Barcelona’s residents are fed up with the tourist hordes. They’re tired of being priced out of their city, sick of drunk tourists swarming the streets, and crowds of people arriving with no respect for the local customs. And so the anti-tourism sentiment has peaked in recent weeks.
But nearly 14% of Spain’s GDP comes from the Travel and Tourism industry (source). So tourism is still a very important part of the national economy and visitors should still be encouraged to visit this incredible country, made up of a number of proud and autonomous regions (including Barcelona’s Catalonia region). So why not visit somewhere else in the country and spread the love around?
Spain’s capital city has a plethora of attractions to be enjoyed, including the world-renowned art gallery; Museo Nacional del Prado, the expansive and elegant Buen Retiro Parque and hundreds of little shops, galleries and restaurants waiting to be explored.
Andalusia’s capital is one of the best cities in Spain right now. Spend the day exploring landmarks such as Plaza de España and the Alcázar de Seville (and escape the heat with a siesta), then head out to catch a flamenco show and drink in one of the many tapas bars.
Read more: Exploring Andalusia
San Sebastian is also experiencing some tourist backlash from fed-up locals, but visit outside of summer and you’ll encounter a very different vibe. You’ll get a chance to experience some of San Sebastian’s more diverse events on the calendar, plus the incredible food scene isn’t going anywhere.
Read more: 25 reasons why San Sebastian is my favourite European city
Pamplona heaves with tourists for one ugly week, but the rest of time? An interesting little city with a surprising Hemingway connection. Their uncomfortable reliance on one event is even more the reason to visit the other 51 weeks of the year – Let Pamplona know that people will still visit without the bulls.
Read more: Exploring Pamplona
Granada is possibly one of the most magical, yet underrated cities I’ve ever visited in Europe. The weave of Moorish and Spanish culture and history is not just evident in the dazzling Alhambra, but also in the winding back streets, and the community living high up in the mountain caves overlooking the city.
Valencia is the spiritual home of paella, so you should probably try some in its birthplace. After you’ve done that, check out the City of Arts and Sciences, containing a planetarium, oceanarium and interactive museum. Plus, you can rent a boat and paddle around the futuristic exterior, because why not?
Bilbao used to be a fairly grimy, industrial shipping city. Until Frank Gehry brought the design for the Guggenheim to town. The museum dominates, both inside and out. Before even stepping in, you’ll see famous works of art such as the floral Puppy statue standing 12m tall. Time your visit with Art After Dark, when you can drink and party in the museum after hours.
La Rioja isn’t a city, but an autonomous region wedged between Basque Country and Navarra, and one of Spain’s premier wine regions. Spend a weekend relaxing and wine tasting, or if you want things to get a little messier (literally and figuratively), come for the Batalla de Vino – which translates to wine battle!
Ronda was a hot little tip from my Spanish class partner, and it tortures me every time I think back and remember I didn’t have time visit this Andalusian gem. The view of the bridge and town set above a jaw-dropping gorge looks like something from a fantasy story, and I’m determined to get there someday.
Cordoba is one of the big three in Andalusia (after Seville and Granada), but as the smallest, it can be forgotten or overlooked. However, the Mezquita is something that every visitor to Spain should see. It’s an incredible mosque where you can easily lose yourself wandering beneath the hundreds of striped arches.
Do you have a favourite place in Spain? Let me know in the comments!