We’ve been hearing it more and more: cities are reaching their tourism limit.

Overcrowded monuments, crammed public transport and a general high demand for travel have led cities and countries to take measures against over-tourism.

Travellers can also feel overwhelmed by the many, many people joining them on their adventures, especially during high season.

Spain receives millions of visitors every year, and most of them visit iconic monuments and UNESCO Heritage sites that you can see everywhere online, like the Sagrada Famlia in Barcelona and the Alhambra in Granada (each with millions of yearly visitors of their own!).

Spain-Holiday (www.spain-holiday.com), holiday rentals experts in Spain, worked together with Holidu (www.holidu.co.uk) to bring you alternatives to some of the most iconic landmarks in Spain that are just as – or even more – beautiful. Taking the 4 most visited and most famous monuments in 4 of the largest Spanish cities, they found 4 nearby, overlooked monuments that are worth a visit. Ready to find out where you can escape the crowds?

  1. Madrid: Paseo del Prado (6.050.000 annual visitors)

The Paseo del Prado is such an iconic place in Madrid: every tourist that visits the city, also walks along this beautiful promenade. Here you can find world-class museums like the Prado and the Thyssen, as well as other historical buildings. The Paseo gained the title of UNESCO World Heritage Site because of its economic and cultural importance since the 16th century. Nowadays, you can stroll along the boulevard and enjoy the incredible architecture, street performances, and much more.

Alternative: Monastery and Gardens of El Escorial (607.457 annual visitors)

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Only a short drive from Madrid, you can find another stunning natural space: the gardens of the Escorial Monastery. This monastery dates back to the 16th century, and while the garden initially started as a vegetable and herb garden to feed the monks, it gradually became much larger and much more varied. Now it is a massive botanical garden with plants from all over the Mediterranean and South America. While you’re there, don’t miss out on the interior of the monastery either, the chapel and library are particularly impressive.

  1. Barcelona: Sagrada Familia (3.781.845 annual visitors)

The Sagrada Familia cathedral is one of the most famous monuments of Spain. The iconic building has been under construction for more than a century, and will finally be completed in 2026.  With an intricate design and a big cultural significance, it’s no surprise that it was named a UNESCO Heritage Site in 1984. The cathedral is the most visited monument in Spain, with almost 4 million visitors last year. While it’s worth braving the crowds to visit this masterpiece, on some days, especially in summer, there are so many people it’s impossible to get inside.

Alternative: Palau de la Música Catalana (206.042 annual visitors)

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If you want to escape the crowds at Sagrada Familia, but still enjoy some stunning architecture, head to the Palau de la Música Catalana. At only a short walk from the Sagrada Familia, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is easy to reach and yet overlooked by many tourists. The theatre was designed by famous art nouveau architect Lluís Domènech i Montaner, and has a bold and impactful design. Visit the building with a guided tour, or book tickets to one of the performances to enjoy beautiful music in a stunning setting.

  1. Granada: Alhambra and Generalife (2.385.461 annual visitors)

As a monument to Spain’s rich cultural heritage, the Alhambra has always impressed visitors from all around the world. From its elaborate arches to the hidden corners in the gardens, the Moorish palace is absolutely enchanting. The Alhambra was one of the first monuments to gain UNESCO World Heritage status, and has since been extremely well protected. Tickets are in high demand and limited per day, so anyone who does not plan in advance risks missing out on this masterpiece.

Alternative: Caliphate City of Medina Azahara (203.374 annual visitors)

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If you are in Granada and forget to plan ahead, you can still enjoy a piece of Moorish architecture nearby! The Medina Azahara is a Moorish city just outside of Cordoba, at only 1 and a half hours by train from Granada. Perfect for a day trip! The Medina Azahara is a true hidden gem, not yet known by most tourists who visit. You can explore the ruins of the city by yourself or take a guided tour. Walk along the beautifully restored buildings and see what the city would have looked like in its heyday.

  1.  Seville: Cathedral de Santa María de la Sede (1.700.000 annual visitors)

Together with the Alcazar palace, the cathedral in Seville is the city’s most important landmark. This stunning building is the largest Gothic cathedral of the world, and the best example of Gothic architecture. Even the doors are absolute works of art. The main building, the interior patio and the iconic Giralda bell tower are all open to visitors. The Giralda is especially popular with tourists, because it has the best view of the entire city. If you want to visit you do need to be patient, because the waiting line often wraps around the entire building In high season!

Alternative: Archivo de Indias (277.458 annual visitors)

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If you want to skip waiting lines altogether, you only need to walk a couple of metres and you’ll find another UNESCO World Heritage Site that many tourists fail to notice. The Archivo de Indias is located in a building that looks rather unassuming from the outside, but inside you will find beautiful Renaissance architecture and historical documents, artefacts and tapestries that paint the picture of the Spanish Empire’s exploits in America and Asia. It’s the perfect place to escape the crowds and spend the morning exploring the hallways of the archive.

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