Explore Spain a diverse country sharing the Iberian Peninsula with Portugal at the western end of the Mediterranean Sea. It is the country with the third-largest number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites, after Italy and China.
Spain is considered an exotic country in Europe due to its friendly inhabitants, relaxed lifestyle, its cuisine, vibrant nightlife, and world-famous folklore and festivities. Among many places worth visiting are Spain’s thriving capital Madrid, the vibrant coastal city of Barcelona, the famous “Running of the Bulls” at Pamplona, major Andalusian cities with Islamic architecture, like Seville, Granada and Córdoba, the Way of St. James and the idyllic Balearic and Canary Islands.
With great beaches, fun nightlife, many cultural regions and historic cities, Spain makes a great destination for any kind of trip. A country of large geographic and cultural diversity, Spain is a surprise to those who only know its reputation for great beach holidays. There is everything from lush meadows and snowy mountains to huge marshes and deserts in the south east. While summer is the peak season because of the beaches, those who wish to avoid the crowds should consider visiting in the winter as attractions such as the Alhambra in Granada and La Gran Mezquita in Cordoba will not be overcrowded.
Spain has hundreds of interesting cities.
- 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, nightclubs, and beaches
- Bilbao — industrial city, home to the Guggenheim Museum
- Cadiz — oldest city in Western Europe with nearly 4,000 years of history, celebrates a famous carnival
- Cordoba — The Grand Mosque (‘Mezquita’) of Cordoba is one of the world’s finest buildings
- Granada — stunning city in the south, surrounded by snowcapped 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
- Zaragoza — fifth largest city of Spain
- 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
- 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
Spain’s national carrier is Iberia.
Madrid, Barcelona and Bilbao have the most beautiful airports, designed by famous architects.
If you plan to move around large cities or explore further afield you will find many companies that offer car hire at affordable prices because of the high competition between car rental agencies, consider renting a car with GPS navigation–it will be even easier to drive than having an automobile map.
What to see. Best top attractions in Spain.
The most popular beaches are the ones in the Mediterranean coasts and the Canary Islands. Meanwhile, for hiking, the mountains of Sierra Nevada in the south, the Central Cordillera and the northern Pyrenees are the best places.
What to do in Spain.
Spain has a lot of local festivals that are worth going to.
- Feria de Abril (Sevilla in April/May) – Best fair in the whole Iberian peninsula that attracts thousands of people from all over the world. If you enjoy folklore, flamenco, dancing and drinking, this is your place.
- Sevilla’s & Málaga’s Semana Santa (Easter) – worth seeing. From Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday. Lots of processions occur within that week. 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)
- Córdoba en Mayo (Cordoba in May) – great month to visit the Southern city
- Las Cruces (1st week in May) – big flower-made crosses embellishing public squares in the city center, where you will also find at night music and drinking and lot of 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
- Arde Lucus – biggest roman recreation festival of Europe, all inside the walled city of Lugo, UNESCO World Heritage. Last weekend on June.
- 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, in April 23th Barcelona is embellished with roses everywhere and book-selling stands can be found in the Rambla. There are also book signings, concerts and diverse animations.
- Fallas – Valencia’s festival in March – burning the “fallas” is a must
- Málaga’s August Fair – flamenco dancing, drinking sherry, bullfights
- San Fermines – July in Pamplona, Navarra.
- Fiesta de San Isidro – May 15 in Madrid – a celebration of Madrid’s patron saint.
- Carnival – best in Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria and Cádiz
- Cabalgata de los Reyes Magos (Three wise men parade) – on the eve of epiphany, 5th of 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
- La Tomatina – a giant tomato fight in Buñol
- Moros y Cristianos (Moors and Christians, mostly found in Southeastern Spain during spring time) – parades and “battles” remembering the fights of medieval ages
- 85 festivals in Galicia throughout the year from wine to wild horses.
Vías Verdes in: Cycling from the Pyrinees to the Mediterranean Coast: a weekend getaway
This is an experience that combines nature and sport, has 2 contrasting landscapes: the mountainous Pyrenees and the Mediterranean Costa Brava, goes off-the-beaten-track places where few tourists and foreigners go, offers delicious inland Catalan food and finishes by with a swim in the Mediterranean and eating Mediterranean food. Green-Ways, also known as Vías Verdes in Spanish, are old railway tracks that have been recovered and reconditioned for walkers and cyclists. They are an awesome way to discover Spain. They are easy to access and since trains once rolled over these paths, there is no So it is a great activity for all ages and fitness levels.There are 1,800 kilometres of Vías Verdes all over Spain. There is easy access to Vías Verdes by train. In total, there would be 138 km of cycling for one weekend. The trip starts in the Pyrenees and finishes in the beaches of Costa Brava. Until Girona the landscapes are mountaineous, green, wet and you can feel real nature. You cross small villages and rivers. After Girona the towns become larger and there are some parts that look more industrialized. But as you approach to the end, in Sant Feliu de Guíxols, the scenery becomes more Mediterranean and you start smelling the pine trees and for sure the sea. The hardest part of the trip is climbing to the coll of Santigosa (hill of Santigosa). Along the way there are plenty of opportunities to stay at rural homes and truly experience local living. If you are interested in a trip like this contact: www.spainforreal.com
Climbing in: Los Mallos (Aragon) and Siurana (near Barcelona)
Whitewater sports in: Campo, Murillo de Gallego (Aragon)
Hiking in Galicia
Downhill skiing. There are a lot of downhill skiing resorts in Spain.
Skiing in the northern region of Spain
For a treat, try Costa Brava and the world renowned Canary Islands.
Credit cards: Credit cards are well accepted: even in a stall at La Boqueria market in Barcelona, on an average highway gas station in the middle of the country, or in small towns like Alquezar. It’s more difficult to find a place where credit card is not accepted in Spain.
Most ATMs will allow you to withdraw money with your credit card. Most Spanish stores will ask for ID before accepting your credit card. Some stores may not accept a foreign driving license or ID card and you will need to show your passport. This measure is designed to help avoid credit card fraud.
Most businesses (including most shops, but not restaurants) close in the afternoons around 13:30/14:00 and reopen for the evening around 16:30/17:00. Exceptions are large malls or major chain stores.
For most Spaniards, lunch is the main meal of the day and you will find bars and restaurants open during this time. On Saturdays, businesses often do not reopen in the evening and almost everywhere is closed on Sundays. The exception is the month of December, where most shops in Madrid and Barcelona will be open as per on weekdays on Sundays to cash in on the festive season. Also, many public offices and banks do not reopen in the evenings even on weekdays, so if you have any important business to take care of, be sure to check hours of operation.
Clothes and shoes
Besides well-known mass brands which are known around the world (Zara, Mango, Bershka, Camper, Desigual), Spain has many designer brands which are more hard to find outside Spain–and may be worth looking for if you shop for designer wear while travelling.
Smoking is banned in all enclosed public spaces and places of work, in public transportation, and in outdoor public places near hospitals and in playgrounds. Smoking is also banned in outdoor sections of bars and restaurants. Smoking is banned in television broadcasts as well.
Unesco World Heritage List
- Alhambra, Generalife and Albayzín, Granada
- Burgos Cathedral
- Historic Centre of Cordoba
- Monastery and Site of the Escurial, Madrid
- Works of Antoni Gaudí
- Cave of Altamira and Paleolithic Cave Art of Northern Spain
- Monuments of Oviedo and the Kingdom of the Asturias
- Old Town of Ávila with its Extra-Muros Churches
- Old Town of Segovia and its Aqueduct
- Santiago de Compostela (Old Town)
- Historic City of Toledo
- Mudejar Architecture of Aragon
- Old Town of Cáceres
- Cathedral, Alcázar and Archivo de Indias in Seville
- Old City of Salamanca
- Poblet Monastery
- Archaeological Ensemble of Mérida
- Routes of Santiago de Compostela: Camino Francés and Routes of Northern Spain
- Royal Monastery of Santa María de Guadalupe
- Historic Walled Town of Cuenca
- La Lonja de la Seda de Valencia
- Las Médulas
- Palau de la Música Catalana and Hospital de Sant Pau, Barcelona
- San Millán Yuso and Suso Monasteries
- Prehistoric Rock Art Sites in the Côa Valley and Siega Verde
- Rock Art of the Mediterranean Basin on the Iberian Peninsula
- University and Historic Precinct of Alcalá de Henares
- San Cristóbal de La Laguna
- Archaeological Ensemble of Tárraco
- Archaeological Site of Atapuerca
- Catalan Romanesque Churches of the Vall de Boí
- Palmeral of Elche
- Roman Walls of Lugo
- Aranjuez Cultural Landscape
- Renaissance Monumental Ensembles of Úbeda and Baeza
- Vizcaya Bridge
- Tower of Hercules
- Cultural Landscape of the Serra de Tramuntana
- Heritage of Mercury. Almadén and Idrija
- Antequera Dolmens Site
- Caliphate City of Medina Azahara
- Risco Caido and the Sacred Mountains of Gran Canaria Cultural Landscape