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Expat Exchange - Best Places to See While on a Look-See Trip to Spain (Plus, Itineraries) 2024
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Valencia, Spain

Best Places to See While on a Look-See Trip to Spain (Plus, Itineraries)

By Joshua Wood, LPC


Summary: If you're considering moving to Spain and don't have a favorite city or town picked out, going on a look-see or exploratory trip to visit a number of popular expat destinations is really informative. Here are some recommendations for where to visit when exploring Spain.

Embarking on a Look-See trip to Spain is an invaluable step for anyone considering a move to this vibrant country. Such a trip allows potential expats to explore various cities and towns, get a feel for the local culture, and assess the practicalities of daily life. From the cost of living to the social scene, a reconnaissance trip can provide insights that are crucial for making an informed decision about where to settle down. It's an opportunity to envision your life in different Spanish locales, whether you're a retiree seeking a tranquil seaside town or a digital nomad in search of a bustling urban hub.

Recommended Itineraries

For a 10-day trip, consider starting in Madrid, the capital, for a taste of Spain's cosmopolitan life. Then, head to the historic cities of Toledo and Segovia. Next, explore the southern charm of Seville and Granada in Andalusia. If time allows, visit Valencia on the east coast. For a 20-day trip, extend your journey to include Barcelona and the surrounding Catalan towns of Girona and Sitges. Then, travel to the northern regions of Spain, such as the Basque Country, visiting Bilbao and San Sebastián, followed by a trip to the Galician cities of Santiago de Compostela and A Coruña. These itineraries offer a mix of urban and rural experiences, catering to a variety of lifestyles and preferences.


Madrid, with a population of over 3 million, is the heart of Spain and offers a dynamic urban environment. It's known for its rich cultural scene, extensive dining options, and vibrant nightlife. Expats and digital nomads are drawn to Madrid for its diverse neighborhoods, excellent public transportation, and the presence of numerous international companies. The cost of living is higher than in smaller towns, but the city provides ample opportunities for work and leisure.

Travel Tip: While in Madrid, don't miss the chance to visit the Prado Museum, one of the world's premier art galleries, and enjoy traditional Spanish cuisine at the historic Sobrino de Botín, known as the oldest restaurant in the world.


Toledo is a historic city just south of Madrid, known for its medieval architecture and rich history as a melting pot of Christian, Muslim, and Jewish cultures. With a population of around 84,000, it offers a slower pace of life compared to Madrid, while still providing a culturally rich experience. Expats appreciate the lower cost of living and the proximity to Madrid for occasional city outings.

Travel Tip: Be sure to visit the Toledo Cathedral, a masterpiece of Gothic architecture, and try the local specialty, marzipan, at Santo Tomé, a confectionery with a long-standing tradition.


Seville, the capital of Andalusia, is famed for its historical landmarks, flamenco culture, and warm climate. With a population of about 700,000, it strikes a balance between a manageable size and the amenities of a larger city. Expats and retirees enjoy the laid-back lifestyle, affordable living costs, and the city's rich cultural tapestry. Digital nomads often gravitate towards the city for its co-working spaces and vibrant expat community.

Travel Tip: Don't leave Seville without visiting the Alcázar, a royal palace with stunning gardens, and dining at Espacio Eslava, a local favorite known for its innovative tapas.


Valencia, on Spain's eastern coast, offers a unique blend of city life with the relaxation of a beach town. It has a population of around 800,000 and is popular for its futuristic City of Arts and Sciences, thriving food scene, and the annual Fallas festival. The cost of living is lower than in Madrid and Barcelona, making it an attractive option for expats and digital nomads seeking a coastal lifestyle without sacrificing urban conveniences.

Travel Tip: Explore the Turia Gardens, a lush park built in a former riverbed, and savor authentic paella at La Pepica, a beachfront restaurant with a history dating back to 1898.


Barcelona, the capital of Catalonia, is known for its unique architecture, cosmopolitan atmosphere, and Mediterranean beaches. With a population of over 1.6 million, it's a hub for international business, tech startups, and creative industries. Expats and digital nomads are attracted to its cultural diversity, vibrant arts scene, and relatively high but manageable cost of living. The city's neighborhoods offer a range of lifestyles, from the historic Gothic Quarter to the trendy El Born.

Travel Tip: Visit the iconic Sagrada Família, Antoni Gaudí's unfinished masterpiece, and enjoy tapas at Cervecería Catalana, a local institution known for its wide selection of dishes.

San Sebastián

San Sebastián, in the Basque Country, is renowned for its culinary scene, beautiful beaches, and cultural festivals. With a population of around 186,000, it's a smaller city that offers a high quality of life, with a cost of living that reflects its desirability. It's particularly appealing to foodies and those seeking a balance between city amenities and natural beauty.

Travel Tip: Indulge in pintxos (Basque tapas) at Bar Nestor, known for its tortilla de patatas and txuleta (steak), and take a stroll along La Concha Beach, one of the most famous urban beaches in Europe.

Santiago de Compostela

Santiago de Compostela, the capital of Galicia, is famous as the culmination of the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route. It has a population of about 96,000 and offers a mystical, historical atmosphere with a relatively low cost of living. Expats and retirees are drawn to its slower pace, temperate climate, and the sense of community among locals and international residents.

Travel Tip: Visit the Santiago de Compostela Cathedral, a stunning example of Romanesque architecture, and enjoy Galician specialties at Casa Marcelo, a Michelin-starred restaurant that blends tradition with innovation.

About the Author

Joshua Wood Joshua Wood, LPC joined Expat Exchange in 2000 and serves as one of its Co-Presidents. He is also one of the Founders of Digital Nomad Exchange. Prior to Expat Exchange, Joshua worked for NBC Cable (MSNBC and CNBC Primetime). Joshua has a BA from Syracuse and a Master's in Clinical and Counseling Psychology from Fairleigh Dickinson University. Mr. Wood is also a licensed counselor and psychotherapist.

Some of Joshua's articles include Pros and Cons of Living in Portugal, 10 Best Places to Live in Ireland and Pros and Cons of Living in Uruguay. Connect with Joshua on LinkedIn.



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