Spain is an amalgamation of tradition and modernity. The awe-inspiring landscape and medieval monuments coupled with an active nightlife and modern infrastructure will give you an unforgettable experience.
Spain is famous for its friendly inhabitants, relaxed lifestyle, its cuisine, vibrant nightlife, and world-famous folklore and festivities, and its history as the core of the vast Spanish Empire. France and Portugal border Spain on either side.
Things To Do In Spain
Spain has several interesting cities worthy of your visit. For a complete list of things to do in Madrid, please visit our Madrid Travel Guide.
Madrid is the capital city, rich in museums and architecture. Barcelona is another modern city with beautiful architecture and rich nightlife. Granada is a winter paradise. Valencia is a beach town. Cordoba has a stunning mosque. Bilbao is a busy industrial city. Cadiz is an old town with historic charm. Seville has a beautiful cathedral.
- Madrid — the vibrant capital, with fantastic museums, interesting architecture, great food and nightlife
- Barcelona — Spain’s second city, full of modernist buildings and a vibrant cultural life, plus nightclubs and beaches
- Bilbao — former industrial city, home to the Guggenheim Museum and other cultural features; main Basque city
- Córdoba — also called Cordova, The Grand Mosque (‘Mezquita’) of Cordoba is one of the world’s finest buildings
- Granada — stunning city in the south, surrounded by snow capped mountains of the Sierra Nevada, home of La Alhambra
- Seville — a beautiful, verdant city, and home to the world’s third largest cathedral
- Valencia — paella was invented here, has a very nice beach
- Cadiz — an old town with historic charm
- Zaragoza — also called Saragossa, is the fifth largest city of Spain
- Málaga — the heart of flamenco with the beaches of the Costa del Sol
Historically, Spain has been an important crossroads: between the Mediterranean and the Atlantic, between North Africa and Europe, and as Europe beginning colonizing the New World, between Europe and the Americas.
In the south of Spain, Andalusia holds many reminders of old Spain. Cadiz is regarded as one of the oldest continuously-inhabited cities in western Europe, with remnants of the Roman settlement that once stood here.
Nearby, Ronda is a beautiful town atop steep cliffs and noted for its gorge-spanning bridge and the oldest bullring in Spain.
Cordoba and Granada hold the most spectacular reminders of the nation’s Muslim past, with the red-and-white striped arches of the Mezquita in Cordoba and the stunning Alhambra palace perched on a hill above Granada.
Seville, the cultural center of Andalusia, has a dazzling collection of sights built when the city was the main port for goods from the Americas, the grandest of which is the city’s cathedral, the largest in the country.
Moving north across the plains of La Mancha into Central Spain, picturesque Toledo stands as perhaps the historical center of the nation, a beautiful medieval city sitting atop a hill that once served as the capital of Spain before Madrid was built.
North of Madrid and an easy day-trip from the capital city is El Escorial, once the center of the Spanish empire during the time of the Inquisition, and Segovia, noted for its spectacular Roman aqueduct which spans one of the city’s squares.
Further north in Castile-Leon is Salamanca, known for its famous university and abundance of historic architecture.
Galicia in northwestern Spain is home to Santiago de Compostela, the end point of the old Way of St. James (Camino de Santiago) pilgrimage route and the supposed burial place of St. James, with perhaps the most beautiful cathedral in all of Spain at the heart of its lovely old town.
Northeastern Spain has a couple of historical centers to note: Zaragoza, with Roman, Muslim, medieval and Renaissance buildings from throughout its two thousand years of history, and Barcelona with its pseudo-medieval Barri Gòtic neighborhood.
Apart from these cities, there are also natural gems that are worth a visit.
Gran Canaria is an island with a diverse climate. Costa Brava is known for its sandy beaches. La Rioja is famous for its wine. The Sierra Nevada will offer you hiking trails. Tenerife is a land of gorgeous vegetation and rich biodiversity. Ibiza is known for its crazy clubbing.
- Costa Blanca — 200 km of white coast with plenty of beaches and small villages
- Costa Brava — the rugged coast with plenty of seaside resorts
- Costa del Sol — the sunny coast in the south of the country
- Galicia — historic cities and small towns, world-famous seafood, and more Blue Flag beaches than any other autonomous community
- Gran Canaria — known as “a continent in miniature” due to its many different climates and landscapes
- Ibiza — a Balearic island; one of the best places for clubbing, raving, and DJs in the entire world
- La Rioja — Rioja wine and fossilized dinosaur tracks
- Mallorca — the largest island of the Balears, full of amazing beaches and great nightlife
- Sierra Nevada — the highest mountains on the Iberian Peninsula, great for walking and skiing
- Tenerife — offers lush forests, exotic fauna and flora, deserts, mountains, volcanoes, beautiful coastlines, and spectacular beaches
The most popular beaches in Spain are the ones along the Mediterranean coast and on the Canary Islands.
- El Camino de Santiago — also known as The Way of St. James, it is one of the most important Christian pilgrimages, with Santiago de Compostela, Spain, as the final destination
- Via de la Plata Route — a historic 800-km route from Gijón to Sevilla
The mountains of Sierra Nevada in the south, the Central Cordillera and the northern Pyrenees are the best places.
Spain is popular for Canyoning (going in a bottom of a canyon, which is either dry or full of water). It combines elements from swimming, climbing, and jumping. Needless to say, it’s a fun thing for any adventure lover.
- Sierra Nevada (in Andalucía)
- Serrania de Ronda (in Andalucía)
- Sierra de Guara (from Alquezar, in Aragon region)
- Pyrenees (from Alquezar, in Aragon region)
- Sierra de Gredos (in Extremadura)
- Valle del Tietar (in Extremadura)
- Barranco de Somosierra (in Madrid)
- Ampurias – excavations of a Greek and Roman town, Roman basilica, temples of Asclepios and Serapis, (between Gerona and Figueras, Catalonia)
- Antequetera – La Menga and Viera dolmens
- Calatrava la Nueva – well preserved medieval castle
- Calatrava la Vieja – remains of the Arab town, castle of the order of Calatrava
- Clunia – Roman town with forums, shops, a temple, public bathhouses, and a Roman villa
- Fraga – Roman villa, Bronze Age settlements
- Gormaz – an ancient Arab castle
- Italica – an ancient Roman town with amphitheater, city walls, House of the Exedra, House of the Peacocks, Baths of the Moorish Queen, House of the Hylas, temple complex (near Sevilla)
- Merida – an ancient Roman city, Roman bridge, Amphitheatre, Hippodrome, House of the Amphitheatre, House of the Mithraeum with mosaics, aqueducts, museum
- San Juan de los Banos – Visigoth church (between Burgos and Valladolid)
- San Pedro de la Nave – Visigoth church (near Zamora)
- Santa Maria de Melque – Visigoth church
- Segobriga (Cabeza del Griego) – an ancient Roman town, Visigoth church, museum (between Madrid and Albacete)
- Tarragona – an ancient Roman town with “Cyclopean wall”, amphitheater, hippodrome, form and triumphal arch
In the last century, Spain’s unique position in Europe brought forth some of the leading artists of the Modernist and Surrealist movements, most notably the famed Picasso and Salvador Dalí.
Also, other noteworthy artists from Spain are El Greco, Diego Velázquez, and Francisco Goya.
Museum Triangle, Madrid
- Museo del Prado
- Reina Sofía
Spain’s two largest cities hold the lion’s share of Spain’s most famous artworks. Madrid’s Museum Triangle is home to the Museo del Prado, the largest art museum in Spain with many of the most famous works by El Greco, Velázquez, and Goya as well as some notable works by Italian, Flemish, Dutch and German masters.
Nearby sits the Reina Sofía, most notable for holding Picasso’s Guernica but also containing a number of works by Dalí and other Modernist, Surrealist and abstract painters. Lastly, Thyssen-Bornemisza museum is a baron’s collection of classical art.
Picasso Museum, Barcelona
Barcelona is renowned for its stunning collection of modern and contemporary art and architecture. This is where you will find the Picasso Museum, which covers the artist’s early career quite well, and the architectural wonders of Antoni Gaudi, with their twisting organic forms that are a delight to look at.
Outside of Madrid and Barcelona, the art museums quickly dwindle in size and importance, although there are a couple of worthy mentions that should not be overlooked.
Many of El Greco’s most famous works lie in Toledo, an easy day trip from Madrid. The Disrobing of Christ, perhaps El Greco’s most famous work, sits in the Cathedral, but you can also find work by him in one of the small art museums around town.
Bilbao in the Basque Country of northern Spain is home to a spectacular Guggenheim Museum designed by Frank Gehry that has put the city on the map. A day trip from Barcelona is the town of Figueres, noted for the Salvador Dalí Museum, designed by the Surrealist himself.
Festivals of Spain
Spain has a lot of local festivals that are worth going to.
- Fallas – Valencia’s festival in March – burning the “fallas” is a must
- La Tomatina – a giant tomato fight in BuñolMálaga’s Semana Santa (Easter) – worth seeing. From Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday lots of processions occur
- Córdoba en Mayo – means Cordoba in May, a great month to visit the Southern city
- Carnivals – best in Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria and Cádiz
- Las Cruces – in 1st week in May, big flower-made crosses embellishing public squares in the city center, where you will also find at night music and people having fun!
- Festival de Patios – one of the most interesting cultural exhibitions, 2 weeks when some people open doors of their houses to show their old Patios full of flowers
- Cata del Vino Montilla-Moriles – great wine tasting in a big tent in the city center during one week in May
- Dia de Sant Jordi – The Catalan must. On 23 April Barcelona is embellished with roses everywhere and book-selling stands can be found in the Rambla
- Málaga’s August Fair – flamenco dancing, drinking sherry, bullfights
- San Fermines – July in Pamplona, Navarra.
- Fiesta de San Isidro – 15 May in Madrid – a celebration of Madrid’s patron saint.
- Holy week (Easter Week) – best in Seville and the rest of Andalusia; also interesting in Valladolid (silent processions) and Zaragoza (where hundreds of drums are played in processions)
- Cabalgata de los Reyes Magos (Three wise men parade) – on the eve of Epiphany, 5 January, the night before Spanish kids get their Christmas presents, it rains sweets and toys in every single town and city
- San Sebastian International Film Festival – held annually in San Sebastian, a gorgeous city in the Basque Country, towards the end of September
- Moros y Cristianos (Moors and Christians, mostly found in Southeastern Spain during spring time) – parades and “battles” remembering the fights of medieval ages
- Galicia region festivals – almost 85 festivals in Galicia throughout the year from wine to wild horses.
Trains are the best way to travel long distances within the country. However, short distance travel can be a bit annoying. Luckily, the bus network is extensive. You can reach nearly all towns via a bus. If you can afford to spend a hefty amount on travel then journeying by car is a good option. Taxis are another means of transportation when traveling within a single city, but they are expensive.
Taxis in Spain are generally safe and easy to find, especially in major cities. Also, car hire is easy, but you need to be over 21. Roads are generally in good condition. Cars drive on the right side of the road.
Spanish is the lingua franca here, but English is taught in schools. You will be able to talk with the locals if you have a basic knowledge of Spanish.
The currency in use in Euro. The currency exchange is available in any bank, and at most travel agencies, major hotels, and airports. All major international credit cards are easily acceptable and ATMs are available throughout the country.
Where To Stay
As for electricity, Spain uses type F sockets. You need to bring a travel adapter to fit the proper socket type. Check out the above-linked page to see the photos and other useful information. The standard voltage is 230 V. Many of your devices may need a step-up transformer to match the electrical voltage.
August 14, 2016 12:00 am 3 Comments