There is More To Spain Than Just Madrid

Sofia Ciprian, CSSH'21

Hi! I'm a third year political science and communications major with a women, gender and sexuality studies minor. My combination of majors/minor calls for a lot of writing, which shows just how much I love it. This semester I am studying in Seville, Spain and hope to fully immerse myself in the culture and share all the stories online here.

When someone mentions Spain the first thing that comes to mind is probably Madrid or Barcelona, which makes sense since they are major cities that people love to travel to. I had never even heard of Sevilla prior to applying to my program! That being said, being able to study in Andalusia, the southern region of Spain, has given me a chance to learn so much about Spain outside of just Madrid and Barcelona. Spaniards have an immense amount of pride for their country and the distinct beauty that each area has (as they should), which means that I have been getting lots of recommendations on different Spanish cities to visit during my time here. There are still so many more that I want to see, but the ones that I have visited so far have never disappointed.


Let’s start with my favorite city that I have visited so far: Granada.


There is something to be said about a view that leaves me completely speechless. There are countless beautiful views that I have seen in Spain so far, but there is just something special about Granada. Everywhere I looked I was just taken aback by what I was looking at. Granada is known for the Alhambra, an Islamic palace constructed in 889 AD. The palace is surrounded by mountains and tons of greenery and simply looks like something out of a movie. Granada itself has a very small “pueblo” feel to it; Cobblestone roads and winding uphill paths that you have to trek up to if you want to get the best views of the Alhambra. There is also an area of the city called Sacromonte, where the houses are made inside of caves. It is a beautiful area to walk through and some restaurants and bars are inside of caves as well so you can take a look inside of the caves. The beauty in this city feels surreal, to the point where you have to sit down and just take it all in for a while. There is just something so peaceful about being surrounded by this much beauty that nothing can compare to.


Next, San Sebastian.


As you will begin to notice, I’m a sucker for a good view. The view in San Sebastian is up there as one of my favorites. This city is right on the water so you have a view of this beautiful ocean scene with mountains in the background. This city truly has it all, you can take in views, go swimming, hike, and most importantly eat. San Sebastian is known for having amazing food, so I made sure to try as much of it as I could during my day there. San Sebastian is well known for its cider, txakoli (a type of white wine), and txuleton (type of steak), among many other things. Whether those sound like something you would enjoy or not, I think it’s super fun to just try them and see what the food and drink of that region is like. I also highly recommend taking the funicular up to this stunning viewpoint where you can see all of the city. There is also an amusement park at the top that you can take advantage of while you’re up there. The views will make you feel like you are simply on another planet because they are unlike anything else I have ever seen.


And only a short bus ride away from San Sebastian is Bilbao.


This city is beautiful and modern and somewhat different from what I was used to in Sevilla. Bilbao is in northern Spain and is home to one of the Guggenheim museums. The Guggenheim looks like a big UFO or spaceship that dropped right in the middle of this Spanish city, which makes me love it even more! The city is located around the Nervión river, which means lots of bridges and beautiful views of the mountainous landscape. One thing that Bilbao had that stood out to me was parks and just lots of grass! This may sound strange as something that stood out to me, but Sevilla is very big on plazas, which means minimal grass. So, to be able to just walk around and spend time in a big park with benches and classic Spanish arches and walkways was something I was happy to take part in. Another super special part about Bilbao is that the Camino de Santiago trail runs through this city. As you walk along the street in certain parts, you can see the marker guiding travelers along their pilgrimage across Spain.


Another one of my favorites: Cádiz.


Cádiz was one of the first cities I traveled to after arriving to Spain. It is located on the southern coast of Spain and is a perfect place for a beach day. The reason I love Cádiz so much is because it resembles Havana, Cuba, specifically this esplanade in Cuba called El Malecón. As a daughter of a Cuban father, I am a sucker for anything that resembles the beautiful island that is Cuba. The whole city basically extends along the coast to create a beautiful view to take in as you lay on the beach. Cádiz is only an hour drive from Sevilla, but the two cities have such different atmospheres which goes to show why traveling outside of your host city is so important! I loved being able to travel somewhere so close to home and feel transported to a completely new environment.


Lastly, Ronda.


Ronda is the perfect day trip for someone who loves to hike. As with most places in Spain, Ronda is all about the views! Ronda is a mountaintop city, which means exactly what you think it means. The city is located on the top of mountains and large rocks, so instead of looking up at the views, you look down to see the rocks and cliffs beneath you. It is so different from any other city I have been to. The city is known for this gorge called El Tajo, which is a bridge connecting two big rock structures within the city. El Tajo separates the old city from the new city.