“The impulse to travel is one of the hopeful symptoms of life. ” - Agnes Repplier
In 2017, Spain was the second most visited country in the world after France. From the Sierra Nevada to the beautiful beaches of the Mediterranean, from UNESCO World Heritage Sites to flamenco shows, Spain is one of the countries whose culture just keeps drawing in the tourists.
Spain, the only European country which borders Africa, and also shares borders with Portugal, Andorra, France, Gibraltar and Morocco. The Iberian Peninsula borders the Mediterranean Sea in the South and East whilst,in the North, the Pyrenees separate Spain from Andorra and France. In the northwest is the Atlantic Ocean and located west is Portugal.
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.
The highest peak in Spain is El Teide on Tenerife (Canary Islands), measuring 3,718m/12,198 ft high and the largest island is Mallorca, part of the Balearic Islands.
So how can you prepare for a trip to Spain? How much does it cost to travel to the Iberian peninsula?
In this article, you’ll find the answers.
The Most Beautiful Monuments in Spain
Planning a trip can often be an exciting part of the process. Once you’ve started looking at where you’d like to go, how much it’d cost, etc., that’s when your trip really begins.
To help you with some ideas, here are some of the most beautiful Spanish monuments and sights.
The first one worth a mention is the Alhambra in Granada. The name Alhambra derives from an Arabic root meaning "red or crimson castle".
It’s listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage site. In the heart of Andalusia, this is an essential thing to see when you’re visiting the south of Spain. The Alhambra is a masterpiece of Islamic and Moorish architecture and tells the stories of the peoples and religions that lived across Europe. In addition to the monument itself, you can also visit the beautiful city of Grenada, one of Spain’s finest.
Sagrada Familia, Barcelona
The Alhambra isn’t the only thing worth visiting in Spain. The Sagrada Familia in Barcelona is another of the monuments that draw millions of tourists to Spain. The Sagrada Familia is referred to as an expiatory temple, i.e. a place made to commemorate the reparation of sins made against God or the laws governed by the Church.
This basilica is famous for still being under construction. Work on the building designed by Gaudí was started in 1882. The money earned from tourists visiting is put back into furthering the construction of the building. Maybe it’ll be finished one day!
This church will surprise you, not only because of its massive size, but especially because of its avant-garde architecture, which perfectly shows off the genius of its architect, Antoni Gaudí.
Mezquita de Cordoba, Cordoba
The last of our top 3 unmissable buildings in Spain is Cordoba’s mosque. The Mezquita de Cordoba has a similar architectural flavour to Grenada’s Alhambra and is a result of the country’s Muslim history. It was initially built as a mosque before being transformed into a Catholic cathedral and is a Unesco World Heritage Site.
Words cannot do the beauty of Córdoba’s great mosque justice, you have to experience its serene interior yourself. Just try to look past the many visitors it attracts daily! The most fascinating thing about this piece of Islamic architecture is the way in which it hints at a time when Muslims, Jews and Christians lived side by side in peace, taking pleasure from interacting with diverse cultures and religions.
For those seeking a new angle on this attraction away from the hustle and bustle of daytime crowds, a one-hour sound-and-light show is available in nine languages via audio guides twice nightly except Sundays from March through to October, and on Fridays and Saturdays from November to February. Tickets cost approximately €18, yet senior or student tickets come in at nearer €9.
The City of Arts and Sciences, Valencia
The City of Arts and Sciences is 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.
The City of Arts and Sciences is made up of six areas in the dry river bed of the River Turia in Valencia. Designed by architect Santiago Calatrava and opened in the 1990s, it is an impressive example of modern architecture. The "city", as it is known, is made up of the following:
- El Palau de les Arts Reina Sofía — Opera house and performing arts centre;
- L'Hemisfèric — Imax Cinema, Planetarium and Laserium;
- L'Umbracle — Walkway / Garden;
- El Museu de les Ciències Príncipe Felipe — Science museum;
- Oceanografic — Open-air aquarium or oceanographic park; and
- Ágora — A versatile space for a variety of events.
Of course, there are more than just these four attractions in Spain. Other monuments of note include:
- Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela
- Burgos Cathedral
- The Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao
- Casa Milà in Barcelona
- The Royal Palace of Madrid
- Montserrat Abbey
- Alcázar of Segovia
- The Cathedral of Palma de Mallorca
- Cathedral-Basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar
- The Roman Theatre, Mérida
- The Giralda of Seville
Which Are the Most Beautiful Cities in Spain?
A lot of Spain’s most beautiful monuments are found in Spain’s most beautiful cities. In addition to these monuments, take the time to spend a few days in these Spanish towns and enjoy the best that Spanish life has to offer.
The most famous Spanish city is the capital, Madrid, a vibrant and cosmopolitan city. There are many different nationalities in Madrid and this large city deserves several days to fully discover it. As the capital, Madrid is home to large boulevards, traffic and noise, as well as a large choice of relaxing parks and museums.
The Prado Museum and the Museo Reina Sofia are the two unmissable museums in the capital and you can discover works by artists like Picasso and Dali.
However, there’s much more than just museums and history lessons to be discovered here. If you take yourself to Independence Square just before nightfall, you’ll see the sun setting upon the arches of the Puerto de Alcalá gate which is a beautiful sight. Furthermore, you should take a trip down Gran Via, the long commercial road which offers a range of shops, cafes, bars and casinos.
Football fans will be in awe of Cibiles Square where Real Madrid supporters flock to celebrate thei team’s wins.
Madrid has a strong food and drinks game, with influences coming from all over the country and materialising in their multi-cultural kitchens. You’ll find many wine caves, taverns and other traditional drinking grounds. Among the wide range of restaurants is a gorgeous, well-hidden gem of a restaurant named La Capilla de la Bolsa, situated in the town centre. Here, you’ll be wowed by the chapel interior, sensational food and delightful atmosphere (featuring a live pianist playing among the purple glow of uplights). Don’t miss it if your in the capital, you won’t regret it!
However, there’s also another city in Spain that has stolen a lot of Madrid’s thunder. Barcelona has been one of Spain’s most popular tourist destinations for those looking for sun, beaches, and parties.
On the Mediterranean coast, Barcelona welcomes tourists from all over the world, though you could argue too many of them. It’s probably a good idea to avoid the city in July and August or you may as well have just stayed at home.
We already know about the very famous Sagrada Familia which can be found in this buzzing city, but what else is there to do and see? Firstly, visitors should know that Barcelona boasts twenty Michelin starred restaurants, a range of clean, world-class beaches, excellent shopping centres and a superb nightlife.
La Rambla is a pedestrianised boulevard that offers a range of pubs and clubs and is the heart of Barcelona’s art scene, with artists and flamenco dancers found here throughout the day. The gothic zone features many hidden places to visit at night, including some Irish pubs. Finally, El Born is the more sophisticated area of Barcelona and less tourist-y. It has some lovely bars and restaurants.
For those visiting Andalusia, Seville is a dream destination. The capital of this autonomous region is famous for Islamic architecture which can be found all over the south of Spain. With the Royal Alcázar of Seville, the Plaza de España, and the Italica archaeological site, there’s plenty for tourists in this beautiful city.
Along with cultural attractions, Seville is also a hotspot for lovers of open spaces. There’s a few gorgeous parks, open and green, that are very enjoyable to visit. One of these includes Le Parc de Maria Luisa. The Plaza de España is also a wonder of Seville, bordering a pretty canal. Finally, Italica, an archaeological site, proposes the remnants of an amphitheatre. When visiting, you can walk through the tunnels and witness first hand the space where 25,000 people once congregated to be entertained. It’ll blow you away!
Other Beautiful Spanish Cities
There are a lot of other Spanish cities that are worthy of also being included in this list. They include Toledo, Salamanca, Cordoba, Malaga, Girona, Grenada, Las Palmas, and Palma de Majorca.
Some popular summer holiday destinations are Cala D’Or, Costa Teguise, Los Cristianos, Lloret de Mar, Puerto Rico, Santa Ponsa, Cala de Finestrat, Fuengirola, Palma Nova, Benalmadena Costa, Alcudia, Magaluf, Puerto Banus, Benidorm, Roquetas de Mar, Ciutadella, Cala n’ Bosch, Salou, Playa del Ingles, Nerja, Marbella, Alicante and many, many more!
Salamanca is nicknamed The Golden City due to the colour of its sandstone buildings. As the sun sets, this city glows. Perhaps you’ll find the time to visit one of Spain’s most beautiful cities.
How Much Does it Cost to Visit Spain?
It’s all well and good dreaming of going to Spain but you’ll also need to budget how much it’ll cost to travel to Spain so that you don’t come back with your pockets empty.
Whether you travel to Spain, Russia, or Australia, there are three main things to consider when budgeting for your trip: accommodation, food, and transport.
Luckily for you, Spain doesn’t cost an absolute fortune. You can easily get to Spain for between £50 and £200 depending on the type of transport you use. Some of the cheapest ways include taking long-distance coaches or budget airlines. However, the train can cost you quite a bit.
You’ll also need to consider the cost of the transport if you’re planning on visiting other towns and cities or doing any activities like visiting art galleries of museums. The cost of attractions will vary massively depending on what you’re visiting. Make sure you get discounts for seniors, those under 25, or by visiting on the first Sunday of the month when many attractions are free from a certain time.
Once you’re there, you’ll need to find your accommodation. A night at a hotel can cost between £40 and £100 depending on what you opt for. Youth hostels are actually quite expensive in Spain in comparison to other European countries but some do offer private rooms for around £20 per night if you can’t find a hotel room. That said, you’ll probably have to share a bathroom with other guests.
When it comes to food, you can either self-cater and cook in your accommodation (if you’re in a youth hostel, Airbnb, etc.) or eat in restaurants. A meal in a restaurant will cost you around €15. Fast food can be found for around €8. Of course, you’ll probably want to try tapas for €2 or €3 per dish.
The budget for visiting Spain will depend on the kind of tourist you are. Backpacking won’t cost the same as staying in a luxury hotel.
Famous Spanish Food and Drink
Spanish food is highly rated so it is impossible to name all of the delicacies emerging from the country. However, we have been looking and have found that the most popular dishes or foods are as follows:
- Spanish Omelette or Tortilla Espanola: Eaten as a starter or main, you can find this delicacy in almost any Spanish bar. It is made from eggs, onion, potato and is formed like a cake.
- Gazpacho: A chilled tomato soup made with Spanish tomatoes, usually eaten as an appetiser.
- Croquettes or Croquetas: Another popular dish in bars, you can find various various recipes for these potato-based favourites, including a ham and cheese filling.
- Paella: A spicy Spanish rice dish with chorizo, onion, and seafood (like prawns and mussels), this dish is often served at markets in huge paella dishes. There is some confusion about whether a traditional paella includes peas or not... what do you think?
- Cured meats: Cured meats are popular in Spanish homes and restaurants, often eaten as part of a main or as a starter/appetiser. In Madrid, for example, some bars offer you chorizo and bread on a cocktail stick as an accompaniment to your bottle of red wine.
- Churros: A sweet treat for the palette, churros are fried, sugary sticks often coupled with thick hot chocolate for dipping and usually shared. But you don’t have to share!
- Sangria: One of the most common drinks in Spain, especially in summer, Sangria is an alcoholic beverage with a base of red wine, and with brandy, soda, sugar, oranges, lemons and ice added to the mix. You’ll want one of these on a hot day!
- Cava: Cava is the Spanish equivalent of Champagne or Prosecco, a fine, fizzy wine produced mainly in Catalonia.
Where Should You Stay in Spain?
There are plenty of different types of accommodation in Spain from the Costa del Sol to the Basque Country. To find the perfect accommodation, there are several sites to help you. There are comparison sites that can help you find the cheapest hotels or sites like Airbnb for those looking for holiday rents.
In Spain, you’ll probably stay in a hotel as you would anywhere else in the world. With luxury hotels, hotel chains, and youth hostels, there’s something for everyone. That said, hotels aren’t the only places you can stay in.
Why not consider camping?
Whether you’re in a tent or a caravan, there are camping sites that are great for travelling with friends or family.
You can also rent holiday accommodation from sites like Airbnb or CouchSurfing.
Whatever you choose, the most important thing is to get the most out of your time in Spain!
If you're interested in going to Spain, you may want to consider learning Spanish as you can't guarantee everyone you meet will be able to speak English. On Superprof, there are plenty of private tutors offering Spanish lessons. You can get either private tutorials, online tutorials, or group tutorials.
While private tutorials are the most effective of these options, they'll also cost more per hour. Online tutorials tend to be cheaper as the tutor doesn't have to factor travel costs into their rates. Finally, group tutorials are a great way for you and some friends to split the cost of Spanish tutorials. While the lessons won't be tailored to just you, they will be cheaper per hour.
Spanish Culture And Traditions
Spain is a predominantly Roman Catholic country yet many diverse religions coexist in the nation including Muslims, Jews and Christians.
“During Holy Week, processions take place when participants wear a capirote which is a pointed hat of conical form and is part of the uniform of some brotherhoods and fraternities. They walk barefoot and carry a burden which is symbolic of a penitent.
Religious history is apparent in every small town, where the most grandiose building is typically the church. In the large cities the Cathedrals are almost museums.” - Commisceo Global
Family plays a big part in Spanish culture, with the family unit being the basis of the social structure, including the extended family like grandparents, aunts and uncles. Although it is now less common for extended family members to to share the same household, families still see each other regularly and often arrange large family events or dinners.
The size of a traditional Spanish family has also changed over time; now people are living longer and having less children than before.
Commisceo Global additionally reports that: “Traditionally women in Spain were the homemakers and men provided for the family. However, in the last two decades, women’s role in Spanish society has changed dramatically and many more are entering university education and moving into professions which were formerly dominated by men. Young, unmarried women have become more independent and are migrating to cities for education or work. […] As far as family is concerned in modern Spain, men and women tend to share the parenting and household responsibilities particularly in urban areas where more women are likely to work outside the home in the cities. In the rural farming areas, the tradition of women as the homemakers tends to be more obvious although women and men often share the labour on the land in support of one another.”