Off the Beaten Path in Spain – 9 Places to Avoid the Crowds

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Spain has attracted tourists for many years. Gaudi’s architecture, flamenco, and the Mediterranean compel people from all around the world to come and experience it.

However, the places that you can see in an average travel article are way overcrowded. If you want to see Spain as locals see it, here are 9 places to go off the beaten path in Spain.

Market in Madrid

Mercado de la Paz, Madrid

You can find Mercado de San Miguel in most sources that cover Madrid. However, it’s way too overhyped to enjoy the visit. This especially becomes problematic if you want to drop by on Sunday.

Try going to Mercado de la Paz instead. These are both old markets, but this one was founded way earlier than Mercado de San Miguel, way back in 1882

Despite its antique exterior, this market is very modern on the inside. It’s a place where you can get yourself a traditional meal or buy fresh ingredients to prepare it at home while browsing the recipe with the free Wi-fi.

It is popular among locals but doesn’t have a crowd. Check it out if you want a bite of something Spanish.

picasso museum

Picasso Museum and Hospital de Sant Pau, Barcelona

Everybody knows the best sights of Barcelona like La Sagrada de Familia, but that’s not all there is about Barcelona.  When you’re done with the cathedral, pay a visit to the Picasso Museum and Hospital de Sant Pau. A UNESCO site, this complex shows a great deal of modernism architecture and some early works of Picasso.

It’s built with grandeur, and you can feel the history while you’re strolling alongside the buildings. This may not be the best place to visit on the weekend, but on the rest of the week, it’s not that crowded.

Biblioteca UNED, Madrid

Are you a student who’s out exploring Spain? Even if you’re not, going to this UNED library may be worth it. Sure, you may just benefit from a cup of coffee and an interesting book in a silent place. But there’s more to this library than you think.

It’s situated in a historical building with brick walls and great looking vaults. The hanging lights make the main hall look like Hogwarts.

Since it’s a historical building, this library is now closed for renovation. If by the time you’re in Madrid it’s open, definitely go there. If it’s not, you can try Biblioteca Central de la UNED Madrid.

It belongs to the same university, and the design is similar.

Lago Casa de Campo

Casa de Campo, Madrid

If you’re visiting the library from the previous point, drop by this park as well. It’s close to the central UNED library and is a great place to spend the hot hours of midday.

This park used to be royal hunting grounds. Now, it’s a huge public park with a lake inside of it. The view from the inside kind of looks like Central Park in NYC – skyscrapers are towering above the trees.

You can rent a boat to paddle along the lake, visit a Zoo that connects Casa de Campo to West Park, or visit one of the many sports facilities there. If that’s not your cup of tea, you can always hide from the sun strolling amidst the trees.

Castillo de Butrón, Basque Country

If you liked being alone in the woods in Casa de Campo, you may be completely thrilled by this one. Castillo de Butrón is a medieval castle situated in Basque Country, not far from the warm waters of Bay of Biscay.

This Bavarian-styled giant is not medieval by the standards of architecture. However, it looks exactly like you imagine a medieval castle. The look of this gray castle

towering above the green of the forest reminds of a fairytale.

The walk around the premises is also worth it.

Gaztelugatxe Spain

Gaztelugatxe, Basque Country

Did someone sneeze? Nope, this is a name of an islet in the Bay of Biscay waters. It’s a small islet with a church. How do people get there?

That’s the biggest part of why this piece of Spanish land made the list in the first place. Gaztelugatxe is connected to the mainland by a beautiful man-made bridge. It’s so zig-zag and erratic that it easily could have been natural!

The place has no hype about it, and you can have it pretty much to your own on most days. After you pass through the bridge, hike around the hills of the islet.

El Tamboril / the Mariscal, Seville

If you happen to pass through Seville, this bar is the best place to end your evening. It’s so small it’s not even on TripAdvisor! Previously, you had to find the place hidden behind the green. Now, they moved to the Mariscal, a bar close to the original place.

This bar hosts true flamenco artists. Not the ones that earn their living dancing flamenco at restaurants, rather, Mariscal invites in the locals that are passionate about flamenco.

You can add cheap drinks and tapas to your list as well.

Anaga Mountains

Rural de Anaga Park, Tenerife

Are you going to visit Tenerife? We have a tip just for you!

Laying on the ebony beach and swimming all day is fun, but what if you spice it up with a walk? Rural de Anaga Park is situated on the Eastern end of the island and offers you a unique atmosphere.

Unlike the beaches of Tenerife that are lit with sunshine, this park constantly in shade from the trees with wide branches. The place looks like Pan’s Labyrinth!

Calella de Palafrugell, Spain

Calella de Palafrugell, Spain

While the crowds of tourists go down to enjoy the beach at Malaga there are lots of other lesser-known coastal destinations in Spain. One such town is the charming Calella de Palafrugell in Costa Brava north of Barcelona. It has a small beach dotted with small fishing boats and charming houses with a Cuban style from Spaniards who moved to Cuba and then back to Spain. For a nice stroll hike to nearby Llafranc long the coast.

Romans ruins of Merida

Extremadura

The Extremadura region of Spain is one of the lesser-visited regions in the country, yet it is also the one with perhaps the most history. Located north of Andalucia, east of Portugal, and west of Madrid, it has never gotten the attention that other regions of Spain have gotten. It is too bad because some of the most important historical events in the history of Spain happened here.

The city of Merida was one of the most Roman settlements in the Iberian Peninsula and the Roman Ruins of Merida are some of the best you can find in the world.

In the village of Guadalupe, you will find the Monastery of Guadalupe, which was where Columbus first met Queen Isabella and where the first people in the new world were brought back to Europe. It was also the first place in Europe were new world crops such as potatoes were planted.

Caceres Spain

The Town of Caceres has an ancient history and was a major city in the region during the Moorish Conquest, and later expanded after the Reconquista. It too was an important city in the planning, exploration, and conquest of the New World. You can still see Arabic text on the walls of the old city, and there is a preserved Jewish Quarter which is one of the best pre-Inquisition Jewish Quarters left in Spain.

The city of Trujillo was the home to many Conquistadors, who as second sons, left to find fame and fortune in the New World. Former residents of Trujillo include Pizarro and Cortez.

Off the beaten path

 As weird as this may sound, you can’t find all the tiny places full of local culture on the internet. You can probably achieve better results if you know Spanish, but ultimately, you’ll have to go out on your own and explore. You can also find less expensive spots if you get off the beaten path, which can be particularly helpful if you have a longer-term visa like a non-lucrative visa for Spain (sometimes called a retiree visa).

Spain is an interesting place (40+ Interesting and Fun Facts About Spain) but it would wrong to assume that the most interesting parts are the places getting all the tourism. The best places are not popular. We found a good part of the ones you see in the list by simply stumbling upon them.

So, if you want the ultimate advice on what should you see in Spain, here it goes. You should see whatever you come across. Rent a car and go out in the wilderness. Take a turn from the street crowded with tourists. It’s there that the true Spanish culture and the true adventure is.

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by Connie Benton

Connie Benton is a passionate traveler, freelance writer, and guest contributor.

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