Top 6 places to visit in Northern Spain for a city break in 2017

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In the last of our series on city breaks for 2017, check out our top picks for cities to visit for a short break in Northern Spain...

Santander

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.

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

If shopping and the arts are your thing then cosmopolitan Bilbao is the place to go. 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's even a Museum of Gastronomy in the city.

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's 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

Feel like a movie star in glamorous San Sebastian. 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. In September it plays host to the San Sebastian International Film Festival every year, which is popular with Hollywood celebrities. Last year saw Sigourney Weaver, Ewan McGregor and Richard Gere in attendance.

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 with three holding the coveted 3-Michelin stars (the highest ranking there is).

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 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.

Burgos

It's all about the archicture in Burgos and the UNESCO-recognised cathedral is its piéce de resistance. A masterpiece of Gothic art, the cathedral showcases some fantastic filligree 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'll be utterly spoiled here!

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.

Vitoria-Gasteiz

Famed for its splendid Old Quarter, Vitoria-Gasteiz also has a well-designed modern part of town and is known as a green city - in fact, it was the European Green Capital in 2012. Pedestrianised and with a 'Green Belt' around the city of suburban parks and recreational areas, it is a wonderful city to walk around and explore. Bring your bicycle and try some of the 90km of cycle paths to get around more quickly.

Sharpe fans will know it for its part in the Napoleonic Wars as it was at the Battle of Vitoria that Napoleon's forces were finally forced out of Spain. A monument to the battle stands in the Plaza de la Virgen Blanca. Take the time to explore the plazas and medieval streets filled with mansions and churches. The cathedral and Antzokia theatre are both well worth a visit.

What's your favourite place for a short break in Northern Spain? Let us know in the comments below.

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