Fascinating architecture and beautiful food in northern Spain

Spain is home to so many exciting, modern and historic cities that the more recognisable names can often overshadow some of the smaller - but no less enjoyable - cities. For example, on my recent travels I discovered a gem on the northern coast: Bilbao and San Sebastian.

San Sebastian is home to nearly 1,000 years of history and some spectacular architecture. The city dates back to the 1100s and has a fascinating story to tell - it’s been the site of poverty following bitter wars, the home of royal headquarters, and has been burned to the ground by invaders.

In terms of architecture, almost all the buildings have been constructed in the 19th century or later, but there are still many grand examples and a variety of styles to be found. The cathedral is a beautiful example of medieval aesthetics (although it’s barely 100 years old) and the magnificent Victoria Eugenia Theatre helps draw in jazz musicians and film-makers for internationally-renowned festivals which saw the city achieve Capital of Culture status in 2016.

A little more than 50 miles to the west is Bilbao, which is home to a Guggenheim museum. The museum’s buildings are often noted for their original and exciting styles but few are as loved and received as many positive reviews from around the world as this ship-shaped giant by Frank Gehry. Opened in 1997, it is built in the deconstructivism style and it is easy to see why it is one of the few modern buildings to earn almost universal praise.

And finally, one of my favourite benefits of traveling to new areas is the opportunity to sample local food, and my trip to the Bay of Biscay is one I’ll remember for a long time, not least for the gorgeous tapas. The food I enjoyed was not complicated - rib eye steak, olive oil and tomatoes and not much more. But the taste was simply amazing. I have eaten in restaurants that critics have decided are the best in the world, but much of this food was every bit as tasty. If you have only ever eaten supermarket tomatoes, I urge you to head to Spain and see, taste and smell how good they can be when properly grown and prepared.

In fact, these two cities and their wide selections of architecture, culture to suit all tastes and warm summer weather are only a £30 flight away, and I would recommend the region to anybody.