Welcome to the ultimate travel guide to Spain.
If you’ve been searching for helpful Spain travel tips, you’ve come to the right place. The post covers everything you need to know about your trip to Spain.
An amalgam of old and new, the Iberian country packs art, culture, and architecture in a powerful fusion, but that’s just the tip of the Spanish iceberg. Expect to indulge in fantastic food, party in the world’s best clubs, conquer imposing mountain peaks, or relax on shimmering beaches.
The guide consists of 188 Spain travel tips, including things to do before you go to Spain, the best places to travel in Spain, the best time to travel to Spain, and reveal the best well-kept secrets.
Hi! My name is Svet Dimitrov. I’ve been to Spain numerous times, and I absolutely love it. Now, I’d like to show you its spicy, Mediterranean secrets.
The travel tips represent the country in its purest form. Dig in slowly!
Things to Do & Know Before You Go to Spain
This section will show you what things you need to do before you travel to Spain.
- Get your visa. If your passport doesn’t allow you to visit Spain without a visa, here’s what you need to do:
- Apply for a visa in your country of residence before your trip.
- Spain doesn’t issue visas. Don’t travel without one because you’ll be denied access to the country, and even your embassy/consulate won’t be able to help.
- It’s advisable to apply for a visa four to eight weeks prior your departure date.
- Each Spanish diplomatic mission has different visa procedures. Get in touch with yours to know what documents you’ll need, how much it costs, and how long does it take to process your visa.
- If you’re a citizen of an EU member state, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, or Switzerland, you don’t need a visa. The only documents you’ll need are either a passport or your ID card. If you’re travelling with a minor who has an ID, he/she must have a written permission from the parents.
- Learn some Spanish or get a phrasebook. While people in Barcelona and Madrid tend to speak English, that’s not always the case in South Spain. So, I recommend you to learn basic Spanish words, especially if you plan on venturing out of big cities and deep into the countryside.
- Spain’s standard electric voltage is 230 V. The country operates on a 230V supply voltage and 50 Hz. This means that if your country’s voltage is 100-127 V, bring a voltage converter/travel adapter with you.
- Spain’s location is in Southwest Europe. The country sits on the Iberian Peninsula, bordering Andorra and France to the northeast, Portugal to the west, and Gibraltar (the U.K.) and Morocco to the south (by the autonomous cities of Ceuta and Melilla). The longest border is with Portugal (1,214 km or 754 mi), while the shortest one is with Gibraltar (< 1km or < 0.6 mi).
- The country’s time zone is CST. The Central European Time, which Spain uses, is just one hour ahead of Coordinated Universal Time (UTC). Most of Western and Central Europe are in the same time zone. Portugal, however, is an hour ahead of Spain.
- Spain is a constitutional monarchy. By form of government, the country operates under a monarch. Currently, the monarchy includes King Felipe VI and Queen Letizia, as well as their daughters – Leonor, Princess of the Asturias, and Infanta Sofia.
- The Iberian country boasts a fantastic array
of beaches. With one of the
longest coasts in the Mediterranean, Spain will satisfy your most fastidious
beach desires. 1,600 km (1,000 mi) of coastline just on the Mediterranean side
made Spain consider tourism as a paramount sector of its economy back in the
late 19th century. The best Spanish coastal regions include:
- Andalusia – Costa de la Luz (Coast of Light), Costa del Sol (Coast of Sun), Costa Tropical, Costa de Almería;
- Catalonia – Barcelona, Costa Dorada, Costa del Garraf, Costa Brava;
- Murcia – Costa Calida;
- Valencia – Costa Blanca, Costa de Valencia, Costa del Azahar.
- Spain has gorgeous mountains, too. Besides shimmering beaches, Spain prides itself on jaw-dropping mountain formations. There are numerous mountain peaks that are over 3,000 m (~9,850 ft), and some of the highest ones are not even in continental Spain. More on that – later.
- Spain has 17 regions and two autonomous cities. Spain is not a federation like Russia or Germany. Rather, it’s a highly decentralised unitary state. 15 of the regions are in mainland Spain. The other two are island groups. The Balearic Islands are off the eastern coast of Spain. The Canary Islands lie off Morocco’s western coast in the Atlantic Ocean.
Currency & Money Tips
This section of the ultimate Spain travel guide will tell you how to prepare your finances ahead of your trip.
- The country is part of the Eurozone. This means, euro (EUR) is the country’s currency. There are seven banknotes of 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, and 500 EUR. The coins are called cents. There are eight coins – 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, and 50 cent coins, as well as 1 and 2 EUR coins. The EUR sign is €.
- You’ll be able to pay with a card virtually everywhere. Spain is a developed country, so expect to be able to use your credit/debit card anywhere you go. An exception might be some vendors in local markets like La Boqueria in Barcelona or San Miguel in Madrid. Some taxis have POS terminals, but most don’t (see the Transportation section for more reference).
- Tipping is neither customary nor expected. Tipping in Spain is not a local habit, but if you’re used to tipping, here’s how you can do it: While in more modest places, the usual tip is around 1 EUR, in chic dining establishments, leaving a 5-10% tip is typically the norm, especially if the service you’ve received was exceptional.
- Spain is cheaper than most of Western Europe. While Barcelona and Madrid’s prices resemble some smaller German cities, the rest of Spain, especially the South, is pretty cheap, compared to western standards.
- Can you receive a VAT reimbursement? If your residence is outside of the European
Union, you may claim your purchases’ tax back. However, this requires meeting
- Buying goods from a shop, which offers the DIVA electronic tax-free form;
- Your purchase must be personal, not commercial;
- You must bring the goods you bought back to your country of residence within three months of the purchase date.
- Exchange money at a local bank or withdraw it from bank chains or ATM machines. Withdrawing cash from an ATM machine is your easiest option in Spain, but any bank (local or international) will also exchange your money to EUR. Just remember to have your passport with you.
The Spanish language is among the most spoken ones on a global scale. The Spaniards spread it all over the world.
- Spain has one official language. It’s Spanish. Castilian Spanish. 99% of all Spaniards speak it as either a first or a second language. This means that if you speak Spanish, you’ll get everywhere in Spain.
- There are other languages, too. Five other languages have co-official status. These include Aranese, Basque, Catalan, Galician, and Valencian. Besides Catalonia, Catalan is also spoken on the Balearic Islands. Valencian is very similar to Catalan, too, so you’ll often find Balearic, Catalan, and Valencian grouped together.
- There are several unrecognised languages and varieties. These include Cantabrian, Extremaduran, Eonavian, Fala, Riffan Berber, along with some distinct varieties of Spanish.
- Spain has many immigrant groups. Most of them have their own languages. The biggest diasporas there speak in Arabic, Bulgarian, Chinese, English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, and Ukrainian.
- Spanish is very close to Italian and Portuguese. This means that if you speak either of these languages, there’s a good chance you’ll get around using them. A friend of mine told me she spoke Portuguese, locals replied in Spanish, and everything was okay. With French, you might have some success, too.
- Many people speak decent English. In most Spanish resort towns and big cities, you’ll get along with English. However, knowing a dozen or so words in Spanish would always come in handy. Who knows, you might get a bigger sangria, eh?
- Expert Advice
Health and Safety Tips
An illness or an injury might ruin your holiday fun. Thus, it’s better to be prepared. This section of my Spain travel tips will give you some advice on health and safety in the country.
- Be careful in crowded areas. Where there are crowds, there are pickpocketers. To avoid being robbed, be alert when sightseeing in places, such as La Rambla in Barcelona, Puerta del Sol in Madrid, etc.
- Have your insurance ready. Hospital services in Spain might be a bit more affordable than some other Western European countries, but they’re not cheap. Thus, insuring yourself in advance will save you from unpleasant situations if you happen to need medical help.
- You don’t need vaccines. When you’re traveling to Spain, you don’t have to do any vaccines. Nonetheless, health institutions suggest you make sure your immunisation records are updated. While in Spain, you should be protected against diphtheria, measles, mumps, polio, rubella, and tetanus.
- Medical facilities in Spain are among the best worldwide. Emergency hospital services are accessible to anyone, regardless of his/her ability to pay. Some pharmacies (farmacias) are open late, but bear in mind that many close between 2 and 5 pm (the so-called “siesta time”).
- Large Spanish cities have hospitals with English-speaking staff. In small towns and villages, you might not find doctors/nurses who speaks English. However, in the medical facilities in Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia, and other major cities, you’ll get along with English easily.
- Pharmacies are everywhere. Choose a spot in Barcelona or Madrid, and I can bet my cute Bulgarian tushie you’ll see at least a couple of blinking green crosses. Spanish pharmacies (and most European ones for that matter) are not like the drugstores in the U.S. Save for some cosmetics and toothpastes, virtually everything else stays behind a counter. You can probably get some medication without prescription, but to be on the safe side, have one with you.
- Spanish summers are insanely hot. You might find some escape in the north of Spain in summer, but the country’s southern part receives incredible amounts of sunshine. Temperatures usually fly over 40-45 C (104-113F) in July to September. Avoid the heatwaves, drink lots of water, and wear a lot of sunscreen and a hat. I’ve been to Spain numerous times, and I’ve worn shorts and a T-shirt even at the beginning of October. It’s baking hot – be prepared!
- Stay hydrated. The sweltering summer heat is also going to dehydrate you. So, make sure you either have a bottle of water with you or some electrolytes. In fact, if I were you, I’d avoid walking under the sun between 2 and 5 PM.
- Tap water is fine to drink. The majority of the tap water in Spain is generally safe to drink. However, do double-check with your host families or hotel staff to ensure it’s okay to drink it straight from the tap. Certain places in southern Spain should be avoided, so asking can save you from trouble.
- The air is clean and fresh. Spain’s location and the fact that there aren’t many huge metropolises contribute to its clean environment. The country’s mountains and islands take great pride in their nice and fresh air.
- Winters are mild. Expect a mild winter in Spain. However, there’s a good amount of humidity, which makes you feel the cold much stronger than it actually is. Take it from a person who barely feels cold anywhere, and pack a thick jacket and a hat/scarf.
Food in Spain A Mediterranean Orgasm
Spanish food is famous around the world. Spain’s location in the South of Europe has contributed to its food variety. History had a huge influence on Spanish cuisine, which nowadays incorporates old and new. Ready to dive in the culinary world of Spain? Let’s go!
- Eating and drinking are an integral part of Spanish culture. People always find a reasonable excuse to grab tapas and talk their evening out with friends in bars. In fact, most bars are also restaurants where locals watch football (soccer) together and hang out.
- Spaniards eat later than most people in the world. This is especially true in summer when the mercury of the thermometer is at its highest. A typical dinner will start at 22:00 (10 pm) and last until the small hours of the next day. Breakfasts and lunches occur a couple of hours later, too.
- Tapas are a must-try. If there’s one thing that you have to try in Spain, this is tapas. Tapas are delicious appetisers or snacks that come in small portions. They can be cold (an assortment of cheeses or an olive mix) or hot (for examples chopitos – fried baby squids). The best thing about tapas is their variety, meaning they can accommodate even the most fastidious of tastes.
- Meat is one of the best you’ll ever taste. The different types of Jamón, with Ibérico being the most famous one, have become an indispensable part of Spain’s culinary scene. But that’s just the icing on the cake. There’s so much more to explore if you’re a carnivore.
- Not a meat fan? How about some seafood paella? Paella is among the most traditional Spanish dishes. In the beginning, locals prepared it with various types of meat (chicken, duck, rabbit, and even snails), but nowadays, the seafood paella (calamari, shrimps, or squid) dominates the Spanish culinary scene. The meal’s main ingredient is rice, generously accompanied by saffron, which gives paella’s distinctive orange-y colour. Origin: Valencia
- How about a cold and refreshing tomato soup? Gazpacho is the perfect excuse to eat tomatoes all the time. An ideal choice for vegetarians, it epitomises fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, and peppers, and uses garlic and olive oil as a seasoning. Accompany it with some bread, and you’re good to go. Origin: Andalusia
- Patatas bravas are tapas’ staple food. The “brave potatoes” are fried, and come with a spicy sauce that tickles the palate. Spanish cuisine is usually not spicy, so this comes as an exception. The potatoes are the same everywhere, but the sauce changes according to the region.
- Seafood lover? Try the pulpo a la gallega. “Pulpo” is the Spanish word for octopus. Octopus in Galician style is to die for if you worship seafood. But don’t worry, you’ll find it almost everywhere, not only in Galicia. The secret behind the divine taste of the boiled octopus? Three ingredients – paprika, crusty rock salt, and a sprinkle of olive oil. The dish comes on top of several baked potatoes – all served on a wooden platter.
- Spain is the leading producer of olives. On a global scale, Spain produces more olives than Greece and Italy combined. So, if you’re a worshipper of the tiny fruits like me, brace yourself for an olivegasm!
- Expert Advice
Mama Española en Bulgaria
Spanish Drinks A refreshment for all seasons
Spanish people like fiestas. And what’s a fiesta without a liquid accompaniment? If your knowledge of Spanish drinks stops at sangria, this section from the ultimate Spain travel guide will make sure you know what and when to drink.
- Spanish beer is light and refreshing. Spain might not be the largest producer or consumer of beer globally, but its beer is certainly a fantastic way to wash down patatas bravas, battle the heat, or people’s watch. Some of the best Spanish beers, in my opinion, are Estrella Damm, San Miguel, and Ambar.
- Try sidra (cider) if you’d like to explore something new. Cider is one of the least-known beverages in the Iberian country. The Spanish one differs from the sweet and bubbly English and northern European varieties because it’s dry and tart.
- Sangria is mandatory. If there’s one thing from my Spain travel tips that you should absolutely 100% do, it’s to try sangria. If you go to Spain, and you don’t have sangria gently caress your palate, I’ll think you don’t like life. Jokes aside, this fruity, low-alcohol beverage is the ideal refreshment in the sizzling summer heat. The beverage combines red wine with seasonal fruits. Sometimes, it includes triple sec or brandy.
- Spain has some great wine. The country boasts 2.9+ million acres (1.17 million hectares) of vines. This puts it on top worldwide. However, in terms of production, it comes after Italy and France. The best and most famous wine is from the region of La Rioja. Other noteworthy varieties are the ones from Ribera del Duero, Jerez de la Frontera, Rías Baixas from Galicia, and Cava from Catalonia.
- Cava is the Spanish “champagne”. When you visit Spain, and you’re craving champagne, you cannot afford to not try cava. This sparkling wine makes for the perfect bubbly foreplay with your palate. If you’re feeling adventurous, pour it in sangria. What’s best about it? It’s much cheaper than champagne.
- If you wanna challenge your taste buds, travel to Andalusia for some Sherry. The drink is also known as Vino de Jerez because it originates from the city with the same name. It’s called Sherry because in Arabic, Jerez is Sherish. The varieties range from light white wines through sweet dessert wines to fortified wine, whose alcohol content is 15.5-17%.
- Tinto de Verano is not just a summer beverage. Tinto de Verano, literally meaning “Summer Red Wine”, is a fantastic cocktail that refreshes every season. Just combine red wine and lemon/lime water (or soda), and drink yourself to seventh alcoholic heaven.
- Not an alcoholic fan? Try Horchata. Homemade horchata is the best, but you can also buy it packaged. Either way, this rice-based beverage is incredibly refreshing (sweet, too!), and serves as a great addition to a spicy dish. Horchata can be prepared with seeds, walnuts, or ground almonds.
- Expert Advice
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Accommodation in SpainHotels, Hostels, and Airbnb
In comparison to most of Western Europe, Spain has more affordable accommodation options. This doesn’t mean that their quality is worse, though.
Spain is the second most visited country on a global scale, which is driving prices up every year. New spots are mushrooming every day to address the ever-growing tourist numbers.
This section of the ultimate Spain travel guide will tell you everything you need to know about accommodation in Spain.
General Accommodation Tips
- Smoking is allowed with restrictions. In 2011, Spain imposed a smoking ban. Since then, you can’t smoke in closed public spaces, including bars, casinos, airports, nightclubs, restaurants, and outdoor spots like hospital or children’s playgrounds. Hotels, however, have some 30% of their rooms available to smokers. But if I were you, I’d double-check before reserving.
- When checking in, get the hotel’s business card. Or maybe write it down on your phone. That’s a smart tip because it’ll most probably have the name and address in both Spanish and English. If you somehow manage to get lost, just show the card to a taxi driver or ask somebody on the street.
- Many hotels/hostels provide free breakfast. If you want to devote your whole day to exploring a Spanish city, you’d need a hearty breakfast. Most accommodation options should have them included in the price for the night, but make sure that’s the case because there are exceptions.
- Expect to have a complimentary Wi-Fi. It’s 2019, and a free Wi-Fi connection is the rule in most accommodations in Spain. The average speed is quite high (30+ Mbps).
- To get the best deals, choose low season. Don’t like hot weather, crazy crowds, and high prices? Then, avoid the summer months of July, August, and September. Around Easter and Christmas, it’s quite busy so you might want to avoid those dates, too.
Hotel Types in Spain
Spain’s hotels are increasing by the day, and by some estimates, there are 16,000+ hotel establishments today. The country is revered for its affordable 1- and 2-star hotels, its medium-class 3-star accommodations, and its superb 4- and 5-star options, so you’ll have a bang for your buck.
- 1-star hotels are quite basic. Expect small rooms (7-10 sq m or 75-108 sq ft), a shower, and central heating. Prices start at €14 ($15.3) per night.
- 2-star hotels have a phone. The rooms are a bit bigger, and besides a shower and a telephone, they have a safety deposit box service. Prices start at €15-16 ($16.5-17.5) per night.
- 3-star hotels are the best when it comes to amenities and price. If you’d like normal rooms, a bath and a shower, and good prices, this is your option. Prices start at €25 ($27) and can be as high as €75-100 ($82-110), depending on the city, season, and location.
- 4-star hotels have spacious rooms and an AC. If you’ve chosen summer for your vacation in Spain, you’ll want an AC to cool off. Expect good-sized rooms and a pool. Prices start at as low as €30-35 ($33-38) and can go up to €200 ($219) in the heart of Barcelona or Madrid.
- 5-star hotels have everything you can think of. Spain has one of the top-notch 5-star hotels on the planet. Multiple facilities, gym and fitness spaces, fully-equipped SPA centres, concierge services, and fantastic swimming pools are some of the goodies you can expect to get. Price start at as low as €60-65 ($65.5-71) and climb to €600 ($656) or more for the hottest spots.
*All hotel prices are according to research on Agoda, Booking, and Expedia.
Hostels in Spain
The large Spanish cities will offer an abundance of hostel options, but you’re likely to find some even in small towns. There are many other options, which you’ll explore in the next section of my Spain travel tips.
- Hostels are good, cheap, and comfortable. Bunk beds and backpacks are the usual picture in youth hostels, but in most others, you’ll feel like you’re in small hotels. Prices start at as low as €10 ($11).
- Always check how you can pay. Some hostels in Spain don’t accept credit cards, so make sure you inquire before you arrive to avoid unpleasant situations. Or, to be on the safe side, just have some cash on you.
- There are two hostels types in Spain. These are “hostal” (abbreviated with “Hs”) and “hostal-residencia” (marked “HsR”). You’ll find these signs at the main entrance. Both types receive grades on a three-star system.
- Residential hostels (HsR) are equal to one- or even two-star hotels. The only difference between a hostal-residencia and a hotel is that the former doesn’t have an on-site restaurant. Many of these hostels will provide a simple breakfast included in the price for the night. Some rooms even have private bathrooms (ask for those in advance, though).
- Hostals are almost identical to hostal-residencias. The only major difference between the two types is that they don’t offer breakfast. But there are some exceptions, so double-check when booking.
Other Accommodation Options
There are accommodations in Spain, which you can’t find anywhere else. Let’s see.
- If you want to splurge, stay at a parador. To really immerse yourself in classical Spain, book a visit at a parador. Going by their official name paradores de turismo, paradors can be forts, castles, palaces, monasteries, or other historic buildings, which the country has turned into luxurious lodging spots. Their quality is on a par with four- and even five-star hotels. Paradors are costly and require booking them in advance. Check this link to book a stay.
- Wanna catch a glimpse of Spanish life? Visit a pension. Pensiones, also known as casas de huespedes (with a “CH” sign) have a handful of rooms and are family-run businesses.
Airbnb in Spain
- Airbnb is “hot” in Spain. If you prefer to have your own privacy, opting for an Airbnb spot is possible, too. That’s what I did when I was travelling in Barcelona and Madrid. One remark, though – carefully carry out your research about the place. AC-s in summer are a must, believe me!
The Top Spanish Cities to Visit
There are so many fantastic cities to visit that it might be hard to choose. This section of my Spain travel tips will help you decide where to travel in Spain.
Note: The section contains affiliate links. This means that when you book a tour from my website, I’ll get a small commission at NO extra cost to you.
Population: 6.6 M Location: The very heart of Spain Community: Madrid Province: Madrid Landmarks: The Royal Palace, Prado Museum, Plaza Mayor, El Retiro Park Famous for: Europe’s second highest capital cityWell, we have to start somewhere, and the royal Spanish capital is the perfect one. There is a host of things to do in Madrid. From royal magnificence through sheer grandeur to fine art, the capital city of Spain offers something to everybody. Popular attractions flirt with lush parks on every corner. Home to countless restaurants, Madrid is one of the best places to indulge in the delectable Spanish food. Party lover? Say no more. The capital’s pulsating heart is dotted with numerous bars to drink (and dance) the night away. Just take it easy on the sangria.Explore Madrid with this City Tour with a Hop-On-Hop-Off Bus.
Population: 4.84 M Location: North-East Spain Community: Catalonia Province: Barcelona Landmarks: Sagrada Familia, La Barceloneta Beach, Park Güell, Montjuïc Castle Famous for: The numerous Gaudí buildings all around the cityBarcelona might be Spain’s second biggest city, but it tops the list of the most beautiful Spanish cities by a huge margin. There’s one main thing to blame for that – the evident genius of Antoni Gaudí. From Sagrada Familia through Casa Batlló to Park Güell, the craftsmanship of the most popular Spanish architect peeks at you from every corner. Catalonia’s breathtaking capital is one of the few cities in the world where getting lost is considered a pleasure. Oh, and did I mention that Barcelona sits on several shimmering beaches with golden sands? If you’re heading there, know that 3 days in Barcelona won’t be enough to cover everything.Immerse in the true beauty of Barcelona with this Hop-On-Hop-Off City Tour.
Population: 1.6 M Location: South-East Spain Community: Valencia Province: Valencia Landmarks: Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias, Valencia Street Circuit, La Lonja de la Seda Famous for: Paella ValencianaIf you’re planning a trip to Spain, you most probably know what paella is. The delectable dish originates from Valencia. Similar to Barcelona, the capital of the autonomous community with the same name also cosily sits on the shores of the Mediterranean. Valencia is one of the few cities in the world whose city streets hosted the Formula One European Grand Prix (until 2013). Benefitting from a warm climate all year round, the city also attracts many business travellers every year thanks to its convention centres and numerous venues for trade shows.Discover the gorgeous Valencia with on a double decker. The ticket includes entry to one of the world’s largest aquariums – the Oceanogràfic.
Population: 1.5 M Location: South-West Spain Community: Andalusia Province: Seville Landmarks: Royal Alcázar Palace, Catedral de Sevilla, Plaza de España Famous for: The only river port in SpainThe capital city of Andalusia, Seville, is much more than the largest city in the autonomous community. In fact, it’s one of the best places to travel in Spain. Sevilla (in Spanish) prides itself on an admirable historical amalgam of three UNESCO World Heritage Sites. But history is just part of the Andalusian city’s attraction. Seville’s harbour, which stands at around 80 km (50 mi) from the Atlantic Ocean, is Spain’s only river port. The city is the hottest major Spanish province, with summer firing up the thermometer mercury above 35 C (95 F). What really makes Seville hot, though, is its musical scene. Hosting the largest flamenco event worldwide, the Bienal de Flamenco takes place twice and lasts for over a month.Explore Seville and its main highlights with this fantastic guided tour. The ticket allows you to skip the long queue lines.
Population: 666 K Location: North-East Spain Community: Aragon Province: Zaragoza Landmarks: Basílica del Pilar, La Seo Cathedral, Aljafería Palace. Famous for: Mudéjar Architecture of AragonThe Aragonese capital will enchant you with its magnificent art museums, ancient Roman ruins, and the breathtaking UNESCO-listed, Mudéjar architectural spots. Zaragoza lives up to the expectations of Baroque lovers, too, with its Basílica de Nuestra Señora del Pilar, one of Spain’s most important pilgrimage churches. Art aficionado? Then, marvel at the masterpieces of the artists Francisco Goya and Pablo Serrano, and the magnus opuses of the sculptor Pablo Gargallo, in one of Zaragoza’s many museums. And when you grow tired of art and culture, take a lazy stroll by the banks of the gorgeous Ebro River.Get to know the city with a local guide in this great private tour of Zaragoza.
Population: 967 K Location: South Spain Community: Andalusia Province: Málaga Landmarks: Picasso Museum, Alcazaba, Catedral de la Encarnación, Caminito del Rey Famous for: One of the oldest continuously inhabited cities worldwideThe second largest city in Andalusia was a candidate for a European Capital of Culture for 2016. This came as no surprise since Málaga is one of Europe’s oldest cities. Historical remains from Phoenician, Roman, Arabic, as well as Christian eras blend in a vibrant fusion in the city centre. The famous actor Antonio Banderas and the extravagant painter and sculptor Pablo Picasso were both born in Málaga. The city also goes by the name of “the capital of Costa del Sol”, with 6 million tourists visiting it each year. Without any exaggeration, Málaga is one of the most gorgeous Spanish cities.Marvel at the spectacular route of mind-blowing footbridges in the Caminito del Rey Walk near Málaga with this 6-hour day tour. Skip the annoying lines and enjoy the heart-stopping views.
Population: 1,037 M Location: North Spain Community: Basque Country Province: Biscay Landmarks: Bilbao Cathedral, Museum of Fine Arts, Zubizuri, the Guggenheim Museum Famous for: Bilbao Guggenheim MuseumBilbao is a true epitome of world-class urbanism. Several awards are a testament to that: 1) The Lee Kuan Yew World City Prize, deemed the Nobel Prize of urbanism, in June 2010; 2) The 2012 World Mayor Prize awarded to Bilbao’s mayor Iñaki Azkuna in January 2013; 3) The Best European City 2018, received at the Urbanism Awards for 2018. The largest city of the Basque country is much more than urbanism, though. An evidence of its vigorous pace is also the quintessential Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao. And if you’re a football fan, one of Spain’s most successful clubs – Athletic Club de Bilbao – is from there.Explore Bilbao like a local with this customized guided tour.
Population: 472K Location: South Spain Community: Andalusia Province: Granada Landmarks: The Alhambra, Catedral de Granada, Albaicín, the Gypsy Quarter Famous for: The most visited spot in SpainThe magic of Granada as a vibrant example of an Oriental city captured the imagination of western people in the 19th century. This is thanks to the American writer Washington Irving whose “Tales of Alhambra“ inspire numerous writers and painters, trying to re-create the wonders of Granada’s palace. Nowadays, the Alhambra is the most visited landmark in the whole of Spain. But Granada packs many more monuments and a fantastic array of cultural events thanks to its more than 50,000 students. The breathtaking snow-capped peaks of Sierra Nevada imposingly rise above the city, creating a somewhat unearthly atmosphere. A powerful amalgam of cultures and religions, Granada is a must-visit when you’re travelling to Spain.Skip the long queues with this fantastic Alhambra and Generalife Guided Tour of Granada.
Population: 84K Location: The heart of Spain Community: Castile–La Mancha Province: Toledo Landmarks: Alcázar de Toledo, the El Greco Museum, La Muralla Famous for: The City of Three CulturesToledo’s proximity to Madrid (75 minutes by train) makes it an ideal destination for a day trip from Madrid, but the abundance of monuments and its mystical night atmosphere predispose for an overnight stay. As one of the largest historical cities in Spain, Toledo attracts foreigners and locals alike. In 1986, the whole city became a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The popular Greek painter El Greco lived and worked in Toledo until his death, leaving a magnificent art heritage behind him. Explore the Imperial City’s mediaeval walls in a labyrinth of steep, cobblestone streets, which whisper Toledo’s past.Discover both Toledo and Segovia with this Full-day Tour with a Priority Entry to Alcázar.
Population: 325K Location: South Spain Community: Andalusia Province: Córdoba Landmarks: La Mezquita, Old Jewish Quarter, Alcázar de los Reyes Cristianos Famous for: The largest city in Europe in the 10th centuryCórdoba still resides in the shadow of its epic past. In the 10th century, this charming Andalusian city was Europe’s largest city, having more art, academic, and architectural achievements than Rome and Paris. Nowadays, Córdoba houses an astounding array of religious buildings, including La Mezquita, a UNESCO mosque that’s among Europe’s most enthralling Muslim edifices. The city further captivates you with its quaint old town, where the fascinating Jewish quarter is located. Córdoba takes great pride in its artisanal crafts and cuisine. Get lost in the blend of art, culture, and history, but prepare for Spain’s hottest temperatures if you find yourself trotting its streets in summer.Skip the line with this History Tour of the Great Mosque-Cathedral of Córdoba.
Population: 410K Location: Balearic Islands, East of Spain Community: Balearic Islands Province: Balearic Islands Landmarks: Fundació Miró Mallorca Museum, La Seu Cathedral, Bellver Castle Famous for: Shimmering beaches and beautiful seasideThe gorgeous capital city of Majorca, Palma boasts an ideal mix of culture and beach fun, making it one of the best places to travel in Spain. Despite it’s more famous for its fantastic seaside parties, Palma de Mallorca houses numerous architectural masterpieces, too. Among them are the Catedral de Mallorca or La Seu Cathedral (a glorious cathedral, overlooking Palma’s Old Harbour) and the heart-stopping Castell de Bellver (a 13th century castle, perched atop a hill some three kilometres from the city’s historic centre). The capital of Mallorca is home to several museums with fantastic collections of drawings, paintings, and sculptures. If you love chilling under the sun, check out the Cala Major, Playa del Arenal, and Playa de Palma beaches.Join a fabulous trip along spectacular beaches and turquoise waters, and marvel at the breahtaking sunset over the Bay of Palma. The tour includes food and drinks. Get your ticket here.
- Santa Cruz de Tenerife
Population: 205K Location: Canary Islands, South-west of Spain Community: Canary Islands Province: Santa Cruz de Tenerife Landmarks: Auditorio de Tenerife, Iglesia de la Concepción, Torres de Santa Cruz Famous for: One of the five best places to live worldwideTenerife’s capital and largest city is a true gem. Lively and charming at the same time, it’s home to some breathtaking architectural pieces. By far the most eye-catching of them is the Auditorio de Tenerife. You need one quick glance, and you’ll immediately guess the creator of this opera house and concert hall – Spain’s most famous architect, Santiago Calatrava. The opera house, which overlooks the sea, regularly witnesses world-class conductors and orchestras. Santa Cruz packs cultural landmarks, including the Museum of Fine Arts. There, you’ll marvel at the fantastic artworks of Canarian, Flemish, and Spanish painters. Fancy shopping? Tenerife’s capital is the best place to spend all your money.Take a full-day tour from Santa Cruz to La Laguna, a UNESCO heritage site, and the magnificent Teide Mountain.
Population: 332K Location: South-East Spain Community: Valencia Province: Alicante Landmarks: Castillo de Santa Bárbara, Museo Arqueológico de Alicante (MARQ), Playa del Postiguet Famous for: The City of Light (Lucentum)While most of South Spain is fantastic for sunbathing, Alicante might be the hot tip of the iceberg. Sitting on Costa Blanca, the city enjoys a pleasant Mediterranean climate all year round. You can marvel at its stunning sandy beaches from almost every corner of the city, but for the best view, get to the Castillo hilltop. The area around Alicante has been inhabited for 7,000+ years, so pack your history-exploring shoes because the city teems with important monuments and dozens of captivating museums. And if you’re a music enthusiast, every summer, Alicante hosts a programme of dance, music, and theatre in the Paseo del Puerto. Don’t worry that you’ll miss it because the event lasts for two whole months!Dive into the culinary world of Alicante with this special gourmet food tour.
- Expert Advice
Islands in Spain
Spain’s islands are some of the most popular worldwide. This section of my Spain travel guide will tell you all you need to know about visiting them, and what makes them some of the best places to travel in Spain.
- Spain has two major archipelagos – the Balearic and the Canary Islands. The former are east of Spain’s mainland in the Mediterranean Sea. The latter are off the coast of Morocco (to the west) in the Atlantic Ocean.
- There are four main Balearic Islands. They are Fomentera, Ibiza, Majorca, and Menorca. The islands benefit from a Mediterranean climate. Catalan and Spanish are the islands’ official languages.
- There are seven main Canary Islands. These are El Hierro, Fuerteventura, Gran Canaria, La Gomera, Lanzarote, La Palma, and Tenerife. The mild Atlantic weather makes the Canaries, as they’re known, a major tourist hotspot, attracting a surplus of 12 million visitors annually.
- The highest peak of Spain is on an island. While you might have heard of Tenerife, you might not know that Spain’s highest peak is El Teide. And, you guessed it right, it’s on the island of Tenerife! Its height is 3,178 m (12,198 ft), making it the third tallest volcano globally when measured from its base on the ocean floor. It’s also the highest summit above sea level among all Atlantic islands.
- The entire population of all islands is 3,3 million. This comprises 6.9% of Spain’s population. Their combined territory is 12,500 sq. km, which is 2.5 % of the total territory of Spain.
- Visiting the islands is possible all year round. Spain’s islands are warm, beautiful, and perfect for relaxation. Plus, many of them are more affordable than the mainland. This makes them an ideal choice at any point in time.
The 10 Best Spanish Islands
Non-stop parties and never-ending beaches flirt with ancient settlements
Are you a party beast? Fancy stunning sandy trips? How’d you like to explore an old town with Phoenician remnants? On the island of Ibiza, you can combine these three wildly different activities. And top it off, a bionetwork of endemic seagrass that’s home to an endangered monk seal awaits you under the waves.
The Island of Eternal Spring
Known as “The Island of Eternal Spring” for its fantastic climate, Tenerife boasts warmth and beauty that are attractive year-round. Black sandy beaches, Spain’s highest peak, and heart-stopping cliffs are some of the island’s other attractions that will ensure you’ll have an unforgettable stay. Plus, the seafood there is to die for!
Timid turquoise waters and shimmering golden sands
The largest Balearic island is a must-chill-on if you’re a beach connoisseur. What’s even better – the turquoise waters of the Mediterranean flirt not only with magnificent sandy trips but with lush mountains, too. And when you grow tired of laying on the sand, don’t miss the chance to dance the night away at one of Mallorca’s exciting nightlife options!
- Gran Canaria
The Mini Continent
Gran Canaria’s unofficial nickname derives from its gigantic variety of natural features. In just an hour, you can climb from an arid, Gobi-like landscape through laurel forests to the Pico de las Nieves (“Peak of the Snows”). The fantastic array of beach activities – camel riding, diving, dolphin watching, surfing, and sunbathing – makes sure even the most fastidious travellers will have something to do.
A pristine Balearic gem
Menorca has been dealing well with mass-tourism, and now, it’s picking the juicy fruits. The island is as unspoiled as it gets. The almost intact Balearic gem offers magnificent seascapes and jaw-dropping landscapes. Untouched white-sand beaches cheerfully chit-chat with rocky bays where turquoise lagoons and palm-forested headlands make you feel paradise does exist. History fan? Menorca boasts quaint old towns and monuments, which find their origins in the early Bronze Age.
A biosphere reserve and perfect conditions for surfing
The northernmost Canary Island prides itself on being a UNESCO biosphere reserve. If you ever wanted to go to Mars, visiting Lanzarote will be a good start. Besides Martian-like dunes, the volcanic island also showcases frozen lava fields and heart-stopping landscapes. The black sand on many of Lanzarote’s beaches is owed to the island’s volcanic origins. And if you’re a surf worshipper, head to Famara Beach, where you’ll find tide conditions for every skill level.
Endless sandy beaches
Fuerteventura, whose name literally means “strong fortune”, is known for its strong winds, too. Since the olden days, they have been a factor in shaping the island’s enthralling scenery, where you’ll find breath-taking sand dunes along the coast. Fuerteventura’s winds are also heaven for water sports. Windsurfers from across the globe flock to the island to test their skills. Diving in crystal-clear waters and canoeing are also viable options. But so is sunbathing on the island’s endless beach strip.
Escape Ibiza’s crowds here
If you’ve already been to Ibiza, and you’ve had enough partying for a while, hop on to Formentera. This quaint Balearic island takes great pride in its pristine white sand beaches where imposing cliffs look over splendid blue lagoons. Formentera might be the smallest island of the Balearic archipelago, but it sure has some gems, awaiting you to discover them. The best Formentera beaches include Cala Saona (known for its serenity), Es Arenals (perfect for families), and Ses Illetes (voted Spain’s most beautiful beach several times).
- La Gomera
Unique culture and pristine mountain villages
When was the last time you whistled to communicate? Well, on the island of La Gomera, located between La Palma and Tenerife, you’d have to… Or at least, that’s how locals have been communicating across the deep gorges for centuries. Abundance of biodiversity, heart-stopping rock formations, and lush laurel forests are there to quench the thirst of adventure seekers. If you want to rest your bum on the sand, though, don’t worry – La Gomera teems with shimmering beaches, too.
- La Palma
Fewer crowds make up for a relaxed vacation
Gran Canaria and Tenerife attract most of the tourists who flock to the Canary Islands. So, if you prefer a more relaxed stay, opt for La Palma. Like all other islands in the Canary archipelago, it packs an attractive punch of fantastic beaches, mountainous landscapes, and breathtaking volcanic formations. Ancient port towns where colonial-style buildings flirt with cobblestoned streets await you – minus the tourists. To see for yourself, choose a hotel located in Santa Cruz.
From jaw-dropping paintings to mind-boggling architecture, Spain has museums that will surely live up to your liking. In this section of my Spain travel guide, you’ll find the best 10 Spanish museums.
Note: This section contains affiliate links. This means that when you choose to book a tour from any of them, I’ll receive a small commission at NO extra cost to you.
- El PradoLocated in the very heart of Madrid, Museo Nacional del Prado is arguably the most famous Spanish museum. Inside the vast corridors and spacious rooms, you’ll discover the breathtaking chef-d’œuvres of Goya, El Greco, and Velásquez, among many other masters of art.Skip the long queue lines with this guided tour of El Prado.
- Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya In the mighty embrace of Montjuïc Hill, the National Art Museum of Catalonia will fascinate even the most fastidious of your fine art tastes. In the gallery, you can find Pablo Picasso’s world-famous “Woman in Hat and Fur Collar”, portraying his lover and model, Marie-Thérèse Walter.Admire the works by Casas, Gaudí, and Picasso with this admission ticket with a FREE cancellation up to 24 hours before the tour.
- Teatre-Museu Dalí In 1960, the notable Spanish artist Salvador Dalí bought the old municipal theatre in his hometown Figueres in Catalonia. The Dalí Theatre-Museum has an extravagant exterior where giant eggs look over a pinkish rampart. Go inside to explore the peculiar portrait of Beethoven.Immerse yourself in a surreal world with this full-day tour of Figueres from Barcelona.
- Museo Guggenheim Bilbao Bilbao’s skyline received an extremely modern look when in 1997 the Guggenheim Museum was erected by the Canadian-American architect Frank Gehry. Overlooking the Nervion River, one of the largest Spanish museums showcases striking examples of modern and contemporary art, including works of local and international artists.Discover the magnificent Guggenheim Museum with a private tour guide.
- Ciutat de les Arts i les Ciències When I was there, I couldn’t believe my eyes. The City of Arts and Sciences is a complex of various museums on the former riverbed of the Turia River in Valencia. Designed by one of Spain’s greatest architects, Santiago Calatrava and Félix Candela, the ultra-modern, cultural and scientific complex is the largest in Europe of its kind.Skip the line and visit all museums with this combo ticket.
- Museo Picasso Málaga The Andalusian city of Málaga is the birthplace of Spain’s probably most famous artist – Pablo Ruiz Picasso. The Picasso Museum Málaga, which opened in in the Buenavista Palace in 2003, houses 285 works donated by family members of the painter.Explore the museum by skipping the line. The tour includes an audioguide.
- Museo Reina Sofía The Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía (or Queen Sofía Museum) in Madrid is dedicated to 20th-century Spanish art. Expect to marvel at the masterpieces of Spain’s greatest artists – Picasso and Dalí. But that’s not all! The museum is home to a gigantic, free-access art library where 100,000+ books and 1,000+ videos await you to explore them.Skip the long queue line for Reina Sofía with this exclusive entrance ticket.
- Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza The third part of the Golden Triangle of Art in Madrid (besides El Prado and Reina Sofía) is the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum. The Thyssen houses over 1,600 paintings, including numerous masterpieces by Dutch, English, German, and Italian schools, as well as some American and European paintings from the 20th century.Skip the annoying lines at all three museums of the Golden Triangle of Art with this 5-hour guided tour.
- Pirámides de Güímar If you happen to be on the island of Tenerife, and you fancy checking out an open-air museum, the Güímar Pyramids are a fantastic choice. Originally nine, the museum today showcases the six remaining pyramids in the Chacona district of the town of Güímar.Get an entry ticket to these ancient, mind-blowing pyramids here.
- Casa de Cólon Columbus set sail for the Americas in 1492. On his legendary voyage, he stopped at a governor’s house in Las Palmas, the capital city of Gran Canaria. In Columbus’ House, you’ll find a model galleon on the first floor, and a Flemish-Hispanic art gallery on the second.Explore Las Palmas and the Columbus’ House with this 8-hour guided tour.
Transportation in SpainEverything You Need to Know about Travelling in Spain
In this section, you’ll find information about the best way to travel in Spain, is it safe to travel in Spain, and several other Spain travel tips to make your stay in the Mediterranean country not only pleasant but also unforgettable.
- Driving is on the right side. Like in continental Europe, driving in Spain is on the right side. Thus, if you’re coming from a country that drives on the left side, be prepared. Spanish roads are safe and in great shape.
- Obey the speed limits when driving. Spain has strict laws and fines (up to €300 or $335) if you drive too fast. Here are the speed limits to stick to: 120 km/h (75 mp/h) for highways, 100 km/h (62 mp/h) for main roads or autovías (roads with two lanes), 90 km/h (56 mp/h) on all other road types, and 50 km/h (31 mp/h) in urban areas (both towns and villages).
- Taxi fares in Spain are affordable. Compared to Western Europe, especially London and Paris, taxi prices in Spain are much more affordable. The normal starting tariff varies between €2.70 and €4, while the price per 1km is as low as €0.80 and as high as €1.50.
- Do you tip taxi drivers in Spain? Tipping taxi drivers in Spain is exceptionally rare, but they won’t say “NO” to a small tip if they helped you with your luggage. Some taxis accept credit cards, but most don’t, so it’s better to have some cash on you to avoid unpleasant situations.
- Public transport in Spain is affordable, too. Single-ride tickets cost between €1.50 and €2.00, depending on the city, but 10-journey (metro) tickets are a little over €10. That’s what I used in Barcelona, and it was well worth it.
- Trains are fast but expensive. Spain is the second largest country in the EU. This, coupled with the fact that it doesn’t have a tonne of mountains, has given it the chance to develop train travel. In other words, if you hop on the bullet train or AVE (Alta Velocidad Española) from Barcelona to Madrid, you’ll be in the Spanish capital (600 km away) in less than 3 hours. Depending on the distance, tickets can cost more than 100 EUR. Still, train travel in Spain is probably your most convenient option. Use this site to book your tickets.
- Flights are also a viable option. Spain has 30+ airports, with those in Madrid, Barcelona, Palma, and Málaga being the busiest. Catching a flight from the mainland to one of the Canary Islands is definitely your fastest option. There are flights to the Balearic Islands, too, but since they’re much closer than the Canary Islands and you’re not in a hurry, you can hop on a ferry. If you’re looking to save some bucks, there are Wizzair, Vueling, and easyJet flights to and from the islands.
- Expert Advice
Europe’s Little Secrets
Top 10 Traditional Spanish Festivals
Spain’s beauty is evident not only in its food and natural spots. The Iberian country packs a powerful punch of fantastic festivals, some of which are known the world over. Fitting some of the numerous Spanish festivals in your busy travel schedule is always a great idea. Let’s take a look at the most popular ones, as well as some facts about Spanish festivals:
- La Tomatina. Arguably the most famous of all festivals in Spain, La Tomatina is one crazy tomato massacre. The place of the fruit bonanza is the city of Buñol some 30 km (19 mi) away from Valencia. The festival began in August 1945 and happens on the last Wednesday of the month. In 2015 alone, the amount of tomatoes was estimated at 145 tonnes. The good thing about this horrendous wastage of tomatoes is the citric acid in the fruits, which makes the city surfaces very clean after washing. Since 2013, you must have a ticket to attend it.
When: Last Wednesday of August Where: Buñol, Valencia
- Semana Santa. The Semana Santa (Holy Week) is not a typical Spanish festival, per se, but its celebration in Spain is more spectacular than elsewhere. Semana Santa is the week preceding Easter, and is among the most popular religious festivals in Spain. Intricate processions march the streets every day during the week, with members of religious brotherhoods and local parishes parading elaborate floats that depict Jesus Christ and Virgin Mary. You can marvel at these processions in a number of Spanish cities, but be sure to visit Málaga or Seville to observe the most ornate ones.
When: Immediately before Easter Where: Everywhere
- San Fermin (Pamplona Bull Run). If you like adrenaline shooting through your veins, then Pamplona’s Bull Run is your glass of adventurous sangria. The bull runs are, in fact, part of a bigger local festival that goes by the name of San Fermín. It happens in early July in the northern city of Pamplona. Every morning during the festival, the reckless participants and the enter the streets in a heart-stopping race to the ring where bullfights occur later in the day. The first one happened in 1591. Despite the whole festival teems with one-of-a-kind traditions, the bull run is a truly dangerous piece of experience. While I can’t stop you to do it, I highly recommend you weigh in all the risks associated with bull runs and fights.
When: Early July Where: Pamplona, Navarre
- Las Fallas (Festival of Fire). Are you a fire fan? Well, if you happen to be in Spain in mid-March, consider a trip to Valencia to experience a mesmerising show. As one of the most popular Spanish festivals, Las Fallas dates back to 1784. For five days (March 15th until March 19th), the streets of Valencia enliven with gigantic paper characters, handcrafted in intricate details. On the last night, over 700 colourful sculptures (fallas) are then burned in humongous bonfires all over the city. People select a few to be kept in the Fallas Museum of Valencia. The festival ends with an epic firework show.
When: Mid-March Where: Valencia
- Feria de Sevilla (Feria de Abril). The buzzing city of Seville packs everything Andalusia is popular for in its annual Feria de Abril (April Fair). Sherry? Check. Horses? Check. Flamenco, gorgeous dresses, lavish costumes? Check, check, check. The fantastically-dressed men and women ride in carriages drawn by horses among numerous casetas (tents). While during the day, families take to the streets with their children, after the sun sets, the Feria de Sevilla turns into an epicurean event where alcohol, dancing, and music abound.
When: April Where: Seville, Andalusia
- La Tamborrada. Drum fans, anyone? If you don’t mind noisy and crazy atmosphere, La Tamborrada (Drum Festival) in San Sebastián is your glass of Spanish festivals. The 24 hours of non-stop drumming start at midnight on January 20th (in 2020), at Plaza de la Consitución where a ceremonial raising of a flag takes place. The celebration ends with the flag being taken down and the music stops until January next year. La Tamborrada is one of Spain’s most colourful and traditional festivals.
When: End of January Where: San Sebastián, Basque Country
- Semana Grande. One of the most traditional festivals in the north of Spain, Semana Grande occurs in mid-August (17-25th in 2019). Aste Nagusia, as it’s known in Basque, is a legendary fiesta in Bilbao, one of the Basque Country’s most important cities. If you happen to be at Semana Grande (the Great Week), expect to marvel at gigantic puppets’ parade and a whopping selection of concerts, varying from pop and rock to jazz and even classical. But that’s not all! Typical Basque rural sports competitions take place during the 9-day event like stone carrying and wood chopping. The festival ends when its protagonist – Marijaia – is set alight.
When: Mid-August Where: Basque Country
- Feria del Caballo. The beginning of May experiences colourful celebrations in Jerez, Andalusia. Feria del Caballo (Horse Fair) unites horses with flamenco performances and various Andalusian foods. 250+ stalls cheerfully entertain visitors’ palates with delectable tapas and the famous Sherry wine. People dress up, hop on horses, and march the streets of Jerez. The Jerez May Horse Fair takes place at the González Hontoria fairground, which covers a gigantic area of 52,000 sq. m. (560,000 sq. ft.). This traditional Spanish festival is free to the public, save for the equestrian events.
When: Beginning of May Where: Jerez, Andalusia
- Carnival. Solemnity aside, let’s dive deep into a party celebration. Fantastic colours and enthralling rhythms characterise this Spanish festival, which takes places in all parts of Spain, with Tenerife and Cadíz at the forefront. The island of Tenerife hosts the most spectacular Carnival parties, but in general, each Spanish city has its own doze of extravagance, exuberance, and elegance. Add to that plenty of alcohol and flamboyant parades, and you’ll end up with an unforgettable time. Just remember that Carnival happens a bit before Easter, and due to its changing date, the date of Carnival varies, too. Celebrations will occur on February 23rd in 2020.
When: The week leading up to Lent Where: Everywhere
- The August Fair in Málaga. One of the best Spanish festivals throughout the year happens in the Andalusian city of Málaga. The weeklong festival dates back to 1487 to commemorate the return of the king to the city. Celebrations encompass street parties, breathtaking concerts, and heart-stopping light displays. The Fair has two parts: 1) Feria de día, which takes place throughout the day in the city’s historic centre with dancing and music on the streets; 2) Feria de noche, which takes place at night at the Real de la Feria fairground, where you’ll find delectable street food, thrilling park rides, and mind-blowing fireworks.
When: August Where: Málaga, Andalusia
Religion in SpainThe Top 10 Cathedrals to Visit
People in Spain are not among the most ferocious religious adherents. Yet, you’ll find hundreds of jaw-dropping cathedrals in many cities. This section of my Spain travel tips will tell you more.
- There’s no official state religion in Spain. The 1978 constitution abolished Catholic Christianity as an official religion in the country. More than 27% of the Spanish people are atheists.
- Catholic Christianity is the largest religious group. According to the Centre for Sociological Research, those who really practise it are just 22.5%. The non-practising Spaniards are twice as much – 46.4%. Despite the fact that Roman Catholicism is still Spain’s biggest religion, the younger generation opt for not following Roman Catholic’s teachings in morals, politics, and sexuality.
- Eastern Orthodoxy is growing. In the early 1990s, the number of Eastern Orthodox believers started to grow with the influx of migrant workers from various countries of Eastern Europe. These include Bulgarians, Moldovans, Russians, and Ukrainians, bringing the number to a total of 1 million adherents.
- Judaism is not very popular. Although there are two big branches of Jews on a global scale – Russian and Spanish – the Jewish population in Spain is relatively small. The total estimated number is 50,000, amounting to a little over 0.1% of Spain’s population. They live mainly in the cities of Barcelona, Madrid, and Murcia.
- 4% of the total Spanish population consists of Muslims. The immigration waves recently, especially those during the 1990s and after that, resulted in a growing number of Muslims. Today, Islam is the second largest religious group in the country. However, with its 1,9 million people, it’s still far behind Catholicism and irreligion.
- There are some minor religions, too. Besides the various Christian, Muslim, and Jewish varieties, Spain has small religious groups, including Buddhism, Hinduism, Paganism, and Taoism.
- Visit the magnificent cathedrals. Spain has 90+ cathedrals, each of which more gorgeous than the other. Having such a vast choice is challenging, though. That’s why I have prepared a list with the 10 Best Spanish Cathedrals to visit. Find it below.
The 10 Best Spanish Cathedrals
- Sagrada Familia
Still unfinished and declared a basilica in 2010, Sagrada Familia’s staggering exterior enchants international visitors and locals alike. However, I highly recommend you go inside, where its otherworldly interior will blow your mind in tiny pieces.
Address: Carrer de Mallorca, 401, 08013 Barcelona, Catalonia
- Catedral de Santiago de Compostela
If you ever decide to join the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage, it ends at the Cathedral of Santiago the Compostela. But joining the camino is not the only way to enjoy it, of course. A Baroque façade outside and a gorgeous sanctuary inside await your beauty-craving eyes.
Location: Praza do Obradoiro, s/n, 15704 Santiago de Compostela, A Coruña,
- Catedral de Burgos
This astounding 13th-century Gothic masterpiece, which is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, will fascinate you with its elaborate details. Once inside, find the unique statue named Papamoscas, which opens its mouth when the cathedral’s bells toll.
Address: Plaza de Santa María, s/n, 09003 Burgos, Castile and León
- Catedral de Sevilla
If you’re a Gothic architecture aficionado, then you have to visit the Seville Cathedral. It’s not only the largest Gothic cathedral in the world but also one of Spain’s most gorgeous ones. The grandiose splendour of the religious temple is visible from afar.
Address: Av. de la Constitución, s/n, 41004 Sevilla, Andalusia
- Mezquita-Catedral de Córdoba
Spain prides itself not only on the biggest Gothic cathedral in the world but also the only mosque-cathedral. Started as a small Visigothic church, the Mosque-Cathedral of Córdoba will leave you speechless with its Christian-Islamic blend of styles where gigantic arches overlook 1,000+ ornate columns.
Address: Calle Cardenal Herrero, 1, 14003 Córdoba, Andalusia
- Catedral Primada, Toledo
Considered by many to be the magnus opus of Spain’s Gothic Style, the Toledo Cathedral is among the three 13th-century High Gothic cathedrals in Spain. Get lost in an ocean of lavish arches, stunning paintings, and tiny chapels in the Santa Iglesia Catedral Primada de Toledo.
Address: Calle Cardenal Cisneros, 1, 45002 Toledo, Castile–La Mancha
- Catedral de Barcelona
Housing the Archbishop of Barcelona, the Barcelona Cathedral will fascinate your architecture-yearning eyes with its magnificent Gothic charm. The roof is “teeming” with a vast array of domestic and mythical animals, including gargoyles. And if you think the exterior is stunning, check out the interior.
Address: Pla de la Seu, s/n, 08002 Barcelona, Catalonia
- Catedral de León
A splendid 13th-century Gothic cathedral? Check. 1,500 art pieces? Check. Gorgeous chapels, Romanesque sculptures, old tombs? Check, check, check. But besides all these, Santa María de León Cathedral is best known for its jaw-dropping stained-glass windows. Eyegasms are guaranteed.
Address: Plaza Regla, s/n, 24003 León, León
- Catedral de la Almudena
Madrid’s grandest church is nothing short of spectacular. But what’s even more peculiar is its north-south orientation, taking in mind most Christian temples face east-west. The Almudena Cathedral was erected in this way to integrate with Madrid’s Royal Palace, which is just across and has the same orientation.
Address: Calle de Bailén, 10, 28013 Madrid
- Catedral Nueva de Salamanca
The picturesque city of Salamanca houses not one but two enthralling cathedrals. But if you have to choose, opt for the New Cathedral (Catedral Nueva). A fascinating mixture between Baroque and Gothic styles, the building will intrigue your observant eye with its modern exterior aspects.
Address: Calle Benedicto XVI, 37008 Salamanca, Castile and León
- Expert Advice
Tav, the Duck
Spain NightlifeThe Top 10 Spanish Clubs
From backpackers through honeymooners to travelling families, Spain has something to offer to every traveller. But what makes it really stand out is its pulsating nightlife. If you’re a party animal, travel to Barcelona, Calella, Granada, Ibiza, Madrid, Majorca, or Salou to experience some of the best bars and clubs on the planet.
How would you like to party in the Best Global Club? Amnesia is Ibiza’s most popular nightclub, an indispensable part of Spain nightlife, and one of the most famous clubs worldwide. The set is in a fascinating historical house where you can expect not only to dance the night away but also to spot many celebrities.
Location: Ctra. Ibiza a San Antonio, Km 5, 07816 Ibiza, Balearic Islands
Previously known as Space, Hï Ibiza opened in the beginning of 2017. Since then, the multiple-award-winning club has attracted the best-known DJs in the electronic music scene. Hï welcomes you with a brilliant design and state-of-the-art sound. In the clubhouse, you’ll find three open air spots, a club, and a theatre.
Location: Platja d’en Bossa, 07817 Sant Josep de sa Talaia, Ibiza, Balearic Islands
If you’re in Barcelona, and you’d like to test your dancing shoes, head over to Opium. The combination of stunning interiors and a gorgeous terrace, offering a magnificent view of the Barceloneta beach, will shatter your nightlife mind in small pieces. And to top it off, expect world-class DJs to keep you busy all night.
Location: Passeig Marítim de la Barceloneta, 34, 08003 Barcelona
- Champions Bar
Delicious food, cheap drinks, indoor games, and numerous sports TV channels – the Champions Bar is one of Barcelona’s top-notch bars. Seek a break from the scorching summer in this family-run, laid-back bar and immerse yourself in the vibrant Spain nightlife.
Location: Av Paisos Catalans, 08380 Malgrat de Mar, Barcelona
- Teatro Kapital
The Spanish capital offers one of the best examples of Spain’s nightlife. 7 different floors await you in Kapital, each with its own music style, including house and dance, karaoke, Hip Hop and R&B, Latin, and Pop. Head to the top floor of Teatro Kapital to enjoy jaw-dropping views of this exclusive club. If you’re in Madrid, Kapital is a must.
Location: Calle de Atocha, 125, 28012 Madrid
- Koko Beach Club
Koko’s location cannot be more perfect. With a stunning view of the beach in Salou, this is your place to watch the sunset. While admiring the last rays of the sun as it melts on the horizon, profit from a fantastic selection of tapas, affordable cocktails, and exceptional service. Koko is so good that you might want to re-visit it.
Location: Carrer de Brussel·les, 26, 43840 Salou, Tarragona
- Bob’s Bar & Disco
If you like requesting your favourite songs, head to Bob’s Bar and Disco in Calella where you can do so. Prices are cheap, drinks come in plenty, and the bartenders are the epitome of chatty. The beach is opposite Bob’s, so if dance the night away, you can also catch the sunrise. Exceptional service and great food, too.
Location: Passeig de les Roques, 13-23, 08370 Calella, Barcelona
- Prince of Wales
Prince of Wales is another bar where you can experience the ultimate Spain nightlife, as well as request your preferred songs. The place gives a party vibe, and you’re welcomed by incredibly friendly staff who’ll make you feel at home. If you’re into cocktails, go for “The Bastard”.
Location: Av Italia 2, 07400 Port d’Alcúdia, Majorca, Balearic Islands
- Blue Jazz Club
From the live music through the food and atmosphere to the service and prices, there’s one word for this Spanish nightclub – brilliant. Blue Jazz Club plays, well, jazz. The variety of artists and the relaxed yet cosy ambience will make you forget all your troubles and drink the night away.
Location: Paseo Mallorca 6 Hotel Saratoga, 7th floor, 07012 Palma de Mallorca, Balearic Islands
- Chupiteria 69
If you’re a shot aficionado, you can’t go wrong with Chupiteria 69. A fantastic array of 130+ shots – soft, medium, and extreme ones – awaits you there. The best thing? Each one is just 1 EUR. Grab some friends, your best dancing shoes, and hit it – it’s right in the centre of Granada.
Location: Calle Sócrates, 12, 18004 Granada
- Expert Advice
Culture and HistoryCultural, Historical, and Other Peculiar Facts
The culture of Spain has been shaped by a number of historical influences, including Iberian and Pre-Roman Celtic cultures. Romans, Greeks, Phoenicians, and Carthaginians are some of the other ancient peoples who had some impact.
Weird Cultural Peculiarities
- Spanish people love siestas. It’s estimated that Spaniards spend anywhere between 15 and 16 out of every 24 hours eating, drinking, sleeping, and lying around. The best time for a siesta is usually after lunch.
- The life expectancy is among the highest globally. Spain’s life expectancy for 2019 is 83.486, taking the 6th place in the world. By 2040, experts expect Spain to be the leader, beating Hong Kong and Japan into the second and third place. Much of the reason for that they attribute to the way Spaniards eat.
- Same-sex marriage is legal. In July 2005, Spain became the third country worldwide (after the Netherlands and Belgium) to permit same-sex marriage. 66% of the population supported the ratification of the law, but there was adamant opposition, especially from Roman Catholic establishments.
- Nudity in Spain is legal, too. One might argue that’s because the country receives an excess of 3,000 hours of sunshine every year. Plus, people in Spain can legally get married at just 16!.
- The lowest age of consent in the world is in Spain. Some time ago, Spanish law stipulated that 13 was the age of consent for sexual intercourse, while 14 was the legal age for marriage. Nowadays, the law has changed, and the age for both is set at 16, which is still one of the lowest worldwide.
- Expert Advice
Mind-Boggling Historical Facts
- Various groups of peoples have lived on Spanish territory. Throughout history, numerous peoples have settled in the country. The list includes Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, Iberians, Visigoths, Basques, Celts, as well as Moors (Islamic people who arrived from North Africa).
- Spain boasts a functioning, ancient Roman Aqueduct. The city of Segovia prides itself on a Roman Aqueduct that was constructed in the 1st century AD. What’s more peculiar – nowadays, it continues to supply water to the historic city.
- The Spanish Inquisition was approved by the Pope. In 1478, Pope Sixtus IV gave the Spanish King the power to start the Spanish Inquisition. During it, people had to prove they were true Christians by being tortured. 5,000 people were executed in the first 50 years of the Inquisition.
- One people were never conquered by the Romans. The Basques were fantastic warriors, and the only people in Spain whom the Romans never took under complete control. Nowadays, Basque separatist groups still fight for total independence from Spain. The region is one of Spain’s wealthiest.
- The world’s oldest cave painting is in Spain. The Cave of El Castillo, situated in the northern part of Spain, is 40,000 years old. Some historians argue that the cave paintings, found in Aquitaine and Provence in France, are about the same age, too.
- The year 1391 was a peak point in the violence against Jews. The end of the 14th century saw Christian mobs slaughtering an excess of 50,000 Jews in the towns of Aragon and Castile, as part of the Reconquista (Reconquest). By 1492, all Jews were expelled from the Iberian Peninsula.
Cultural and Other Interesting Facts about Spain You Probably Didn’t Know
- By the number of international tourists, Spain takes the second place worldwide. In 2018, the country welcomed the whopping 83 million visitors, compared to France (first place), which received 89 million tourists. *Stats according to the World Tourism Organization.
- Spain boasts UNESCO’s third largest heritage in the world. The Iberian country has 48 sites, out of which 42 cultural, four natural, and two mixed. It’s only preceded by Italy and China, both of which having 55 sites.
- We owe chocolate to Spain. The Spaniards had many colonies. Thanks to them, we have cocoa (the main ingredient of chocolate) in Europe. I’m certainly grateful for that.
- Spain is the only European country that has a physical border with Africa. The country borders Morocco, thanks to its African enclaves Ceuta, Melilla, and Peñon de Vélez de la Gomera.
- Spain might be the first global empire. Some would argue the Portuguese (think Vasco de Gama and Magellan) were the great navigators of the Earth. But Portugal was never the conqueror Spain was. I’d satisfy myself with saying that both countries deserve the “Global Empire” title.
- Spanish is the world’s second most spoken language. 20 countries speak Spanish as an official language. The only language that’s more spoken on a global scale is Mandarin Chinese.
- Spain and Portugal provide the big majority of the world’s cork. This means that if you’re a wine or champagne worshipper, there’s a very high chance that the cork in your champagne bottle originates in either of these countries. Cork trees grow in the dry region of Meseta in Spain.
- The Christmas lottery in Spain has the world’s largest pay-out. El Gordo (meaning “The Fat One”), Spain’s national lottery, which takes place just before Christmas, had a total payout of the mind-boggling 2.3 billion EUR (2.55 billion USD) in 2017! With this money, you can buy Singapore’s emblematic Marina Bay Sands and still have several hundred million left.
When to Visit
80+ million tourists can’t be wrong – Spain is attractive all year round! In this section of my Spain travel guide, you’ll get more information about every season and learn what is the best time to travel to Spain.
- Winter. Snow fans? No problem. From the Pyrenees to Sierra Nevada, Spain has an astonishing array of mountains. Popular Spanish ski resorts include Baqueira-Beret, Formigal, La Molina, Masella, and Sierra Nevada (Europe’s most southerly ski resort).
- Spring. In my opinion, the best time to visit Spain. The days are long, the temperatures are fantastic, the parks are at its greenest 😉. If you love walking, spring is your season to sightsee.
- Summer. If I have to choose two words to describe Spanish summers, these will be hot and humid. The first applies to continental cities like Madrid, and the latter – to cities whose shores are washed by the Mediterranean. June is still okay, but July and August are baking hot.
- Autumn. Much like spring, fall is another great choice to visit Spain. The mercury in the thermometers has dropped significantly, the crowds have thinned, and nature is painting landscapes even Picasso would envy.
Here’s a short recap:
- If you can’t stand hot weather, avoid July and August.
- May, June, September, and October are your best choices if you love warm weather.
- If you’re going to Tenerife, though, there’s no need to choose a specific month. It’s known as the Island of Eternal Spring.
Why You Should Visit Spain
The last section of my Spain travel tips contains several other reasons why you should visit Spain. But I bet you’ve already decided, right? 😉
- For the love of good food and delectable wines. Spanish food is the result of numerous historical processes, including invasions and conquests. It combines the vibrant spirit of the Mediterranean with Arabic and other ingredients in a fantastic fusion. Add mouth-watering wines to the mix, and the country will live up even to the most demanding of palates.
- For the love of peculiar festivals. One of the world’s most bizarre festivals take place in Spain. In fact, there’s hardly any time during the year when there’s no festival happening somewhere in the country.
- For the love of fiestas. If we don’t celebrate life, we merely exist. Rest assured that in Spain, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to have good time and party until the first strikes of the morning sun.
- For the love of enthralling art. In the Iberian country, you’ll find both ancient and modern art masterpieces. From Visigothic art in the 5th century through Golden Age art in the 15th century to Surrealism in the 20th century, Spain is an amalgam of old and new.
- For the love of mind-blowing architecture. If you’re a culture vulture and an architecture aficionado, Spain is your place to be. Antoni Gaudí and Santiago Calatrava have made sure you’ll fall in love with every piece of architecture you stumble upon.
- Expert Advice
Radically Ever After
Spain prospers on art, history, and architecture, and it’s the second most-visited country in the world.
It prides itself on heart-stopping mountain peaks and some of the world’s best beaches. Add to that a mix of fantastic food, great service, and affordable prices, and the question isn’t whether to visit Spain or not, but rather – when?
I’m sure that my ultimate Spain travel guide has convinced you that the country is well worth visiting, and I hope you’ll share it with everyone who wants to go.
Now, tell me:
Which tip did you like the most?
Do you want to visit Spain after reading this comprehensive guide?
Or perhaps you’ve already been to Spain before.
Either way, let me know by leaving a comment below.