Best unknown Spanish city breaks

Monday, 16 January 2012 4:10 PM

Spain doesn’t always have to be about summer breaks to the coast, the beaches and the nightlife, or the famous city breaks to Barcelona and Madrid. In fact Spain is one of the best countries in Europe for short cultural city breaks and there are many small undiscovered Spanish cities to explore. From the historical, to the cultural, to those full of architectural beauty and charm, these cities have it all.

Murcia - Murcia lies in the province of the same name, in the southwest of the country. It is situated approximately 75km away from the popular resort of Alicante and is home to around 300,000 inhabitants. Murcia is a proud city full of elegant architecture, pretty plazas and wide pedestrianised shopping streets. The traditional Spanish custom of ‘el paseo’ is in full swing in this city and its inhabitants love to dress up and look their best when out for their evening strolls. Besides wandering around its attractive streets and plazas and admiring the city’s impressive cathedral, Murcia has a great collection of museums on almost any subject you can think of, among the best are the Salzillo Museum, which exhibits religious artwork by the world famous wood carver - Francisco Salzillo. Others worth visiting are the Archaeological Museum, the Fine Arts Museum, the Cathedral Museum and the Museum and Aquarium of the University of Murcia.

Toledo - The town of Toledo is situated in a mountainous region 70km south of the capital, Madrid, in the autonomous community of Castila La Mancha, famed in those stories of Don Quixote and his sidekick Sancho Panza. It is even possible to visit Toledo on a day trip from the capital. The town was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1986 for its cultural and monumental heritage as one of the former capitals of the Spanish Empire and providers visitors with spectacular architectural views. Walk the city’s steep narrow cobblestone streets in search of the city’s famous treat - marzipan and marvel at its medieval architecture and secretive monasteries. The city is also home to the former home of the famous Spanish painter – El Greco.

Valladolid - Quirky, historical and surprising, the city of Valladolid is situated in Spain’s northern central region of Castilla y Leon and is approximately a two hour drive north of Madrid. The city has played an important role throughout Spanish history and served as the venue for the Spanish Court on many occasions, and it was here that King Fernando and Queen Isabel married in 1496. The city is also the former home of two of Spain’s most famous historical figures - Miguel de Cervantes, author of that famed Spanish story again – Don Quixote, and explorer Christopher Columbus. While you’re here don’t forget to visit the two house-museums dedicated to these figures. Although Valladolid isn’t near the coast, it does have a beach, on a warm day head down to the river to relax on the warm sand and in the evening visit the bar to enjoy the night beach party style.

Salamanca - Beautiful and almost regal looking, Salamanca is a university city, renowned for its striking historical university buildings, the oldest in the country and for having the largest plaza mayor in Spain. Salamanca’s Old City has also been declared a UNESCO World Heritage site. It is said that if you can spot a tiny frog hidden somewhere on the ornately carved facade of the University, it will bring you good luck and romance. Another ‘must-do’ in the city is to lie down in the middle of the Plaza to stare up at the stunning architecture around you, this is best done at night when everything is lit up and looks exceptionally romantic.

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