fbpx
Menu

Spain Travel Guide

Spain, Spain Travel Guide
Spain

“Oh, lovely Spain! Renowned, romantic land!”

Rochdale
Spain, Spain Travel Guide
Sevilla Spain
Spain, Spain Travel Guide

Top Five Destinations In Spain

  1. Seville Is the vibrant, colorful capital city of the autonomous Andalusia region. It sits on the Guadalquiver River. The birthplace of tapas is one of the most beloved cities in Spain. Discover rich architectural sites and historical landmarks, and dive into Spanish culture, food, sangria, and Flamenco.
  2. White Towns of Andalucia Are a wonder all of their own. The villages are filled with whitewashed homes with red or brown tiled roofs. Wandering these charming towns, you will find narrow alleyways, lovely churches, lookouts, picturesque town squares, and kind people who live a much simpler modest life. Some of our favorite white towns were Ronda, Setenil de las Bodegas, Torre Alháquime, Olvera, Algodonales, and Zahara de la Sierra,
  3. Barcelona This fascinating artistic city is one of incredible diversity. It is welcoming but at the same time has some grittiness due to over-tourism. It is a dense economic business center with people from all over the world making it their home. There is exciting nightlife as the city is full of young professionals. The beaches are gorgeous though they can be crowded. World-famous restaurants, historic sites, Gaudi’s incredible work everywhere, a beautiful waterfront, world-class museums, Sagrada Familia, etc. This is a spectacular city that has something for all.
  4. Madrid Is a bustling city known for being a city accepting people from anywhere in the world. It is a melting pot. You can visit many famous museums; The Gran Via is one of Spain’s best shopping districts. Wander Old Town, visit the monuments, enjoy restaurants with top cuisine, or partake in the vibrant nightlife. Madrid has charming, tranquil historic spots, beautiful parks, and cultural centers. Madrid has an authenticity that is hard to match.
  5. Cordoba A town with a strong presence of Moorish roots. As a result, it has a vibrant history to explore. Stroll through Old Town, the second largest one in Europe, to be declared a Patrimony of Humanity, where you can visit the important historical buildings of the city. Cordoba charms the visitor with cultural wonders. The Mezquita-Catedral, better known as The Great Mosque of Córdoba, is one of the oldest structures still standing from when Muslims ruled Al-Andalus in the late 8th century. This is an absolute must-do!

Did you know?

Spain stats

  • Population: 50.0 million
  • Capital City: Madrid
  • Currency: Euro (EUR)
  • Government type: Unitary Parliamentary Constitutional Monarchy
  • Monarch Felipe VI
  • Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez
  • Ethnic groups: Spanish 86.4%, other 13.6%
  • Languages: Castilian Spanish (official) 74%, Catalan (official) 17%, Galician (official) 7%, Basque (official) 2%
  • Religions: Roman Catholic 68.9%, atheist 11.3%, agnostic 7.6%, other 2.8%, non-believer 8.2%, unspecified 1.1%
  • US State Department Risk Level: 3 due to Covid, Civil Unrest, and Terrorism
  • Terrorist groups: Basque Fatherland and Liberty (disbanded); Islamic State of Iraq and Ash-Sham; al-Qa’ida (2019)
  • Around 406 million people speak Spanish, making it the world’s second most common language.
  • GDP of $1.2 trillion Ranked 13th in the world.
  • The national anthem, Marcha Real, of Spain has no words.
  • The official name of Spain is “Kingdom of Spain.”
  • The Bull is the national animal of Spain.
  • Spain is one of the most decentralized democracies in Europe. It has 17 regions that manage their own school, hospitals, and other public services.
  • Spain is the EU’s second-largest country and the fifth-largest in population.
  • Spain has the second-highest unemployment rate in the EU as of 2020 at 16.2%.
  • It became the first country to have wind as the most significant source of its electricity.
  • Spain is still a developing country, as  25.3% are at risk of poverty or social exclusion.
  • Inventions originating in Spain include a stapler, mop and bucket, cigarettes, the first astronaut spacesuit, quill pen, berets, lollipop, foosball, submarine, Flamenco, sherry, and acoustic guitar.
  • Major industries in Spain are tourism, manufacturing, pharmaceuticals, textiles, footwear, automobiles, agriculture, energy and electricity, wine, olive oil, metals, and chemicals.
  • UNESCO’s third-largest heritage country. There are 48 Unesco World Heritage Sites in Spain.
  • Spain has over about 5,000 miles of beaches.
  • Spain’s highest mountain is Mount Teide, at 12198 feet.
  • More than 2.5 million acres are dedicated to wine.
  • Life Expectancy is 83.4 years old, the second-longest life expectancy after Japan.
  • The literacy rate is 98%.

Fun facts

  • Spain has more bars and restaurants than any other country in the world.
  • Spain is one of the top-visited countries in the world.
  • Bullfighting remains both in Andalucia and Madrid.
  • Home to the world’s oldest restaurant; Restaurante Botin in Madrid
  • Over 150,000 tomatoes are thrown in the La Tomatina festival each year.
  • Spain is the largest producer of Olive Oil in the world.
  • Nudity is legal in Spain: Spain is known for its nude beaches along the Mediterranean.
  • Despite its prominence and power in Europe, Spain did not participate in the First or Second World War.
  • Spaniards spend approximately 16 out of every 24 hours relaxing, eating, drinking, and sleeping. There is nothing better than taking a Siesta!
  • Spain is renowned for its lively festivals, such as San Fermín (“running of the bulls”) in Pamplona.
  • Spain is the birthplace of many great artists, such as Pablo Picasso, Goya, Dali, Miro, Gaudi, El Greco, and Miguel Cervantes.
  • In Spain, daycare options are minimal, and as a result, about 25% of all grandparents take care of their grandchildren every day.
  • The Sun Plaza Gate (Puerta del Sol) in Madrid is the physical center of the country.
  • There are fewer marriages in Spain than in any other EU country except Sweden.
  • A Spaniard wrote the first ‘novel’: Spanish author Cervantes’ is known for his Don Quixote novel written in 1605. Don Quixote is considered one of the first modern and greatest novels of all time.
  • Owning a home is very important to Spanish people, and around 80% of Spanish households own a home.
  • Flamenco is not a dance; it’s a musical style that sometimes has dancing in it.
  • The Spanish football team, the Real Madrid, is the most valuable sports team in the world.
  • Traditionally, you have two surnames in Spain: your father’s first surname and your mother’s second.
  • There is no tooth fairy in Spain but rather a tooth mouse called Ratoncito Perez.
  • The Region of Catalonia is the most prosperous region of Spain. It has been aggressively seeking independence from Spain. It maintains an autonomous government. Protests seeking independence occur often.
  • The Madrid subway is the second-largest underground system in Europe and the sixth-largest system in the world.
  • Spain is the only country in Europe that produces bananas.

Spain Map

Good to know before you go

  • It is not customary to tip in Spain. It is entirely optional. You may see people leaving small change at cafés and bars and some tipping at a nice expensive restaurant. But most of the time, you won’t see anyone other than tourists leaving a tip. Leave a tip in cash; otherwise, it goes to the owner. Taxi and car services tipping is practically nonexistent. For hotels, it is not expected, but for excellent service, you can give some euros.
  • Credit cards, for the most part, are used everywhere. But that is not always the case in smaller towns and more rural areas. We used to cash a lot more in Spain.
  • Overall, the clothing is stylish and well-kept. The Spanish fabrics consist primarily of cotton, wool, and fine leather. Tailors in Spain are known for paying attention to detail and craftsmanship. Footwear is high-quality leather. Women commonly wear a variety of shoes, from heels to sandals. Clothing tends to be colorful. Western brands such as Gucci, Prada, etc., are popular in Spain. The streets are old, and you will be doing a lot of walking as a tourist. Best to plan for comfortable, strong shoes and dress.
  • Driving in Spain was quite a pleasure; we had this vision of rough roads and poor signage, and that was not the case. We found highways and country roads fun to drive, reliable, and easy to navigate. Toll roads are common in Spain. Verify with the rental car company you have a Vignette sticker affixed to a vehicle’s front window. These are used in several countries to collect tolls. Spain is a country you want your International driver’s license in. They will ask for it if you are stopped.
  • The Spanish are not the most considerate of drivers. Many drivers completely disregard speed limits, and you may find some aggressive road users. Some police forces are notorious for over-policing the roadways and seeking out tourists. Driving in flip-flops is illegal and comes with a hefty fine. Using car horns unnecessarily while driving is considered both rude and aggressive.
  • The family is the basis of the social structure and includes the nuclear and the extended family, which sometimes provides a social and financial support network. Familial ties remain a crucial aspect of Spanish society.
  • Women do not change their names when they marry.
  • The Spanish often use gestures with or as substitutes for words. Flicking the teeth with the thumbnail, wiggling fingers from the nose, and grabbing the left arm with the right while making a left-handed fist are all considered offensive.
  • Spanish people are proud and protective of their standing and how others perceive them. Boasting your achievements and accomplishments is frowned upon.
  • Spanish people tend to be extroverts and friendly, as is common in Mediterranean culture, and they place modesty and personality foremost on professional status or materialism.
  • Whether with family, close friends, or virtual strangers, they greet women with a kiss on each cheek in an informal situation. Men have they will often greet or say goodbye with a hug.
  • Soccer is the core sport in Spain to the level of obsession. It’s also pretty much a religion. Catch a match if you can, and you will find yourself people-watching more than watching the game. Real Madrid is the most popular club in the world, with over 200 million supporters.
  • You can easily spot Spaniards anywhere because they are the ones who speak in the loudest voice. It is part of the Spanish character, which contributes to creating that unique atmosphere.
  • Enjoying life is a big part of Spanish culture. Mañana Mañana means “tomorrow tomorrow” but is commonly used as “no stress” or to express that there’s no need to worry because things will work out just fine.
  • Spanish culture is central to their food, which they are passionate about. A famous saying is Barriga llena, corazón contento, which translates to “A full belly and a happy heart”!
  • The Spanish are famous for their Paella, a recipe that originates in Valencia on the southeastern coast. The rice-based dish includes a mixture of vegetables, meat, seafood, and fish. It is seasoned with saffron and various spices. It is a must-do while in Spain.
  • What is Spain without tapas? Though, not all regions are as well known for it. Tapas is an assortment of appetizers that may be hot or cold. A typical Tapas can involve Chorizo, Patatas bravas (pieces of potato fried in oil and served in a tomato sauce), spicy lamb meatballs, deep-fried calamari, grilled artichoke, seafood, cured meat, and aubergine. They are beautiful to the eye in many markets. Our favorite place for Tapas was Madrid, especially at the main Mercado, which has the best selection and variety. Seville and the White towns did an excellent job too.
  • Table manners are important. Always keep your hands visible when eating. Keep your wrists resting on the edge of the table. Use utensils to eat most food. Even fruit is eaten with a knife and fork.
  • Restaurants in Spain are open very late, and it is not uncommon to sit for dinner at 10 pm. If you are invited to dinner, it is rare to be before 9:00 pm. The Spaniards are night owls. Spaniards start their workdays at 11 pm, a bit later when you are socializing till midnight, no wonder you need siestas after lunch.
  • If invited to a Spaniard’s home, never go empty-handed; chocolates, pastries, cakes, wine, liqueur, brandy, or flowers are commonly brought.
  • Smoking is still prevalent in Spain. If you are sensitive to smoking, that may be an issue in Spain. 22% of the Spanish population smoke daily.
  • In our travels in Spain, we found it safe overall but felt we needed to be more aware of our setting than usual.

Spain Essential Info

US Consular Emergency
The 24-hour number from a US Phone is 1-888-407-4747
Outside of US 011-202-501-4444

US Embassy Madrid
Calle Serrano, 75
28006 Madrid, Spain
Telephone: (34) 91-587-2200
Emergency after-hours telephone: (34) 91-587-2200 
Fax: (34) 91-587-2303
Email: askacs@state.gov

US Consulate General Barcelona
Paseo Reina Elisenda de Montcada, 23
08034 Barcelona, Spain
Telephone: (34) 93-280-2227
Emergency after-hours telephone: (34) 91-587-2200 
Fax: (34) 93-280-6175
Email: BarcelonaACS@state.gov

Emergency Numbers
GENERAL 112
Health/Ambulance Emergencies 112

Country Code
+34

Time Zone
UTC 0 – +1

Driving
Right side

Adaptors
“Standard” Euro plug
Type C or F

Tourism Office
Spain Tourism Office

When to go to Spain

The best time to visit Spain is typically in the spring (March to May) or during the fall (September to November). You will find fewer crowds, affordable lodging, and the best weather (even for hitting the beach!). The summers are very harsh in most of Spain, especially southern. If you can avoid it, we suggest it.

Spain has Mediterranean climatic conditions. It has hot (we mean HOT!), dry summers, and wet, cold winters. However, the temperature mainly varies from the north to the south of Spain. Summers are warm and humid in Spain, and temperatures often rise above 113 degrees F.

Northern Spain, known as “The Green Spain,” is best visited anytime during the spring or fall. Throughout these months, you can wander around this beautiful area and enjoy some of the magnificent local festivals with much fewer crowds, lower-priced hotels, and ideal weather conditions. The Sierra Nevada Mountains in the South are the most visited place by tourists.  

Coastal areas like San Sebastian, Costa Blanca, and Costa Brava are crowded with expensive hotel options. Late October and November are often the wettest months in the country. 

Any time of year will work if you are in the major cities. Spain celebrates a host of festivities throughout the year, and it is good to experience their local traditions anytime in the year.

  • Summer 61-82 °F (16-28 °C)
  • Spring 45-77 °F (6-26 °C)
  • Fall 45-85 °F (6-29 °C)
  • Winter 40-58 °F (4-15 °C)

Our Favorite Spain Resources

This resource section contains some Amazon affiliate links. If you use these links to buy something, we may earn a small commission at no additional cost to you. Thank you!

Travel Books/Guides

Spain is a diverse country with regions varied and unique. Every region has its specialties and traditions and even its own languages. It is a destination that would be hard to accomplish in just one trip. Do the East on its own, and combine the West with maybe Portugal as we did. There are wonderful resources out there for your trip planning.

Spain Lonely Planet’s Spain (Country Guide) by Lonely Planet

A passport to the most relevant, up-to-date advice, the highlights Spain has to offer, and what hidden discoveries await you. Explore the wonders of Madrid, Seville, Barcelona, the White Towns of Andalucia, or the incredible islands of Spain. Great photography and lots of details to aid in planning. Discover this travel guide here.

Spain Rick Steves Spain (Country Guide) by Rick Steves

Full disclosure, we are huge Rick Steve’s fans; it will be rare not to recommend one of his wonderful guides; Spain was no exception. We love his travel style and perspective. His off-the-beaten-path approach and his independent travel philosophy match well with how we travel. The guides never disappoint. This book made it into our suitcase and was a fantastic resource. Find this must-have guide here.

Spain DK Eyewitness Spain (Travel Guide) by DK Eyewitness

The ideal travel companion is full of insider advice on what to see and do detailed itineraries, and comprehensive maps for exploring this ancient country. Everything you need to know is well laid out within color-coded chapters. Discover the best of Spain in this beautifully illustrated guide. Find this guide here.

Our favorite websites

1. Spain tourism site

2. US Department of State: Bureau of Consular Affairs Spain Country Info

We cannot encourage you enough to visit this website as you plan and prepare for your trip. This is the US Federal Government addressing the safety, security, travel risk, entry, exit, visa documents mandates, emergency US and Embassy contacts, health, local laws, special circumstances, threats, traveler vulnerabilities, government warnings, and transportation in Spain. This is your best and most reliable resource for all this important info. Check back often before you go, as things can change quickly. Being prepared is essential in all travel, but especially internationally.

Spain International Travel Information (state.gov)

3. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Travelers Health Resource

This CDC travel resource provides essential health info for your specific destination. Using their tool, you can determine which vaccines, medications, and health advice recommendations are needed for Australia.

CDC’s Travelers Health Page for Spain

Our favorite maps

Spain Spain Portugal National Geographic Adventure Map 3307

Easy to read the map with practical road and travel information. These maps are meant for the adventure traveler. Major sites and landmarks are well-marked. Mapped road network with distances and designations for major highways to the off-the-beaten-path roads. Waterproof and tear-resistant, it holds up well. Great for planning your route before your trip. Though we default to Google Maps, this came in handy when service was poor or during construction detours. Find this essential map here.

Our favorite apps

Google Maps  Enter any address, landmark, or city in the app will instantly display all your travel options, and booking info, along with accommodation providers and things to do. It is especially fantastic when used for public transportation options, it is spot on. Find it on your local app store.

Rome2rio: Trip Planner Trip and Holiday Organizer Enter any address, landmark, or city; the app will instantly display all your travel options, booking info, accommodation providers, and things to do. Find it on your local app store.

Rick Steves Audio Europe This app includes a vast library of Rick Steve’s audio content. Get cultural and travel info. Includes self-guided tours of top attractions and historic walks. A must-have. Find it on your local app store.

Duolingo-Language Lesson Audio lessons that help improve your listening and speaking skills. Find it on your local app store.

iTranslate Translator Translate app with a dictionary. Easily translate text, and websites and start a voice to voice conversations. Find it at your app store.

Google Translate We use this often to practice proper pronunciations of Spanish words. As we always encourage, learning the basics of greeting and thanking people in the local language is essential. Google Translate was an easy app to use. If needed, you can enter text in English, which will speak back in Spanish to aid in communicating with locals. Furthermore, it came in very handy to translate text into images instantly.

Do you have a favorite Spain travel resource? Share your favorites in the comments section at the bottom of this page or

Our Spain Posts

© 2024 Wanderers Compass All Rights Reserved

Do you have a question for us or have a comment?

Squaremouth.com

Our favorite travel insurance site!

We could not be stronger advocates of being well-insured—not just for the little stuff but for the big things like medical emergencies. We never leave home without it. Our go-to place is Squaremouth.com. It does a fantastic job with its user-friendly interface and uses top-rated and reputable insurance carriers. They also mediate on your behalf if you have problems.

To empower you as a consumer, we suggest you read our blog post on the importance of travel insurance and how to get the best coverage from top-rated companies for an affordable price.

MedjetAssist

Medical transport back home from anywhere in the world

They are the premier global air medical transport. One caveat to travel insurance is that medical evacuation usually gets you to the closest facility to care for you. Medjet gets you back to the U.S. to the hospital of your choice once you are stable enough to fly. A Medjet membership is only for medical transport. Medjet Horizon offers expanded coverage. They have individual trip policies starting at $99 and annual policies for around $300. Most of their policies limit the age to 74.

To learn more about how Medical Evacuation membership with Medjet Assist works, check out our blog post for a more detailed review.  

Expedia.com and VRBO

Hotels, home rentals, BNBs, flights, and other transportation & tours 

Expedia is a US-based company whose mission is to power global travel for everyone and everywhere. Wanderers Compass focuses on independent travel, and using sites like Expedia makes that possible. Every aspect of travel you need, from airfare, accommodations, rental car, and cruises to activities to do at your destination, can be booked on Expedia.  

Booking.com

Hotels, Home rentals, BNBs, Flights, and other Transportation & Tours 

Booking.com connects millions of travelers to memorable experiences, various transportation options, and incredible places to stay – from homes to hotels and much more. It is one of the world’s largest travel marketplaces for established brands and entrepreneurs of all sizes. It is our preferred booking site.

Viator

The leading marketplace for travel experiences,

Viator believes that making memories is what travel is all about. And with 300,000+ experiences to explore—everything from simple tours to extreme adventures (and all the niche, interesting stuff in between)—making memories that will last a lifetime has never been easier. We use them often during our travels and love their liberal cancellation policy.

Wanderers Compass Amazon Storefront

An excellent source for all travel essentials and guides.

Amazon is one of the most comprehensive online shopping sources in the world. Teams worldwide provide lower prices, better selection, and rapid delivery on behalf of customers. They offer a vast inventory, and their 1.7 million small and medium businesses worldwide selling on Amazon.com offer extensive options to customers.

HYDAWAY

This is not your ordinary drinkware company. The HYDAWAY difference is what their products do when you’re not using them. Practical and portable, HYDAWAY doesn’t take up unnecessary space in your already-packed life or pile up in landfills. We have used their collapsible water bottle, carrying case for the water bottle, and collapsible insulated drink tumbler. They are all lightweight and durable. This is a conservation-focused product you can be proud to buy.

Use our Promo Code. WANCOM15, at checkout for 15% off your Hydaway order

Welcome Pick-ups

A global leader in ground transportation for travelers. They help hundreds of companies worldwide enhance their services and boost their revenue with our 5-star ride experiences and hassle-free automation.

PhotoAiD

Do you feel like you are wasting time visiting an on-site photographer only to be embarrassed by the photo? Would you like control of the final product? Get the perfect VISA or passport photo online with PhotoAID.You often need to apply for official documents such as a passport, ID, and different kinds of licenses or cards. PhotoAiD allows you to take the perfect biometric photo you approve without leaving home.

This article contains affiliate links. If you use these links to buy something, we may earn a small commission at no additional cost to you. Thank you!

Check out our most recent blog posts

Spain

No Comments

    Leave a Reply

    IMG 8134 scaled

    Passionate about travel? Subscribe to our Wanderers Compass Community

    Our quarterly newsletters will inspire your wanderlust

    No spam, unsubscribe at any time, no more than one email a month