Spain Panorama Photo

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Guide to Spain

Where is Spain?

Spain is the largest country on the Iberian Peninsula which it shares with Portugal. To the northeast is the Pyrenees Mountains border with France and to the northwest is the Atlantic Ocean. Portugal is to the west of Spain and the Mediterranean Sea lies to the south, south east and all the way along the east coast of the country. The Canary Islands in the North Atlantic Ocean and the Balearic Islands in the Mediterranean Sea are also considered Spanish territories, as are two autonomous cities on the border with Morocco, Melilla and Ceuta.

What is Spain?

The Kingdom of Spain is a constitutional monarchy which is part of the European Union. It is also a member of other organisations such as NATO and the United Nations. During the Middle Ages the Spanish created the world’s first truly global empire and as a result there are 500 million Spanish speakers spread across the New World. Today Spain is one of the most developed countries in the world and it has the world’s twelfth largest economy.

Why go to Spain?

Visiting Spain is an incredible cultural experience as the country has more UNESCO World Heritage cities than any other. The two largest cities, Madrid and Barcelona, are among the best in the world for art, architecture, food, fashion and football. Spain has miles of coastline and mostly experiences hot and sunny weather making it a prime golfing destination. But it also has mountains which are excellent for skiing in the Sierra Nevadas and Pyrenees. There are many incredible festivals in Spain, most of them religious, and also unusual pastimes such as bullfighting and flamenco dancing. The country makes fantastic wines and tapas.  

Who lives in Spain?

More than 46 million people live in Spain and the population is made up of 88% native Spanish with 12% of immigrants, mostly from Latin America and North Africa. Castilian is the official language but 17% of people speak Catalan, 7% of people speak Galician and 2% of people speak Basque. 94% of Spaniards are Roman Catholics.

How do you get into Spain

All EU members can get into Spain. Spain is also a member of the Schengen agreement which means that countries which have signed the agreement do not operate border controls with Spain. There are a number of visa requirements which may apply to other countries, such as Thailand and Serbia, which should be investigated before travel.

1) By Air
Madrid Barajas is the largest airport in the country and was the 11th busiest airport in the world in 2010. Spain is well served by 154 airports from Malaga airport in the south to Barcelona airport in the north east, as well as busy airports in islands such as Tenerife and Ibiza. The national air carrier is Iberia.

2) By Land
Spain has a small land boundary with Gibraltar. There are efficient train, motorway and bus systems which connect the country and also go across borders with France and Portugal. See our Drive Smart guide for more information on driving in Spain.

3) By Sea
There is a ferry from southern UK ports to Santander. Ferries also operate from the Canary Islands and from North Africa to Spain

What to do in Spain

- Throughout the summer there are amazing festivals in Spain. These include the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona, the Cadiz carnival and the massive Semana Santa celebrations in Malaga.
 - Malaga is the starting point for exploration of the sunshine coast – Costa del Sol. Malaga is also where revolutionary artist Pablo Picasso grew up and you can visit a museum dedicated to his life there. 
 - Nearby you can see the Alhambra Palace in Granada which is a testament to the long and creative rule of the Moors in these parts.
 - In the Balearic Islands Ibiza is considered the hottest destination for dance music in Europe. A number of exciting superclubs began there such as Space, Pacha and El Divino before becoming worldwide institutions.

What to do in Spain

 - The capital Madrid is most famous for its Golden Triangle of museums which include the Prado. The city also has a pulsing nightlife and many attractive monuments.
 - Barcelona is largely shaped by the strange art nouveau architecture of Antoní Gaudí. It hosted the Olympic Games in 1992 and the Camp Nou football stadium is one of the largest in the world.
 - See the City of Arts and Science in Valencia, which is also the birthplace of paella.
 - Go to the Guggenheim museum in Bilbao
 - Join pilgrims on the Camino de Santiago, one of the world’s longest pilgrimage routes which traverses Northern Spain.
 - Seville contains the world’s biggest Gothic and Medieval cathedral.
 - Cordoba has the largest urban UNESCO world heritage site area in the world spread out over its old town.

Running of the Bulls in Pamplona,

Running of the Bulls in Pamplona

Alhambra Palace in Granada

Alhambra Palace in Granada

Visiting Spain?
Check out our Top Ten Things to do?


Quick facts
Government  Parliamentary Democracy and Constitutional Monarch
King   Juan Carlos I
Prime Minister  José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero
Population  2010: 46.03 Million
Date Format  dd/mm/yyyy
Drives on the  Right Side
Internet TLD  .es
Dialling Code  34 (+ 00 34)
Time Zone  CET
Currency  EUR - €

Spain Public Holidays

San Cecilio
Andalusia Day

St. Joseph's Day
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