The Iberian nation of Spain has long been one of Europe’s top destinations for tourism and study abroad. The country brims with Moorish, Romanesque and Gothic architecture. It also has bold cultural elements like bullfighting and botellon street parties, part of the reason why so many travelers continue to choose Spain for their vacations or as a place of residence. Other perks of travel to Spain include the sunny Mediterranean climate and delicious foods like paella. No matter what motivations you have to travel, Spain stands out as an appealing destination.
The capital city of Madrid features the Royal Palace as well as the Prado Museum. It’s home to masterpieces by artists such as Goya and El Greco. Barcelona boasts one of Europe’s most unique Gothic Quarters as well as the Sagrada Familia Church, a surreal structure designed by Antoni Gaudi. The city of Granada sits at the base of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Visitors flock here to tour the intricate Moorish architecture and lush gardens of the Alhambra Palace and Fortress complex towering over the town below.
Seville draws crowds with its flamenco tradition and the third largest cathedral in the world. The beautiful orange-blossom trees lining the cobblestone streets and serene parks also make this a prime destination. Then there’s the coastal city of Valencia and the wild pyrotechnics that take place every year around mid-March at the week-long festival of Las Fallas. Add in the bullfighting rings of Pamplona and the world-class beaches of San Sebastian in northern Spain and you’ve got enough attractions to sight-see and travel around Spain for weeks if not months.
Spanish culture lures visitors just as much as the tourist attractions themselves. Spain is famous for its tradition of siesta, an afternoon break during which workers and students take a few hours to eat, sleep and relax. This easygoing lifestyle permeates most of Spain. Spanish nightlife is part of the reason why so many people need to take a siesta. Bars and clubs don’t get going until much later in the night, and Spaniards often stay out until the early hours of the morning on weekends.
There’s also the tradition of botellon, or street parties, in southern cities such as Seville and Granada where local authorities generally turn a blind eye to drinking in the streets and plazas in certain parts of town. Locals and tourists congregate year-round in such areas to drink, play music and socialize throughout the evening. This tradition is practiced in other parts of Spain as well, although authorities in some regions tend to make more of an attempt to shut down botellon activities.
Another staple in Spanish life is soccer, referred to as futbol. Almost every city and town has a local team and passionate supporters. For a more extreme spectacle, consider checking out Spanish bullfighting. It’s a bloody and violent event, decried by some and adored by others. Either way, it’s one of Spain’s claims to fame. Bullfighting is most prevalent in Seville, Madrid, La Ronda and Pamplona.
Spain’s gastronomy varies from region to region. One of its best-known dishes is paella, a seafood and rice combination that originated along the Mediterranean Sea. You’ll also find chorizo sausage links dangling behind the counters of most bars, restaurants and shops. The tortilla española is another common entree consisting of fried eggs, diced onions, salt and olive oil. Sample tapas while touring Spain.
Tapas are essentially appetizers with ingredients such as bread, cheese, olives, meat and vegetables and can be eaten as a quick snack or as an entire meal. Spain has also earned a reputation as one of the better producers of wine, particularly of the red variety. Regional specialties vary around the country, so eat typical dishes in whatever region you’re visiting.
Spain is on the same seasonal calendar as the United States and Great Britain. Weather varies greatly, depending on what part of the country you are visiting. Spring and fall generally bring in a higher volume of tourist traffic due to the more moderate climate during these months. Spain can get a bit chilly in the winter, though not as cold as many parts of North America or Europe.
It can also get extremely hot in the summer, especially in southern Spain near the Mediterranean. This coastal region attracts throngs of European vacation-goers with its sunny weather and warm waters. August is the primary month in which Europeans take their yearly holiday. The southern Mediterranean region remains a popular destination throughout the year. It’s average temperatures are between 60 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit and relatively little precipitation.
In contrast to the arid south, you will find snow in the central Sierra Nevada Mountains and lighter flurries throughout mid and northern Spain during winter. Northern Spain is also known for its scenic beaches. But the seasonal limitations mean this region typically experiences more tourism during the summer when the beaches are warmer.