Great places to visit in Spain over the winter
Spain can be unbearably hot in summer, but it is easy to summon the energy to go out and explore this diverse and fascinating country when the temperatures are a bit cooler.
Sunny, crisp days make Barcelona an enticing destination in winter, as there is so much to see. The Catalan city benefits from being compact, as most of the sights for tourists are concentrated in the middle and many can be reached on foot. Las Ramblas, the most famous thoroughfare, runs from La Placa de Catalunya down to the old port and is filled with cafes, hotels, amusements and all kinds of fascinating people to watch. On one side you have the Gothic Quarter, the centre of the old city, with its many bars, museums and atmospheric sites such as the gothic cathedral. On the other side is El Ravel, an area with a bit of an edge that is known for cabarets and nightlife. One of Barcelona's most famous residents was the architect Antoni Gaudi, who was responsible for many fine buildings that can be found in Eixample, near the northern end of Las Ramblas. Those keen on architecture could visit Gaudi's unfinished masterpiece, La Sagrada Familia, or spend some time relaxing in Parc Guell. There are many restaurants, which are open late for the lively residents.
Almost unbearably hot in summer, this southern city in Spain is a lot more fun to explore when it is cooler. The capital of Andalusia, it is a compelling blend of traditional Spanish culture, such as flamenco - for which the city is famous - and Moorish influences. The legacy of the Moors can be found at the impressive Alcázar castle compound and being able to relax in a hammam afterwards. The Moors also built city walls and gates and remains of these can be seen today, including three gates and three towers. There is also the Royal Tobacco Factory, one of Spain's largest buildings to visit, along with La Giralda, which was the tallest building in town for 800 years. Constructed in 1195 as a minaret for a mosque, it is now the bell tower for the Catedral de Sevilla and is listed as a world heritage site by UNESCO. In addition to all this, there are many cafes and restaurants with a vibrant tapas culture, and flamenco dancing in the Triana district. The city's old town is the third largest in Europe and contains its three UNESCO sites. For a great day trip, visit the small town of Carmona, which is only 33km away and has baroque palaces, medieval buildings and an amphitheatre.
With pleasant weather during the European winter, it is even possible to swim in the sea. Located off the coast of north-western Africa, the islands are still part of Spain but barely in Europe - at least geographically. Tenerife is the largest of the Canaries, and one of its great landmarks is the dormant and occasionally snow-topped volcano of Mt Teide, which is part of the Teide National Park and Spain's tallest mountain. The island features many beaches and resorts, with plenty of restaurants and nightlife. Lanzarote is known for its good weather, with plenty of beaches, snorkelling in its clear waters, and cliffs for hang gliding. Gran Canaria is loved for its white sand and black lava beaches. Las Palmas, Gran Canaria's northern capital, is a popular destination for cruise ships and offers a wide range of shopping. Its rural interior features plenty of mountainous terrain and the island also offers golf courses, prehistoric caves and a huge selection of resorts and restaurants.