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Where are the perfect places to travel in Spain? See what locals say


Spain is one in all the world’s most-visited countries, drawing greater than 83 million travelers in 2019, in response to the United Nations’ World Tourism Organization.

When it comes to international arrivals, that makes it second only to France.

However the Spanish are also avid travelers inside their very own country, with nearly 93% selecting to travel inside Spain in the primary quarter of 2022, in response to Spain’s National Statistics Institute.

From where to eat to latest luxury hotels in Madrid and desserts celebrating different saints’ days in Barcelona, Spanish residents told CNBC where they like to go.

Northern Spain 

Spanish Hotelier Pau Guardans got to know his country as a baby, when his family would spend vacations road-tripping in a red and white Volkswagen “Kombi” van, a well-liked bus-style vehicle within the Nineteen Seventies.

Now, he likes to go on vacation to the Costa Brava region of Catalonia on Spain’s northeast coast.

“I’d recommend visiting any of its beautiful ‘calas’ [coves] and eating in its ‘chiringuitos’ [beach bars] with good fish and rice dishes. In the inside, it’s value discovering the magnificent gastronomy of the realm with products from the countryside,” he said.

The Val d’Aran within the Pyrenees mountains, a spread that runs along the French-Spanish border.

Artur Debat | Moment | Getty Images

Guardans, founding father of Unico Hotels, a luxury group that features the Grand Hotel Central in Barcelona and the Principal Madrid, really useful eating at Can Salo, a restaurant in a Sixteenth-century farmhouse within the village of Palau-Sator.

Further inland, he suggests Eth Triton, a restaurant in a valley within the Spanish Pyrenees called the Val d’Aran, for “good food in a family atmosphere — and an excellent wine cellar!”

Northern Spain can be home to 2 of the country’s wine regions. “For autumn trips, indubitably, I like to go to the wineries in Ribera del Duero or La Rioja,” Patricia Alonso, a marketer living in Madrid, said in an email to CNBC.

The village of Brinas within the La Rioja region in northern Spain. The world has greater than 500 wineries, around 80 of which welcome visitors.

Julio Alvarez | Moment | Getty Images

For summer, Alonso said she prefers the Asturias region along the Bay of Biscay, noting the sheltered Playa de Toro beach within the town of Llanes as a specific favorite.

Southern Spain

Alonso said she also loves the south of Spain, and the province of Cadiz is a favourite, known for its long sandy beaches, whitewashed towns and the sherry constituted of the vineyards surrounding the town of Jerez de la Frontera. Cadiz is an element of the autonomous community of Andalucia, the region most visited by Spaniards.

Alonso really useful the favored windsurfing beach Valdevaqueros, near the town of Tarifa, the southernmost point of Europe. She also likes Bolonia, a large curve of pale sand with dunes, and the stays of Baelo Claudia, an ancient Roman town right by the beach.

Bolonia beach, near the town of Tarifa, essentially the most southerly point in Europe.

Miguel Sotomayor | Moment | Getty Images

The Cadiz province can be a pick for Fabian Gonzalez, the founding father of travel conference Forward_MAD whose parents live near the region’s capital city, which can be called Cadiz.

“Cadiz province has probably the perfect white sand and crystal water beaches within the Iberian Peninsula, in addition to an incredible fish-based gastronomy. When in Cadiz province, a must is Casa Bigote restaurant, in Sanlucar de Barrameda, where you may try the perfect prawns on the planet,” Gonzalez told CNBC by email.

Gonzalez also really useful the bluefin tuna at Taberna de el Campero in Zahara de los Atunes, a fishing village around an hour’s drive south of Cadiz city.

On the southeast coast, the town of Javea within the province of Alicante is a pick for Marina Valera, a social media manager living in Madrid. “Although it’s extremely crowded in the summertime, Javea has a landscape that’s definitely worth the visit — it inspired the paintings of the famous Spanish painter Joaquin Sorolla, and Cristobal Balenciaga spent his last days there,” she told CNBC.

“It doesn’t have the same old flat landscape that you simply might think due to the Montgo, a mountain that dominates the skyline for miles around,” she added.

Having fun with paella by the ocean is a must, Valera said. The chiringuito Montgo di Bongo is true on the beach, and its website boasts each day opening hours of 10:30 a.m. to sunrise. Valera suggested making a reservation well prematurely.

The beach cove Cala Granadella in Alicante is popular with Spanish people. Locals advise going early within the morning or off-season to avoid crowds.

Sergio Formoso | Moment | Getty Images

“Right next to Montgo di Bongo, La Siesta … is the place to see and be seen with beautiful people, fancy decorations and dance music. If you happen to prefer something more right down to earth, my favorite is [Taverna] Octopus, a bar situated on El Arenal beach with rock music and good vibes,” she added.

Valera’s tip for avoiding beach crowds? “I’d recommend going super early! And in fact, September is healthier than July and August … I also prefer going to Benisero beach: because it is a pebble beach, it just isn’t as comfortable because the sandy beach of El Arenal, but there are fewer people.”

What to do in Madrid

Alonso really useful Matadero Madrid, on the banks of the River Manzanares in Spain’s capital, an arts development in a former slaughterhouse and cattle market. She described it as having a “typical Spanish atmosphere,” wherein visitors can enjoy a standard cana — a small glass of beer.

The lobby of the Mandarin Oriental Ritz, Madrid. The hotel, which is greater than 100 years old, reopened after a three-year renovation in April 2021.

Cristina Arias | Cover | Getty Images

Gonzalez, who lives around 20 kilometers (12.4 miles) outside Madrid, likes to remain in the town a few times a yr, “as if I were a traveler,” he said, trying out hotels resembling The Edition and the 4 Seasons – each latest to the town — or the recently restored Mandarin Oriental Ritz.

“Del Prado or Thyssen museums, the Musicals of Gran Via or an authentic flamenco show in El Corral de la Moreria are my best recommendations to benefit from the vibrant city like an area,” he said.

The Museo Del Prado holds Spain’s national art collection, while the nearby Thyssen-Bornemisza National Museum houses Old Masters in addition to modern art. El Corral de la Moreria has nightly flamenco shows with dinner options.

The Palacio Real (Royal Palace) seen within the background in Madrid.

Jorg Greuel | Stone | Getty Images

“Having brunch at Jardines de Sabatini aparthotel, which has one of the crucial beautiful views of the town, is a must,” Gonzalez added. The hotel’s roof terrace overlooks Madrid’s Royal Palace and has its own classic automobile museum.

What to do in Barcelona

Barcelona, where hotelier Guardans lives, is very talked-about with overseas visitors. To get oriented, he really useful seeing it from a high viewpoint to see that it’s “a small city surrounded by two mountains and the ocean — with its old Roman quarter and its spectacular modernist ‘Ensanche’ district.”

Ensanche, or Eixample, is notable for its octagonal block structure and grid-like appearance with a diagonal avenue running through it, while Barcelona’s Gothic Quarter is home to the stays of the Roman Temple of Augustus.

Residential buildings in Barcelona’s Eixample district.

Alexander Spatari | Moment | Getty Images

The Palau Nacional, or National Museum of Catalan Art, has a rooftop terrace included in its 2-euro ($2) entry price.

“Barcelona is a city that could be discovered thoroughly on foot. It has a human scale, and its architecture is the perfect open-air museum. I’d recommend getting lost through its beautiful streets, filled with history,” Guardans said.

Several saints’ days are celebrated in Barcelona, and every comes with a commemorative cake.

In the course of the festival of Sant Jordi (St. George), panaderias — or bakeries — are stuffed with pastries decorated with the red and yellow of the Catalan flag, for instance. Guardans really useful La Colmena within the Gothic Quarter, which was founded around 1849, or the pastry shop Mauri, in Eixample, with its Nineteen Twenties painted ceiling.

The Sant Medir Festival, often known as a feast of sweets, is widely known on March 3. Meanwhile, the Revetlla de Sant Joan, celebrated on midsummer’s eve (June 23 in 2023), is marked by bonfires in addition to a bread-style cake, often known as a coca de Sant Joan, that’s made with candied fruit.

“You should have no selection but to return back to the town to proceed savoring their exquisite desserts!” Guardans said.

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