TODAY Spain is the fourth most visited country in the world, following on from France, United States and China.
More than 52.7 million visitors a year choose to visit Spain and sample some of the delights this country has to offer.
Spanish-born ANDREU ROCA looks at some of his personal favourite highlights.
TOURISTS like Spain for many reasons.
Not only to people flock to Spain because of the great warm weather and the beaches, but this wonderful and varied country also has picturesque mountains, superb food and a range of first class sports to enjoy.
And on top of that, it has many amazing places to visit.
Here are just a few of my personal highlights.
Barcelona is the perfect city for everyone. Its modernist architecture attracts families and couples while young people come because of the weather, beach and parties.
It’s the most visited place in Spain and good transport links make it an easy city to explore.
Whether you want to shop, eat some local food and drink such as fuet, cava, calçots or tapas, or try out the nightclubs near the beach, there is plenty to choose from.
Popular places to visit include Parc Guell, Sagrada Familia, La Pedrera o la Casa Batlló although these are always crowded.
This city also has a strong gay scene.
Madrid is Spain’s second most popular city for attracting tourists. It is the capital of Spain and is a city very important for business.
Is not as beautiful as Barcelona but has many museums you must visit like Prado’s Museum or el Centro de Arte Reina Sofía.
Madrid is also a fun city with many parks such as Retiro’s Park, Prado’s Park or Gran Vía, which is very popular for theatre, cinemas and music events.
La Puerta del Sol is a very popular place to celebrate New Year’s Eve.
If you travel to the south of Spain you can’t miss out Sevilla, the capital of Andalucía.
It is one of the most beautiful and hottest cities of Spain.
Take the time to take a walk along the city’s narrow streets or visit the Santa Cruz neighbourhood by horse.
The locals are friendly and take the time to listen to their traditional Flamenco music at one of the many shows in the city.
As they say in a famous song, Sevilla has a special colour that no other city has.
Granada is also located in the south of Spain. This city is every year visited by thousands of tourists, many who come to see the world famous La Alhambra.
One of the best things you can do in this city is going in the morning to Sierra Nevada, where you can practise your ski-ing before spending the afternoon on Motril’s beach.
Granada is a very good city for students and young people that just want to have some fun.
There are cheap visits for tourists organized by the town hall.
Everybody knows Ibiza – the magical island that has both the best beaches and the best nightclubs in the world.
Rich people, students, families and couples all come together on this Spanish island.
Ibiza became famous as every summer the best Dj’s and artists play at clubs such as Privilege, Amnesia or Space, which brings in people from around the world.
During the day, you can enjoy the island’s beautiful beaches – it is very common to find important football players, singers or actors relaxing in these beaches.
Ibiza is part of the Balear’s Islands and you can also visit Mallorca, Menorca and Formentera, three beautiful places with the perfect weather.
If you like party, you must book a room in Platja D’en Bossa, in the center of the best parties.
Toledo is one of the closest cities to Madrid and often called the Imperial city.
Toledo is also called the city of the three cultures because of having being inhabited for centuries by Christians, Jews and Muslims.
Many Spanish people visit Toledo, because it is very popular for the Greco’s monuments and paintings.
If you like history, you should visit this special place.
You can visit this city in just one day.
Bilbao is situated in the Basque Country, in the North of Spain. It is an industrial city, but very attractive because of its contemporary architecture.
The Guggenheim Museum has completely transformed the vision of the city and is the place most visited by tourists.
There are also other monuments and places to visit like Museo de las Bellas Artes, the Archaeological museum or a popular celebration called El Chupinazo.
Near Bilbao you can also visit Pamplona, famous for “San Fermín”, a typical Spanish celebration with bullfighting and partying during one week in July.
Valencia is Spain’s third most populated city after Madrid and Barcelona.
Is an interesting city, very popular because of the Arts and Science and attracts tourists every year.
Valencia has hot weather with beautiful beaches to cool off on and there are lots of activities for young people.
They celebrate local parties like the Fallas and they have very typical Spanish and Mediterranean food like paella and shellfish.
There is a big park called Gulliver’s park, which is very nice and fun for kids.
9) Santiago de Compostela
The capital of Galicia has been the most important pilgrimage city in Europe since the Middle Ages.
Santiago might not always have great weather, but it’s a great tourist place for families, religious people and sporty people alike. Many people ride along Camino de Santiago (Santiago’s main road) by bicycle.
In this city you can find beautiful churches and cathedrals, which are visited by thousands of pilgrims every year.
You can also travel to A Coruña, Pontevedra or Luego, very close to Santiago de Compostela.
You can find cheap hostels near the centre.
10) Canary Islands
The Canary Islands are one of the best places to visit to just relax and switch off from the routine of life.
You can go any month of the year because the islands are so close to Africa, they enjoy good weather and temperatures all year round.
There are seven different islands you can visit though Lanzarote, Tenerife and Gran Canaria are the most popular.
Worth a visit are the popular volcanoes found here, such as el Teide, in Tenerife.
Carnival is the best time to travel to the Canary Islands.
All in all, Spain is a beautiful country with plenty of interesting places to visit.
By using this guide, you can choose to travel to what I think are some of its best destinations and learn a little bit about them.
If you plan to travel around Spain in summer, I recommend you start by visiting Barcelona and then continue to the South, calling in at Valencia, Córdoba and Sevilla.
If you prefer to come in winter, I would suggest starting in the north, visiting Santiago, Bilbao and Madrid.
And the best time to book cheap flights and hostels is seven weeks before coming.