“The impulse to travel is one of the hopeful symptoms of life. ” - Agnes Repplier
Second only to France, Spain was one of the most visited countries in the world in 2017. Thanks to its rich culture, breathtaking landscapes and fascinating history, Spain is a popular destination for every kind of tourist.
The Geography of Spain
Spain is the only European country that shares borders with Africa. It is also neighbours with Portugal, France, Morocco, Andorra, and Gibraltar. The Straits of Gibraltar separate Spain from Africa, with the passage connecting the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea.
Spain is located on the Iberian Peninsular and is the fourth largest country in Europe, after Russia, Ukraine and France. Northwest of Spain, lies the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea lies in the South and East. North of Spain is the Pyrenées Mountain ranges which form a border with Andorra and France. To the West of Spain, lies Portugal.
The climate in Spain varies between each region. In the northern regions of Spain, there is an alpine climate whereas a majority of Spain enjoys a milder Mediterranean climate. In the southwest regions of Spain, there are some semi-arid regions, and the Canary Islands have a semi-arid and subtropical climate.
Spain is divided into 17 different autonomous regions or 'communities' which are each governed by their own regional government. The official language is Spanish or Castilian and is spoken in all 17 of Spain's regions, Galician is spoken in Galicia, and Catalan is spoken in Valencia, Calaluna, and the Balearic Islands. The Balearic Islands are roughly 80km south of Spain's Eastern coastline with the Mediterranean Sea, including the islands of
The nation itself is divided into 17 'autonomous communities' or regions where people have their own regional government. Castilian is spoken in all 17 regions, yet, in Galicia, Galician is also spoken, in the Basque Country Basque is an additional language and in Cataluña, Valencia and on the Balearic Islands, Catalan is commonly spoken.
So now that we've had a look at the basic geography, let's have a look at the best ways to prepare for your upcoming trip to Spain!
Spain's Tourist Attractions
One of the most important things about travelling is planning your trip and deciding on the most important sites you'd like to visit.
To help you decide, check out our guide on the Spanish monuments and sights.
Sagrada Familia, Barcelona
The Sagrada Familia located in Barcelona is one of the most popular attractions drawing in millions of tourists per year that is currently still under construction. The basilica was first designed by the famous artist Gaudi in 1882 and his work one part of the building has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Sight. It has also been consecrated by Pope Benedict XVI and proclaimed a Minor basilica.
The basilica is well-known for its massive size and imposing structure, as well as for its striking avant-garde architecture. It is definitely worth the visit if you are visiting Barcelona!
Mezquita de Cordoba, Cordoba
Another top attraction to visit is Cordoba’s mosque. The Mezquita de Cordoba is similar in its architecture to the Alhambra, with strong influence from the Spain's Muslim history. Although it was initially built as a mosque, it was later transformed and converted into a Catholic cathedral. Like the Sagrada Familia, it was also designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Sight.
The City of Arts and Sciences, Valencia
The City of Arts and Sciences is an alternative to some of the other buildings on this list, due to its more contemporary and futuristic architecture. The building is located in Valencia and was built in the 20th century, during a period of immense change in Spanish architecture. It includes a beautiful botanical garden, an art museum and an oceanographic museum covering over 350,000 square meters.
a bit different from the others on this list as it’s a very modern and futuristic building. It was built in Valencia at the end of the 20th century and marked a change in Spanish architecture. This site covers 350,000 metres squared and includes a botanical garden, an oceanographic museum, and an art museum. It definitely impresses visitors who’ve made their way to the city.
This list is in no ways exhaustive! Some other important attractions to visit in Spain include:
- Casa Milà in Barcelona
- Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela
- The Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao
- Alcázar of Segovia
- Cathedral-Basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar
- La Giralda, Sevilla
- The Royal Palace of Madrid
- Montserrat Abbey
- The Cathedral of Palma de Mallorca
The Most Beautiful Cities in Spain
It's virtually impossible to say which of Spain’s cities are the most beautiful.
As the capital city of Spain, Madrid is one of the most popular destinations for tourists. Not only is it rich in culture and history, but it also has a vibrant, diverse and cosmopolitan culture.
The city is full of grand boulevards, stunning parks and beautiful museums and historical attractions.
The Prado Museum and the Museo Reina Sofia are the two most important places to visit in Madrid, where you'll be able to view the stunning works of national artists such as Dali, Picasso and Miro.
In addition to the museums and cultural attractions, there is a vibrant nightlife, shopping centres ad restaurants in areas such as the Gran Via, and the Puerto Alcala.
Another important place to visit is the beautiful city of Barcelona, which is one of the most popular tourist destinations thanks to its gorgeous beaches, vibrant nightlife and warm and sunny weather.
If you are not a big fan of crowds, then it is recommended to plan your visit outside the months of July and August, which is the peak of tourist season for Barcelona, meaning fewer hotel rooms available and more expensive flights.
In addition to its beaches, Barcelona has a wealth of cultural attractions, restaurants, shopping and beautiful gardens. The famous boulevard La Rambla is known for being the heart of Barcelona's art scene, with a range of pubs, clubs and bars.
If you are planning to visit Andalusia, then Seville is certainly the place to go. Seville is renowned for its beautiful Islamic architecture which is prevalent throughout the Southern regions of Spain. Be sure to check out the Plaza de España, the Royal Alcazar, and the Italica archaeological site.
In addition to its rich culture and history, Seville is also a well known for its beautiful green spaces. There are a number of parks such as the Parc de Maria Luisa ad the Italica archaeological site, where you'll discover the beautiful remnants of an amphitheater.
How Much Does a Trip to Spain Cost?
Before travelling, you’ll need to budget how much it’ll cost to travel to Spain as well as the expenses you'll have during your trip.
There are three important costs that you'll need to consider when budgeting for your trip: transportation, accommodation, and food.
Flights to Spain from most capital cities across Canada (Montréal, Toronto, Calgary, Ottawa etc) can cost anywhere between $600-$1000 depending on the period as well as the time in advance that you book your tickets. A number of major airlines in Canada offer direct ad indirect flights to Canada.
Once you've arrived in Spain, you'll also need to consider the cost of transportation within the city which you are visiting and if you wish to visit different areas in Spain. Remember that you can get discounts if you are student or are under 25.
In Spain, a night at a hotel can cost between $50 and $250 depending on the type of accommodation you opt for. Youth hostels offer private rooms for around $40 per night for those on a tighter budget.
Whatever your budget is, you are likely to find excellent choices in Spain. A typical meal at a restaurant in a capital city will cost around $20-$30. Fast food can be found for around $10.You may also wish to try tapas for $3 or $6 per dish.
Specialities and Foods of Spain
Spain is also well known for its excellent and diverse cuisine. Here are some of the most popular national dishes:
- Gazpacho: a refreshing soup served cold and made with tomatoes and vegetables
- Croquetas: a popular dish that is made of mashed potatoes coated with breadcrumbs and fried, usually with different types of filling
- Tortilla Espanola: an omelette or tortilla made with eggs, potatoes, and onions.
- Paella: one of the most popular national dishes, made with rice, seafood, different kinds of meat, onions and chorizo
- Sangria: an alcoholic beverage made with different variations of red wine, brandy, soda, sugar, oranges, and ice.
Accommodation in Spain
There are plenty of different types of accommodation in Spain no matter where you are staying.
Hotels and youth hostels are the most popular form of accommodation for tourists visiting Spain, and there are a range of hotels available for every budget and in every major city.
You may also opt for alternative types of accommodation from sites like Airbnb or CouchSurfing.
If you're planning a trip to Spain, you'll want to be able to communicate with locals to get better acquainted with the Spanish culture, and also just to be able to get around or ask for directions. You may wish to take introductory Spanish lessons to learn the basics that will help you communicate in Spanish during your trip. On Superprof, there are plenty of private tutors offering Spanish lessons. You can get either private tutorials, online tutorials, or group tutorials.
Spanish Traditions and Culture
One of the most popular traditions that is enjoyed by locals and tourists alike, is going for tapas. Tapas are small portions of food that are often consumed with alcohol, when going from one bar to another.
Religious history is visible in every town in Spain, with its range of beautiful churches and basilicas.
Flamenco is another important tradition in Spain. Flamenco is a unique musical style and form of dance practiced in Spain. You'll be able to find flamenco shows all over Spain and may even wish to try out a flamenco dancing class!
Family is central to Spanish culture, and the family unit is the basis of the social structure. Families spend a lot of time together and see each other regularly over dinners and family events.