Run with the bulls, gorge on some paella and soak up some sun on the Costa del Sol! Spain evokes images of fluttering flamenco skirts, matadors and Picasso. The Iberian nation is one of the most visited tourist destinations of the world and a favourite of travellers looking for culture, history and lip smacking food. With this Spain travel guide, we introduce you to everything that makes Spain, Spain. Get to know the capital Madrid and party city Ibiza, the cliffs of Ronda and churches of Granada.
Spain loves to party and how. For an authentic experience of la vida Española, we recommend participating in the many fiestas and festivals that take place in the country throughout the year. The Semana Santa or Holy Week is an Easter celebration that brings carnivals and parades to every neighborhood in the country. February also sees the biggest carnival of them all in the Spanish Island of Tene
Summers in Spain draw in the most visitors. However, if crowded resorts and sweltering hot are not your style, the best time to visit Spain is in Spring and in Autumn. Not all of Spain is sunny with northern Spain often experiencing white winters. Cities in Galicia are perfect for July and August while the cities along the Mediterranean like Barcelona and Valencia are barmy all year long.
The capital of Spain as well as its largest city, Madrid is a cultural powerhouse on par with its French counterpart. Home to some of the finest museums in the world, the city is an art lover’s dream. The collection at the Museo del Prado rivals that of the Louvre without the mile long queues. Visit the museum for masterpieces by Goya, Velasquez and El Greco. Also worth a visit is the Reina Sofia, a museum of 20th century art that houses works of masters like Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dali. Most Spain travel guides also recommend stops at the Royal Palace, Plaza Mayor and the Puerta del Sol but for a real feel of Madrid, traipse down the Gran Via and gorge on some tapas.
Barcelona, with its distinctive architecture and inviting beaches, is a favourite of Spain travel guides. When you do find yourself in the city, take a walk down Las Ramblas. One of the most popular attractions in Barcelona, this tree lined street is a great place to shop and sample Catalan cuisine. Don’t forget to see the works of the city’s most famous son, Antoni Gaudi. The iconic Sagrada Familia, the Park Guell and the unmissable Casa Vicens are fantastic examples of Gaudi’s whimsical style. And if you crave some sun and sand head to the Costa Brava on the outskirts of the city for some of the prettiest beaches in the country.
The birthplace of paella, Valencia is one our favourite places in Spain. The sun, sand and seafood aside, the city offers an enticing mix of history and culture unlike any other Spanish city. Valencia has some great gothic, baroque and art noveau buildings some of which date back to the 12th century. Visit the Cathedral, the stunning Belfry of the Santa Catalina Church and the Silk Exchange, a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1996. A great way to spend an afternoon in Valencia is with a trip to the L’Oceanografic, part of the City or Arts and Sciences. It is currently the largest aquarium in Europe and popular among visitors with children.
The southern city of Granada may not have the allure of Madrid or Barcelona but it offers a near perfect Moorish experience. Once an Arab stronghold, the city has some of the most beautifully preserved examples of Moorish architecture in the Iberian Peninsula. The most stunning of these is the Alhambra. Built in the 9th century during the Arab conquest of Spain, the palace literally means Red Castle in Arabic. A tour of the castle is an absolutely vital part of Spain travel planning not only for a glimpse of Andalusia history but also breath taking views of the city. Other attractions that find their way into most Spain travel guides are the Generalife palace and its pretty gardens, and the Royal Chapel of Granada that is home to the graves of Spanish Royalty.
More art form than blood sport, bullfighting in Spain is a cultural tradition that has been around for hundreds, if not thousands of years. Enjoy the spectacle of raging bulls, colourful matadors and screaming crowds in what is likely a once in a lifetime experience. Make a bullfight part of your Spain travel planning and be a part of a quintessentially Spanish ritual.
The Royal Palace of Seville with its sprawling gardens, intricately carved columns, galleries and balconies is, perhaps the crowning jewel of the city. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the palace is considered the most beautiful example of Moorish architecture in the world. The site’s popularity in recent times has seen a spike with fans of the HBO series Game of Thrones making a beeline to the Alcazar to see the shooting location of the fictional Dorne. Even if you aren’t a thronie, exploring the palace and its gilded salons is essential to an authentic Seville experience. The Water Gardens of Dorne are a sight to behold and a great addition to your Spain travel planning.
Its notoriety as a party island often eclipses its delightful natural beauty. Ibiza, however, is more than its glitzy nightclubs and overflowing bars. Most of the island is protected as UNESCO World Heritage Site with the Ses Feixes Wetlands and Sa Caleta, a 2500 year old Phoenician settlement, recommended by every Spain travel guide. The island has been a nursery for electronic music for decades and some of the biggest nightclubs calling the island home. And be sure to head to the Café del Mar and join hundreds of revelers watching the sun go down on the Mediterranean Sea.
A town that wouldn’t be out of place in a Mad Max film, Ronda is a charming sand hued down perched at the top of a gorge. The town is strewn with Arab baths, palaces, gardens and the bull ring criss-crossed with charming cobble stoned streets. We also recommend going on a tour of the wineries that dot the countryside surrounding Ronda. The region produces some of the finest wines in Europe and traipsing through the region’s famed vineyards is the perfect way to spend the afternoon.