It’s no secret that we have a soft spot for Barcelona and Madrid. Still, we’d be lying if we said that you shouldn’t take a train to one of Spain’s smaller towns, where you can experience the incredible food, architecture, and family-run businesses tied to the land and the sea. Our top 7 Spanish communities, from Lastres to Cadaques, are full of character.
In the wake of the success of the Spanish TV series “Doctor Mateo,” a formerly peaceful fishing village in the country’s northeast is now a popular tourist destination. The old-world appeal that first attracted site scouts to Lastres remains unabated. In particular, the Sueve Mountains in the background and a cluster of red-roofed old houses (including the Hotel Palacio de Los Vallados) sliding down towards the sea. See the Jurassic Museum, which houses remains of dinosaurs that previously roamed the area, the Clock Tower, which dates back to the 15th century, and the famed fish auction at the beachside market.
This medieval mountain town’s traditional Andalusian architecture may make you think of the Greek islands. Still, the city’s Moorish core (where each plaza has a tiled plaque explaining its history) will quickly bring you back to Spain. Carretera Circunvalacion is a lively street where residents and tourists gather to buy fruit and handicrafts. The 9th-century Lizar Castle perched atop the hill provides stunning views of the surrounding countryside and sea.
This picturesque fishing community on the Costa Brava can be reached from Barcelona in a little over two hours. The fact that Picasso, Miró, and Duchamp spent time in Cadaques over the summers is likely attributable to the fact that Salvador Dali spent summers here. There is enough to see and do in the city center, and even if you’re not an art connoisseur, you may appreciate the Dali sculpture there. Take a walk down one of the town’s cobblestone streets to its picturesque beach. You’ll find several stores and seafood restaurants with outdoor seating that affords excellent views of the bay and the brightly painted boats.
Located on a hilltop above the Bay of Biscay, this fishing community is a popular destination for Spaniards in search of fresh seafood and a quiet beach. Houses in Cudillero’s pastel colors are situated in a half-moon form surrounding the bay, making it possible to see the busy activity of the pier where the fisherman bring in their catch. After cooling down in the water at Playa del Silencio, spend the remainder of the day at one of the town’s pubs with fresh fish and a traditional drink before making the short trip outside town to see the cliff views from the lighthouse at Cabo Vidio.
This gorgeous port town, possibly the nicest in Mallorca, is well worth the hour-long train voyage from Mallorca’s capital, Palma. Café-lined lanes radiate out from the central plaza toward the mountains and the sea, all dominated by the baroque-style church of Sant Bartomeu (with its vast rose window and arched tower façade). Even on the beach, you’ll be able to smell the nearby orange orchards. Long walks around the 18th-century manor home rich with antiques at the Museu del Casal de Cultura and the botanical garden on the outskirts of town call for a refreshing glass of freshly squeezed orange juice.
After suffering heavy damage during the Spanish Civil War, this remote mountain village had its red-roofed homes and cobblestone streets meticulously rebuilt to their appearance in the 11th and 12th centuries. The once-striking pink and orange village scape blends seamlessly with the stony canyon backdrop. As a result of its small population (only 1,000 people call the town home), the town’s winding streets are relatively easy to navigate. The town is home to a stunning cathedral, a castle (constructed on the castle’s original foundations), and remnants of the once-extensive curtain wall, most of which have been restored.
7. San Sebastian
You won’t find a more beautiful Spanish beach than La Concha in San Sebastián, located in the Basque Country. The local culinary scene in this city is often regarded as among the greatest in all of Europe, rivaling the city’s renowned surfing culture. The golden beaches of La Concha border one of the best area in Spain, Gros, which also happens to be home to many highly regarded dining establishments. Everywhere you go in Basque Country, from the Michelin-starred Mirador de Ulia to the more laid-back Casa Senra, you’ll discover superb cuisine made with locally sourced, seasonal ingredients and innovative twists on traditional Basque dishes. Pintxos, the Basque version of tapas, and txakoli, the regional white wine, are not to be missed.