Spain is full of wonders – everybody knows this. However, some places are more popular than others, and this has been the case for a long time. Many of them deserve their popularity, and they get their tourists for very good reasons. At the same time, there are many cities that are flying under the radar. We are looking into those here!
After having looked into almost all major cities in Spain, you will find the 10 that we believe are the most underrated ones.
Bilbao is Spain’s biggest port city. At first, it may not seem like it has a lot to offer, but underneath the surface there is quite a lot.
The Guggenheim Museum of Bilbao is one of the absolute highlights. It was made by architect Frank Gehry and is considered one of his best achievements. It’s a titanium-clad building that has more than a hundred exhibitions inside, most of them related to modern art.
Bilbao also has an old quarter with several important buildings. Particularly the churches. The Santiago Cathedral is a highlight (it was built in the 14th century and has that typical Gothic Revival style). Basilica de Begoña is also a great sight, as it contains many large paintings by Baroque artist Giordano.
“Running of the Bulls” – you’ve probably heard about this. It takes place during Fiesta de San Fermín, one of the best festivals in all of Spain. And while this event attracts a lot of people, the city is quite underrated for the rest of the year.
Like Bilbao, Navarre also has an interesting old quarter full of churches. Don’t forget its nice Central Park and the Museum of Navarra. This museum is found inside an old hospital from the 1500s and it has a lot of artifacts from Roman times. You’ll also find Renaissance paintings and other nice pieces of art. An obvious highlight is Marqués de San Adrián, a portrait made by Spanish artist Goya.
A Coruña is quietly located by the Atlantic coast, in the northwest of Galicia. Ever since ancient ages, it has been an important port city. First it was inhabited by Celtics, then colonized by Romans in the 2nd century BC, because of the strategic importance.
If you visit A Coruña, be sure to check the Tower of Hercules. Made by the Romans, and still standing to this day. It’s a lighthouse and you must write it on top of your to-do list. Aside from that, visit the two science museums, and Picasso’s house – he used to live in A Coruña for a while, and this house now contains some of his works.
Cuenca doesn’t really receive that many tourists. Somewhat of a surprise since it actually does have a lot of things to enjoy for tourists. The hanging houses and the cathedral are the main sights. But overall, Cuenca has an intact medieval vibe, which makes it very interesting. It’s also the authentic capital of Spanish abstract art, and it has an important museum of such. Cuenca is ideal for a short trip, around 2-3 days. Be sure to see as much as you can, since the city is very, very interesting.
Burgos is located approximately halfway between Madrid and the northern coast. The cathedral of Burgos is independently a World Heritage Site, the only one that is categorized as such. The cathedral rises 288 feet above the ground, making it visible from most angles. You will find the tomb of El Cid who was a national hero of Spain. There’s also a statue of him. Burgos is also famous – at least locally – for its blood sausage, a signature dish.
León is a city that you either love or hate. On one hand, there’s a lack of modern things to do, but at the same time, it’s a very historic city with plenty of great sights. That probably makes it a great city to visit, but not a place where you want to stay for ages.
It was founded by the Romans as a military camp. The cathedral, also called House of Light, is the top sight. It’s built on top of old Roman baths. There is also the Basilica of San Isodoro where the rulers of León are now buried. Definitely worth seeing.
The best time of the year to visit León is during Easter. There are a lot of processions during this time, and it is usually also a time when whether is good!
Ávila has been getting more tourists over the last few years, particularly people visiting as a day trip from Madrid, but it’s still underrated. Ávila is surrounded by large walls, a signature part of the city. There are eight gates on this wall, 88 watchtowers and at least 2500 turrets. It has been preserved incredibly well ever since the Middle Ages. Ávila is too cold during the winter, and too hot during the summer, but perfect to visit anywhere in between!
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.
Gijón is the largest city in Asturias and it has a beautiful coastline. It was also a Roman city in the past and still has Roman baths that are working. Gijón has great food and and many awesome attractions. Read our full Gijón travel guide or our specific listing of the top 10 attractions for more information on what to do there!
Segovia has its famous castle, cathedral and aqueduct. Usually, people are discussing which of these three is the greatest attraction of the city, but it’s hard to get a final decision – because they are all great.
While Segovia does get some tourists, it probably should get even more, as the city is one of the most beautiful in Spain. The Alcázar of Segovia was used as inspiration or the Cinderella Castle in the famous Disney tale!
Zaragoza has a beautiful cathedral and plenty of things to see. It’s a great city for photographers, as there are many opportunities to get photos of the old Spain that we all imagine. Zaragoza also has great food. They are particularly famous for their cheese and truffles. Overall, more people should visit it, and perhaps that will be the case as Zaragoza is now starting to gain more traction as a travel destination!