Spain, which for a couple of years now has been over the 80 million international tourists per year barrier, is the second most visited country in the world, being only surpassed by the United States.
It’s not really a surprise to me. Our country has almost everything a traveller could demand from a destination: good weather, beautiful landscapes, beaches, mountains, a diverse, healthy, tasty and practically unbeatable gastronomy, inhabitants with a desire to have fun and live, important monuments, great partying and nightlife… And so it could go on for a while.
All these foreign tourists are distributed in the most diverse way throughout the Spanish geography, although the great bulk is concentrated in the autonomous communities of the Balearic Islands, Valencia, the Canary Islands, Catalonia, Andalusia and Madrid.
As for the cities, these are the Spanish cities that receive the most foreign tourists (according to the statistical data collected by the INE during the year 2018):
1. Barcelona, 6.55 million
Despite the political problems it has presented in recent years, Barcelona continues to be the most visited city by foreign tourists in Spain.
Gaudí’s architecture, with the Sagrada Familia at its head, continues to be one of the main attractions of a city that looks at the Mediterranean with the same loving eyes with which it admires the mountain of Montserrat. With that combination of beach and mountain and a cultural and leisure scene that fights for the first Spanish position with Madrid, Barcelona is a tourist destination that sells itself abroad.
It also serves as a base for exploring other attractive places in Catalonia, such as Girona, Cadaqués, Tarragona, Sitges, Salou or the many natural sites in the Catalan Pyrenees.
2. Madrid, 5.2 million
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The old Madrid never fails. I have visited it on countless occasions and I always get a great taste of a city that really has a soul, far removed, in my opinion, from the desire to appear modern and snobbish that Barcelona does have.
Madrid is chaste and quarrelsome, chulesque and monumental. Hapsburg Madrid attracts art lovers and, just a few minutes’ walk away, the La Latina district has theatres, bars, restaurants and many other leisure options that are well appreciated by foreign tourists.
3. Palma de Mallorca, 1.99 million
The Cathedral – or Seo – of Palma de Mallorca is a unique Gothic jewel, not only for its architectural beauty, but for being the only European representative of its style that is so close to the sea. The cathedral is the queen of Palma, but very close to it are its pages, the Almudaina palace and the Lonja, which is older than the Lonja in Valencia and served as a model.
The marina, the circular Bellver Castle – from which you can enjoy the best views of Palma -, the beautiful old town, the great gastronomic scene and the proximity to the beaches are other irresistible attractions of one of the most visited cities in Spain by foreign tourists.
4. Seville, 1.53 million
The Seville salt shaker attracts both in Spain and abroad. Tourists – not only European but also American – consider Seville as a faithful representative of Spanish culture and character.
There are many who come to admire, and try to understand, Seville’s Holy Week. Even more are those who arrive attracted by the lanterns, the rebujito, the dances and the April Fair party.
However, Seville is a city that doesn’t need to be at parties to be striking. The Giralda, the Torre del Oro, the Guadalquivir and the Plaza de España are just some examples of a beautiful Seville 365 days a year.
5. Calviá, 1.36 million
In the west of the island of Mallorca, the municipality of Calviá receives almost one and a half million foreign tourists every year. The main reason for this is its more than 30 beaches and coves of first quality that are scattered along its 54 kilometers of coastline bathed by the clear waters of the Mediterranean.
Sheltered by the Tramontana mountain range, Calviá has a diverse landscape that not only includes the beach. The most visited and frequented urban areas are Magalluf, Calviá and the Palma Nova tourist complex.
6. San Bartolomé de Tirajana, 1.36 million
The Canarian municipality of San Bartolomé de Tirajana, located in the southern part of the island of Gran Canaria, is one of the most visited places in Spain by foreigners.
In this case, however, it cannot be denied that much of the blame for their fame outside our borders lies with the beaches and the sun. The famous Playa del Inglés, together with the spectacular ecosystem of the Maspalomas Dunes, is located in this municipality of the Canary Islands.
When they get tired of lying in the sun on the golden sands of Maspalomas and Meloneras, the “guiris” come to see the famous Roque Nublo or they look around the Canarian house or the church in the town centre of San Bartolomé.
7. Adeje, 1.21 million
The foreign tourism that arrives every year to the Tenerife municipality of Adeje is usually of a high level, since Adeje is the place in Europe with the highest density of 5-star hotels. There’s that.
The beaches of this area are the main magnet of an island that has many other attractions, such as the Teide, the paths that cross the ancient forests of the Anaga massif, the Arico ravine or the cliffs of Los Gigantes.
And all this without counting on the tasty Canarian gastronomy. With all these attributes it is normal to be among the most visited places in Spain by foreign tourists.
8. Benidorm, 1.05 million
Benidorm, despite the fame it may have for national tourists, is one of Spain’s favourite cities for foreign tourists. With a kind of microclimate that ensures more than 300 days of sunshine a year, cheap beer and year-round leisure (not only in the city itself, but also supported by theme parks located a short distance away), Benidorm is the dream destination of a good number of tourists from Northern Europe, with the British, Germans and Scandinavians taking the lead.
9. Grenada, 1 million
“Granada, my dream land”, says the famous song about this city that dazzles in such a way that it has become one of the most visited cities by foreign tourists travelling to Spain.
Granada offers a perfect combination of leisure, culture and landscape. In the winter, it is located next to the ski slopes of the Sierra Nevada mountains. In summer, the beaches of Almuñecar are less than 90 kilometres away.
And the rest of the year, the magnificent Alhambra awaits you with its open patios, as well as hiking and other even more appealing routes: the beer and tapas routes.
10. Valencia, 0.99 million
The capital of the Turia closes the list of the most visited cities in Spain by foreign tourists. Valencia has been modernized and beautified over the last few years and today it is a beautiful city, well cared for and very pleasant for tourists in general. He has been opening up more and more to the sea, which he seemed to have turned his back on. The Malvarrosa beach promenade is packed with people every weekend. Restaurants and beach bars fill up every time the sun rises, even in winter.
The Barrio del Carmen presents a bohemian face to international travelers and the Cathedral, the Lonja and the Plaza del Ayuntamiento, another more traditional but no less attractive.
The City of Arts and Sciences, the Oceanographic Park and the Bioparc are a perfect complement to the great leisure and cultural offer that Valencia has to offer its visitors.
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