15 Most Underrated Cities in Spain To Visit In 2023

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Are you looking for a unique travel experience that’s off the beaten path? Spain is a country with an incredible diversity of landscapes, cultures, and histories, and among the 15 most underrated cities in Spain, many places offer a true taste of the country without the crowds of tourists – all waiting to be explored!

From coastal retreats to unique cultural hubs, each destination has something special to offer. Whether it’s discovering local cuisines or exploring historic neighborhoods, I have carefully handpicked these places as must-see destinations. And in case you didn’t know, I wrote a bunch of other posts where I explore underrated cities in Italy, Germany, the Balkans, the United States, and many more countries.

Now join me as I reveal the 15 most underrated cities in Spain – where will you choose to visit first?

1) Salamanca – The Golden City of Spain

Many people may think they know all of Spain’s greatest cities, but some hidden gems often go overlooked. Salamanca is one such city; it’s an underrated destination in Spain and a must-see for any traveler looking to explore offbeat destinations.

Salamanca is the perfect balance between a small-town feel and big-city vibes. The old town area is teeming with history and has been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO due to its abundance of stunning architecture from various eras – including medieval churches, grand cathedrals, and Renaissance palaces.Salamanca - The Golden City Is One of the Most Underrated Cities in Spain

It also boasts plenty of cultural attractions like galleries, museums, and theaters that host unique events throughout the year.

This lesser-known Spanish city offers you a chance to experience something different than what’s typically found on tourist circuits while still having access to modern conveniences like shops, cafes, restaurants, and nightlife venues.

And because it’s relatively unexplored compared to other popular cities in Spain, you can enjoy the beauty of this hidden gem without too much commotion or crowds.

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2) Córdoba – The City of the Caliphs

Córdoba is one of Spain’s lesser-known cities, but its underrated status makes it a great place to explore. With its diverse history and stunning architecture, Córdoba has something for everyone – making it one of the best places to visit in Spain off the beaten path.

The city was once home to an influential Jewish population and remains a testament to their legacy with its ancient synagogues and beautiful mosques. One such mosque is The Mezquita, which dates back nearly 1,000 years and stands as a magnificent reminder of Cordoba’s eventful past.Córdoba - The City of the Caliphs Is Known for Beautiful Gardens, Historic Landmarks, and a Vibrant Culture

You can also take in the sights of two Roman bridges that span over the river Guadalquivir or wander through winding alleyways lined with traditional bars and restaurants serving delicious local cuisine.

For those looking for a unique experience away from typical tourist spots, Córdoba offers plenty of activities ranging from exploring art galleries to kayaking on the lake.

Whether you’re seeking out hidden gems or simply want to soak up some Spanish culture without all the hustle and bustle – this charming city will not disappoint.

3) Girona – The City of a Thousand Sieges

Tucked away in the northeast corner of Spain, Girona is an often overlooked gem. This small city offers a unique experience and plenty to explore under-the-radar cities in Spain.

With its well-preserved medieval streets and walls dating back to Roman times, Girona has a fascinating historical core that can be explored on foot. The winding cobblestone alleys are lined with colorful buildings and cafes; it’s easy to lose yourself for hours wandering around this charming neighborhood!Girona - The City of a Thousand Sieges Is One of the Most Underrated Cities in Spain

For those who prefer to get out into nature, there are numerous trails along the banks of the Onyar River where you can watch boats drift by as you take in the stunning views.

You’ll find quaint restaurants here too, serving up delicious local food like their famous calçotada – a traditional dish made from grilled spring onions served with romesco sauce. And if you’re looking for some retail therapy, Girona boasts one of Europe’s oldest shopping centers which dates back centuries!

As if all that wasn’t enough, Girona also plays host to some fantastic festivals throughout the year including Carnival and La Festa Major de Sant Narcís – perfect for getting involved in Catalan culture.

4) Burgos – The City of El Cid

Burgos, a city situated in the Castilla y León region of Spain, is one of the most underrated cities in the country. Despite its relatively small size – it only has a population of around 170,000 people – Burgos offers visitors an abundance of attractions and activities to explore.

The city boasts a wealth of stunning architecture from across different eras; highlights include Burgos Cathedral, which dates back to 1221 and was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984. In addition, there are numerous cobbled streets throughout the old town that provide the perfect backdrop for strolls or romantic evenings out.Burgos Is Home to a Magnificent Cathedral, Beautiful Architecture, and a Rich History

Besides that, Burgos is surrounded by lush green hillsides ideal for walking, cycling, and bird watching while nearby rivers offer kayaking opportunities. There’s also plenty of opportunity to sample some authentic local cuisine like cochinillo asado (roast suckling pig) or try traditional dishes such as cocido madrileño (a type of Spanish stew).

All these experiences combined make Burgos one of the best destinations in Spain if you’re looking for something off-the-beaten-track yet still within easy reach from bigger cities like Madrid or Barcelona.

5) Toledo – The City of Three Cultures

Toledo is like a diamond in the rough, overlooked by many travelers who don’t realize its hidden beauty. This ancient city lies at the heart of Spain and has been home to various cultures over time, including Christian, Muslim, and Jewish.

It’s situated on a hilltop surrounded by lush green countryside, making it an ideal setting for peaceful walks and breathtaking views. The old town is bustling with life, from cobblestone streets lined with colorful buildings to delightful markets full of local produce, textiles, and crafts.Toledo - The City of Three Cultures Is One of the Most Underrated Cities in Spain

There are also plenty of historical sites throughout Toledo such as churches and synagogues that showcase different styles of architecture from centuries past. The Alcazaba castle provides stunning views over the city while the El Greco museum houses works by one of Spain’s most famous painters. Fun activities in and around Toledo include exploring River Tajo via kayak or horseback riding through Los Montes de Toledo Natural Park.

Toledo offers something special – the chance to discover a little-known corner of this beautiful country in all its hidden splendor. From art galleries to outdoor adventures, you can find whatever type of experience suits your tastes here.

6) Zaragoza – The Florence of Spain

Tucked away in northeast Spain, Zaragoza is the underrated gem of Aragon. This ancient city boasts a wealth of exciting attractions and activities that will keep you busy throughout your stay. From its stunning Gothic cathedral to its buzzing nightlife scene, there’s something here for everyone.

Plus, with beautiful architecture along its cobblestone streets and plenty of green parks around every corner, you won’t want to miss out on this incredible destination!Zaragoza Is Often Referred to as the Florence of Spain

As far as sights go, don’t forget to check out La Seo Cathedral, a breathtakingly beautiful example of Spanish Gothic architecture. Also, make sure to stop by the Plaza del Pilar for amazing views over the entire cityscape.

Zaragoza also offers great opportunities for shopping, dining, and sightseeing. With numerous markets scattered throughout the city center, it’s easy to find unique souvenirs or handmade goods from local artisans. And when hunger strikes, be sure to try some traditional dishes like paella or tapas at one of the many restaurants in town.

No matter what type of traveler you are, you’re sure to have an unforgettable experience if you visit Zaragoza!

7) Cádiz – The Silver Cup of the Atlantic

Cádiz is a coastal city located in the southernmost part of Spain. With its rich history and charming atmosphere, it’s no wonder why this underrated destination is becoming an increasingly popular holiday spot for travelers looking to explore something new.

From ancient Roman ruins to stunning views of the Mediterranean Sea, Cádiz has plenty to offer those seeking culture and adventure.Cádiz - The Silver Cup of the Atlantic Is One of the Most Underrated Cities in Spain

The old town district of Cádiz is one of its most beautiful attractions. Here you can stroll through cobblestone streets lined with colorful homes and restaurants offering delicious tapas dishes like jamón serrano (cured ham) or gambas al ajillo (garlic shrimp).

In addition, the cathedral provides magnificent views from atop its bell tower, along with some interesting historical facts about the area. For beachgoers, several beaches near Cádiz make for great sunbathing spots as well as opportunities for water sports such as kayaking or sailing.

Whether you’re looking for relaxation or exploration, you won’t be disappointed by all that Cádiz has to offer – making it an ideal vacation spot in Spain!

8) Segovia – The City of the Aqueduct and Castle

Segovia is one of Spain’s most underrated cities. Nestled in the Castilian countryside, this small city exudes a timeless charm that will have you forgetting about your worries and soaking up the moment. From its ancient Roman aqueduct to its charming cobblestone streets, Segovia is a hidden gem with plenty to offer.

The highlight of any visit here has to be the Alcazar – an imposing castle built by Alfonso VIII during the 12th century. The building stands as an impressive reminder of Segovia’s rich history and provides some spectacular views over the surrounding area.Segovia Is a Spanish City With a Beautiful Roman Aqueduct, a Stunning Castle, and a Rich History

Don’t miss out on exploring the old Jewish quarter or taking a stroll around Plaza Mayor either! You can also take advantage of some fantastic food options in Segovia – from traditional tapas bars to high-end restaurants serving up delicious local dishes like cochinillo (roast suckling pig) or cordero lechal (lamb).

Whether you’re looking for a romantic getaway or simply wish to explore another corner of Spain, Segovia should make it onto your travel list!

9) San Sebastián – The Pearl of the Cantabrian Sea

San Sebastián, located on the north coast of Spain, is a stunning seaside city known for its stunning beaches, delicious cuisine, and charming old town. It is often called “The Pearl of the Cantabrian Sea” due to its picturesque location between the mountains and the sea.

San Sebastián is home to three of the most beautiful beaches in Europe – Playa de la Concha, Playa de Ondarreta, and Playa de la Zurriola. Each of these beaches has its unique atmosphere and attracts both locals and visitors alike.San Sebastián Is the Pearl of the Cantabrian Sea

The city’s old town, Parte Vieja, is a charming labyrinth of narrow streets and historic buildings, filled with pintxos bars, traditional shops, and local markets. It is the perfect place to wander and explore the city’s unique Basque culture and history.

In addition to its stunning beaches and beautiful old town, San Sebastián is also renowned for its culinary scene, with more Michelin-starred restaurants per capita than anywhere else in the world. From the traditional pintxos bars in the old town to the innovative fine dining restaurants, the city offers a wide range of culinary delights that are sure to please any foodie.

San Sebastián truly is a must-visit destination for anyone who loves discovering hidden gems off the beaten path!

10) Avila – The City of Saints and Stones

Leaving San Sebastián behind, we move on to Avila, a city located in the heart of Spain that is often overlooked by tourists. Nestled amongst rolling hills and pristine mountain ranges, this charming destination offers more than meets the eye.

From beautiful architecture dating back to medieval times to stunning landscapes and breathtaking views, Avila has something for everyone – it’s even home to one of Europe’s oldest walls!

Avila boasts some incredible sights such as its 12th-century wall which completely encircles the old town. The wall was built as a defense against invading forces but today can be visited at any time of day or night with spectacular lighting illuminating it during darkness. There are also plenty of historic churches, monuments, and other attractions within the walled city center worth exploring.Avila - The City of Saints and Stones Is One of the Most Underrated Cities in Spain

And if you’d prefer activities outdoors rather than admiring ancient structures then you’re in luck too: the nearby Sierra de Gredos mountains offer hiking trails through forests and meadows, while Lake San Pedro provides opportunities for swimming and kayaking.

Plus, there’s excellent wine tasting in many local wineries near Avila where you can sample some delicious regional varieties. So whether you want culture or adventure (or both!), this underrated Spanish gem will not disappoint – come explore Avila!

11) Tarragona – The Roman City by the Sea

Tarragona is a beautiful city located on the northeast coast of Spain. It’s a city with a rich history, stunning architecture, and picturesque views of the Mediterranean Sea. Known as the “Roman City by the Sea,” Tarragona was once a thriving Roman port city and was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2000.

One of the most impressive Roman monuments in Tarragona is the Amphitheatre, which is situated right next to the sea. It’s one of the most well-preserved amphitheaters in the world, and visitors can observe the original seating and subterranean chambers that were once used to house gladiators and animals.Tarragona Is the Roman City by the Sea

Another must-visit Roman site in Tarragona is the ancient Roman aqueduct, which was built in the 1st century AD and still stands as a remarkable demonstration of Roman engineering.

But Tarragona is not just known for its rich history and beautiful architecture. The city’s location on the coast also makes it a great destination for beach lovers as it is home to several beautiful beaches, including the popular Playa del Miracle, which is located just a short walk from the city center.

Whether you’re a history buff, a beach lover, or simply looking for a beautiful place to explore, Tarragona is worth a visit.

12) Santander – The Elegant City of the North

Santander is one of Spain’s most underrated cities, but it shouldn’t be. Situated on the spectacular northern coast, this city has plenty to offer. With its picturesque beaches, historic architecture, and vibrant cultural scene, Santander is an underrated gem that should not be missed.

One of the highlights of Santander is its stunning beaches. From the golden sand and crystal-clear waters of the Playa del Sardinero to the beautiful Playa de la Magdalena and Playa de Bikinis on the Magdalena Peninsula, Santander is the perfect place to relax and bask in the sun.Santander - The Elegant City of the North Is One of the Most Underrated Cities in Spain

Santander is also a great place to explore the local culture, with many festivals and events taking place throughout the year. The most popular ones are the International Music Festival and the International Film Festival, both of which welcome artists from around the world.

And for those who prefer a peaceful getaway, Santander provides plenty of opportunities to escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life. The Parque Natural de las Dunas de Liencres is a protected nature reserve that offers hiking trails, scenic overlooks, and a wide variety of flora and fauna. The city is also situated near the Picos de Europa mountains, which offer even more opportunities for outdoor adventure.

13) Huelva – The City of Discovery

Nestled in the southwestern region of Andalusia lies the beautiful city of Huelva. Despite being one of the oldest cities in Spain, it often gets overlooked by travelers in favor of larger, more well-known cities in the area. Nevertheless, this charming city should not be missed.

The historic city center has plenty to offer: cobbled streets lined with colorful buildings; street art everywhere you look; and numerous restaurants serving up delicious local dishes such as Tapas and Paella.

Take a step back in time at the Monastery of La Rábida, a Franciscan monastery where Christopher Columbus sought refuge before he voyaged to the Americas. This breathtaking historical site has been preserved and converted into a museum, giving visitors an insight into Columbus’s journey.Huelva in Spain Is Known for Beautiful Beaches, Stunning Architecture, and a Rich Maritime History

Huelva is also home to plenty of natural beauty. The city lies on the banks of the Odiel River, which flows into the Atlantic Ocean, while the marshlands and wetlands surrounding the river are home to a variety of wildlife, including flamingos, herons, and ibises.

If you’re looking for a spot to relax in the sun, Playa de la Bota and Playa del Espigón are some of the top beaches nearby.

But the best thing about this hidden gem? It packs all the beauty of Spain without being overrun by tourists! So if you’re looking for a unique experience that will leave you feeling truly free, then Huelva should be at the top of your list.

14) Mérida – The City of Roman Ruins

Located in the province of Extremadura, this charming city is known for its beautiful Roman ruins that come alive with cultural events throughout the year. Although it may not be on most travelers’ radars, those who take the time to visit will find many hidden gems tucked away in this quaint corner of Spain.

What makes Mérida so special? Well, first off, it has an abundance of historical sites and monuments from antiquity. Take a stroll through town and you’ll quickly discover ancient walls lining cobblestone streets, as well as impressive aqueducts built during Roman times.

The Roman Theater is a must-see in Mérida, built in 15 BC and originally used for theatrical performances. Today, it is still used for cultural events and stage shows. Close by is the Amphitheater, one of the largest in Spain and another reminder of the city’s Roman roots.Mérida - The City of Roman Ruins Is One of the Most Underrated Cities in Spain

The National Museum of Roman Art serves as an educational resource for visitors, providing insight into the region’s history and culture. On display are various Roman mosaics, sculptures, and artifacts as well as guided tours. Additionally, other significant historical sites such as the Aqueduct of Los Milagros, the Temple of Diana, and the Alcazaba Fortress can be found in Mérida.

The city is also renowned for its lively cultural scene. Throughout the year, it plays host to several festivals such as the International Classical Theater Festival and the Emerita Lúdica Festival which showcase the best of traditional and contemporary art.

Whether you’re looking for some rest or want to get lost in history, Mérida won’t disappoint!

15) Alcalá De Henares – The City of Cervantes

Alcalá de Henares is an enchanting, historic city located a mere 35 kilometers (22 miles) northeast of Madrid. It is the birthplace of the illustrious Spanish author, Miguel de Cervantes, and its cobblestoned streets and monuments are a reminder of its deep-rooted culture and history.

The historic center of Alcalá de Henares is one of its main attractions, having been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Visitors can explore the picturesque streets lined with vibrantly hued buildings, and discover remarkable architectural wonders such as the Cervantes Birthplace Museum.Alcalá de Henares Combines Beautiful Architecture and Rich History

The world-renowned University of Alcalá is another must-visit. Founded in 1499, it is one of the oldest universities in Europe, and boasts a rich past, with notable alumni such as Cardinal Cisneros and Francisco de Quevedo. Guided tours of the university allow visitors to gain insight into its history and architecture.

When it comes to food, Alcalá de Henares is worth visiting, too. From traditional Spanish tapas to delicious local dishes such as migas con sardinas (breadcrumbs with sardines) or revuelto de alcachofas y gulas (artichokes and baby eels), this city offers plenty of culinary delights.


When it comes to beautiful Spanish cities, the list is truly endless. In this blog post though, I focused on those cities which are still under the radar and offer a truly unique and authentic travel experience in Spain.

From the ancient architecture of Salamanca and Córdoba to the modern beauty of Girona and Burgos, these underrated cities in Spain have so much to offer.

Even if only for a day or two, you should make sure to pick one or more of these hidden gems and visit them on your next trip to Spain as they each provide unique experiences that will stay with you long after your trip has ended.

And if you would like to find more underrated places around the world, feel free to check my other blog posts. There you can find the most underrated cities in Italy, Germany, the Balkans, the United States, and many more countries!

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Renata -www.byemyself.com
1 year ago

Obviously, I haven’t been to all the cities you are listing here, however, I visited some of them. And those that I know are definitely underrated. Actually, Cordoba was probably the most beautiful city I visited on my trip to Andalusia. However, Cadiz is maybe my favorite city in all of Spain – this mix of a beautiful old town and those endless beaches – totally one of a kind!

1 year ago

What a beautiful post Chris! I love visiting Spain and have seen a few of these like Cordoba and Toledo. I’d most like to see Zaragoza, it looks so wonderful. I’ve been to Merida in Mexico but it would be good to see the Spanish version!

1 year ago

Great post. I would love to visit so many of those cities. We have been to Tarragona. We had a look at some of the Roman ruins. It was very impressive and gorgeous.

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