Oh Spain! We do love you so! From your food and markets to breathtaking natural beauty; from fiestas to siestas and everything in between. We love your crazy nightlife, your snow-capped peaks, your architecture, your islands and beaches, your dancing, and your soccer.
The vast array of what you have on offer is astonishing and addictive. While this is far from an exhaustive list, (in fact it’s barely the tip of the iceberg!), here are some suggestions for places to go and things to see and do if you’re heading to Spain.
Universally regarded as unmissable when visiting Barcelona, La Sagrada Familia is one of Antoni Gaudi’s most famous works in Barcelona. In testimony to the contribution he made to architecture and the evolution of building technology, UNESCO has declared this and six other Gaudi buildings as World Heritage Sites. The Basilica has an exceptionally long history, with construction originally commencing in 1882 and continues to this day.
Now in its final phase, the towers and most of the church's structure are expected to be complete by 2026, the centennial of Gaudí's death. The finishing decorative elements are flagged for completion by 2032. Visitors marvel at the Basilica’s architectural magnificence and detail of the design. Sunlight flooding through the stunning stained glass windows casts an ethereal light throughout the interior. Book in advance and go early to try and avoid the long queues.
A trip to Spain would be sorely lacking without partaking in these traditional snacks. It’s one of the most uniquely Spanish things to do! Each bar has its own speciality, so it’s worth exploring a few different venues to sample a wide variety of fare. Traditionally intended as a light snack between meals, and later as a sign of gratitude for ordering drinks in a bar, modern tapas are generally served as appetizers and are presented as small dishes of food intended for sharing.
They may include anything from olives or almonds to charcuterie or a plate of grilled prawns. Menus may show one price for tapas and one for raciones, which are just a larger version of the same dish – an excellent choice if you’re hungry after a day of sightseeing. Tourism has seen the tapas tradition evolve into what is almost an art form, and what was once a humble snack served as a complimentary accompaniment to drinks has become a sophisticated element of Spanish gourmet food.
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With the additional space available, families had the opportunity to build mausoleums, and erect grandiose statues and other monuments to honour their dearly departed. Today, exploring the cemetery will reward you with sights of some of the most beautiful funerary art in the world, including some of the finest examples of the Gothic and Art-Nouveau styles.
Perched high atop the cliff faces of the El Tajo canyon, Ronda is famous for its dramatic escarpment and breathtaking views. Established in the ninth century BC, the original township was an important cultural centre filled with mosques and palaces. Be sure to take in the breathtaking views at Puente Nuevo, or ‘new bridge’ which connects the older and newer parts of the city. The city is also connected by the Roman Bridge, and Arab bridge, each named for the regime that created it.
The bridges are all impressive examples of construction and architecture, with large stone columns stretching into the canyon and intricately ornate rooves. Ronda also boasts extremely well preserved Arabic baths, which are worth a visit, as is the Mondragon Palace which is home to the local library and maintains beautiful and tranquil gardens. If gardens are your thing, don’t miss the stunning terraced Cuenca Gardens, located on the ledges of the Tajo.
Of course, Spain isn’t all about beaches and a magnificent coastline. The Sierra Nevada ski resorts are famous for the high peaks and excellent skiing – all a stone’s throw away from the temperate coast. Designated a national park in 1998 – one of only two in Andalucía – the Sierra Nevada range is the highest in Europe after the Alps and encompasses over 86,000 hectares of torrential rivers, sheer-sided gorges, stony scree slopes, and glacial lakes.
Skiing, hiking and mountain biking are popular activities, as well as camping in the summer. But for those slightly less adventurous, there is plenty of flora and fauna and beautiful landscapes to explore.
Located below the rugged Serra d’Alfŕbia mountain range on the slopes of the Sierra de Tramuntana in Mallorca, this lush, green oasis is a welcome reprieve in an otherwise dry and dusty environment. The property was originally owned by an Arab Viceroy in the twelfth century and the estate retains many of its Gothic charms. The gardens are a refreshing sanctuary, far from the bustle of the city.
Water is a continuous theme throughout the property, with an ancient stone cistern (or alijbe) supplying mountain rainwater to the gardens and the constant sound of trickling fountains keeping you company as you wander. You can explore a series of paths and walkways to discover a serene lake, resplendent with water lilies. There are also resident animals including swans that glide across the lake and goats who graze contentedly. In April and May, the gardens are awash with colour as flowers burst into bloom.
Overall, Spain is a fairly safe place to visit. You should take normal precautions like at home, such as exercising common sense and keeping an eye out for suspicious behaviour. The cost of travel insurance* can be nominal compared to unforeseen travel costs that can be incurred. Travel insurance may be viewed as an investment as it can protect against loss, damage, theft, delays and other unforeseen expenses.