There’s always an excuse to visit Spain… whether it’s for the glorious sunshine, lazy-day siestas or soaking up those beautiful sights – the whole country is a open book of experiences that are definitely too beautiful to resist.
The best part about visiting Spain though is the sheer diversity you can find all across the country – the cultures, food and even languages can change quite dramatically depending on where you find yourself in Spain. This of course only adds to the excitement of visiting and re-visiting Spain as each time afford you the possibility of having a fantastic new experience in a paradoxically familiar place.
Despite the diversity, a few rules hold true, no matter where in Spain you’re planning on visiting and indeed, it doesn’t matter if it’s your first or tenth visit, Spain always manages to find brilliant ways to surprise and impress you. To that end, I’ve put together 25 top tips that will be useful for your next galavant to Spain! Entonces, ¿Qué esperas! 😉
1.) Spain ain’t small
Yup, Spain’s not a small country – there’s no point just visiting Madrid or Barcelona and thinking you’ve seen the whole of Spain… the country is vast and diverse – both in culture and geography. This makes for a truly exciting country to visit, especially if you’re planning a road trip where you can experience so much!
2.) Some of the best views are not quite where you’d expect
Everyone knows the locals knows where the best spots are and that holds particularly true in Spain. Even if you don’t end up mingling with the locals for some reason or the other, ask the receptionist at your hotel (or you host on Airbnb) or pretty much anyone you find that lives in the local area. Their simple tip can sometime be the one thing that makes your holiday extra special!
3.) Don’t just stay in the cities
There are some pretty beautiful cities in Spain, including but not limited to the amazing; Valencia, Madrid, Barcelona and Granada, but don’t think the cities are all there is to see! The beautiful Mediterranean coast, mountainous Basque region and the plains around Madrid all provide ample stomping ground for us travellers to see and explore a different aspect of this stunning country.
4.) The love of Siestas is real and deep!
A siesta is a pretty big deal in Spain… and rightly so! Usually, around 1-4pm, many shops, offices and restaurants will shut their doors for a little afternoon kip. Take advantage of this time to chill-out and relax… or even enjoy a cheeky siesta yourself, after all it’s your holiday!
5.) You’re going to eat late!
One thing to note (especially if you’re not from Southern Europe) is that dinner is usually much later than its Northern European neighbours. Dinner will usually start around 10pm for locals and can last a good few hours. Food is not rushed and is an amazing opportunity to socialise until the wee hours in your new local haunt.
6.) Pintxos are great with pre-dinner drinks
Pintxos are usually a quick snack that you’ll eat whilst having an early evening drink and little (or long) gab with your friends. Grab a wine or beer and order 1 pintxos at each place you visit (you can go to as many places as you like), enjoying a scrumptious snack before your late evening meal. Pintxos are usually inexpensive and readily available in bars. Don’t expect to pay more than 1-2 Euro per pintxo, unless you’re ordering caviar… and if you are, grab me a plate too! 😉
7.) Spain isn’t just Spanish
Don’t be fooled into thinking that Spain has one national identity! Catalonia and the Basque region both have very strong identities that people are very rightly proud of. The language, food, culture and even architecture changes quite dramatically depending on where you are. If you’re visiting Barcelona, for instance, learning a little Catalan is always a nice little nod to the region and its proud people!
8.) You’ve got to have Pan Con Tomate for breakfast
It’s as simple as it sounds, shredded tomatoes, fresh olive oil, a sprinkle of salt and a baton of bread (cut to size, of course). It’s such a delicious breakfast and it fills you up royally before you traipse around the towns.
9.) You won’t get lost, well, you might but…
Roads in Spain are great, especially if you’re using the toll roads between major urban centres. If you’re driving, grab yourself a sat nav or use Google Maps on your smart phone. This will allow you to better concentrate when driving in an unfamiliar country, while also making sure you don’t get lost – not that I expect that you would! 😉
10.) Eat where locals eat!
One of the biggest things I learned about Spain (and with other countries I’ve visited) is that you should follow in the footsteps of locals. If I see a restaurant filled with locals, I will always try and go there -I’ve yet to be disappointed and it’s always a nice surprise to discover something that’s not a total tourist trap. (I wouldn’t tourist traps so much if they weren’t overly pricey with the food being rather appalling – I’d rather pay crap prices for crappy food or expensive prices for delicious food than expensive prices for crappy food, its as simple as that really…).
11.) Do Download a free offline walking map
Exploring a destination on foot is a great way to explore wherever you’re visiting but getting lost is a waste of time (especially if you’re just visiting for a few days) that can easily be avoided by getting yourself an offline map. This will allow you to walk the winding streets like a boss, all without getting lost when on foot!
12.) Look our for pick pockets in Barcelona
Look, it happens in most global cities and it’s not specific to Barcelona but like any large urban destiantion, petty crime does exist. Be sensible by keeping your belongings in front of you and not filling your back pockets with gold bullions, diamonds or that precious chocolate bar. Take extra care on the metro when spaces can be cramped, you might not notice a sticky finger or two.
13.) Embrace the culture
One of the most important things about travelling is exploring a different culture to your own. Delve in with open arms and live the ways that locals live! Not only will this give you an authentic travel experience, it’ll let you discover a whole new side of travel and adventure that might be a world away from your life at home.
14.) Learn the lingo
Everyone appreciates a little convo, especially when it’s in your mother tongue! Try and pick up a few phrases and ‘sayings’ before you go. Practice with free apps like Duolingo that’ll train you each and everyday before your trip!
If you need some help, teach yourself some Basque with these 28 essential phrases you’ll need for your trip!
15.) Enjoy the relaxed way of life
You might find, especially in the south of Spain, that life moves at a much more relaxed pace than you’re used to -trust me when I say this is a good thing! Sometimes it’s so nice to see another perspective of living at a different pace that you can learn from and take home with you!
16.) Great architecture
Spain’s got some pretty dazzling buildings with the likes of Gaudi, Calatrava and Miralles. Make sure you take some time to enjoy some of the breathtaking buildings that have been erected in this millennia and the last!
Yup, there’s a whole heap of little islands that are also worth a visit! From the dazzling blue seas around Menorca, or the breathtaking beauty of Ibiza, to the largely unspoilt island of Fuerteventura (in the Canary Islands) – Spain has a a wealth of pretty islands that shouldn’t be overlooked!
Spain is largely surrounded by water that isn’t just the mediterranean. Often, when thinking of Spain it can be easy to think of the coast as just the Mediterranean but there’s so much more. Discover the west coast of Spain and take advantage of those powerful waves that attract surfers from all over the world, or even dip your toes into the waters around the Bay of Biscay! There really is so much diversity on Spain’s coast.
19.) Tip if you like
Tipping in Spain isn’t essential, though is often greatly appreciated. If service is good I’d usually offer a tip of 15 percent and above – but do check before you double tip! Some restaurants automatically add a service charge (i.e. a tip) upon your bill that can be harder to spot if it’s not in a familiar language.
The metro in places like Barcelona is a great way to hop across the city. Prices for a single ticket are around €2, with stops all across the metropolitan area.
21.) Flights can be cheaper than trains
This sounds counter-intuitive but bear with me on this! If you’re travelling long distances… say from Malaga to Bilbao, you will probably find that flights (with low cost airlines) are much cheaper than a return fare on the train. This can be a convenient way to save time if you want to visit a place for a weekend whilst on a bigger trip in beautiful Spain. Check websites like Skyscanner for the cheapest fares for your chosen dates…
… though, I’ve gotta admit – a good train journey across the countryside is always nice! 🙂
22.) Grab a Kalimotxo in the Basque Country
The Basque region of Spain is a beautiful, relatively rural area close to the French border. Hire a car, discover the natural beauty of the region and don’t forget to drink some Kalimotxo (red wine and Coke, mixed together). 😉
23.) Book tickets online for big ticket attractions
If you’re planning on visiting some of the big-ticket sights like the Alhambra or the Sagrada De Familia, try and book your tickets before you arrive. Queues can be long and you can waste a huge portion of your day, especially at peak times! Booking in advance gives you an allocated time, making you more efficient in planning your day!
25.) You can ski in Spain
Spain isn’t just sun, sea and sand! You can actually ski in Spain too! One great place to show off your skiing skills is just outside Granada in the Sierra Nevada mountains. At certain times of the year, the mountains become a playground for ski enthusiasts and people just like me… who seem to roll down the hill! 😉