Even today Spain is still one of the most attractive holiday countries in the world. Every year, millions of tourists spend their holidays in wonderful, sunny Spain. Although the majority of tourists in this country are actually Spanish themselves, Spain still receives Europe’s second-largest influx of foreign tourists every year — and for good reasons!
The diversity and authenticity Spain has to offer is unrivalled by any other country in Europe. Not only does it have an ideal climate and beautiful landscapes, but it boasts a rich culture, a passionate language, colourful native flavours, and a warm, open population as well. All of this makes Spain one of the most irresistible countries in which you spend a wonderful holiday.
General information on Spain
Spain is a country in southwest Europe. It has a population of approximately 46 million people, and with a total land surface area of 195,364 square miles, making it the third largest country in Europe, after Russia and France. Spain shares its northern border with France and Andorra along the Pyrenees, its western border with Portugal, and its southern border with the British colony of Gibraltar.
The capital of Spain is Madrid, a vibrant city of more than 3 million residents, and is located at the heart of the country. There are currently 17 autonomic regions in Spain, each of which has a different amount of independence from the central government. There are also two states: Ceuta and Melilla. Almost all of the regions are further subdivided into different provinces.
Climate of Spain
Spain has a very hilly, attractive countryside, and is one of the most mountainous countries on the European continent. As a result, there are many different climates (as well as microclimates). The Costa Blanca, Costa Dorada, Costa Brava, Costa del Sol, Mallorca, Ibiza, where you will find most of our holiday villas, houses, and apartments, has two different climate zones:
Mediterranean Northeast Coast Sea(Catalonian coast, Balearic islands, and the northern half of the Valencian region): Mediterranean climate: warm and sometimes hot summers. Mild winters with an average of 600 millimeters of precipitation per year, but sometimes also a few consecutive days of heavy rain.
Mediterranean Southeast Coast (Alicante, Murcia and Almeria): Mediterranean climate: hot summers and mild winters. Very dry, almost desert-like, with less than 150 millimetres of precipitation per year in some places. Considered the driest area in Europe.
Languages in Spain
The many different languages spoken in Spain frequently cause some confusion, especially because they are sometimes called dialects. While this is not entirely true, there are still only four languages officially recognized in Spain. Castilian is the official language of the entirety of Spain; Catalan, Basque and Galician are officially recognized regional languages, and are used almost exclusively in some regions.
Asturian and Aragonian are also two other languages frequently spoken in some regions, but they are not officially recognized. In addition to those mentioned, there are also countless provincial languages and dialects. What, then, is Valencian?
Valencian, which is spoken in the Comunidad Valenciana, is a derivative of Catalan. Catalan is spoken by a little more than 18% of the total population of Spain (roughly 7.5 million people), in Catalonia, the Balearic Islands, and in the Comunidad Valenciana. Strictly speaking, the Catalán spoken in Valencia is not actually Catalan, but a language in itself, called Valencian. Recently however, the differences between the two have become fewer, and the language is increasingly recognized as Catalan.
A siesta is an afternoon nap, often after lunch, when the sun is at its highest point in the sky. This is a tradition that is often maintained in warm regions, especially in Spain. Because of this, the siesta is most often associated with that country. During the siesta, which lasts from 2 PM to 5 PM every day, many shops are closed. This is because the siesta is also the time to eat, to spend with family, or (depending on the region) to relax and sleep. Larger supermarkets, hotels, restaurants, and cafés, however, usually stay open during this time.
Cuisine of Spain
One of the most attractive features of Spain is the local food. The Spanish kitchen is just as diverse as the Spanish cultures, languages, and climates. Indeed, because of this diversity it is impossible to speak simply about “Spanish food”. Instead, one must speak about regional and provincial foods, all of which are influenced by the climate, available ingredients, and local lifestyle of a given area. Eating and drinking is, for the Spanish, one of most important activities of the day. This is because it is most often a social occasion. As a result, many Spanish people will spend a few hours or more at the table. Meal times are about an hour and a half later than their average European counterparts. As a result, lunch is around 2 PM, and dinner doesn’t begin until 9 PM. The long hours of many restaurants and cafés, however, allow clients to keep their own schedule.
Typical Spanish foods include sausages such as chorizo and morcilla, many different cheeses, the famous jamón serrano and jamón ibérico, rice, Mediterranean vegetables and many (many!) sweets.
The most famous Spanish dishes include tortillas, paella, gazpacho, cocidos, and calamares a la romana (deep-fried squid). On the coast, the dishes include more seafood. Salt-crusted fresh fish (pescado a la sal) is considered a delicacy. Tapas, too, are famous, and can be eaten at lunch as well as dinner
A “tapa” is the Spanish term for an amuse-bouche. Traditionally, tapas are ordered before dinner in a café along with an alcoholic drink such as beer, wine, or sherry. Spanish people often like to eat many different tapas in small amounts. With the many different tapas to try, as right they should! There are hundreds, if not thousands of different tapas that differ between regions. Some examples include serrano ham, olives, calamari, manchego cheese, tortillas, albondigas (meatballs), all served with bread and aïoli (a garlic-based mayonnaise).
Drinks in Spain
Wine forms is the primary base for all regional kitchens in Spain. One of the most internationally known wines is Rioja wine. Other famous wines include Ribera del Duero, Penedes, and La Mancha. The value of Spanish wines has increased over the last few years, but the international demand for certain high-quality wines means that many other, diverse Spanish wines regularly become cheaper and more affordable. All Spanish cava is sparkling white wine, made in the same manner as champagne (método tradicional).
Vino de Jerez, the Spanish name for sherry, is an Andalucian wine and comes in many different varieties: fino, manzanilla, amontillado, dulce, and oloroso.
The moscatel is certainly worth mentioning. It is a licor wine, sweet and with strong aroma, which is derived only from the ‘moscatel d’alexandria’ grapes. Even the Spanish spirits are worth mentioning. Spanish brandy, for example, is primarily produced in Andalusia. Anise liquor, fruit liquor, and Asturian apple cider are the brandies most often consumed. Muscatel, however, gets its own classification. It is a sweet, aromatic liquor wine produced with only moscatel d’alexandria grapes as its base. Typical Spanish cocktails (which are primarily ordered in the summer) include Sangria and Clara (beer mixed with “gaseosa”, a lemon-flavored, alcohol-containing soft drink). But why stop there? Try a Poncho Caballero on ice, as digestive with the coffee.
Celebrations in Spain
Spain has a relatively large amount of holidays. As the Spanish put it themselves: “En este país de fiesta, siempre hay algo que celebrar” (In this land of festivities, there is always something to celebrate), and this is very true. The many holidays are divided into religious and non-religious celebrations, as well as in national and regional holidays.
National and local holidays
- January 1 - New Years Day (Año Nuevo)
- January 6 - Three Kings (Epifanía del Señor)
- March - San José
- April - Holy week (Semana Santa)
- April - Holy Thursday (Jueves Santo)
- April - Good Friday (Viernes Santo)
- April - Easter (Pascua)
- April - Easter Monday (Lunes de Pascua): only in Catalonia, Basque Country, La Rioja, Autonomic Region of Valencia, Palma de Mallorca and Pamplona.
- May 1 - Labour Day (Fiesta del Trabajo)
- May - Pentecost (Pentecostés)
- June - Corpus Christi
- August - Assumption (Asunción de la Virgen)
- October 12 - Columbus Day (Día de la Hispanidad)
- November - All Saints´ Day (Todos los Santos)
- December - Constitution Day (Día de la Constitución Española)
- December Maria - Immaculate Conception (Inmaculada Concepción)
- December 25 - Christmas (Navidad)
- December Boxing Day/St. Stephen’s Day (San Estebán): only in Catalonia and Balearic Islands.
There are so many different official regional holidays in Spain that there is virtually no exhaustive list to cover them all. The most widely recognized and celebrated holidays are:
- Las Fallas (St. Joseph’s Day) in Valencia Moros y Cristianos on the Costa Blanca
- The April Festival in Seville
- Diada de la Mercè in Barcelona and surrounding areas
- San Juan (Saint John) in Alicante and surrounding areas
- El Pilar in Zaragoza
- Celebration of San Fermín in Pamplona
- The Cádiz, Sitges and Tenerife carnivals
- The Tomato Festival in Buñol