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Spanish people are known to be open and sociable individuals who take every opportunity to enjoy life and be out in the sun. A cozy chat with neighbors keeps the Spaniards up to date and is part of the daily routine.
Activities and daily routines begin at sunset, especially during the summer time. Restaurants prepare to serve late dinners, as it is customary in Spain to eat rather late into the night. Richly varied in its geography, climate and culture, Spain offers something for everyone.
From the verdant hills and rocky coasts of Galicia, Asturias and Cantabria to the tropical splendours of the Balearic Islands or the Mar Menor, any time of year is the right time to visit this fascinating country. Whether you only have time to visit the easily accessible cities of Barcelona and Madrid, or you have the opportunity to go off the beaten track to visit the smaller towns, Spain will not disappoint you.
Spain is the largest country on the Iberian Peninsula and has coasts in all directions. Due to its size, it has very diverse landscapes, idyllic villages and modern metropolises to offer.
Spain has two time zones and observes daylight saving time. Spain mainly uses Central European Time (GMT+01:00) and Central European Summer Time (GMT+02:00) in Peninsular Spain. In the Canaray Islands, the time zone is Western European Time (GMT±00:00) and Western European Summer Time (GMT+01:00). Daylight saving time is observed from the last Sunday in March (01:00 GMT) to the last Sunday in October (01:00 GMT).
Spain has a very different climate to other European countries. In the North the climate is rather Atlantic, in the center continental , whereas the south has a more Mediterranean one. Summers are often very pleasant and hot. Even in winter temperatures don't tend to go below 15°, whilst in the summer time 30°+ can be expected.
Hours of sunlight per day
Citizens of an EU country do not need a visa to enter Spain, but only a valid identity card or passport. With these documents, a stay of up to three months is permitted.
Citizens from countries outside the EU, on the other hand, require a visa to enter Spain. This usually has to be applied for in the country of residence.
Spain is part of the EU and therefore uses the Euro as its official currency. However, the Spaniards have not quite gotten used to the euro yet, and prices are often additionally written out in pesetas (the former currency).
On the 1 and 2 Euro coins is the portrait of King Juan Carlos I de Borbón y Borbón. The 10-, 20- and 50-cent coins are adorned with Miguel de Cervantes, one of Spain's most important writers. The 1-, 2- and 5-cent coins have the image of the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela.
Spain has an excellent health care system with plenty of medical facilities and trained specialists. If you have a European health insurance card or a replacement certificate as proof, you have the right to treatment. Keep in mind that it is highly recommended to take out a health insurance when travelling abroad.
Be completely prepared for your journey by checking that you have everything you need on our packing checklist.
In Spain there is freedom of religion. However, 90% of the population is baptized Roman Catholic. Especially in the rural areas, the church has a great importance. In the cities, faith is somewhat relegated to the background, and is only practiced during major celebrations such as Easter, Christmas or weddings. In contrast, the cult of saints and the Virgin Mary is very widespread and almost borders on superstition.
The country is considered a hereditary parliamentary monarchy, with the head of state being King Felipe VI. However, he only has representative functions, approves laws and is responsible for appointing and dismissing the head of government. State power officially emanates from the Spanish people, which is represented by the Prime Minister, currently Mariano Rajoy. He is appointed by the King and must be confirmed by Parliament
The country's official language is Spanish/Castillian, but some areas of Spain have a second official language. Catalan is spoken in Catalonia and the Balearic Islands, Valencian in Valencia, Basque in the Basque Country and Navarre, and Galician in Galicia.
The greeting in Spain is very warm. Men shake hands with each other, otherwise it is customary to give each other a little kiss on the left and right cheek. However, the kiss is only implied, never really executed. If you meet with friends or family members, the men hug each other and the women kiss each other on the cheek and hug each other.
Public transport in Spain is very frequent and reliable. Between cities there are buses and trains running every hour. There are also buses between the smaller towns and villages, but not as often as city transportation. The local transport (aside from taxis) is quite cheap, made affordable to all. All of the islands can be reached by ferries.
Throughout its history, Spain has experienced glorious times and crises, won victories and suffered defeats. Before Spain itself colonized other countries, various other cultures ruled over the land, including the Iberians, Celts, Phoenicians, Romans, Goths and Moors.
Evidence has been discovered of a population that lived in Spain as early as the early Stone Age, circa 3000 BC. These findings have many similarities with prehistoric cultures in Africa. The Iberian population that settled the island after the prehistoric inhabitants came from northern Africa about 1000 BC. The Iberians became the most important ethnological group, hence the name "Iberian Peninsula". The Celts were the next people to arrive on the peninsula around 1200 BC. In the 11th century BC, the seafaring Phoenicians were the first people in the Mediterranean to reach the Spanish coast.
At different moments in time, the land of present-day Spain has been sought after by the greatest empires: the Carthaginians and the Romans fought over it, the Arabs conquered it, and the Catholic Monarchs recovered it and made it into the most powerful empire in the world with the Spanish conquest of America. In fact, under King Philip II there was no time in which the sun was not shining on one part of Spain’s territory, which stretched from the Philippines, to the Americas with Spain, Portugal, Flanders, Italy, and parts of what is now Germany in between.
The reign of Phillip II also marked the beginning of an era of economic and political decline, with wars both domestic and foreign. The American territories won independence over the course of the 1800's, culminating with Spain losing control of Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines just before the turn of the 20th century. These events have shaped a large part of the modern world into what it is today.
Spanish culture is widely known for Flamenco music, dancing, bullfights, fantastic beaches and of course Spanish cuisine. But it has much more to offer than that. Spain is, and has been for thousands of years, one of the cultural midpoints of Europe. Spain has one of the most distinctive cultures in the entire of Europe. It’s well known for its lively festivals and its popular drink, sangria. One of its best known cultural traditions is the siesta. Workers and students often go home around lunch time to spend a few hours resting or socialising before returning to their work or studies. The siesta originally started as a means of avoiding the strong midday heat and it’s remained a popular tradition in Spain. Spanish people tend to eat late as lunch can take place around 2 or 3 in the afternoon, and dinner can come as late as 9 or 10 at night.
Primavera Sound Festival: (May - June) Want to kick Spring off with a raucous music festival in Barcelona? Then the Primavera Sound Festival is the place to be: a wide range of rock, pop, electronic and dance music is played for all generations. Over 190,000 visitors come to the festival every year.
Sónar Festival: (June) Every summer this three-day music festival makes Barcelona the center of electronic music. The program is divided into Sónar de Noche and Sónar de Día and is a magnet for over 100,000 visitors.
Festa Major de Gracia: (August) Every year this festival transforms the bohemian neighborhood of Gracia into a week-long street party. If you are in Barcelona in August, you should not miss this spectacle! The festival consists mainly of a competition among neighborhoods to see who can make the most beautiful street decorations.
GASTRONOMY FESTIVAL: (May - June) If you've never experienced the authentic cuisine of Malaga you are missing out. But don't worry, the Gastronomy Festival happening every summer will fill the void. With food and wine tastings, film and photography exhibitions, workshops, and live cooking events, this festival won't leave you hungry!
Film Festival: (June) The Malaga Film Festival offers an incredible selection of Spanish films that will leave you inspired and entertained.
La Noche de San Juan: (June) Welcome summer on a gorgeous sandy beach with bonfires, food, drinks and friends! Similar to the Midsummer celebrations in Northern Europe, the beginning of summer is welcomed in Málaga in a spectacular way. Concerts, music and various types of entertainment successfully round off the event.
Día de Pescaíto: (June) In Torremolinos the traditional fish festival is celebrated every year. The typical Andalusian specialty is distributed free of charge on this day in the fishing quarter La Carihuela. You can enjoy amazing fried anchovies while listening to live music.
Bienale de Arte Flamenco: (September) Every two years, for one month, the culture of flamenco is celebrated in Malaga and its surroundings. The best flamenco dancers show their skills in rousing shows. In addition to the flamenco performances, there are also art exhibitions and performances by cultural associations.
Below are some of the most important holidays celebrated in Spain:
- January 1: New Year's Day (Año Nuevo)
- January 6: according to the widespread Christian belief, the Magi (Epifanía) arrive
- March 19: Saint Joseph's Day (San José), dedicated to Saint Joseph, the bridegroom of the Blessed Mother
- May 1: Labor Day (Primero de Mayo)
- July 25: St. James the Elder, patron saint of Spain
- August 15: Assumption of the Virgin Mary (Fiesta de la Asunción)
- October 12: National Day (Día de la Hispanidad / El Pilar), on the occasion of the discovery of America by Christopher Columbus.
- December 6: Constitution Day (Día de la Constitución), on the occasion of the adoption of the Constitution in 1978.
- December 8: Immaculate Conception (Inmaculada Concepción).
One thing foreigners should keep in mind is that in Spain most bars are restaurants, and vice versa. These establishments are social meeting places where people can have fun — watching a soccer game, having a coffee, eating, and/or drinking. A typical bar will always have a nice variety of tapas which vary from region to region and are usually included in the price of the drink or offered at a discount. Since many bars are also restaurants, most offer a “menú del día” (a three-course meal offered at a fixed price, the typical Spanish lunch), “platos combinados” (one plate with different types of food), and “raciones” (large plates of food to share with the entire group). Of course, another popular option, especially for Spanish dinner, is to irse de tapas/pinchos, which means hopping from one bar to the next, enjoying a “pincho” (small snack or tapas at each place until you’re stuffed).
Tourists typically observe this Spanish way of eating with curiosity, while others absolutely love it. Spaniards are proud of their Mediterranean diet and often talk about how they have the best and healthiest food in the world. Mediterranean cuisine is known for its many ingredients; typical meals feature fruit, vegetables, or legumes; plenty of bread, pasta, rice, and other grains; nuts, extra virgin olive oil, garlic, fish, seafood, various types of meat, cheese, yogurt, and, of course, wine. This varied diet, traditionally found around the Mediterranean Sea, is considered one of the healthiest in the world.
Do not expect locals to be very punctual, Spaniards are a very laid-back community and typically show up late to events. Try to speak Spanish (even if you’re having a hard time) as locals really appreciate the effort. Whatever you do, do not expect locals to magically speak your language. Don’t expect to eat dinner before 7/8pm, especially if you want to blend in. Locals like to dress according to the season, even if the sun is shining Spaniards will not go out in shorts and a t-shirt during the winter (particularly since they are used to the heat).
In the Spanish coastal and beach areas temperatures tend to rise very high, so don’t forget sunscreen! Do not over tip as most Spanish workers earn a proper living wage from their jobs. Spaniards can be rather blunt and direct, so don’t be offended by inquisitive questions or comments. Spanish as a language is also very direct and doesn’t feature all of the pleasantries of a language such as French or English. If someone happens to say “pass me that” without saying please, they’re not being impolite. The big meal of the day is lunch, this is the time to have seafood paella. Do not order a paella at 10pm, as it is too heavy and in most respectable restaurants it will not even be offered on the menu. Be also prepared to have cash on hand in a variety of notes and coins as most places won’t accept credit and debit cards.
How are you?
Good, thank you!
Thank you (very much)!
¡Con mucho gusto!
See you later!
¡Hasta más tarde!
I am lost
Do you need help?
¿Puedo ayudarte o necesitas ayuda?
Could you help me?
¿Disculpe, puede ayudarme?
Where is the bathroom/the pharmacy?
¿Donde esta el baño/la farmacia?
Do you speek (English)?
¿Disculpe, usted habla (inglés)?
My name is...
Me llamo …