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Spain Overview


SPAIN. Why you should be there now.

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Spain Overview


SPAIN. Why you should be there now.

SPAIN IS PRIME TERRITORY FOR TOURISM.

Which means, unfortunately, lots of tourists and high prices. But stick with us, dear readers, and we'll help you skip the crowds and experience the best of Spain like a local. That means sun-drenched coastline, rich history, cultural experiences that will take your breath away and cuisine that blows the lid off of anything else in Western and Southern Europe. 

Sound enticing? We thought so.

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Popularity & Rep


POPULARITY & REPUTATION.

Popularity & Rep


POPULARITY & REPUTATION.

Up until recently, it was known as the land of sun, sea, sangria, and siesta, but that image is changing and maturing as the varied cultures of Spain are getting more attention.

OUR RATING: (7/10?)


It’s not the cheapest destination in the world, however, it’s also not the most expensive, especially for western Europe. There are dozens and dozens of locations that aren’t known to many travelers, which you’d have a much harder time finding in France or Italy.

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The Rad & The Bad.


The Rad & The Bad.

What to expect when traveling in Spain.

The Rad & The Bad.


The Rad & The Bad.

What to expect when traveling in Spain.

Highlights.

STUNNING DIVERSITY - IN EVERY WAY POSSIBLE.

Spain’s got everything from lush, green hills, mountains fit for skiing, and world-class beaches to islands, deserts, and vineyards. The landscape is dotted with Moorish ruins and medieval castles, and the cities with stunning classical and modernist architecture. If you drive a few hours in any direction, you’ll no doubt encounter people who speak completely different languages from standard Spanish (Catalan, Basque, Galician) and have distinct cultural practices. Politics is something you might want to avoid - but there is no shortage of wildly varying opinions in this country, either.

 

FOOD.

Oh, and have we mentioned the food? Spain is so, so much more than paella, with some of the best wine, meat, cheese, and seafood on the planet.  Thanks to the likes of Anthony Bourdain and other food-obsessed people, Spain’s profile has blown up a little bit. 

Each region has a laundry list of specialties, and Spaniards are nothing if not proud and stubborn about their regionality. Take advantage of it and go nuts on whatever the locals are eating. In general, the more ordinary the bar, the bigger the crowd smoking outside, and the brighter the flourescent lights inside, the better your chances are at having a great meal. Bonus points if you can find a place that serves wine in unmarked jugs.

 

HISTORY.

Woven throughout Spain is it’s long, complicated history. There have been dictators, civil wars, and countless conquests from Catholics to the Moors and back again. Spain’s history is easily one of the most fascinating and varied in Europe. Read up before you go, and plan your trip accordingly. Make sure you’re mindful of politics in whatever area you’re visiting, and make sure to ask questions and listen. Much of Spain’s painful past was not very long ago, and resentments can be near the surface.

 

Lowlights.

DRIVING.

Driving in Spain sucks, and like much of Southern Europe, they’re still getting their handle on drunk driving, especially in rural areas. The roads are absolutely fantastic - worlds away from anything in the United States - but drivers are very aggressive and LOVE to tailgate. If you have any developing world driving experience, you’ll be a pro here.

 

TYPICAL ANTI-AMERICAN SENTIMENT.

You can skip this if you don’t hail from the United States, but if you do, be prepared to have lots of conversations about American materialism, war mongering, and guns. Oh, the guns. Spaniards are in no way shy about bringing up things that Americans usually avoid speaking about at the dinner table, and if you get in with any of them, you’ll likely face the same line of questioning. It can be fun, but be prepared for a lively debate.

 

CROWDED AND EXPENSIVE IN HIGH SEASON.

This one’s a no-brainer for anywhere sunny, especially in Europe. It’ll never be dirt cheap like locations elsewhere in the world, but you can manage it by going off-season.

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Vibe & Crowd Factor.


VIBE & CROWD FACTOR.

Who to expect and how many.

Vibe & Crowd Factor.


VIBE & CROWD FACTOR.

Who to expect and how many.

LOCALS.

Depending on where you go, Spaniards can be cold and gruff, or insanely and sometimes annoyingly hospitable. In general, the “North/South” rule of friendliness is in effect here: the farther north you go, the colder and crankier the people can be, and the farther South you go, the nicer. From experience, if you put a little time in with any Spaniard, ultimately, love and loyalty take over and you’re in for life. Learning a little of the local language, be it Spanish, Catalan, Basque, or Galician, will go far.

CROWD FACTOR.

Planning to go in the summer? Yeah, you’re screwed. Unless you’re going to party on Ibiza, in which case, you might be in heaven. Otherwise, try to go in April/May and September/October/November. Everything will be less expensive and while the weather will be a little colder and you’ll possibly have more rain, you’ll have much more freedom to move around and check out local life.

OTHER TRAVELERS.

From everywhere. Literally, EVERYWHERE. This IS Europe, after all. Russians and Chinese are the latest additions to the lineup, but you have Northern Europeans on the coast, French in the North, and everyone else in-between. Americans are less common, but that’s changing, too.

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Routes & Itineraries


ROUTES & ITINERARIES.

May we recommend...

Routes & Itineraries


ROUTES & ITINERARIES.

May we recommend...

When it comes to spain, you've got options...

Our recommended routes for exploring the best of España.

 

EXPLORE BY REGION... 

CENTRAL & NORTHERN SPAIN ITINERARY.

THE SOUTHERN ROUTE ITINERARY.

ALL-CATALUNYA ITINERARY.

 

EXPLORE BY INTEREST...

THE ART ENTHUSIAST'S ITINERARY.

THE FOODIE'S ITINERARY.

THE SUN-WORSHIPER'S ITINERARY.

THE PARTY ANIMAL'S ITINERARY.

 

CITY GUIDES...

YOUR PERFECT WEEK IN BARCELONA.

 

IF YOU WANT TO SEE IT ALL...

THE GRAND TOUR.

 

Miss At Your Peril.

EDITOR JACKIE B. EXPLORE THE BEST EXPERIENCES IN SPAIN.

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Food & Drink In Spain. A Travel More Guide.


FOOD & DRINKS. How to feast your way through Spain.

Food & Drink In Spain. A Travel More Guide.


FOOD & DRINKS. How to feast your way through Spain.

SPAIN & Food.

Good, typical Spanish dishes involve lots of fried food and are best in tapas form – croquetas, chorizo, shrimp in garlic and oil, salt cod, pulpo a la gallega (octopus), olives, green peppers, tortilla espanola, sausages & cheeses (embutidos y quesos), patatas bravas, anything with foie gras. The Basque call tapas “pinxtos” so if you see that, good bet. The city of Granada is known for having invented tapas, and to this day their tapas crawls are famous.

JAMÓN.

So, first and foremost is jamon, Spanish ham. Spaniards eat it all the time and it’s unlike anything on the planet. They obsess over it, and when you try it (if you eat pork), you’ll get it. It’s ridiculous. Make sure you get “jamon jabugo” or “jamon iberico de bellota” or “pata negra”….all of those denote the special black footed pig that grows in a very certain area and only eats acorns. It’s different from the more typical Serrano ham, which is delicious, but is more common. Always spring for the iberico. It’s a religion over there – even vegetarians eat it! They don’t “count” it as eating meat, that’s how entrenched it is. It’s like prosciutto on crack (and honestly, a lot better).

SEAFOOD.

Go for the canned seafood (conservas, in spanish). It’s excellent, and the taste only improves as time goes on because the fat content increases. Mussels, clams, razor clams, et cetera. It get expensive, but this is the time to do it, if you can.

FOOD IN CATALONIA.

In Barcelona you will have pa amb tomaquet (or pan con tomate in Spanish), which is bread doused in olive oil and rubbed with tomato and garlic. You’ll definitely see it elsewhere in Spain too, but it’s really Catalan and they live on it there.  

Catalan food is also heavy on fresh vegetables and fish/shellfish, and they have a good sausage culture as well. Botifarra (pork sausage) with white beans is a very typical catalan dish. Crema catalana is their national dessert, it’s basically crème brulee. There’s also salmorejo and gazpacho, which are soups, and paella, of course, among tons of other rice variations - some drier, such as arros sejat in southern Catalonia, and arroz caldo, which you can find throughout Spain.

VEGETARIANS.

Vegetarian? Good luck. This is a country where the pig is revered and even vegetarians eat ham, but, luckily, seafood is king as well. If you’re near a coast, you’ll have endless fresh seafood options. In the south and in the center, it’ll be a little more difficult, with much more meat and fried food. Basque country, Galicia, and Catalunya will be the best for you, by far.

 

DRINKING CULTURE IN SPAIN.

WINE.

The wine in spain is so under-hyped in the States, our  guess is because Spain was closed off for so long under Franco while the Italian/French markets had the opportunity to expand in the US, but it’s equal if not better quality in some cases and it’s all you’ll find.

If you want to stay local, drink wines from the region you’re in. Rioja is the most famous spanish wine and you’ll have no problem finding it. Other notable varietals that have made it big overseas are Ribera del Duero, Priorat, cava (the Spanish answer to Champagne), and Albarino.

VERMOUTH.

Vermouth is huge here, and they drink it on its own, most especially in Barcelona. It’s a precursor to meals and usually a mid-afternoon drink, often to accompany some tapas and conservas. Get into it.

JEREZ (SHERRY).

Andalucia is home to the region of Jerez, or sherry in English. No longer your grandma’s drink, this versatile fortified wine has stormed the world and become pretty trendy in food and drink nowadays. It’s varied, delicious, and a huge part of Spanish culture, especially in the south.

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Nightlife In Spain. A Travel More Guide.


NIGHTLIFE IN SPAIN.

Clubs, drugs and other distractions.

Nightlife In Spain. A Travel More Guide.


NIGHTLIFE IN SPAIN.

Clubs, drugs and other distractions.

WALK THE WALK.

A first-timer to Spanish nightlife should know that NOBODY enters the club before 2 AM, and in some locations, that’s considered early. Before that, you’re disco napping or drinking with friends. They really eat dinner at 9 or 10 o’clock, even on weekdays.

WHERE TO GO.

Spaniards party differently depending on the city, view our guide to the best nightlife destinations in Spain, here.

IBIZA. Maybe you’ve heard of it? If you haven’t, it might not be for you. 

BARCELONA. Has a reputation for being a party city, but that’s really more tourist-oriented and in reality, Catalans are really laid back and favor the “slow burn” approach of drinking moderately for a thousand hours at a time. Local bars are key for this city; just look for anywhere with a 70s looking sign and a crowd of people with funny glasses, man mullets, and chicks with bad bangs chain smoking outside, and you’re probably good to go.

MADRID. A much higher octane party scene, especially for the gay community, and a lot of the club scene focuses around money. However, this IS Spain after all: land of the egalitarian club experience where everyone can get in and have fun.

SUMMER SPOTS. Some party hot spots are really only worth going to in the Summer, which in Spain is late may to late September. This includes Ibiza and the islands, Malaga, and Sitges. A good rule of thumb is to consider whether there’s a beach or not, Barcelona being the only real exception.

Drugs.

POT.

Pot is sort of legal, at least in Barcelona. You have to look around and get creative, but there are smoking clubs. Unlike Amsterdam, you can’t just walk in, but many allow you to register and “join” online or via phone, more-or-less skirting the members-only rule.

COCAINE.

Cocaine is everywhere in Spain, but it’s not very good. Spain also has a pretty bad heroin problem, which has abated more in recent years, but is beginning to come back with a vengeance thanks to the financial crisis.

BUYING DRUGS.

Don’t buy drugs off the street. You’re better than that, and this isn’t southeast Asia. If you meet some trusted people, that’s usually a much better option. People aren’t as nasty and out to get you as they can be in North America, although you always have to watch out. 

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Costs & Budget


COSTS & BUDGET.

What You'll Spend In Spain.

Costs & Budget


COSTS & BUDGET.

What You'll Spend In Spain.

THE INSIDE SCOOP ON...

 

Hotels.

Hotels can run the gamut, depending on the city you’re in, but on the whole, even luxury hotels are a little cheaper in Spain than in other popular European countries, like England, France, and Italy. Hostels in major cities should run around 50-75 USD, but prices drop once you reach the (stunning) countryside regions and smaller cities.

 

FOOD.

You can spend as little or as much as you want on food in Spain, thankfully.

There are some of the best and most expensive restaurants in the world here, as well as some of the cheapest and most delicious inexpensive food, too. The real deal is their lunch special: usually 5-15 euro for lunch that includes an appetizer, main course, dessert, and glass of wine. Sometimes coffee is included, too. For European travel, this is a steal.

Average prices for beer and wine?
Think around 2 euro for beer, and between 2-4 for wine. Water is often more expensive, which will tell you the priorities of Spaniards.
— Spain Editor

 

SHOPPING.

Overall, food and hotel will make up the bulk of your expenditures, unless you decide to shop. You can get artisanal goods from local designers of any kind, but don’t expect any serious deals. What you will get is something unique that you can’t get at home. If you’re into wine, buy some to bring home, as this is where you’ll save money for truly quality wine.

You can also easily smuggle pork products into the US as well- just make sure it’s in your carryon and vacuum sealed. When you buy cured meat in Spain, it’s 10x better quality and value than you’d get outside its borders.
— Spain Editor & Resident Smuggler

Logistics. Things To Know Before You Go To Spain.


KNOW BEFORE YOU GO.

Logistics. Things To Know Before You Go To Spain.


KNOW BEFORE YOU GO.

Language.

You don’t really need to speak Spanish, but some elementary phrases will go a long way, as in any country. You should keep in mind that in the Basque country, Galicia, and Catalunya, the main language spoken (and in many cases, signage too) is a language other than Spanish.

 

CRIME & ANNOYANCES. 

PETTY CRIME.

Pickpocketing is an issue throughout Spain, but nowhere more so than in Barcelona, with Madrid keeping pace right behind it. Keep your eyes on your belongings, your pockets clear, your bags in front of you with a hand over the opening, and your senses heightened, and you should be just fine.

WOMEN TRAVELING ALONE.

As a woman traveling alone, the most you’ll have to worry about is overly friendly locals and way too drunk tourists. In most cases, the tourists will cause you the most grief, and you should watch your drink. If you’re in a mostly local situation, you’ll likely be left alone.

 

GETTING AROUND.

FLIGHTS.

Should you choose to fly, cities in Spain are well connected through Iberia, EasyJet, Ryanair, and other low cost carriers.

BUS.

Buses are numerous and very inexpensive in Spain. Look for the the ALSA network, but really any will work. 

TRAINS.

The high speed AVE/RENFE train network is also very reliable, but prices can vary. We can vouch for the overnight train from Barcelona to Granada -- definitely worth the trip!

 

Recommended Reading & VIEWING.

MOVIES.

Vicky Cristina Barcelona. Locals will hate you for it. Still, go for it, and don’t tell anyone.

Anything by Almovdovar: Talk to Her, Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, All About my Mother, Broken Embraces

Biutiful, Viridiana or Common Wealth (La Comunidad).