A Trip to Spain: Planning the Perfect Vacation

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A Trip to Spain: An Amazing Country

Spain is famous the world over for its flamenco dancers, delicious cuisine and wine, rich art, and bullfights.

Its architecture reflects a host of influences, including distinctive Roman, Moorish, native Spanish, and other European elements from its ancient past.

Cave paintings, Renaissance cathedrals, and ornate palaces highlight the diverse experiences that you can encounter on a trip to Spain.

Fascinating and enchanting in its own right, Spain also has interesting connections to the complex legacy that it left in the New World, stretching from Argentina in the south all the way into the North American continent– including such far-flung outposts as San Fernando de Béxar, now known as San Antonio, Texas.

When is the Best Time to Take a Trip to Spain?

Blessed with one of the best climates on the European continent, spring, fall and early summer are the most pleasant times to visit Spain.

In contrast, summers (June, July, and August) can be quite hot, especially in the southern part of the country;  the northern and coastal areas tend to be milder.

scene overlooking La Alhambra palace and fortress in Spain, with purple mountains in the background
La Alhambra, Granada, Spain

Spanish Culture

Language in Spain

Spanish (Castillian) is the predominant language of Spain.  That is to say, it is spoken by 99% of Spaniards as either a first or second language.

There are a number of other regional languages, of which Catalan is the most common.  Catalan is spoken by about 19% of Spaniards.

English is fairly widely spoken as a second language, most of all in the major tourist cities such as Barcelona, Madrid, Malaga, and Seville and by younger people.

However, it is highly advisable to learn at least a few common Spanish phrases for greetings, courtesies, numbers, and requests for directions.  This excellent phrase book can help you to cover the basics.

Spanish flag waving in the breeze
Flag of Spain

Spanish Greetings

Typical greetings between men will involve a handshake.  In contrast, a double cheek kiss (air kisses) is a frequent casual greeting between women and from women to men.

There is a tendency to stand closer during conversations in Spain than in many other countries.

Religion in Spain

The majority of the Spanish population is Roman Catholic, although the influence of secularism after the death of Franco has risen more and more.

The Catholic church continues to have some economic and political ties with the government.  However, the social views of many Spaniards have adapted to postmodern times. But significant cultural events often still revolve around the church, such as holidays, patron saint days, and weddings and baptisms.

Gold and crystal Spanish cross

What to Wear on a Trip to Spain?

People wear casual clothing most of the time, and street fashion in Spain can be quite stylish. Men are expected to wear jackets at some classy restaurants.

Baggy clothes like oversized sweatshirts or yoga pants are best avoided in order not to give a sloppy impression. Also, swimsuits should be limited to the pools and beaches.  It is expected for ladies to cover midriffs and shoulders upon entering churches or museums so as not to cause offense.

In addition, there are regional weather differences that one should take into account when choosing clothing for a trip to Spain.  Keep in mind that Southern Spain can get quite hot in the summer.  This calls for lightweight fabrics such as cotton blends and linen, for instance.  Sundresses can be handy for women in the summer.

Spain tends to have relatively mild weather in the wintertime compared to many European countries.  However, it can get cold, especially in the central and northern areas.  Cold weather calls for layered clothing, including jeans, sweaters, and a warm jacket.

Check out the weather forecast before you go on Triptora’s page of Best Travel Tools.

beautiful courtyard decorated with colorful flowers in pots in the Calleja de las Flores street in Córdoba, Spain
Calleja de las Flores, Córdoba

Best Places to Visit in Spain

Map of Spain with Cities

Click + or double click to zoom.  Map is draggable.

Spain locations and Things to do in Spain:

Madrid – The capital of Spain. Art museums: Museo del Prado (classical Spanish paintings and sculpture), the Reina Sofia Museum (modern art, including Picasso’s Guernica), and the Thyssen-Bornemisza (private art collection).

Toledo – The Gothic Cathedral, The Alcázar (fortress), Monastery of San Juan de los Reyes, Museu del Greco (El Greco Museum), Puente de San Martín, Mirador del Valle, the Jewish Quarter

Segovia – The Roman aqueduct, the Alcázar

Santiago de Compostela – The Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, one of the oldest in Spain and the reputed burial place of Saint James the Great, one of the Christian apostles

Exterior of the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao Spain
Guggenheim Museum Bilbao Spain

Bilbao – Guggenheim Museum; Siete Calles Old Town Area

Pamplona – Running of the Bulls during the Fiesta of San Fermín (July 6 to 14), Ayuntamiento de Pamplona, Catedral de Pamplona, the Citadel (Ciudadela) with Renaissance military architecture, Plaza del Castillo, Museo de Navarra

Barcelona – La Sagrada Família Basilica, Park Güell with Gaudí architecture, Barri Gòtic (Gothic Quarter) and the Catedral de Barcelona, Las Ramblas (pedestrian-friendly thoroughfare with street performers, tapas, shopping), Casa Batlló (Gaudí designed apartments), Museu Picasso, La Barceloneta Beach

ornate stone La Sagrada Família Basilica with many spires
La Sagrada Família Basilica, Barcelona

Figueres – Dali Museum.  Can reach the city by high-speed AVE train from Barcelona or by car

Valencia – Torres de Serranos, La Lonja de la Seda, Plaza de la Reina, Plaza Redonda, Catedral de Santa Maria de Valencia and El Miguelete tower,  the City of Arts and Sciences, Central Market, Valencia Town Hall; paella

Seville – Catedral de Sevilla and La Giralda Minaret, Real Alcázar Palace and Gardens, Barrio Santa Cruz (restaurants, shops, Plaza Doña Elvira, Museo del Baile Flamenco), Parque de María Luisa, Plaza de España, Guadalquivir River cruise, Jewish quarter, Metropol Parasol (Las Setas)

Córdoba – Mezquita-Catedral, Jewish quarter/Calleja de las Flores with incredibly beautiful patios, Alcázar de los Reyes Cristianos palace and gardens, the Roman bridge, Calahorra Tower, Palacio de Viana

Granada – The Alhambra palace-fortress-gardens (UNESCO world heritage site)—reserve in advance due to popularity!;  Albaicín neighborhood; tapas in Calle Elvira

Torremolinos Beach in Spain, with sand, blue skies, and palm trees
Torremolinos Beach

Costa del Sol Region: beautiful beaches, watersports, golf, outdoor activities.

  • Malaga: (the Cathedral, Gibralfaro Castle, the Alcazaba Moorish fortress-palace, Roman Theater, Picasso Museum).
  • Torremolinos: (La Carihuela fishing village/seafront promenade, Parque de la Batería, Calle San Miguel, Molino de Inca Garden).
  • Marbella: (Old Town or casco antiguo, Paseo Marítimo beachside promenade, La Alameda Park).
  • Mijas Pueblo: (charming classic Andalucian “white village”)
  • Ronda: beautiful mountaintop city with Puente Nuevo bridge over El Tajo gorge
  • Benalmádena (Teleferico Benalmádena cable car, Puerto Marina and the Sea Life Centre, Benalmádena Pueblo Old Village, El Parque de la Paloma).

Cádiz – Catedral de Cádiz, Museo de Cádiz

Check out the latest prices and reserve your hotel stay in Spain today!

Best Beaches in Spain

Spain has an extensive and gorgeous coastline.  Its sun-kissed beaches are renowned.  Some of the best include:

  • La Concha  Beach (San Sebastian)
  • Playa del Silencio (Asturias)
  • Playa de las Catedrales (Galicia)
  • the Balearic Islands of Mallorca (for example Playa de Muro, Cala Formentor), Menorca (Cala Macarelleta), Formentera (Playa de Sete Illetes), and Ibiza (Las Salinas, Playa D’en Bossa, Cala D’hort).
cala d'hort beach with blue green water
Cala d’hort Beach, Ibiza

Travel to Spain

Iberia is the national airline of Spain. Many other low-cost airlines operate in the country. There are nearly thirty international airports in Spain.  Of these, Madrid, Barcelona, Palma de Mallorca, Alicante, and Malaga receive the most passengers.

Adolfo Suárez Madrid-Barajas Airport, located 13 km (about 8 miles) away from the city center, has good bus service every 15 minutes. Two metro (subway) stations are available at the airport. Other facilities that this airport offers include tourist information, duty free shops, banking, and restaurants.
APM automated people mover at Madrid Barajas Airport
APM automated people mover at Madrid Barajas Airport

Barcelona-El Prat Airport (aka Barcelona Airport) is close to the city center, situated at a distance of 12 km (7.5 miles). Metro service is available. Buses are also available every 15 minutes and trains are available every 20 minutes. Taxis are available throughout the day. Restaurants, banking facilities, car rental, and tourism information are available at the airport.  There are plane and non-stop high-speed AVE connections available from Barcelona to Paris.

High-speed AVE train service is available to Cordoba, Seville, Barcelona, and Valencia.

Moreover, there is a good network of roads connecting the various regions of Spain. Toll roads have been built in some parts of the country. Carrying a few euros along with you will come in handy at the toll booths. If driving a private car, travel insurance, including medical coverage, would be recommended. Moreover, carrying a medical kit along on your trip might also be prudent.

Find great fares on your flight to Spain today!

Electricity in Spain

Voltage is 220 volts.  Frequency is 50 Hz.  Plug type is type C or F, with two round electrical contacts. Don’t forget to bring along a good universal travel adapter, like this one.

Emergency numbers in Spain

When traveling abroad, safety is of the highest importance.  In Spain, in case of emergency you can call 112 (the Pan-European emergency number).  They can then connect you to the appropriate agencies.

Or, to directly contact a specific first responder agency: for the police call 092 (local/municipal police) or 091 (national police), for fire call 080, and for medical emergencies/ambulance call 061.

 

miguelete bell tower of valencia cathedral
El Miguelete Tower (Torre del Micalet), Valencia. Image by Andrea Castello from Pixabay

Spain Currency

Euro (EUR; symbol €) = 100 cents. The euro comes in denominations of €500, 200, 100, 50, 20, 10 and 5.

Coins come in denominations of €2 and 1, and 50, 20, 10, 5, 2 and 1 cents.

Shopping in Spain

Hours in Spain for Business

Shops open early in the morning, often at 9 am.  They stay open late in the evening, often until 8 pm. In the afternoon, shops close for lunch or siesta, usually from 1:30 or 2 pm until 4:30 or 5 pm.

Abanico fan

What to Buy in Spain

Handmade crafts and goods from Spain are well regarded and would make wonderful gifts for friends and family members back home or souvenirs of your visit.  Some great items to consider buying in Spain include:

  • Ceramics, especially handcrafted pottery for kitchen or patio, or terra cotta tapas plates and bowls
  • Leather Goods such as handbags
  • Handheld Spanish fan (abanico pericón): the large, showy fan widely used in theater and dance such as flamenco
  • Flamenco dresses or flamenco skirt
  • Food items such as Spanish olives and Spanish olive oil, Spanish wine (cava, sherry), cheeses from Spain such as manchego cheese made in the  La Mancha region or Idiazabal gazta from the Basque Country, Spanish ham (jamón ibérico and jamón serrano), or Spanish saffron
  • Spanish guitar
  • Castanets (Castañuelas)
  • Gifts for football (soccer) fans from the world-famous football clubs like Real Madrid or Barcelona

Spanish guitar

Food and Drink on your Trip to Spain

Restaurants and tapas bars are typically open from about 12 pm to 4 pm, and then close for a few hours to re-open in the evening. Tapas bars usually reopen around 8 pm and restaurants around 9  or 9:30 pm.

Breakfast in Spain

Firstly, cafes will often fill up with locals at 7 am coming to grab a quick coffee or bite to eat.  Some common items for breakfast may include a toasted baguette with grated tomatoes (tostada), a sandwich of cheese, ham, sausage, or eggs, pastries, a potato omelette, or churros.

Lunch in Spain

Lunch is usually around 2 or 3 pm.  It is typically a large meal that includes a starter, main dish, and a dessert. Certainly, one of the most well-known traditions of Spain is the siesta or nap after lunch.  However, most Spaniards nowadays do not take advantage of napping during this break.

Dinner in Spain

Dinner is generally late at night, oftentimes around 9:00 or 9:30 pm.  There is a smoking ban in restaurants, bars, and other enclosed public spaces that is strictly enforced.  Nonetheless, smoking is still usually allowed on terraces.

Tipping in Spain

Finally, a note about tipping: in restaurants and bars: generally speaking, tipping waiters is appreciated although not mandatory. It is common to leave the small change for waitstaff and bartenders.  However, if you would like to leave more you can leave about 10%.

assortment of tapas with meats, cheeses, capers, and tomatoes that can be found in Spain
Spanish tapas

In conclusion, Spain is one of the most fascinating and enjoyable countries in the world to take a trip to.  We hope this information and tips will help you travel in confidence and style and that your visit will be a fun and memorable one.

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