Spain takes every traveler’s dream and presents it to them on a platter. The country, which sits to the south of France and is conjoined with Portugal, is best known for its sweeping views of iconic landscapes like Andalucía and the Pyrenees.
With a smorgasbord of landscapes, cities, activities, and culture, Spain will invigorate you with a new sense of adventure. The two coasts, which touch both the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea, are absolutely breathtaking and the heart of Spain’s charm.
Bienvenidos – Welcome to Spain!
With natural beauty serving as one portion of Spain’s platter, the cities are also works of art and endless hubs of high energy, which showcases the country’s unique culture. From the architecture of Antoni Gaudí to the perfectly aligned avenues, cities like Barcelona and Madrid will capture your heart.
It’s in these major hubs that Spain’s culture thrives, and visitors can get a taste of elegance from the works of Pablo Picasso or Salvador Dalí. While the past is preserved and honored, the future of Spain is thriving. With fiestas all the time, visitors will become enchanted by Spain’s endearing and positive character.
Lined with manicured parks and perfectly aligned boulevards, Madrid is the golden capital of Spain. But this city is more than a picture-perfect canvas and art bleed beyond the page to hang in Madrid’s most famous museums. With the chance to get up close and personal with works by Picasso and Dalí, artists flock to Madrid for a taste of splendor.
Here, Spain’s party lifestyle continues and there are endless options to slip into Madrid’s busy nightlife scene. With smiling faces and toes tapping to the beat, Madrid will keep you entertained late into the night.
- Culture and Language
- Spending Budget
- How to Get Around
- Top Cities to Visit
- Points of Interest
Culture and Language
With a worldwide influence, Spain’s history is extensive and dates back thousands of years. It’s impossible to give you a Spanish history lesson in this section, but we can highlight some of the country’s key events. Spain is perhaps most famous for its Conquistadors, who set off to conquer countries far across the ocean.
There have been quite a few Spanish Conquistadors who began exploring the globe in the 16th century. By far the two most famous are Hernán Cortés and Francisco Pizzaro, who reached the Americas and conquered the Aztec and Incan Empires. Juan Ponce de León is the third most famous Conquistador who explored the areas around modern-day Florida and Puerto Rico.
Ponce de León was even the first governor of Puerto Rico. Due to their famous Conquistadors, Spain has spread their culture throughout the world.
Christopher Columbus, though Italian, is also deeply connected to Spain as his voyage left the country to explore the New World. From Spain, Christopher Columbus sailed across the Atlantic Ocean in 1492, which led to his “discovering” of the Americas.
Spain also loves their monarchy and throughout the years, various rulers have claimed to rule over the country. Even in today’s world, Spain’s monarchy is intact, and the country is officially a democratic constitutional monarchy. This means that while the royal family is still present, a Prime Minister rules over the government.
Spanish tradition is famous throughout the world for its fiestas, but also controversial due to its bullfighting. Both are parts of tradition for the Spanish, but the latter has become heavily scrutinized.
Flamenco dance and music are incredibly precise and require strict discipline. The intricate movements of the body are clean and only add to the beauty of the dance.
Another folk tradition that has lasted from times past is bullfighting. Once highly celebrated, matadors are now on the decline. Bullfights are still held annually, along with the famous Running of the Bulls, although many people are calling for a stop to the tradition based on its barbaric treatment of the bulls.
With newer generations focusing more on their humanity, bullfighting is slowly fading into the past. While the conversation is still centered on the bulls and the fighters, there are plenty of other traditions from Spain that are worth celebrating.
Language is an integral part of Spain’s culture and the Spanish language is now dominant throughout a large portion of the world. Spain actually has five languages that are spoken throughout the country, but Castilian Spanish is named as the official language.
The four other languages spoken are Galician, Basque, Aranès, and Catalan. However, some travelers may be surprised to know that English is also spoken throughout areas of Spain. In fact, some would consider English to be the second most spoken language in the country.
But that still means that less than 30% of the country’s 47.33 million citizens (as of 2021) are able to speak English. Areas with higher levels of English speakers will be in major cities or tourist areas.
Once you’ve caught the travel bug, you may be overly eager to take off on a trip. But before you can go dashing out the door, you need to consider the cost of a vacation and determine what you can afford. A pre-planned spending budget outline is a great way to estimate the costs during your trip and include room for emergency funds.
While most of Europe is expensive to travel to, the good news is that Spain is not as expensive as some other European nations. Travelers who want to save the most but still have a good time can do so by outlining their budget ahead of time and being strict with their spending while in Spain. But other travelers may want to spend more or splurge.
Before you leave, the main categories that you should consider as part of your spending budget are airfare, accommodation, food, drink, and transportation.
The first part of your budget should always be the airfare because you need a way to get all the way across the Atlantic Ocean in a timely and safe manner. Airplanes are the way to go, but you’ll need to accommodate the expense of a ticket into your spending budget.
The average cost of an airplane ticket from the United States to Spain is under one thousand dollars. For travelers who are looking to lower their spending budget, it can help you have flexible travel dates or look for special deals. Some budget airline sites will have flights that cost half the average price.
But you may also notice that airline ticket prices change throughout the year. This is because as the demand for tourism rises in Spain, so does the cost of an airline ticket. Spain’s highest tourist seasons are actually divided into two parts as there are three peaks throughout the year.
Spring is the first spike in tourism and March to May are the most popular months. In the fall, there is another peak in tourism from September to October. But the absolute highest number of tourists will flock to Spain in June, July, or August. These months are also when airline tickets will be the most expensive.
Airline tickets will also increase in price the longer you wait to make a reservation. Sometimes the difference is subtle enough that you can accommodate it in your budget, but sometimes tickets will increase their price by thousands of dollars and no longer be a good option for you.
While it can be absolutely exhilarating to book your airline ticket, you also need to spend time booking your accommodation for all the nights of your trip. Hostels, hotels, and Airbnb are Spain’s most popular accommodation options, which can cater to a wide range of budgets.
Hostels are always the favorite for backpackers because of their affordable prices and Spain has plenty of them. Most hostels in Spain will charge a moderate fee for a shared room, however, you should expect prices to raise in major cities. Private rooms in a hostel will be more expensive and could cost hundreds of dollars depending on where you are.
Hotels are also popular because they provide more services to travelers. But hotels are expensive, and you should expect to spend up to a few hundred dollars a night. Luxury hotels will cost even more, sometimes reaching over a thousand dollars for a single day. While these options aren’t for budget travelers, if you want to experience luxury, this is the way to go.
For travelers who want the benefits of private accommodation, but don’t want to pay a high price, Airbnb is a great option. Many Airbnbs will have lost listing prices for a private room, while an apartment or home can cost similar to a hotel. If you are traveling in a group, this can be a great way to save money because you’ll split the costs between various travelers.
Along with your accommodation booking, there may be a small meal included in the price. Some places include breakfast for free, but not all places do. You’ll need to also be prepared to purchase your other meals for the duration of your trip.
Spanish cuisine is known for its zesty flavors and fresh ingredients. There are plenty of different dishes to try that will get your taste buds dancing with joy.
Gazpacho is one of Spain’s beloved dishes, which is a cold soup served in the hot summer. The soup is a blended mix of tomatoes, olive oil, garlic, and cucumber.
For the love of the water, paella is popular in Spain with a mix of fresh seafood acting as filling meat. However, the Valencia region in Spain has its own take on paella, which includes rabbit or chicken meat instead of seafood. Patatas bravas is another good meal, which is large chunks of fried potato with your favorite flavors like garlic and olive oil.
For a switch in meals, desserts are also a great way to experience Spain. Turrón is an almond nougat bar, which is also infused with rice crisps. The delightful crunch of this dessert has made it a favorite in Spain, and it is widely popular around the Christmas holiday.
Mantecados are delightful cookies, which have a light and fluffy air about their composition. The cookies are a tradition in Spain and a fond reminder of childhood. Finally, flan is another dessert that expertly balances density with fluffiness. With an almost sickly-sweet flavor, you don’t need much to feel satisfied.
But tasty meals come at a price and you’ll probably find yourself spending a lot of money on eating out. If you want to keep your spending down, you have the option of cooking for yourself, but if your accommodation lacks a kitchen, you need to budget wisely. Most restaurants will cost a fair amount, especially at nicer locations.
Alcohol will be another expense you’ll need to calculate. While wine isn’t too expensive, cocktails can be pricey. Local beverages will be the best way to save a bit, as they will be the cheapest option. But as is common with most tourist locations, you’ll find prices higher in popular areas.
How to Get Around
With plenty of connections and modes of transportation, it’s easy to get around Spain. Some of the most popular transportation methods are budget airlines, buses, trains, public transportation, and walking.
Flights, Buses, and Trains
Budget airlines really are really well-priced and great for travelers who are on a time crunch. As the fastest way to get around, many people will choose this option if they are trying to see as many cities as possible. If you want to cut back on costs, buses are a great option, although they will take longer to reach your destination.
Trains are another choice and have similar prices to buses. When you’re in one city or area, public transportation will be the most affordable option and it should be easy to navigate. Many rides will cost a few dollars and bigger cities may have a special package of tickets that will help you save.
Taxis can also help you reach your destination and short rides should cost a reasonable amount. Walking is also another option, but travelers should be aware that Spain does have issues with petty crimes like pickpocketing.
If you do walk around a city or town, you should always keep your bags close or in front of you and be conscious of your surroundings.
Top Cities to Visit
While Barcelona and Madrid are Spain’s heavyweight, there’s a variety of city destinations that have become tourist hotspots. With different historical landmarks, architectural designs, and positionings within the country, visiting as many locations as possible will show you all Spain has to offer. Here are the best cities to explore in Spain.
With some of Spain’s greatest icons, it’s no wonder that Barcelona consistently draws in large crowds of tourists. From Gaudí’s architecture and most famous piece, La Sagrada Familia, and the Ramblas, Barcelona doesn’t have to work hard to dazzle or entertain. Instead, the lively streets to all the work.
Just walking through the crowds and exploring the restaurants is a good time. Plus, the famous soccer team, Barcelona FC always has an open stadium for sports fans.
Madrid is every art lover’s paradise. With national treasures painted by Picasso and Dalí hanging in museums, this is the best place to see Spain’s art shine. With plenty of museums to explore, you can delve even deeper into the culture after strolling the galleries and hitting the restaurants or cafes.
Always at the forefront of Spain’s culture, you can try a taste of traditional and new culinary creations.
One of Spain’s most popular spots along the Mediterranean, Valencia is filled to the brim with pretty beaches, energetic nightclubs, and outdoor leisure. While the country’s most prized possessions are not in Valencia’s museums, there’s still plenty of local cultures to explore. With good restaurants, you can also enjoy the local gastronomy.
Once ruled by the Moorish, Granada has an entirely unique appearance from other Spanish cities, due to its Islamic architecture. One star attraction and favorite location to visit in the city is the Old Arab Quarter. The nearby Sierra Nevada mountains are also stunning, and it makes Granada a great stopover destination.
Points of Interest
While cities always draw in the most tourists, you can also balance out your Spanish adventure by going to some of the country’s best points of interest. With so many places all over the country, these tourist attractions only solidify Spain’s charm. To help you narrow down your itinerary, here are some of the top sites to visit in Spain.
Discover the best of Spain’s thermal springs to add to your itinerary, on our sister site, Top Hot Springs.
Architect Antoni Gaudí is known for being over the top and outrageous, but his designs have become a highlight of Spain’s culture. Many visitors will even visit Spain just to take delight in its buildings. His architecture has also helped raise Barcelona’s popularity and people wait in long lines to see his work.
No, this isn’t New York Guggenheim. This is Spain’s and it’s located in Bilbao. However, this museum features the work of a famous American architect on its exterior and it’s a sight you need to see with your own eyes.
The sandstone blocks and titanium sheets give it a historic but modern feel and the unique shapes jut out over the water. With plenty of traveling exhibits, the Guggenheim Museum holds a large collection of modern art.
White Towns of Andalucía
As a part of the famous Andalucía region, these towns are like a snowy crown on top of the hillsides. The stark white color is an extreme contrast to nature’s greenery, but it’s what has made these towns famous. While there isn’t much to do in the small towns, their location around the Grazelema Nature Reserve gives you plenty to explore.
Playa La Concha
Playa La Concha is one of San Sebastian’s most stunning beaches, which is protected from high winds by various cliffs and nearby islands. But with clear water and good waves, this is a popular place to surf or take a boat out on the water.
Aqueduct of Segovia
One of the engineering highlights of the Roman Empire, this is the best-preserved monument in all of Spain. The aqueduct was still in use up until the 20th century but was dated back to 50 AD. The impressive granite blocks only work to showcase the ingenuity of the Romans at the Aqueduct of Segovia.
As Spain’s party capital, Ibiza is an island in the Mediterranean that’s become world-famous for its beaches, nightclubs, and bars. Tourists gather on the island in the summertime to let loose and have fun.
“La Piel de Toro” (“The Bull Skin”)
While Spain’s reach has gone across the globe to influence the Americas, there’s nothing quite like seeing the original culture that so many Latin countries have integrated into their society. With a well-planned trip, you’ll be able to tour Spain’s highlights.
From the famous landscapes to the thriving cities, Spain is one beautiful destination filled with happy energy and charming personality.