What you need to know about Spain
Spain is a country of intense passions, whether it’s for food, football, music or simply living life to the full. It’s a wonderful country to explore, particularly on warm summer evenings when the towns and villages come alive with throngs of people, enticing music and the rich aromas of Spanish cooking. Spain’s landscapes are diverse and extraordinary, from the mountains of the Pyrenees to Andalucia’s sun-baked plains and the white sand coves of the Mediterranean coast. The locals are warm and romantic, with a rich cultural heritage and fiercely-held traditions. Explore the museums and architecture of Madrid and Barcelona, visit the timeless hilltop villages of Old Spain, then immerse yourself in the vibrant nightlife of this seductive and fascinating country.
Food and drink
Food and wine are two of Spain’s national obsessions, and with good reason. Spanish food is about variety, quality and tradition, although modern Spanish cuisine has evolved to reflect a willingness to experiment and innovate with seasonal ingredients and new flavours. Whether it’s seafood in Andalucia, Paella in Valencia or Tapas in Barcelona, the scope of food and flavours that awaits you in Spain is truly breathtaking – Spain has nearly 160 Michelin-starred restaurants, more bars than any other country in the EU, and wonderful tavernas and casas in every town and village. The Spanish eat late, and mealtimes are an opportunity to talk and debate and enjoy the experience together over good food and Spanish wine – what could possibly be more wonderful?
Spain’s shopping is stylish, chic and wonderfully varied, from the luxury brands of Madrid’s golden mile to the bohemian boutiques of Barcelona. Once you’ve exhausted all the major brands, head to the backstreets and local markets for alternative fashions, traditional gifts, local crafts and rainbow of local foods and ingredients. Fashionistas say Madrid has the best shopping (and the famous El Rastro flea market), but lovers of atmosphere and emerging designers say Barcelona is best. And don’t forget Bilbao, Valencia and Seville – all offer wonderful places to buy souvenirs and snap up a touch of Spanish style.
Spain is a melting pot of ancient civilisations, and each has left its mark on this extraordinary country, as well as 1000 years of exhibits in Madrid’s Prado museum. Spain is the home of some of the most creative art and architecture the world has ever seen, from Salvador Dalí to Pablo Picasso and the Barcelona skyline of Antoni Gaudí. You’ll discover ancient Roman ruins, Islamic art and extraordinary churches, alongside 21st century Spanish art and architecture that is every bit as creative and exciting. Modern Spain is vibrant, expressive and exciting; the country lives and breathes through its people and its traditions, creating a fiesta where everyone is invited.
Trains are a good way to get between Spain’s major cities, with high speed routes between Madrid, Seville and Barcelona. City bus and train services are good too, and most Spanish cities are small enough to explore on foot. However, public transport in smaller towns and rural areas is limited, so a hire car will offer you more flexibility to explore Spain’s countryside. Hiring a car is good value in Spain, but don’t drive it into the cities – Spanish driving is as insane and chaotic as the rest of southern Europe, and every hour seems to be rush hour in Barcelona and Madrid.
Things to watch out for
When it comes to music and dance, Seville is the cultural heart of Spain. The city has a rich gypsy tradition, and many of the women still wear the colourful costumes of their gypsy heritage, albeit with a modern twist. The Sevillanos are considered to be the friendliest people in Spain, with the most beautiful locals!