Where To Stay In Northern Spain

Many people are curious about northern Spain but don’t really know the destinations and what they offer. Northern Spain is an area of great contrasts, with the Mediterranean Sea in the east and the Atlantic Coast in the west. In the middle, you’ll find huge mountain ranges like the Pyrenees, the Cantabrian Mountains and in the south La Meseta, a high altitude plateau making up the heart of Spain.

The nature of northern Spain is beautiful, wild and lush. The landscapes are constantly changing between the sea and mountains and it offers great holiday opportunities. When much of today's tourists tend to gather in the south, in northern Spain it is quiet and relaxed. Here you won’t find any beach vendors, all-inclusive hotels or large tourist resorts. In our ultimate guide of where to stay in northern Spain, we’ll show you the best destinations.

Beach Holidays In Northern Spain

With the Costa Brava (Mediterranean Sea) and the Atlantic Coast, stretching all the way from the Basque Country to Galicia, northern Spain has an abundance of stunning beaches. Surf beaches, small idyllic coves, Blue-Flag beaches boasting all facilities and long dreamy beaches with a crescent of golden sand.

In Asturias and around the Bay of Biscay, Llanes is one of the best places to stay for a beach holiday in northern Spain. The coastline consists of a beautiful mix of beaches, green meadows, cliffs and sparkling turquoise sea. Hike or go by bike to beaches such as Playa de Toró, Playa de la Ballota, Playa de Torimbia and the unique beach of Gulpiyuri. There are also some great opportunities for paddle surfing along this coast. In the evenings you can stroll around the atmospheric Old Town of Llanes, eating and drinking in the traditional cider houses!

Playa de la Ballota close to Llanes

If you are looking for beaches, great seafood and entertainment, rent a holiday home in La Coruña in the region of Galicia. Experience the city beaches, the bustling square of Plaza de María Pita, surf or visit the aquarium. The Hercules Tower (UNESCO World Heritage Site), the world's oldest lighthouse, is a must-see!

If you want to combine lazy beach days with staying in picturesque fishing villages - which always make it onto the list of "Spain's most beautiful villages" - don't miss Cudillero. Stay in the whitewashed village of Lastres, with its colourful houses and fish restaurants that sit beautifully on a cliff, Ribadesella with an abundance of activities or Luarca - a hidden gem in the area. All these destinations are surrounded by stunning beaches and are excellent for a beach holiday in northern Spain.

The Costa Brava in Catalonia offers many destinations for a beach holiday in northern Spain. Long child-friendly beaches, beautiful small bays with cliffs and postcard-like villages are just waiting to be explored. Rent a holiday home in Cadaqués and have this breathtaking village as a base for your holiday. Choose a villa in Calella de Palafrugell as another great option for a beach holiday on the Costa Brava. White-washed houses, blue window frames and balconies adorned with flowers characterise this town - Calella de Palafrugell looks as if it was taken directly from a travel magazine.

Choose a holiday rental in the Basque County and be located next to yet more of the best beaches in northern Spain. Zarautz is the longest beaches in the region and one of the most beautiful beaches in the Basque country - it has also become a popular spot for surfers of all levels. Take a day trip to the breathtaking rocky islet of San Juan de Gaztelugatxe, which is one of Game Of Throne’s recording sites. Also, visit the beach of Zumaia and hike the cliff flysch route - a truly magical experience!

Family Holidays In Northern Spain

The city of Santander, located in a beautiful bay, is an ideal destination for a family holiday in northern Spain. There are several child-friendly beaches to choose from. Visit the peninsula of Magdalena with its Palace and zoo and have a picnic on the grass under the pine trees. In the evening, try the trendy tapas bars on the side streets of Paseo de Pereda. Take a ferry to Somo and hike along the pilgrim route of Camino del Norte with the family. A great experience for the kids is at the Nature Park of Cabárceno. Similar to being on safari, they have 150 animals from 5 different continents living in a huge area, separated naturally by cliffs.

Book a family-friendly holiday home in Gijón, Asturias. Here you can have an outstanding meal in the picturesque Old Town. Also, visit the aquarium and the Atlantic botanical gardens. You’ll find two beaches in the city, of which we recommend San Lorenzo beach in the east, bordered by a promenade that continues along the coast. Gijón is a great base for a holiday on the Costa Verde together with the whole family!

Rent a villa in Sanxenxo, Rías Baixas (southwestern Galicia) and discover the O’Grove peninsula nearby. Find long beaches that seem to stretch for miles and miles. One example is Playa de la Lanzada which connects O’Grove with the mainland. In the village of O’Grove, the restaurants serve the best seafood, as well as mussels from the farms in the fjord. Walk the Paseo de Pedras Negras trail, or look out over the mighty Atlantic from the island's highest point: Miradoiro da Siradella.

If you choose to travel to Rías Baixas, visit the picturesque Cíes Islands (pictured above) in the estuary of Vigo, which was named "the Islands of the Gods" by the Romans. It is not difficult to understand why. White fluffy sand, stunning turquoise water and swaying pine trees gives the feeling you are in the Caribbean. Enjoy the beaches, hiking trails, rich flora and fauna as well as wonderful views. Most of the ferries to the Islas Cíes depart from the port of Vigo but you must request permission online to be able to visit the island. 

Tossa de Mar is a destination for the whole family

The Costa Brava, or so-called "rugged coast," is perhaps the best destination for a family holiday in northern Spain. Rent a holiday home in Tossa de Mar and experience this coastline to its fullest. There are an abundance of restaurants; beaches suitable for children and hiking trails that lead to small hidden coves. The Old Town of Vila Vella is a myriad of streets with sites, medieval walls, tapas bars and towers. The Old Town is perfect to explore if you want to escape from the sun for a while.

Further north, you’ll find the idyllic destination of Roses. This town is characterised by a 1,800-metre, crescent moon shaped beach. In the surrounding area, there are plenty of bays and secluded beaches. Nearby there is the Aquabrava water park which makes for a nice break from lazy beach days and provides great entertainment for kids. 

Nature and Active Holidays In Northern Spain

In the mighty mountain range of the Pyrenees and the Cantabrian Mountains, there are spectacular National Parks and lush valleys. Along the coast, you can also find several protected places and archipelago islands with beautiful hiking trails and stunning nature. It is like Northern Spain was created for an active holiday!

Book holiday accommodation in the National Park of Picos de Europa for an active holiday in northern Spain. Around the village of Potes in Cantabria, there are a network of trails, which often connect mountain villages, where time seems to have stood still. A visit to the Cable Car of Fuente Dé offers stunning views of the Liébana Valley.

In Asturias and to the west of the mountain massif sits Cangas de Onís, often called "the Gateway to Picos de Europa." Visit the Holy Cave of Covadonga and continue up the serpentine road to the lakes of Ernol and Ercina (Los Lagos de Covadonga). Here you can hike below snow-capped peaks, among grazing cattle and take in stunning views. In Picos de Europa it is also common to participate in activities such as kayaking, gorge walking and climbing!

The Nature Park of Somiedo, located west of the Picos de Europa is home to some of Spain's most beautiful landscapes. Walk to the lakes of Saliencia or Lago del Valle and discover the curious stone cabins with thatched roofs (Brañas). This is where shepherds took shelter in bad weather and stayed overnight. Spain's only wild brown bears live freely in Somiedo!

If you want to visit the Pyrenees, Ordesa y Monte Perdido National Park is highly recommended. Eat a steady breakfast, lace up your boots and embark on a hiking trail when the first rays of the sunlight hit the mountains in the west. A lot of routes will lead you to experience emerald-green lakes, rippling mountain streams, canyons and ancient forests.

Aigüestortes i Estany de Sant Maurici National Park in the Catalan part of the Pyrenees is another great destination for a holiday in nature in Spain. The landscapes are breathtaking with deep valleys, lakes and four mountain peaks reaching 3000 metres above sea level. Be sure to charge up your camera and bring an extra memory card, this fairytale mountain scenery will overwhelm you with its beauty. Renting a holiday home in Huesca is a great option for visiting the Pyrenees!

Discover the "end of the world" in Fisterra

If you want to experience the wild and windswept Atlantic Shore stay on the Costa da Morte on the Galician coast. This mythical area has experienced many shipwrecks throughout the centuries due to the rapidly changing weather and rocky coastline with dangerous reefs. The lighthouse on the peninsula outside the village of Fisterra was called the "end of the world" by the Romans. By renting a holiday home in Fisterra you can hike, explore the city, eat incredible seafood at the local restaurants and surf on beaches like Playa de O’Rostro.

The lower part of Galicia, Rías Baixas, is filled with paradise-like archipelago islands awarded National Park status. Visit the above mentioned Islas Cíes and O’Grove, Arousa or Isla de Ons, all of them offering many beautiful hiking trails and rich flora and fauna. Kayak in the fjords, cycle on small winding roads along the coast or surf on beaches such as Playa de la Lanzada and Playa de Patos, just outside of Vigo.

Cultural Break In Northern Spain

Northern Spain has a very rich and intriguing history to tell. There are a number of caves with prehistoric cave paintings of horses, steppe bison and deer. The northern Atlantic Coast also has a Celtic past that you can experience in the traditional music with bagpipes, dances, buildings and old settlements.

The famous pilgrimage of Camino de Santiago winds through northern Spain and passes towns and medieval villages with impressive sites. The Basque Country is a fascinating cultural destination with both unique ancient traditions and modern architecture. And of course Barcelona with Gaudí's masterpieces... 

Stay in Cantabria and visit Santillana del Mar, which has been named "the most beautiful village in Spain." This medieval village is like being in a museum, where the cobbled streets are lined with historic buildings with wooden balconies, unique museums and restaurants. Three kilometres outside of Santillana del Mar you’ll find the famous Altamira cave with prehistoric paintings. In the visitor centre, you can see an excellent replica of the cave and its paintings. Every Friday, a few lucky visitors are selected and get the chance to visit the real cave.

20 kilometres to the west, you will find Comillas. A quaint coastal village outside the Nature Reserve of Oyambre, which offers an intriguing mix of beaches, food and cultural experiences. Here you can walk the modernist route with 11 monuments, where the biggest attraction is the "Flower House" (El Capricho) - one of Antoni Gaudí's few projects outside of Barcelona.

Rent an apartment in Santiago de Compostela, the capital of Galicia and the final destination of the Camino de Santiago. Lose yourself in the narrow cobbled streets and discover the pilgrim museum, thriving squares, small artisan shops, fountains and old buildings decorated with flowers. End the tour in Plaza del Obradoiro, where the impressive Cathedral seems to touch the sky with its two spires. If you are lucky you might get a display of Celtic culture, if you hear the bagpipes echo in the alleys - follow the music!

In Santiago, you can savour delicious meals, especially in the Old Town and the food market - Abastos de Santiago. Try spicy Galician octopus, "Pulpo a la Feria," which together with a cold beer tastes great after a day of taking in the sights.

If you wish to experience the culture, a lot of sights and eat for a very reasonable price, stay in Castile and León. The towns of Segovia, Ávila or Spains "Golden City" Salamanca, are all found on the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites and are ideal for a cultural break in Spain.

Bilbao located in the Basque Country has experienced an astonishing transformation since the Guggenheim Museum was built in the old port area - today the city is a hub of modern art and architecture. Rent an apartment in Bilbao and stroll along the Nervión River to experience attractions such as the Guggenheim, Zubizuri and the Vizcaya Bridge - a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2006. During festivals and local celebrations, you can often experience Basque traditions like music, dances and old strength sports. Visit the Euskal Museum and learn more about Basque history. Going to Mercado de La Ribera, Museo de Bellas Artes and eating delicious pintxos (a Basque tapas) in the bustling Old Town are also must-do-things in Bilbao.

Romantic Holidays In Northern Spain

Find accommodation in Barcelona city for the ultimate romantic holiday in northern Spain. Visit vibrant markets, follow the footsteps of Gaudí or hang out on the city beaches with your loved one. In the evenings, go on a date night and eat in the cosy restaurants, drink in trendy rooftop bars and dance the night away. Stay in Girona, another destination in northern Spain ideal for couples. Walk along the L’Onyar River, and admire the colourful houses and mighty Cathedral. The narrow alleyways of the Old Town are filled with romantic cafes and offer a nice break from sightseeing.

To really get away from everything and spend quality time together, there are plenty of pretty fishing villages all over northern Spain. Previously mentioned Cudillero, Lastres, Sanxenxo, Cadaqués and Calella de Palafrugell are all ideal romantic destinations with many beautiful beaches.

Holidays For Foodies In Northern Spain

Thanks to its location between the sea and mountains, northern Spain has a large selection of high-quality ingredients. Fish, shellfish, dairy, vegetables and meat is prepared in the best possible way. The gastronomy of northern Spain lies in the traditions, but also in the creativity and passion. This has lead to many places gaining recognition in the culinary world and many Michelin star chefs hail from northern Spain. 

Renting a holiday home in San Sebastián is the ultimate destination for foodies. Combine top-notch food with beaches, surfing, designer boutiques, Basque culture and explore the vibrant nightlife. For bar-hopping and pintxos snacking - this city is ideal. Eating pintxos in San Sebastián was featured at the number one spot in Lonely Planet’s Ultimate Eatlist. San Sebastián is also one of the cities in the world with the highest concentration of Michelin stars per km2. Restaurants such as Arzak, Martín Berasategui and Akelare all boast three stars in the Michelin Guide - to eat in one of these restaurants be sure to book a table well in advance.

Rent a holiday home in Hondarribia if you want to indulge during your holiday to northern Spain. A wall encloses the Old Town which is full of traditional Basque style houses with wooden painted balconies, restaurants and bars. The area surrounding the harbour has the best selection of seafood. In the Old City of Bilbao, particularly around Plaza Nueva, the pintxos bars are located next to each other and are among the best places for foodies. Don’t miss the opportunity to visit the Txakoli vineyards which are dotted in the rolling hills next to the Bay of Biscay. Txakoli is a Basque white wine which compliments pintxos perfectly.

To taste famous Rioja wines, head to the "wine capital" of Logroño or stay in the village of Haro -surrounded by wine fields and bodegas. Here you can take excursions to spectacular bodegas such as Ysios or the Marqués de Riscal, which was designed by the brain behind the Guggenheim Museum: Frank Gehry.

The magical city of Oviedo is one of the most beautiful cities in Asturias. It is also a "food destination" that also offers many cultural treasures. "It's like it doesn't belong to this world, as if it didn't exist... Oviedo is like a fairytale" expressed Woody Allen after shooting one of his films in the city. In the Old Town, you will find the best food, relax on one of the terraces or visit a typical cider house. Apple cider is the region's pride, and Asturias accounts for 80% of its national production.

Try the natural apple cider of Asturias

The cider from Asturias is poured in a particular fashion - servers pour it into a glass from a height and at a vertical angle. By this method, bubbles are formed when the cider hits the glass and it is said to enhance the taste of the beverage. Also in Oviedo, visit the Cathedral as well as the churches of Santa María del Naranco and San Miguel de Lillo on the lush mountain just outside the town; both are UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Find a holiday home in the city of León, which has been named  "the Spanish Capital of Gastronomy." Barrio Húmedo, which surrounds Calle Ancha, is the neighbourhood with the most tapas bars per inhabitant in Spain! In addition to eating delicious tapas, visit the Gothic Cathedral and Casa Botines by Gaudí.

As you can see there are many places to stay in northern Spain. A diverse area that offers something for everyone from nature escapes to beach breaks. Now it's time for you to broaden your horizons and explore the stunning holiday destinations in the north of Spain, an area that still remains relatively undiscovered!