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Travel guide to Spain: All you need to know

Enjoy the wonders of Spain with this travel guide to learn about its culture, gastronomy, best beaches and tourist cities, and much more.

10 listopada, 2023

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Fancy a trip to Spain? This impressive country has got you covered, as the destinations suit all tastes and needs no matter your budget. Our travel guide to Spain spills all the beans on planning your adventure – top places to visit, fun activities, must-try dishes, and even souvenirs to buy. Indeed, Spain’s something for everyone – history buffs, museum fanatics, and Mediterranean gastronomy. So don’t wait and start planning your trip today!

Is this your first time traveling abroad?

In addition to all the recommendations you will find in the article, it is crucial to have mobile internet while traveling to Spain. With Holafly’s unlimited data eSIM, you make it easy and fast. With 5% OFF. Code: MYESIMNOW5

Visiting Spain: General information

Before you dive into planning your Spanish adventure, here are some essential facts you need to know:

  • Climate: Spain’s weather can be everywhere, depending on where and when you visit. From freezing 0°C to sweltering 40°C! So, make sure to check the averages before you pack your bags.
  • Language: Spanish is the official language, but there are some excellent co-official languages like Catalan, Valencian, Galician, Basque, Asturian, or Aragonese.
  • Currency: Euro.
  • Time Zone: It’s Central European Time UTC+1, and Central European Summer Time UTC+2 during those sunny months.

When it comes to money, you have to know the deal. Exchange your cash for euros like a pro. Head to an official exchange house for the best rates and lower commissions than banks or hotels. We recommend you compare rates from different exchange houses before you decide, and always get a receipt for your currency exchange.

traveling-to-spain
Plan your trip to Spain with this ultimate travel guide. Source: freepick.es

Travel guide Spain: What to consider 

Before heading to this beautiful country, ensure you’ve got all the info covered. Indeed, it’s not just about packing! You must be prepared for the essentials like documentation, staying connected, cultural norms, and staying safe. To explain, below you’ll find the lowdown on what to consider:

Visa

To get into Spain, you’ll need a passport with a minimum validity of six months from your travel date. Some countries might also require you to get a visa to enter Spain or the Schengen territory (European countries Union).

So, to get that visa, check out the Spanish embassy or consulate in your home country.

In detail, there are around 62 countries that don’t need a visa to enter Spain right now. But, starting in 2024, those countries will need to apply for an ETIAS permit like an electronic pass. The idea is to make the whole entry process smoother and quicker.

And if you’re curious about which countries need a visa to enter the European Union, visit the Schengen Visa web portal. But don’t worry, we’ve got your back! To explain, we’ll give you a quick rundown of the nationalities that mostly need a visa to get into Spain.

Countries that need a visa
TurkeyIranVietnam
IndiaIrakTunisia
ChinaJordanBolivia
RusiaLebanonArmenia
QatarMoroccoCôte d’Ivoire
AlgeriaNigeriaLaos
BelizeNorth KoreaPhilippines
Dominican RepublicSenegalMongolia
EcuadorSouth AfricaSyria
EgyptThailandSaudi Arabia
Table N°1. Countries requiring visas to enter Spain

Security

Before setting off on your adventure, we strongly advise acquiring international travel insurance. It’s like a safety net that’ll protect you from any unexpected trouble that might pop up during your trip.

Now, let’s talk about staying safe while exploring the gorgeous cities in the Iberian region:

  • Be vigilant about your belongings, especially in crowded areas like train stations, airports, tourist spots, and markets, as pickpockets often operate.
  • Avoid carrying large amounts of cash. It’s best to have only the necessary part or use your credit/debit cards for purchases, particularly in major cities.
  • Exercise moderation with alcohol consumption as it can make you vulnerable to robberies or assaults.

Culture

Spanish culture is like a treasure trove filled with history, fantastic food, and incredible art. But one thing that stands out is its amazing musical variety, from flamenco and jota to zarzuela and classical tunes.

So, if you want to dive deep into Spanish culture, try their savory dishes like paella, tortilla de patatas, Iberian ham, and tapas. And don’t forget to hit the local markets, hike in the mountains, or chill on the beautiful beaches.

Internet connection

Staying connected to the internet while you travel in Spain is super important! Explicitly, it lets you share all your amazing adventures with your friends and family on social media. One of the coolest ways to have internet in Spain is by getting an eSIM from Holafly. With it, you’ll score unlimited data and even minutes for calling and receiving calls.

But, in case your phone isn’t eSIM-friendly, no worries! Other options include Pocket WiFi, international roaming, or SIM cards, although these can be a bit pricier.

eSIM-spain-holafly
Buy your Holafly eSIM for Spain and enjoy unlimited data.

Ideal times to visit this vibrant country

The ideal times to visit Spain are spring (March to May) and autumn (September to November) when temperatures hover between 15°C and 25°C.

Mainly, if you want to experience Spain more traditionally, here are some recommended dates:

  • Carnivals (February): Spain’s festivals are world-renowned, with highlights in Cadiz, Las Palmas, Badajoz, and Santa Cruz de Tenerife.
  • Las Fallas Valencianas (March 15-19): These festivities were declared International Tourist Interest and Intangible Heritage of Humanity. Key events include La Crida, La Plantà, La ofrenda, and the Nit de la Cremà.
  • April Fair (April 14-20): One of Andalusia’s most popular festivals, you’ll find fair booths, flamenco show, delightful gastronomy, dances, concerts, music, bull events, and fireworks.
  • Fiestas de San Isidro (May 12-15): Witness dances, musical performances, fireworks, and the famous running of the bulls through the streets of the city.
  • Romería del Rocío (May 17-20): A grand pilgrimage attended by thousands yearly, where people sing, dance, and express gratitude to the Virgin of El Rocío.
  • Festivities of San Fermin (July 6-14): One of Spain’s most important festivities, marked by the running of the bulls in the streets of Pamplona after the proclamation or chupinazo.
  • La Tomatina (August 30): During this unique event, participants have a one-hour tomato fight after picking tomatoes from designated trucks, followed by celebrations with local music and food like “Pan con Tomate.”
  • Christmas (December 25-31): Tour the charming Christmas markets to savor and experience the local gastronomy during this festive season.
best-dates-to-visit-spain
April fair. Source: Barcelo.com

Which is the most convenient month to visit southern Spain?

January is the winner if you’re looking for the most budget-friendly time to visit southern Spain. Why? It’s plain and straightforward – the prices of flights, hotels, and activities are at their lowest compared to any other month of the year. January falls under the low season due to fewer tourists around.

Moreover, traveling in January has its perks. You can catch exciting events like the Three Kings Parade between the 5th and 6th. And if you’re up for more fun, you can extend your stay till February to enjoy and participate in the lively carnivals.

How to get to Spain?

Getting to Spain is the most straightforward and quickest by plane. However, it’s worth noting that flying can be a bit pricey, depending on where you’re coming from.

The best travel method depends on your budget, time constraints, and personal preferences. So, to give you some options, here are the most common ways to reach Spain.

Traveling to Spain by car

If you’re already within the European territory, traveling to Spain by car can be a great option. Otherwise, you’ll need to consider a flight or a ship for a sea journey.

Indeed, there are several routes you can take to reach Spain by car. For example, one standard route is from France via the A63 freeway. The trip covers about 1,000 kilometers, taking around 12 hours from Paris to Madrid.

Another popular route is from Portugal, using the A2 highway, which takes about 9 hours from Lisbon to Madrid. But, if you’re coming from Italy, you can opt for the A1 or A4 highway, covering approximately 1,600 kilometers and taking about 15 hours from Rome to Madrid.

Indeed, the route you choose will depend on your starting point. It’s always a good idea to rely on a GPS to avoid getting lost or taking unnecessary detours. Navigation apps can also help deal with traffic regulations along the way.

Traveling to Spain by plane

You’ll find 46 commercial airports in Spain, though only a select few are international. The primary gateway for most international flights is Adolfo Suárez Airport (Madrid-Barajas). However, depending on your destination city, you may also have the option to choose flights to Barcelona, Seville, or even Valencia.

  • United States and Canada: For direct flights to Spain, consider American Airlines, Delta Airlines, United Airlines, Iberia, Air Canada, and Air Transat.
  • Europe: Most flights within Europe are direct, making it convenient to reach Spain. Recommended airlines for this route include Iberia, Vueling, Air Europa, Ryanair, and EasyJet, which usually offer attractive seasonal prices.
  • Latin America: Direct flights from Latin America to Spain usually take 12 to 18 hours, depending on the departure point. For this journey, consider flying with Iberia, Air Europa, LATAM, Copa Airlines, or Avianca.
  • Asia: The average duration of these flights is around 12 to 20 hours. While direct flights from Asia to Spain are less common, they are available with airlines like Iberia, Qatar Airways, Turkish Airlines, Korean Air, China Eastern Airlines, EVA Air, and Philippine Airlines.
traveling-to-spain-by-plane
Traveling to Spain by plane. Source: Holafly

Additionally, we recommend checking websites or platforms like Skyscanner, as they offer the opportunity to find flights that match your travel date, preferences, and budget before purchasing.

Traveling to Spain by sea

Several ferry companies operate between Spain and other countries, giving you choices to suit your budget. Consider price, trip duration, offered services, and departure and arrival times when buying a ticket.

It must be remembered that this service is primarily available for travel to and from France, Italy, Morocco, and the United Kingdom. As for cruises, they are less common, but those that start from the Mediterranean, the United States, or the Bahamas often include a stopover at a Spanish port (such as Cadiz, Alicante, or Barcelona).

Before considering this option, it’s crucial to thoroughly research and explore the various online alternatives, as departure dates for sea travel can be specific and limited.

Travel tips for a culinary adventure in Spain

The culinary heritage of Spain is among the most abundant and diverse globally, as its dishes have been shaped by the various conquerors and colonizers throughout its history. You will find everything from delicious breakfast to complete main courses, always accompanied by good local wine.

While in Spain, it’s a must to savor its authentic dishes and great food. From wines and cheeses to delightful desserts and sweets, we guarantee that these restaurants and culinary experiences won’t disappoint you. So, check out this list of the best destinations to taste Spanish gastronomy:

  • Madrid: You’ll find a delightful array of traditional tapas and haute cuisine in the capital. Don’t miss iconic dishes like callos a la madrileña, cocido madrileño, and churros with chocolate.
  • Barcelona: Experience the flavors of Catalan influence with dishes like paella, fideuà, and crema catalana.
  • Seville: Enjoy a festive ambiance and delicious gastronomy—sample typical dishes like gazpacho, salmorejo, and Iberian ham.
  • Valencia: Most people have heard of Valencian paella. This is a delicacy not to be missed. Also, explore other treats like esgarraet, Valencian pot, pumpkin cakes, or fartons.
  • Galicia: In the northwest, savor Galician cuisine, renowned for its seafood and fresh fish. Taste dishes such as Galician-style octopus, pil pil cod, and grilled scallops.
Classic Paella dish for Spain travel guide
Classic Paella dish. Source: Pexels,

So, no matter where you are, include these must-try dishes on your gastronomic journey. The secret is to avoid tourist traps — easily identified by the lack of locals, the multilingual menus, and the stickers on the doors from online review sites. 

Top 10 cities to visit in Spain:

We do not only recommend the capital and more cosmopolitan cities, in Spain small towns with fewer crowds have a traditional charm with beautiful landscapes accompanied by medieval villages in some cases. Explore the best of the Iberian country with our list of the top 10 cities to visit in Spain:

  • Madrid: Immerse yourself in the Royal Palace, Puerta del Sol, Prado Museum, Retiro Park, Plaza Mayor, Gran Vía Street, and San Miguel Market.
  • Barcelona: Marvel at the Sagrada Familia, Park Güell, La Pedrera, La Cathedral, Parque de la Ciudadela, La Rambla, and La Plaça de Catalunya.
  • Seville: Explore the Cathedral of Seville, the Alcazar, Plaza de España, Maria Luisa Park, La Giralda, and La Torre del Oro.
  • Granada: Be captivated by the Alhambra, an ensemble of palaces and gardens from the Muslim era. Visit Nasrid Palaces, Madrasa Palace, Hammam Al Andalus, and the viewpoint of San Nicolas.
  • Malaga: Discover the Picasso Museum, Carmen Thyssen Museum, Cathedral, Gibralfaro Castle, Marques de Larios street, and the Alcazaba.
  • Valencia: Experience the City of Arts and Sciences, Oceanogràfic, Turia Garden, Town Hall Square, Bioparc, Serranos Towers, and the Micalet.
  • Bilbao: Stroll through the Guggenheim Museum, Fine Arts Museum, Artxandako Begiratokia viewpoint, and the Old Town.
  • Visit San Sebastián: Explore the Miramar Palace, Wind Comb, aquarium, Basilica, La Concha Beach, Mount Urgull, Maria Cristina Bridge, and the old neighborhood.
  • Toledo: Step back at the medieval old town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Visit the Cathedral, Alcazar, Mosque of Cristo de la Luz, Alcantara Bridge, and the viewpoint of the Valley.
  • Cordoba: Marvel at the Mosque-Cathedral of Cordoba, Alcazar of the Christian Kings, Roman Bridge, Viana Palace, Patios Cordobeses, and the Plaza de la Corredera.
best-10-cities-to-explore-spain
Cathedral view in Toleado. Source: leyendasdetoledo.com

Spain’s top beaches

Here we unveil the community’s best beaches in Spain:

  • Seslletes: Discover the beauty of Formentera’s Seslletes and witness its tranquil, turquoise waters. It is the perfect spot for those looking for a paradisiacal escape to enjoy a peaceful day.
  • Las Catedrales: Be amazed by the captivating geological formations at Las Catedrales, crafted by nature and certainly Instagram-worthy.
  • El Inglés: A golden-sand beach with calm waters beside the Special Natural Reserve of the Maspalomas Dunes. The adjacent hotel and residential area attract visitors of all ages.
  • Barceloneta: A traditional and beloved beach cherished by locals and foreigners alike. Craving water sports or simply chilling by the shore? This destination has it all.
  • Burriana: One of Nerja’s most sought-after beaches. You’ll relish pedalo rides, kayak routes, paddle surfing, first-class gastronomy, and scenic cliffside walks here.
  • Playa de la Barrosa: Gentle waves caress its fine sands. This is the perfect place for those seeking a tranquil and private beach experience.
  • Rhodes: One of the world’s best beaches according to “The Guardian”. Its perfect crescent shape embraces a crystalline lagoon surrounded by natural dunes and trees.
Alcudia beach in Mallorca, for Spain travel guide
Alcudia beach in Mallorca, Spain. Source: Unsplash.

Costa del Sol beaches

We make special mention of these beaches because it is a popular tourist destination in southern Spain, known for its beautiful beaches, Mediterranean climate, and vibrant culture. The region is home to over 150 beaches, each with its unique character. Algunas de las mas visitadas por los viajeros son: 

  • Playa de Maro: This beach is located in the town of Maro and is known for its crystal-clear waters, rugged cliffs, and marine life. Maro is also a popular spot for snorkeling, diving, and kayaking.
  • Playa de la Malagueta: is located in the city of Málaga and is known for its lively atmosphere and proximity to many bars and restaurants. La Malagueta is also famous for swimming, sunbathing, and people-watching. 
  • Playa de Cabopino: the beach is located in Marbella and is known for its golden sand, clear waters, and picturesque dunes. Cabopino is also a popular spot for swimming, sunbathing, and windsurfing.
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Costa del Sol beaches. Source: visitacostadelsol.com

Top cultural tourism destinations in Spain

Some big cities that attract the most tourists in Spain are known worldwide for sport, history, or entertainment. You’ll likely have better weather, and prices are a bit cheaper, and fewer crowds if you visit in the shoulder season from September to November. Some of these popular destinations are: 

  • Madrid: Explore the Prado Museum, the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, the historic Teatro Real, and the Teatro Corral de Comedias. Immerse yourself in arts at the Círculo de Bellas Artes and admire the city’s network of castles, monasteries, and convents.
  • Barcelona: Admire the extraordinary works of Antonio Gaudí, the Palau de la Música Catalana, the Art Museum of Catalonia, and the Picasso Museum. Also, witness the architectural masterpiece Sagrada Familia and the Joan Miró Foundation.
  • Seville: Pay a visit to the Alcazar of Seville, the Santa Cruz neighborhood, the Casa de Pilatos, the Museum of Flamenco Dance, the Museum of Fine Arts, the Palace of Las Dueñas, and the Palace of the Countess Lebrija.
  • Granada: Explore the breathtaking Alhambra, the Albaicin Quarter, the Casa de los Tiros Museum, and the Cathedral. Marvel at the architectural beauty of the Palace of Charles, the Royal Monastery of San Jeronimo, and Patio de los Leones.
  • Toledo: Uncover the rich history at the Monastery of San Juan de los Reyes and the El Greco Museum, the Army Museum, the Santa Cruz Museum, and the Sephardic Museum. Don’t miss the chance to explore the San Servando Castle.
  • Santiago de Compostela: Explore the Cathedral of Santiago Apostle, the Museum of the Galician People, the Contemporary Art Center, the Monastery of San Martiño Pinario, the old city, the Cidade da Cultura, and the Museo do Viño de Galicia.
cultural-tourism-spain
View of a cathedral in Santiago de Compostela. Source: RTVE.es

Where to experience ecotourism in Spain?

Indeed, with its diverse natural landscapes, ranging from the Pyrenees mountains to the Balearic Islands’ beaches, Spain is an idyllic destination for ecotourism, promoting minimal environmental impact.

For the best ecotourism experiences, consider exploring the following locations:

  • Picos de Europa National Park: Nestled within the Picos de Europa mountain range spanning Asturias, Cantabria, and Leon, this national park offers a haven for nature enthusiasts. Activities like hiking, climbing, skiing, and fishing are abundant, making it a paradise for outdoor adventures.
  • Doñana National Park: Situated along Andalusia’s coastline, this park is a wetland of international significance, home to diverse aquatic bird species, including flamingos, herons, and storks.
  • Sierra Nevada National Park: Spain’s highest national park, Sierra Nevada, located in Granada province, is a popular destination for adventurers seeking hiking, skiing, and snowboarding activities.
  • Parque Nacional de las Islas Atlánticas de Galicia: Comprising four islands – Ons, Cíes, Sálvora, and Cortegada – off the coast of Galicia, this national park promises a paradise of diverse landscapes, from white sandy beaches to lush pine forests.
Castle of Zahara de la Sierra. Source: Pexels.

Visit Spain: travel and transportation options 

Spain boasts a highly efficient public transportation network, offering travelers swift and comfortable ways to explore the country. To emphasize, there are several options available:

  • Car: Renting a car is an option, but remember that traffic in major cities can be pretty congested. Before hitting the road, familiarize yourself with Spanish traffic regulations.
  • Public transportation: Spain offers various public transportation choices. Buses are the most convenient but can be slower. 
  • Extensive metro systems. The national rail operator, Renfe, operates a network of conventional and high-speed trains that connect all major cities and towns in the country. Metro systems are in Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia, Seville, and Bilbao.
  • Taxis: Taxis offer a comfortable and fast way to move around but tend to be pricey compared to other options.
  • Private transportation apps: Spain offers a variety of transportation apps like Uber, Cabify, BlaBlaCar, Moovit, Bolt, and MyTaxi. We also recommend you use Google Maps simultaneously so you don’t lose track of where you want to go.

If you plan to travel within Spain, we recommend buying a public transport card like the Madrid Public Transport Card. In particular, these cards grant access to metros, bus lines, and trains.

Moreover, consider tourist cards tailored for specific cities like Madrid or Barcelona. These cards provide mobility savings and discounts on popular attractions within the relevant cities they are named after.

What to buy in Spain?

When exploring a new country or city, it’s natural to seek souvenirs to bring back home, and Spain is no exception. Indeed, you’ll find traditional shops and markets to upscale luxury brands, modern shopping malls, and antique streets.

what-to-buy-spain
Popular sales outlets. Source: lavanguardia.com

Here we name some must-buy items that you shouldn’t miss:

  • Textiles and Fashion: Ezcaray blankets, Manila shawls, handmade fans, chulapo hats, espadrilles, Ibizan style clothing, flamenco attire, and a selection of leather bags, belts, and goods.
  • Ceramics: Discover the finest ceramic pieces from Talavera, Sargadelos, Manises, and Úbeda. These pieces showcase plant motifs, geometric shapes, and an array of captivating and truly unique colors.
  • Sweets and Condiments: Damasquinados de Toledo, violet candies, napolitanas from La Mallorquina, saffron, olive oil (note that airlines only allow a maximum of 100 ml for liquids), and mouthwatering nougat.
  • Miscellaneous: Postcards, refrigerator magnets, drawings, books, flamenco figurines, wineskins, sherry, paella pan, Menorcan gin, traditional headdresses, and Mallorcan pearls.

Top shopping destinations in Spain

If you’re looking for the best places to shop in Spain, here are some top destinations:

  • Madrid: Don’t miss the upscale shopping district of Barrio de Salamanca, Gran Via, and the vibrant Mercado de San Miguel.
  • Barcelona: Explore the historic Gothic Quarter, the Born district, and Paseo de Gracia.
  • Seville: Known for its rich artisanal heritage, Seville is an excellent place to shop for authentic leather goods, ceramics, and jewelry. Head to Barrio de Triana, the Alfalfa Market and the iconic Plaza de España.
  • Malaga: Stroll through the historic Alcazaba neighborhood, the Atarazanas Market, and Paseo del Parque.
  • Valencia: Taste the city’s specialties like paella, horchata, and nougat, while exploring shopping gems like the Central Market, the Mercado de Colón, and the Plaza del Ayuntamiento.

What are some affordable items to buy in Spain?

It is important to realize that bargaining is not common in Spain, and the prices displayed are usually fixed. So, to save money, consider buying postcards, fridge magnets, flamenco figurines, typical sweets, and off-season products.

And, if you’re not a European Union citizen, you can apply for a tax refund on your purchases before departing the country. For more details, please visit the Official Tourism Portal of Spain.

FAQs about traveling to Spain

How long should I plan to visit the Canary Islands and Spain?

It depends on your preferences and activities. For exploring significant cities, 10 to 14 days is the recommended timeframe. But, if you wish to explore the country extensively, consider a minimum of 28 days.

How can I get internet access in Spain?

You can access the internet in Spain through Holafly’s eSIM, Pocket WiFi, international roaming, SIM cards, and public WiFi.

Can I be a digital nomad in Spain?

Yes, Spain now offers the possibility for digital nomads to apply for a visa that allows them to live in the country for up to a year.

When is the high and low season in Spain?

The high season in Spain spans from June to August, while the low season is from November to March.

How much money should I budget for a trip to Spain?

Your budget will depend on the duration of your stay, accommodation preferences, travel style, activities, and places you plan to visit. For a 7-day trip, a rough estimate could be around 700 euros, not including flight costs.

Which destinations are the most affordable to travel to from Spain?

Among the cheapest destinations to travel to from Spain are Bulgaria, Portugal, India, Vietnam, Morocco, Senegal, Bolivia, and Peru.