Spain Travel Guide

Spain travel guide

Spain is one of the most popular summer destinations in Europe and a symbol of an indomitable human nature. Spain is also famous for its rich history, Castilian architecture, unique cuisine and flamenco dance. Social scientist and philosopher Salvador de Madariaga believed that honor is a basis for the Spanish national character. Most people in Spain are friendly minded, cheerful and prefer relaxing and eating well. Be sure that Spaniards are not couch potatoes, as bars and cafes for them are the best places to meet each other. For bulk of people, evening means not the time they go to bed, but the time they hang out and socialize with friends. This is confirmed by the tradition of a late dinner at 11:00pm. The Mediterranean climate has a huge impact on the Spanish nature and people’s mentality. The summer heat doesn’t inspire to work hard, while the coolness in the evening encourage to get out and enjoy life. There are a lot of places to visit in Spain. Madrid and Barcelona are the iconic cities and vast majority start their journey from there. Granada is a city of Moorish culture surrounded by snow-peaked mountains of Sierra Nevada. Salou will deliver full range entertainment on the beaches and in the amusement parks. The Canary Islands offer a cheaper, peaceful and traditional experience for families or those looking for a secluded island getaway. Majorca and Ibiza have a number of clubs with all night parties that would keep you dancing the night away as this makes the Balearic Islands a top destination for the young and those young at heart.

If you decided to visit Spain be ready to face an average daily bill of 39 EUR in Madrid or Barcelona, in addition to plane tickets and accommodation. Naturally, the greater part of this amount will cover transportation and food expenses, but some may require money for trinkets and souvenirs, as prices are lower than in other EU countries, while during January and August the seasonal sales are held. Spain is a great place to visit not only because of gorgeous beaches, nightlife and cultural events, but because it will spare your wallet unlike other Western European countries. As a country geographically and culturally diverse, Spain can be surprisingly exciting for those who visit it for the first time.

Average Costs of Traveling In Spain

Buses

Bus stations (Estacion de autobus) in Spain can be found in all major cities and on the coast. It doesn’t cause any difficulties to get anywhere on the bus. Central routes are usually marked with red color, while the blue color is for night routes. City buses in Spain run from 6:00am until 12:00am. Bus ride cost 1-3 EUR and to be paid to the driver or conductor. The city metro pass costs the same amount. T-10 ticket costs around 10 EUR. Travelcards can be used on all transport networks in major cities, the price depends on the number of days the card is valid and the Zones that are included. The network of intercity bus routes connects all parts of Spain and provide a high level of service (air conditioning, WI-FI, TV). The trip by bus is cheaper than train, and allows you to become better acquainted with the country. During the peak season buses on major routes depart every 30 minutes. Tickets can be purchased at the ticket office or from a conductor. It usually happens that the same route is served by several buses (depending on the number of tickets sold). You have to specify the bus number on the windshield in this case.

Trains in Spain

The train system (Renfe) prices may differ depending on the day of week and time of year, but still it quite expensive. On average, high-speed trains cost between 45-170 EUR, while slower trains will cost you 20-60 EUR. At large rail stations of Madrid, Barcelona, Seville, Salamanca you can pre-book tickets to any destination. All major credit card networks are accepted. You can also book a ticket via the RENFE website. Tickets must be booked a maximum of 60 days. If you weren’t able to buy tickets in a booth, there is an option to get them from the conductor on board, but it will cost you more.

Underground in Spain

Underground in Spain is a convenient means of transportation, it allows to get to almost any point in the city. In addition, some of the stations are linked by the Renfe and tram networks. Metro can be found in such large cities as Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia, Bilbao, Alicante, Malaga, Palma de Mallorca and Seville. Metro in Spain is usually divided into transportation zones, so passengers are charged in accordance with how many zones they cross. Prices start from 1,50 EUR. There are various types of tickets available while some of them can be used on other city transport. The ticket must be kept until the end of the trip. Metro in Spain is generally open from 6:00am to 1:00am.

Ferries

Spain has a well-developed network of ferries and other sea transport. Various companies provide transportation services to the Balearic Islands from Barcelona and Valencia, to the Canary Islands from the port of Cadiz. There is also a regular ferry service between Spain and Africa. Car and passenger ferries, speed boats are available. One way ticket from Malaga to Melilla (Morocco) will set you back about 35-40 EUR. Sea trip from Tarifa or Algeciras to Tangier cost between 25-32 EUR.

Accommodation

Accommodation prices are seasonal with the prices lower in the inner regions of Spain during high season. It is also essential to find your desirable option in advance, as well as to book it. This primarily concerns the period of festivals and annual events, when available accommodation is pretty hard to find. Anyway, accommodation in Spain is good value when compared with other European countries. If you are looking for a dorm room in a hostel with shared facilities be ready to pay around 17-28 EUR a night in high season. Prices for budget hotels usually start from 35-50 EUR. Catalunya and Mallorca provide amazing monastic locations so you can consider staying with the monks for a night for 15-20 EUR. National parks in Spain are great, so there are virtually bulk of authorized campsites. If you pick this option expect to spend about 6-7 EUR per person.

Food

Full course dinner will set you back around 15 EUR. This includes a salad, main course, dessert and a glass of wine. In order to save, try to avoid stalls and eateries near the main streets and squares. Spaniards are passionate about food and wine. Spanish cuisine consists mainly of vegetable dishes and a wide variety of meat and fish. Generally, restaurants in major cities are open until midnight, on weekends until around 2am-3am. If you plan to cut your food costs, consider cheap tapas and sandwiches for 4-6 EUR. In tapas bars you will find a wide variety of dishes that are served as a snack to alcoholic beverages. Fast food like McDonalds or Burger King cost around 7 EUR. Plenty of restaurants offer fixed price menus, (menu del dia) which might be value for money sometimes.

Spain is known for cheese-making traditions that go back thousands of years. A large amount of locally produced cheeses is available. The most famous are Queso Manchego, Cabrales, Tetilla, Mahon cheese.

Morcilla is a sausage made of pork blood flavored with aniseed. There are several regional recipes, which are used to make morcilla. Morcilla de Burgos and morcilla de verduras are the best known types. The first one is made of pig’s blood, flesh and fat, onion and rice, while the second one is cooked by using leek instead of rice.

Chorizo is another type of sausage in Spain. Made from pork, ham, salt, garlic and pepper, it is being produced in many varieties, different shapes and sizes, with spices, various shades, soft, hard, dried or smoked.

Jamon is an air dried ham. Jamon Serrano is usually obtained by drying the salted ham. Another type is jamon Iberico made from compound-fed Iberian pigs. Huelva, Guijuelo, Pedroches and Trevelez are known as the places of most delicious ham. If you are planning ham tasting than price is the first thing to look at. Prices for Jamon Iberico at Boqueria Market in Barcelona start from 80 EUR/kilo for Jamon Iberico or 25 EUR/kilo for Jamon Serrano.

Paella is a famous Mediterranean rice dish. Types of paella include land animals, seafood, vegetables, and sometimes beans. Despite that restaurants serve every type of paella imaginable, the original paella recipe is as scarce as hen’s teeth. The original recipe should include saffron (which is very expensive) and very certain seafood (that should be of the finest quality). Residents once advised me on where to look for original paella. Local festivals, weddings are the events may offer you that very paella. However, some Valencian restaurants still can compete with locals here.

Spanish Festivals

Spain is the land of fiestas or festivals as dozens of which are held there during the year. Festivals embrace all spheres of Spanish life. Every city, village or town has its very special festivals which made everyone dance and party all day long with their friends. The popular festivals are the fireworks of Las Fallas in Valencia, Semana Santa in Andalucia, the running of the bulls in Pamplona and the August tomato throwing festival in Bunol. Andalucia will surely delight you with flamenco dance, music and wine festivals whilst some tiny towns surprise with strange festivals such as a snail festival in Lleida, a seafood festival in O’Grove and a paella festival in Sueca.

The Las Fallas Festival held in middle march in Valencia. Giant-size effigies and figures are being burned everywhere, so this show is worth seeing.

La Tomatina is held on the last Wednesday in August in Bunol when thousands of joyful revellers gather all together to throwing tons of overripe tomatoes at each other. Unfortunately, La Tomatina is no longer free as the town has recently started charging an entrance fee, so you’ll need a ticket to get in. Goggles and a change of clothes is a must during and after the fiesta.

Holy Week (Semana Santa) is one of the most important annual festivals in Spain. The Easter events are widely celebrated all over Spain, but the most spectacular show is in Seville. Semana Santa is mainly a series of processions of intricate floats representing passages from the Bible, sinners wearing pointed hoods, and parish members. The celebrations start on Palm Sunday the week before Easter, and run throughout the whole week. The city may be flooded with crowds, but the entire show is totally worth it.

Spring Fair (Feria de Sevilla) held two weeks after Semana Santa in Seville. Spring Fair is a joyful event with one whole week of singing, dancing and eating. There is a huge area to the south west of the city with numerous stalls, pavilions and tents designed for drinking, eating and socializing. Some of the tents are private but there are public ones which can be easily visited. Feria de Sevilla provides excellent photo opportunities with its traditional flamenco dresses, parade around on horseback and in carriages.

Fiesta de San Isidro is the largest festival held in mid-May in Madrid. The event offers a great chance to wear the traditional castizo outfit and nibble food samples being given out almost everywhere. Music and flamenco dancing fill up the streets, while zarzuelas and Latin rhythms can be enjoyed at concerts all over the city. The fiesta starts with a major procession of giants and cabezudos, followed by a greeting speech in the Plaza Mayor. Over the next few days, entertainment and revelry take over the city’s public places.

Running of the Bulls (Fiesta de San Fermin) is probably most renowned festival, which held in July in Pamplona. Running of the Bulls attracts both the thrill-seekers and spectators. Numerous Spanish and international visitors come here to enjoy the show, wear white shirts and red scarves to engage in a mad dash ahead of rampaging bulls careering through narrow cobbled streets. If you’re not fond of dubious pleasures, Pamplona, during the prolonged celebrations is a right place to go grab some food, enjoy the drink, fireworks and brass bands.

Top Things to Do and See in Spain

The northwest coast of Spain and the Canary Islands (primarily, Lanzarote) are considered to be great places for surfers of any skill level. Basque Country provides several decent surf spots of different shore break and wave height. Some spots like Mundaka, Playa Salvaje are designed for advanced surfers, while some like Aiskorri or El Sitio are available for beginners. Galicia has the coastline dotted with cliffs with a lot of sandy beaches, suitable for a good ride. Generally, the most popular spots here are Patos and Pantin. Lanzarote is one of the Canary Islands, which sometimes is considered as European Hawaii due to the excellent surf conditions. The best time for newbies is summer, when the waves are not too high, but crowds might be intense. Playa Famara and El Risco are the nice spots to learn surfing.

Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao by Frank Gehry is one of the most famous museums of the XX century that has introduced deconstructivist styles in architecture. For creating the curved forms of the museum, the architect used the special software, which is more common in the aircraft industry. This all resulted in a very unusual shape that reminds of a huge melted ship. The appearance of the museum has made Bilbao an attractive tourist destination and has launched an active process of urban renewal. Exhibitions are held regularly and there is always to choose from. Exhibitions are held regularly and there is always to choose from. The museum is worth visiting even if you’re not a modern art fan, but just to enjoy the building’s amazing design.

Hang Out in Barcelona as this city is the top travel destination and the second largest city in Spain. It has everything most travelers need. Nightlife? Check! Historic streets and culture? Check! Beaches? Check! It is very friendly to everyone who visits it. Cheap food (especially at the markets), abundance of places to visit and to see, enjoyable weather make Barcelona one of the first places to visit on many bucket lists.

Visit the Ancient Granada with its magnificent and impressive architecture and park of Alhambra. The Red Castle (Alhambra otherwise) includes ancient palaces and gardens of Muslim rulers and is considered the highest achievement of Moorish architects in Western Europe. Nowadays, the Alhambra is a museum of Islamic art and culture, which is visited by millions of people from around the world annually.

Admire The Mosque-Cathedral as the Mezquita is a distinctive attraction of Cordoba, as well as one of the wonderful places to visit throughout Andalusia. Mesquita is the largest mosque ever built in Europe, while during the Middle Ages it was considered the second largest mosque in the world. The Cordoba Mosque is widely recognized as the most spectacular and beautiful mosque in Spain, inherited from the Moorish period. Its importance and grandeur can’t be overestimated, as it was in the very center of the Caliphate of Cordoba in X century. Mezquita is located in the heart of Cordoba on the banks of the Guadalquivir River, among the old Jewish and Moorish quarters.

Lose Yourself in the Tiny Streets of Ancient Seville. The ancient part of Seville is located on the left bank of the Guadalquivir river and is a complex pattern of narrow streets, tiny squares, historic palaces and a variety of unique sites with newer quarters around. There are several beautiful churches in the old part of the city, most of which are rearranged from Moorish mosques. On the right bank there is a Triana district, which is famous for its pottery workshops and flamenco. Visit Triana to attend festivals like Vela Santana dedicated to St. Anne and fair. Triana might be overcrowded sometimes as the whole area is filled with restaurants and tapas bars.

Relax in San Sebastian which provides a great opportunity to hang out in local nightclubs and tapas bars. As a travel destination city has been known since XIX century, when elegant hotels and cozy cafes began to appear here. San Sebastian in the Basque language sounds like Donostia, even though the residents prefer to call the city “SanSe”. During the summer months the resort is filled to the brim with tourists, boat owners, surfers and jazz fans, who came here to visit Jazzaldia festival.

Plan An Island Holiday as the Canary Islands offer a wide variety of entertainment. Tenerife is a mix of relaxing stay and noisy parties, while Gran Canaria is for lovers of active leisure like sea excursions, water sports, windsurfing, fishing and skydiving. Lanzarote and Fuerteventura offer endless beaches and secluded spots. La Gomera Island admires those fond of ecotourism.

Check Out The Segovia Aqueduct

Just several miles away from Madrid you can admire the ancient water delivery system. Known for 2000 years the edifice impresses with its shapely form and classic proportions. The majestic arches of the aqueduct seem light and airy. They were stacked together without the use of fasteners or solution, granite blocks are held firmly under their own weight. The aqueduct is also nicknamed the “Devil’s Bridge” as the legend says that if Lucifer was involved in construction with a view to impress his lady love.

Costa del Sol provides a huge area in southern Spain to party all night long and enjoy the stunning beaches during the day. The picturesque and pristine beaches stretch from the city of Malaga to Gibraltar, forming the unique culture, customs and traditions that can be felt here more distinctly than anywhere else in Andalusia. Malaga and Marbella are the most expensive places on the coast and might be overcrowded in summer.

Madrid is rightfully called an open-air museum and cultural capital of Spain. Be sure to visit at least one of its numerous museums. The Golden Triangle of Art, is made up of three world famous museums – the Reina Sofia Museum, the Prado Museum and the Thyssen-Bornemisza are truly worth visiting. Enjoy panoramic city view from one of the numerous observation decks or outdoor terraces. Picturesque views can be enjoyed from the deck opened on the 8th floor of the Communications Palace (there is an entrance fee). Madrid is place to have fun from Monday to Sunday.

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