Traditional Spanish holidays are seeing a shift in recent times. Take Barcelona for example, where you can now enjoy not just a vibrant city break of museums, art galleries, cable car rides and great shopping, but also chill out on Barcelona's Barceloneta beaches. Resort and city are packaged as one, and it's a similar scene in Valencia. Well known favourite Spanish resorts such as the Costa Blanca's mecca Benidorm and Costa del Sol family holiday favourites Torremolinos, Benalmadena and Fuengirola have been spruced up in recent times, including upgraded accommodations, new paseo maritims and a touch of public art. Budget Spanish Costa beach resort holidays offer even more today.
Building on the natural assets of Mediterranean warm climate and great beaches, there's more waterparks, amusement parks, golf courses and excursion choice than ever before on the Spanish Costas, keeping resorts like Benalmadena, Torremolinos, Benidorm and other old favourites like Lloret de Mar on the Costa Brava and Salou on the Costa Dorada as popular as ever. New Spanish resort favourites are appearing such as pretty Nerja with its cove beaches on the Eastern Costa del Sol coast and the Costa Azahar which includes resorts such as Peniscola and Alcoceber is set to boom further with the opening of new Castellon Airport in 2008. Easier access for all is certainly on the Spanish holiday agenda. The three big Spanish city breaks of Madrid, Valencia and especially Barcelona are booming. Madrid is a world centre for art, with its three prized art galleries the Prado Museum, Reina Sofia and Thyssen. Valencia, boosted by the architecture of home-grown Santiago Calatrava and the City of Arts & Sciences complex (which includes one of the world's largest aquariums) is becoming increasingly popular. Barcelona's popularity is ever increasing - it's a Spanish city particularly tailored for tourism. Barcelona is a city where it's easy to move around via excellent public transport, and Barcelona has it all from urban beaches to old gothic quarters, street performance along Las Ramblas and great art galleries - the Picasso Museum in the Barri Gothic and Joan Miro Foundation at Montjuic.
Madrid, Barcelona and Valencia, in that order, are Spain's three largest cities, and these three are certainly the most popular choice for Spanish City holidays. Barcelona has to rank top for offering the best all round Spanish city break. Take your pick from the Picasso Museum, Barceloneta's superb Barcelona urban beaches, the Montjuic leisure and cultural complex, Gaudi's numerous architectural masterpieces, more art at the Catalunya National Art Gallery and Joan Miro Foundation (both at Montjuic) and a historic old town to beat all around the Barri Gotic. Not forgetting the famous Las Ramblas stroll, Barcelona's most popular meeting place and hotspot for year round street performance.
Madrid might not be as slick as catering for the all round tourist package as Barcelona, but Madrid, Spain's capital, has focused much of its attention in recent years on its three great art galleries - the Prado, Reina Sofia and Thyssen, all within a short distance of each other. As a city for art, Madrid is certainly one of the world's best! Valencia, Spain's third largest city, is both an artistic hub and cutting edge centre for contemporary architecture, helped along by homegrown Santiago Calatrava. The modern architectural marvels at the City of Arts and Sciences in Valencia cheer the soul and will have you transfixed.
The Costa Blanca coast, long a favourite with the Brits, stretches up from La Manga and Torrevieja through Alicante, Benidorm, Calpe, round to Javea and up to Denia and Gandia. Cheap family holidays in the sun don't come much better than Benidorm. The largest resort on the Med, Benidorm has three personalities with its bustling Playa Levante, central Benidorm old town and family favourite Playa Poniente. The best of the Med's family beaches are here at Benidorm - blue flags all the way and a host of watersports, parasols, pedalos and cafes, restaurants and bars lining Benidorm's fine paseo maritimo. For the best of both culture, history and beaches and marinas Alicante is a popular choice with Alicante Airport just to the west making for a short transfer time. Pushing past Benidorm the Coast Blanca offers a superb choice of family holiday resort bases including Calpe, Moraira and Javea - one of the best for family holidays. All are within easy reach of the huge number of family holiday attractions around Benidorm including Aqualandia waterpark, Mundomar Animal Park, Terra Mitica Adventure Amusement Park and Terra Natura Adventure Park.
Costa Blanca golf holiday choice you're certainly not short of. Particularly good for golf is Benidorm and Alicante, but also the La Manga area around the Costa Corrida south of Torrevieja. Inland some stunning scenery awaits. Just a few miles north of Benidorm sits Guadalest where the views of the Serra de Aitana and its high clifftop Moorish castle are breathtaking. Pretty inland Elche is famous for its date palms and gardens whilst Murcia's magnificent Gothic cathedral is not to be missed. Popular excursions from the Costa Blanca's coastal resorts include daytrips to Valencia with its architectural marvel the City of Arts and Sciences which includes one of the world's largest aquariums, plus a choice of some of Spain's best art galleries.
The Costa Brava, Spain and Catalonia's far north east coastal holiday playground, offers variety and serves a number of holiday tastes. One of Spain's oldest friendly established resorts is here - the ever popular Lloret de Mar with its two main blue flag beaches, tons of tourist attractions including a big waterpark and great nightlife, and a watersports scene to beat all! Don't come for peace and quiet to Lloret de Mar! It's party time here in the Costa Brava's liveliest resort, a popular choice for stag and hen parties. Other popular Costa Brava resorts, albeit a little quieter, include Blanes, Tossa de Mar and increasingly popular Playa de Aro which also has good family holiday attractions including waterpark and big Magic Park amusement park. Roses and Escartit to the north are also popular beach bases, and Escartit is a centre for Costa Brava diving around the sublime Isles Medes.
Stunning rocky coasts are north of Roses at the natural park Cap de Creus. The sublime rocky coast here is referenced by Salvador Dali often in his paintings. The area to the far north, culminating with the Dali Theatre Museum in Figures but also including the two Dali homes at Pubol and Cadaques make up together the Dali Triangle. Prepare to have your senses wowed at the Dali Theatre Museum particularly - the definitive mecca for Dali's work. Girona is home to one of the oldest remaining Jewish quarters in Europe - Girona sightseeing tours of its medieval architecture are not to be missed, as is the hidden gem, Girona's Museum of Cinema!
The Costa Del Sol's main resorts of Torremolinos, Benalmadena, Fuengirola and Marbella have all changed with the times, and are as popular as ever. Alongside superb family beaches, some of which have blue flag status, you've a host of family holiday attractions easily accessible from all these resorts. Attractions include waterparks, boat trips and marinas, Benalmadena cable car, numerous Costa del Sol golf courses, Fuengirola Zoo, daytrips to Granada, Malaga and Girbraltar, animal parks and more. Plenty to pack into a budget Costa Del Sol package holiday. Over the last decade many of the Costa Del Sol's resorts have seen considerable regeneration, and now have delightful Paseo Maritims, excellent shopping centres and clean, safe family beaches with calm waters. Guaranteed peak season sunshine down here too in Spain's most southerly resorts. The Costa Del Sol's east coast is a little quieter, with Nerja and its spectacular caves serving as the most popular base. Push further east of Nerja into the Costa Tropical and the historic bases of Salobrena and Almunecar. Further east still and you're moving into Costa de Almeria and the popular resort bases of Roquetas de Mar and Mojaca. The capital of the area, Almeria, has a dramatic Alcazaba and a distinctly Moorish feel.
Centrally placed capital Malaga, with Malaga Airport serving the capital and resorts, is currently going through a cultural boom with the Picasso Museum as main attraction. Andalucia's interior is now easily accessible either for daytrips to Ronda via Costa Del Sol Car Hire or as a rural Andalucia walking, climbing or touring holiday base. Historic inland Andalucian centres abound, including popular Antequera with its numerous historic monuments. The scenery around Ronda within the Sierra de las Nieves natural park contains Spain's rare Spanish firs.
Of all the Spanish Costas, it's the Costa Dorada and adjoining Costa del Azahar which manage to blend beach family holiday resort and cultural and historical excursions best. Take your pick from classic all inclusive lively family beach holidays in resort hotspots like Salou, La Pineda, PortAventura, Cambrils and Alcoceber to more sedate resorts with a historical and cultural edge such as Coma-Ruga, Peniscola and Benicassim. The cultural and historical scene both on the Costa Daurada coast and inland is outstanding. Capital of the region, Tarragona is rich in Roman remains. The Romans called it Tarraco and during the 1st and 2nd centuries BC Tarraco was the capital of the Roman Iberian Peninsula. Tarragona stands out as one of Europe's richest locations for Roman sites including Roman Circus and Roman Amphitheatre and serves as a centre, via its many Roman focused museums and Roman sites, for exploring the history of Roman life in the Iberian Peninsula.
Other cultural hotspots in the region include inland Reus, birthplace of Antoni Gaudi. The Gaudi Centre is Reus pays tribute, and you can tour Reus' many Modernisme buildings following the Reus Modernism trail. Reus is also home to the main airport serving the region. Lesser known is inland Lleida - a fantastic hub for contemporary arts and culture with a spectacular Gothic Romanesque cathedral. Back on the coast, moving closer to Barcelona in Costa del Garraf territory, beautiful Sitges with its stunning beaches and esplanade, Moderrnista buildings, chic shops, restaurants and bars, pumping nightlife and a lively gay scene makes the perfect cultural beach resort base close to Barcelona.
Other regions in Spain to the north and in the central plains, less trodden on the tourist trail, are increasingly opening up with improved road networks and increased availability of direct and budget flights and ferries. A wealth of holiday experiences awaits from the stunning walking territory of the Picos de Europa national park in Asturias to jam packed cultural city breaks in Bilbao, capital of the Basque region. The Spanish skiing holiday resorts in both the Catalan and Aragon Pyrenees are more well known, as are the superb selection of skiing resorts in Andorra.
Less well known are the wine tours of La Rioja sampling the fine red wines after which this Spanish region is named. The northern and central regions of Spain contain a huge number of World Heritage cities and sites including Santiago de Compostela in far north west Galicia, a pilgrimage mecca since the Middle Ages with the stunning Cathedral of St James. Other highlights in the north and centre include Segovia's fairytale castle, more monumental cathedrals in both Leon and Burgos and the World Heritage medieval architecture of Cuenca. See also the stunning medieval architecture of Cantabrian town Santillana del Mar.
Castilla y Leon, Spain's central region north of Madrid lays claim to three World Heritage cities - Avila, Salamanca and Segovia, whilst south of Madrid within Castilla La Mancha the stunning city of Toledo with its Moorish Alcazar also has World Heritage status. Walkers have a huge choice of trails, from the Ruta del Emperador trail winding across Extremadura in the footsteps of Carlos I ending at the Monasterio de Yuste at La Vera or the increasingly popular Camino de Santiago trail heading towards Santiago de Compostela. In the summer months the Spanish Pyrenees and Andorra offer challenging and breathtaking walking and outdoor leisure territory with everything from horse riding to mountain biking available. Head to the northern coasts of the Basque region, Asturias, Cantabria and Galicia for a superb choice of sublime beaches and low key seaside resorts. For Spanish surfing hotspots look to the Basque coast. Not to be missed are the Roman ruins in Merida, Extremadura's World Heritage city, or whoop it up fiesta style in Navarra's capital Pamplona.