With a huge variety of superb attractions, loads of accommodation options and top notch restaurants serving local cuisine, Spain is a great choice for a summer vacation this year. Whether you’re into cities, countryside, beaches, culture or food, Spain provides solo travelers, couples and families with everything they could possibly need to have an amazing vacation.
How to Get There
Unless you’re traveling from a nearby city in Portugal or France, the best way to get to Spain is by plane. Spain boasts a number of international airports, with the three busiest being located in Madrid, Barcelona and Malaga. These airports operate flights to and from cities all over the world, including throughout the Americas, Africa, Asia and Australasia, so no matter where you’re traveling from, you’re sure to be able to catch a flight to Spain.
Weather in Summer
The weather across Spain varies according to which part you’re visiting. During the summer months (June-August) the northern parts of the country – such as A Coruña and Bilbao – are fairly dry and have minimum temperatures of around 61°F and maximum temperatures of around 80°F.
The tourist resorts along the southern coast of Spain – such as Alicante, Almería and Málaga – have much higher temperatures during summer, ranging from lows of 68°F on a night time up to 85°F during the daytime. Clear blue skies and plenty of sunshine are almost guaranteed along the southern coast of Spain during summer, which is why it’s such a popular place to visit on vacation.
Madrid is located in the center of Spain and can be stifling hot during summer, with temperatures fluctuating between 61°F and 95°F. Unlike other Spanish cities – such as Barcelona – Madrid doesn’t enjoy any sea breezes, which can make the scorching temperatures feel even hotter than they are.
Whether you plan on visiting the north, east, south or west region of Spain, you’re sure to get warm to hot temperatures and plenty of sunshine during your summer vacation.
Where to Stay
With a melting pot of urban cities, beach-side hotspots, ski resorts and countryside retreats, Spain offers a world of choice when it comes to somewhere to stay.
If you’re searching for a cosmopolitan city, consider staying in Madrid. This city is the capital of Spain and offers a wealth of accommodation options ranging from luxurious five-star hotels and family-friendly resorts to self-catering apartments and even low-budget hostels. The attractions in the city are just as varied as the accommodation and include art galleries, museums, parks, theme parks, animal zoos and golf courses.
Barcelona is a great choice for anyone who wants to combine a city escape with a beach side break. This city is located on the north eastern coast of Spain and is one of the most beautiful cities in Europe. In the center of Barcelona you’ll find an eclectic mix of architecturally-magnificent historic buildings peppered by modern artistic structures. The attractions here are also numerous and come in the form of museums, art galleries, theaters, parks and unparalleled shopping opportunities. The accommodation in the center of the city is mostly based on apartment blocks ranging from opulent five-star status to budget-friendly hostels.
Toward the coast of Barcelona you’ll find a more touristic scene, with beaches, water parks and excursion offices surrounded by hotels, bars, cafes and restaurants. Because there is more space available here, you’ll find larger resorts and hotels, many of which offer all-inclusive, full-board, half-board and breakfast-only options.
Malaga is one of the best places to stay in Spain if you’re looking for a full-on tourist experience. Located on the southern coast of the country, this city is one of the oldest in Spain and offers plenty to see and do. Here you’ll find art galleries, museums, Flamenco shows, historical sites, botanical gardens, churches, hiking trails and beaches just waiting for you to explore. The city is also home to numerous Michelin-starred restaurants, as well as an almost never-ending choice of traditional tapas bars.
Whilst Spain does boast a number of ski resorts in the northern region of the country, skiing isn’t possible during the summer months. If you want to enjoy a skiing vacation in northern Spain, the best time to visit is between December and April.
What to Do
Relax on the Beach
Spain boasts a huge number of beaches and with an average maximum summer temperature of around 85-90°F, summer is a great time to hit the beach and work on your tan. Spain has a coastline stretching over 5000 miles, providing you with plenty of choice when it comes to the sandy stuff.
Playa de las Catedrales
Playa de las Catedrales in Ribadeo has been voted as one of the best beaches in the world and boasts soft, fine white sands lapped by warm, aquamarine waters. What really makes the beach stand out in the crowd is the presence of numerous caves and arches which stick out prominently when there is a low tide.
La Concha Beach
La Concha Beach in San Sebastián is another top pick, known for its almost never-ending stretch of picture-perfect golden sands and glistening waters which are just begging to be bathed in. Here you’ll find loads of amenities and services, including sun loungers, parasols, bars, restaurants, diving boards and water slides, making it perfect for the whole family to enjoy.
Stroll Along Las Ramblas
Las Ramblas in Barcelona is one of the most famous streets in Spain. This pedestrian street cuts straight through the heart of the city and is lined by a throngs of stylish boutiques, tourist kiosks, traditional cafes and Spanish restaurants. Whilst the shopping and dining opportunities are second to none, they aren’t the star of the show here.
The highlights of Las Ramblas are the street performers who dress themselves as everything from bronze-statue Galileos to paint-splattered artists and stand as still as a statue. When someone walks by and tosses them some small cash, the human statues break out of their stillness and perform a short act. Peppered amongst the human statues, you’ll also find a number of other street performers, ranging from clowns and jugglers to musicians and wannabe actors funding their acting classes.
Take Part in a Local Festival
Spain hosts some of the biggest and best festivals in the world, making them a must-visit during your summer vacation.
The summer season kicks off with Corpus Christi. This festival is celebrated all across the country, with lavish carpets put together by hand using colored sand and flower petals.
Running of the Bulls
July follows up with the Running of the Bulls festival in Pamplona. This festival is pretty self explanatory and involves huge groups of locals and visitors running ahead of bulls charging through the streets. As you’d expect, this festival is very dangerous so you’re best off watching instead of participating.
Tomatina takes place in Valencia in August and is often known as the “Giant Tomato Fight”. For one whole hour, locals and visitors alike throw over-ripe tomatoes at each other throughout the streets. There’s no winner at the end – the idea is just to have fun whilst getting covered in tomato juice!
What to See
The Sagrada Familia is a must-visit if you travel to Barcelona during your vacation in Spain. This stunning UNESCO World Heritage Site was designed by Gaudi over 100 years ago and still hasn’t been completed to this day. Despite being only half-finished, this landmark basilica attracts around 2.8 million visitors each year, making it the city’s biggest attraction. When completed, the Sagrada Familia will feature 18 spires, the tallest of which will stretch 560 feet into the sky, making it the tallest church in the world.
The Nativity Façade was the first façade to be completed and is the part with the greatest connection to Gaudi. This section of the building is truly astounding to see and is made up of ornate sculptures and scenes, each of which represents something in particular. If you’re in a bit of a rush, you can admire the basilica from the outside or pay the entrance fee and explore the interior if you’ve got some more time to spare.
The Alhambra in Grenada is another example of an architectural masterpiece worthy of a visit during your vacation in Spain. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is comprised of striking red walls which rise above the surrounding wood and house numerous lavish palaces and landscaped gardens. More than 6000 visitors pass through this landmark every day during summer, so try and book your visit in advance and snap up the earliest slot for a hassle-free experience.
The Palacios Nazaríes dominate the center of the Alhambra and are by far the most impressive. A tour through these palaces will take you past beautiful art work, incredible sculptures, period furniture, perfectly-tended gardens and immaculate courtyards. After exploring the Palacios Nazaríes, you can visit the onsite museum, overflowing with authentic artifacts and more artwork.
Seville is one of the best places to take in a Flamenco show in Spain, where performances are held in various venues almost nightly. Most of the shows are tailored toward tourists and therefore differ slightly from the authentic Flamenco dancing. If you want a genuine Flamenco experience, there are two main options available.
If you’re in search of a formal atmosphere and excellent performance, be on the lookout for venues with the word Tablaos in the name. This indicates a specific type of Flamenco club popular with corporate locals looking for top quality entertainment away from tourists.
For a more relaxed and authentic experience, keep an eye out for Flamenco bars. Unlike the Flamenco clubs as mentioned above, Flamenco bars are usually much smaller and come with a more casual, laid-back atmosphere. Many locals believe the shows performed at Flamenco bars to be more authentic than those at Flamenco Clubs.
What to Eat and Drink
A trip to Spain isn’t complete without trying the local cuisine. The most common type of Spanish food is tapas – small portions of various dishes, usually shared between groups of friends or family. Tapas aren’t just restricted to main meals – it’s common to see locals in bars enjoying a plate of tapas alongside a beer or a glass of wine as a small snack to tide them over until dinner time.
If you’re eating tapas as a main meal, the usual rule of thumb is three dishes to one person, so keep this in mind when ordering in a Spanish restaurant to make sure you don’t go hungry.
Some of the most popular tapas dishes include:
- Tortilla Española – a hearty oven-baked omelet based on eggs and sliced potatoes
- Gambas al Ajillo – a sizzling plate of shrimps served in a delicious garlic and oil dressing
- Calamares a la Romana – squid rings coated in a crisp batter and fried until golden
- Patatas Bravas – bite-sized chunks of cooked potato served alongside a hot and spicy tomato-based sauce
- Croquetas de Jamón – bite-sized potato and ham croquettes, covered in breadcrumbs and deep-fried
- Boquerones en Vinagre – fresh anchovies marinated in a combination of vinegar, oil and garlic.
More Signature Dishes
Spanish cuisine isn’t just limited to tapas. There is an almost never-ending list of fantastic meat-based, fish-based and vegetarian dishes for you to try. Some of the country’s signature dishes include:
- Churros con chocolate – this breakfast dish is made of long strips of pastry deep fried and coated in sugar (similar to donuts) and paired with a rich, thick mug of hot chocolate for dipping
- Paella – a rice-based dish usually made with seafood, including shrimp, mussels, clams and squid
- Empanadas – deep-fried pastry pockets stuffed with all sorts of fillings, including meat, fish and vegetables
- Pringá – roast beef or pork slow-cooked alongside sausages until the meat is tender and falls off the bone
- Chorizo – a type of spicy smoked pork sausage flavored with paprika and red peppers
- Sangria – Spain’s characteristic drink made of red wine, fruit juices and a variety of spirits