pintxos bars crowding its narrow lanes.

Bilbao enjoys an outstanding dining scene centered around the countless pintxos bars offering creative bite-sized creations and Txakoli wine.

The city provides easy access to the Rioja wine region to sample its famed Tempranillos. Outdoor life thrives along the scenic Nervión River threading through town.

While smaller than Spain’s major hubs, Bilbao provides huge cultural offerings with galleries and museums showcasing everything from maritime history to fine arts.

World-class architecture both historic and modern makes exploring Bilbao's neighbourhoods an architectural feast for the eyes.

With its seamless blend of culture, cuisine and natural beauty, Bilbao emerges as one of Spain’s most compelling and progressive cities.

The colourful La Salve Bridge is sure to catch your eye, and once you cross it to the other side of the river you will be right by the entrance to the famous Guggenheim Museum Bilbao . This is one of the most famous attractions in the entire city so don’t miss a chance to explore it.

Next up you will definitely want to see the gorgeous stained glass windows at the Abando Train Station which depict parts of the city’s history.

Consider taking an evening stroll through the Doña Casilda Iturrizar Park which is filled with walking paths, statues and fountains.

Cantabria

Spain's northern Cantabria region hugs the Bay of Biscay, stretching from the towering Picos de Europa mountains to vibrant seaside towns dotted along the coast.

With its abundance of nature, culture and cuisine, Cantabria entices visitors seeking an authentically Spanish experience away from major tourist hubs.

The quaint capital Santander boasts an elegant waterfront promenade, a lively old town, and excellent museums like the Cantabria Maritime Museum honoring the region's shipbuilding heritage.

Nearby, Santillana del Mar enchants with stone architecture that earned it a 'town of historical importance' designation.

Cantabria's rugged shoreline provides opportunities for beachgoing, surfing, and coastal hikes to picturesque whitewashed fishing villages. Inland, the jagged limestone peaks of the Picos de Europa offer spectacular hiking and mountain refuges.

Descend into the magical Cuevas de El Soplao, a complex of caves adorned with geological formations.

Cantabria's rich natural bounty translates to excellent regional cuisine. Try smoked anchovies, sobaos sweet pastries, and hearty stews that use the fresh meat, seafood and produce from this lush corner of Spain.

With an alluring blend of history, culture, cuisine and outdoor adventure set amid stunning landscapes, Cantabria provides a chance to experience a more authentic side of Spain.

Asturias Spain

The verdant Principality of Asturias enchants visitors with its wild landscapes, fabulous food and drink, and traces of an ancient Celtic past.

With Spain’s highest coastal mountains and a scenic shoreline dotted with fishing villages, Asturias promises pure natural magic.

The capital Oviedo displays elegant palaces and lively cider bars around its beautifully preserved medieval core.

Towering mountain ranges like the Picos de Europa contain excellent hiking trails past glacial lakes and soaring peaks. The plunging Cares River gorge threads through mountains over a mile high in places.

Asturias’ wild coastline yields delicious seafood, especially pintxos of just-caught octopus and shrimp. Inland, the region’s legendary bean and meat stew known as fabada asturiana warms body and soul.

Don't leave without sampling Asturias' famous cider, poured from bottles held overhead to aerate the dry, funky brew in proper sidreria fashion.

From prehistoric cave art to crumbling Roman ruins, Asturias’ history and culture come alive. Quaint coastal villages like Cudillero and Llanes resemble the colourful fishing hamlets of the Basque Country further east.

With its own distinct traditions and landscapes, Asturias unveils a unique corner of natural and cultural riches waiting to be discovered in northern Spain.

Rias Baixas Beaches Galicia

Galicia enchants visitors with its rugged Atlantic coastline, famed pilgrimage route, and traces of Celtic heritage that infuse its architecture and bagpipes. The remote landscapes here feel far removed from Spain's sun-baked southern coasts.

Santiago de Compostela draws pilgrims from across the globe to its lavishly decorated cathedral honouring the apostle Saint James.

Visitors also flock to Galicia's sublime beaches and charming medieval towns like Pontevedra nestled into the Rías Baixas ria inlets. Quaint coastal villages pepper the coast, from fishing hamlets to beach resort towns.

Galicia's cold, deep Atlantic waters yield extraordinary seafood, from spider crab to goose barnacles.

Albarino white wines grown near the coast have put Galicia on the viticulture map for their balanced fruit and acidity.

Locals wash down piles of steamed mussels and shrimp with refreshing glasses of crisp white wine.

Ancient Celtic traditions woven into Galicia's music, dance, bagpipes and superstitions reveal its shared roots with neighbouring Celtic nations Ireland, Scotland, Wales and Brittany in France.

With its fusion of incredible coastal and mountain scenery, heady seafaring culture and singular traditions, Galicia offers travellers an enchanting look into Spain's mystical northern soul.

Rioja Vineyards

The Rioja region, located in northern Spain, is renowned worldwide for its exceptional wine production, breathtaking landscapes, and rich cultural heritage.

Here's an overview of this captivating region:

Wine Heritage: Rioja is synonymous with fine wine. It's one of Spain's most celebrated wine regions, known for its red wines made primarily from Tempranillo grapes.

Rioja wines are categorised into several quality levels, including Crianza, Reserva, and Gran Reserva, each representing different ageing requirements.

The region is dotted with prestigious wineries, known as bodegas, where visitors can explore centuries-old cellars and indulge in wine tastings.

Scenic Beauty: Beyond its vineyards, Rioja boasts stunning natural scenery. The Ebro River meanders through the region, flanked by picturesque towns and rolling hills covered in vineyards.

The Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route also crosses through Rioja, attracting hikers and history enthusiasts.

Charming Towns: Rioja is home to charming towns and cities, such as Logroño, the regional capital, known for its lively atmosphere and tapas bars.

Haro, the wine capital of Rioja, hosts the famous Batalla del Vino (Wine Battle) each year. Briones and Laguardia are enchanting medieval villages with well-preserved architecture.

Culinary Delights: Rioja's gastronomy perfectly complements its wines. The region is famous for its succulent lamb dishes and a wide range of local produce, including peppers, asparagus, and artichokes.

Dining in a traditional Riojan restaurant is an opportunity to savour the flavours of Spain's northern cuisine.

Culture and Festivals: Rioja is steeped in cultural traditions, with festivals and events celebrating the region's heritage.

The Batalla del Vino, mentioned earlier, is a unique wine fight where participants douse each other with wine. Rioja also hosts numerous wine-related festivals and cultural events throughout the year.

Rioja is a captivating destination that caters to wine aficionados, nature lovers, history buffs, and food enthusiasts alike. Its unique blend of wine culture, natural beauty, and cultural heritage makes it a must-visit region in Spain.

Olite Navarra

Navarra captures the essence of diversity and scenic beauty. It's a place where vibrant cultures, stunning landscapes, and a rich tapestry of traditions converge.

The Navarra region is a mosaic of landscapes. To the north, the majestic Pyrenees Mountains paint a dramatic backdrop with verdant valleys, beckoning hikers and nature enthusiasts. In contrast, the southern region transforms into a fertile plain, where vineyards and orchards thrive in the Mediterranean climate.

The region is celebrated for its wine production, notably its acclaimed rosé wines crafted from Garnacha grapes.

Here, you can explore local wineries, known as bodegas, where tastings offer a delightful journey through the region's winemaking heritage. Complementing the wines, Navarra's cuisine is a treat for the senses, featuring traditional dishes like Pochas a la Navarra and the flavorful Chistorra sausage.

Pamplona, the capital of Navarra , is a city steeped in history. Its medieval old town, enveloped by ancient walls, exudes an enchanting charm.

The Pamplona Cathedral, a striking example of Gothic architecture, is a prominent landmark.

The city is also famous for hosting the San Fermín festival, renowned worldwide for its exhilarating Running of the Bulls event.

Beyond its urban treasures, Navarra showcases the mesmerising Bardenas Reales, a semi-desert region designated as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. Its arid landscapes, reminiscent of cinematic westerns, draw photographers and adventure seekers.

Navarra celebrates its rich cultural heritage through a myriad of festivals. The San Fermín festival is just the tip of the iceberg, with traditional music, dance, and folklore events that honour the region's Basque and Navarrese roots.

Navarra's tapestry of natural beauty, cultural depth, and culinary excellence offers an authentic Spanish experience. Whether you seek outdoor adventures, cultural immersion, or simply a taste of the local way of life, Navarra welcomes you with open arms, inviting you to explore its captivating tapestry.

The Cities of Northern Spain

Santander

Here are the main cities located within the regions of Northern Spain:

Bilbao (Basque Country): Bilbao is the largest city in the Basque Country and is renowned for its modern architecture, most notably the Guggenheim Museum. The city is an industrial and cultural hub with a vibrant arts scene and a thriving culinary tradition.

Vitoria-Gasteiz (Basque Country): As the capital of the Basque Country, Vitoria-Gasteiz is known for its well-preserved medieval old town and green spaces. It's often cited as one of the greenest cities in Europe.

San Sebastian (Basque Country): San Sebastian, or Donostia in Basque, is certainly one of the best places to visit in Northern Spain. It is famous for its stunning beaches, culinary excellence, and the annual San Fermín festival. Its picturesque old town and beautiful La Concha Beach are major attractions.

Pamplona (Navarra): Pamplona is famous for the San Fermín festival and its historic old town. It's a city steeped in tradition and history, with a charming atmosphere.

Logrono (La Rioja): As the capital of La Rioja, Logroño is at the heart of Spain's wine country. The city is known for its tapas culture and is a great base for exploring the local wineries.

Oviedo (Asturias): Oviedo is the capital of Asturias and is celebrated for its historic architecture and lively arts scene. It's a city where tradition meets modernity.

Gijón (Asturias): Gijón is Asturias' largest city and offers a vibrant coastal experience with beautiful beaches and a thriving nightlife.

Santander (Cantabria): Santander is a picturesque coastal city with elegant architecture, beautiful beaches, and a relaxed atmosphere. It's a popular destination for beachgoers and tourists.

A Coruna (Galicia): A Coruña, or La Coruña, is known for its stunning waterfront promenade, historic old town, and the Tower of Hercules, a Roman lighthouse and UNESCO World Heritage site.

Santiago de Compostela (Galicia): Santiago de Compostela is the spiritual and cultural heart of Galicia, famous for its cathedral and the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route. Its historic old town is a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of best places to visit in Northern Spain.

Best Places To Say in Northern Spain

Hondarribia Basque Country

Whether you seek cultural immersion, natural beauty, or coastal relaxation, Northern Spain has something for everyone.

Here is our pick of the best places to stay in Northern Spain:

San Sebastian:

Nestled along the Bay of Biscay, San Sebastian , or Donostia in Basque, is a coastal jewel celebrated for its exquisite beaches, including La Concha and Zurriola.

The city's crown jewel is its Old Town, where narrow cobblestone streets lead to delightful pintxos (tapas) bars, showcasing the Basque culinary prowess.

San Sebastian is an ideal destination for beach lovers, foodies, and those seeking a cultural and culinary odyssey.

Bilbao, the largest city in the Basque Country, has undergone a remarkable transformation from an industrial hub to a cultural epicentre.

The iconic Guggenheim Museum, designed by architect Frank Gehry, has become a symbol of modern architecture and contemporary art. Beyond the museum, explore the lively neighbourhoods, sample Basque cuisine at local restaurants, and stroll along the banks of the Nervión River.

Santiago de Compostela:

The capital of Galicia , Santiago de Compostela, is synonymous with the Camino de Santiago, a medieval pilgrimage route that culminates at its stunning cathedral.

The historic old town is a UNESCO World Heritage site, boasting charming squares, centuries-old buildings, and a vibrant atmosphere.

Pilgrims and travellers alike are drawn to the city's spiritual and cultural allure.

Santander , the capital of Cantabria, is an elegant coastal city offering a perfect blend of urban sophistication and natural beauty.

Playa del Sardinero is a pristine beach where you can soak in the sun, while the Palacio de la Magdalena, a grand palace overlooking the bay, is a testament to the city's aristocratic past.

As the capital of La Rioja, Logroño is the epicentre of Spain's renowned wine region. The historic centre is a labyrinth of charming streets, where you can enjoy exquisite tapas and local wines. Stroll along Laurel Street, known as the "Path of the Elephants," and savour the tastes of La Rioja's cuisine.

Pamplona , the capital of Navarra, is famous for the San Fermín festival and its exhilarating Running of the Bulls.

The city's historic quarter is a treasure trove of Gothic architecture, including the Pamplona Cathedral. Beyond the festival, Pamplona offers a rich cultural experience, making it a compelling destination year-round.

The capital of Asturias , Oviedo, is a city of contrasts. Its historic old town is a testament to centuries of history, with striking architecture and charming squares. The city's modern side boasts a vibrant arts scene, world-class restaurants, and a welcoming atmosphere.

Bardenas Reales:

This semi-desert region in Navarra is a geological wonderland, characterized by eerie rock formations and rugged landscapes.

Bardenas Reales is a paradise for adventure seekers, offering opportunities for hiking, biking, and photography.

Rías Baixas:

In the heart of Galicia, Rías Baixas is a coastal haven defined by its picturesque rías (estuaries) and vineyard-covered hillsides.

The region's Albarino wines are celebrated, and visitors can explore charming seaside towns like Sanxenxo and Combarro while indulging in fresh seafood.

Picos de Europa:

Spanning multiple regions, the Picos de Europa mountain range is a haven for nature enthusiasts.

Towering peaks, lush valleys, and pristine lakes define this stunning natural landscape.

Hiking, wildlife watching, and exploring traditional mountain villages are among the many activities available.

Recommended Hotels in Northern Spain

Maria Cristina Hotel

Luxury Hotels:

  • Hotel Maria Cristina (San Sebastian): This iconic luxury hotel, part of the Luxury Collection by Marriott, exudes elegance and is located in the heart of San Sebastián. Guests enjoy opulent rooms, gourmet dining, and views of the Urumea River.
  • Gran Hotel Domine Bilbao : Situated right next to the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, this 5-star hotel combines contemporary design with comfort. Its rooftop terrace offers panoramic views of the city.
  • Parador de Santiago de Compostela : A historic Parador (luxury state-run hotel) located next to Santiago de Compostela Cathedral, this establishment is steeped in history and offers lavish rooms and top-notch dining.

Mid-Range Hotels:

  • Sercotel Hotel Las Rocas (Santander): Overlooking the Bay of Biscay, this mid-range hotel provides comfortable rooms with sea views. It's an excellent choice for travellers seeking affordability and a beachfront location.
  • Hotel Conde Duque (Logrono): Located in the heart of Logrono, this mid-range hotel offers modern amenities and easy access to the city's tapas bars and wine cellars.
  • Hotel Libretto (Oviedo): A stylish boutique hotel in Oviedo, Hotel Libretto combines contemporary design with affordability. It's conveniently located for exploring the city's cultural attractions.

Budget-Friendly:

  • Albergue Jakue (Pamplona): Pilgrims and budget-conscious travellers can find comfortable accommodations at this pilgrim hostel in Pamplona. It's a great choice for those walking the Camino de Santiago.

Best  Beaches in Northern Spain

La Concha Beach San Sebastian

  • La Concha Beach (San Sebastian): La Concha is renowned for its pristine crescent shape, soft sands, and crystal-clear waters. It's ideal for swimming and water sports while offering views of the city and the Urgull and Igeldo mountains.
  • Zurriola Beach (San Sebastian): Known for its surf-friendly waves, Zurriola attracts surfers from around the world. The beach is lively and has a youthful atmosphere, making it a hotspot for beachgoers.
  • Playa de Orza n (A Coruna): A spacious urban beach with fine golden sand, Orzán is perfect for long walks and sunbathing. The beach promenade offers a range of dining options and bars.
  • Playa de las Catedrales (Ribadeo): This beach is famous for its unique rock formations and natural arches. During low tide, visitors can explore these geological wonders.
  • Playa de Somo (Santander): Somo Beach is a haven for surfers, known for its consistent waves and surf schools. The long stretch of sandy shore is perfect for beach games and relaxation.
  • Playa de Gulpiyuri (Llanes): A hidden gem, Gulpiyuri Beach is an inland beach with freshwater from underground streams. It's a surreal and beautiful spot for a unique beach experience.
  • Playa de Silencio (Cudillero): Also known as "Silent Beach," this secluded cove is surrounded by cliffs and offers a tranquil escape. It's a great place for a peaceful swim and enjoying the rugged beauty of Asturias.
  • Playa de Noja (Noja): Located in Cantabria, Noja Beach is known for its family-friendly atmosphere, golden sands, and clear waters. Water sports enthusiasts can enjoy activities like windsurfing and kayaking.
  • Praia das Catedrais (Ribadeo): This Galician beach is famous for its breathtaking rock formations and natural arches. Visitors can explore these geological wonders during low tide.
  • Playa de Samil (Vigo): Samil Beach in Vigo is a popular urban beach with fine sands and a wide range of facilities. It's an excellent place for families to relax and enjoy the sea.
  • Playa de Rodas (Cíes Islands): Often called one of the best beaches in the world, Rodas Beach offers stunning white sands and clear turquoise waters in the Cíes Islands, part of the Galician coast.
  • Playa de Los Quebrantos (San Juan de la Arena): Located in Asturias, Los Quebrantos Beach is known for its wild beauty, rocky formations, and surfing conditions.

FAQs - Frequently Asked Questions

Where is the best place to go in northern spain.

The best place to go in northern Spain depends on your preferences. San Sebastián is a top choice for its stunning beaches and culinary scene, while Bilbao offers modern art and architecture. Santiago de Compostela is a cultural gem, and Asturias is perfect for nature lovers.

Is northern Spain worth visiting?

Northern Spain is definitely worth visiting. It offers diverse landscapes, rich culture, delicious cuisine, and welcoming locals.

Which is better Santander or San Sebastian?

Santander and San Sebastián each have their charm. Santander is known for its elegance and beautiful beaches, while San Sebastián is famous for its culinary delights and La Concha Beach.

Are there nice beaches in northern Spain?

Yes, there are stunning beaches in northern Spain, especially in San Sebastián, Santander, and Galicia. The region's coastline is diverse and beautiful.

What is the best food city in northern Spain?

San Sebastian is often considered the best food city in northern Spain, known for its pintxos (tapas) culture and Michelin-starred restaurants.

What is the north of Spain famous for?

The north of Spain is famous for its diverse landscapes, rich history, and vibrant culture. It's also known for the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route.

What is the best month to visit northern Spain?

The best month to visit northern Spain depends on your preferences. Spring and early autumn are pleasant, while summer is great for beachgoers. Autumn is ideal for wine enthusiasts.

Why is Santander so popular?

Santander's popularity is due to its stunning beaches, elegant architecture, and relaxed atmosphere. It's a beloved coastal destination.

What is the food capital of northern Spain?

San Sebastián is often considered the food capital of northern Spain, famous for its culinary innovation and delicious pintxos.

Is it worth visiting Oviedo Spain?

Yes, Oviedo is worth visiting for its historical charm, cultural attractions, and lively arts scene.

Is it worth visiting Bilbao?

Bilbao is worth visiting for its modern art, stunning architecture, and unique urban transformation.

Is it better to stay in Gijón or Oviedo?

Choosing between GijOn and Oviedo depends on your preferences. GijOn offers a vibrant coastal experience, while Oviedo is known for its historic charm.

Is Asturias worth visiting for tourists?

Asturias is definitely worth visiting for tourists, offering a mix of natural beauty, fantastic beaches, green pastures, rich culture, and delicious cuisine.

What is the prettiest village in Asturias?

Cudillero is often considered one of the prettiest villages in Asturias, known for its picturesque harbour and colourful houses cascading down the cliffs.

  • About Author
  • Latest Posts

Matt Robson

Hey there! I'm Matt, your friendly neighbourhood explorer extraordinaire! For the past 15 years, I've been gallivanting around Spain, soaking up all its wonders and uncovering hidden gems like a modern-day Indiana Jones (minus the hat and whip, unfortunately). So, buckle up, amigos! It's time to dive straight into the heart and soul of Spain. Welcome to my world of Spanish wonders!

Latest posts from Matt

  • 4 Days in Valencia – The Ultimate Bucket List Itinerary - March 17, 2024
  • Luxury Spain Holidays – The Ultimate Bucket List Travel Guide - March 9, 2024
  • Easter in Spain – Semana Santa Holy Week Traditions - March 7, 2024

Recent Posts

Fonda Beach Barcelona

Off the Beaten Path: The Top Barcelona Beaches that You’ve Never Heard Of

Shoreline Sightseeing Excursion

Making the Most of the Off Peak Shoulder Season in Spain

Sunny Spain

Spain Dominates With The Sunniest Cities in Europe

Central Market Valencia

4 Days in Valencia – The Ultimate Bucket List Itinerary

Luxury Charters

Luxury Spain Holidays – The Ultimate Bucket List Travel Guide

Easter in Spain

Easter in Spain – Semana Santa Holy Week Traditions

Opium Disco Barcelona

Barcelona Nightlife – Best Discos & Nightclubs Not To Be Missed

Mediterranean Cruises

Making The Most Of Shore Sightseeing Excursions In Spain Whilst Cruising The Med

Leave a reply cancel reply.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed .

Spainguides Newsletter

Travel Smarter -  Not Harder

Download free e-guides and travel tips.

Start your Journey today and get access to exclusive FREE content.

Disclosure: Please note that some of the links included in the above content may be affiliate links. We may earn a commission if you make a purchase at no extra cost to you. Rest assured, we only recommend products and services that we personally use or have used and are happy to recommend. Any commission we earn helps toward the site's running costs. 

Username or Email Address

Remember Me

  • WHY VISIT SPAIN?
  • TRAVELLING TO SPAIN
  • SPAIN ON A BUDGET
  • TRAVEL REQUIREMENTS – ETIAS
  • SPAIN ENTRY REQUIREMENTS
  • SPANISH CUISINE
  • SPANISH FOOD
  • HOLIDAY IDEAS
  • PUBLIC HOLIDAYS
  • TOURISM BOARDS
  • AIRPORT GUIDE
  • DRIVING IN SPAIN
  • WEATHER IN SPAIN
  • FREE WEB CAMS
  • BEST BEACHES SPAIN
  • FESTIVALS & FIESTAS
  • MUSEUMS IN SPAIN
  • CAMPING IN SPAIN
  • MARINAS IN SPAIN
  • SKIING IN SPAIN
  • WATER PARKS
  • UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE SITES
  • 80 BEST ATTRACTIONS
  • 71 BEST PLACES TO VISIT
  • REGIONS OF SPAIN
  • COSTA DEL SOL
  • CANARY ISLANDS
  • SAN SEBASTIAN
  • Complete List:
  • SAGRADA FAMILIA BARCELONA
  • BARCELONA FC STADIUM TOUR
  • BARCELONA FLAMENCO SHOW
  • SEVILLE FLAMENCO SHOW
  • SEVILLE CATHEDRAL
  • GAUDI`S CASA BATLLO
  • THE ALHAMBRA GRANADA
  • SANTIAGO CATHEDRAL
  • CITY OF ARTS & SCIENCE VALENCIA
  • MOSQUE-CATHEDRAL CORDOBA
  • CAMINITO DEL REY
  • PRADO MUSEUM MADRID
  • REINA SOFIA ART MUSEUM
  • SCUBA DIVING
  • BEST TAPAS TOURS
  • BEST WINE TASTING TOURS
  • TOUR GUIDES
  • HOTELS IN SPAIN
  • LUXURY HOTELS
  • LUXURY BEACH HOTELS
  • HOLIDAY RENTALS
  • PARADOR HOTELS
  • CHEAP FLIGHTS
  • TRAVEL INSURANCE
  • FREE TRAVEL BROCHURES
  • WIN FREE HOLIDAYS

northern spain places to visit

Roads & Rivers

  • Hawaii Islands
  • Philippines

Northern Spain Travel Itinerary | 9 Perfect Days

A northern spain travel itinerary is one of the most spectacular road trips you can take in Spain. Northern Spain is a region full of scenic highlights. The sea here is usually very rough, the cliffs very steep and yet the landscape here is characterized by dense forests and green meadows. It rains quite a lot, at least much more than in the more popular region of Andalusia in the south of Spain. Northern Spain has so far been spared from mass tourism, so you rarely see foreign license plates along the way.

This is somewhat surprising, as northern Spain is not short of spectacular sights. In addition to the rugged coastline, there are beautiful beaches that are reminiscent of the beaches of the Algarve in Portugal. There is also a high mountain range right on the coast where you will feel like you are in South Tyrol. And the most striking highlight, which you wouldn’t expect to find here, is an arid desert that reminded us strongly of the Atacama Desert in Chile.

We’ll now tell you the best way to pack all these northern Spain highlights into a two-week itinerary and what important tips we have for your northern Spain road trip.

Northern Spain Road Trip Itinerary – Overview

The itinerary for our northern Spain road trip is clearly based on the natural must sees of northern Spain and the most beautiful scenic sights. We have largely left out cities, partly because we are more nature than city types and partly because there are only a few cities in northern Spain that we think are really worth seeing. Exceptions, such as San Sebastian, prove the rule here.

Northern Spain Travel Itinerary | 9 Perfect Days

Our route starts in the east of northern Spain in San Sebastian and ends in the west in Santiago de Compostela. The route can therefore be used to travel to Portugal and discover the highlights of Portugal on a road trip .

Facts about the Northern Spain Travel Itinerary

Duration: 7-10 days Kilometers: 1200 km Best time to travel: June-August (peak season) or May/September (quieter off-season) Further information : Travel route on Google Maps

Highlights on the route

Bardenas Reales Playa de las Catedrales Picos de Europa San Sebastian

Northern Spain Road Trip Day 1 | San Sebastian

We start our northern Spain travel itinerary in the north-east of Spain on the border with France, where a very special city awaits you.

Although we are not really city people and prefer to be out in nature rather than in civilization, San Sebastian totally blew us away. Our northern Spain travel guide said it was the “most beautiful city in the world” and although we tend to have an aversion to such exaggerations, we wanted to give the city a chance. And what can we say, it was really worth it.

San Sebastian Nordspanien

The old town of San Sebastian is super small, but also really worth seeing. There are medieval walls, beautiful churches, authentic restaurants and lots of charm. There is also a great city beach framed by Concha Bay. You can climb the hills that rise up on both sides of Concha Bay and enjoy a wonderful view of the sea and the old town from the top.

Accommodation Recommendation

Northern Spain Travel Itinerary | 9 Perfect Days

Not to miss

  • Be sure to climb one of the two hills at Conchas Bay
  • Treat yourself to a few delicious pintxos in the old town
  • Further information : San Sebastian Donostia | The 6 Best Things To Do

Day 2 | Bardenas Reales

The highlight of today’s northern Spain travel itinerary is about 2 hours south of San Sebastian. And you will hardly believe your eyes when you see this area for the first time. And you will hardly meet any other people here, because the Bardenas Reales is a little insider tip in northern Spain.

The spectacular Bardenas Reales is a rugged and inhospitable desert in the Navarra region and is located some distance from the coast of northern Spain, but is still worth the long journey.

The desert is a spectacular highlight in northern Spain and should not be missed on any northern Spain travel itinerary.

Castil de Tierra Bardenas Reales

The Bardenas Reales consists largely of bizarre, ochre-colored clay landscapes spread over several hundred square kilometers. Sometimes you feel like you’re in the American Grand Canyon, although everything is much smaller here.

The semi-desert Bardenas Reales de Navarra covers over 400 km² and is therefore roughly the size of Cologne. You can drive through it in half a day and see landscapes that you wouldn’t expect.

Find out more about this incredible desert here:

  • Bardenas Reales Spain | 8 Things To Know Before You Go

Northern Spain Travel Itinerary | 9 Perfect Days

Not To Miss

  • Stop as often as possible to marvel at the scenery
  • You won’t need more than one day on site (including arrival and departure)
  • Further information : Bardenas Reales Spain | 8 important tips for your visit

Day 3 | Bilbao

Bilbao is not the most beautiful city in Spain, but as it is on the route of a northern Spain round trip, it is still a good stop. It will take you just under 2.5 hours to get from the Bardenas Reales desert back to the coast.

Bilbao is actually an industrial and port city but is still visited by many tourists. This is because it is home to the world-famous Guggenheim Museum. Its exterior is the real highlight for many, but inside it houses some famous modern and contemporary works of art. The museum is absolutely worth a visit for art lovers.

If you are more interested in architecture or technology, we can recommend a very special ferry, which is actually a bridge. The Puente de Vizcaya (Vizcaya Bridge) was inaugurated on July 18, 1893, making it the oldest floating ferry in the world.

The special thing about it is that you are pulled across the Nervion River on a platform. The platform is suspended from a 45 high bridge that spans 160 meters across the river. You can cross the river in your car for just a few euros. You can also reach the upper part of the bridge by elevator and cross the structure on foot.

Puente de Vizcaya Bilbao

  • If you are not interested in art, then the city is not particularly worth seeing
  • But if you want to visit the museum, then you should spend 1-2 days here
  • Tickets for the Guggenheim Museum (no queuing): buy here*

Day 4-5 | Picos de Europa

On your northern Spain road trip today, you will continue along the coast and pass Santander. The city itself is not really worth seeing, but it has an impressive coastline to offer. Here you can walk for miles along the sea and climb over the rugged cliffs.

It is best to park behind the soccer pitch on a large meadow (Google Maps ) and set off from there. There are great views for several kilometers in both directions.

About an hour further on is one of the most impressive national parks in Spain. The Picos de Europa (in the national park of the same name) are a high mountain range on the coast of northern Spain and totally remind us of the Dolomites in South Tyrol. The mountain massifs are over 2000 meters high and there are many opportunities to hike and discover the fantastic mountain world.

One hike in particular is considered one of the most beautiful ones in Spain and is definitely the most spectacular in the Picos de Europa. On the Ruta del Cares , you hike over 11 km along a gorge that is only a few meters wide in places.

Picos de Europa Nordspanien

But there is also plenty else to discover. Beautiful mountain lakes in picture-book scenery, authentic mountain villages and narrow serpentines that wind their way up the mountains.

  • More about the Picos de Europa: Picos De Europa | 6 fantastic highlights you have to see

Northern Spain Travel Itinerary | 9 Perfect Days

  • Make sure you do the Ruta del Cares hike
  • There is an incredible amount to see and discover here. The routes are also very long due to the mountains. Take your time
  • Further information : Picos De Europa | 6 fantastic highlights you have to see

Day 6 | Playa de las Catedrales

Today we continue along the coast for about 2 hours in a westerly direction. On the way, you will pass the beautiful Silence Beach. Although there are hardly any parking spaces and pebbles instead of sand, the beach is still well worth a visit. But today’s destination is even more impressive.

Playa de Catedrales is probably the most spectacular beach in northern Spain and probably in the whole of Spain. This beach should definitely not be missed on your northern Spain road trip.

The beauty of Playa de Catredales is due to the numerous rocks and arch-like rock formations on the beach and the fact that almost the entire beach is under water at high tide. This means you can only visit the beach and the crazy rock formations at low tide.

Playa de las Catedrales schwimmen

Because it is so beautiful, you are of course never alone on the beach. Playa de Catedrales is extremely popular and always well frequented. As a result, you even have to buy limited tickets to visit the beach in high season.

You can find out where to park at Playa de Catedrales, where to get tickets and everything else you need to know here:

  • Playa de las Catedrales | Tips on the beach, parking & camping

Northern Spain Travel Itinerary | 9 Perfect Days

  • Bear in mind that the beach can only be visited at low tide.
  • Apart from the spectacular rocks, the beach is also suitable for swimming and lying on the beach
  • Further information : Playa de las Catedrales | Tips on the beach, parking & camping

Day 7 | Cova da Doncella

About an hour to the west, right by the sea, lies a wonderful little attraction. The Cova de Doncella is a small but beautiful cave right on a steep cliff in the Galicia region. The way down here is not easy to find. You have to park in this parking lot (Google Maps ) and then walk about 500 meters through a beautiful dense forest. When you reach the cliff, turn right onto a small path and after a few meters you will find yourself in front of the small cave entrance.

You will almost have to crawl to get through, but at the end you will be rewarded with a fantastic view. You can also walk around on the narrow rock that you can see from the cave opening.

Cova da Doncela

There is also a beautiful beach right next door, which is not within walking distance, but can at least be reached by car in a few minutes. Praia Abrela offers a very wide sandy beach with gently sloping waters. There are picnic tables and a beach bar in summer. Unfortunately, dogs are not allowed.

Northern Spain Travel Itinerary | 9 Perfect Days

  • Not only the sights described above are beautiful and totally worth seeing, but also the route and landscape itself.
  • So don’t forget to enjoy the panorama from time to time and stop to marvel at the beauty of Galicia.

Day 8 | Cabo Ortegal & Sierra de la Capelada

Cabo Ortegal is a cape on the north coast of Galicia and a very special highlight in northern Spain. There is a lighthouse, which was built in the 1980s and protects shipping from the steep cliffs and numerous rocks in the water in the often very rough sea.

The view from this small cape is truly indescribably beautiful. You look out over the numerous rocks that rise out of the sea in front of you and on which thousands of seabirds nest.

To the southwest of the cape is the Serra da Capelada with its numerous steep cliffs, which look really fantastic from Cabo Ortegal.

The Serra da Capelada is a 20 km long mountain range in Galicia and, at 620 meters, is the highest elevation in south-western Europe. The cliffs drop steeply down to the sea and offer an impressive spectacle with the rugged coastline and rough sea.

Serra da Capelada Spanien

The road winds here at some distance from the coast over the numerous hills and through many tight bends along wind farms and great nature and always offers beautiful viewpoints of the coast.

Fun fact : There are free-roaming horses and herds of cattle throughout the Serra da Capelada, which can sometimes be right on the road. So be sure to drive carefully here.

  • Take advantage of the numerous viewpoints along the road
  • Don’t miss the opportunity to see the rugged coastline
  • There are free-roaming horses and cattle everywhere. Be especially careful if you have a dog with you!

Day 9 | Santiago de Compostela

The destination of our route through northern Spain is a very well-known city in the northwest of Spain. Santiago de Compostela is known as the destination of the Way of St. James. But even if you are not interested in pilgrimage, this city in the far west of northern Spain is well worth a visit.

Santiago de Compostela Nordspanien Highlights

The highlight of Santiago is certainly the large square in front of the cathedral, where all the pilgrims arrive after a long journey and celebrate the end of their journey. No matter when you arrive here, you will definitely see some happy pilgrims on the floor of the cathedral square.

But even apart from that, the old town of Santiago de Compostela is very beautiful and invites you to take a long stroll through the city.

Northern Spain Travel Itinerary | 9 Perfect Days

  • Santiago is the destination of all pilgrims, so you’re sure to come across a few.
  • Soak up the atmosphere on Cathedral Square and stroll through the historic old town. But you don’t need to spend more than a day here.

The most beautiful beaches in northern Spain

Northern Spain not only has spectacular cliffs and rocky coasts to offer, but also beautiful beaches that reminded us of the Algarve . For a list of the most beautiful beaches in northern Spain, just take a look here:

  • The 7 most beautiful beaches in northern Spain

Playa da Arnia - Strand Nordspanien

Northern Spain Road Trip | The Best Travel Tips

There are regional official languages in northern spain.

In the northern Spanish regions of Galicia, Navarre, the Basque Country, Cantabria and Asturias, there are regional dialects in addition to Spanish that some people learned at school.

These dialects are official languages and so place names and other designations on signs are always described in two languages. This can sometimes be confusing, as some dialects have nothing to do with Castilian Spanish, which is the official national language.

How many days should you plan for a tour of northern Spain?

We recommend planning at least one week for a tour of Northern Spain. However, it is also no problem to stay in this region for 2 weeks or even longer. In addition to the rugged coastal landscape, there are also wonderful beaches where you can relax in summer.

Northern Spain Travel Itinerary | 9 Perfect Days

Northern Spain – The best time to visit

Northern Spain is much harsher than, for example, the Andalusia region in the south. The weather is correspondingly less appealing. It rains much more here and the hours of sunshine cannot be compared with the sun-drenched regions in southern Spain. The Spanish Atlantic coast is even considered the rainiest region in Spain. As a result, you should be prepared for a lot of rain here.

The main season is the summer months of July and August. Here you have the best chance of good weather with around 25 degrees. However, this is also when most of the other tourists are out and about. We therefore also recommend the low season with the months of May/June and September. However, it is a little cooler here and swimming in the sea is not always pleasant.

How much does a round trip to northern Spain cost?

Prices in Spain are generally comparable to those in Germany, but tend to be slightly lower. You pay a little less than in Germany, especially in supermarkets.

Northern Spain Travel Itinerary | 9 Perfect Days

Is northern Spain very touristy?

In contrast to Andalusia or the Algarve in Portugal , northern Spain is not touristy at all. Most of the tourists you will meet are locals or French. The north of Spain is not really on the agenda for Germans. If at all, then as a transit region on the way to Portugal .

Of course, it can still get quite crowded at the tourist hotspots in summer. In general, however, the region is far from being overrun by mass tourism.

Northern Spain Camping | Is Northern Spain suitable for camping?

Northern Spain is perfect for vanlife and a round trip in a motorhome. There are many great opportunities for free-standing and wild camping in the countryside. We have summarized all the information you need for camping in northern Spain in a separate article.

  • Northern Spain camping & free standing 2023 I The 8 most important tips

Nordspanien Freistehen

We hope you enjoyed our route and our tips for a round trip to Northern Spain. If you have any questions, please write us a comment!

Leave a Reply Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Save my name, email, and website in this browser for the next time I comment.

Road is Calling

northern coast of spain

Northern Coast of Spain Travel Guide – Best Places to Visit, Things to See & Do

For a long time, I wanted to visit the northern coast of Spain. I know, a lot of people prefer the southern region with its Moorish sights, flamenco, stunning beaches, whitewashed villages, milder winters, and fiestas.

But I feel that cities like Barcelona , Madrid , Valencia , or for example Seville have taken all the attention. Plus, from late spring to fall when everyone goes to southern Spain, that region becomes very crowded.

Mark and I spent a good chunk of time going on road trips from Barcelona to Valencia , from Valencia to Malaga , visiting vineyards in the south of Spain , and exploring Costa Brava Region. There we wandered to small inland villages and walked the streets of busy cities. And we seriously loved it.

Yet, for some reason, it didn’t leave a feeling that we wanted to return, perhaps rent an apartment for a longer period of time and discover more of the region. Maybe the reason was that the scenery and nature reminded us a lot about Southern California where our life was too stressful, I am not sure. But the southwest of Spain didn’t impress us as much as the north.

In northern Spain, we also had much more time to spend since we decided to come for a couple of months and turn into locals for a bit. And that long holiday left a lasting impression. The north Spain coast actually made us change our perception of Spain completely. The more time we were spending there, the more we were falling in love with it.

Northern coast of Spain

So I wanted to write this post and share our favorite north Spain places and attractions. If you are visiting Spain for the first time and wondering if the northern region is worth your time, it definitely is! Because it’s simply impossible not to enjoy it. See below why!

Northern Spain Beaches Are Simply Mind-Blowing And Warm To Swim

beaches in Northern Spain

To be honest, I underestimated the beauty of the north coast of Spain. I expected it to be dramatic and impressive but had no clue it would be that spellbinding. Every time Mark and I go to visit a new coastal city or town we follow the rule of stopping at the local beach, walking around it for a bit, taking a few pictures, and looking at waves crashing on the shore.

And every beach we visited so far looked so different from the previous and from the next one. Some beaches are wide with calm and sheltered waters perfect for swimming while others are narrowly nestled between rocky coastal formations.

There are beaches with white or bright yellow sand and those with shells and pebbles. It doesn’t matter what type of beach along the north coast we go to. Every single one of them captivates us so much that we are ready to run in the water despite the fact that it is early spring.

Northern coast of Spain

And what’s interesting – the ocean along the northern coast of Spain is not cold. There are many nice sunny days to sunbathe on the beach and even go for a quick dip (for those from the north).

The Northern Coast of Spain Has Some of the Finest Cheeses and Cider

For cheeses….

Did you know that Spain is actually a producer of some of the finest cheeses in Europe? I always thought it was France which remains famous worldwide until this day.  When we visited the Cabrales Cheese Cave in Las Arenas we learned that Spain produces more types of cheeses than France. However, since their production is directed mainly at a local market than international, Spanish cheese is not as well-known and popular around the world as their neighbors in France.

Each region in northern Spain makes some type of cheese. Asturias is famous for Cabrales cheese – a blue cheese made with a mixture of sheep, goat, and cow’s milk. Cantabria produces a creamy cheese with a bitter flavor called Nata de Cantabria. Galicia makes a few types of cheeses. One is Tetilla cheese – a creamy one with a salty flavor using cow’s milk only.

Another one is Arzula Illoa – a handmade soft mild cheese made with cow’s milk also but has a bit oily taste. The Basque country is home to Idiazabal cheese – raw sheep’s milk cheese with a hard and smooth crust with an intense aroma and high calcium content. It comes with smoke and creamy flavors.

A visit to a cheese farm is an interesting experience that you can get in any part of northern Spain. And you don’t need to plan it as a separate trip. It is very easy to stop by one of the farms (or stores where they can tell you a bit about the production too) on the way to a hike, beach, national park, or when visiting villages or smaller towns. There are quite a few of them scattered along the coast. Just don’t forget about the siesta time when most businesses close for a few hours.

visiting cheese farm in North Spain

FOR A CIDER…

Cider is a drink that takes a special place in the lives of local people from Galicia to Basque county. It is an absolute must-try, especially when in Asturias. This region, being home to cider, is full of cider farms (called Sidras.) Some are bigger, some are smaller but all of them tell about the process of making cider and the most interesting part of how to drink and pour it.

When being on a road trip anywhere between Unquera and Cudillero , put in Google maps the word “Sidra” and you’ll see lots of options for where to stop for such a unique experience. By the way, the Cabrales Cheese Cave mentioned above includes a cider tasting after the cheese tour.

For a more authentic and entertaining experience , I recommend visiting one of the Taverns or Bars (they can also be called Sidrerias.) There, you’ll get a taste of cider beverages and witness the process of pouring and drinking it.

If you happen to drive in the evening from Santander to Gijon or back, stop in the tiny town of Villaviciosa. It has a lovely cafe de Vicente Pasteleria with a very friendly barman and a homey feel. The town itself is pretty unremarkable but its location right near the highway makes it easy to detour. And drinking cider there is an absolutely delightful experience. One big bottle is more than enough for two people.

Sometimes It Feels Like Ireland or Switzerland

Picos de Europa national park

Neither of us has been to Ireland (yet) but we definitely have seen many pictures of the Irish coast . On many occasions, when traveling along the Northern coast of Spain we get the impression that the scenery is very similar to that one on Ireland postcards. 

Especially regions like Galicia and Asturias, known for its verdant and lush green landscapes, remind of Ireland. The abundant rainfall in these areas contributes to the vibrant vegetation, creating a picturesque countryside similar to Ireland’s. And both regions feature stunning coastal cliffs and a rugged shoreline that adds to the scenic beauty of the coastline.

At the same time, driving away from the coast towards the mountains changes the scenery in many ways. Irish motifs slowly turn into Swiss. Some parts of the northern region, particularly the Cantabrian Mountains, reminded me of the Bernese Oberland in central Switzerland . However, the mountains in Spain of course do not reach the same heights as the Swiss Alps.

Food in Northern Spain is Something To Travel For

food in northern Spain

The culinary richness of the north coast of Spain is represented by a variety of seafood dishes, meat, fresh vegetables and fruits, excellent cheeses, and wines. The choice of seafood is so wide that it’s easy to get lost when in the store or restaurant.

You can also be sure that foods there are always fresh and organic. There are no chemical additives, artificial coloring, or preservatives to make it last longer and taste better. The entire northern coast of Spain has a clean environment and high-quality natural foods.

Cocido montañes , a thick soup made from white beans, meat (pork, ham), cabbage, and blood sausage, is a traditional dish of the region, especially in mountain areas. Paella with seafood and mussels in white wine broth are very popular too. 

It Is One of The Least Populated and Touristy Regions

Northern Spain is perfect for those who appreciate quietness, serenity, and a slower pace of life. In general, the region is not heavily populated, so it never feels too busy. Even in larger cities you rarely get disturbed by a hectic lifestyle. During the high tourist season (which is usually summer) you won’t find nearly as many tourists as in southern Spain.

A small population and the absence of a large number of visitors, a competent policy of local authorities in respect of nature and the environment have allowed this region to remain almost in its original state.

The majority of tourists to northern Spain are people who have traveled quite a lot around Spain and Europe. They can compare and understand the advantages of different regions. These people appreciate organic foods and high-quality beverages, can distinguish between natural and manmade beaches, and love nature in its original state.

North Spain road trip

So you won’t find many tour buses there with tourists standing in line to take photos of a certain landmark. You also won’t find crazy wild nightlife or completely stuffed beaches as in the southern regions of Spain.

Tourists do not come to party here at night and bake under the sun during the day. Northern Spain attracts travelers who appreciate slow pace travel and road trips, and who love nature in its pristine form, quiet beaches, and medieval villages.

How to Travel Around Northern Spain

We traveled by rental car that we hired in Madrid in January and I believe this is the best way to see the north of Spain as the whole country in general. In our experience, the best company to rent a car in Spain is RecordGo and Centauro .

They are very easy-going in terms of a drop-off (especially if you don’t buy insurance) and pretty much always have the lowest prices. It is possible to find a car for hire with them in multiple cities in northern Spain, but a bigger fleet and better prices are in Bilbao. You can browse all available options and prices here .

North Spain Weather & Best Time to Visit – Quick Overview

Contrary to the popular belief that north Spain is always wet and cold, in reality, its climate is ideal for visiting the area in any season of the year including winter. It just depends on what you are looking to do on a trip.

While winters in the north may not be as warm as those in the south , storms and strong winds do not constantly ravage the region day and night.

The oceanic climate, which extends from the coast of Galicia to the Pyrenees, is mild in winter and relatively warm in summer. Although the temperature does not vary much from season to season as in southern Spain.

Summers are rather cool with an average temperature of 22°C. But over the last few years San Sebastián, Santander, A Coruna and even Vigo saw 30°C in July and August which is warm enough for swimming in the Bay of Biscay. 

Spring and fall have similar temperatures, always around 20°C, so this may be the best season for excursions, visits to national parks and farms, hiking and city tours.

Rainfall and strong winds are frequent on the coast, especially in winter, but this does not prevent you from visiting this area, as the average annual temperature is around 15°C. Just don’t forget to pack an umbrella if traveling to this part of Spain from December to February .

Overall, all seasons in northern regions of Spain offer a wide variety of activities, so it just all depends on what you want to do – either to be able to hit wide beaches, rest quietly in the natural landscapes, visit food festival in San Sebastian or go skiing. You choose what to do and north Spain has a perfect season for that!

Best Places to Visit in Northern Spain

Below you’ll find a list of the best cities in northern Spain and must-sees that include some hidden gems , natural wonders, and interesting museums. I include a map of the northern Spain coast with all the places to make it easier to understand the location of each of them.

Map of Northern Spain Holiday Destinations

The Best Cities in Northern Spain 

There are so many beautiful cities and smaller towns to visit in this part of the country. It gets challenging to describe them all in only one post. So for the beginning, I would love to start with the cities to give a better idea of where to go in northern Spain.

And if you’d love more inspiration, then don’t miss my other post about the most beautiful coastal towns and villages from Basque country to the Galicia region!

best cities in Northern Spain - Santander

Oh Santander, my love. I am going to praise this city so much because it became a temporary home. Or perchance it is really worth the hype.

Santander is a port city with incredibly beautiful beaches that can be a real attraction on their own.

The ancient white-marble buildings on the streets are interspersed with modern new buildings. And historic palaces rise among areas with urban landscapes. 

Modern Santander with a population of only 180,000 people is a large port in Spain with a well-developed infrastructure. Since the beginning of the XX century, due to the fact that the royal family began to come here on vacation, this city has become a fairly fashionable resort.

These days it is not too popular because many tourists don’t know how beautiful nature here is, how clean beaches are, and how many interesting sights are around. 

The wide-spread golden sandy beach of El Sardinero is one of the most beautiful beaches in northern Spain. The nearby Piquio gardens compliment the fabulous view of this area.

Visit Santander for ancient architecture, interesting museums, amazing views of the city from above, and some of the best ice cream.

If you’ll have a few days in Santander, I highly recommend visiting Cabarceno Natural Park . This is a unique park with almost 150 species of animals from the five continents that live in a semi-freedom there.

When booking accommodation and thinking about where to stay in Santander, look into the area surrounding hotel Santemar . It is a very lovely quiet area with dramatic views.

visiting Bilbao

The largest city in the Basque Country Bilbao is literally a treasury of world modern culture. Combined with pleasant green surroundings and nearby beaches, it is a perfect city for long visits. 

It got famous for its port industry and fishing. However, over time, the city became a center of modern art and architecture. With all the museums, innovative cuisine, and avant-garde architecture Bilbao can’t leave anyone indifferent. It is filled with beautiful old churches, gardens, bars, and the atmosphere of the old city.

Another thing, Bilbao is definitely for art lovers. Famous Guggenheim Museum , which presents contemporary art to the audience, elements of historical architecture tell an interesting story.

There is a subway in the city that reduces traffic jams and makes the city even more comfortable.

Northern Spain cities - Pamplona

Pamplona is a city with a rich history, which was once the capital of the Kingdom of Navarre.

Today, a lot of people know it for the festival of San Fermin when fearless souls tend to get ahead of the herd of bulls running through the city streets (crazy!)

If you are looking to see this type of show with your own eyes then come to visit in July. The festival lasts for 6 days. Just make sure to rent accommodation in advance and check it faces the street where bulls run. Another popular activity that attracts tourists here is bullfighting.

Also, Pamplona is the first city on the Spanish Pilgrim Road. Here you can see many parks, historical monuments, and other fascinating sights.

San Sebastian

visiting San Sebastian

Many times San Sebastián was recognized as the most beautiful city in Spain. With its layout and architecture, in some way it resembles Paris. At the same time though, it is quite simple in style, with 5-6 story buildings that look alike. Most of the local buildings belong to the XIX century since in 1813 the city was completely destroyed by the British and Portuguese. It is always very pleasant to go for a stroll and get lost on its pretty streets.

The aristocratic and comfortable San Sebastian has everything you need for a good vacation. It captivates with a developed infrastructure, magnificent beaches, high waves for surfing, interesting sights, one of the best centers of thalassotherapy in La Perla , and very tasty food.

By the way, it is also famous for its huge number of pubs and bars, each of which has its own unique vibe. Thus, for the best experience, try to go on a food tour. Especially popular are pintxo and wine tours.  

Speaking of the beaches. Three of the most picturesque beaches La Concha , Ondarreta , and Zurriola make San Sebastián a popular resort city. With easily accessible mountains nearby the coast looks even grander. 

Despite the fact that San Sebastian is a small city, a significant international film festival takes place here every year. In July the city hosts a jazz festival and a few other festivals take place throughout the year too.

If you try to stay away from crowds on your travels, it is better to avoid visiting during the festival time. 

Oviedo North Spain

Oviedo is the capital of the province of Asturias. People from all over Spain know this city well enough due to its religious traditions and many religious monuments.

Pilgrim Road to Santiago goes through Oviedo. Here, truly ancient churches that date back to the eighth century still operate to this date, including the Cathedral of San Salvador and the well-preserved Basilica of San Julian de Los Prados .

Another attraction that you should definitely see is La Foncalada fountain of the 9th century. It represents the Romanesque style and has survived to our days.

Undoubtedly, Oviedo is one of the best cities to visit in Spain. It takes some time to walk through it and visit attractions (and eat local tapas of course,) so I advise you to try to come for at least a day.

Santiago de Compostela

Santiago de Compostela

Santiago de Compostela is a small but very interesting city in the northwest of Spain which is the capital of the Galicia region.

First of all, the world knows it as the final point of a long pilgrimage route for many Christians. The route begins in France but ends here. This place is extremely important since one of the apostles of Jesus Christ Saint James is buried there.

In the Middle Ages, Santiago de Compostela in its significance for the Christian world was equal to Jerusalem and Rome.

Today, it is famous for the historical center and a combination of ancient streets and architectural styles with Romanesque, Gothic, and Baroque churches. In the center of the city, a magnificent cathedral is one of the most outstanding masterpieces of sacred architecture in Spain.

Lugo city in North Spain

Lugo is one of the oldest cities in the Galicia region that became famous throughout the world for the city wall of the ancient Roman era, erected in the late III – early IV centuries BC. This is the oldest of the defensive walls in Spain. Its length is more than 2 km and width 6 meters. You can walk along the high ridge of this wall, admiring the views of the city.

This ancient city on all sides is surrounded by magnificent landscapes, pine, and eucalyptus forests. The air here is always so fresh and clean.

The old part of Lugo preserved many monuments of architecture of different times.

The two main points in the city are Plaza Santa Domingo and Plaza de Espana. On the second square is a governmental building dating back to 1740 with an interesting Baroque-style facade and clock tower of the 19th century.

Among the architectural sites, it is worth noting the monastery of St. Domingo  of the XVIII century (which houses a museum), the Cathedral of Lugo  (1129), and the Church of St. Pedro .

In addition to architectural monuments, the center is famous for local bars and taverns on narrow, winding streets. This city in northern Spain offers an excellent selection of traditional tapas with a glass of wine or beer.

Also, Lugo is an excellent place to enjoy traditional Galician cuisine. This is one of those destinations in the Galicia region where, along with traditional seafood and fish, meat dishes are also popular. And many restaurants offer great local wines.

visiting Burgos

Burgos is one of the newer beautiful cities in Spain , built in 884. It’s great to visit it on a road trip from Madrid to Bilbao or on a day trip from Santander or Bilbao. This city is considered to be the capital of Castilian Gothic, and the local Burgos  Cathedral was among the first on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

The center has this unique charm of Spanish antiquity. A beautiful Plaza Mayor , narrow streets, palaces, and temples fascinate every guest to the city. A medieval fortress Casa del Cordon with underground tunnels is connected to the cathedral with a picturesque promenade.

The modern and many-faced Burgos can offer its guests everything that you may think of – delicious food and wine, the medieval atmosphere, many parks and boulevards full of greenery, shops for every taste, nightlife, and even a beach on the Arlanzon River.

To fully enjoy Burgos and get a feel of its strict Castilian character, a few hours of time is not enough. You’d need at least a full day to see everything and relish the lively atmosphere.

Northern coast of spain

Astorga, in the province of Leon, is one of the important cities in northern Spain with a two-thousand-year history. There are countless sights here telling about the great historical past.

Besides them, there are no less impressive villages scattered around the city. All of them have ancient stone houses and a unique feel. It is worth exploring them if you are visiting the region for a longer period of time.

During the Roman Empire, the city was considered the largest center of Christianity in western Spain. The  modern bishop’s palace here is the work of Antonio Gaudi. And, until this day the pilgrimage route, Camino de Santiago is passing through Astorga too.

In the city, you’ll find the ancient Roman walls with the ruins of therms, aqueducts, and Roman Forum. Astorga Cathedral is magnificent, combining Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque styles. A fabulously beautiful symbol of the city, the Bishop’s Palace has the spirit of a medieval French castle.

Astorga is often called the “Red City” since most of the buildings are built with local bright red bricks.

Spanish architecture

The city of Leon is the cradle of democracy and an important pilgrimage point on the way to Santiago de Compostela. Nowadays, it is a place with a rich history, many attractions, and the opportunity to get a good university education.

Leon was founded on the site of an ancient Roman military camp. However, there is not much left of the ancient era, only the ruins of Roman structures in the dungeon under the Leon Cathedral.

This city is small and not many tourists visit even though the old center has several gems of architecture.

The historical part brings travelers to the atmosphere of the Middle Ages. The main attraction here is the Cathedral, a huge early Gothic church of Santa Maria de Leon . Also, Leon is home to another magnificent work of Antonio Gaudi – Botines House , built in a medieval spirit with elements of Art Nouveau style.

The most striking masterpiece of contemporary architecture is the Museum of Modern Art, MUSAC . This building with a futuristic multi-colored facade has become a unique art object that brought Leon international fame.

Other Must-See Places in Northern Spain 

Bardenas reales natural park – for martian landscapes & nature .

Bardenas Reales Natural Park

One of the top places to visit in northern Spain is Bardenas Reales Nature Park . This place is so incredibly unique with its lunar and Martian landscapes that you may wonder if you are still on the planet Earth. In fact, the scenery in the park is somewhat reminiscent of American Arizona.

Many videos, films, and even the Game of Thrones series were filmed here.

The Bardenas Reales Nature Park and Biosphere Reserve is a huge semi-desert area in the southeast of the Navarra Kingdom. You can move around the park by car, by bicycle or on foot. Due to many cars and rather narrow roads, going on foot may be the best option.

There are several entrances to the park but the main one is on the N-134 highway, which connects the towns of Tudela and Arguedas. By the way, if you have time, I advise you to visit Tudela – a small town founded by Muslims in 802.

At the entrance to the park (at 15 km N-134) there will be an information and tourist center. There, you can get a map and information about the park, its history, flora, and fauna. Entrance to the park is free, opens at 8 am, and closes an hour before sunset . A leisurely road trip in the park will take at least a few hours but you can spend the entire day there. 

Feel free to park your car in designated areas and explore this amazing park on foot. The most interesting thing for some people is that on the territory of this biosphere reserve there is an active military training ground.

Thus expect to see restrictive signs everywhere, military attributes, and landscapes dotted with scars from training bombings. But honestly, it only adds up to the atmosphere. 

Urdaibai Nature Reserve – For Cave Paintings & Coastal cities

best place to visit in Northern Spain

Urdaibai Nature Reserve is another unique place in northern Spain that don’t many international travelers know about. It is a wetland habitat that comprises the Cantabrian oak forest, marshland, cliffs, and beaches. 

Among many interesting things to do in this nature reserve, the Oma forest with painted trees and  Santimamine Cave are the most famous. Oma forest has a somewhat magical atmosphere (Spanish fairytales insist this forest is hiding witches and elves) and Santimamine Cave offers free excursions on Thursdays.

On the territory of the biosphere reserve Urdaibai, there are also many coastal towns where you can spend a day or two on the cozy beaches.

We visited quite a few of them but the most favorite became the town of Bermeo, Mundaka, and Sukarrieta . It’s simply because there we could rent a mini boat, visit the botanical park, go on a few short hikes and enjoy beautiful views of the bay.

WHERE TO STAY IN URDAIBAI NATURE RESERVE: Urdaibai is easily accessible on a day trip from Bilbao, Santander, or San Sebastian. Yet, if you get a chance, it’s better to stay in this nature reserve instead of a city. Views, fresh air, and serenity help to completely distract and unplug. 

We loved Casa Rural Ozollo for clean rooms, budget-friendly prices, and the most magical view over the delta. But there are many more guest houses in other towns along the river, see them all here . 

Guernica – Museum of the World and Ceramic Reproduction of Picasso

Guernica

In the same Urdaibai nature reserve that I mention above is an interesting town Guernica. One of the best-known Pablo Picasso paintings, bearing the name of this city, is undoubtedly more famous than the town itself. Simply because most people don’t know what it has to offer.

A small town Guernica in Basque Country has fantastic museums. 

So the main museum here is the Peace Museum (Foru Plaza, 1). In addition to it, there is also the regional museum Euskal Herria Museoa (Allende Salazar Kalea, 5) which tells in an interactive form about the Basque Country, the Basque people, its traditions, and culture.

Next to it is a European park where you can relax and enjoy the entertaining sculptural compositions by Eduardo Chillida and Henry Moore.

On Pedro de Elejalde street, there is a ceramic reproduction of the famous Picasso painting.

To effectively and quickly explore Guernica, I advise you to head straight to the tourist office (Artekalea, 8). There, you can get a map of the city with the main attractions. By the way, in addition to the museums mentioned above, the Guernica tree (a symbol of Basque autonomy) and bomb shelters scattered in different parts of town are also worth seeing.

Gaztelugatxe

Gaztelugatxe

One of the best things to do in northern Spain is to visit Gaztelugatxe, a small peninsula in the Bay of Biscay which resembles a castle. Its name literally translates as Castle in the Rock. If you have been watching the Game of Thrones show, you may recognize this landmark. The location appears in the scenes of this show.

There is a pedestrian bridge that goes through the peninsula all the way to the top of the rock where a small but very beautiful chapel is.

The highest point is at an altitude of 231 meters above sea level. And the views from anywhere around the castle as well as from the top of the rock are breathtaking.

The best way to visit Gaztelugatxe is by car or on a tour. Game of Thrones fans will love this half or full-day guided tour from Bilbao since it discovers the most spectacular filming locations from Season 7.

Picos de Europa

Picos de Europa

Picos de Europa is the first park in Spain to receive national status. This is one of the two most famous sights of the north of the country along with Santiago de Compostela.

To get the most out of your visit, you’d need to spend at least 3 days in the park. We went there a few times on our day trips from Santander but still didn’t cover everything we planned.

Besides multiple hiking opportunities and road-tripping, you can also travel around the park by canoe, mountain bike, and even snowshoeing. A variety of excursion programs include cable descents into ravines, rock climbing, paintball games, horseback riding, and many other types of adventures.

If booking a tour, choose the one which also includes a visit to the caves and mountainous villages, like this private 11-hour long tour . 

If the hiking type of recreation is not your thing, you can also use the cable car to the top of the mountain on 1800 meters above sea level. Observation decks provide a unique opportunity to view all the greatness of a mountain valley. High in the mountains, the snow stays on the ground up to six months.

Entrance to the park is free, you’ll need to pay only for parking (€3 per car per day).

In the high season (from June 1 to October 6), cars are allowed only until 08:30 in the morning or after 21:00. If you are late and don’t enter the park before 8:30, then leave your car at the transshipment parking lot (there are four in total) and take a bus from there (a ticket costs around €10 round-trip). 

winery in Northern Spain

Travelers who appreciate good wine and are on their way from Zaragoza to San Sebastian (or back) absolutely must visit the Rioja wine region and add it to their northern Spain itinerary. It is home to more than 500 wineries.

The unique climate helps to make the wine very tasty and unique. Some wineries offer their visitors a trip around the vineyards in special carts and shuttles. While others run masterclasses that introduce visitors to the art of winemaking.

With so many vineyards that dot the hills of north Spain, vintners improved the art of creating world-famous wines. The main wine areas to visit are Rio Badia, Rio Alta, and Rio Alavesa. If you don’t have a car and plan to visit San Sebastian, look into an organized tour that includes wine tastings in San Sebastian and visits to a few wineries .

Rioja is one of the best winemaking areas in the world. Definitely add it to your north Spain holiday.

Santillana Del Mar

Santillana Del Mar

Santillana Del Mar for many years was on many lists of the most beautiful small towns in Spain. Set amidst green hills, just 4 km from the ocean, this village inspires artists, poets, philosophers, and writers.

The historical buildings, starting from the Collegiate of the 11th century and ending with residential buildings of the 14th and 17th centuries, impress with their charm and grandiosity.

In the 17th century, the rulers of Santillana del Mar decided that the city was good enough and didn’t need any other construction. Since then, the authorities have stuck to the same point of view and didn’t change anything.

So if you want to plunge into a medieval fairy tale with narrow cobblestone streets and try fresh local cheeses, Santillana del Mar is a good pick.

In addition to the charming architecture and atmosphere of the town, in the vicinity of Santillana Del Mar, be sure to check out the famous Cave of Altamira , a cave complex with charcoal drawings of Paleolithic art. The historic center of the town and the Cave of Altamira are included in the UNESCO World Heritage List.

When visiting Santillana del Mar, don’t forget to take comfortable shoes. This beautiful medieval village offers lots of walking.

These caves are famous for their prehistoric paintings, and the name of the city comes from the name of Saint Julian.

Overall, various Renaissance palaces and churches make this cute little village an important historical area in Cantabria province.

More Posts About Travel in Spain 

Traveling to southern Spain any time soon as well? Check out my posts in that area!

  • Weekend in Malaga – how to see all main highlights if you have only 2 days 
  • Car hire in Malaga Airport vs City Center – where is better 
  • Places to Visit in Andalusia by car – ideas for a road trip in southern Spain
  • Barcelona to Andorra drive – unique road trip you didn’t know about

More Similar Posts Around Europe

  • Most Beautiful Places in Northern Norway – together with a few travel tips
  • Best Things to Do in Turkey – for a bucket list experience 
  • Beautiful Places to Visit in Northern Tenerife – travel tips & things to do

I hope you will enjoy the Northern coast of Spain even more than we did! If you have anything to add or ask, drop me a comment below!

And, don’t forget to share this post on Pinterest!

northern coast of spain

Anya is originally from Ukraine but in heart she is a citizen of the world. She is working online and that’s why has an opportunity to travel a lot and live in different countries. At present time, she is based in Spain while waiting for the war in Ukraine to be over to be able to return home. On this blog, her main goal is to inspire others to travel to under-the-radar places and discover the world while working remotely.

Similar Posts

10 Beautiful & Cheap Places to Travel in Europe in Summer You Didn’t Think About

10 Beautiful & Cheap Places to Travel in Europe in Summer You Didn’t Think About

My list of cheap places to travel in Europe in summer consists only of those locations where I went personally (and where I have planned economical trips for this coming June-August season). From my…

6 Quick Exciting Road Trips From Madrid to Explore Central Spain

6 Quick Exciting Road Trips From Madrid to Explore Central Spain

Madrid, the capital city of Spain, is a perfect starting point for a road trip adventure. With its central location, diverse landscapes, and rich cultural heritage, it offers an abundance of breathtaking destinations just…

Guia to Las Palmas Drive – Road Trip in Gran Canaria You Absolutely Need to Take

Guia to Las Palmas Drive – Road Trip in Gran Canaria You Absolutely Need to Take

Among all Gran Canaria road trips, Guia to Las Palmas drive was my favorite for two reasons. The first one – it showed us an authentic side of the island with cultural and historical…

Tenerife North or South: How to Decide Which One is Better For You

Tenerife North or South: How to Decide Which One is Better For You

I remember when we decided to move to Tenerife from Malaga, it took us a while to understand which side of the island was better for us where to live, Tenerife North or South.  …

6 Memorable Experiences to Have During Your Cordoba Visit

6 Memorable Experiences to Have During Your Cordoba Visit

When I was planning my first Cordoba visit, I tried to find answers to two simple questions: “Why visiting Cordoba was important at all? And why this Andalusian city was that special?” All sources…

Renting a Car & Driving in Tenerife – Tips & Insight for a Great Road Trip

Renting a Car & Driving in Tenerife – Tips & Insight for a Great Road Trip

Renting a car in Tenerife will make your vacation so much brighter as with it you can cover the most popular places in a shorter period of time and visit some beautiful corners that…

18 Comments

I loved hiking in the Spanish Pyrenees (a few years ago) but the culture, food and beauty of Spain is fantastic! I’d love to go back.

It is difficult not to love Spain, and the North is absolutely mind-blowing!

I love how you went from South to North and found the gems in going off the beaten path! After travelling in South East Asia for 2 years straight, COOLER weather sounds like heaven 🙂 Such great spots you found!

Thanks, Kashlee! Yes, Northern Spain is full of gorgeous spots!

I live in Andalucia but I also love the North of Spain, both beautiful but different. I have only been to San Sebastian and Bilbao but would love to visit the other places you mention. The pictures are stunning!

Alizon, we are actually wanting to visit Andalucia so badly! Have been planning a few times but it never worked out well, hopefully, it will later this year.

Oh, how much I love Northern Spain! I enjoyed reading your post and seeing your perspective on this region and it makes me want to go back.

We do too, such a beautiful part of the country!

I have been toying with the idea of retiring in a small stone village in Northern Spain (though not too far from a biggish city). I visited a couple of years ago the cities of Santander and Oviedo and ‘was bowled-over by its beauty.

Hey Raymond! Both of these cities are incredibly beautiful, we loved them so much! And I totally understand your desire to settle in a small village not far from the city, that’s a dream for us too!

It would have been good to see a map showing the location of these places!

I’ve just added it!

We are planning on renting a car and touring northern Spain in early June. Is it possible to stop in different towns along the way and easily find accommodations, or do you recommend getting reservations ahead of time? Are there any hotels you recommend?

Hi Mary, June through August is considered a high season when accommodation and car rentals get booked far in advance. According to forecasts, this year Spain expects almost the same number of tourists as they saw pre covid, so it might be better to book your accommodation ahead of time, even in small towns. In this case you’ll know you’ll be staying in a place you like. As for hotels, if you tell me more about your budget and preferences, I’ll be happy to build an itinerary for you and help you choose the right accommodation. If shortly, based on my own preferences, hotels that I like and can highlight are:

Suite Home Pinares – guesthouse in Santander. The part of the city where this hotel is located reminded me of San Francisco. The building is an old Spanish mansion that has been restored, all rooms have antique furniture and colonial style decor.

Hotel Indiana Llanes – more of a B&B made in old colonial style Spanish house. Outside Llanes and away from the beach but in a quiet setting, perfect for travelers who have a car.

Hotel Eutimio in Lastres – a boutique hotel on the shore of Lastres not far from the center

Gran Hotel Las Caldas – near Oviedo

T orre de Villademoros – in Luarca

Thank you so much, Anya! My husband and I are meeting our son, who is in graduate school in Madrid, and renting a car after a couple of days touring. We will have 13 days to travel before we return to Madrid to fly home. Here’s what we’re thinking, but totally open to suggestions. Day 1, drive to Santiago de Compestala and spend 2 nights. Day 3, Drive to Oviedo for 2 nights. Day 5, overnight in Santander. Days 6 and 7 and 8, Bilbao. Day 9, Bayonne. Day 10 and 11, Pampolna, Day 12, Logrono. Day 13, drive back to Madrid to fly home. We like to drive around exploring and getting off the beaten path, stopping for specialties of the area. The hotels you mention sound amazing. We don’t need glitz and glamour, but we like fun, interesting places. We are pretty easy to please. Any suggestions about out itinerary would be welcome. We have never been to this area and I am just looking at the map and reading what I can online. I appreciate your help!

Hi Mary, looks like you plan to cover a lot! 🙂 All the places you mentioned are definitely worth a visit but to be honest, there is also a lot to see between them, so depending on what you like, you may want to add a few more stops and visits to small towns, beaches, and farms.

On day 1 towards Santiago de Compostella, I recommend you make a stop in Ourense (it will be on the way) – a city famous for hot springs right on the edge of the river. It also has a historic center, interesting churches and bridges, but the main thing here is thermal water. You can soak in Caldas de Outariz hot springs and to reach them, go along the Thermal Walk which runs along the right bank of the Miño River. Another place that you could visit on the way to Santiago de Compostela is Salamanca. It would be a bit of a detour but this old academical city with one of the oldest universities in the world is worth a separate visit.

On the way from Oviedo to Santander, you can visit some of the most beautiful beaches in north Spain – Playa de Palombina, Puerto Chico beach, Playa de Cuevas del Mar, Arnia beach, Playa de Tagle. Among other highlights – Sanctuary of Covadonga, Lakes of Covadonga, San Vicente town, Sidra Crespo winery near Lastres. Depending on what you plan to do in Balboa area, 3 nights may be too long there. I’d better devote 2 nights to Santander but it all depends on your interests and what in particular you’d like to do/see.

Anya, I so enjoyed your article on the Northern area of Spain where my grandma was born. I’d love to invite my 88 year old mom to join me for a visit. I love your style of writing. It reminds me of how I wrote in college. -Lori

Thank you Lori for stopping by to tell me this! I hope you’ll get to visit together with your mom and you two will enjoy your trip! Happy New Year by the way!

Leave a Reply Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

11 Great Places to Visit in Northern Spain

From Galicia to Catalonia, here are the best places to visit in Northern Spain to help you plan your next trip to this country’s green part.

Northern Spain is also called “green Spain” because of the large numbers of coniferous and deciduous forests and green hills. It is a wonderful area for a great vacation in Spain. You have imposing mountain peaks, rugged coasts, and atmospheric villages, while traveling in Northern Spain you can escape crowded beaches and busy seaside resorts. Experience Spain at its purest in impressive pilgrimage sites, vineyards, picturesque villages, and amazing hikes.

What to see in Northwest Spain

1. santiago de compostela.

northern spain places to visit

For almost a thousand years, people have walked the Camino de Santiago and from Spain and far beyond they make a pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela, ending in the tomb of the apostle James the Greater or continuing to Fisterra and Muxia . It is one of the most visited pilgrimage sites in the world.

Santiago de Compostela is a city located in northwestern Spain, in the region of Galicia, of which it is also the capital. The city grew up around a Roman tomb found in 814 by a shepherd who, according to legend, was led into the forest by a mysterious light or star to the site of the tomb. In the end, King Alfonso II, who was the very first person to make the pilgrimage to the site of the tomb of James the Greater, decided to build a church there, which eventually became the cathedral as we know it today, with an entire city built around it.

One of the sights is the many pilgrims who have come to Spain’s most famous pilgrimage site for centuries. Furthermore, Santiago de Compostela also has a beautiful old town, cozy squares with narrow streets and impressive buildings that you can visit. A must-visit place when you visit Northern Spain!

northern spain places to visit

Gijón is the largest city in Asturias and is located on the Cimadevilla peninsula. It used to be mainly an industrial city and has no “historical” character. But Gijón has given itself a new image with its beautiful pedestrian streets, green parks, beautiful seaside promenade, and cultural attractions. In addition, Gijón is a mecca for foodies and shopaholics and its bustling atmosphere is contagious for young and old. Despite the modern and hip features, the city does have an old center; the old fishing quarter. A wonderful mix of both worlds.

Here they have numerous good restaurants with classic cuisine where you can taste the Fabada and more refined dishes while enjoying a glass of cider. In the harbor, it is possible to book a diving or sailing trip to explore the coast from the sea.

Here are a bunch of great things to do in Gijon rain or shine .

northern spain places to visit

A place that should certainly not be missed during your trip through Northern Spain is Oviedo. Oviedo is located in the heart of Asturias and is considered the capital of the region. Since ancient times it has retained its Monastic and Royal character and its hospitality and dynamism are contagious.

Culturally and historically, Oviedo has something to experience every day and many important Asturias sights can be seen here. See the Fontán Market, the Cider Boulevard, the Pre-Romanesque Fountain of La Foncalada, the Gothic Cathedral, and more! In addition, stroll around the beautiful historic center that has been a source of inspiration for many writers.

4. Picos de Europa

northern spain places to visit

One of the best places to visit in Northern Spain is Picos de Europa. Picos de Europa is a national park and is considered by many to be one of the most beautiful mountain ranges in Europe. Despite the overwhelming beauty of nature, the mountain area is still relatively undiscovered by the general public. Walk past old villages, untouched nature, and crystal clear streams and have a small chance of seeing bears or wolves who still live there.

During a holiday at Picos de Europa, you can drive around by car through nature, or put on your mountain boots and go hiking. We have done several hikes ourselves in this beautiful nature reserve. When you are looking for a detailed overview of the best hikes in Picos de Europa you can find more information via the link.

The peaks and the surrounding nature reserve are increasingly being discovered as a holiday destination for those seeking tranquillity and nature lovers. Despite the slightly increasing tourism, you can still enjoy hiking in the mountains without meeting too many other people, which is very nice! For the active traveler, the area offers plenty of fun activities, including abseiling, hiking, climbing, and kayaking. Nature lovers come here for peace and quietness and to observe birds. And in winter it is a magnet for winter sports enthusiasts and snow lovers.

5. Santander

northern spain places to visit

Santander, capital of the green region of Cantabria, is located in northern Spain on the Bay of Biscay. This port city is located in a picturesque bay between green mountains and the blue sea.

Santander can be divided into the southern and northern parts. The southern part is where the old city center is located. Due to a huge fire that broke out in 1941, which almost destroyed the center, only a few historic buildings remain. In the old center, you will now mainly find large shopping streets and the pleasant square called Plaza Porticada.

Besides the old center in Santander, you can also take a nice walk along the quay and boulevard, called Paseo de Pereda. Here you will come across the La Magdalena peninsula in the northern part. King Alfons XIII had his summer residence built here. You will also find the two most popular beaches of Santander here. Namely Belle Epoque and El Sardinero.

There are also many places of interest around the city; on several sides of the city are the green mountains and steep rocks of the Cantabrian coast. Combine this further with various free museums and with delicious cuisine dominated by fish and shellfish and you have the perfect combination for an unforgettable city trip in Spain.

northern spain places to visit

During your vacation in northern Spain, Bilbao is a city that can surprise you. In the 1970s it was still a polluting industrial city, today it is a modern city with modern architecture, design hotels, haute cuisine restaurants, and the Güggenheim museum, in which traditions are beautifully preserved at the same time.

Bilbao has flourished since the arrival of the Guggenheim Museum in the 1990s. The exterior of the museum is a work of art in its own right, designed by Canadian-American architect Frank Gehry. Inside, artworks by Dalí, Warhol, and Picasso are on display, among others. In addition to the building, don’t miss the ‘Flowerpuppy’ (over 12 meters high and covered with about 70,000 flowers) and the giant spider ‘Maman’ (9 meters high and 10 meters wide).

Besides the Guggenheim, Bilbao has a lot more to offer! The oldest part of the city, Casco Viejo is a maze of narrow alleys between old and colored houses. The shopping street is also nice to stroll through. There is certainly no shortage of food and drinks in Bilbao. Everywhere you will find charming restaurants with a huge choice of delicious pintxos and local wines.

7. San Sebastian

northern spain places to visit

San Sebastian (in Basque “Donostia”) is located in the Spanish autonomous region of the Basque Country. The popular seaside resort is located on the Bay of Biscay on the northern Spanish coast with about 200,000 inhabitants. The Basque coastal town is one of the most visited cities in Spain. San Sebastian is also known as the culinary capital of the world. San Sebastian has the most Michelin stars per square meter in the world! But also for a lower budget, there is a huge choice of bars and restaurants. In addition, it is the seaside resort of the Basque Country and this city is also called Rio de Janeiro in miniature. The beautiful beaches in the city are ideal for water sports activities or boat trips. In addition, in San Sebastian, you will also find beautiful shopping streets in the historic city center called Parte Vieja.

In the evening, the historic heart is the ideal place to find bars and taste the famous pintxos. When you follow a 1 day San Sebastian itinerary you have sufficient time to discover the highlights of the city.

8. La Rioja

northern spain places to visit

Speaking about wines, another beautiful place to visit is the region of La Rioja. Here you will find about 600 wineries. The landscape is beautiful where you will see endless vineyards, several old and modern wineries, and picturesque villages. For example, visit one of the wine cellars where you can take a tour with a wine tasting.

Besides the many wineries, the village of Olite is also worth a visit. This village is located in the province of Navarra which is about an hour’s drive from Logrono. Here you can visit a beautiful castle. The beautiful village of San Vicente is also well worth a visit. Here it is as if time has stood still. The special thing about this village is the church that is located on top of a hill. This is also one of the few places in Spain where flogging is still performed.

Which other places can you visit in Northeast Spain?

To visit these places in Northern Spain you need at least 2 weeks. If you have more time, it is great to discover more about Spain. In this case, you can travel to the central part of Spain towards Madrid or you can head east to discover places like Zaragoza, Barcelona or the Pyrenees. Our recommendation is to head east. Below you can read briefly why these places are so nice to visit.

9. Zaragoza

northern spain places to visit

It is the fifth-largest city in Spain, and yet not very well known. A shame, because Zaragoza is a beautiful typical Spanish city. It is a beautiful place to walk through, with warm temperatures, delicious food, and a lot of history. There are a lot of things to do in Zaragoza that will surprise you.

The city is located on the River Ebro in northern Spain and is the capital of the Aragon region. The biggest eye-catcher is the El Pilar cathedral, which is beautifully lit at night. You will find several valleys around the city, so a road trip is also recommended. When in Spain, of course, you must have eaten really good tapas at least once. And in Zaragoza that is certainly possible. The El Tubo district is even seen as the tapas district where you can enjoy these delicious tapas.

10. Barcelona

northern spain places to visit

Whether you visit Barcelona for a city break or as a stopover during your vacation in Catalonia, you must go there at least once.

Because Spain’s most famous city offers everything for lovers of architecture , history, art, good food or shopping. It also has its beaches. The weather is almost always nice, you have wonderful long evenings in the summer and even in winter, the temperature is still pleasant, with a bit of luck you can still sit on a terrace without a coat in the sun in November and December.

You won’t have to get bored in Barcelona because you are also able to visit many great places. From Gaudí’s city you can, for example, take the train to Montserrat, the picturesque seaside town of Sitges, cycling city of Girona, or Gaudí’s Crypt of Colònia Güell.

11. The Spanish Pyrenees

northern spain places to visit

A holiday in the Spanish Pyrenees in the border region of France, Andorra, and Spain takes you to rugged mountains, lovely green valleys, and deep ravines. But also to villages where time has stood still and beautiful Romanesque buildings. The west part of the Spanish Pyrenees consists of a rugged landscape with steep mountains and deep canyons. And eastwards it merges into a rolling green landscape of mountains, alpine lakes, and valleys. A true paradise for walkers, cyclists, mountaineers, bird watchers, rafters, and skiers.

During your holiday in the Spanish Pyrenees, for example, you can explore Spain’s Ordesa Y Monte Perdido National Park with its jagged limestone massif and spectacular gorges and waterfalls. Or the national park Aigüestortes i Estany de Santa Maurici with, among other things, Lake Sant Maurici. So whether you love nature, culture, or architecture and are looking for a car holiday, family holiday, or active holiday: the Spanish Pyrenees are the right place for you even if you are a beginner hiker!

Please note that starting from November 2023, you could need an ETIAS visa waiver prior to your travel to Europe.

ETIAS is an acronym for the European Travel Information and Authorization System. It is an electronic system put in place by the European Union to ensure their security by screening visa-free travelers who are planning to enter the EU. The system will require travelers to submit an electronic form with their personal and travel information prior to their arrival in the EU. Once approved, travelers will receive an ETIAS authorization which will allow them to enter and stay in the EU for up to 90 days.

ETIAS is required for citizens of the 60 countries listed on the European Commission’s visa-exempt list. This list includes most countries from North America, Central America, South America, the Caribbean, Oceania, and other parts of the world. For a full list of countries, please consult the ETIAS website.

Cynthia & Alexander are the adventure travel bloggers behind Travel your Memories. They travel the world and share all the tips to inspire and help others plan their trips.

northern spain places to visit

Road Trip EuroGuide

Incredible Northern Spain Road Trip: 7-Day Itinerary

Please note that some of the links may be affiliate links , and at no additional cost to you, I earn a small commission if you make a purchase. I recommend only products & companies I love and use, and the income goes back into making this little blog successful!

The wonderful surprise about this 7-day Northern Spain road trip is that the farther west you move from Bilbao to Santiago, the more remote and authentically Spanish it gets. Be prepared for small towns along rocky coastlines, delicious meals of octopus and pintxos in standalone restaurants tucked in the cliffside ( nothing fancy, rather deliciously local ), and a generally serene and slow, non-connected world.

I spent about a month doing this route in September last year because I like to travel slowly and meet friends along the way. This weeklong, more off-the-beaten-path itinerary is the best of the best stuff that I liked, and it optimizes the drive times so you’re not constantly on the road. Here’s the high-level itinerary:

  • 2 Days: Basque Country – Bilbao – Guggenheim Museum – Gaztelugatxeko – San Sebastian
  • 2 Days: Asturias – Picos de Europa Hikes – Town of Llanes – Gijon
  • 3 Days: Galicia – Playa de las Catedrales – Santiago De Compostela

View of the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao on my northern Spain road trip.

I would recommend more time in Bilbao, San Sebastian , and the region around Llanes , especially if you’re keen on hiking portions of the Picos de Europa mountains.

Table of Contents

Northern Spain Road Trip: Full 7-Day Itinerary

You can land in Madrid or Barcelona and take a connecting flight to Bilbao Airport or San Sebastian Airport (smaller, but services a lot of European airlines). I started in Bilbao, rented a car, and went wild on this itinerary.

DRIVING TIP : Driving from one end of northern Spain to another, from Bilbao to Santiago de Compostela, takes about 6 hours , so nothing on this road trip is too long of a drive when you break it up into 7 days.

Day 1: Bilbao & Guggenheim Museum

Today is about exploring the food scene (tapas and pintxos) of the Basque Region and visiting one of the most famous museums in Spain.

Pintxos in Bilbao.

I booked a guided tour because it came recommended by a local friend, and headed towards the big dog built of flowers, where the museum is located. It is one thing to wander the Guggenheim Museum on your own looking at the pretty pieces of art and saying “ ooo !”, and it’s another completely to have an art history guru walk you through the context and purpose of each piece and have a discussion around it.

➡️ Book a guided tour, as there’s a lot of context behind the art: Guggenheim Museum Private Tour with Admission . ⬅️

I spent the afternoon walking around and getting acquainted with the vibe of the city. I loved Casilda Iturrizar Park .

You are in the Basque Region now, and it is all about the Pintxos ( adorably pronounced “pinch-ohs” ), the most intelligent way to eat a variety of foods and not over-stuff yourself. These are small snackies, bites of meats, cheeses, and pickled delicacies on fresh toasty bread.

If it’s a bar-hopping kind of night, start at La Antigua Cigarreria  and make your way around the winding streets, grabbing pintxos as you go.

PRO TIP : Order a “Marianito Preparado” and enjoy a super yummy spin on the Italian negroni with Spanish flair!

Day 2: San Sebastian & San Juan de Gaztelugatxeko

Today is a little road trip east to San Sebastian, where the drive is 1.5 hours each way. On the way to San Sebastian, stop at Gaztelugatxeko ! I spent a couple of hours on the hillside overlooking the sea and grabbing lunch at the restaurant there.

San Sebastian is a great day trip from Bilbao on the Northern Spain Road trip.

In San Sebastian, here are some of my favorite places to visit:

  • La Concha Beach : Renowned for its picturesque bay and fine sands, La Concha is perfect for sunbathing, and enjoying the views.
  • Parte Vieja (Old Town) : Explore the little streets, filled with historic buildings, busy pintxo bars, and trendy shops.
  • Monte Igueldo : Offers panoramic views of the city and coast. Accessible by a funicular, it’s a great spot for photos and lazy walks.
  • Miramar Palace : A historic building with beautiful gardens with splendid views over La Concha Bay.

I would make a reservation and grab dinner at one of the many Michelin-rated restaurants in town. To be honest, no matter where you eat, low-key or high-end, know that this is one of the biggest gastronomic towns in Spain, backed by Anthony Bourdain himself. Mornings or late afternoons are best for popular spots to avoid crowds.

For pintxos, visiting during traditional meal times will have you feeling the Spanish vibe. It’s an easy 1-hour, 15-minute drive back to Bilbao afterward.

Day 3: Explore Llanes

A little hidden gem on the northern Spain road trip is the town of Llanes in the mountainous Asturias Region, just 2 hours away from Bilbao. Llanes is known for its beautiful beaches around town, a well-preserved old town with medieval streets, traditional architecture, and the impressive Basílica de Santa María, and the stunning Picos de Europa mountains are nearby, which we are hiking tomorrow.

Llanes is a great spot on the northern Spain road trip to spend a couple of days.

Here are the best things to do in Llanes:

  • Playa de Toró : A unique beach known for its peculiar rock formations
  • Playa de Gulpiyuri : A hidden and unusual inland beach, set in a meadow and accessible only by foot.
  • Cuevas del Mar Beach : A stunning beach known for its natural caves.
  • The Historic Center : Stroll through the charming streets, visit the Basilica, and see the ancient defensive tower, Torre de Llanes.
  • Paseo de San Pedro : A scenic cliffside walkway with spectacular views of the Cantabrian Sea and the town – I did this after lunch and it was great!

Don’t leave Llanes without sampling the local Asturian cuisine, including fresh seafood, cheeses (like the famous Cabrales), and sidra (cider).

Or grab a bocadillo from the bakery, and head to one of the beaches above. Bocadillos are little sandwiches on fresh baguettes filled with meat (Fuet salami or Jamon Iberico) and a spread (tomato or butter). They are delicious, fresh, and always cheap!

Day 4: Hike the Picos de Europa

You’ve been eating like a little chunk this whole time, so it’s time to hit the trails! Get into the mountains and do a hike in the Picos de Europa.

Picos de Europa are a fantastic stop on the Northern Spain road trip.

➡️ Book a Guide for a Day Hike in the Picos de Europe Mountains. ⬅️

Either choose your own adventure or grab a professional mountain guide and journey through the Vega del Torro and down to Lake Moneta – this was one of the highlights of my trip.

Here are some AllTrails treks that I also have my eye on for next time:

  • Ruta del Cares (Hard, 13 miles) : Known as the “Divine Gorge,” this trail is one of the most popular hikes, offering stunning views of the gorges (a shorter, easier alternative ).
  • Lagos de Covadonga (Hard, 10 miles) : This hike includes the famous glacial lakes of Enol and Ercina and offers spectacular mountain views.
  • Fuente Dé – Cable Car and Hike (Hard, 4.6 miles): Take the cable car up and hike around the upper parts of the mountains for breathtaking views.

Day 5: Gijon & Playa Madre

The drive from Llanes to the first stop of the day, Playa Madre, is 40 minutes. I spent the morning on Playa Madre, and if you’re up for a little detour drive, this is worth it: Mirador del Fitu . The drive from Playa Madre to Gijon for the afternoon is another 40 minutes

Keep the ta-tas out on Playa Madre on your northern Spain road trip.

I spent a few lazy days in this cute city just wandering, doing a little shopping, sleeping, and bar hopping. Plenty of brewpubs and delicious restaurants around.

My best advice is to visit a Sidrería to see how cider is poured from a height to aerate it (similar to Turkish tea ). I also love walking around Cimavilla , the old fisherman’s quarter, full of narrow streets, colorful houses, and sidrerías (cider bars). I recommend eating your way through Gijon at night, especially fresh seafood and traditional dishes like fabada Asturiana.

Day 6 : Playa de las Catedrales

The drive from Gijon to Playa de las Catedrales is 1.5 hours along the coast. After you explore the caves and arches, it’s another 1.5 hours on to Santiago de Compostela, where I made a home base for the last bit of the road trip.

Playa de las Catedrales on the northern Spain road trip.

Playa de las Catedrales , or the Beach of the Cathedrals, is a stunning natural wonder located in Galicia, Spain. Known for its awe-inspiring rock formations, this beach is famous for its towering arches and cave-like structures that resemble the buttresses of a cathedral, hence its name.

The beauty of Playa de Las Catedrales is dramatically altered by the tide , so best to visit during the morning. During high tide, it appears just like a regular beach, but low tide reveals the magnificent arches and caves.

➡️ Local Site To Schedule a Time To Visit Playa de Las Catedrales ⬅️

There is also a wooden walkway about 12km long along the coast next to the entrance to the beach and a few local restaurants in the nearby little town of Rinlo – I loved Restaurante a Mirandilla . Go for the baked octopus ( pulpo ), it’s a specialty of Galicia!

Spend the afternoon making your way to Santiago de Compostela for dinner in the old town. This is where I spent a few days diving into the history around El Camino pilgrimage walk and the Galician culture.

Day 7: Santiago de Compostela

Santiago de Compostela is a destination of its own, not just the end of our road trip. This is where all the pilgrimages and caminos end and the capital of the Galician region. Most, if not all, of Santiago de Compostela’s top tourist attractions are located in the Old Town.

The Basilica of St. James on the northern Spain Road trip.

The Santiago de Compostela Cathedral is a ‘holy moly’ sight to see. Looking up at the massive cathedral literally left me as breathless as when I saw the Vatican for the first time. The tomb beneath the cathedral’s main altar is the burial site of St. James, and it’s the final destination of all pilgrimage walks in the region.

FUN FACT: It is just one of three known churches built over the remains of an apostle. The other two are St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City and St. Thomas Cathedral Basilica in Chennai, India.

➡️ Grab A Guided Cathedral Tour for more fun facts. It’s super cheap and educational! ⬅️

After the Cathedral tour, walk around the old town and explore the little shops and wine bars. Right around sunset, head into the Parque de Alameda for a walk.

Grab dinner at O Gato Negro and try percebes . Percebes, or “Lucifer’s Fingers”, is a delicacy along the Galician and southern Portuguese coasts. They are nicknamed not just because of their devilish appearance, but because they’re super hard to get. Give it a go – it’s an unusual regional food that you can’t have just anywhere.

Map: Road Trip Through Northern Spain

If you were to drive from one end to another, from Bilbao to Santiago de Compostela, it would take you 6 hours total.

The route of the northern spain road trip.

Unique Places I ❤️ In Northern Spain

Beyond the major cities of San Sebastian, Bilbao, Gijon and Santiago de Compostela, which are all amazing, here are my favorite little places to visit on this northern Spain road trip.

✅ Gaztelugatxeko

Gaztelugatxe is not a town but a small islet on the coast of Biscay in the Basque Country, Spain, about 30 minutes from Bilbao. The islet is connected to the mainland by a man-made bridge, which leads to a narrow path with over 240 steps.

It’s best known for being the hermitage of Saint John the Baptiste de Gaztelugatxe. This place has gained international fame, especially after being featured in Game of Thrones as the fictional Dragonstone.

Gaztelugatxeko is a stop on the northern spain road trip.

✅ Town of Llanes

Llanes is an ideal destination for people looking for a blend of beach time, hiking the Picos de Europa, and a fish-forward foodie scene. It’s a small town, but the combo of natural beauty and traditional Asturian charm makes it a memorable stop in northern Spain.

✅ Guggenheim Museum

The Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao is an iconic symbol of modern and contemporary art. It’s one of those museums you should visit once in your lifetime, similar to the Prado in Madrid and the Louvre in Paris.

Bilbao should be your starting point on the northern spain road trip.

My Favorite Thing: Outside the museum stands one of its most famous installations, “Puppy” by Jeff Koons, a gigantic floral sculpture of a West Highland Terrier, showcasing a living, organic artwork contrasting with the metallic facade of the museum.

Designed by Frank Gehry, the museum is a masterpiece of 20th-century architecture. Not only that, but it has played a pivotal role in the transformation and revitalization of Bilbao from an industrial city into a cultural hub. It houses an impressive collection of thought-provoking modern and contemporary art, and its exhibitions are constantly evolving.

✅ Picos de Europa Mountains

The Picos de Europa mountains, located in Northern Spain, are a part of the Cantabrian Mountains. The highest peak is Torre de Cerredo, standing at 2,650 meters (8,690 feet). It’s a popular destination for hikers and there are plenty of day hikes to go on.

✅ Playa de las Catedrales

Playa de las Catedrales is one of the most spectacular natural wonders in Galicia. The beach is renowned for its massive rock arches and caves, which can be seen and explored at low tide. These formations resemble the flying buttresses of Gothic cathedrals, giving the beach its name. I think the beach provides an interesting glimpse into the power of the sea and what erosion and tides can show you.

PRO TIP: It’s crucial to check the tide schedule before planning your visit. The times for low tide change daily, so it’s important to align your visit accordingly. Also, wear water shoes when you visit, lots of slippery rocks.

During peak times, a free ticketing system is in place to protect the beach from overcrowding. You can reserve these online through the official website of the Xunta de Galicia.

Where To Stay in Northern Spain

Following the weeklong Northern Spain road trip, here is where I stayed each night, with hotel recommendations I loved.

Bilbao [2 nights]

From Bilbao, I made a day trip to San Sebastian, which is 1.5 hours away. I opted to drive back to Bilbao because it was more cost-effective, and I liked the grungy vibe in Bilbao better.

📍 Luxury: Vincci Consulado de Bilbao – View of the Guggenheim Museum, a fantastic hotel with great services, breakfast, and breakfast. 📍 Mid-Range: Bilder Boutique Hotel – Charming and modern hotel in Old Town Bilbao, great value and service.

Llanes [2 nights]

This was my home base in the Asturias region, opting for one day of beach hopping in Llanes and one day of hiking the Picos de Europa Mountains.

📍 Luxury: Hotel Rural La Lluriga – A country estate, this family-run, cozy hotel is an amazing little nature escape, with a pool, gardens, 100-year-old trees, a reading room, and a fireplace. Great home base for exploring the region. 📍 Mid-Range: Don Paco – Right in the heart of town, this hotel is actually a restored convent. Think high vaulted ceilings, exposed brick, and fireplaces with modern furniture and decor.

Gijon [1 night]

To break up the drive from Llanes to Santiago de Compostela, I spent a day in Gijon and took a little cooking class.

📍 Mid-Range & Chic: El Moderne Hotel – great for a night, has a dark masculine modern vibe to it, great price for the amenities and location.

Santiago de Compostela [2 nights]

On the way from Gijon to Santiago de Compostela, I stopped and spent a morning at Playa de Las Catedrales, but because there is not much else around, I kept driving the 2 hours all the way to Santiago and spending the last 2 nights sleeping in the beautiful town.

📍 Chic & Cozy: RoomPEDRA – A super nice little apartment, great for a 2-night stay, 5 minutes walk from the Cathedral. It’s not the usual luxury hotel I recommend, but I really liked how clean and cozy it was, and the fact that it had a kitchen because I was a bit tired of eating all my meals out. 📍 Mid-Range: Hotel Altaïr – cute boutique hotel just outside Casco Viejo (Old Town) so you can actually find parking. Comfy rooms, beds, and all the exposed brick you can get.

Getting Around Northern Spain

This route can be done by either renting a car or sorting out the public transportation – busses and trains – from city to city. I recommend renting a car and doing this as a road trip.

This is what I personally use to check prices: Discover Cars: Rental for Northern Spain Road Trip

The public transportation and Uber in Spain , especially up north in the more rural areas of this road trip are not great (or existent).

Where should I start my road trip?

I recommend starting in Bilbao or San Sebastian and renting a car to take you along the road trip to Santiago de Compostela. From here, you can either take half a day to drive back or return the car in Santiago de Compostela and fly back home.

There is a small fee that rental car companies impose if you rent in one city and return it in another, but it should not be much because you’re in the same country.

Is Driving in Northern Spain easy?

Yes, it is. Not only are the roads in good condition, but the northern Spain road trip has you driving along the rocky coastline for a few hours every couple of days.

For the longer drives from Gijon to Playa de las Catedrales, here are a few unique ways to pass the time – from road trip games to documenting your trip for friends and family!

Budgeting For A Northern Spain Road Trip

General costs depend on the time of year you go. I went in September and the weather was gorgeous, still good for the beaches and hiking, and a little past the high summer season. That said, here are some numbers and tips for you.

TOTAL COST : ~€1,200 for a weeklong road trip.

  • Car Rental: $100/week
  • Hotels : $60-90/night
  • Food : $30-50 a day per person
  • Wine : About $2 for a glass of amazing Rioja wine ( and Spaniards have a very generous pour!)

FAQ: Northern Spain Road Trip

Here are a few frequently asked questions about going on this road trip.

Is Northern Spain worth visiting?

Firstly, this region is fairly inexpensive and scenically gorgeous – you’ll have the sea on your right and the mountains on your left as you make your way west along the coast. Best of all, cell reception is spotty ( nightmare for some, heaven for others ), but it forces an unplug from a hectic world, which I truly appreciate.

Santiago de Compostela at sunset on the northern Spain road trip.

And secondly, you’ll be driving, hiking, and eating along the 1,000-year-old pilgrimage route to the shrine of St. James in Santiago de Compostela . This is known as the Way of St. James or the Camino de Santiago in Spanish.

Over 200,000 pilgrims (people like you and me) travel to the city each year from various starting points all over Europe. I would love to do this walk one day for many reasons – health, inner peace, being one with nature, be one with myself.

All in all, Northern Spain is more than just Barcelona and San Sebastian. Be brave, and come see for yourself!

When Is The Best Time to Visit Northern Spain?

The best times for hiking, beach days, and generally sunniness will be in the summer or fall seasons. I went in September and the weather was a little chilly at night but sunny and warm during the day.

How Many Days Do I Need To Visit Northern Spain?

To really give it a solid go, from San Sebastian to Santiago de Compostela, I recommend a minimum of 1 week . You can follow the 7-day itinerary of my road trip through Northern Spain above. I spent 3 weeks altogether doing this same route, spending 3x the time in each place, and I still felt like there were things I was missing.

Do I Need Travel Insurance For This Trip?

If you’re traveling outside of your home country, and especially if you’re out there hiking and adventuring, I recommend getting some travel insurance for the duration of your stay.

SAFETYWING: Nomad Travel Insurance

Travel medical insurance with SafetyWing is my favorite because it’s flexible, less expensive than the other big insurance companies at ~$40 a month worldwide, and it covers COVID-19 quarantine situations. Here’s the link so you can look into it.

What should I pack for this road trip?

This northern Spain road trip is about a few nights out in towns like San Sebastian and Bilbao (where people dress nice), beach life, a day of hiking the Picos de Europa and visiting the famous Santiago de Compostela church. A lot to pack for, but here’s my packing list beyond the basics like toothbrush and passport:

  • Backpack : A comfortable daypack for hiking and city exploring.
  • Casual Outfits: T-shirts, tank tops, and comfortable shirts for the daytime.
  • Nicer Outfit : A couple of dressier outfits for nights out in San Sebastian and Bilbao. Think smart-casual – a nice dress or blouse and skirt for ladies, and chinos with a polo or button-up shirt for men.
  • Swimsuit : At least 1 swimsuit, cover-up, and one pair of flip-flops, a compact and quick-drying towel
  • Hiking Gear : A pair of good hiking pants and a lightweight, long-sleeved shirt to protect against the sun and brush. I hiked in my sneakers and opted to leave the hiking boots at home.
  • Types of Shoes : Comfortable walking shoes like sneakers (that you can do a day hike in the mountains in), one pair of flip-flops, and a pair of nicer shoes for evenings (I did opt for a low heel and it was ok).
  • Light Jacket : A lightweight, waterproof jacket for unpredictable weather, especially in the mountains and coastal areas. Sometimes at night, even in the summer, there’s a chill in the air.
  • Accessories : Sunglasses, a hat or cap for sun protection, and a lightweight scarf for cooler evenings.
  • Travel Adapters : If you’re coming from outside Europe.

👉 PRO TIP: Pack light, because you’ll be moving your luggage frequently on the road trip. Opt for a carry-on suitcase or backpack that’s easy to handle.

Final Thoughts: Northern Spain Road Trip

I loved road-tripping through Northern Spain. I spent 3 weeks going from San Sebastian to Santiago de Compostela, and have put together a maximized 7-day Northern Spain itinerary that hits all the good spots.

Seafood is fantastic in Llanos.

This road trip also highlights some of the churches and cities famous for their history and food. Speaking of, most of this road trip is an adventure into the world of pintxos, riojas, and ciders of the Basque and Galician regions. So if this is your vibe, take the trip!

' src=

Mariana Barbuceanu is the owner and author of the Road Trip EuroGuide, a blog that inspires fellow travelers to explore Europe more authentically through slower travel and digging deeper into the culture of a place. When she isn't writing about her adventures, she is planning trips for her community and coaching people on how to take that next step towards a much-needed sabbatical.

10 Beautiful Places to Visit in Northern Spain

Travelers are bound for a magical experience visiting the beautiful coastal cities of northern Spain. The long stretch of natural landscapes, crescent beaches , and well-preserved medieval towns extend to the Atlantic Ocean, where the sun and the sea meets. There are a lot of places to visit in northern Spain that simply capture its distinct beauty.

Picturesque wine regions can be found in this part of the country, along with historic Moorish remnants and the beautiful Basque Country. Beyond Barcelona city, travelers can head to underrated destinations like San Sebastian, Burgos, Bilbao, Costa Brava, and others.

More than interesting towns and villages, northern Spain is made for soul-searchers and thrill-seekers who are looking for an escape from common touristy activities and sites. The scenic hiking trails, quaint fishing villages, and old towns are sure to impress visitors from around the world.

Discover the most enchanting destinations in northern Spain . Here are 10 places worth the visit to this part of the country.

Table of Contents

1. San Sebastian

Igeldo, San Sebastian, Spain

Tourists shouldn’t get past the northern Spain journey without visiting the beautiful coastal town of San Sebastian. It’s popular for the best urban beaches in the Basque Country, particularly the La Concha.

It’s the perfect place to unwind, surrounded by rolling hills and the ocean breeze. The scenic landscape was once admired by the royalty, Queen Isabel II, taking a thermal bath in town. Many Spanish Kings visited the coastal city for its famed baths and the most-talked-about pintxos tapas.

When visiting, tourists can take a walk at the La Concha beach , enjoy the best sunset views, and lovely beaches. The Casco Viejo is also a tourist magnet, featuring avant-garde restaurants serving traditional sidrería.

Speaking of food, San Sebastian is also famous for having the most number of Michelin Star restaurants. Foodies can hop to the 17 Michel-starred restaurants and try the authentic Basque cuisine .

2. Santiago de Compostela

Cathedral de Santiago Compostela Spain

Although popular as an important pilgrimage destination, Santiago de Compostela has a lot more to offer. It’s one of the best places to visit in northern Spain because of the noble urban areas featuring cobblestone streets and the 12th-century cathedral.

The Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela is considered the most treasured Christian monument to date, showcasing Romanesque architecture and lavish Baroque twin towers. It’s one of the must-see landmarks here, along with the world’s oldest hotel, Parador Santiago de Compostela.

The bustling main square is the heart of the city, which is also the arriving point of most pilgrims. This is where tourists can spot a jungle of monasteries, narrow streets, and historic cathedrals. Needless to say, Santiago de Compostela is a unique icon of northern Spain for its marvelous collection of historic landmarks.

3. Costa Brava

Costa Brava

Nestled between cliffs and golden-sand beaches is one of Spain’s top-rated summer destinations, Costa Brava. This quaint region surely turns heads for its rugged, natural beauty, and lovely coastal villages.

Extending 200 kilometers from Blanes to the border of France , Costa Brava is known for the villages on the hill overlooking the vast Mediterranean Sea. Nature reserves are dotted across the region, from the Medes Islands to cliffs and peaceful coves of Cap de Creus.

It’s also one of the best northern Spain holiday destinations for those who love art. Cadaqués is a small fishing village known for the whitewashed houses, which attracted famous painters in the 20th century. Art galleries and museums line up the streets, showcasing the town’s artistic heritage through the years.

4. Pamplona

Pamplona Spain

There’s something about the towering Renaissance buildings that make Pamplona interesting. Beyond the historical monuments sitting across town, tourists can get a glimpse of a fabulous Pyrenees backdrop that’s simply mesmerizing.

The capital of Navarre province, Pamplona holds the best mountainous terrains in the region perfect for hiking. It’s basically a huge playground for nature lovers who crave to see the rolling hills from the distance and the vast range of terrains.

There’s also this 15th-century citadel built by King Felipe II, arguably one of the country’s best-preserved fortresses. There are two huge parks inside, offering a large green space. In some days, jazz sessions happen within the fort, entertaining a flock of tourists by night.

Pamplona is also part of the Camino de Santiago, the first city on the list. It’s worth the visit for its historic buildings, lively plazas, and nature reserve.

Burgos cathedral

The northern Spain holidays are defined by Gothic and Renaissance architecture, overflowing the cities and major plazas. Burgos is no different as visitors are welcomed with historic bell towers, old-world charm, and alfresco promenade along the riverbanks.

One of the best-see sights includes a castle called Castillo, perched neatly into the hills. It’s one of the well-known landmarks, providing an excellent viewing point above the sea. There’s also a 12th-century monastery showcasing Mudéjar style, Monasterio de las Huelgas, which was later converted to a pantheon.

The best of all is probably the stunning Burgos Cathedral, which sits at the town center. It’s one of the UNESCO Heritage Sites in Spain for its finest religious architecture and historical significance. The cathedral’s entrance is brimming with ornate sculptures up to the ceiling, which is definitely hard to miss.

6. León

León Spain

Terraces spilling out the buildings, vast plazas, and perfectly good weather—León is simply an elegant destination filled with architectural masterpieces. There’s never a corner not picturesque in this lovely city. Baroque buildings scatter around towns, and museums are almost everywhere.

If looking for laid-back places to visit in northern Spain , this place should be on the list. The plaza mayor is enough to entertain tourists, usually a jungle of all things local—produce, flea markets , and live events.

There’s also this 14th-century palace called Palacio del Conde Luna, highlighting Gothic-Mudéjar architecture. It also houses the city’s museum, exhibiting its history and culture.

7. Huesca Province

Parque Nacional Ordesa y Monte Perdido

During winter , Huesca province is considered the best destination for the amazing and mile-long slopes. Ski resorts are dotted across the province, including the renowned Candanchú and Formigal. Ideal for sightseeing, visitors can witness a dramatic backdrop of Pyrenees, and the mesmerizing Mallos de Agüero.

The rock formation is visible from the road, around 200 meters in height. There’s also a park worth exploring called the Parque Nacional Ordesa y Monte Perdido. This is an ideal destination for hiking , featuring rushing rivers, lush canyons, and rocky peaks. With its unique beauty, the park is declared a UNESCO Heritage Site .

8. Barcelona

Giant Ferris Wheel Barcelona

The picturesque and historic city of Barcelona will remain a top destination in Spain , especially in the northern region. It’s a one-stop place for all—vibrant plazas, medieval quarters, the colorful marketplace, and renowned buildings. The city’s charm lies in its splendid landmarks that stand tall for centuries.

In between city strolls and museum hopping, visitors can enjoy the authentic Catalan cuisine. Barcelona offers unique food experiences that start off with Catalan tapas and other specialties. The seafood paella is probably among the dishes to try , as well as jamón, cheeses, and gourmet fried eggs.

Never miss out on the hilltop Monastery of Montserrat, the busy La Boquería market, La Ramblas, and Gaudí masterpieces. The Barri Gotic is also one of the best places to visit in northern Spain to discover the Roman villages and remnants of the past.

9. Rías Altas

In the northern part of Galicia lies an almost secluded village with untamed beaches and towering cliffs. Rías Altas is a place overlooking the Atlantic, with spectacular fishing villages, lighthouses, and estuaries. It’s the best location for touring on the road because of the striking views of the beaches surrounding it.

Cities such as Lugo, Ferrol, A Coruña, and Ourense hold distinct local charm, offering the best travel experiences for visitors. There are existing Roman walls and medieval streets in Lugo that are perfect for a day trip exploration.

Other attractions include monuments of Betanzos, Pazo de Mariñan mansion, and the shrine of Santo André de Teixido.

10. La Rioja

San vicente de la sonsierra La Rioja

For wine lovers, make sure not to miss La Rioja province to taste the best local wines . Home to 500 wineries, La Rioja is surely a landmark in Spain for the quality of wines produced here. Aside from wine tasting, visitors can try other activities like horse riding, riding hot air balloons, and 4×4 routes.

The region is also one of the best places to visit in northern Spain for the breathtaking forests, high-mountain areas, lunar landscapes, and other cultural attractions. It’s also closely connected to the Saint James pilgrim route, making it a great stopover to enjoy the laid-back countryside vibe.

Check out these activities in Spain

About me

Evan Kristine a.k.a Pretty Wild World is a professional blogger with over 10 years of experience in content creation. Originally from the Philippines, she's been living in Finland for 15+ years working as a chef and entrepreneur in Tampere, Finland.

She's an expert in Finland travel and explores the country often sharing her insights and tips in this blog and social medias. She also splits her free time either going for weekend getaways in Europe on her holidays or exploring different home decor ideas for her future house in the lush Finnish forest.

This blog curates the best of travel, interior design, minimalist fashion, DIY wedding hacks, and a bit of beauty. Its a safe space for everyone who have various interests!

Evan Kristine is also the food blogger behind at The Kitchen Abroad and on her free time, she enjoys decorating her 75m2 apartment and shares her experience over at Solía Avenue .

A true master of her own life and despite her busy schedule juggling life as a chef, blogger, and entrepreneur, she still finds time to read 50+ books a year and indulge in several hobbies like hiking, working out, yoga, and painting.

Sharing is Caring

Help spread the word. You're awesome for doing it!

logo

8 of the best places to see in Northern Spain

Visit Northern Spain for the first time, and you might ask yourself: Am I still in the same country? And we wouldn’t blame you! Rocky shores and rolling green mountains replace sun-kissed beaches. Moorish influence gives way to reveal Celtic roots, and in some spots, you’re just as likely to hear Galego (Galician) or Euskera (Basque) as you are Spanish. Wonderful as our other top-rated itineraries in Spain are, there’s nothing quite like it.

Sound daunting? Tranquilo. From cultured Bilbao to sleepy Santillana del Mar, we’ve curated a list of eight of the best places to visit in Northern Spain. Once you’ve found some itinerary inspiration, give our Spain tours a look—or book your place on our brand-new Northern Spain: Basque Country to Madrid tour .

Img

Explore more tours to Spain

Overview of Madrid Spain at sunset

4.8 out of 5 stars

northern spain places to visit

4.7 out of 5 stars

northern spain places to visit

3.6 out of 5 stars

northern spain places to visit

4.6 out of 5 stars

interior of the mezquita cathedral in andalucia spain

4.4 out of 5 stars

Check out our relevant articles

white building with bright yellow trim in spain

Spanish Wine

northern spain places to visit

Highlights for a Road Trip across Southern Spain

North of spain road trip.

Ideas and options for a perfect road trip experience

Planning a road trip to North Spain? We trust this post will help you with great itinerary ideas and many proposals to make this a road trip of a life time for you!

Northern Spain  is famous for its gastronomy, its elegant cities, which contrast with its small villages, natural landscapes, and sandy beaches. In this post we provide you with lots of details and information that our destination experts have put together as part of of the road trip itineraries they prepare. In broad terms, you have three options to enjoy Northern Spain . 

  • Rent a car and organize a roadtrip. This is our favorite option. Motorways and roads in Spain are generally safe. Smaller roads provide fantastic scenery. On the negative side, building a good itinerary can be very time-consuming. Below you can find 3 great itineraries, almost ready to use, to enjoy an itinerary that covers most highlights shown on this article. 
  • Join a guided tour. In case you enjoy travelling with groups, group guided tours are an excellent choice.  Guided tours are not a perfect fit for everybody since they reduce flexibility. On the positive side, however, they remove all the burden to get the trip organized, manage time very efficiently and cover the most important highlights. There are not so many guided tours that cover Northern Spain. This one can be a good fit if you are keen on joining one. GUIDED TOUR SPECIAL OFFER
  • Travel with public transportation.  Spain has a fantastic public transportation network and this is also the case for the Northern regions. Traveling by public rail and bus is possible but it will take lots of time to build the itinerary and you will have to bear in mind the waiting time for connecting the options available. 

Port and church of Getaria near San Sebastian

Bilbao to Santiago de Compostela Road trip

Design a fantastic road trip in northern Spain from Bilbao to Sntiago de Compostela with this free itinerary planner that includes recommendations to discover the north of Spain by visiting elegant cities such as San Sebastian, Santander and Oviedo and small fishing villages, all with their traditional architecture. This road trip itinerary has been selected as one of Spain’s best holidays by The Times. Our team of local experts recommends top hotels, restaurants, hidden gems, and activities to enjoy … Read More

Bodegas Ysios in Rioja Alvesa

Rioja road trip – Rioja at its best

Discover the best of La Rioja with this short but complete road trip itinerary in Spain´s top wine region in which you will visit emblematic wineries and taste their wines, explore magnificent landscapes, taste the traditional gastronomy of Rioja, get to know its culture and curiosities, and enjoy activities related to the world of wine. We have carefully selected each of the services recommended to make this the best way to discover this wonderful region. … Read More

San sebastian, Norte de España

Basque Country road trip with Pamplona and Rioja

This gastronomy road trip itinerary in Spain takes you through the North of Spain (Bilbao, San Sebastian, Pamplona and Rioja) and the French Basque country. It is a fantastic opportunity to get to know the real and authentic culture, gastronomy and wine of these regions. You will enjoy wine culture in Rioja, amazing gastronomy, beautiful landscapes and some of Spain´s most charming villages. There is so much to discover in a gastronomic road trip through the North of Spain! … Read More

Acueduct of Segovia and views of the Sierra

Madrid to Bilbao road trip via wine country

Top highlights on this itinerary.

List of recommended hotels for this roadtrip

Bilbao - hotel artexe, san sebastian – villa soro, hondarribia – hotel obispo, santander -  gran hotel sardinero, cangas de onis – parador de turismo, lugo – hotel monumento pazo de orban, santiago de compostela. san francisco hotel monumento, rias baixas - quinta de san amaro, north of spain itinerary highlights.

This itinerary and its ideas was  selected by the Times.co.uk as one of Spain´s best holidays. 

The  North of Spain  comprises of different regions (Comunidades Autónomas). In this post we will concentrate on the 4 regions which are located between the borders of France and Portugal: they are the  Basque Country, Cantabria, Asturias, and Galicia . All of these 4 regions have in common beaches and mountains, fantastic gastronomy, culture, monuments and natural parks.

We will cover the main cities in Northern Spain first, then the most charming villages in each of the 4 regions in North Spain. We will not forget the natural parks and beaches, local gastronomy and the culture and heritage you will enjoy in Northern Spain. 

Main cities to include in a road trip in Northern Spain (5 highlights)

Highlight 1 – san sebastian (basque country).

The  Spanish kings  decided to spend their summers in San Sebastian ever since Queen Isabel II received the medical recommendation to bathe in the region’s thermal baths. Queen María Cristina installed the court and the government in San Sebastian during two months each year and, today, the city recalls a glorious past with stately buildings and memories of the Belle Epoque.

OUR TOP RECOMMENDATIONS IN SAN SEBASTIAN   

1- We recommend a walk on the La  Concha beach  from the  “peines del viento”  to the Casco Viejo.

2- Get lost through the streets of the  Casco Viejo  and enjoy its many pintxos taverns.

3- We also recommend eating at a  traditional sidrería  and at one of San Sebastian’s avant-garde restaurants to witness the connections between the old and the new gastronomy.

4 –  Pintxos Tour.  We recommend you to enjoy a pintxos tour (the way tapas are called in the Basque country) during your stay in San Sebastian. it is a good way to combine dining and learning about the city. There are many tours available but they are a bit over-priced in our opinion. During high season you should make sure you book well in advance!  in THIS LINK YOU CAN FIND A  GOOD PINTXOS TOUR  OPTION. 

You can decide to check the best bars in this section with  best things to enjoy in San Sebastian  and build your own itinerary.

HOTELS IN SAN SEBASTIAN   

The bad news is San Sebastian is expensive. the city was isolated for many years due to terrorrism and hotels were not built for decades. Whilst all that belongs to the past and the number of hotels has increased significantly lately, prices are still high compared to the rest of Spain.  Here are some of our favorites. We strongly recommend to book as soon as possible. We recommend using Booking.com since you do not need to pay at the time you book and their cancellation policy is very flexible.

Our favorite hotels:

– Overall good value:  Astoria and The Barcelo Costa Vasca (Location and overall good value for money).

–  Something special:   HOTEL VILLASORO  has the elegance and charm you expect to find in San Sebastian.  AMAZING BUILDING!

–  The Classical and luxury ones:    MARÍA CRISTINA . Maria Cristina hotel is an icon in San Sebastian. This is not a cheap hotel but one where most rich and famous people stay when visiting the city. The second most famous hotel is  HOTEL DE LONDRES E INGLATERRA . Matahari stayed here, lots of glamour and great sea view too. Both these hotels are nearly always fully booked, so if you find a room book it!

Highlight 2 – Bilbao (Basque Country)

A formerly grey and industrial city, Bilbao has been reborn with beauty and splendor thanks to its culture, art, and gastronomy. Today, Bilbao is a must-see in Basque Country.

Top things to do

1-  Guggenheim museum . Amazing from the outside and interesting inside (check which temporary exhibitions will be on during your visit. The Museum of Bellas Artes, very close to the Guggenheim offers a fantastic collection and is a must too!

2-  Old District (Casco Viejo)  Great for tapas and to enjoy a lively atmosphere. The famous 7 calles (7 streets) and Plaza Nueva are where most tapas and pintxos bars concentrate.  There is a flea market in Plaza Nueva on Sundays. 

3-  Views from Funicular de Artxanda. 

4 –  The Bilbao bridge  (15 minutes drive from Bilbao) A fantastic piece of engineering and great fun to try. Another day excursion worth trying is to San Juan de Gaztelugaxte (very popular since it appeared in games of Thrones) 

5-  Mercado de la Ribera.  A great place for any foodie.

More  things to do in Bilbao  in this post where we have one of our guides, born in Bilbao, goes through all the best recommendations in the city. 

These are our favorite hotels in Bilbao:

Barcelo Nervión .  A perfectly located (at half distance from the Guggenheim and Casco Viejo) 4 star hotel that offers a fantastic breakfast and overall good value for money. Modern style

Hotel Gran Bilbao .  A very modern hotel with excellent facilities. Not so close to the city center but at an area where street parking is permitted. Bear in mind that street parking is regulated in Bilbao city centre

Hesperia Bilbao . As Barcelo Nervion, located at a fantastic location and also very modern facilities and excellent breakfast.

Tayko .  Great location and excellent boutique-style decoration.

If you want to enjoy a family-owned hotel, with a traditional basque atmosphere yet not far from Bilbao city center and with great value for money where you can park your car.  Hotel Artexe  is probably a great option for you. 

Highlight 3 – Santander (Cantabria)

Lesser known by the tourist than San Sebastian, Santander is also an elegant city that lives facing the sea. Its beautiful bay and its boardwalks and palaces are witnesses to an important past.

Highlight 4 – Oviedo (Asturias).

No doubt one of Spain’s lesser known cities but one that leaves an impression on those who do visit. Its cathedral, its beautiful market, its cider houses and its elegant shops, buildings and the Campoamor theatre (where the Prince of Asturias awards take place) are sufficient reasons to make a stop in Oviedo.

Highlight 5 – Santiago de Compostela

(Galicia) End of the Camino de Santiago, the capital of Galicia receives pilgrims and tourists alike with open arms. Its famous cathedray and Obradoiro plaza make up the most important enclave of the city, where the spirit of the Way of Saint James is lived and celebrated. Other gems: There are many other cities worth visiting in northern Spain, but time is scarce. Cities such as La Coruña, Vigo and Lugo are unexpected surprises for the traveller.

Charming towns and villages in Northern Spain

We cover now some of the most interesting villages and small towns in Northern Spain and which can be found in the itinerary we are covering and which has been designed to enjoy stops in some of this less known jewels in Northern Spain.

Highlight number 6 – Villages in Basque Country

  • Hondarribia. One of those towns that does not leave anyone disappointed. There are so many reasons to visit Hondarribia (Fuenterrabía in Spanish). For one, it has some of the best bars and restaurants of the Basque Country. The small gardens, the fortified wall and cobbled streets, beautiful Basque houses, the church, the square in front of the Parador…just a few of the things that make this town so charming. And for those of you that are adventurous, you might want to make the swim up along the river until you reach Hendaye in France.
  • Getaria . From Hondarribia, we continue to Getaria, a fishing village located on the Bay of Biscay. We highly recommend trying their fresh-caught grilled fish or “parrillada”. An experience not to be missed in Getaria. The quality of the fish is unbelievable and the town has gained fame for the use of the grill. Accompany your meal with Txacoli, a white wine produced in the surrounding txacoli vineyards. Fashion lovers will be happy to find the Balenciaga Museum, as Getaria is the birth town of the famous designer. A  txacoli winery wine tour in Getaria  from San Sebastian can also be a fantastic day tour. You can find here more ideas on   things to do in Getaria.
  • Bermeo. The largest town of this list, and therefore less charming than the others, Bermeo has a long history of maritime tradition and is still today very dependent on the fishing industry. You can enjoy a stroll along the beautiful old port and stop at one of the many local bars for a drink and a pintxo. The best part of visiting Bermeo are actually its surroundings. San Juan de Gaztlugatxe, at less than 10km away, has become one of the most popular destinations in the Basque Country and is an absolute must.

Highlight number 7 – Villages in Cantabria

  • Castro urdiales.  Next up is Castro Urdiales on the eastern end of Cantabria. A seaside village and popular tourist destination. The beach does get overcrowded in the summer months but it is definitely worth a stop. It is filled with beautiful scenery that makes for excellent photo opportunities: the gothic-style church, the castle, the Roman bridge and the port, just to name a few.
  • Comillas .  Situated 50 kilometers from Santander, Comillas combines its beauty and elegance with the charm of yet another fishing village in the north of Spain.  The whaling industry was once the town´s source of wealth. Today, Comillas is a town full of history and one of the most beautiful in Cantabria. Historic buildings, nice beaches, lovely plazas, and for Gaudi lovers, El Capricho.
  • Lastres . Crossing into the Asturias region of northern Spain, we come across Lastres. The most impressive part of this small town are the houses that look to be attached to the mountain overlooking the sea. A must for anyone planning on stopping in Lastres is a meal at either El Descanso, Bitácora (incredible views), or at the port.

Highlight number 8 – Villages in Asturias

  • Cudillero. Gorgeous small fishing village in Asturias wedged between the sea and the mountains. When you first spot the colourful hill of houses next to the port, you will be overcome with an unexpected feeling of happiness. Lots of bars and outdoor terraces to sit down, relax, and enjoy a glass of local cider while taking in the spectacular surroundings and the liveliness of this small town.
  • Luarca. Not too far from Cudillero, is Luarca also in the beautiful region of Asturias. It has a beautiful harbour filled with small fishing boats, delicious gastronomy, and excellent beaches. The best views of Luarca are surprisingly from the town´s cemetery located on the hills above. Truly spectacular looking point out to the open sea.

Highlight number 9 – Villages in Galicia

  • Ribadeo & Castropol. We continue this “northern road trip” to the border between Asturias and Galicia. Here you will find two towns that face each other, Castropol in Asturias and Ribadeo in the Lugo province of Galicia. Along with the nearby Asturian town of Vegadeo, the three form a type of triangle border with mansions and palaces that stand out against the boats and the sea. Very close to Ribadeo is the impressive Playa de Las Catedrales (literally beach of the cathedrals)… an absolute must if you are in the area, but best to go out of season.
  • Cambados. When you reach the Rías Baixas in Galicia, make a stop in Cambados, the albariño capital of Spain. Beautiful stone buildings and architecture, cobbled streets, delicious Galician food, and of course, excellent white wine of the local albariño grape. If you´re up for a lively Spanish fiesta, come for a visit the first weekend of August for the famous Albariño Wine Festival. A winery visit in the area is also not a bad idea.

Combarro. The most characteristic aspects of Galicia all concentrated in one small town: typical Galician “horreos” or granaries, cobbled streets, old traditional houses, stone crosses, fishing boats and the sea. A stroll in the old quarter of Combarro feels like taking a step back in time. A truly unique town that will leave you with a memorable experience of Galicia in its purest form.

  • La Guardia. Where the Miño River meets the ocean and Spain meets Portugal. This town´s landscape offers a mix of sea, river, and mountains. The Monte de Santa Tecla is one of those magical places where you can feel its history among archaeological finds. The views from the Celtic Roman ruin looking down at La Guardia from above are also breath-taking.

Highlight number 10 – Natural parks and beaches

Islas Atlánticas (Galicia) The only national park in Galicia, the Islas Atlánticas (Atlantic Islands) extend from the Ría de Arousa to that of Vigo. Throughout the extension of the park, there are linked islands from which the Cíes islands are the most well-known and beautiful. The different islands consist of cliffs, dunes, beaches and rich sea beds, in which sunken ships are found. The island of Rodas is considered one of the best islands in the world. It is important to note that it is not allowed to camp or scuba dive in the national park without having gotten a permit beforehand.

You can find more information on the best beaches in our  Northern Spain best beaches post . 

Picos de Europa (Asturias, Cantabria & León)

Located among the regions of Asturias, León and Cantabria, the Picos de Europa provide an impressive mountainous contrast with the nearby marine coast. The landscape has been formed by glacier erosion and there are many lakes. The most famous are Enol and Ercina (lakes of Covadonga). Gorges like the Cares Gorge (Garganta del Cares) or the peak of Naranjo de Bulnes at more than 2,500 meters of altitude are home to abundant wildlife.

Highlight 11 – Art & Culture in Northern Spain

  • Museum of the Galician people (Museo del pueblo Gallego), Santiago de Compostela. An ethnographic museum in Santiago de Compostela that shows the history of Galicia and its relationship with the sea.
  • Mining Museum of Asturias (Museo de minería en Asturias) – Asturias is a region with a significant mining past. This museum recreates the way of life of the miners and you have the opportunity to descend to a mine.
  • Altamira Museum. Cantabria. The Altamira cabes are one of the most important cave paitings in the world. Visits, temporary exhibitions, and activities bring us closer to the fascinating world of prehistoric life.
  • Guggenheim, Bilbao. This museum, the current icon of the city of Bilbao, gave way to the transformation in the appearance of the city. The museum itself is a work of art and a must-see for any lover of architecture.

Highlight 12 –  Northern Spain´s Gastronomy

Historically, the geographic location of northern Spain, with the Cantabrian Sea and the mountains of the Cantabrian Range, have contributed a rich source of raw material to shape the local gastronomy. The Basque Country is famous worldwide for its abundance of Michelin-star restaurants and famous chefs, but we must not forget the quality of Galician gastronomy and its exquisite seafood from its estuaries (rías), or the delicious and generous Asturian gastronomy, not to mention the famous Cantabrian conservas (canned foods).

We trust you will have found useful this guide to Northern Spain. If instead of planning a self-driven road trip you would prefer to enjoy one of our Spain private tours , we recommend having a look at our selection of 1 day or multiple-day private tours. 

More information to prepare your road trip in Spain

The tower of La Giralda in Seville, Spain

How to Get From Madrid to Seville

Planning a trip to Seville from Madrid? Read this post to find out the different methods of transportation for getting to Seville, Spain. … Read More

White village and sea during a roadtrip in Spain

South Spain roadtrip:12 Highlights

Recommendations and itineraries for a road trip across the South of Spain written by our local destination experts. We aim at providing recommendations that offer overall great road trip experience, value and a fantastic selection of ideas collected with all the inside knowledge of our local experts. … Read More

Wine cellar on the way from Barcelona to San Sebastian

Best way to get from Barcelona to San Sebastian

Here we discuss the different options available for getting to San Sebastian from Barcelona including train, plane, bus and walking! … Read More

Vineyards in Rioja

How to get to Rioja from Madrid

Here we look at how to get to Rioja from Madrid- by car, bus or train. There is so much to see in Rioja and it is worth taking a trip up to the wine region whilst you are enjoying your holiday or getaway in Madrid.. Rioja is one of the most famous wine regions in Spain, and has many things to see and do. If you are already visiting Madrid and are thinking about taking a trip up to Rioja for a weekend of wine tasting and exploring, there are various travel options to suit your needs. … Read More

is proudly powered by WordPress

My little world of travelling new logo.

9 Great Reasons to Visit the North of Spain

There are many reasons why you want to add Northern Spain to your list – pristine beaches, less crowded places, lush green landscapes with hills and mountains, and food culture, among other incredible things.

Northern Spain is often overlooked, and you’ll be surprised by all the things you can do in this part of Spain. So if you’re looking for a less touristy and tranquil destination, you’ll love visiting one of the cities or towns in the north of Spain.

You’ve probably heard of San Sebastián or Bilbao, but you’ll also be amazed by smaller cities and towns in Northern Spain that aren’t often mentioned in travel guides and articles.

If you’re ready to discover whether Northern Spain is worth visiting or not and find useful tips to travel around this beautiful part of Spain, keep reading this travel guide.

Pinterest pin that reads great reasons to visit Northern Spain.

This post contains affiliate links, and as an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. If you click through and purchase something, I receive a small commission on the price at no extra cost to you. This helps me keep the content up to date and make other improvements to the blog.

Table of Contents

Reasons to visit the north of Spain – Is it worth visiting it?

1. the summer is mild.

Magdalena peninsula in Santander.

Southern Spain is very well-known for its beaches. However, Northern Spain has equally incredible beaches you want to visit. I was surprised by how beautiful the beaches in Santander are!

The temperatures are milder in the north of Spain, meaning you can still swim in the sea, sightsee and do any other activities there. Meanwhile, Southern Spain’s temperatures are too high (average of 35ºC degrees, 95°F) to sightsee and be outside in the afternoon.

If you aren’t a big fan of the warm weather, the north of Spain is your best option.

2. Its beautiful coastline

La Magdalena Beach in Santander.

Whilst Southern Spain and the islands have incredible beaches, the Northern Spain coastline really impressed me – the golden sand, crystal clear sea and fewer crowds make it worth exploring.

Some of the most popular beaches in the north are Playa de la Concha in San Sebastián, Playa el Sardinero and Playa de la Magdalena in Santander and Playa del Silencio in Asturias.

Also, many of these beaches are perfect for surfing and doing other water sports activities, so if you’re a fan of any watersport, you want to check them out.

3. It has the best hiking trails in Spain

A beautiful green landscape at St James Way in Northern Spain.

Are you an adventurous traveller who prefers the mountains to the beach? If so, Northern Spain is the perfect destination for you.

The most famous hiking trail is the Camino de Santiago (the Way of St. James) which consists of a group of pilgrim routes that lead you to the shrine of the apostle Saint James the Great in the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia.

Some of my family members have done this hiking trail and loved their experience. Unfortunately, I couldn’t join them, but it’s on my list!

Apart from Camino de Santiago, there are many other hiking trails, such as the Sendero Histórico, Picos de Europa, Ruta del Cares and Covadonga .

Covadonga is one of my favourites because you get the chance to visit the impressive Basilica and Cave of Covandoga, which are rich in history and spirituality. Exploring Covadonga is magical!

4. The food is mouthwatering

Pinxtos in bilbao market, Northern Spain.

Pintxos, hearty stews, fresh fish and cider are some of the highlights of Nothern Spain gastronomy.

You’ve heard of tapas before, as they’re known everywhere, but what about pintxos? Pintxos are small snacks served in bars across the north of Spain. They often consist of a slice of bread topped with egg, fish, meat or vegetables.

They’re especially popular in places like Bilbao in the Basque Country, so there’s no visit to Bilbao without having a pintxo! And if you’re looking for the best place to have pintxos in Bilbao, La Ribera Market is excellent.

The market has a gastropub section with plenty of pintxo stalls to choose from and desserts. I can confirm the food is very good there!

5. Its incredible cities

Entrance of Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao.

There is something about Northern Spain cities which is difficult to explain.

Its relaxing atmosphere makes you want to explore it more and more, and while the atmosphere is relaxing, this doesn’t mean there aren’t enough things to do.

Each city has something to offer. If you want to immerse yourself in an art experience, go to Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao ; if you want to taste award-winning restaurant food, go to San Sebastian; if you want to surf at the beach, go to El Sardinero Beach in Santander .

The options are endless, and no matter what type of traveller you are, you’ll find an activity for you.

6. It is less crowded

Madrid, Barcelona and Seville are the most visited cities in Spain, and whilst they’re unique and beautiful in their own way, they’re crowded and touristy.

If you’re looking for a place to experience Spanish culture at your own pace without needing to worry about crowds, you’ll fall in love with Northern Spain. Even if you visit bigger cities like Bilbao and Santander , you won’t feel they’re touristy at all.

7. It is rich in culture

A photo of the Botin Centre in Santander.

The north of Spain is unique in its own way – traditions, dances, food and language. It’s good to know that Spanish isn’t the only language spoken in this region, but Basque, Galician and Aranese too!

On top of this, the region has numerous UNESCO World Heritage Sites such as the Cave of Altamira, Monuments of Oviedo and the Kingdom of the Asturias and the Pyrénées, so you’ll discover about previous cultural influences and the history behind these places.

Locals are very proud of their traditions, language, and culture in general!

8. Its unique towns and villages

Gaztelugatxe island near Bilbao.

Northern Spain is home to many quaint and unique towns and villages that can be visited from bigger cities like Bilbao, San Sebastian and Santander.

If you’re after hidden gems and off-the-beaten-path destinations, you’ll find plenty of them in this part of Spain. One of the most popular hidden gems in this area is El Capricho , a stunning villa built by the famous architect Antoni Gaudi in the early years of his career.

This hidden gem is located in Comillas, a small town in Cantabria.

Towns and villages to visit in Northern Spain

Wondering which towns to visit in Northern Spain? Here is a short list of some incredible destinations:

  • San Juan de Gaztelugatxe
  • Santillana del Mar

9. Its cider won’t disappoint you

If you love a good cider ( sidra in Spanish), Asturias is the best place to drink cider. Most of the ciders are made in this part of the country, and it’s part of the Asturian culture.

You’ll find sidrerías , local bars specifically for cider drinking (you can also have a meal there), and even cider-related festivals.

If you happen to be in Asturias in the middle of the summer, you want to check out the Natural Cider Festival of Nava , a festival that dates back to the 60s of the 20th century!

The festival offers plenty of activities and competitions which involve pouring and drinking cider.

📌 Expert tip : Haro in La Rioja must be on your itinerary if you prefer wine. This town is home to some of the best red wine producers in Spain. Some of the best bodegas (wineries) are Bodegas Muga and Bodegas López de Heredia.

Tips for visiting Northern Spain

The best time to travel to the north of spain.

City view of Bilbao from viewpoint.

The best time to visit the north of Spain depends on the type of activity you want to do during your holiday. However, if you don’t mind the weather, you can visit the region at any time.

If you’re looking to relax for long days on the beach, summer is the perfect time to visit Northern Spain. The summer temperatures aren’t as high as in Southern Spain; however, that doesn’t mean you won’t experience hot temperatures in the north.

If you’re after hiking and other outdoor activities, spring and autumn are good times to visit the north. It’s not too cold and not too hot, but be aware that there may be rainy and windy days!

The months of January and February are the coldest months in Spain, but they are even colder in Northern Spain. The advantage of travelling during these months is that you’ll find very cheap flights and accommodations, so if you’re travelling on a budget, you may want to consider travelling during these months.

In addition to this, all the large cities have plenty of incredible museums and indoor activities for you to do when the weather isn’t good.

How to get to the North of Spain

A street in the centre of Santander in Spain.

If you’re travelling from outside Spain, the easiest way to get to the north of Spain is by plane. There are a few airports across Northern Spain. However, these airports aren’t as busy as other cities like Madrid, Barcelona and Malaga, so there are fewer routes and times.

In the case that you don’t find a direct flight to a Northern Spain destination, you can travel to Barcelona or Madrid and take public transport (train or coach) or drive .

If you’re travelling from the UK, low-cost airlines like Ryanair offer different routes across the north of Spain, including flights to Bilbao (the main airport in Northern Spain) and Santander.

Alternatively, you can also travel from the UK to Spain by ferry. The UK ports of Portsmouth and Plymouth travel to Santander and Bilbao.

✈️ Check out flights to Northern Spain

What to pack for Northern Spain

Cristina posing with a background of Santander city centre, sea and mountains.

Packing for a holiday in Malaga or Tenerife isn’t the same as packing for a trip to the north of Spain. Regardless of the season, it’s a good idea to pack a light jacket and umbrella because the weather is more unpredictable in this part of the country.

If you’re travelling to Northern Spain in winter, make sure to pack some warm clothes with you (jumpers, scarves, raincoats, boots, etc.) Whereas if you’re travelling in summer, don’t forget to pack suncream, swimwear and a hat.

Travelling during the spring and autumn months is all about layers! Early mornings and evenings are cold, but you can experience nice and sunny afternoons, so the best way to dress up for this weather is to wear clothes you can easily put on and off.

Frequently asked questions about visiting Northern Spain

What’s northern spain like.

Northern Spain is very unique in comparison to other parts of the country. It’s often referred to as “Green Spain” because of its stunning landscapes across the region. On top of the lush green spaces, you’ll love its beautiful coastline, gastronomy culture, and relaxing and less touristy atmosphere.

What are the most beautiful towns in Northern Spain?

It’s difficult to say which towns are the most beautiful as all of them have something unique. However, these are some cities and towns in Northern Spain you want to add to your list: – La Rioja – Oviedo – Bilbao – Santander – Gaztelugatxe – Santiago de Compostela – Santillana del Mar – San Sebastian

Is Northern Spain worth visiting?

Absolutely! If you love travelling in Spain, you can’t miss this part of the country. It has many cultural and natural activities to offer, and it’s much less crowded than bigger cities like Madrid, Valencia and Barcelona.

At the same time, you’ll also be able to explore unique towns and learn about the rich culture of Northern Spain.

I’ve travelled more than three times to Northern Spain and cannot wait to return! There’s always something to do.

Conclusion: is the north of Spain worth visiting?

The short answer is yes! If you’re looking for a trip packed with delicious food, incredible green landscapes and culture, you’ll love Northern Spain.

Personally, I think Santander is one of the best places to visit in Northern Spain. It’s truly underrated, but there are many other fantastic places to explore in this area of the country.

After reading all these good reasons to visit Northern Spain, have I convinced you to visit this region? Let me know in the comments.

If you have any questions about visiting the north of Spain or any other Spanish destination, you can always leave them in the comments. I’m happy to help you plan your trip to my home country.

Enjoy your Northern Spain holiday!

Don’t forget to save these reasons to visit the north of Spain on Pinterest for later

reasons to visit northern spain

Are you ready to book your trip to any Northern Spain holiday destination?

  • Book flights to Northern Spain here .
  • Book accommodation with Booking.com .
  • Have a look at popular guided tours and day trips.
  • Rent a car to travel with ease around Northern Spain.
  • Get travel insurance , it’s a must for any trip.

Other Spain travel guides you want to check out

  • 12 Unmissable Things to do in Santander
  • How to Spend One Day in Bilbao
  • Bilbao or Santander: Which City is Best?
  • Best City Breaks in Spain You Should Add to Your List
  • Top Tips for Travelling in Spain for the First Time
  • What to Wear in Spain in Winter (Packing list included!)
  • Tipping in Spain: Etiquette and Culture from a Local
  • What is the legal drinking age in Spain?
  • Can You Drink Tap Water in Spain?
  • Does It Snow in Spain?

Sharing is caring!

' src=

Travel Writer

Hola, I’m Cristina, the founder and writer of My Little World of Travelling. I was born and raised in Malaga (Costa del Sol), and I’m passionate about showing you my hometown and other beautiful Andalusian destinations. I help other travellers plan their trips to Spain by providing local advice and unique insights.

Leave a Reply Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

My little world of travelling new logo.

  • Privacy Overview
  • Strictly Necessary Cookies
  • 3rd Party Cookies
  • Cookie Policy

This website uses cookies so that we can provide you with the best user experience possible. Cookie information is stored in your browser and performs functions such as recognising you when you return to our website and helping our team to understand which sections of the website you find most interesting and useful.

Strictly Necessary Cookie should be enabled at all times so that we can save your preferences for cookie settings.

If you disable this cookie, we will not be able to save your preferences. This means that every time you visit this website you will need to enable or disable cookies again.

This website uses Google Analytics to collect anonymous information such as the number of visitors to the site, and the most popular pages.

Keeping this cookie enabled helps us to improve our website.

Please enable Strictly Necessary Cookies first so that we can save your preferences!

More information about our Cookie Policy

Paulina on the road

12 Best Paradores in Northern Spain

By Author Paulina

Posted on June 25, 2024

a pin with a Parador sign on a building, Best Paradores in Northern Spain

A guide to help you discover the best Paradores in Northern Spain

Northern Spain is one of my favorite regions due to its stunning landscapes, rich history, and vibrant culture, including the Basque Country’s rugged coastlines and Asturias’s lush valleys.

The Paradores in Spain are luxury hotels, often located in historic buildings like castles, monasteries, or palaces, and provide luxurious accommodations in a unique setting. 

When planning to travel Spain , choosing the right accommodation can make all the difference. Here’s my guide to the best Paradores in Northern Spain, focusing on the unique and historic paradores. 

a pin with 2 photos related to Best Paradores in Northern Spain

You, dear reader, support this blog. When you purchase through a link, I may earn a small commission. As an Amazon Affiliate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Psssst…!!?? You can’t get enough of Spain? Have a look at my other posts.

  • What to eat in Spain
  • Movies Set in Spain
  • Most Famous Landmarks in Spain

Table of Contents

5-star Paradores in Northern Spain

1. parador de santiago – hostal reis catolicos.

  • Great dining options
  • Luxurious amenities

The 5-star Parador hotels in Northern Spain are unique not only because of their historical and cultural value but also because of their luxurious amenities. 

Parador de Santiago – Hostal Reis Catolicos is a 5-star accommodation in Santiago de Compostela, combining art, history, and tradition. 

Originally a Royal Hospital for pilgrims , it now offers rooms with four-poster beds, free Wi-Fi, and classic décor. 

I find Parador de Santiago in Spain to be a magnificent representation of history and luxury, perfectly situated in the charming old town of Santiago de Compostela.

The Reis Catolicos features four impressive cloisters, lounge areas, and two restaurants, Dos Reis and Enxebre, serving Mediterranean and traditional Galician cuisine. 

The hotel is considered the world’s oldest and one of the most luxurious ones and it’s one of my favorite city breaks in Spain .

2. Parador de León

  • Excellent location
  • Very good breakfast

Second on my list of the best resorts in Northern Spain is Hostal San Marcos, once the Order of Santiago emblem, now housing the Parador de León. 

The historic hotel in León was built in the 16th century to house the Military Order of Saint James’ western headquarters and was financed by King Ferdinand the Catholic. 

It features a museum, cloister, chapter house, guest rooms, library, and restaurant. Today, it attracts travelers to experience the city’s history and cultural heritage. 

The Parador offers rooms with antique furnishings, free Wi-Fi, air conditioning, mini-bars, and balconies. 

You can taste traditional local cuisine in the onsite restaurant, and they can enjoy their coffees in the café decorated with mural paintings. 

Check out the guide on where not to miss out on Spanish holiday , highlighting all the must-see spots, together with this wonderful Parador de León.  

4-star Paradores in Northern Spain

3. parador de la granja.

  • Impressive 18th-century building
  • Spa services

The Parador de La Granja , located in La Granja de San Ildefonso, is an impressive 18th-century building in the Casa de los Infantes. 

What I love about these best Paradores in Northern Spain is that they hold so much history. This property, for instance, was originally built for the children of King Carlos III., the Infantes Gabriel and Antonio. 

It features modern decoration, bright rooms, a rooftop swimming pool, indoor spa pool and contemporary-styled lounges. 

The standard and superior double rooms and suites impress the guests with the blend of the building’s original charm and the modern touch. 

The Parador de Granja also houses the Guardia de Corps Conference and Convention Centre, which can accommodate over 600 people. 

Where to stay in Spain ? – I think you just got the answer. 

4. Parador de Corias

  • Housed in a 11th century monastery
  • Indoor heated pool

Parador de Corias is an 11th-century monastery in Cangas del Narcea, Asturias, also known as “The Escorial de Asturias

While visiting, I discovered that the monastery was occupied by Benedictine monks and declared a national historic and artistic monument. 

This historic hotel offering free Wi-Fi, contemporary décor, and large rooms with stunning views of the natural surroundings. 

The property features a restaurant, spa, and heated indoor pool. The Parador combines tradition and modernity, offering unique salons for events and sharing space with Dominican monks. 

It also houses a museum containing the remains of the original 11th-century church and a unique art piece by Portuguese artist Rui Macedo, known as the Cabinet de Curiosites. 

Isn’t it true that the Paradores in Spain are so unique, that you have to try them out?

5. Parador de Cangas de Onís

  • Traditional rooms

The Parador de Cangas de Onís is a historic Benedictine monastery in Asturias, located on the banks of the River Sella. 

It offers traditional rooms with stone and wood decorations which did the trick for me as I love authenticity while I travel. 

The monastery, a National Monument, was founded by King Alfonso I in the 8th century and is surrounded by the Picos de Europa Mountains. 

The Parador has free Wi-Fi, local dishes from Asturias and local cheeses in the onsite restaurant, and also archaeological exhibitions. 

The area also features a Roman bridge, Santa Cruz Chapel, and prehistoric caves. 

If you want to relax in one of the best Paradores in Northern Spain and take advantage of the top-notch amenities, I recommend you to check out the Parador de Cangas de Onís . 

6. Parador de Gil Blas – Santillana

  • Rooms with fireplaces
  • Great location

I find it so wonderful how these Paradores in Northern Spain combine history and modern services to perfection, like the Parador de Santillana Gil Blas. 

This modern hotel offers a relaxing getaway with its courtyard, on-site restaurant, and bar. 

I’m still fascinated with the fact that the Parador Gil Bas is a 17th-century noble townhouse located in Santillana del Mar, whose origins go back to the 8th century and now has National Monument status. 

The building was transformed into a Parador in 1946, marking the beginning of the Paradores Network, being one of the most unique places to visit in Spain . 

The hotel features a stone façade, elegant interior, wooden floors, and comfortable rooms with fireplaces. 

The spacious, air-conditioned rooms include amenities, like a flat-screen TV, a minibar, and a bathroom with a hairdryer and free toiletries.

7. Parador de Argómaniz

  • Mountain views
  • Large gardens

The best places in Northern Spain are waiting for you and I have yet another attractive parador to share with you. 

The Parador de Argómaniz , a Renaissance palace in Argómaniz overlooking the Gorbea Mountains, awaits the guests for a relaxing getaway. 

The building dates back to 1712 when it was an important crossroad for different cultures, a legend says that Napoleon planned the attack on Vitoria at this very place. 

It offers spacious rooms with wooden floors, air conditioning, satellite TV, and countryside views. The hotel features a restaurant, a bar, large gardens and also a playground for children. 

I absolutely loved the uniqueness of the Parador’s restaurant, Aletegui, which lies in the 18th-century coffered ceiling and porthole windows, showcasing Basque architecture. 

I think Parador de Argómaniz is a great start when it comes to places for winter holidays in Spain .

8. Parador de Calahorra

  • Family services
  • Delicious dining options

The Parador de Calahorra is a historic building in La Rioja, located on the River Ebro. Known for its Roman-era cathedral, it offers comfortable rooms, meticulous decoration, and cozy lounge fireplaces. 

In the red-brick building, I could admire the Christian artwork and the large doorways, and my favorite part, relaxing in the palm garden. 

The hotel’s restaurant serves typical Riojan dishes and the region’s world-famous and best Spanish wines . 

The Parador de Calahorra is an ideal family destination with event halls, a cafeteria, a common lounge, and a hotel car park. 

The resorts in Northern Spain have everything you need for an unforgettable trip, am I right?

9. Parador de Ribadeo

  • Stunning views
  • Charming interior decor

The Parador Hotel in Ribadeo , located on the border of Galicia and Asturias, has a picturesque setting overlooking the Eo Estuary. 

The hotel features a charming interior decorated with rural touches, elegant furnishings, and not to mention the panoramic views I had from my room. 

The rooms offer panoramic views of the Galician landscape and they include a minibar, TV and a private bathroom with a hairdryer and free toiletries. 

The Ribadeo estuary, part of the River Eo, Oscos and Tierras de Burón Biosphere Reserve, is a significant ecological inlet and a hub for nautical and sporting activities. 

The coastline boasts stunning beaches, including a unique late-night sailing experience. 

3-star Paradores in Northern Spain

10. parador de cervera de pisuerga – fuentes carrionas.

  • Breathtaking views

The Parador de Cervera de Pisuerga is a charming hotel in rural Castile, located in the Fuentes Carrionas Reserve. 

I felt so at peace with its stunning views of the surrounding nature park, the Ruesga Reservoir, and the Picos de Europa mountains. 

The hotel’s interior features natural tones, wood beams, and wooden paneling, with large windows offering breathtaking views of the countryside. 

This is one of the best Paradores in Northern Spain that is a perfect base to explore the local landscape and Romanesque art.

The hotel also features a park, children’s play area, football pitch, games room, and currency exchange facility.

11. Parador de Ferrol

  • Panoramic views

The Parador de Ferrol is a charming hotel in the heart of a seaside town, and what I find most attractive is that it resembles a traditional mansion. 

The hotel’s interiors are designed to blend with its maritime setting, featuring world maps, sailing motifs, and nautical instruments. 

The rooms are spacious and feature organic tones, parquet flooring, and antique-style decor. 

The restaurant serves Galician cuisine, seafood, and desserts, while lounges offer a homely and luxurious atmosphere. 

The Parador de Ferrol is located in the emblematic neighborhood of La Magdalena, offering panoramic views of the arsenal buildings and the ría.

12. Parador de Fuente Dé

Here I am at the last Parador and it can’t go better than this. The Parador de Fuente Dé is a modern hotel in the Picos de Europa Mountains, with easy access to the Fuente Dé cable car. 

The hotel features spacious rooms with mountain views, wooden floors, leather furnishings, heating, and air conditioning. 

It also provides gardens with a children’s play area, a lounge with newspapers, and a bar. The restaurant serves Cantabrian dishes and can offer packed lunches too. 

Parador de Fuente Dé offers a variety of activities for rural tourism enthusiasts, including hiking trails, canoeing, rafting, rappel rope climbing, and snowshoeing. 

It’s an ideal destination for nature lovers and adventure seekers seeking a unique and rewarding experience from some of the best Paradores in Northern Spain.

The most beautiful places in Spain are lined up here in front of you, you just have to choose one. 

My conclusion on Paradores in Northern Spain

Best Paradores in Northern Spain, lleida parador, paradores near barcelona

Exploring the best Paradores in Northern Spain has been an unforgettable journey through history, culture, and breathtaking landscapes. 

Each Parador in Northern Spain offers a unique experience, blending luxury with the rich heritage of its surroundings. 

Staying in these exquisite hotels, I’ve felt truly connected to the charm and beauty of the region. 

If you’re looking for a memorable and immersive travel experience, the paradores are a perfect choice. 

Discover the magic of Northern Spain and let these exceptional accommodations enhance your adventure.

FAQ about Best Paradores in Northern Spain

What are the best paradores in spain.

Some of the best Paradores in Spain are Parador de Santiago de Compostela, Parador de Leon, or the Parador de Granada.

What are the best historic Paradors of hidden Spain?

Some of the best historic Paradors of hidden Spain are Parador de Fuente Dé, Parador of Cardona, or Parador de Almagro.

a pin with the exterior of one of the Best Paradores in Northern Spain

Hola! I’m Paulina, a seasoned travelette who crossed the Atlantic Ocean by Boat HitchHiking. On my blog, find expert insights for an extraordinary holiday through outdoor and sustainable travel like hiking, cycling, and sailing. Let’s embark on unforgettable journeys together! 🌍🚀

Hand Luggage Only

  • Travel Journal
  • Travel Advice
  • Travel Inspiration
  • Photo Diary
  • Photography Tips
  • Photography Inspiration
  • Destinations
  • Home Inspiration
  • Blogging Tips
  • Work With Us

Hand Luggage Only

15 Best Places In The North Of Spain To Visit

Best Places In The North Of Spain (16)

Spain has a whole range of gorgeous cities , lesser-known spots and a heap of incredible places to see dotted all across the country. Now, the south of Spain is already pretty popular, but there’s a heap of the best places in the north of Spain that you really shouldn’t miss, too.

That’s the thing about Spain, to be honest. The country is so diverse depending on what region you visit. The Costa Del Sol, for instance, is so different from the Spanish Basque Country in the north. This makes it a totally fun country to visit on a road trip as you can see so many different cultures and vistas, too.

Photographs And Postcards… From Bilbao, Spain (14)

Plus, you’re gonna get to gorge your way across a country that has some of the tastiest dishes around! I swear, I ate my weight in all the pintxos, paella and Iberian ham (which is so good). 

Anyway, enough about the food! I wanted to share some of the best places in the north of Spain to visit when you next visit. It’s such a diverse region and I really hope you’ll love it as much as we do. 

Oh yeah, and for clarity, I’m considering anything higher than Madrid to be the north of Spain. Hopefully, this will help when you’re planning your route. 

Best Places In The North Of Spain (1)

Read more, below, for the best places in the north of Spain to visit. Have a great trip! 

1.) Delica canyon

Best Places In The North Of Spain (16)

Okay, Delica Canyon is incredible and easily one of the best places in the north of Spain you have to visit. Plus, it’s really easy to visit via car (and some hikes) from Bilbao itself.

Honestly, it’s so incredible to see and almost feels like a Spanish Grand Canyon. Though, it totally doesn’t need any comparisons, this place is iconic. 

One thing to note is that you will need quite a lot of wet weather to see a huge barrage of water. Though, water or not, it doesn’t take away from the incredible views.

Best Places In The North Of Spain (11)

Once here, be sure to see the Nervion Waterfall (Salto del Nervion), which is one of the highest waterfalls in all of Spain. Also, don’t just follow the location on Google Maps, it’s not quite accurate and so it’s best to get directions once you arrive in the area.

The whole area is stunning and well worth the drive and ramble (around 2km) to get here. Oh, and make sure to stop (in the car) at areas like this , too. They’re stunning viewpoints over the whole region. 

Best Places In The North Of Spain (19)

Also, just make sure to plan your hike safely, there are very little in terms of fencing near the edges and you must be careful on the trails. After all, no one likes a reckless hiker.

Read more: Best hikes in Spain

2.) Vitoria-Gasteiz

Best Places In The North Of Spain (9)

Perched in the province of Alava, Vitoria-Gasteiz is around an hours drive from the centre of Bilbao by car.  It’s a relatively small city (compared to places like Barcelona) but is totally lovely. 

Once here, make sure to explore the Artium Museum which is incredible to visit and a great indoor spot if the weather gets a bit rainy. Also, don’t forget to explore the Cathedral of Santa María and stop off at Plaza de la Virgen Blanca, too. 

You’ll find lots of little shops and foodie joints around the historic plaza, which makes it really great to visit in the late afternoon or early evening. 

Finally, be sure to take a little gander at the medieval walls of the city, too. 

Read more: Best places in Spain to visit

3.) Covarrubias

Best Places In The North Of Spain (3)

Now, Covarrubias is a tiny little place but one of the best places in the north of Spain to visit if you love gorgeous little villages. This protected place is totally lovely and well worth stopping for an afternoon as part of a wider road trip around the region of Castile and León.

After arriving, take a stroll to the Torreón de Fernán González, see the town’s churches and gorge at  De Galo Restaurant . It might seem a little no-frills but their roasted lamb is so good. 

Read more: Lesser-known places to see in Spain

4.) Albarracin

Best Places In The North Of Spain (5)

For me, the hilltop town of Albarracin is one of the more picturesque and best places in the north of Spain you have to see. It’s totally gorgeous and well worth seeing when heading through the province of Teruel. 

Once here, explore the stunning cathedral, wander through the historic plaza and follow the remains of the Walls of Albarracin. It’s such historic places and well worth exploring by foot over a few hours. 

Best Places In The North Of Spain (15)

Also, for a tasty lunch, pop into  Tiempo De Ensueño that’ll leave you stuffed. Plus, they have the most amazing wine selection (for the non-drivers). 

Best Places In The North Of Spain (12)

One other thing to note, it’s around a 3.5 hours drive from the centre of Madrid, this makes it more than just a day trip from the larger arrival airports. That being said, it’s a really easy spot to visit when driving from Madrid to Barcelona and totally worth it. 

5.) Cies Islands

Best Places In The North Of Spain (13)

Nestled just off the Atlantic Coast, near Pontevedra, the Cies Islands are a must-see when exploring the north-west of Spain.

Forming part of the Galicia National Park, it’s one incredible place to explore the rugged beauty of Northern Spain and well worth exploring if you’re already in the city of Vigo (or even northern Portugal). 

Best Places In The North Of Spain (6)

Now, the only real way to get to the Cies Islands are by boat, which is easiest from Vigo in the summer months. The islands are stunning and it has some of the best beaches in Spain that are totally beautiful. Not only that, on a calm day you’ll see how crystal clear the waters are! 

It’s the perfect place to relax and explore the trails or just chill on the beach. Though be warned, the sun is strong here! 

Best Places In The North Of Spain (18)

Oh yeah, and make sure to book your boat tickets as soon as you arrive in Vigo (or before, if you can). 

Read more: Best beaches in Spain

6.) Gaztelugatxe

Best Places In The North Of Spain (7)

Nestled on the Bay of Biscay, Gaztelugatxe is one of the Basque Country’s most iconic spots to see. It’s so beautiful and well worth a gander whilst exploring the Basque Country.

Best Places In The North Of Spain (8)

With over a thousand years of history, it’s well worth driving and taking a stroll around the whole area. Just keep a watch for those coastal winds, it can get blustery. 

Also, it’s totally easy to explore from Bakio or even Bilbao, too. Now, remember there are quite a few hundred steps, so consider this if you have mobility issues. 

Best Places In The North Of Spain (10)

All in all, you’ll likely spend a few hours exploring and it’s totally easy to build into any itinerary whilst exploring the best places in the north of Spain. 

7.) Castropol

Best Places In The North Of Spain (14)

Nestled on the coast in Asturias, Castropol is a stunning little place to visit whilst following the coastal road further west in Spain. 

It’s the kind of spot you can stop for lunch and explore the coastline before continuing the drive. After all, it’s not too big. 

Once here, spend a few hours walking around Pancha Island or stop off at Playa de Mexota. The latter is a gorgeous beach that’s so lovely to chill at on a sunny day. Though, don’t be surprised if you come across some cheeky nudists! 

8.) Ribadesella

Best Places In The North Of Spain (4)

Ribadesella is one of the best places in the north of Spain to visit if you love history! You see, it’s home to the Tito Bustillo Cave where early humans used to shelter around 10,000 years ago. 

Today, you can see the pre-historic drawings and neolithic sketches in the caves (on a tour). They’re totally awesome (and I mean that literally). Honestly, it’s the kind of place you can’t miss when in northern Spain.

Just make sure to book your tickets in advance (on their website ) and remember that no photos are allowed inside. 

9.) Logrono 

An Evening In Logrono, La Rioja - Spain's Beautiful Wine Region! (18)

We stayed a few nights in Logrono and totally loved how charming this little city is.

An Evening In Logrono, La Rioja - Spain's Beautiful Wine Region! (4)

It’s totally lovely, especially with all the tapas spots on and around Calle Laurel. I think we spent the whole night around this area and left totally full (and a little tipsy). 

Afternoons In Spanish Vineyards In La Rioja... And Evening In Bilbao In The Spanish Basque Country (31)

Also, don’t forget to visit the Museo de La Rioja, explore the cathedral and even take a drive over to some of the nearby Rioja vineyards . too. 

Read more: Best cities in Spain to visit

An Evening In Logrono, La Rioja - Spain's Beautiful Wine Region! (7)

Now, Gijón might be the largest city in Asturias but that doesn’t mean it’s lacking in character.  It’s the perfect place to start your trip around the Bay of Biscay. 

Gijón also has a fantastic beach, which is totally epic on a summer day. Plus, don’t forget to explore the Elogio del Horizonte (In Praise of the Horizon), the sculptures are amazing, especially as they’re produced by the Basque artist, Eduardo Chillida.

Oh, and don’t forget to explore the district of Cimavilla, the oldest district in the whole city.

11.) Bilbao

Art, Fish, A Gigantic Spider And Amazing Food In Bilbao, Spain (45)

Nestled within the Basque Country in Spain, Bilbao is a beautiful city to explore some of the cultural heritage of this marvellous Basque town.

12 Best Things To Do In Bilbao, Spain (10)

When you’re there, be sure to take in the beauty of the Plaza Nueva, discover Doña Casilda Iturrizar park and take a wander across Zubizuri.

Photographs And Postcards… From Bilbao, Spain (10)

Also, you can’t forget to visit one of Spain’s most iconic contemporary buildings, the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao. Here, you can explore some of the world’s most beautiful pieces of modern art and it’s totally amazing. 

Read more: Best things to do in Bilbao

12.) San Sebastian

Best Cities In Spain To Visit (10)

San Sebastian is possibly one of the more well-known and best places in the north of Spain to visit if you’re a total foodie. 

You see, San Sebastian is perhaps best explored with your tummy and mouth. The fresh seafood and pintxos are just epic!

If you’re looking for a little more of a challenge, take a hike up Mount Ulia for some stunning views or see the totally gorgeous Cathedral of the Good Shepherd.

So Here's The Thing About San Sebastian... (14)

Plus, On a warm sunny day, head to the Beach of La Concha which is one of the Basque Country’s most famous beaches.

Read more: Best things to do in San Sebastian

13.) Zaragoza

Best Cities In Spain To Visit (7)

The capital city of the Aragon region of Spain, Zaragoza is a stunning historic melting pot that spans centuries.

Take a wander around the iconic Basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar that was built in the 1700s or marvel at the beautiful gothic architecture of La Seo Cathedral. Honestly, these places alone will give you a good idea of how amazing and rich the history is in Zaragoza.

Best Cities In Spain To Visit (16)

Though, If cathedrals aren’t your thing, discover the city’s most famous festival, the Fiestas del Pilar (which, by the way, is so much fun).

14.) Burgos

Best Places In The North Of Spain (17)

The medieval city of Burgos is sometimes overlooked by some visitors, but thankfully, that’s changing!  It has some of the best places in the north of Spain to visit that’s totally gorgeous in the heat of summer or the snow of winter.

To be truly impressed by Burgos, start your visit by taking a wander around the Burgos Cathedral that’s almost 1,000 years old.

Also, if your a biology bookworm (like me!) then head over to the Museum of Human Evolution.

Best Places In The North Of Spain (2)

Vigo is one of the largest Spanish cities on the Atlantic Ocean and a perfect little stop for a few days exploring the Atlantic Coast.

After arriving, make sure to explore the Museum of Contemporary Art, soak up the rays at Praia de Patos (which can get busy) and see the Castle of Vigo, too.

As I mentioned earlier, whilst here, take a trip over to the stunning Cíes Islands that are only a few miles out into the Atlantic Sea. They’re incredible. 

15 Best Places In Spain To Visit

Check Out The Very Best Of Great Britain!

Hand Luggage Only Great Britain Travel Book Advert Banner

Pop Over To Our YouTube Channel For Travel Videos!

' src=

Puppy Defender. Foodie. Chocolate Fiend and Custard Lover. Dip, Cover or Wrap anything in sugar and I'm Yours!

northern spain places to visit

10 Very Best Places in Illinois To Visit

northern spain places to visit

11 Very Best Things To Do In Alaska

You may also like.

11 Amazing Temples You Have To Visit In Bali And Why! (2)

11 Best Temples In Bali To Visit

Free Things To Do In Berlin (18)

14 Totally Free Things To Do In Berlin

Best National Parks In The USA (17)

10 Best National Parks In The USA To Visit

Looking for something, fellow connected travellers.

  • 566k Facebook
  • 0 Pinterest
  • 1,202,450 TikTok
  • 355,142 Instagram
  • 23,800 X (Twitter)
  • 33,259 Email Subscribers

Adventure Awaits!

Hand Luggage Only Find Out More

Have You Seen These Yet?

Volcano Eruption In Iceland (Near Reykjavik)

Volcano Eruption In Iceland (Near Reykjavik)

14 Best Things To Do In Arizona

14 Best Things To Do In Arizona

Your Complete Guide To Visiting Mainland Greece

Your Complete Guide To Visiting Mainland Greece

Riding The World’s Tallest Indoor Roller Coaster In Edmonton, Canada

Riding The World’s Tallest Indoor Roller Coaster In Edmonton, Canada

11 Best Things To Do In Marbella, Spain

11 Best Things To Do In Marbella, Spain

  • Privacy Policy

northern spain places to visit

Email address:

web analytics

Celebrity Blog

  • Special Occasions
  • Choosing a Cruise
  • Planning / Booking A Cruise
  • Preparing For Your Cruise
  • What To Expect On A Cruise
  • Australia, New Zealand & the Pacific
  • Central America
  • East Coast & Bermuda
  • Mexican Riviera
  • South America & Antarctica
  • Destinations

12 Best Towns to Visit in Spain

By Kerry Spencer

Last updated: June 22nd, 2024

Valldemossa, one of the best towns to visit in Spain

  • Find a Cruise

The best towns in Spain offer a rich blend of gastronomy, culture, and in some cases, shimmering golden beaches, too. From the Basque Country in the North to the sun-drenched Andalucian hills, the best towns to visit in Spain are found all over the country and its dazzling islands.

Towns in Spain are steeped in history, too, with Moorish palaces, medieval churches, and palm-flanked squares. There are higgledy-piggledy old towns with characterful architecture, not to mention some excellent shopping opportunities.

From glorious Ronda, clinging to a gorge near Málaga, to Mallorca’s citrus-scented mountain towns, discover the best towns to visit in Spain.

Ronda, Andalucia

Ronda, one of the best towns to visit in Spain

Clinging to the top of a deep gorge, the El Tajo de Ronda, high above the ribbon-like Guadalevín River, Ronda is one of the most dramatic towns to visit in Spain.

Ronda’s landscape fascinates geologists, with its origins dating back 5,000 years, the result of seismic movement that separated the rock to form the deep chasm that visitors so admire. The gorge is almost 500 feet deep, with the old town on one side, the newer part of town on the other, with several bridges linking the two.

Iconic bridge of Puente Nuevo in Ronda, Andalucia

Puente Nuevo in Ronda, Andalucia

Ronda’s most famous bridge is the 18th-century Puente Nuevo, spanning the 390-foot-wide gap. The two outer arches of the bridge are built into the sides of the gorge, while the central and tallest arch features a chamber above it. This room was once used as a prison, including during the Spanish Civil War, from 1936-1939, when opponents on both sides were held captive and are said to have been tortured and thrown from the bridge.

Visit the chamber, now a museum, which reveals the history of this eye-watering bridge and its construction. Wander the labyrinthine cobbled streets of the old town, lined with whitewashed buildings. There’s a mosque-turned-church and a Nasrid-period house featuring original Islamic architecture. At the 14th-century Mondragon Palace, take a walk in the palm-filled gardens for spectacular views of the surrounding landscape.

Getxo, Near Bilbao

Getxo, one of the best towns to visit in Spain

Getxo, near Bilbao

Just 20 minutes from the center of Bilbao at the mouth of the River Nervión, Getxo is a wonderful old port town on Spain’s north coast.

The golden Arrigunaga Beach, next to a tall, white cliff is a lovely spot to bathe and swim, or tap the Bay of Biscay’s waves on a surfboard. Canoeing and jet–skiing are also available during the summer months.

There’s a lovely waterfront walk south from Ereaga Beach and the Galerias de Punta Begoña building, leading past the grand riverside mansions river for a glimpse of the UNESCO-listed Vizcaya Bridge, which straddles the Nervión. Completed in 1893, Vizcaya is a soaring red-iron suspension bridge that was the first of its kind in the world to carry both people and traffic.

Once you’ve soaked up the salty sea air, opt for a stroll to Plaza San Nicolás in the old port area in the Algorta neighborhood, where the laneways are fizzing with shops and lively pintxos bars.

Deià, Mallorca

Deia, one of the best towns to visit in Spain

Located in Mallorca’s rugged Serra de Tramuntana on the northwest of the island, Deià is among the most seductive towns to visit in Spain.

This pretty town lies at the foot of Teix mountain, close to the famous Son Marroig estate that was once home to Archduke Ludwig Salvator of Austria. Today, the estate is an opulent Spanish museum , housing art and antiques collected by the duke, with a luscious Mediterranean garden featuring a Carrara marble pavilion and views of the sapphire-blue sea.

Exterior of San Juan Bautista Church in Deià, Mallorca

San Juan Bautista Church in Deià, Mallorca

It’s well worth the trek to Deià’s hilltop San Juan Bautista church for the majestic views of the mountain terraces and olive groves, too. On the town’s main strip, you could browse the small cluster of chic boutiques and galleries.

When you start to feel peckish, there are plenty of tasty lunch options. Down by the sea, in Deià’s gorgeous cove, Ca’s Patró March is a rustic restaurant that serves divine plates of red shrimp, lobster, squid, and other fresh-off-the-boat seafood.

Arcos de la Frontera, Andalucia

Beautiful landscape of Arcos de la Frontera, Andalucia

A short distance north of Cádiz in Southern Spain , Arcos de la Frontera is one of the most breathtaking white towns—known as pueblos blancos—in Andalucia.

Arcos de la Frontera sits on the summit of a sheer limestone cliff with the Guadalete river winding below. Thanks to its elevated position, the town has been inhabited during the Neolithic, Bronze Age, Tartessian, Phoenician, and Roman periods.

View from Plaza del Cabildo in Arcos de la Frontera, Andalucia

Plaza del Cabildo in Arcos de la Frontera, Andalucia

There is a maze-like old town surrounding the sandstone Castillo de los Arcos, which offers a magnificent vantage point of the Sierra de Cádiz mountains. Plaza del Cabildo has sensational views, too, and is the location of the 17th-century cloistered Convent of the Barefoot Mercedarias.

Wander the narrow Calle Maldonaldo and Calle Cuna, lined with 18th-century palacios, and admire the beautiful Basílica de Santa María de la Asunción with its soaring bell tower. On Calle Dean Espinosa, to the rear of the basílica, tiny tapas bars and charming restaurants line the narrow street, such as Restaurante El Convento, where cured Jamón ibérico hangs from the ceiling.

Arucas, Gran Canaria

Aerial view of the quaint town of Arucas, Gran Canaria

Laid-back Arucas is a closely guarded secret by those in the know. Just a few miles from Las Palmas, the buzzy capital of Gran Canaria , the town lies almost 2,000 feet above sea level, where houses are the color of confetti and there’s a palm-filled municipal park.

Arucas spreads around the gothic-style Church of San Juan Bautista on Plaza de San Juan. This early 20th-century stone church was built by local stonemasons and art by Canarian painter Cristóbal Hernández de Quintana features inside.

View the works of Canarian artists, including Arucas native Guillermo Sureda, at the Municipal Museum. After, sip on silky drinks at Arucas’s Ron de Arehucas Rum Factory and Museum. The distillery’s delicious spirit has been produced on the island since 1884.

San Vicente de la Barquera, Cantabria

Scenic waterfront of San Vicente de la Barquera, Cantabria

A 90-minute car journey west of Bilbao will lead you to San Vicente de la Barquera, a gorgeous Spanish town that’s wedged between the Cantabrian Sea and the snow-capped Picos de Europa.

San Vicente de la Barquera has the best of both worlds: unspoiled shores, and a medieval old town filled with interesting monuments, including the 16th-century Santa María de los Ángeles Church.

The crenelated tower of a 13th-century castle pokes above the harbor town, while the 16th-century Maza bridge links the old town to the unspoiled Playa de La Maza. On the waterfront, there’s a neat row of palm trees and a selection of restaurants serving authentic Spanish food . What more could you want?

Garachico, Tenerife

Aerial view of the town of Garachico, Tenerife

The tiny town of Garachico in the north of Tenerife was built in the 15th century, making it one of the oldest villages in the Canary Islands. Back then, it was the island’s main port, although when the nearby Trevejo volcano erupted in 1706, much of the prominent old port was destroyed.

On Garachico’s picturesque waterfront, gaze out to the rock of Garachico, which rises almost vertically from the sea. Garachico Natural Pools, next to the 16th-century San Miguel Castle, are a big draw. Formed following the volcanic eruption from lava flowing into the sea, these large rock pools are accessed via steps built into the rocks.

Plaza de la Libertad is a beautiful, wide-open square home to two Spanish churches . Wander Garachico’s handsome streets and you’ll find some lovely restaurants, too, including El Rebojo, which serves a divine Canarian crab rice dish, with white crab served over white rice in a rich pepper and saffron sauce.

Betanzos, Galicia

Quaint waterfront of Betanzos, Galicia

The Mandeo River wraps around Betanzos, a former fortified town near the mouth of the Betanzos estuary in Galicia. Betanzos retains a lovely, under-the-radar feel. It’s not far from Santiago de Compostela and the pilgrim’s route of St. James’s Way, making it one of the best towns to visit in Spain.

Stroll across the arched Ponte Vella bridge for picturesque views of the boat-lined river. Restaurants, wine bars, and shops line the streets around Constitution Square in the old town.

Yellow facade of San Francisco Church in Betanzos, Galicia

San Francisco Church in Betanzos, Galicia

There are three gothic churches to admire, too, San Francisco, Santiago, and Santa María do Azogue, in the characterful old town. Step inside San Francisco church to see an eye-popping sarcophagus of Pérez de Andrade, a 14th-century Galician knight, resting on a stone wild boar and a bear, said to represent his lineage.

Once you’ve explored the old quarter, relax with a glass of refreshing Albariño, Galicia’s outstanding variety of white wine.

Albarracín, Near Valencia

Beautiful view of Albarracín, Near Valencia

Albarracín, near Valencia

Albarracín is a hilly, terracotta-hued old town, a two-hour drive north of the beautiful city of Valencia , with a blend of Islamic and medieval architecture.

You’ll see a 10th- and 11th-century fortified wall built by the Taifa kings of Albarracín that dramatically weaves along the hilltop, with new sections added in the centuries that followed.

The 16th-century Catedral del Salvador is a beautiful church with a bell tower and vaulted ceiling that was built on the remains of a Romanesque temple.

Marvel at the medieval buildings with wooden balconies in the cobblestone Plaza Mayor. You can see the Guadalaviar River from the town hall in the square and there’s a small bar serving tapas and cold beers.  Albarracín’s streets are steep, often with steps, and are not suitable for travelers with mobility issues.

Lekeitio, Near Bilbao

Scenic waterfront of Lekeitio, Near Bilbao

Lekeitio, near Bilbao

Lekeitio is a traditional fishing town on the north coast of Spain with a pretty harbor and traditional balconied townhouses winding off the waterfront.

The River Lea runs through Lekeitio, separating two honey-colored beaches, Isuntza and Karraspio, at its mouth. The sandy Spanish beaches face the green-covered San Nicolás, a small island that can be reached via a timber path at low tide. Dip your toes in the Cantabrian Sea and enjoy the feel of the powdery sand.

There’s a late 15th-century church, the Basilica of Santa María de la Asunción, featuring a gothic portico and flying buttresses.

Stop at the crossroads of Gamarra Plaza to sample sublime Basque Country cuisine. Stop at Santi Gozotegia, too; this divine bakery serves an array of buns, pastries, and cakes, laden with cream, custard, and meringue.

Nerja, Andalucia

Nerja, one of the best towns to visit in Spain

This former fishing village, just 30 miles east of Malaga , is a sizzling seaside town on the Costa del Sol, close to the Sierra Almijara mountain range.

Though the Spanish beach town of Nerja has become more built up in recent decades, it retains a small-town charm, dotted with palm trees and beaches along its sparkling coastline. There are several sandy shores, in fact, including Playa El Chorrillo, Playa Carabeillo, and Playa de Burriana, with sun loungers, beach bars, and watersports.

Walk to Balcón de Europa, a lookout point between Playa El Chorrillo and Playa el Salón, which juts out into the sea.

View inside the Nerja Caves, Andalucia

Nerja Caves, Andalucia

Plaza Balcon De Europa is a tree-lined square with bars, restaurants, and a swan-white church, while Nerja Museum reveals the town’s backstory from the Upper Palaeolithic era—around 24,000 years ago—and the discovery of Nerja Caves in 1959.

The caves, just outside of the town, feature breathtaking rock formations, ancient rock-art paintings, and stalactites.

Mijas, Andalucia

Mijas, one of the best towns to visit in Spain

This elegant “white town” is home to a jigsaw of whitewashed houses, perched 1,300 feet above the sea on a verdant mountainside.

It’s easy to see why Mijas is one of the best towns to visit in Spain, its traditional Andalucian buildings bright with blue plant pots, plus ceramics, art, jewelry, and handicraft boutiques lining the streets.

Mijas, one of the best towns to visit in Spain

There are plenty of places in Mijas where you could drink in the far-reaching views, including in leafy Parque La Muralla, next to Iglesia Inmaculada Concepción church. Find a spot on a sun-dappled terrace to savor a long lunch.

Whether you’re a fan of plump shrimp, paella, and squid cooked in its own ink, or prefer to keep it simple with salad and pizza, there is a restaurant to suit every taste. If your priority is seeing the hazy blue view, however, Restaurante El Mirador has some of the best seats in Mijas.

Read: Most Beautiful Places in Spain

Valldemossa, Mallorca

Valldemossa, one of the best towns to visit in Spain

Perched in the rugged Tramuntana mountains, Valldemossa is one of the best towns to visit in Spain.

This picture-book Mallorcan town is a scenic 25-30-minute drive from Palma. Travelers are greeted by winding roads that reveal traditional houses with olive-green shutters.

View of the Royal Carthusian Monastery in Valldemossa, Mallorca

Royal Carthusian Monastery in Valldemossa, Mallorca

Visiting Valldemossa is one of the best things to do in Mallorca , and a highlight is the Royal Carthusian Monastery. Polish composer Frédéric Chopin and his lover, the French writer George Sand, spent time here during the winter of 1838-1839. There’s a library, an old pharmacy, and a modern art museum with pieces by Juli Ramis, Joan Miró, and Pablo Picasso.

Once you’ve roamed the cobbled squares and browsed chic shops, Valldemossa also happens to be a great spot for a Mallorcan feast. Head to S´Hort de Cartoixa, a rustic spot that’s part organic grocery store, part café.

Family eating at a restaurant in Mallorca

Discover some of Spain’s prettiest towns yourself on a cruise with Celebrity. Explore our Spain cruises and plan your next adventure.

Kerry Spencer

Kerry Spencer has been writing about travel for 15 years. A former magazine editor and the UK editor of Cruise Critic, she lives in London, where she now writes for a number of print and online publications, including Imagine Cruising, Cruise Critic, and Selling Travel, among others.

Related Itineraries

Italian Riviera & France

  • 9 nights ON CELEBRITY EQUINOX
  • DEPARTING FROM BARCELONA, SPAIN
  • Starting from $1360 USD

Italy, France & Spain

  • 7 nights ON CELEBRITY ASCENT
  • DEPARTING FROM ROME (CIVITAVECCHIA), ITALY
  • Starting from $2326 USD

Spain, France & Italy

  • Starting from $2433 USD

Spain, Portugal & Mediterranean

  • 13 nights ON CELEBRITY APEX
  • DEPARTING FROM SOUTHAMPTON, ENGLAND
  • Starting from $2499 USD

Spain and Portugal

  • 7 nights ON CELEBRITY APEX
  • Starting from $5102 USD

Greek Isles & Turkey

  • 10 nights ON CELEBRITY EQUINOX
  • Starting from $7515 USD

Related Articles

When Is the Best Time to Visit France?

13 Gorgeous Mountains in Iceland to See

12 Best Things to Do in Dubrovnik

What Is France Known For?

Insider’s Guide to Stavanger, Norway

8 Romantic Italian Honeymoon Destinations

9 Best Caribbean Islands to Visit in September

15 Incredible Things to Do in St. Kitts & Nevis

The Best Time to Cruise the Mediterranean

17 Famous Historical Sites in France

31 Best Beaches in Greece

The Ultimate Guide to Tapas in Spain

Free Vacation Planning Services

Icon of a phone handset

CALL US 888-751-7804

Sign Up for Special Offers

I would like to receive electronic Promotional messages from Celebrity Cruises Inc. You can unsubscribe at anytime. Please view our Privacy Policy .

  • First Name *
  • Last Name *
  • Email Address *
  • Country * Country Afghanistan Albania Algeria American Samoa Andorra Angola Antigua and Barbuda Argentina Armenia Australia Austria Azerbaijan Bahamas Bahrain Bangladesh Barbados Belarus Belgium Belize Benin Bermuda Bhutan Bolivia Bosnia and Herzegovina Botswana Brazil Brunei Bulgaria Burkina Faso Burundi Cambodia Cameroon Canada Cape Verde Cayman Islands Central African Republic Chad Chile China Colombia Comoros Congo, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Republic of the Costa Rica Côte d'Ivoire Croatia Cuba Curaçao Cyprus Czech Republic Denmark Djibouti Dominica Dominican Republic East Timor Ecuador Egypt El Salvador Equatorial Guinea Eritrea Estonia Ethiopia Faroe Islands Fiji Finland France French Polynesia Gabon Gambia Georgia Germany Ghana Greece Greenland Grenada Guam Guatemala Guinea Guinea-Bissau Guyana Haiti Honduras Hong Kong Hungary Iceland India Indonesia Iran Iraq Ireland Israel Italy Jamaica Japan Jordan Kazakhstan Kenya Kiribati North Korea South Korea Kosovo Kuwait Kyrgyzstan Laos Latvia Lebanon Lesotho Liberia Libya Liechtenstein Lithuania Luxembourg Macedonia Madagascar Malawi Malaysia Maldives Mali Malta Marshall Islands Mauritania Mauritius Mexico Micronesia Moldova Monaco Mongolia Montenegro Morocco Mozambique Myanmar Namibia Nauru Nepal Netherlands New Zealand Nicaragua Niger Nigeria Northern Mariana Islands Norway Oman Pakistan Palau Palestine, State of Panama Papua New Guinea Paraguay Peru Philippines Poland Portugal Puerto Rico Qatar Romania Russia Rwanda Saint Kitts and Nevis Saint Lucia Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Samoa San Marino Sao Tome and Principe Saudi Arabia Senegal Serbia Seychelles Sierra Leone Singapore Sint Maarten Slovakia Slovenia Solomon Islands Somalia South Africa Spain Sri Lanka Sudan Sudan, South Suriname Swaziland Sweden Switzerland Syria Taiwan Tajikistan Tanzania Thailand Togo Tonga Trinidad and Tobago Tunisia Turkey Turkmenistan Tuvalu Uganda Ukraine United Arab Emirates United Kingdom United States Uruguay Uzbekistan Vanuatu Vatican City Venezuela Vietnam Virgin Islands, British Virgin Islands, U.S. Yemen Zambia Zimbabwe

northern spain places to visit

STAY IN THE KNOW

Thank you for subscribing.

See you on board soon.

AFAR

11 Top Places to Visit on Your Next Trip to Spain

Posted: January 25, 2024 | Last updated: January 25, 2024

<p>One of the best places to visit in Spain is Mallorca, where you can hop on the Tren de Sóller.</p><p>Photo by Francesco Lastrucci</p><p>It’s true: <a class="Link" href="https://www.afar.com/travel-guides/spain/guide" rel="noopener">Spain</a> is a country every type of traveler can enjoy. This may surprise those who mostly associate the country with its golden beaches and flamenco (as I did before my nine-month stint in La Rioja), but the Iberian Peninsula kingdom comprises 17 autonomous communities—like Madrid and Andalucia—and they encompass a wide spectrum of cultures. Throughout Spain you can come across people like the Basques and the Catalonians, who speak their own language, and landscapes that span centuries-old palaces, mountain peaks, and even valleys full of cherry blossoms in the spring.</p><p>So yes, absolutely <a class="Link" href="https://www.afar.com/magazine/iconic-spanish-foods-and-where-to-try-them" rel="noopener">dig into that platter of paella</a> in Valencia to experience Spanish culture. But think about visiting these 10 other places, too. Because while many of the best places to visit in Spain are well-loved, some offer a side to the country that may surprise you.</p>

One of the best places to visit in Spain is Mallorca, where you can hop on the Tren de Sóller.

Photo by Francesco Lastrucci

It’s true: Spain is a country every type of traveler can enjoy. This may surprise those who mostly associate the country with its golden beaches and flamenco (as I did before my nine-month stint in La Rioja), but the Iberian Peninsula kingdom comprises 17 autonomous communities—like Madrid and Andalucia—and they encompass a wide spectrum of cultures. Throughout Spain you can come across people like the Basques and the Catalonians, who speak their own language, and landscapes that span centuries-old palaces, mountain peaks, and even valleys full of cherry blossoms in the spring.

So yes, absolutely dig into that platter of paella in Valencia to experience Spanish culture. But think about visiting these 10 other places, too. Because while many of the best places to visit in Spain are well-loved, some offer a side to the country that may surprise you.

<p>It’s true: <a class="Link" href="https://www.afar.com/travel-guides/spain/guide" rel="noopener">Spain</a> is a country every type of traveler can enjoy. This may surprise those who mostly associate the country with its golden beaches and flamenco (as I did before my nine-month stint in La Rioja), but the Iberian Peninsula kingdom comprises 17 autonomous communities—like Madrid and Andalucia—and they encompass a wide spectrum of cultures. Throughout Spain you can come across people like the Basques and the Catalonians, who speak their own language, and landscapes that span centuries-old palaces, mountain peaks, and even valleys full of cherry blossoms in the spring.</p> <p>So yes, absolutely <a class="Link" href="https://www.afar.com/magazine/iconic-spanish-foods-and-where-to-try-them" rel="noopener">dig into that platter of paella</a> in Valencia to experience Spanish culture. But think about visiting these 10 other places, too. Because while many of the best places to visit in Spain are well-loved, some offer a side to the country that may surprise you.</p> <h2>1. Mallorca</h2> <p><i>Balearic Islands</i></p> <p>Off Spain’s eastern coast is the island of Mallorca, a prime example of Spain’s mixed history. Here, travelers can find traces of its former Roman, Moorish, and Christian occupants, like the <a class="Link" href="https://www.afar.com/places/la-seu-slash-catedral-de-mallorca-palma-de-mallorca" rel="noopener">800-year-old La Seu</a>, a Gothic sandstone cathedral, or the <a class="Link" href="https://www.illesbalears.travel/en/mallorca/the-arab-baths-of-palma-de-mallorca" rel="noopener">Arab baths in Palma de Mallorca’s historic center</a>. But to limit your stay to <a class="Link" href="https://www.afar.com/magazine/what-to-do-on-a-spring-getaway-to-palma-de-mallorca-spain" rel="noopener">the island’s capital</a> is to miss some of Mallorca’s most beautiful landscapes. Beyond its clear-water beaches, the 1,405-square-mile island has dozens of designated cycling routes and <a class="Link" href="https://www.cuevasdearta.com/en/prices/" rel="noopener">underground cave systems</a> that have hosted pirates and Moorish soldiers. Take in the beauty of the island on a hike up the <a class="Link" href="https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1371" rel="noopener">UNESCO-recognized Puig Major</a>, Mallorca’s tallest mountain at 4,711 feet.</p>

1. Mallorca

Balearic Islands

Off Spain’s eastern coast is the island of Mallorca, a prime example of Spain’s mixed history. Here, travelers can find traces of its former Roman, Moorish, and Christian occupants, like the 800-year-old La Seu , a Gothic sandstone cathedral, or the Arab baths in Palma de Mallorca’s historic center . But to limit your stay to the island’s capital is to miss some of Mallorca’s most beautiful landscapes. Beyond its clear-water beaches, the 1,405-square-mile island has dozens of designated cycling routes and underground cave systems that have hosted pirates and Moorish soldiers. Take in the beauty of the island on a hike up the UNESCO-recognized Puig Major , Mallorca’s tallest mountain at 4,711 feet.

<h2>2. Madrid</h2> <p><i>Madrid</i></p> <p>The stairs out of <a class="Link" href="https://www.afar.com/travel-guides/spain/madrid/guide" rel="noopener">Madrid</a>’s Sol metro station put travelers in the midst of the bustle of Spain’s capital. Appropriately located in the heart of the country, Madrid is home to some of the best museums, restaurants, and nightlife. The <a class="Link" href="https://www.esmadrid.com/en/tourist-information/plaza-mayor-madrid" rel="noopener">16th-century Plaza Mayor</a>—which has been the setting of everything from fiestas to executions—is evidence that it still keeps its ties to tradition and history. Grab a <i>bocadillo de calamares</i> (calamari sandwich) in one of the plaza’s nearby storefronts or slip out of the city’s nonstop energy in the 350-acre Retiro Park, which is within walking distance from the Museo Nacional del Prado and Puerta de Alcalá. Just don’t siesta <i>too </i>much and miss out on any tapas bar crawls you have planned for the evening.</p>              <h2>3. Barcelona</h2> <p><i>Catalonia</i> </p> <p>This coastal city takes an unabashed approach when it comes to differentiating itself from the rest of Spain, from the Catalan language to the warped, bright-colored facades of Antoni Gaudí’s buildings. Whatever gives Barcelona that <i>je ne sais quois,</i> it’s certainly resonating. Barcelona is a magnet for people from all over the world (more than <a class="Link" href="https://www.barcelona.cat/internationalwelcome/en/noticias/record-figure-foreigners-now-account-for-23-6-of-barcelona-s-population-1313513" rel="noopener">30 percent of Barcelona’s inhabitants</a> were born outside of Spain), drawing travelers to stay for <a class="Link" href="https://www.afar.com/magazine/best-beaches-near-barcelona" rel="noopener">its beaches</a>, year-round calendar of festivals, and markets. For the first-time visitor, a walk down the three-quarter-mile Las Ramblas is a must: The tree-lined pathway leads pedestrians through kiosks, neighborhoods, and historic buildings before stopping at the Mediterranean.</p>

The stairs out of Madrid ’s Sol metro station put travelers in the midst of the bustle of Spain’s capital. Appropriately located in the heart of the country, Madrid is home to some of the best museums, restaurants, and nightlife. The 16th-century Plaza Mayor —which has been the setting of everything from fiestas to executions—is evidence that it still keeps its ties to tradition and history. Grab a bocadillo de calamares (calamari sandwich) in one of the plaza’s nearby storefronts or slip out of the city’s nonstop energy in the 350-acre Retiro Park, which is within walking distance from the Museo Nacional del Prado and Puerta de Alcalá. Just don’t siesta too much and miss out on any tapas bar crawls you have planned for the evening.

3. Barcelona

This coastal city takes an unabashed approach when it comes to differentiating itself from the rest of Spain, from the Catalan language to the warped, bright-colored facades of Antoni Gaudí’s buildings. Whatever gives Barcelona that je ne sais quois, it’s certainly resonating. Barcelona is a magnet for people from all over the world (more than 30 percent of Barcelona’s inhabitants were born outside of Spain), drawing travelers to stay for its beaches , year-round calendar of festivals, and markets. For the first-time visitor, a walk down the three-quarter-mile Las Ramblas is a must: The tree-lined pathway leads pedestrians through kiosks, neighborhoods, and historic buildings before stopping at the Mediterranean.

<h2>4. Seville</h2> <p><i>Andalusia</i></p> <p>Warm people, sunny days spent sipping sangria, and trees full of oranges—that relaxed, siesta-loving attitude of Spain is available in Seville. The capital of Spain’s Andalusia autonomous community still bears plenty of marks from its past under the Moors. One of the most beautiful places to explore its history is the Royal Alcázar of Seville, an 11th-century palace sporting walled gardens and geometric, patterned arches that have been <a class="Link" href="https://www.afar.com/magazine/game-of-thrones-destinations-you-can-visit-in-real-life" rel="noopener">featured in <i>Game of Thrones</i></a> and <i>Lawrence of Arabia</i>. Stop and smell the jasmine at Plaza de España, and walk along the curving wall featuring 52 colorful mosaics that depict all of Spain’s provinces.</p>

Warm people, sunny days spent sipping sangria, and trees full of oranges—that relaxed, siesta-loving attitude of Spain is available in Seville. The capital of Spain’s Andalusia autonomous community still bears plenty of marks from its past under the Moors. One of the most beautiful places to explore its history is the Royal Alcázar of Seville, an 11th-century palace sporting walled gardens and geometric, patterned arches that have been featured in Game of Thrones and Lawrence of Arabia . Stop and smell the jasmine at Plaza de España, and walk along the curving wall featuring 52 colorful mosaics that depict all of Spain’s provinces.

<h2>5. Picos de Europa National Park</h2> <p><i>Asturias, Cantabria, Castile and León</i></p> <p>While lounge-worthy stretches of beach characterize Spain’s south, Picos de Europa National Park is a prime example of the green, dramatic landscapes that dominate the north. The 250-square-mile national park was the first established by the Spanish government in 1918 and includes alpine peaks, meadows, and lakes that feel similar to landscapes of the Pacific Northwest. Explore the jagged edges of the Cantabrian Mountains along the 7.5-mile long Ruta del Cares<i>, </i>or look for local wildlife like the roe deer and Egyptian vultures.</p>

5. Picos de Europa National Park

Asturias, Cantabria, Castile and León

While lounge-worthy stretches of beach characterize Spain’s south, Picos de Europa National Park is a prime example of the green, dramatic landscapes that dominate the north. The 250-square-mile national park was the first established by the Spanish government in 1918 and includes alpine peaks, meadows, and lakes that feel similar to landscapes of the Pacific Northwest. Explore the jagged edges of the Cantabrian Mountains along the 7.5-mile long Ruta del Cares , or look for local wildlife like the roe deer and Egyptian vultures.

<h2>6. Valle del Jerte</h2> <p><i>Extremadura</i></p> <p>Looking for a cherry blossom alternative to the crowds of enthusiasts in Japan and Washington, D.C.? Head to Extremadura, the Spanish region that borders Portugal between March and April (timing the cherry blossoming is a bit of a guessing game), when Valle del Jerte bursts in a sea of white as <a class="Link" href="https://www.spain.info/en/discover-spain/jerte-valley-caceres/" rel="noopener">2 million cherry trees</a> bloom. Flower enthusiasts can tour the 144-square-mile area by taking a road trip down Spain’s N-110 road, which winds through the Cáceres province and crosses through the region’s 11 small villages known as <i>pueblos</i><b>. </b>Come at the right time and you may be able to catch the flower festival as the villages celebrate the season with markets and exhibitions.</p>

6. Valle del Jerte

Extremadura

Looking for a cherry blossom alternative to the crowds of enthusiasts in Japan and Washington, D.C.? Head to Extremadura, the Spanish region that borders Portugal between March and April (timing the cherry blossoming is a bit of a guessing game), when Valle del Jerte bursts in a sea of white as 2 million cherry trees bloom. Flower enthusiasts can tour the 144-square-mile area by taking a road trip down Spain’s N-110 road, which winds through the Cáceres province and crosses through the region’s 11 small villages known as pueblos . Come at the right time and you may be able to catch the flower festival as the villages celebrate the season with markets and exhibitions.

<h2>7. San Sebastian</h2> <p><i>Basque Country</i></p> <p>The origins of the Basque people are up for debate, but the ethnic group—spread throughout southern France and Spain’s eponymous autonomous community—has developed a culture unlike the rest of the country. <a class="Link" href="https://www.afar.com/travel-guides/spain/san-sebastian/guide" rel="noopener">San Sebastián</a> is one of the cities found in Basque Country, where Euskara is spoken on the streets—forgo the <i>hola </i>and greet people with <i>kaixo</i>—and the steep cliff sides resemble those in Ireland or Scotland. Indulge in small plates known as <i>pintxos </i>of prepared cod and local bounty, but make some reservations too, because the food scene here is top notch: 10 Michelin-starred restaurants are spread throughout this city of 190,000.</p>

7. San Sebastian

Basque Country

The origins of the Basque people are up for debate, but the ethnic group—spread throughout southern France and Spain’s eponymous autonomous community—has developed a culture unlike the rest of the country. San Sebastián is one of the cities found in Basque Country, where Euskara is spoken on the streets—forgo the hola and greet people with kaixo —and the steep cliff sides resemble those in Ireland or Scotland. Indulge in small plates known as pintxos of prepared cod and local bounty, but make some reservations too, because the food scene here is top notch: 10 Michelin-starred restaurants are spread throughout this city of 190,000.

<h2>8. Cudillero</h2> <p><i>Asturias</i></p> <p>Many of Spain’s big cities attract tourists from around the world, so much so that its <a class="Link" href="https://www.afar.com/magazine/the-most-beautiful-villages-in-spain" rel="noopener">beautiful small villages</a> can be overlooked. Cudillero is one of the nearly 20,000 pueblos found throughout Spain, and a lovely one at that: Located by the Bay of Biscay, this fishing village of around 5,000 people is a masterclass of slow living by the sea. Colorful, orange-roofed houses dot the hillsides, which also serve as vantage points for panoramas of both town and ocean.</p>

8. Cudillero

Many of Spain’s big cities attract tourists from around the world, so much so that its beautiful small villages can be overlooked. Cudillero is one of the nearly 20,000 pueblos found throughout Spain, and a lovely one at that: Located by the Bay of Biscay, this fishing village of around 5,000 people is a masterclass of slow living by the sea. Colorful, orange-roofed houses dot the hillsides, which also serve as vantage points for panoramas of both town and ocean.

<h2>9. Rioja wine region</h2> <p><i>La Rioja, Basque Country, and Navarre</i></p> <p>Spread across three different autonomous communities, the Rioja wine region is known for its tempranillo grapes, which produce the tannic, full-bodied red varietals of the same name. The region’s ideal grape-growing conditions are thanks to the Ebro River, which snakes throughout the area’s rolling hills. Admire the scenery with a glass in hand and learn about winemaking at a winery, known locally as a bodega. Some of the most attractive, like Lopez de Heredia, are in pueblos like Laguardia and Haro; the latter hosts an annual wine festival in the summer.</p>

9. Rioja wine region

La Rioja, Basque Country, and Navarre

Spread across three different autonomous communities, the Rioja wine region is known for its tempranillo grapes, which produce the tannic, full-bodied red varietals of the same name. The region’s ideal grape-growing conditions are thanks to the Ebro River, which snakes throughout the area’s rolling hills. Admire the scenery with a glass in hand and learn about winemaking at a winery, known locally as a bodega. Some of the most attractive, like Lopez de Heredia, are in pueblos like Laguardia and Haro; the latter hosts an annual wine festival in the summer.

<h2>10. Santiago de Compostela</h2> <p><i>Galicia</i></p> <p>During the Middle Ages, people walked from the south of France to the northeastern tip of Spain as a way to show faith, establishing a 500-mile route known as the Camino de Santiago. Santiago de Compostela, the capital of Galicia, is the endpoint of this pilgrimage and punctuates the end of the trip with its Romanesque-style cathedral. Even if you’re not a pilgrim, this city is a worthwhile place for exploring religious history and some of the dishes Galicia has to offer, from regional cheeses to seaside delicacies like <i>percebes</i> (aka barnacles).</p>

10. Santiago de Compostela

During the Middle Ages, people walked from the south of France to the northeastern tip of Spain as a way to show faith, establishing a 500-mile route known as the Camino de Santiago. Santiago de Compostela, the capital of Galicia, is the endpoint of this pilgrimage and punctuates the end of the trip with its Romanesque-style cathedral. Even if you’re not a pilgrim, this city is a worthwhile place for exploring religious history and some of the dishes Galicia has to offer, from regional cheeses to seaside delicacies like percebes (aka barnacles).

<h2>11. Valencia</h2> <p><i>Valencia</i></p> <p>Despite being more than 2,000 years old, Valencia is still innovating toward a sustainable future as the <a class="Link" href="https://environment.ec.europa.eu/topics/urban-environment/european-green-capital-award/winning-cities/valencia-2024_en" rel="noopener">European Green Capital 2024</a> (in addition to being one of the places featured in <a class="Link" href="https://www.afar.com/magazine/where-to-go-2024" rel="noopener">AFAR’s Where to Go in 2024</a> list). If you stop by the city, skip the usual systems of transport and pick up your bike and walking shoes. There are more than 125 miles of bike lanes throughout the city, and dedicated green spaces like <a class="Link" href="https://www.visitvalencia.com/en/what-to-do-valencia/nature-in-valencia/parks-and-gardens-valencia/turia-gardens" rel="noopener">Turia Garden</a> make it easy to walk off that paella. For a piece of tradition, stop by during March, when larger-than-life floats descend on the city for the Las Fallas celebration.</p>

11. Valencia

Despite being more than 2,000 years old, Valencia is still innovating toward a sustainable future as the European Green Capital 2024 (in addition to being one of the places featured in AFAR’s Where to Go in 2024 list). If you stop by the city, skip the usual systems of transport and pick up your bike and walking shoes. There are more than 125 miles of bike lanes throughout the city, and dedicated green spaces like Turia Garden make it easy to walk off that paella. For a piece of tradition, stop by during March, when larger-than-life floats descend on the city for the Las Fallas celebration.

More for You

Fact Check: Rare Photo Depicts Country Music Icon Dolly Parton Without Signature Full Face of Makeup?

Fact Check: Rare Photo Depicts Country Music Icon Dolly Parton Without Signature Full Face of Makeup?

‘Caligula' Returns to Theaters in All Its Uncut Glory - Watch the 4K Restoration Trailer

‘Caligula' Returns to Theaters in All Its Uncut Glory - Watch the 4K Restoration Trailer

supreme court

Supreme Court Deals Blow to Home Depot

We Discovered a Tiny Home with 2 Bedrooms, a Kitchen, and a Bathroom for Under $20K — and It Includes a Front Porch

We Discovered a Tiny Home with 2 Bedrooms, a Kitchen, and a Bathroom for Under $20K — and It Includes a Front Porch

‘Gut-Wrenching Day’: 30-Year-Old San Francisco McDonald’s Forced To Close Its Doors After $20 Minimum Wage Mandate

‘Gut-Wrenching Day’: 30-Year-Old San Francisco McDonald’s Forced To Close Its Doors After $20 Minimum Wage Mandate

A Windows Wi-Fi vulnerability that could allow hackers to take over your PC remotely

A Windows Wi-Fi vulnerability that could allow hackers to take over your PC remotely

Kevin Costner sports black bow tie and suit at Cannes Horizon premiere

‘Yellowstone’ will continue without Kevin Costner: What to know about final episodes

7 Smells That Ants Absolutely Hate

7 Smells That Ants Absolutely Hate

Avoid Answering Calls from These Area Codes: Scam Phone Numbers Guide

Avoid Answering Calls from These Area Codes: Scam Phone Numbers Guide

Take a look inside the McNeal Mansion, an abandoned 10,000-square-foot home from the 1800s that nature is reclaiming

Look inside the McNeal Mansion, an abandoned 10,000-square-foot home from the 1800s that nature is reclaiming

Supreme Court Death Row

Supreme Court Abruptly Changes Schedule

What's the maximum amount you should deposit in a CD? What experts say

What's the maximum amount you should deposit in a CD? What experts say

FRISCO, TEXAS - JANUARY 08: Head coach Mike McCarthy of the Dallas Cowboys and Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones talk with the media during a press conference at the Ford Center at The Star on January 08, 2020 in Frisco, Texas.

Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy 'getting fed up' with owner Jerry Jones: report

EV owner highlights frustrating trend happening at charging stations across the country: 'They need to make this a federal offense'

EV owner highlights frustrating trend happening at charging stations across the country: 'They need to make this a federal offense'

Harry Potter: 8 Characters Scarier Than Voldemort

Harry Potter: 8 Characters Scarier Than Voldemort

Close up of automobile shock absorbers and springs in an automotive service repair center shop

How Long Do Shocks Last?

A retired boomer who moved from the US to Costa Rica said it's 'horribly incorrect' to assume life in Central America is much cheaper

A retired boomer who moved from the US to Costa Rica said it's 'horribly incorrect' to assume life in Central America is much cheaper

A 5-point checklist for if you're ready to buy

This young couple rushed to buy a $730K home — but now they can't sleep at night. Here's a 5-point checklist to find out if you're actually ready to buy a house

The best places to visit in the south of France: These charming spots are must-see

The best places to visit in the south of France: These charming spots are must-see

Ice cream recall map

Ice Cream Recall Map Shows 25 States Impacted by Health Warning

Election latest: Tories drop support for candidates in betting scandal - as Hollywood star joins Labour event

In the latest twist in the Conservative betting scandal, the party has withdrawn support for the two candidates who have been implicated. Meanwhile, Idris Elba has joined the Labour leader at an event on knife crime. Listen to the latest Politics At Jack And Sam's as you scroll.

Tuesday 25 June 2024 11:38, UK

  • General Election 2024
  • Bulletin: What you need to know this lunchtime
  • Tories drop support for candidates implicated in betting scandal
  • The controversy explained | Will candidates still be on ballots?
  • Analysis: PM was under a hell of a lot of pressure to act
  • Idris Elba joins Starmer at Labour event on knife crime
  • Starmer and Sunak to dine together with Japanese emperor
  • Live reporting by Tim Baker

Election essentials

  • Manifesto pledges: Alliance Party | Conservatives | DUP | Greens | Labour | Lib Dems | Plaid Cymru | Reform | SNP | Sinn Fein | Workers Party
  • Trackers:  Who's leading polls? | Is PM keeping promises?
  • Campaign Heritage: Memorable moments from elections gone by
  • Follow Sky's politics podcasts: Electoral Dysfunction | Politics At Jack And Sam's
  • Read more:  Who is standing down? | Key seats to watch | What counts as voter ID? | Check if your constituency is changing | Guide to election lingo | Sky's election night plans

It's lunchtime, and we have a new bulletin to get you up to speed.

Whether you're mid-bite of your sandwich or just polishing it off, here's a rapid rundown of what you need to know:

  • The Conservatives have announced they will no longer be supporting the two candidates being investigated over placing bets on the election date;
  • Laura Saunders and Craig Williams will still appear in on the ballots - but won't be supported by the party;
  • The action came following pressure from both within and outside the Conservative Party, and  Sir Keir Starmer said the move should have come last week when the allegations emerged.
  • Labour, meanwhile, has announced plans to tackle knife crime ;
  • Sir Keir appeared at an event with actor Idris Elba as they discussed introducing a long-term strategy to tackle the issue;
  • Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper has taken part in an hour-long debate with Conservative Home Secretary James Cleverly , taking in both legal and illegal migration;
  • The minister said he does not "envisage" a Tory government leaving the European Court of Human Rights, despite the PM's threats to do so;
  • And Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey has opened up about looking after his disabled son in an interview with Beth Rigby .

You might also be interested in one of the key talking points from today's Electoral Dysfunction podcast , all about that photo of Sir Keir and his wife enjoying a Taylor Swift concert at Wembley over the weekend.

We've also got a fresh episode of Politics At Jack And Sam's , including chat about an unlikely dinner date...

Reacting to the news the Tory candidates involved in the betting scandal were having their support withdrawn, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said: "Why didn't it happen a week ago?"

Liberal Democrat deputy leader Daisy Cooper said the suspensions should have happened "immediately" - and said Mr Sunak needed to confirm the two candidates would not sit with the Conservative Party if they won their seats.

Sky News understands the candidates will not have the Tory whip if they win their respective seats, meaning they will sit as independents (see previous post).

The Conservative Party has today announced it will no longer support its candidates Laura Sanders and Craig Williams.

But they will still appear on the ballot papers.

We are too far through the election cycle for the Conservatives to select new candidates.

Instead, they will just no longer enjoy the support of the Conservative Party.

This means they will not get any help with campaigning or visits from famous faces to back them.

It is similar to what happened to Labour in Rochdale ahead of the by-election there earlier this year.

Despite the fact that they will be listed as Conservative candidates on ballot papers as it is too late to change them, they cannot call themselves Conservative candidates.

It is understood that they will not have the Conservative whip if they win their respective seats, meaning they will sit as Independents.

However, if the Gambling Commission clears them of wrongdoing, the Conservative whip could be given back at a later date.

Laura Saunders is a candidate in Bristol North West, and Craig Williams is a candidate in Montgomeryshire and Glyndwr.

The other candidates in Bristol North West are:

  • Caroline Gooch, Lib Dems
  • Darren Jones, Labour
  • Scarlett O'Connor, Reform UK
  • Mary Page, Green Party
  • Ben Smith, SDP

The other candidates in Montgomeryshire and Glyndwr are:

  • Jeremy Brignell-Thorp, Green Party
  • Oliver Lewis, Reform UK
  • Glyn Preston, Lib Dems
  • Elwyn Vaughan, Plaid Cymru
  • Steve Witherden, Labour

Sky political correspondent Darren McCaffrey  is explaining the latest developments in the Conservative betting scandal.

He says it is interesting it has taken "this long" to make the decision.

Craig Williams, one of the candidates, admitted having a "flutter" almost a fortnight ago.

Darren notes Rishi Sunak has been under "a hell of a lot of pressure" from political opponents to make suspensions.

He adds that the Tory position - saying they could not take action due to the Gambling Commission investigation - "didn't seem like a credible line" given Mr Williams said he placed a wager.

"So it was kind of unclear why the Conservative Party had not already suspended him," Darren notes.

Laura Saunders, Darren points out, has not been willing to comment on developments.

"But clearly, the Conservative Party - carrying out those internal inquiries, which the prime minister talked about being launched over the weekend - have found enough evidence that they feel that as of this morning, they should no longer be parliamentary candidates that are supported," he says.

These cases are separate to the two Tory officials who have taken leaves of absence while they are investigated.

What is the scandal?

In short, there are allegations people who had inside knowledge of the election date may have placed bets before Rishi Sunak announced it.

So far, four people have been identified as potentially being involved, with a fifth unnamed person also allegedly implicated.

What is happening now?

The Conservative Party has announced it is no longer supporting Laura Saunders and Craig Williams as candidates.

Mr Williams has admitted to having a "flutter" on the date of the election.

Ms Saunders most recent statement says she is co-operating with the Gambling Commission and did not say anything further.

The political hopeful also indicated she wanted to take legal action against the BBC for their reporting.

Are more people involved?

It is unclear if there may be more people involved with the scandal - with the Gambling Commission remaining tight-lipped about its investigation.

Sky News understands there are considerations over whether more police officers will be investigated, after one of the prime minister's protection officers was suspended due to the matter. 

In the latest twist in the Conservative betting scandal, the party has withdrawn support from the two candidates who have been implicated.

A Conservative Party spokesperson said: "As a result of ongoing internal enquiries, we have concluded that we can no longer support Craig Williams or Laura Saunders as parliamentary candidates at the forthcoming general election. 

"We have checked with the Gambling Commission that this decision does not compromise the investigation that they are conducting, which is rightly independent and ongoing."

Sky News has contacted Mr Williams and Ms Saunders for comment.

The prime minister had come under pressure to take action following the revelations over the past couple of weeks.

He had previously stated he could not do so without interfering with the Gambling Commission's probe.

This position now appears to have changed.

Among those calling for Mr Sunak to take action were other Conservatives Sir Robert Buckland, a former justice secretary; Tobias Ellwood, a former defence minister; Steve Baker, a current Northern Ireland minister; and Baroness Ruth Davidson, a former leader of the Scottish Conservatives.

The party has also launched its own investigation.

The BBC reported this morning that £1.4bn of PPE from one supplier in the pandemic was destroyed by the government.

The Department of Health has not responded to a request for comment from Sky News, and there is no response in the BBC article.

Speaking at an event this morning, Health Secretary Victoria Atkins was asked about the reports.

She says the government "does not accept" the figure reported by the BBC.

The minister adds that the department will be providing an update later today.

Ms Atkins adds that most of the PPE acquired by the government during the pandemic - which numbers in the billions - has been used.

A small amount has been destroyed, as it is the most reasonable course of action.

But she says it was right to acquire as much of the personal protective equipment as possible during COVID.

Actor and DJ Idris Elba is joining Sir Keir Starmer as part of a Labour Party event on knife crime.

The Wire actor, who is from London, has been vocal about the issue.

Labour today announced a plan to crack down on knife crime - including a review of how blades are sold online.

Sir Keir also wants a "comprehensive ban on possession of a wider range of lethal weapons".

Speaking to people impacted by knife crime, Sir Keir says he "can't imagine what you've been through".

He says a lot of people say they can, but "in truth, can't".

One man at the event in west London says he has been promised change by multiple prime ministers over 16 years.

Sir Keir says a long-term plan is needed - but some things can be done in the short term as well.

Elba agrees that thinking needs to be long-term, and there might be a generation which does not see the impact of what they're discussing.

He adds that he has had three or four meetings with the Labour leader, but he is "non-political" and wants to see a long term plan.

The debate between James Cleverly and Yvette Cooper moves on to the European Court of Human Rights.

The government has been somewhat ambiguous about the matter - with many on the right of the Conservative Party calling for the UK to leave.

But Mr Cleverly says he does not "envisage" this happening - however the UK should be able to control its borders.

Rishi Sunak has left the option on the table in debates during the campaign.

Ms Cooper says Labour will abide by international law - and warns the UK against aligning itself with countries like Belarus and Russia.

The home secretary versus shadow home secretary debate on LBC is rumbling on.

Discussing illegal migration, Labour's Yvette Cooper is asked about the party's manifesto, which states people could be sent to a third country.

This, Ms Cooper says, would be a step on a journey to returning a failed asylum seeker to their home country.

But pressed on which stepping stone nations could be used, the shadow home secretary cannot say.

On the Bibby Stockholm barge, Ms Cooper says the party cannot commit to closing it on day one of a Labour government.

James Cleverly, the Conservative cabinet minister, says Labour does not have a plan to deal with illegal migration.

He says that, if Labour gets into power, it will offer an "amnesty" to asylum seekers.

Ms Cooper denies this - but struggles to explain how Labour's plans are different from the current operations in place.

Be the first to get Breaking News

Install the Sky News app for free

northern spain places to visit

IMAGES

  1. 20 Best Places to Visit in Northern Spain

    northern spain places to visit

  2. 20 Best Places to Visit in Northern Spain

    northern spain places to visit

  3. 20 Best Places to Visit in Northern Spain

    northern spain places to visit

  4. 20 Best Places to Visit in Northern Spain

    northern spain places to visit

  5. 15 Best Places In The North Of Spain To Visit

    northern spain places to visit

  6. 20 Best Places to Visit in Northern Spain

    northern spain places to visit

VIDEO

  1. Places To Visit Spain

  2. Top 10 Places To Visit In Spain

  3. Top places to visit in 🇪🇸 Spain ( IN 2024) #short#spain4k#spainbestplaces#spainish

  4. Top 10 Places To Visit In Spain In 2024 |Travel Guide|

  5. Top 10 most Beautiful Places to Visit in Spain 2024

  6. 15 Best Places To Visit In Spain

COMMENTS

  1. 20 Beautiful Places to Visit in Northern Spain on a Road Trip

    Places to Visit in Northern Spain's Basque Country Region San Sebastian. With one of the dreamiest beaches in Spain (La Concha), stunning lookout points, and a beautiful old town, San Sebastian is easily one of the best cities to visit in northern Spain.. It's worth spending at least 24-48 hours in San Sebastian, but it can also be a great base for exploring the Basque Country region.

  2. 10 Best Places to Visit in Northern Spain

    10. San Vicente de la Barquera, the perfect place for a northern Spain holiday. Finally, San Vicente de la Barquera is a spectacular destination in northern Spain that you should visit. This fishing village is on the western coast of Cantabria and is surrounded by one of the most beautiful landscapes in the country.

  3. 20 Best Places to Visit in Northern Spain

    19. Picos de Europa Natural Park. 20. La Rioja Region. Map of Places to Visit in Northern Spain. 1. Barcelona. Parc Güell in Barcelona. The sparkling crown jewel of Catalonia, the region's vibrant capital boasts an alluring seaside setting, fabulous Modernist architecture, and a delightful medieval quarter.

  4. 17 Best Things to do in Northern Spain (2024)

    9 | Atapuerca. For the opportunity to explore millions of years of history, the Archaeological site of Atapuerca is a short drive from Burgos. It contains traces of hominid life from a million years ago and one of the major finds included a cave with bones of 32 male and female bodies of all different ages. Atapuerca.

  5. 10 Beautiful Places to Visit in Northern Spain

    Discover a local's 10 favorite places to visit throughout northern Spain. From the Basque Cities of San Sebastian and Bilbao to stunning beach towns, the towering Picos de Europa, secluded villages, and the stunning wild coastline of Galicia, this guide has it all.

  6. 30 + Best Places To Visit In Northern Spain You Can't Miss

    The Best Places To Visit In Northern Spain Bilbao. Bilbao, the capital of the Basque Country, is a lively city where locals, tourists and the occasional pilgrims on their way to Santiago de Compostela happily meet.Not many know, but the city is indeed along the Camino del Norte, one of the many official ways of the Camino de Santiago.

  7. 10 Most Amazing Destinations in Northern Spain

    10. Picos de Europa National Park [SEE MAP] lugarzen / Flickr. Picos de Europa National Park is Spain's first national park, founded in 1918 when it was known as Montana de Covadonga National Park; its name was changed in 1995. The park's high mountains and deep ravines appeal to hikers, who need to be alert for deep fog banks.

  8. 7 Northern Spain Itineraries

    What to do in Northern Spain. Northern Spain itineraries. 5-day highlights trip. 5 days in the Basque Country and Navarra. 6 days in Cantabria, Asturias, and Galicia. 1-week city hopping route. 7-day history-focused trip. 10 days in Northern Spain's nature. 2-week comprehensive itinerary.

  9. A perfect Northern Spain Road Trip itinerary

    There's three to choose from: Playa de Tóro (our favourite), Playa del Sablon, and Playa de Puerto Chico. Alternatively, there are a handful of other exceptional stretches of beach a short drive away, including: // Playa de Toranda. 8 km away from Llanes, this is a good option for snorkelling. // Playa Ballota.

  10. Ultimate Northern Spain Road Trip Itinerary: 2024 Guide

    Northern Spain Road Trip: Stop 7 - Bilbao. Bilbao, the capital of the Basque Country, is home to centuries-old alleyways and modern-day architecture. The bustling city is small enough that you can explore it on foot, but big enough to keep you entertained for many hours. Bilbao is a great place to visit on your northern Spain road trip.

  11. One Week In Northern Spain, The Perfect Itinerary For "Green Spain"

    Here's my guide to spending one blissful week in northern Spain. This Spain itinerary takes you to the top must visit destinations in northern Spain. In one week, you'll discover all the top must see attractions, pretty towns, and historic landmarks in the Basque, Cantabria, and Asturias regions of Spain.

  12. Best Places To Visit In Northern Spain

    Northern Spain offers extraordinary cultural, culinary and natural diversity for visitors within its four main regions: Galicia, Asturias, Cantabria and Basque Country. Each area provides unique attractions and beauty spanning lush forests to rugged coastlines. Galicia is one of the best places to visit in Northern Spain.

  13. Northern Spain Travel Itinerary

    Facts about the Northern Spain Travel Itinerary. Duration: 7-10 days. Kilometers: 1200 km. Best time to travel: June-August (peak season) or May/September (quieter off-season) Further information: Travel route on Google Maps.

  14. 18 Most Beautiful Coastal Towns in Northern Spain Not to Miss!

    Luarca is a unique place where to stay in Northern Spain since there is a choice of accommodation in fisherman houses or luxurious estates. ... more interesting. It has a beautiful historic center with cathedrals, parks, old fort, and long beach route. The must-visit place in the vicinity is Illa Pancha island with various vista points.

  15. Northern Coast of Spain Guide

    La Rioja. La Rioja is one of the best places in northern Spain for wine lovers! Travelers who appreciate good wine and are on their way from Zaragoza to San Sebastian (or back) absolutely must visit the Rioja wine region and add it to their northern Spain itinerary. It is home to more than 500 wineries.

  16. 11 Great Places to Visit in Northern Spain

    7. San Sebastian. San Sebastian (in Basque "Donostia") is located in the Spanish autonomous region of the Basque Country. The popular seaside resort is located on the Bay of Biscay on the northern Spanish coast with about 200,000 inhabitants. The Basque coastal town is one of the most visited cities in Spain.

  17. Incredible Northern Spain Road Trip: 7-Day Itinerary

    Unique Places I ️ In Northern Spain. Beyond the major cities of San Sebastian, Bilbao, Gijon and Santiago de Compostela, which are all amazing, here are my favorite little places to visit on this northern Spain road trip. Gaztelugatxeko. Gaztelugatxe is not a town but a small islet on the coast of Biscay in the Basque Country, Spain, about 30 ...

  18. 10 Beautiful Places to Visit in Northern Spain

    1. San Sebastian. Tourists shouldn't get past the northern Spain journey without visiting the beautiful coastal town of San Sebastian. It's popular for the best urban beaches in the Basque Country, particularly the La Concha. It's the perfect place to unwind, surrounded by rolling hills and the ocean breeze.

  19. 8 of the Best Places to See in Northern Spain

    Book a trip to Lugo. 8. Santiago de Compostela. Towering above Praza do Obradoiro, the ornate façade of the Santiago de Compostela Cathedral is one of the most iconic sights in all of Northern Spain. Look beyond the throngs of pilgrims, though, and you'll discover a culture unlike any other in the country.

  20. 13 Best Northern Spain Road Trip Stops + Itinerary Ideas

    12. The Pyrenees. The Pyrenees are a trip all on their own for hardcore hikers. This massive mountain range has hundreds of hikes across thousands of kilometers. This Northern Spain road trip itinerary includes slow days, wine tours, hikes, beach days, and more so that you get a well-rounded trip.

  21. 12 Highlights for a Road Trip in Northern Spain

    List of recommended hotels for this roadtrip. Main cities to include in a road trip in Northern Spain (5 highlights) Highlight 1 - San Sebastian (Basque Country) Highlight 2 - Bilbao (Basque Country) Highlight 3 - Santander (Cantabria) Highlight 4 - Oviedo (Asturias). Highlight 5 - Santiago de Compostela.

  22. 9 Great Reasons To Visit The North Of Spain

    Covadonga is one of my favourites because you get the chance to visit the impressive Basilica and Cave of Covandoga, which are rich in history and spirituality. Exploring Covadonga is magical! 4. The food is mouthwatering. Pintxos, hearty stews, fresh fish and cider are some of the highlights of Nothern Spain gastronomy.

  23. 12 Best Paradores in Northern Spain

    2. Parador de León. Excellent location; Very good breakfast; Second on my list of the best resorts in Northern Spain is Hostal San Marcos, once the Order of Santiago emblem, now housing the Parador de León.. The historic hotel in León was built in the 16th century to house the Military Order of Saint James' western headquarters and was financed by King Ferdinand the Catholic.

  24. 15 Best Places In The North Of Spain To Visit

    Spain has a whole range of gorgeous cities, lesser-known spots and a heap of incredible places to see dotted all across the country. Now, the south of - 15 Best Places In The North Of Spain To Visit - Travel, Travel Advice - Europe, Spain - Travel, Food and Home Inspiration Blog with door-to-door Travel Planner! - Travel Advice, Travel Inspiration, Home Inspiration, Food Inspiration, Recipes ...

  25. 12 Best Towns to Visit in Spain

    Located in Mallorca's rugged Serra de Tramuntana on the northwest of the island, Deià is among the most seductive towns to visit in Spain. This pretty town lies at the foot of Teix mountain, close to the famous Son Marroig estate that was once home to Archduke Ludwig Salvator of Austria.

  26. 11 Top Places to Visit on Your Next Trip to Spain

    One of the best places to visit in Spain is Mallorca, where you can hop on the Tren de Sóller. Photo by Francesco Lastrucci. It's true: Spain is a country every type of traveler can enjoy. This ...

  27. Election latest: PM should show 'leadership' and suspend betting

    Rishi Sunak and Sir Keir Starmer are both set to attend a banquet as part of a state visit by the emperor of Japan. Meanwhile, Ruth Davidson has called for the prime minister to ignore the ...