by Gabriela Cruz
This list has the top activities, foods, and sites for your first trip to Spain.
1. Try tapas (small meals or snacks that are served with a drink). The best tapas are jamon iberico, paella, and churros. Jamon iberico is a ham delicacy in Spain. Paella is one of the favorites for seafood lovers. Churros are popular worldwide, not only in Spain. But traditional churros are strips of fried dough with a cream inside.
2. Soccer fans must visit the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu in Madrid. Fans can go to the practice grounds and wait outside to get a chance to meet the soccer players if lucky! If you are not able to meet anyone at least you will get pictures of their incredible cars. Don’t forget your selfie sticks!
3. Watching a flamenco show is an amazing experience. The dancing style is to move as fast as the beat and the live music is great! These shows can be watched in a restaurant or outside.
4. Visit the Plaza Mayor and after walk down the Metropolis area. Plaza’s are seen all over Madrid and it’s where most shopping districts are located. These areas are usually the busiest, especially at night. The Metropolis area contains more beautiful architecture and stores. It’s best to go before twelve or after three because Spain gets extremely hot mid-day!
5. Do a hop-on, hop-off bus tour! These tours are located in nearly every city of Spain. It’s best to ride on days that are extra hot since there is air conditioning inside. The bus tour lets you “hop off” whenever you need to, then you can hop right back on.
6. Visit la Alhambra in Granada Spain. La Alhambra, an ancient palace constructed by Arabs, contains different buildings with incredible gardens and pathways throughout. There are beautiful fountains and statues that are well preserved today. This is one of the most important sites to see in Spain.
7. In Segovia Spain, there is a huge famous Roman Aqueduct. This World Heritage Site stretches on for miles. Furthermore, the surrounding area contains Romanesque churches, Cathedrals and fortresses. You can take a train up to the highest point in order to catch a breathtaking view.
8. Arab Baths in Granada are an opportunity you can’t miss out on. These baths are not only fun and relaxing but they also symbolize purity and cleanliness. People go in their bathing suits and can even get a massage. In these beautifully decorated baths everyone must be quiet. The “baths” contain different temperatures ranging from hot to cold.
9. El Camino is one of the most important sites for Christians and Catholics. Known in America as “The Way” of St. James, El Camino is a pathway of trails that people walk on to achieve a spiritual awakening. Some people believe miracles occur along these trails and this walk will help fix your problems. Though most tourists that come to Spain don’t do the Camino walk because it takes on a minimum 3 months, simply visiting the church and postage area where all the pilgrims arrive is amazing.
10. Toledo, Spain is one of the most important medieval sites in Europe. Its a small fortified town that has an incredible view. Toledo has impressive medieval architecture. This area is surrounded by rivers and is perfect for a good photograph. There is also a huge cathedral of Toledo there.
11. The Royal Palace of Madrid is one of the best examples of beautiful architecture in Spain. At night you can witness this huge palace light up. Around the palace are gardens where people can have a picnic or rest from the heat. It’s definitely a place to take a picture at.
12. Visit the oldest restaurant in the world, “Sobrino de Botin”. It started in the 18th century and has since won a Guinness World Record. It’s located in the Plaza major of Spain.
13. Visit the old city of Salamanca, Spain. This is another World Heritage Site. It contains the oldest university of Spain. This city has its own kind of architecture featuring Roman bridges and towered monuments, so it’s a must see.
14. Go shopping at a flea market in Madrid along with millions of other people. These flea markets usually attract massive crowds. It’s nice to go just to look at the items they offer.
15. Run with the bulls in Pamplona, a traditional Spanish events. This is better to watch than to participate in because there are a few casualties every year. So, unless you are brave enough to “run with the bulls,” than I’d suggest spectating from a safe distance. The outfits people wear are pretty distinct with red bandanas around their necks and waist.
Now lets move on to Portugal.
1. Visit the many caves and beaches in Algarve, Portugal. Algarve is a popular place always busy with tourists. The water is as clear and colorful as the pictures you can find online. Boat tours give people the chance to enter the caves. There are sandstone boulders in the middle of the beaches.
2. Go to the historic center of Porto, one of the most historic towns in Portugal that boasts museums, old fashioned shops, and cozy restaurants. The buildings look like they are all stuck together and roads here are some of the narrowest in Europe. The towns are very artistic and have their own sense of style.
3. The tower of Belem is an important site in Lisbon, Portugal. It’s located just over the bank of the Tagus River. The tower was designed originally as a defense system in the 15th century.
4. Ride on a cable car in Porto, Portugal. These cable cars allow you to overlook the city and get the best pictures from a high vantage point. It’s a nice activity to relax and have fun!
5. Mosteiro dos Jerónimos Lisbon, Portugal. The church has lovely architecture with great photo opportunities. Just admiring the structure from the outside is enough.
6. Oceanário de Lisboa Lisbon, Portugal. There are thousands of fish from all over the world. One of the best aquariums in Europe, the Oceanário presents a very diverse display of sea life from 4 quadrants of the globe.
7. Torre de Clérigos Porto, Portugal. It’s a Baroque church in the city of Porto, in Portugal. Its tower can be seen from various points of the city and is one of its most characteristic symbols.
8. Castelo de São Jorge Lisbon, Portugal.The strongly fortified citadel dates back to the medieval period of Portuguese history and is one of the main tourist attractions in Lisbon.
9. Dom Luís I Bridge Porto, Portugal. This double-decker bridge is an icon of the Porto. It spans the River Douro, linking the Port wine houses of Vila Nova de Gaia with the bustling downtown Ribeira district of Porto.
10. Praia da Marinha Algarve, Portugal. It’s listed as one of the 10 most beautiful beaches in Europe and one of the 100 most beautiful beaches in the world. This beach is not only famous for its beautiful cliffs, but also for the high quality of the water.