Regime: Unitary parliamentary constitutional monarchy
Area: 505 990 km²
Population: 46 464 053 (2014)
Currency: Euro (EUR)
Time Zone: GMT +1 (winter) / GMT +2 (summer)
Official languages: Spanish
Calling Code: +34
GDP (PPP per capita): $30 278
The capital of Spain is well known for its night life and exceptional museums. The Puerta del Sol and the Plaza Mayor transport you to another world as soon as you set foot into the heart of spain.
Two notable museums that should not be missed are the Prado, with its expositions of Spanish, Flemish and Italian artists dating back to the 15 and 19 century. Madrid is also where you will find the works of Goya and Velasquez along with the centro de Arte Reino Sofia with its immense collection of contemporary and modern works including Picasso’s Guernica.
The royal palace offers an extraordinary walk both through the gardens as well as inside its walls. While fans of the corrida, or bullfighting, will have the opportunity to take in a spectacle the Plaza de Toros de las Ventas, Madrid’s main arena.
The capital of autonomous community of Catelonia, is a city of architectural beauty which never sleeps. Situated in the centre of the old town you will find the Sagrada Familia, with its intriguing design and its display of unique and modern architecture. An equialy amazing discovery can be found wandering the typically Roman grid plan of the Gothic Quarter. For a magnificent view of the city, the detour to the Montjuic fortress and the Park Guell is something not be missed. for the chance to see the important collections of world renowned artist the Fundacio Joan Miro and the Picasso Museum are a must.
An Andalusian city, Cordoba is situated on the banks of the Guadalquivir River in the south of Spain. This historic centre of this town, which was the capital of the Hispania Ulterior during the Roman Republic, was named a UNESCO world heritage site.
A city once known as lliberri by the romans, was influenced by both the romans and the Visigoths. Today this city is a beautiful display of one the Muslim culture in Europe with the Alhambra Palace, its gardens and its patios absolutely have to be seen.
With no less than four UNESCO world heritage sights, the capital of Andalusia really is a sight to behold. The neighbourhood of Santa Cruz is possibly the most picturesque of the city, while the cathedral with the tower of Giralda to the Alcázar with its gardens show signs of the multiple influences the city has experienced.
The Iberian Peninsula hides in its heart a gem. In fact, Malaga is a modern city that has managed to combine its history with the present. This city, founded in the seventh century by the Phoenicians shows us today the different cultures and faiths that have taken control of the city at one point or another.
This city of Spain is known as the crossroads of three major cultures of our time, namely: Christianity, Judaism and Arabic. As such, the city represents a large museum, with buildings that bear witness to its rich past. The city of Toledo has had its place on the UNESCO list of world heritage sites since 1986 as a heritage to humanity and co-existence, which can be witnessed through its unique charm and the excellent preservation of its historical riches. With the river Tajo running through the centre of the city, combined with its strategically elevated placement, Toleda has always been an important for the nation.
Known as Bilbo in Basque, this city is located in northern Spain. With roughly 300 000 inhabitants, it is the capital of Biscay and Greater Bilbao. Due to its seaport and the large reach of its industrial centre, Bilbao has an important economic role in the Basque region. Surrounded by mountains, forests and fertile land, Bilbao is a city that reflects the beauty of nature. Added to this natural beauty are the beaches and cliffs, which give the city an appearance that combines modernism and nature conservation.
Capital of the eponymous province, Alicante is a port-city located in south-eastern Spain, on the Mediterranean coast. Established on a vast plain facing the Mediterranean Sea, Alicante is one of the most dynamic and prosperous cities of Spain.
Valencia was previously colonised by the Greeks and then a century before 1 AD, the Romans conquered it for the fertility of its soil which has always attracted farmers. The alternation between Moorish and Christian invasions gave this seaside city in Spain a double charm that is easily visible with its mix of gothic and industrial architecture that is today takes the third largest city in Spain.
On the other hand, Spain has many islands with wonderful landscapes, such as Mallorca, Ibiza, the Balearic Islands and the Canary Islands. These well-known islands are located in the Mediterranean and Atlantic oceans.
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Spain has one of the largest capacities for accommodating tourists in Europe, but we must remember that it is the third most visited country in the world after France and the United States. From major hotels along the southern coasts to those of large cities, cottages and B&BS, the variety and choice of location is up to you.
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Weather / When to leave:
The climate varies between regions: From the mild temperatures on the Atlantic coast, to the continental climate of the centre, and the Mediterranean climate with mild winters and hot summers in the south.
Overall, the ideal period is from June to September due to the weather. Although some may prefer the periods from May to June or September to October for more bearable temperatures, this would also mean missing the influx of tourist for high season.
History / culture:
This country was very marked by its long history, which includes the Islamic conquest and the Reconquista just to name a few. It retains a wide variety of influences in all areas as can be witnessed by the unique culture.
Moreover, Spain has multiple official languages including: Castilian, Catalan, Galician and Basque. On top of these differences in language are the 17 autonomous communities.
A large majority of the population is catholic (80 %), but there has been a drop in church attendance and loss in the church’s influence. The remaining 20% is made up of atheists/agnostics, Jews, Muslims and Protestants.
With a unique mix that reflects its history, Spain’s monuments show inspiration from the Romans, Moors, Muslims and more.
Tapas, tortillas, paella and gazpacho or local products such as pata negra (black hoof), chorizo, jamon serrano or olive oil are all to be tested.
With its origin in Andalusia some time during the nineteenth century with the gypsies, the flamenco represents both a musical genre and a dance. It represents the beginning of poor people’s expression and their pride, and is today practices all over the world.
Cruelty or culture, bullfighting remains a touchy subject but still takes place in most part of Spain with the practice banned in Catalonia and the Canary Islands.
Places not to miss:
This country is full of architectural wonders and remains of the ancient civilisations at all street corners, because of the numerous invasions.
- Sagrada Familia (Barcelona)
- Güell Park (Barcelona)
- The Alhambra (Grenada)
- Le Generalife (Grenada)
- The cathedrale and l’Alcazar (Séville)
Spain is one of the most artistic countries in the world, having given birth to the likes of Goya and Picasso.
- Picasso (Barcelona)
- Miro (Barcelona)
- Guggenheim (Bilbao)
- The Prado (Madrid)
- Centro de Arte Reina Sofia (Madrid)
Spain also has 14 national parks and 200 nature reserves scattered throughout the country that shelter endangered species. The Garajonay National Park and the Doñana are World Heritage sites and a delight to nature lovers.
Things to do:
Spain is one of the premier destinations for relaxation. A destination where all you have to choose is which beach meets your standards as a dream location. The Costa Brava , Costa del Sol or Cota Dorada are also particularly famous for their beaches, and for good reason.
- Visit La Mancha and retrace the footsteps of Don Quixote
- Follow the route of Santiago de Compostela
- Skiing in the Sierra Nevada or the mountain range north of Madrid (Sierra de Guadarrama)
- Surfing along the Basque coast
- Hiking in the natural parks of the country
- Watch a football match, a sport that is almost a religion in spain
- Hang gliding in Castilla Leon and paragliding in Andalusia, in the renowned Valley Abdajas
- Rafting in the Pyrenees
- The Cadiz Carnival (February)
- Celebrations of Valencia (March)
- Férias Seville (April)
- Bullfights in Pamplona (July)
- San Sebastian Jazz Festival (July)
- Semana large and Basque festivals Bilbao (August)
- National Day or the day of the Hispanic (October 12)
Passport and Visa:
EU citizens require only their ID cards. For many countries a valid passport is sufficient and a visa is not necessary, for a vacation of up to 90 days. All tourist must verify beforehand that their passport is valid for at least 90 after the date of departure from Spain. For a full list of countries that do or do not require a passport view here.
Bus: cities and capitals have reasonable networks with tickets between 1-2 euros.
Regular (6am – ±12am) with fewer night buses
Metro: in the bigger cities, same ticket as bus, 10-trip tickets offer good value or week/month passes
Taxi: green light or a sign (“libre”), max of 4 in a taxi, about 1 euro per km plus 2.40 flagfall (extra charges for luggage and airport)
Train: Renfe, national rail as well as other private companies, Tren de Alta Velocidad Española (AVE) high speed train also the most expensive, turista(2nd) and preferente(1st), overnight trips on “trenhoteles”
Health and safety:
- Pickpockets aroung tourist
attractions and transport
- Jellyfish stings
- Lataste’s viper which lives in dry rocky areas and can be identifies by its zigzag pattern
- People wearing Speedos and bikinis away from the beach are fined in Barcelona and Majorca
- Sunburn and heatstroke due to the temperatures over 40°C
- Fire: 080
- Medical Service: 061
- Local police: 092
- National police: 091
220 volts with the standard European two prong plug.
Way of life:
The Spanish pace of life rather different and the Spanish have a habit of eating lunch at 14h and dinner around 22h…They are known to eat late. So the restaurants are usually open from 13h30 to 16h and in the evening from 21h to midnight. Areas that cater to tourists will most likely have food available earlier if you are unable to adapt to this schedule.
Some of the wonders of Spain: