I'm an American expat, writer. photographer. and old-fashioned romantic in love with celebrating the simple joys of daily life. I appreciate timelessness, the natural world, and a slow life lived with simplicity and intention. When I'm not photographing families or  slowly traveling the world and writing about it in a little notebook, I'm happily grounding myself in nature and cozying up with my sweet husband.

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Well here it is! The Spain blog post! The hubs and I recently took a week roadtrip through Central Spain and spent time in 5 super underrated small cities that NEED to be on your bucket list! Being a lover of quiet and simplicity (and after suffering from PTSD after living in New York City for 5 years…) I suffer from stress and anxiety in large cities. Aside from a few favorites like Rome, Paris, and Lisbon, most major cities in the world I will skip entirely for my dislike of large crowds, noises, and city life.

So, we skipped the busy metropolitan city of Madrid and Barcelona and opted out of partying in Ibiza and saw these five beautiful, historic and medieval towns. I’ve also included our favorite restaurants, cafes and experiences. Be sure to check out the vlog for the full experience. It’s also more entertaining than my writing 😉 So here it is,

the 5 Most Underrated Cities in Spain You Must Visit!

Salamanca

My favorite city of the five cities we visited in Spain, Salamanca feels like an old, historic Spanish storybook. Walk along the stones, admire the architecture like the medieval flags, lanterns and knights in shining armor. And explore the main square Plaza Major.  Salamanca is also home to one of the oldest universities in Europe!

5 Most Underrated Small Cities in Spain You Must Visit! Salamanca, Caceres, Cordoba, Granada, Aranjez - Photographer / blogger Helena Woods

Where to Eat in Salamanca

5 Most Underrated Small Cities in Spain You Must Visit! Salamanca, Caceres, Cordoba, Granada, Aranjez - Photographer / blogger Helena Woods

One of my favorite experiences with Alex was sitting in a beautiful chocolate cafe (from 1881!) in the morning. No better way to start the day than with chocolate, churros and long talks about your dreams. Grab some churros and hot chocolate in the morning at the famous and very nostalgic Chocolateria Valor. Everyone goes home for a siesta from 2-5 PM, so plan on grabbing lunch prior to then. My suggestion? The incredible 1 Euro sandwich chain – 100 Montaditos!

In the evening, and open all day, is the Manolita Cafe Bar. If you enjoy tapas, old Mickey Mouse cartoons, board games and good coffee, this is your perfect spot to chill. Alex and I enjoyed coffee while watching the old black & white cartoons (that’s what initially sold me). When we found out that they had Rummikub among many other board games, we ended up spending several hours here!

5 Most Underrated Small Cities in Spain You Must Visit! Salamanca, Caceres, Cordoba, Granada, Aranjez - Photographer / blogger Helena Woods

Salamanca’s history, architecture, and general feel made Salamanca our favorite city in Spain. Strolling the old streets felt like a Spanish fairytale, and the beautiful bridges and trickling brook leading to the old city felt like a dream. If you want a truly authentic Spanish city and can only visit one, make it Salamanca. I only wish we could be back there. Luckily, I made a vlog, so I can often revisit when I am feeling nostalgic. That is why I make them for our little family, after all. 🙂

Caceres

5 Most Underrated Small Cities in Spain You Must Visit! Salamanca, Caceres, Cordoba, Granada, Aranjez - Photographer / blogger Helena Woods

Explore the Old Town

The best preserved old town in Spain, do not let this small, less-talked about town dissuade you from making your way here. Upon arrival in Caceres, head straight to the Old Town and allow yourself to get lost in the Middle Ages.There isn’t much color or fancy aesthetics, but Caceres is rich in history – dating all the way back to 25BC! Wandering the stoned streets instantly takes you back to the medieval times, complete with old fortresses, stone facades and a torture museum. Not to mention, it makes total sense that Game of Thrones was filmed here!

5 Most Underrated Small Cities in Spain You Must Visit! Salamanca, Caceres, Cordoba, Granada, Aranjez - Photographer / blogger Helena Woods

Best Food in Caceres

If you can only go out for one meal, aside from 100 Montaditos – yes! they have one there, too! – make it the local (and traveller’s) favorite: La Cacharreria. It’s been rated high on almost every travel magazine, blog and award and for good reason – the experience is amazing. Of course the tapas are delicious but the design and decor makes it one of the coolest restaurants I’ve visited while traveling. I particularly loved the mozzarella, pesto and tomato salad, the falafel, the rice pudding, and the chocolate mousse!

Quick Tip: Be sure to get there right when they open at 8:30 or be prepared to wait for a table.

La Cacharreria in Caceres. - 5 Most Underrated Small Cities in Spain You Must Visit! Salamanca, Caceres, Cordoba, Granada, Aranjez - Photographer / blogger Helena WoodsLa Cacharreria in Caceres. 5 Most Underrated Small Cities in Spain You Must Visit! Salamanca, Caceres, Cordoba, Granada, Aranjez - Photographer / blogger Helena Woods

Cordoba

Alright, I’m going to be totally honest: I’m not sure exactly why we chose to visit Cordoba. Alex and I had done a ton of research, reading different travel blogs on ideas of lesser-known cities in Spain we wanted to visit and Cordoba looked like a dream. While it is an amazing and special city, we didn’t find much to actually do there. Cordoba is a very small city but with the most picturesque winding Spanish alleyways, churches and water fountains. Needless to say, it’s also super easy to get lost, but when you don’t have a plan, it can be quite romantic and enjoyable. Alex and I are super laid-back travelers, and when we travel, we don’t jam-pack our days with activities and itineraries. We often wander, get lost, make some local friends and spend hours playing cards in a coffe shop.  We spent our time in Cordoba, and really our entire trip, wandering. Which was beyond perfect for us. We ended up befriending an English couple, walking along the old bridges at sunset, and eating our way through the small city.

Restaurants in Cordoba You Must Try

La Boca

The best meal ever! Not only is the food complex in taste, interesting and delicious (Alex recommends the Salmon Avocado tartare) and a little bit pricy, it was such a nice evening for a date night. Aside from the food being incredible and well-presented, the restaurant is heaven for a design-enthusiast! The wallpaper, antique piano, mix-matched old lamps, and beautiful bar and patio outside, I didn’t want to leave. On our way, we passed by so many beautifully-designed bars, restaurants, and lounges. For a foodie that loves eating out, we thoroughly enjoyed Cordoba!

Taberna Rincon de Las Beatillas

If you’re looking for an authentic Spanish experience, look no further. The menu is traditionally Spanish, with plenty of tapas including cheese, olives and delicious fried eggplant! They are big on their meats, of course, and wines. What I loved most about this little hole-in-the-wall was its stylish and authentic Spanish decor. It feels like a old tavern with plenty of antiques, paintings and bull heads (tear…). The restaurant is located on a little alley street…we found it while getting lost. 🙂

Granada

5 Most Underrated Small Cities in Spain You Must Visit! Salamanca, Caceres, Cordoba, Granada, Aranjez - Photographer / blogger Helena Woods

Here’s a shocker to everyone who’s visited Granada: I didn’t really care for the city. Aside from the beautiful Alhambra and the Arabic lantern shops and restaurants, it wasn’t my favorite. It’s a major city, smaller than Madrid but still very touristy and bustling (and a bit grimy, if I am being frank). I try to avoid the touristy areas as much as I can, and on a side note, this was also Alex’s must-see city. I do recommend seeing a Flamenco dancing show at one of the many small theaters or underground caves, as well as visiting the Alhambra – be sure to book your tickets online at least a few months in advance!

Aranjuez

5 Most Underrated Small Cities in Spain You Must Visit! Salamanca, Caceres, Cordoba, Granada, Aranjez - Photographer / blogger Helena Woods

My third favorite of the 5 cities, Aranjuez is the Versailles of Spain! Perfectly-manicured gardens, groves, ornate water fountains and rivers line this very-small city, plus all the peacocks walking around added to the fun.  Alex and I stopped for our usual 1 euro 100 Montaditos (duh) after our long drive and began to explore the three charming parks: Jardin del Parterre, Jardin de la Isla and the bigger Jardin del Principe. The city and parks are so small, you can leisurely stroll all three parks within an hour or two. Aranjuez is highly underrated, despite it being so lovely and picturesque. Planning a trip to Spain? Don’t leave this off your list!

5 Most Underrated Small Cities in Spain You Must Visit! Salamanca, Caceres, Cordoba, Granada, Aranjez - Photographer / blogger Helena Woods

Love,

Helena

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5 Underrated Small Cities in Spain You Must Visit {Vlog}

November 9, 2018

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I'm Helena! As a creative storyteller, I document magical, emotionally honest family and children's portraiture. A lover of childhood, fairytales and natural light, I photograph families across the world. I'm the ultimate Disney nerd, and I'm obsessed with cats and expressing my love for the simple joys of slow, daily life.

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Helena Woods is a destination newborn and family photographer based in France and New England and travels worldwide. She is known for her natural light, modern classic, and emotive photography style.

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