Spain is known as the wonderful land of flamenco dancing, fiestas, and mid-afternoon siestas. For these reasons alone, it’s no wonder why Spain is among the most visited countries in the world. From delicious and inventive cuisine to one-of-a-kind art museums and an exciting nightlife, there are many destinations to see and discover in Spain.
When Should I Visit Spain?
Spain is a beautiful country to visit any time of the year, but most travelers choose to travel to this destination during summer months. Known for its epic beaches that lay along the Mediterranean coast, going to Spain during the summer is the best time to catch some rays and relax in the water. If you’re trying to avoid large crowds and tourists group, we recommend planning your trip during spring or fall.
What Cities Should I Visit?
Spain is full of fun and unique cities worth visiting. Whether you’re planning a trip with the whole family or you’re taking a solo backpacking journey across Europe, there are several cities in Spain that you should add to your travel itinerary.
Looking for a Spanish city that has a rich history and a beautiful natural landscape? Make sure to pencil Granada into your trip. Many Granada residents joke that it’s the one city in Spain that you can go to to spend the morning skiing and the afternoon lounging on the beach (since it sits at Spain’s highest mountain peaks along the Mediterranean shore). With a unique mix of Muslim and Spanish heritage, you’re sure to get your cultural fix in this incredible city.
Burgos is a university town that is a two-and-a-half hour drive from Madrid. If you want to tour some of Europe’s most majestic cathedrals and monasteries, this is the perfect city for you. Burgos’s main cathedral is Spain’s third largest cathedral, making it one of the city’s most popular tourist attractions. If you’re a fan of wine (let’s be honest, who isn’t?), you’ll be pleased to know that Burgos also hosts a phenomenal winery called the Bodegas Portia Winery. As the only winery in the world that has been designed by the prestigious British architect Sir Norman Foster, this winery is known as an architectural icon.
A trip to Spain would be incomplete without stopping in the wonderful city of Madrid. From state-of-the-art museums to a vibrant nightlife, Madrid is full of landmarks and sights that the entire family can enjoy. The Prado Museum is a favorite among tourists because it contains more than 3,000 paintings that were commissioned by Spanish royalty. If you’re looking to experience authentic Spanish opera, stop by the Teatro Real Opera House for a show.
A short two-hour drive from Madrid will take you to one of Spain’s most beautiful cities, Salamanca. The ancient city of Salamanca dates back over 2,000 years, and what started as a simple village would eventually see a variety of cultures pass through it (including the Romans, Vettones, and Moors). Salamanca is also well-known because it was the first city in Spain to host a university. Since the 13th century, Salamanca University has seen several historical and literary figures like Christopher Columbus and Miguel de Cervantes.
Barcelona is one of Spain’s most energetic and interesting cities, attracting between 7 to 8 million visitors annually. As a coastal city that sits on the Mediterranean, this is the place to go if you want to lounge on a sandy beach with a cold beverage in your hand. The city is also a must-see for architectural enthusiasts, as it boasts some of Antoni Gaudi’s most modern and unique structures.
Toledo was Spain’s capital until the mid-15th century, and it remains home to some of the country’s best monuments. Just a half-hour train ride from Madrid, Toledo is known as the city of three cultures with Christian, Jewish, and Muslim influences. If you’re interested in touring beautiful cathedrals, consider taking a day trip to the Cathedral of Toledo. This cathedral is said to be one of the most beautiful, gothic-style buildings in Spain.
Cordoba is another popular destination in Spain that you may want to consider visiting. This city is full of culture, music, and art, so you’re sure to see Spanish-style flamenco dancing at a local bar, nightclub, or party venue. Some of the best Spanish foods can also be found in this unique Spanish city. From authentic churros to tapas, you’ll love the culinary experience that comes with touring this great city.
Seville is the capital city of Andalusia and can be found in the south of Spain. As one of the largest Spanish cities, with more than 700,000 residents, the city is most known for its culture, monuments, and art. Also called the birthplace of flamenco, you can learn more about this traditional dance style by making a trip to Casa del Flamenco. This venue offers hour-long shows where you can get an overview of the origins of flamenco. If one of your goals is try new authentic Spanish cuisine, we also recommend that you visit Seville’s local food market to try some of the city’s finest foods.
What Can I Expect To Eat In Spain?
Craving fresh seafood? Traditional roasts? Authentic tapas? Spain is the vacation destination for you. Spanish cuisine is packed with fresh, local produce and traditional spices, so you’re sure to try something new and delicious during your trip. Some common dishes you will find in Spain include:
A popular dish in southern Spain during the warm summer months, gazpacho is a chilled tomato soup that can be found in a majority of restaurants. The original recipe for the soup involves blending stale bread (or croutons), ice cubes, tomatoes, cucumber, onion, garlic, olive oil, vinegar, and a touch of salt.
Paella is a traditional Spanish dish that originated in Valencia, Spain. There are three main types of paella that you can find, including:
- Paella Valenciana – this type of paella uses white rice, chicken, duck, vegetables, rabbit meat, land snails, and beans.
- Seafood Paella – as you probably guessed, this paella incorporates rice, seafood, and traditional Spanish seasonings.
- Paella Mixta – a freestyle form of paella that is made of rice, chicken, vegetables, olive oil, seafood, and spices.
If you have a sweet tooth, you have to try turrón. This dessert can usually be found in the northeastern Catalan region of Spain and is made of sugar, honey, egg white, and toasted almonds. While it is usually consumed as a Christmas dessert, you can find this sweet treat at most bakeries and restaurants in Spain.
Tips For Your Spain Vacation
Before you book a flight to Spain, we’ve compiled a list of tips to help you during your travels.
As you may already know, the main language spoken in Spain is Spanish. Make sure you dust off those old high school Spanish vocabulary books so you can talk to the locals. Luckily in most European cities, people know English fairly well, so if you don’t know a lick of Spanish, you should still be able to get information from residents.
In Spain, visas are not required for stays up to 90 days (this is true for both European and non-European citizens). It is important to note, however, that if you are a citizen from an EU country that is not a part of the Schengen Agreement, you will need to carry a Schengen visa to enter Spain.
If you’re wondering what the Schengen Agreement entails, we’re here to clear things up. This agreement is a treaty that was formed in 1985 that created Europe’s Schengen Area. This area holds 26 European countries, all of which have abolished border controls, making traveling through Europe significantly easier. The following countries are currently under the Schengen Area:
- Czech Republic
- Greece Hungary
Spain is one of the safest destinations to visit in Europe, but that doesn’t mean you can’t run into issues. When traveling around major cities like Madrid and Barcelona, make sure you keep your valuables close to you at all times. These cities are known for pickpockets and scammers, so you may even want to invest in travel insurance in the case that your wallet, passport, or credits cards get stolen.
Tipping At Restaurants
While you are probably accustomed to tipping 15 to 20% at restaurants in the United States, tipping in Spain is a little different. You’ll be using the euro in Spain as your main form of currency. Right now, the euro is sitting at roughly 90 cents per every US dollar, but you should definitely check this number again before your trip. The service industry in Spain doesn’t rely solely on tips. Their servers, bartenders, and hostesses are paid close to a living wage, so we recommend that you tip 10% on your total bill as a nice gesture.
Eating & Dining
If you love to eat out out but you have a tight travel budget, you’ll be happy to know that Spain offers a host of affordable casual dining restaurants and bars. If you’re looking for a way to score some free tapas during your visit, most places will give you some for free if you purchase a beverage.
Save On Traveling
Traveling to some of Spain’s most remarkable destinations doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg. We recommend that you pick up some travel cards if you plan on riding the bus during your trip. These cards come in 5, 10, and 20 euro amounts.
We hope that this travel guide proves to be helpful as you start planning your trip to Spain. If you plan on flying out of the Denver International Airport (DIA) and you’re looking for affordable and convenient airport parking, park your car with ParkDIA. With 7,500 parking spaces available, there will always be a spot waiting for you when you need it. Download our mobile app to simplify your parking experience by reserving your space online, checking the status of shuttles, and more.