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Spain Travel Guide

If travellers were to draw up a list of their top 10 dream holiday destinations, it would be a safe bet that Spain would feature prominently. Welcoming over 70 million visitors a year, Spain is among the most popular tourist destinations in the world. Home to an unbelievable 49 UNESCO World Heritage Sites (only Italy, China and Germany have more), Spain also boasts a glorious array of sun-soaked beaches and resorts.

Tourists looking to enjoy a beach holiday in Spain will be spoilt for choice, as the country boasts 5,000 miles (8,000km) of beaches, and many of the most popular areas, such as Ibiza, the Costa Blanca, Alicante, the Costa Brava, and the Costa del Sol, are deservedly world-famous. An idyllic climate, friendly locals, a famously vibrant nightlife, and world-class shopping opportunities only add to the incredible attraction that is Spain.

With so much to see and do in Spain, visitors will have a delightful time drawing up their holiday itineraries. Whether they head straight to gorgeous Barcelona to admire the architectural feats of Gehry and Gaudi, or to the capital Madrid to check out the cultural treasures of the Prado Gallery; whether they wish to go high into the Sierra Nevada mountains to do some skiing or wish to sunbathe on the warm sands of the Canary Islands, visitors to Spain are ensured a holiday that they will treasure in memory for the rest of their lives.

Best time to visit Spain

Featuring the warmest climate on mainland Europe, there is no bad time to visit Spain. The peak tourist season is summer (June to August), when an amazing amount of foreign visitors flock to Spain's famed beaches. The best time to visit Spain is any time between May and October, when the weather is warm and sunny.

What to see in Spain

-The architecture of Antoni Gaudi draws thousands of visitors to Barcelona every year to buildings such as the La Sagrada Familia.

-The Prado Gallery in Madrid is home to one of Europe's finest art collections, displaying works by Goya, Rubens, and Murillo.

-The Moorish fortress of Alhambra, located in Granada, is a beautiful site, and an important record of Spain's multicultural history.

-A World Heritage City, Segovia is a historical sightseer's delight, featuring a gorgeous cathedral and a wonderfully preserved Roman-built aqueduct.

What to do in Spain

-'Going for tapas' in Spain is not merely an opportunity to have a drink and enjoy a delicious selection of finger-food, but an important part of the everyday rhythms of Spanish life.

-Take part in the Running of the Bulls at Pamplona.

-Catch an exciting match in one of Spain's grand football stadiums.

-Venture to the Costa del Sol and soak up the glorious sunshine before cooling off with a cocktail at a chic beachside restaurant.

Holiday resorts in Spain

Spain has many popular resorts for sun-seekers looking for the perfect beach holiday. Each resort has its own character, varying from lively nightlife (Ibiza) to laidback and secluded (Los Gigantes), from singles heaven (Benidorm) to family-friendly holiday (Sa Coma).

Getting to Spain

There are ample direct cheap flights to Spain available from a variety of British and American cities. Major airlines tend to serve Madrid and Barcelona, while several low-cost carriers offer cheap flights to popular holiday destinations in the south of Spain and the Costa del Sol.


For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway, Driving Over Lemons by Chris Stewart, Travels With My Donkey by Tim Moore, and Tales of the Alhambra by Washington Irving.


Luis Eduardo Aute, Los Planetas, Maldita Nerea, and Nino Ricardo.


Pan's Labyrinth (2006), Jamon Jamon (1992), and Todo Sobre Mi Madre/All About My Mother (1999).


Freshly brewed coffee, local wine and sangria (a mix of wine, lemonade, fruit pieces and spices).


Popular tapas include chorizo sausage and tortilla de patatas (omelette with fried potato), calamares en su tinta (squid prepared in its own ink), and sepia con alioli (fried cuttlefish with garlic mayonnaise).

What to buy

Olive oil, ornately decorated Spanish fans, flamenco music, leather products, bull fighting posters, and Spanish brandy from the famous Jerez region.

What to pack

Pack plenty of sunscreen and a hat if travelling in summer, and a good coat if travelling in winter. Even though Spain's climate is wonderfully temperate, it can get very cold at times during winter (especially in Madrid).

What's on in Spain

The San Fermin Festival (July), better known as the Running of the Bulls at Pamplona, draws huge crowds of participating tourists every year. Head to Bunol, just outside Valencia, for the annual Tomatina Tomato Fight in August, a fun and irreverent festival. Valencia's Las Fallas Festival (March), where local communities build giant puppets and then set them ablaze, provides a bonfire that will dwarf any visitors will have seen in their lives.

Did you know?

-Spain is home to over 5,000 miles (8,000km) of beaches.

-Spain is said to have more bars than any other country in the EU.

-Same sex marriage has been legal in Spain since 2005.

A final word

From its glittering beaches to its vibrant and cosmopolitan cities, from its medieval churches to its Colosseum-like football stadia, Spain is home to enough world-class tourist attractions to keep even the most jaded travellers enthralled and entertained.


Spanish is the official language, but English is widely understood in areas frequented by tourists. Catalan, Galician and Basque are spoken in the relevant areas.


Spain's official currency is the Euro (EUR). One Euro is divided into 100 cents. Money can be exchanged at bureaux de change and major hotels, but banks give the best rates. All major credit cards are widely accepted at most hotels, restaurants, and shops. ATMs are widespread and are generally the cheapest and most convenient method of obtaining money.


Electrical current is 230 volts, 50Hz. European-style two-pin plugs are standard.


Hotel and restaurant bills usually include service charges, but additional tips are welcomed for services rendered. In established restaurants, tips of about 10 percent are expected. In Mallorca, value added tax is usually included in restaurant bills, designated IVA, and may be mistaken for a service charge. Drivers of metered taxis expect small tips and it is customary to tip about 5 to 10 percent for most services, including guides.


Most visits to Spain are trouble-free, except for occasional street crime, which is common in the big cities. Travellers are advised to take precautions to avoid theft of passports, credit cards, travel documents and money. Crime is usually petty and violent assault is rare. Visitors should be wary of strangers offering or asking for help of any kind, as it is often a distraction for accomplices. There are also scams involving letters for outstanding traffic fines or Spanish lottery winnings. If travellers exercise all the normal precautions they should have a trouble-free holiday in Spain.


The international access code for Spain is +34. WiFi is widely available; travellers can purchase local SIM cards for unlocked phones.


There are no health risks associated with travel to Spain, and no vaccination certificates are required for entry. Medical facilities are good in Spain, but comprehensive travel insurance is always advised. Spain has a reciprocal health agreement with most EU countries, providing emergency health care for EU travellers on the same terms as Spanish nationals. After Brexit, the Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC) replaced the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) for UK citizens. The GHIC allows UK citizens access to state healthcare during visits to the EU. The GHIC is not valid in Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein or Switzerland, nor is it an alternative to travel insurance. EU travellers should take a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). Travellers should take any medication they require along with them, in its original packaging and accompanied by a signed and dated letter from a doctor detailing what it is and why it is needed.

Public Holidays

New Year’s Day1 Jan1 Jan
Good Friday10 Apr2 Apr
Labour Day1 May1 May
Assumption of Mary15 Aug15 Aug
Hispanic Day12 Oct12 Oct
All Saints' Day1 Nov1 Nov
Constitution Day6 Dec6 Dec
Immaculate Conception8 Dec8 Dec
Christmas Day25 Dec25 Dec
Epiphany6 Jan6 Jan


The business culture in Spain is slowly shifting but, for now, it's entrenched in tradition and it can take some time for foreigners to gain a foothold in the Spanish working world. It is important never to undermine authority, with hierarchy central to Spain's business world. Managers often tend to make decisions without considering input from their colleagues.

A strong emphasis is placed on social status, character attributes, and personal pride. Success is often hinged upon being well-dressed, honourable, and dignified, while also exhibiting great social skills. Business meetings are generally conducted face-to-face and can go on for long periods, as Spaniards prefer long deliberations in order to avoid uncertainty in corporate dealings. Business meetings in Spain tend to tread a fine line between personal and formal.

Conducting business in Spain can entail navigation through a lot of red tape and bureaucracy. Spanish is the language of business, but some of the larger multinationals conduct meetings in both English and Spanish. Business hours are often quite varied, but generally open by 9am and close in the mid-evening with a two-hour lunch break during the early afternoon.

Business attire is quite conservative with dark or linen suits, with shirts and silk ties for men. Women should wear modest dresses or tailored suits. Brand names or labels attract affirmation from colleagues and associates.

After the conclusion of successful negotiations, gifts are appropriate. Gifts should be of high quality and, when receiving a gift, it should be opened in front of the giver. Business cards are important and should be bilingual. Meetings are best scheduled for mid-morning, in which establishing a formal yet personable environment is important before beginning. Meetings often occur over lunches and dinners and may be characterised by several speakers.

Passport & Visa

The borderless region known as the Schengen area includes the following countries: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, The Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, and Sweden. All these countries issue a standard Schengen visa that has a multiple entry option, allowing the holder to travel freely within the borders of all. Non-EU nationals must hold a return or onward ticket, all necessary documents for onward travel and sufficient funds. It is highly recommended that passports have at least six months' validity remaining after the intended date of departure from Spain. Immigration officials often apply different rules to those stated by travel agents and official sources.


Smoking in public places is banned and stiff fines will be imposed for smoking in areas such as enclosed public spaces, areas where food is prepared and sold, public transport, non-smoking areas of bars and restaurants, and any places that cater for children. Drinking alcohol in the streets of Madrid and the streets of the Canary and Balearic Islands is illegal.

Duty Free

Travellers form EU countries are allowed the following items duty free: 800 cigarettes or 400 cigarillos or 200 cigars or 1kg tobacco; 110 litres beer; 90 litres wine; and 10 litres spirit. Travellers from non-EU countries may have 200 cigarettes or 100 cigarillos or 50 cigars or 250g tobacco; 1 litre spirits, 4 litres wine, and 16 litres beer.


Spanish Tourist Office, Madrid:

112 (General).

Entry Requirements

United States citizens require a passport valid for three months beyond the period of intended stay. No visa is required for stays of up to 90 days within a 180 day period.

United Kingdom citizens require a passport valid for at least three months beyond period of intended stay, with the exception of passports marked 'British Citizen', 'British Subject' (containing a Certificate of Entitlement to the Right of Abode issued by the United Kingdom), and 'British Overseas Territories Citizen' issued by Gibraltar, which will be accepted if valid on arrival. No visa is required for passports endorsed 'British Citizen', 'British Overseas Territories Citizen' issued by Gibraltar, Identity Cards issued by Gibraltar, and 'British Subject' (containing a Certificate of Entitlement to the Right of Abode issued by the United Kingdom). All other British nationals are entitled to a maximum stay of 90 days without a visa within a 180 day period.

Canadian citizens require a passport valid for at least three months beyond period of intended stay. No visa is required for stays of up to 90 days within a 180 day period.

South African citizens require a passport valid for at least three months beyond period of intended stay. A visa is required.

Irish nationals require a valid passport, but a visa is not necessary.

New Zealand citizens require a passport valid for at least three months beyond period of intended stay. No visa is required for stays of up to 90 days within a 180 day period.

Embassy Consulates

United States Embassy, Madrid: +34 91 587 2200.

British Embassy, Madrid: +34 91 714 6300.

Canadian Embassy, Madrid: +34 91 382 8400.

South African Embassy, Madrid: +34 91 436 3780.

Irish Embassy, Madrid: +34 91 436 4093.

New Zealand Embassy, Madrid: +34 915 230 226.

Embassy Consulates

Spanish Embassy, Washington, United States: +1 202 452 0100.

Spanish Embassy, London, United Kingdom: +44 0207 235 5555.

Spanish Embassy, Ottawa, Canada: +1 613 747 2252.

Spanish Embassy, Pretoria, South Africa: +27 012 460 0123 (ext. 116/117).

Spanish Embassy, Dublin, Ireland: +353 01 283 9900.

Spanish Consulate, Wellington, New Zealand: +64 04 802 5665.


Spain's many attractions and the journeys between them are infused with the warm welcome of its diverse people. Holidays here should be slow, with room for spontaneity amid the laidback lifestyle that Spaniards have perfected.

The wealth of things to see and do is such that the top attractions in Spain are whole cities, towns, and islands, and a single holiday can barely scratch the surface of what this country has to offer. It is often best to plan an itinerary around a single city or region.

Toledo is famous for its Roman architecture and ancient history, while Santiago de Compostela bursts with religious significance and art. Cordoba entrances visitors with the medieval charm of the Mezquita, while Barcelona is home to Gaudi and almost anything a tourist could want. Madrid is the capital, ideal for a cosmopolitan Spanish experience while Grenada contains mountains, tradition, and architecture.

Partygoers will look no further than Ibiza, and Bilbao is a hub of industrial creativity and boasts the Guggenheim Museum. Both Mallorca and Tenerife enjoy spectacular beaches and stunning landscapes, as does San Sebastian along with its good food. Lastly, Seville offers fun after dark and a wealth of history.


Southern Spain is the ideal holiday region, having the warmest weather on mainland Europe, even during the winter months. The southern and eastern coast of Spain has a Mediterranean climate with hot, dry summers and mild winters, while the western Atlantic coast is cooler in summer and wet in winter.

Inland the climate is temperate and the capital Madrid, which is situated on a plateau, can be surprisingly cold in winter. Most of Spain is extremely hot during mid-summer, in July and August. The rest of the year the climate is generally temperate in the north, but warm in the south.

The peak tourism season is summer, between June and August, with August the busiest month, but many people prefer to visit Spain during spring or autumn (May or October) when the weather is still pleasant and the crowds thinner. The exception to this recommendation is the Atlantic coast, which has heavy rains in October and November.

Budget travellers should consider visiting Spain in the winter as accommodation and flights are offered at discount rates. The Canary Islands are a good beach destination if visiting in winter, and cities such as Barcelona are exciting destinations at any time of year.

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