Spain is one of those countries that acts as a magnet for tourists and expats, attracting people with its stunning sights, mouthwatering cuisine and accommodating weather. The most populated cities – Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia and Seville – catch the eyes and hearts of travellers with their grand architecture, world-renowned gastronomy (including the tapas culture), and outgoing, friendly locals. Learn about flamenco in Seville, eat free tapas in Granada and enjoy art in Madrid. The entire country is safe to travel alone, and when keeping in mind the same common sense tips that should be followed anywhere (pickpockets are practically everywhere), visitors should rarely encounter major problems.
Spain is one of the larger European countries with plenty to see and do, so building a plan (whether loose or strict) will help make the most of your time. This can mean routing your travel along the coast and/or an island or two (Gran Canaria, anyone?) if staying seaside is your preference, or deciding which region to stick to if time is a constraint. Want to see the most popular and historical landmarks in the country? A few include the jaw-dropping Real Alcázar in Seville (dating back to the time of the Moors occupation in the Iberian Peninsula), the Roman Aquaduct (Acueducto) of Segovia, the mesmerizing Sagrada Família in Barcelona, and both the nationally revered Prado Museum and stunning, garden-filled Buen Retiro Park in Madrid.
Tip: Many favourite destinations in Game of Thrones were filmed in Spain. Design a trip to visit as many of them as possible.
While most visitors head to Madrid and Barcelona, plan detours to small towns to see a unique side of the culture often missed. Mérida in Extremadura, Avila near Madrid, Cudillero in Asturias, and the towns in Castilla La-Mancha are just a few beautiful yet smaller destinations in Spain.
Solo travel is a good way to do what you want when you want, but it can get lonely at times. Luckily, Spain is home to some truly fantastic hostels, especially in Barcelona, Valencia, the Basque country and Andalucia. Hostel World is a useful tool when searching for an accommodation, rating and comparing the various qualities of each.
Paella, jamon, and manchego cheese, oh my! There are so many treats and recipes to sink your teeth into, but sitting alone at a restaurant may feel awkward. Why not order a bocadillo (sandwich) to go and eat while touring the city of your choice on foot? Or, sit at a bar and order a drink (a small beer is called a caña) knowing that a free tapa is on its way. One of the best things about the tapa culture (in addition to free food) is the easy way that it allows you to sample the dishes in different bars/restaurants. Andalucia is arguably the best region in Spain for tapas. Another option is sitting at a long communal table at a food market, and few cities do food markets better than Madrid.
Another useful tool is Facebook and groups such as Madrid Expats or Girl Gone International provide a way for travellers to give and get tips. These groups also share event information, which may be perfect for short-term visitors passing through.
The trains, buses, and city metros are easy and safe to use, plus passes can be purchased for the day, week, or up to a predetermined number of trips. Two bus companies in particular that travel within Spain and abroad (for instance, to Portugal) are Avanzabus and Alsa. If time is of the essence, consider booking a flight with Iberia or RyanAir.
Many times in Spanish culture, the party isn’t over until the sun rises and the main cities are brimming with lively nightlife. By all means, enjoy it, but since walking or taking a random cab home in the middle of the night can be unnerving for anyone, this is a good time to turn to Uber or Cabify.
No matter where you are in Spain, the emergency line is 112, so make a note in case it’s needed.
Also, find city-specific guides at the Culture Trip: