10 reasons to visit… Spain
We hope that you enjoyed our first couple of posts from the series ’10 reasons to visit…’ Here’s our latest post, about a magical, warm, sunny place named Spain. We tried to get the opinion of locals or people who’ve lived there so that we can give authentic reasons why Spain is a wonderful country that should be on your ‘to go’ list.
We’re going to make this city a standalone reason because it is simply magic. From a walk on the seashore at La Barceloneta, to pubs and terraces along La Rambla, to shopping, to walking in the narrow streets filled with beautiful old buildings that have hanging flowers on their balcony, this is a city where anyone can find happiness. Don’t forget to visit Gaudí’s great work: La Sagrada Familia, El Capricho, Casa Calvet, Park Güell, Casa Milà and Casa Batlló.
‘Fiesta’ means ‘celebration’ or ‘carnival’ and the Spanish people have a lot of them because, well, they like to party. One worth mentioning is the Las Fallas Festival in Valencia, one of the biggest national festivals in Spain, which takes place every March. Huge papier maché figures are burnt during the course of the week; there are also many fireworks and plenty of partying. La Tomatina is another well-known festival – basically it’s a huge tomato fight and it takes place on the last Wednesday of August at Buñol near Valencia. And the annual celebration of Carnival in Santa Cruz de Tenerife is second only to the ‘Carnival’ in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on the world party stage.
3. Delicious drinks and free snacks
Nothing more to say here! We recommend sangria, and a lot of it. Well, if you must know what’s in it: wine, chopped fruit, a sweetener, and a small amount of added brandy. But what’s even better is that most bars will also give you a small snack or tapa to go with your drink: olives, peanuts, crisps or ‘pipas’ (seeds in their shells) are common, as are small pieces of bread topped with jamón or cheese.
4. Spanish cuisine
Oh, yes, the food. The most popular dishes are ‘tapas’ and ‘paella’, which is basically white rice, green vegetables, meat (rabbit, chicken, duck), beans and seasoning. Tapas is actually a wide variety of appetisers – cold (such as manchego cheese, gazpacho and cured jamón) or hot (such as chopitos, which are battered, fried cuttlefish, patatas bravas and chorizo). In the cities along the coast they serve the best seafood and fish.
5. The weather
In most areas of Spain there are 300 days of sunshine yearly. The sunny days and sandy beaches, along with palm trees and, in some areas, parrots flying around freely, make Spain a paradise for tourists. I visited Barcelona in March and there were people on the beach already, so don’t pack too many jumpers…
Ibiza is an island off the eastern coast of Spain, which has become famous for its nightlife and the electronic music that originated on the island. Its summer club scene attracts many tourists in the summer, though it is said that the island’s government and the Spanish Tourist Office have controversially been working to promote more family-oriented tourism on the island.
Tarifa is the most southern point of Spain and off its coast is the Strait of Gibraltar, which is 14.3 km/8.9 miles of ocean at the strait’s narrowest point – this means that from here you can see Africa. The view is amazing; if you go to southern Spain this is a location you shouldn’t miss.
8. The people
Spanish people are pretty laid back – they enjoy their free time as well as lunch breaks, and you can often see them savouring their coffee on terraces and lounges. You can’t really blame them, with all the sunshine and holiday vibe. If you actually need to get something done, this relaxed attitude can be a bit frustrating, but it certainly makes a change from the frantic pace of life at home.
9. Architecture and sights
We’ve already mentioned some of the iconic buildings you can see in Barcelona, like the famous Sagrada Familia, but there’s a lot more to see in Spain. Islamic influences spread most of the way across Spain between 711 and 1492, and you can see this all the way up to Zaragoza in the north, where the central Muslim-influenced Basilica contrasts with the other Roman influences in the city. The Mezquita (mosque) in Cordoba is absolutely worth a visit, as is the Alhambra in Granada; both are really breathtaking inside and out. There are also some amazing palaces to visit, such as the Palacio Real in Madrid, and the monasterio de El Escorial, a little way outside Madrid.
10. Practise your Spanish
Of course! Spanish is generally considered one of the easier languages in which to pick up the basics, and people there really appreciate you trying out a couple of phrases. If you head to Madrid or Barcelona, you can probably make yourself understood in English, but in many other places, people don’t really speak much English, so no-one will laugh at you if you try out asking a few directions or ordering tapas in Spanish.
Please share your own favourite things about this great country – we know there are a lot more than ten reasons to visit!
Ioana and Alex