The fact that Spain is full of wonders is no news, but for some reason, some places are more popular than others. There’s nothing wrong about it since the reason why they are so known among tourists is they are beautiful and worth visiting, but this also makes many places are under the radar, so to speak. That’s why we have investigated the places that do not receive so many tourists but that have a lot to offer.
After having done our research, we decided these will be our top ten most underrated places in Spain.
At first glance, Spain’s biggest port city appears to have little to offer, but visitors who take the time to peer underneath Bilbao’s industrial façade will find much to explore. The city’s standout attraction is the Guggenheim Bilbao Museum, one of architect Frank Gehry’s most spectacular achievements. The curvaceous titanium-clad building is home to more than 100 exhibitions of modern art. A short walk from the museum over the futuristic Zubizuri footbridge leads visitors to the historic Old Quarter, which has several important churches. The restored Santiago Cathedral dates back to the 1300s and exemplifies the Gothic Revival architectural style. The nearby 16th-century Basilica de Begoña features multiple large-scale paintings by the Italian Baroque artist Luca Giordano.
The capital of the Navarra region, Pamplona is known as the site of the annual “Running of the Bulls” held during the Fiesta de San Fermín. For visitors not interested in risking life and limb dodging bulls through crowded streets, however, it’s best to avoid the city during the week-long festival in early July. Pamplona has plenty to offer visitors the other 51 weeks of the year. In addition to the city’s Old Quarter with its pretty park and historic churches, the Museum of Navarra is a can’t-miss attraction. Housed in a 16th-century hospital, the museum boasts an impressive collection of Roman artifacts and mosaics as well as 13th-century murals, Renaissance paintings and Goya’s portrait of the Marqués de San Adrián.
A Coruña, located on the Atlantic Ocean in northwest Spain’s Galicia province, has been an important port city since ancient times. It was colonized by the Romans in the second century BC. They quickly recognized its strategic location. The Tower of Hercules is the city’s most famous attraction. It was built by the Romans to last and last it did. It is the only functioning Roman lighthouse today. The city also boasts two great science museums, a museum dedicated to human psychology and a house where Picasso lived that is now a museum with 33 of his works. The glazed window balconies on A Coruña’s houses also are a treasure.
In contrast to what most people usually think, Cuenca does not receive that many tourists. This comes as a surprise because it has so many things for tourists to enjoy. On the one hand there are the hangging houses and the monumental cathedral. On the other hand, that intact medieval scent that it’s felt just as you go across the archs of its main plaza. To top if all off, Cuencas has the honour of being the authentic capital of Spanish abstract art, with a museum or foundation dedicated to that period in nearly any noble building, located in the upper part of the city.
Burgos sits just about halfway between Madrid and the northern Spanish cities like Santander, Bilbao, and San Sebastián. The city’s cathedral is the only one in Spain that’s independently recognized as a World Heritage Site, and the Gothic-style building stands 288 feet at its highest point. It also contains the tomb of El Cid, Spain’s national hero, who was cool enough to have peak Charlton Heston play him in 1961. You’ll find El Cid himself (his statue, that is) along the Paseo de Marceliano Santa María, a leafty, riverfront walk frequented by locals and visitors alike. Then tuck into some morcilla, or blood sausage — Burgos has a reputation for producing the best in the country.
Leon is the capital of the province of the same name, a province that grew to become one of Spain’s major kingdoms. The city itself was founded by the Romans as a military camp in 29 BC. Top sights include the Leon Cathedral also known as the House of Light. It’s built on old Roman baths and is known for its stained glass windows. The Basilica of San Isodoro is where Leon’s rulers are buried; it’s also known for its Romanesque paintings. Leon is a good place to spend Holy Week (Semana Santa) because of the numerous processions throughout the city.
The increase in the number of the tourists has grown a lot over the last years – 2018 was a historical year for Ávila, it was the capital of province whose number of visitors has increased the most. Although we think this city is still underrated, as it does not receive as many tourists as it should.
Avila’s old city, surrounded by imposing city walls comprising eight monumental gates, 88 watchtowers and more than 2500 turrets, is one of the best-preserved medieval bastions in Spain. In winter, when an icy wind whistles in off the plains, the old city huddles behind the high stone walls as if seeking protection from the harsh Castilian
Gijon, the largest city in Asturias, can be found hugging the coastline of the Bay of Biscay. It is another Spanish city with its fair share of Roman ruins. Among the ruins are a villa and a wall the Romans built around this former fishing village. Today, Gijon is a good place to take in impressive outdoor art, including the iconic statue, Eulogy to the Horizon that overlooks the sea at Santa Catalina Headland. Gijon has several museums devoted to local arts such as Juan Barola as well as museums on railways and bagpipes, and an aquarium.
Segovia, situated in the autonomous community of Castilla y León, boasts a beautiful cathedral and historic Roman aqueducts. Seriously, can you imagine your water pipes working 2,000 years from now? well, that’s the aqueduct in Segovia. Also, the city’s castle is one of the most beautiful in all of Spain, and even served as inspiration for Cinderella’s castle in the Disney film. For a bit of nourishment after your castle-exploration, try the local specialty, cochinillo asado, or roast suckling pig; it’s one of the most delicious things you’ll ever taste.
One of the largest cities in Spain, Zaragoza is strategically located between Madrid and Barcelona on a high-speed railway line, but due to its low profile, remains often overlooked by tourists. If your taste buds dictate where you travel however, you might want to explore Zaragoza, which is known for its gastronomy. Fresh foods rule here and you can sample dishes from around the country. Cheese, made from cow, sheep or goats milk, is made here; try Tronchon that is mentioned in Don Quixote. Zaragoza also is home to the most important truffle market in Spain. When your taste buds are satisfied, you might take in the Basilica of Our Lady of Pillar, with its towers reaching into the sky, or the Aljafería, one of northern Spain’s most important Moorish buildings.