La Concha beach at San Sebastian © Shutterstock

Best northern Spain city break destinations

When thinking of a Spanish city break you might just think of the likes of Barcelona & Valencia. But there are plenty of perfect city break destinations across Northern Spain too! The great thing about these destinations is that you can get a ferry to northern Spain easily from the UK with Brittany Ferries! Find the best city for a short break in northern Spain in our list below…

Santander city breaks

Our port city of Santander is an elegant affair. With beautiful golden beaches for relaxing and streets packed with designer boutiques for those who like a bit of retail therapy, Santander is a place to really kick back and enjoy the atmosphere. Head for the glamorous El Sardinero district beside the main beach for decadent hotels, fantastic restaurants, the Gran Casino and the sports stadium.

Aerial view of Santander

Santander, northern Spain

A Santander holiday has something for everyone because, as well as the chic city, there are beautiful nature spots. For some time with nature, La Magdalena Peninsula is a short walk from the beaches and is the perfect spot for a stroll to enjoy the fresh air and scenery. The peninsula is home to a grand royal palace with some gorgeous gardens and there are three galleons that you can walk around at the coast. A beautiful spot to while away a few hours before heading back into town for a fabulous meal.

Bilbao city breaks

If shopping and the arts are your thing then cosmopolitan Bilbao is the place to visit. The Gran Via shopping district is filled with big names you'll recognise such as H & M and El Corte Inglés alongside tiny boutiques selling designer brands that you don't. One you've shopped til you're ready to drop, head out to the Old Town and get stuck in trying out the great pintxos on offer in the bars with some local txakoli wine. There is even a Museum of Gastronomy in the city.

View of the centre of Bilbao © Shutterstock

Bilbao city centre

Bilbao is a lovely city to walk around as bridges regularly cross the river and you can enjoy a pleasant walk along the riverside too. Frank Gehry's magnificent architecture of the Guggenheim Bilbao is not to be missed. Containing a fascinating collection of modern and contemporary art, there is also some great artwork outside if you don't fancy going in - the huge statues of the spider, Maman, and Puppy, made from flowers.

San Sebastian short breaks

Feel like a movie star in glamorous San Sebastian. A San Sebastian city break is not to be missed! Situated on La Concha Bay, listed as one of the most beautiful bays in the world, San Sebastian has a truly spectacular crescent beach of golden sand that lines the seafront. It's one of northern Spain's many beautiful beaches!

Playa de Zurriola at San Sebastian © Shutterstock

Playa de Zurriola at San Sebastian

San Sebastian is also the pintxos capital of the Basque Country so make sure you hit several bars to try a good selection. After that, try one of the town's many fantastic restaurants. If you're feeling really flush, San Sebastian has the most Michelin star restaurants per square metre in the world, alongside Kyoto, Japan, with three holding the coveted 3-Michelin stars (the highest ranking there is). Beautiful beaches, great food and Spanish sun make San Sebastian the perfect destination.

Visiting Oviedo

Like Woody Allen movies? Then you'll probably recognise Oviedo. He's spent so much time in the city that there's even a statue of him here! This lively university city was a key location for Vicky Cristina Barcelona as the characters wander through its plazas and past the Mercado El Fontan. The film is almost a love letter to Oviedo and Barcelona so it's definitely worth checking out before you go.

The cathedral in Oviedo © Shutterstock

The cathedral in Oviedo

Oviedo is a great holiday destination in northern Spain. The Old Quarter of the city is worth spending time simply wandering its streets and admiring the architecture. Take time out to sit and enjoy a drink on the terraces and then visit the cathedral of San Salvador to see the Baroque Royal Pantheon of the Asturian kings and a range of exquisite statues, manuscripts and paintings in the diocesan museum. The Fine Arts museum is also worth a visit too.

Holidays in Burgos

It's all about the architecture in Burgos. There are so many places to visit in Burgos to marvel at architectural beauty. The UNESCO-recognised cathedral is its piéce de resistance. A masterpiece of Gothic art, the cathedral showcases some fantastic filigree work on its spires and a truly stunning interior in which you'll find the tomb of Spanish hero El Cid. Burgos is littered with fabulous churches and even a monastery so, if religious art is your thing, you will be utterly spoiled here!

Aerial view of Burgos and its cathedral © Shutterstock

Burgos and its cathedral

Named Gastronomic Capital of Spain in 2013, cuisine in Burgos is very Castilian so be prepared to tuck into tasty rustic dishes such as the slow-roasted lamb of the lechazo de Burgos. Don't forget to take home some of Burgos' other specialities - Ribera del Duero wines, morcilla blood sausage and the sheep's milk cheese, Queso de Burgos.

Santiago de Compostela city breaks

Galicia's capital city, Santiago de Compostela is a name you might have heard of. The city is the final stop on Europe's most famous pilgrimage route, the Camino de Santiago, or Way of St James. Routes connect throughout Europe and pass through the beautiful countryside of Galicia to arrive at the stunning cathedral of Santiago de Compostela.

The cathedral in Santiago de Compostela © Shutterstock

The cathedral in Santiago de Compostela

There are plenty of interesting places to visit in Santiago de Compostela. Many of the things to see and do in Santiago de Compostela relate to the Camino and there's a wealth of convents, churches and museums to visit. Go shopping in the wonderful Old Town for fabulous silverware and crafts made of jet stone that are said to ward off evil spirits. And don't miss out on trying some Galician seafood and finish with a slice of delicious tarta de Santiago for dessert.

With so many beautiful and interesting cities to visit across Northern Spain, we hope you choose it as your next holiday destination! Being able to travel to northern Spain by ferry means you can easily explore multiple destinations across the whole of Spain in your own car. Which is great news if you can’t choose just one short break destination.

Feel inspired? Holiday with confidence with Brittany Ferries. Our 2021 selection of ferry-inclusive package holidays come with free Covid-19 cover and free amendments too.