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Spain has long been known as a favorite British package holiday or clubbing destination, with places such as the Costa del Sol, Benidorm, Magaluf and Ibiza earning quite a reputation for themselves. Look beyond these popular British holiday resorts, though, and you’ll really learn what Spain is all about, offering varied culture, history, architecture, languages and landscapes.
From Moorish style architecture in Granada and Seville to Modernista masterpieces in Catalunya, Gothic enclaves in Barcelona and elegant baroque pieces in Madrid, Spain has some of the most varied and enchanting architecture in the world. A few of its most important gems include Granada’s Alhambra Palace, Barcelona’s Sagrada Família and Bilbao’s Guggenheim.
Spanish food is so much more than plates of tapas and paella, and it’s famous throughout the world for its cuisine. Each province, and sometimes even each city, has its own speciality. Think suquet fish stew from Catalonia, thick salmorejo tomato soup from Cordoba and kokotxas – cod or hake cheeks – in the Basque Country.
You may be tempted to walk around town in your flip-flops and beachwear, but the locals definitely won’t be. Spaniards like to look good and dress up, especially in the southern provinces of Andalusia and Murcia. Even in places such as Barcelona, where anything really goes, have respect for the city’s residents and put on a shirt when returning from the beach or walking into the supermarket.
Many holidaymakers to Spain are surprised to learn just how many languages are spoken in Spain. As well as Spanish, or Castilian as it’s called, there’s Catalan, Basque, Galician, and many other regional dialects. Next time you’re on holiday in Spain, why not learn a phrase in the local language to really impress the residents.
As well have having different languages, the Spanish people are very different too. Andalusians are said to be open and fun-loving, Catalans to be more guarded but very loyal and hard working, and Basques to be pious, honest and friendly. Whether these are just stereotypes or true, you’ll have to find out for yourself while traveling around this spectacular country.
Contrary to popular opinion, Spanish culture is not all about flamenco and bullfighting. Though this may be true in Andalusia, however, Catalan, Basque and Galician cultures seem to have more in common with the Celts in Ireland and Scotland, with their music and mythologies. Each region of Spain even has its own traditions, festivals and folklore, such as the Legend of Sant Jordi (St. George) in Catalunya.
No, we don’t mean the wild beach parties on the Costa del Sol, Mallorca or Tenerife; we mean some of the quirkiest and most unique festivals in the world. From Valencia’s Las Fallas, where large papier-mâché sculptures are burnt in the streets, to the fire wielding devils in Barcelona’s correfocs (fire runs) and Seville’s elegant Feria de Abril, where the city is taken over by flamenco and graceful horse processions. Spain also has giant tomato fights (La Tomatina in Buñol) bull runs (San Fermín in Pamplona), wine fights (La Batalla del Vino in La Rioja) and baby jumping competitions (El Colacho in Castrillo de Murcia).
Spain has produced some of the world’s most famous artists, with Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dalí, Joan Miró, Francisco Goya, Antoni Guadí, Federico García Lorca and Miguel Cervantes known throughout the world for their contributions to fine art, architecture and literature. Because of this, the country also boasts some of the finest art museums and collections on the planet.
Spain isn’t just a place for a beach holiday, and its towns and cities deserve to be visited just as much as its coastlines. Of course places such as Madrid, Barcelona and Seville are already popular places for a city break, but why not try the lesser known Córdoba, Salamanca, Jerez de la Frontera, Ronda or Murcia next time you’re in the country.
As we’ve mentioned, Spain is not all about coastlines and beaches, it also encompasses soaring mountain ranges, lush wetlands, lunar-like volcanic craters and desert plains. The country is in fact home to 15 national parks featuring all of these landscapes, which are just waiting to be explored.