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Spain Travel Guide

Vibrant cities, warm sunshine, yummy tapas,
Spain has often been titled the ultimate holiday destination.  It is a country of tapas trails and bustling plazas; a metropolis buzzing with fiestas, colour, matadors and guitars; a nation with the art of Goya and Gaudi at its heart, and the intensity of flamenco’s beat in its step.

Encounter wonders both ancient and modern, from the Moorish palaces of Seville, to the avant-garde architecture Madrid. Explore medieval fortresses, mountain ranges, and musical traditions. Enjoy the warm sunshine as you relax by the beach. Eat all the tapas. And paella. And churros. No matter what kind of holiday you have in mind, Spain has something for you.

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Spain has often been titled the ultimate holiday destination.  It is a country of tapas trails and bustling plazas; a metropolis buzzing with fiestas, colour, matadors and guitars; a nation with the art of Goya and Gaudi at its heart, and the intensity of flamenco’s beat in its step.

Encounter wonders both ancient and modern, from the Moorish palaces of Seville, to the avant-garde architecture Madrid. Explore medieval fortresses, mountain ranges, and musical traditions. Enjoy the warm sunshine as you relax by the beach. Eat all the tapas. And paella. And churros. No matter what kind of holiday you have in mind, Spain has something for you.

Location

Spain is sequestered in the far southwest corner of Europe, between scintillating Morocco and ever-in-vogue France. Football, food and European culture make Spain a must-visit destination. When choosing which European countries to travel to for your group of family or friends, or chalking out plans for a solo getaway, travellers must definitely pencil in Spain on their itinerary, especially since flights from India to Spain take 10 hours on average.

When to go

The best time to visit Spain is between June and August when the weather is pleasantly warm, and inland Spain is less crowded. March to May, and September to October are also good times to plan a vacation in Spain, if only for mild weather and the freedom to hike. However, if you’re not averse to chilly weather, there’s a certain charm in visiting the country in winter; you can enjoy all the attractions of a Spanish Christmas complete with city lights, and Christmas markets.

Where to go

To list the best places to visit in Spain would be a tough task; indeed with world-famous islands, plenty of fiestas and year-long sunshine, Spain has no shortage of enticing reasons to visit. But its cultural diversity, eclectic cities, its rich history, not to mention truly, delicious local food comes as a surprise to those who only know of it as a beach destination. Inland Spain serves up such heady concoctions of simple living and hedonistic eating that it becomes almost unbearable to return home, with gearing up for the next trip one’s only solace!
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At a glance

Language

Spanish
In Spain, the national language is Spanish, naturally. Catalan is spoken by a smaller chunk of the population, while English is generally understood in bigger cities.

Currency

Euro
Spain currently uses the Euro as its form of currency. The conversion of Spain’s currency to INR at the time of posting is 1 Euro = 78.29 INR.

Weather

Spain’s weather is generally warm, with dry summers and cool winters. Interior Spain experiences a lot more weather fluctuations: summers tend to be very hot and winters extremely cold.

Expert travel advice

Travel tips and insider advice that have made the most difference to us, sourced from our
community of like-minded travellers and global experts.

Gape at La Sagrada Familia   

Recommended by A Little Adrift

“Each footfall inside the church brought into view new twisting, tree-like columns branching out as they climbed upward. Each heartbeat allowed a glimmer of sunlight to dapple through into the interior, as if bathing me in the warm breeze of an orchard...When I emerged from the church...I felt lighter after immersing myself so completely in learning about how one man’s creativity and religious fervor could compel him to funnel his passion so narrowly into a project that would affect millions of people and span several centuries.”

Shannon O’Donnell launched A Little Adrift as a way to share her journey. The site has become a resource spot for other round the world travelers. National Geographic named O’Donnell a 2013 Traveler of the Year, and her work has been featured on Canada’s Globe and Mail, BBC Travel, USA Today, Lonely Planet, and Cosmopolitan Italy magazine, among other places.

Throw a tomato at the world’s largest food fight: La Tomatina!   

Recommended by Nomadic Matt

“It is one of the best times I’ve ever had. In the crush of the crowds, you’re just throwing tomatoes left and right at anything and everything – barely looking where you’re going. I watched people climb statues and doorways for better angles only to turn themselves into easy targets for those nearby. Afterwards, our friends jovially skipped to down and spent the rest of the day on a high partying and chatting with everyone.”

Matt Kepnes, aka Nomadic Matt, has travelled to nearly 100 countries. He shares proven tips and advice on his website which has been featured on major media sites including the New York Times, the BBC, Lonely Planet, National Geographic, The Independent, The Huffington Post, The Guardian, and TIME magazine.

Go on a tapas trail in Barcelona   

Recommended by Wild Junket

“One of my favourite things to do in Barcelona is going for tapas and seeing just how creative the Spanish can be with their food. For the uninitiated, tapas are small Spanish appetizers or snacks, usually served with a beer or wine. They may be cold (such as mixed olives or cheese) or hot (such as chopitos, which are battered, baby fried squid) and can even be dishes like carne con salsa (meat with sauce) topped with flan. These days, tapas have evolved into an entire, sophisticated cuisine.

Nellie is an adventurer travel blogger who has been travelling the world since 2013. Wild Junket is an award-winning travel resource that has been featured on BBC Travel, National Geographic, and Lonely Planet among others.

Ski the Sierra Nevada Mountains and get a tan at the beach   

Recommended by Spaghetti Traveller

”...The Sierra Nevada ski resorts are famous worldwide due to the fact that you can ski in the mountains and then head down to the beach to get a tan all within the same day. Don’t be fooled into thinking that this makes any difference on the ski resort as it is definitely one of the best you will find in Europe, despite the contrast of weather in such a close distance.”

Spaghetti Traveller is an award winning couples travel blog by Tom Bourlet and Raquel Mitchell that shares their adventures around the world, as well as advice and tips on where to go.

Party in the world’s biggest nightclub   

Recommended by Veebrant

“It comes as no surprise that Ibiza, the Island that never sleeps, plays host to the world’s biggest nightclub. As stated by the Guinness Book of Records, Privilege takes the throne as the largest place to party on Earth. Founded in the 70’s as a bar and public swimming pool near the village of San Rafael, the club has a capacity of 10,000 people and is especially famous for its extravagant burlesque parties, acrobatic shows, explosive atmosphere, and extraordinary resident and guest DJs.”

Veebrant is a boutique travel publication specializing in helping travellers experience Spain's true identity, and shares a wealth of inspiration and useful tips for your next trip.

Incredible places to visit in Spain

Seville

Seville, the capital of Andalucía, is one of the most enticing places to visit in Spain, ideal either as a city break or part of a greater Spain tour package. It is one of the most beautiful cities in Europe. And thanks to its Moorish architecture, artistic heritage, and traditional core, it was voted the best city to travel to in 2018 by the Lonely Planet.

Royal Alcazar Palace

The Royal Alcazar Palace, built for the Christian king Peter of Castile, now is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The palace is a complex of palaces, lovely courtyards and extensive gardens, perfect for a summer picture. It is home to a lot of history. This is  where Columbus was given his mission to sail to the Indies, where Amerigo Vespucci, and Ferdinand Magellan plotted their first trip around the world, and where the first world map was made. Eagle-eyed Game of Thrones fans will notice that bits of the series was filmed here, and it was also once used as a set for the movie ‘Lawrence of Arabia.’

La Giralda

La Giralda or the Giralda Bell Tower is the Seville Cathedral’s bell tower. It’s a melange of Moorish, Roman and Latin architectural elements, and the weathervane perched on top of the tower is one of the best-known landmarks in the city. La Giralda also bears a striking resemblance to a twin tower in Marrakech, indicating the tower’s inter-cultural significance.

Torre del Oro

Literally translating to ‘the gold tower’, the Torre del Oro is a military watchtower that was erected in the 13th century to oversee and control shipping access to Seville via the Guadalquivir river. Today, it serves as an exciting Naval Museum that houses prints, navigational charts and historically significant documents that have stood the test of time.

Barrio Santa Cruz

Barrio Santa Cruz is in the oldest part of Seville, and was formerly the old Jewish quarters. It is one of the prettiest areas in the city; small squares lined with orange trees, courtyards filled with bougainvillea, private mansions, ancient houses, little chapels and hidden passageways make walking here a delight. Don’t miss the Plaza Alfaro, which was allegedly the inspiration for the balcony scene in ‘Romeo and Juliet'. While this neighborhood is often left off the itinerary for Spanish group tours, make sure you pencil in some time to spend here.

Hospital de Los Venerables

The Hospital de Los Venerables is one of the city’s Baroque-style 17th-century buildings, which once served as a residence for priests. It currently is home to the Velázquez Centre in the name of and paying homage to the legendary painter Diego Velázquez.

Granada

Granada is a small city nestled in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains. It is known for its grand and medieval architecture, especially the Alhambra. The countryside and hills are filled with orchards of apples and cherries, vineyards and olive groves. Consequently,Granada almost always makes it to the top destinations featured in Spain honeymoon packages!

The Alhambra

This fortress is described as a ‘pearl set in emeralds’ by those waxing lyrical. The erstwhile seat of Granada’s Nasrid emirs, this Moorish-style complex is an elegant example of European Islamic architecture and a must-visit when travelling around Spain. The Palacio de Generalife gardens close by is overgrown with wildflowers in spring and dotted with  orange, rose and myrtle plants.

Monasterio de San Jerónimo

The Royal Monastery of St. Jeronimo is a Roman Catholic monastery in Granada and is famous for its architecture in a Spanish Baroque style. Its classical-style chapel remains, and the vestibule, with Luis Cabello’s painstaking ornamentation, continues to attract travellers on their holidays around Spain.

Hammam al Andalus

After an adventurous day in Granada, there’s no better place to unwind and relax than at the Hammam al Andalus, which follows the practices of traditional Moorish hammams of old. Feel soothed and pampered as you sink into the warm waters of a bath, get a scrub and wash, followed by a relaxing massage with pomegranate, lavender, rose or amber, and topped off with a refreshing cup of mint tea.

Flamenco Show

A percussionist taps out a beat on while the guitarist strums a quickening melody. As the music builds, a dancer begins to twirl. She whirls and weaves, clapping her hands and slamming her heels on the wooden floorboards to the rhythm of the beat, moving faster and faster. A male dancer joins her, moving with dignity and strength. Together they dance gracefully, quick and fluid, like quicksilver; part-courtship, part-confrontation. This is not just physical expression, it’s emotional intensity in movement and passion as dance.

Sierra Nevada Mountains

The Sierra Nevada mountain range is the highest point in continental Spain. It is a popular destination because the high peaks make it the best skiing point in Europe. If you want to beat the heat, visit one of the mountains in this range and enjoy the activities in the snow. But, it’s as beguiling without the snow too. During the rest of the year, the Sierra Nevada is a great place for biking, and trekking, with flowers in bloom everywhere.

Toledo

Toledo is known as ‘the city of three cultures’ thanks to its beguiling mix of Roman, Arabic and Spanish history, and traces of each major religion, that reflect the many stages of its history. Indeed, the first thing you’ll notice is the mixture of Muslim mosques, Jewish synagogues and Catholic cathedrals in the city.  Explorers will love the thrill of walking the city’s medieval streets where every turn brings a new surprise -  leafy courtyards, and quiet fountains.

Toledo is renowned for their swords, and you can buy your own here if you’re so inclined to brave out airport security. If not, there are plenty of other old-world souvenirs - models of Don Quixote, painted tiles, copies of El Greco paintings, local wines and boxes of homemade marzipan - you can pick up for friends and family. Although to be honest, you’re probably likely to keep them all for yourself.

Toledo Cathedral

The immense Toledo Cathedral dominates the skyline with its soaring tower. It is a 13th century High Gothic cathedral, one of just three in the whole of Spain. It impresses easily with its elaborate carved doors, marble statues, and immense altarpiece of gold and wood that summarizes the entire New Testament. There’s a Treasury room with a bejeweled crown, and a gallery of paintings by masters such as El Greco and Velazquez. And according to legend, the Virgin Mary was seen in the cathedral. Inside you can see a stone believed to be the one she stood on.

Alcazar

Alcazar or Alcázar de Toledo is a stone fortification located in the highest part of Toledo. It was once used as a Roman Palace back in the third century, was held under siege during the Spanish War, and after sustaining damage, has been rebuilt and restored. The Alcazar houses the Army Museum and the Regional Library of Castile La Mancha.

Monasterio de San Juan de Los Reyes

This monastery was built by monarchs King Ferdinand II of Aragon and Queen Isabella I of Castile to commemorate the birth of their son, Prince John, as well as their victory at the Battle of Toro (1476). It is a beautiful building, with horseshoe arches, white pillars with ornate Mudéjar decorations and fine examples of filigree workmanship.

Synagogue of El Tránsito

This historic site in Toledo is famous for its heady stucco decoration which bears an uncanny resemblance to the Alhambra in Granada and Seville’s Alcazar. Peer closely and you can see some fascinating Arabic inscriptions between the stuccos. It also served as a military headquarters during the Napoleonic Wars.

Madrid

The Spanish capital is the perfect starting point to explore the country. It has one of the best museums in the world, the Prado, that houses one of the world’s finest collections of art (works by Velazquez, Goya and El Greco to name a few). It’s dotted with vibrant squares where locals and travellers mingle, eat, drink and party. The food - from tapas (sardines on toast, olives, famous Spanish ham etc) to paella, calamari sandwiches to fried potato wedges - is innovative, traditional, and all-round delicious. And to let loose,  the nightlife is unparalleled; there are countless bars and dance clubs that keep going until the early hours.

Plaza Mayor

Once the centre of Old Madrid, Plaza Mayor is now a public space situated in the heart of the city. It is famous for its centuries-old architecture and its great ambience; travellers and locals can be seen food shopping, eating (there are cafes, restaurants, tiny tapas bars aplenty), taking pictures of a famous bronze horse statue in the square, and generally having a great time here.

The Royal Palace

The Royal Palace is the official residence of the Royal Family of Spain, though it is open to the public - except when being used by the King for ceremonies and events. Visitors can access fifteen of 3418 rooms including the Throne Room, the Royal Pharmacy, the Royal Armoury, and banqueting halls that exude opulence, from the silverware to the paintings by illustrious artists like Caravaggio, Velazquez, and Goya that hang on the walls.

El Retiro Park

This is one of Madrid’s largest and most famous parks. It offers a quiet and refreshing break from the bustle of the city. Spend a pleasant afternoon taking in the botanical gardens, or if you can pack a picnic, sit back and enjoy the sounds of birds and children playing. During the weekend, it can get more crowded; street musicians and performers, jugglers, and fortune tellers entertain travellers and locals.

El Rastro Market

This market is the most popular flea market in Madrid, and is held every Sunday and on public holidays during the year. You can find it between Calle Embajadores and the Ronda de Toledo. It’s easy to find almost anything here: costume jewellery, live birds, antiques, clothing, vinyl records, and handicrafts of all kinds.  In order to beat the crowds when visiting El Rastro, arrive early!

Puerta Del Sol

This public square is one of the busiest thoroughfares in Madrid, and it’s inevitable to find yourself here at some point during your trip. Notable amongst the emblematic sights in the square, look for the clock that’s right in the middle; it’s the ringing of its bells that marks the beginning of the New Year in Madrid. And look out for a giant bear eating from a fruit tree; this 20-ton structure is symbolic of the Spanish capital and gets its name, ‘Ursaria’, from Madrid’s original title.

Barcelona

Barcelona is the cosmopolitan capital of the Catalonia region. It boasts beautiful beaches as well as vibrant city attractions and nightlife. For art and history aficionados, there’s no city like Barcelona, a living, breathing tribute to Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí and his Modernist legacy.  And for football fans, it is home to one of the best teams in the world, FC Barcelona, and their stadium Camp Nou. 

There’s plenty to shop for in Barcelona. If you’re interested in taking back Spanish food, stop by Quílez, a food market in which you’ll be able to find the best tinned goods, hams, and bottles of cava (Catalan sparkling wine) and chocolate. Alternately, pick up a pair of traditional espadrilles (Spanish shoes that have been worn there for thousands of years) that range from no-frills versions in a variety of colors to shoes with embroidered tops to sporty, sneaker-like lace-ups. If you really want to be well heeled, look out for a pair made the traditional way with hand-coiled and hand-sewn soles.

La Sagrada Familia

Barcelona’s most famous landmark is an unfinished Church built by the Modernist architect Antoni Gaudí. From the outside, it is the weirdest looking place of worship you’ll probably ever see, being a cross between a beehive and a ginormous sandcastle. But inside, it’s a spectacular architectural marvel; huge columns spiral up to the ceiling, which is decorated by geometric stars, and stained glass windows dapple the walls and floor in greens, blues, yellows and reds. It’s immense. It’s fantastical. You’re bound to run out of space on your camera.

Park Guell

Also designed by Gaudi, Park Guell is equally strange. It features a forest of 88 stone columns, a colourful mosaic dragon, amongst other surreal creations all meant to imitate the wild architecture of nature. The Gaudí House-Museum can be found within the Park; the architect lived here for almost 20 years, and inside you’ll find an exhibition of furniture and objects he designed.

Casa Mila

Casa Mila or La Pedrera is a modernist building with a somewhat eccentric appearance, designed by Gaudi. It’s facade resembles a weathered rock, smoothened by time and the sea - imagery furthered strengthened by its wrought iron balconies that look like seaweed. It is the last building Gaudí constructed before he started work on La Sagrada Familia.

Gothic Quarter

This is a beautiful neighborhood dotted with courtyards, medieval mansions and old churches, and walking through its streets and squares, it’s easy to get swept away by its old world charm. Every corner brings forth an unexpected surprise: street musicians playing acoustic guitars, charming cafes, and peaceful stone fountains. This area also has a Gothic style church and a lane which hosts weekend art markets, perfect for a kitschy Sunday out.

Las Ramblas

This tree-lined pedestrian street stretches for around 1.2 kilometres and connects to the Christopher Columbus Monument at Port Vell. It is a must-see landmark for most travellers in the city. It cuts through the heart of the city centre and hosts live performances.

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Nobody wants to be a tourist. Here are curated experiences in art, music, food, culture and communities
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