Dreaming of taking a nice long siesta on the beach after a nice meal of paella and sangria? Or maybe of dancing the flamenco beneath the hot summer sun? Or taking in a good old-fashioned bullfight the likes of which you’ve only ever seen in old movies? Then Spain is the holiday destination for you!
Filled with stunning architecture that combines multiple art styles ranging from Islamic to Gothic to Roman, the Kingdom of Spain is made up of 17 unique, autonomous regions, each of which has its own culture that deserves a closer look.
Here’s everything you need to know about visiting Spain, including a few more reasons why the country will put a big sonrisa (smile) on your face.
Entry Requirements to Visit Spain
If you are a resident of another nation within the European Union, you don’t need a passport to visit Spain. All you need is a valid ID card. If health-related documents are required, you can find up-to-date information on Spain’s official Travel Safe website.
Best Things to Do in Spain
Try All the Different Dishes
The fact that Spain encompasses 17 distinct regions means that its cuisine is incredibly diverse. Valencia, for example, is home to that paella we mentioned before, a rice dish with herbs, spices, beans, olive, vegetables, and either meat or fish. In Andalusia, you can try some gazpacho, a tomato soup with garlic, peppers, and olive oil that is served cold, or you can try a slice of Jamón, a thinly sliced, melt-in-your-mouth ham just about anywhere in Spain. You can also try out some genuine, authentic tapas, an appetizer or snack that has become a huge trend in other countries like the UK and the USA, but that is never better than when it’s served hot (or cold!) at a restaurant or bar in Spain, where it originated.
Have a Food Fight
After you get done sampling all that delicious Spanish food, the next step is obviously to throw it at one another, right? On the last Wednesday of August in Bunyol, Valencia, there is a massive festival called La Tomatina, during which everyone gathers together and throws tomatoes at each other for an hour. Don’t worry, though: the tomatoes are specifically grown for this occasion and aren’t fit for eating, so it’s not cutting down on any of the meals you could be eating later!
See a Bullfight
While not everyone agrees with the sport of bullfighting, it has been a part of Spanish culture since 711 A.D. During bullfighting season, which runs from March to October each year, you can still watch bullfights with all the pomp and circumstance (and flashy outfits) as they had in ancient times. To watch one of these shows from the sidelines is like watching a piece of history in action. Interestingly, those bright red capes you’ll see the bullfighters wearing are just for show: bulls are colorblind. But it does make for quite the spectacle!
Best Places to Visit in Spain
Each region of Spain is home to several must-see places, but these are our top three picks:
La Sagrada Familia
La Sagrada Familia is an incredible piece of architecture that has been in near-continuous construction since the 1800s. Consecrated and designated as a minor basilica by Pope Benedict XVI in 2010, this cathedral is a work of art both inside and out. The original design called for 18 enormous, ornate spires that stand tall over the city of Barcelona, and three distinct facades, some of which are still being built. Inside, the sunlight filters in, illuminating the stained glass, and the floor contains holes that allow visitors to look down into the crypt below.
Alhambra, whose name means “The Red One,” began its life as a formidable fortress in the 800s. It then changed shape, form, and architecture over the years, combining Islamic and Gothic elements as it morphed into a palace instead. As if that weren’t interesting enough on its own, history buffs will be thrilled to learn that this is where Christopher Columbus met with Ferdinand and Isabella to get their blessing for his trip to set out and explore the world.
You might have heard of Ibiza in a song or in an interview by a celebrity who had spent a weekend partying there. But it’s not just the rich and famous who come to hang out here. People from around the world come to soak up the sun on the beaches or to dance all night long (literally) to music that never stops. It is an especially hot spot for teenagers, who love the chance to be free and let loose with their friends.
Best Vacation Spots
With so many sights to see, it is tough to pick the top vacation spots in Spain, but we recommend starting with these:
Located on the southeastern coast of Spain, Valencia is the country’s third-largest metropolitan area. While some people might believe in the stereotype that Spain is an old-fashioned place out of a Zorro movie, Valencia is actually very futuristic. Its Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias (City of Arts and Sciences) is its most important tourist destination and cultural hub, and contains an interactive museum, an oceanarium, and a planetarium that looks more like something out of a science fiction film than a Zorro flick. Or, if you’re not into sci-fi, you can always relax on its beautiful beaches or explore its wetlands reserve, Albufera Natural Reserve. For a full list, here’s a link to our article on the best things to do in Valencia.
Málaga is another city with an interesting mix of architecture and nature. Situated on the Costa del Sol in Andalusia, this city is world-renowned for its beaches, which are covered in fine yellow sand, as well as for its skyscraping cathedrals and massive citadels. It is also home to Caminito del Rey (the King’s Pathway), the most dangerous hiking spot in all of Spain, as well as a Fashion and Automobile Museum containing over a hundred classic cars and clothing dating back to the 1920s. As if that weren’t enough, this city is the birthplace of Pablo Picasso, one of the most famous painters in history. You can see his work firsthand at Museo Picasso Málaga. For this and more, do check out our list of best things to do in Malaga.
Alicante is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Spain — and for good reason. Like many of the other cities on this list, it boasts some truly spectacular beaches and enviable nightlife, but it also offers visitors multiple golf courses and architectural wonders to see. Santa Bárbara Castle is one such wonder, and has been stoically looking out over the city since the 9th century. Alicante is also known for its deeply rooted traditions, making this an excellent choice for those who want to truly experience traditional and historical Spanish culture. For more recommendations, visit our list on the best things to do in Alicante.
If nightlife and resort towns are more your cup of tea, look no further than Marbella. With 27 kilometers of beaches and a panoramic view of the Siera Blanca Mountains, it’s no wonder this idyllic setting draws wealthy jet-setters from all around the world. Marbella is filled with beachside villas, golf courses, hotels and Michelin-starred restaurants, and is adjacent to “The Golden Mile,” the most luxurious residential area in the city, filled with mansions, yachts, boutiques, and nightclubs. Marbella is also home to a boulevard full of sculptures by Salvador Dalí, a dream come true for art lovers. For a full list of recommendations, check out our article on the best things to do in Marbella.
On Spain’s Costa del Sol, visitors can find Nerja, another gorgeous, beachy town with powdery sands and captivating, clear blue water. While you may be tempted to just sit and stare at the view of the majestic Mediterranean, there is a lot to do here, including scuba diving, sailing, and water skiing. You can also explore the Cueva de Nerja (Caves of Nerja), a system of caverns that stretches for nearly five kilometers. Concerts are often held in one of these caverns, as it forms a natural amphitheater and makes for a hauntingly beautiful sound. More recommendations await you in our full list of the best things to do in Nerja, so do check it out.
What is the Best Time to Visit Spain?
Like many European countries, the best time to visit Spain is during the off-seasons. Spring is your best bet, as the months of March, April, and May offer milder, more pleasant temperatures. They also see fewer crowds than the summer season, which always sees an influx of tourists from all over the globe.
September and October are also a good time to visit, as the heat of the summer has faded and those who came to enjoy the summer sun have gone back home, leaving everything open for you to explore.
What Currency Does Spain Use?
Spain’s official currency is the euro, which it adopted in 2002 after switching from the Spanish peseta. If you are coming from another EU country that uses the euro, you won’t run into any problems here. If you do need to make a currency exchange, however, you can check websites like xe.com to see what the current exchange rate is.
Spain’s combination of sun, tradition, modernity, and just a little bit of flash make it a country that truly offers something for everyone. Whether you’re looking to spend your vacation in the lap of luxury, on a beach in the sun, or in a time machine that takes you to the future, you’ll find what you’re looking for in one of Spain’s incredibly diverse and unique regions and cities.