As with many travel hot spots, Spain has undergone some not-always-welcome changes related to crowds, costs, and climate in recent years. Barcelona's visitation numbers, Seville's summer temperatures, and the country's once rock-bottom prices are all significantly higher than they used to be.
But, according to the authors of the freshly updated, newly released edition of Frommer's Spain, the nation is adapting admirably, particularly when it comes to rolling out world-leading sustainability initiatives. Meanwhile, the cities, beaches, festivals, small towns, natural attractions, and historical sites that have made Spain a staple on must-visit lists in the first place remain as alluring as ever—even if the alterations mentioned above require more careful planning.
That's where our experts come in. Frommer's authors Peter Barron, Jennifer Ceaser, Pat Harris, David Lyon, and Murray Stewart bring years of insider experience to their coverage of Spain, supplying readers with everything needed to assemble a trip that hits the highlights and explores the unexpected.
We caught up with Barron, Ceaser, and Stewart by email to get the lowdown on what's new in Spain, when to go, and what to expect. Our exchange, edited for length and clarity, follows.
(Cathedral in Santiago de Compostela, Spain | Credit: Sergey Golotvin / Shutterstock)
FROMMER'S: Tell me a little about your connection to Spain. How long have you been writing about the country?
PETER BARRON: I've been in love with Spain since I first arrived on a ferry from Portugal on a wet Sunday back in the 1980s and heard the sound of fiesta trumpets through the fog. We bought and renovated a farmhouse in the mountains north of Sevilla about 8 years ago, and these days we spend about half our time here. When I retired earlier this year, we went on a 7-week, 900km (560-mile) walk from our front door to Santiago de Compostela in the northwest. This is my second edition of Frommer's Spain, and I can't think of anything more enjoyable than traveling around this wonderful country, taking in its historic sights, its characterful bars, restaurants, and hotels, and sharing recommendations with readers.
MURRAY STEWART: I have been writing about Northern Spain for nearly 10 years. If you really love somewhere, it's very easy to write about it. Having cycled the Pyrenees and trekked over 1,500 miles along its pilgrim routes, I have had the opportunity to absorb Spain slowly, to see it up close and personal.
JENNIFER CEASER: I lived in Barcelona for over 4 years and traveled around the country, particularly along the Catalonian coast. I have been writing about Spain for more than a decade, showing readers that there is much more to the Catalan capital than just the greatest hits (Gaudí, for example). I moved back to the U.S. in 2023 and miss Barcelona intensely. I’m saving up my vacation time to head back in the spring to visit friends, stroll around the city and drink wonderful, incredibly affordable wine on a terrace and just soak in the amazing atmosphere.
(San Sebastián, Spain | Credit: Sergii Figurnyi / Shutterstock)
What’s some new stuff in this edition of the guidebook that you’re excited to share with readers?
STEWART: The Basque Country's tough industrial and agricultural heritage notably manifests itself in the art world through sculpture. Everywhere you're confronted by creations hewn from stone or crafted from steel. I was delighted to see that the Chillida-Leku outdoor sculpture park has opened again, after a longstanding dispute. Eduardo Chillida was one of the real big hitters of Basque sculpture and in this park some of his best works are displayed. On the restaurant front, I celebrate continuity rather than change. For many years, the restaurants of San Sebastián, Bilbao, and elsewhere have been regarded as crafting the best cuisine in Spain, and it is good to report that their well-deserved reputations have not diminished.
BARRON: In Madrid, it's great to see Gran Vía returned to something like its original glory. The city's main thoroughfare used to be congested, grimy, and depressing. Now it has been beautifully regenerated and its iconic buildings have been cleaned and restored. Nearby, the legendary Ritz hotel has finally reopened after years of restoration (staying there costs a fortune, but do go for afternoon tea), and the new Galería Canalejas mall and food hall is a prestigious addition to the city. Sevilla has also emerged stronger from the pandemic—it was named European Capital of Smart Tourism in 2023. It gets busy, and is almost always hot, but the introduction of smart technology, green transport, and pedestrianized zones make it a pleasure to wander around, and the recently restored Giralda tower dazzles. Sustainable tourism is a hallmark of my adopted region, Extremadura, too. Because it is remote and sparsely populated, it has some of the least light pollution in Europe, and astro tourism—stargazing with an expert guide—is popping up everywhere.
[Related: Seville was named one of Frommer's Best Places to Go in 2024]
What do you think it’s important to know right now if you're considering a trip to Spain? Got any quick planning advice?
CEASER: Summer, especially July and August, is one of the worst times to visit Barcelona—it’s hot, crowded, and mostly filled with tourists. (In fact, many restaurants close for much of August.) Barcelona has a Mediterranean climate, which means sunny temperate weather for most of the year, so consider visiting in the spring or fall instead. If you’re aiming for beach time, the Costa Brava has a short season—many hotels and restaurants are only open in summer—so you won’t have much flexibility. However, the Costa Daurada to the south is nearly as lovely, especially the charming town of Sitges, and it stays active year-round. I’ve even gone swimming in the Med in October (it’s plenty warm!) and had it mostly to myself.
BARRON: Unless you're heading to the beach, you probably don't want to visit southern Spain in summer—cities like Sevilla and Córdoba get ferociously hot. Spring and fall are delightful times to go, and even winter is very comfortable. My main advice is: Yes, visit the famous destinations—Granada's Alhambra, Córdoba's Mezquita, Sevilla's Alcázar—but seek out some of Spain's less crowded yet still magnificent places too. Places like Cuenca with its hanging houses and abstract art, Cádiz with its glittering seafront setting, and Cáceres with its perfectly preserved old town.
STEWART: Spain is still a good-value destination, but it is not immune from the rising cost-of-living increases that have hit the rest of the world. But the best news is that my two essentials—a morning coffee and an evening glass of wine—are still cheap compared to almost anywhere else!
(Evening in Girona, Spain | Credit: Artur Bogacki / Shutterstock)
If you were showing a first-time visitor around the regions you wrote about for the book, what would be at the top of your list?
STEWART: For the three Basque Country provinces, it is hard to lure visitors away from San Sebastián's beachside beauty and the sparkling Guggenheim of Bilbao. But I would take them to the wine country of Rioja Alavesa, basing them in the quaint, medieval streets of Laguardia. It merits its place in the list of Spain's Most Beautiful Towns, a captivating place with a mountain backdrop and a lofty perch above the vineyards. In Navarre, I would introduce them to the mini Arizona landscapes of the Bardenas Reales, an intriguing semi-desert that still draws too few visitors. And in La Rioja, the Calle del Laurel is still one of the best bar streets anywhere in Europe.
CEASER: I would highlight the lesser-known areas of Barcelona (Gràcia, for example); Poblet Monastery, a massive, very impressive religious complex where monks still live and make wine; and Girona, one of the world’s most beautifully preserved walled towns, with some amazing cuisine to boot.
BARRON: I'm biased being a resident, but I'd encourage readers to explore the untouched glories of Extremadura, Spain's least visited and least developed region. You can leave the crowds behind and discover the honey-stoned churches and palaces of Cáceres, the Roman ruins of Mérida (the best-preserved outside Italy), and the Plaza Mayor in Trujillo, one of Spain's most delightful squares for an al fresco drink. Extremadura's landscape, wildlife, and traditional food are spectacular too.
To hear more from Frommer's Spain authors Peter Barron and Murray Stewart, listen to the November 19 episode of the Frommer's podcast.