Spain, also known as España, shares the Iberian Peninsula with Portugal at the Mediterranean Sea’s western end. It has a diverse culture, just like Portugal, made up of Spanish, African, Moorish and Arabic influences. With a myriad of tourist attractions, both natural and manmade, folklore and festivities, vibrant nightlife, glamorous beaches, historic architecture and monuments, delicious cuisine, relaxed lifestyle, friendly inhabitants, and the second largest number of UNESCO World Heritage sites in the world, Spain should be in your list of must-visit travel destinations. There are many places to visit in Spain, including the thriving capital of Madrid, the heavenly Balearic Islands, the Basque Country’s San Sebastian, the sporty coastal city of Barcelona, Seville, Granada, Cordoba, the idyllic Canary Islands, and the famous ‘Running of the Bulls’ at Pamplona.
Places to see and things to do in Spain
The capital city of Spain embodies everything that’s great and wonderful about the country. The largest city of Spain has a vast number of market squares, churches, monuments, fiestas, exhibitions, concerts, flamenco shows, classical operas, restaurants, clubs and cafes, and a legendary club scene.
There’s so much to see, that it’s probably most economical to just take a day tour of all the major historical and cultural sites, and then do your own thing after that to get off the beaten track, although most places in Madrid are crowded with tourists and locals any time of day.
To quench your thirst and easy your hunger, drink vermouth and eat tapas at La Taberna de Corps or Bodegas Ricla. See a Flamenco performance of the Andalucian gypsies at the Casa Patas. If you’re a greenie you’ll love the Jardin Botanico, Madrid’s botanical gardens. For art-lovers, the Prado Museum should satisfy. For bargain shopping, you can’t go past the El Rasto flea markets. Groove to the funk, soul and rock music at Sala de Sol, which kicks off about 11pm most nights.
Barcelona is Spain’s second largest city and was once home to the Olympic Games, but this is not its only claim to fame. This great city has an abundance of magnificent churches, historical and cultural museums, shops, restaurants, and outdoor markets. When you arrive in the city, buy a Barcelona card which will give you unlimited transport access and discounts on attractions. It’s worth it if you’ll be doing lots of activities and sight-seeing while you’re there. Wander down the famous La Ramblas Boulevard for to see artists, musicians, dancers, fortune-tellers and market stalls. There are lots of cafes here, but for cheaper food, turn down the side-streets off Las Ramblas instead of eating on the main boulevard. Be dazzled by Gaudi’s fantastic and yet grotesque architectural masterpiece, the Sagrada Familia, and be awestruck in the Gothic Cathedral.
Some handy tips for travellers: Barcelona does have beaches to frolic on, but only if you want a dirty city beach with rubbish, harsh sand and foreign objects floating in the water. Leave the beach experience for San Sebastion. You have to be pushy in queues to get any service, but hold on to your wallet, and lastly, don’t dress in blaring tourist gear!
Within Spain’s Basque Country lies San Sebastian. It is considered by travellers around the globe to be one of the best in-city beaches in Europe. To be sure, it’s one of the more surreal vacation destinations around. If you’re already used to tropical paradise and oceanic views, then why not try sunbathing or swimming in the middle of the city right next to churches and major historical buildings? Surfers frequent the place for its amazing waves, plus the city has a cosy, humble atmosphere which features tons of pintxos (pinchos) bars and fish restaurants.
Ibiza, Balearic Islands
You’ll never be the same again once you decide to visit the Balearic Islands of Spain. The reason for this is because the archipelago in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Spain offers a historical centre, shops, restaurants, numerous bars, and sunshine galore. In particular, the Balearic Island of Ibiza provides an abundance of dazzling landscapes covered in pines. Ibiza is also famous for the 24 hour parties that run across the island. The Ibiza parties and clubs are host to the best DJ’s from around the world, all brought together for one reason, to party. You’ll come home a broken person, and you’ll never forget getting wrecked in Ibiza!
Las Fallas Festival
Situated in the party hungry city of Valencia, the insanity of the week long Las Fallas festival is one not to be missed. The main focus of the festival is on the creation and destruction of huge, we’re talking stories tall, ninots (puppets) that are situated in various spots around the city. Each day begins at an early 8am where you will be woken to the sounds of brass bands and firecrackers and thats is just the beginning. At 2pm the locals gather for the explosive display of firecrackers and fireworks and at night time there is a fireworks display at the old riverbed of Valencia. The last evening, the 19th, is ‘La Cremada’, when all the Fallas are burnt. It’s arguably the strangest, wildest and funnest festival happening in the world!
This city is located in the Andalucian region of southern Spain, and is heavily influenced by the Moors in its ancient history. Alcazar, an Islamic palace in medieval times, features Spanish Christian and Moorish artwork. The Plaza de Espana is just as incredible. Cross the river to the older side of town and wander the streets of Triana, with its gypsy houses, blossoming courtyards for an authentic look into Seville. If you want to indulge in some pamering surrounded by Andalucian Moorish heritage, go to the Aire de Sevilla for a thermal bath or hamam and a massage.
There is the Bullring, the most famous and oldest in Spain, to watch a bullfight in from March to October, if you don’t have animal cruelty concerns. Go to the Barrio Santa Cruz quarter and stumble around the maze of streets until you find a bar or restaurant to eat and relax with a beverage for the afternoon…..evening…..night…..just don’t get lost trying to get back out!