A travel GUIDE TO SPAIN


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Madrid, Barcelona, Costa del Sol and Sevilla are just a few of the amazing places on offer with a holiday to Spain. The options are truly endless and one minute you could be soaking up the sun in the south of the country; and the next you could be running with the bulls in Pamplona. There is a reason Spain was the world's most visited country in 2016 with over 75 million tourists: it is absolutely amazing!

If you are looking for great beaches, mountains to hike or historically beautiful cities to peruse, Spain's got it all. And you won't break the back visiting la furia roja.

Culture

Spain's culture was spread throughout the world by way of colonisation. However, before the conquistadors began to conquer parts of the world, Spain was formed through a variety of peoples. Muslims, Romans and other groups formed the basis of Spanish culture.

Spain was heavily influenced by the Catholic church from an early age and the country still promoniently sways toward that religion. Thanks to Catholism's role in the life and times of Spanish people, you will find beautiful cathedrals throughout the country.

Despite Spain being one country united, each region has its own culture. The Basque area marches to its own beat, and has moved to be separate from the rest of Spain. Meanwhile, Catalonia is in the same boat and often uses its football club – FC Barcelona – as its mouthpiece for independence from Spain.

Places to visit

Choosing just a few places to visit in Spain is difficult. The country has the third most UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the world. But if you have to pick...

Barcelona

You can't go wrong with the capital of Catalonia. The city oozes with culture. The Sagrada Familia is an amazing Gaudi created cathedral that was never finished. It is one of the best sites to see in Barcelona. Once you have exhausted the Gaudi sites across the city and your legs, head down to the beach to recover. Once you are revived, head out on the town when the sun goes down. Barcelona has some amazing bars and restaurants that can cater to every price range.

Bilbao

For something completely different try the north of Spain, in particular Bilbao. The city is on the northern coast near the Spanish-French border. The most popular site to visit in the city is the Guggenheim Museum. The museum's design is breathtaking and has apparently changed the city from an also-ran into one of Spain's premier tourist destinations. If you are expecting hot Mediterranean weather, then forget it. The average August temperature in Bilbao is just 21 degrees. It doesn't get too warm in the region.

Madrid

Often overlooked by tourists going to Barcelona, Madrid offers gorgeous summertime heat and chilly winter winds. The centrally located city is the seat of the government and the king, and both provide great sightseeing opportunities.

One reason Madrid is ignored by holidaymakers is due to the lack of beaches. The city is completely landlocked, but that doesn't mean there isn't anything to do. A night out of tapas restaurant hopping is a great way to get to know the city after dark. In the morning, shake off a hangover with a run in Retiro Park. Once you have finished, explore Plaza Mayor and Plaza de Espana before you enjoy a coffee or beer in the sun.

Food

The Spanish have long been lovers of pork and you can find plenty of pork dishes throughout the country. Spanish cooking is often confused with Mediterranean, yet there are plenty of differences. Thanks to Spain's colonisation of South America, the explorers brought back a significant amount of items that helped transform Spain's cuisine into what it is today. Spain makes hearty use of potatoes and beans, which arrived from the Americas.

Each region has its own cuisine variations. In Andalucia you will eat plenty of seafood, in the Basque region pork and beef is used in foods and in Galicia the population enjoys soups.

No matter where you are in Spain, you will find plenty of variety that will send your taste buds racing.

What to see?

Starting off in the vibrant Spanish capital, take a trip down to Plaza Mayor, where you will find cafes brimming with life. After a drink and a bite to eat, head over to the Prado Museum to see the 2,300 pieces of art that adorn the building. Don't forget to stop by the Royal Palace, which was inspired by Versailles.

After Madrid, head southeast to Valencia and view the modern architecture that makes up the city. Located on the Mediterranean Sea, Valencia is a gorgeous city that is known as the city of arts.

Of course, if you've come for sunny Spanish beaches, there is nothing better than the Costa del Sol. Malaga is the main city in the area and its museums and cultural attractions are great when the beaches become boring – if that could happen.

Barcelona's a top tourist city for a reason and the Sagrada Familia is a perfect site to see the beauty of the city up close and personal. After you see the cathedral, the Parc Guell is a breathtaking hillside stop that provides views of the city.

If you are looking for a challenge, why not try walking the Camino de Santiago, which is a holiday in its own right. There are several routes that a walker can take on the pilgrimage to Santiago and it is possible for walkers to begin the route in the middle or closer to the final destination. In the end, you will arrive in Santiago to see the shrine to Saint James the Great.

Nightlife in Spain

Spain exhibits a vibrant nightlife that pulsates with life. Ibiza is the place to go if you want an endless all-night party and sun clad beaches all day. Ibiza attracts DJs from all over the world who hold court each night in one of the island's night spots.

Madrid and Barcelona also have spectacular nightclubs and bars for you to hop to. But if you are looking for a quiet evening, both cities provide that too. A great night could be sampling tapas food at the different restaurants around town or sitting beneath Spanish stars sipping Rioja wine.

Now a tourist hotspot, Bilbao is becoming a popular town to go out in when the sun goes down. The city has plenty of funky bars and trendy clubs that offer a much different vibe to the ones in southern Spanish cities.

Spaniards don't go out until around 9pm or later, and many club don't see people arrival until midnight. So, plan your nights out accordingly and have a blast in Spain.