Spain is an amazing country filled with delicious food, endless adventures, and a passion for life. Over the years it has easily become one of our favorite countries to travel to, and we keep coming back year after year. Join us as we dive into these interesting facts about Spain for some fun information to know before you go.
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22 Interesting Facts About Spain
1. Tapa Time
Tapas are a trademark of food in Spain, and a great way to eat and taste different local flavors. The first time we tried tapas we couldn’t believe it… Order a drink and get a free plate of food? What a concept!
While the style can vary depending on the different regions you visit, know that the Tapas are flowing and plentiful in historic cities like Granada.
Some restaurants will have a menu while others will just bring you a random snack with your beer or wine. Also, be sure to try the Spanish national dish of Paella on your trip and spend time eating in the glorious Basque country.
2. Islamic Reign
One of the most interesting facts about Spain is that it was actually under Muslim control for many centuries. Starting in 711, the Islamic forces conquered the entire Iberian Peninsula in just 7 years.
The Muslim armies from North Africa would flex their muscles all the way to the France border. However, they were mostly concentrated in Southern Spain closer to continent below. Despite the Islamic rule, both Christians and Jews lived together for many years peacefully.
This reign would last all the way until 1492 when Catholic monarchs gained back control of Granada. This also happened to be the same year that Christopher Columbus made landfall in the Americas.
3. Alhambra de Granada
We’ve already mentioned Granada, and one of the best examples of Arabic rule in Spain is its great fortress! First constructed in the mid-13th century by the Nasrid Kingdom, the Alhambra de Granada quickly became the defining feature of this amazing city.
It served as the palace to King Mohammed ibn Yusuf Ben Nas, and would undergo plenty of spectacular additions and renovations with each ruler that followed. These days it is an incredible place to see the influence of different religions and cultures over hundreds of years.
4. Islands of Spain
One of the most fun facts about Spain that you may not know is it actually has over 60 islands! The best part is these islands are so unique from each other. They range from glamorous beach destinations in the Balearic Islands like Ibiza and Mallorca to the rugged and adventurous Canary Islands.
We’ve actually spent a lot of time exploring the Canary Islands over the past few years. Some of our favorites include Fuerteventura, Tenerife, and Gran Canaria. Here you’ll find stunning beaches, natural pools, delicious cuisine, and out of this world volcano hikes.
5. Catalonian Independence
Catalonia is a special region of Spain which borders Southeastern France. Here they have their own dialect, customs, food, and traditions that are somewhat separate from the rest of the country.
Catalans are very prideful of their area and it’s common to see the Catalonian flag instead of the Spanish one when driving through this area. There are many political gripes that we could barely scratch the surface of, but it’s true that some citizens want independence from Spain.
6. Pyrenees Mountains
Something that’s impossible to miss in Catalonia is the majestic Pyrenees Mountain range! The massive mountains rise to an elevation of 3,400 meters and act as a natural border between Spain and other European countries.
In fact, they even stretch across France and the little country of Andorra! Driving through the Pyrenees is quite the experience and there are many famous hiking trails here as well.
7. Spain’s Tallest Mountain
This may come as a surprise after learning about the giant Pyrenees, but the country’s highest mountain isn’t in mainland Spain! Mount Teide is located on Tenerife in the Canary Islands and stands at over 12,000 feet high.
But wait there’s more! One of the most interesting facts about Spain is that its highest peak is also an active volcano. Its most recent eruption was in 1909, but that doesn’t scare tourists away from exploring it.
There is a gondola that takes you to the top and you can even ski on Mount Teide in the winter. We loved driving around the National Park in Tenerife and through its wild hardened lava fields.
8. Camino de Santiago
Didn’t get enough fun facts about Spain and its mountain ranges? Well, there are some awesome hiking trails in Spain and none more popular than the Camino de Santiago.
Still, know that this is not your average hiking path. The Camino is actually an important religious pilgrimage that dates back to the Middle Ages.
The official route is 500 miles long and takes most hikers between 4 and 6 weeks to complete. Many travelers prefer to do the walking route in sections, and hostels called albergues are available to sleep in along the way.
9. Plate of the Day
Also referred to as Menu del Dia, the plate of the day is one of the most fun and filling facts of Spain! The Plato del Dia is a traditional lunch that consists of three separate courses and a drink.
Want to know the best part? It usually costs only 10 Euros or less! That’s right. You’ll get a starter, entree, dessert, and beer or wine for a crazy deal.
When walking by a restaurant you may see a sign or black chalkboard listing their plate options. Just a warning: Don’t plan any wild activities for afterward… You’re going to be full!
10. Spanish Siesta
It wasn’t until after our first plate of the day that we truly understood why Siesta was needed. Siesta is an important part of Spanish culture where they take a short rest or nap after lunch.
During the hours of 2pm to 5pm it is common for businesses and restaurants to shut down as people head home for this period. We’ve walked around cities in Spain during this time of day and honestly felt like we were in a ghost town.
11. Epic Coastline
One of the facts of Spain that draws in so many travelers is its beautiful beaches. Incredibly, the country is blessed with over 3,000 miles of coastline! Since it’s part of a peninsula, much of Spain is surrounded by the Mediterranean Sea.
Some of our favorite beaches in the world are located on Costa del Sol in the South of Spain. If you go further North on the Mediterranean coast you will find popular beaches in Costa Brava in Catalonia. Northwest Galicia is also a great place with rustic beach towns to visit.
12. Caves in Spain
Along with the towering mountains and epic coastline, there is another part of nature in Spain to explore. One of the more interesting facts about Spain is that has over 30,000 known caves.
Before our visit to Cueva de Nerja we had no idea that this European country even had caves. Yet, we would be blown away with how big and well-maintained it was. Other caves worth seeing in Spain are the Grotto of San Jose, Drach, and Valporquero.
This may be one of the most controversial facts about Spain on this list, but bullfighting has been a part of Spain’s history for centuries. The sport gained popularity during Medieval times drawing its inspiration from the Roman games.
The stadiums are one of the most noticeable features of any Spanish city and events still take place around the country today. The one you may have seen is the running of the bulls in Pamplona.
Animal rights activists continue to push against it, but it is hard to see bullfighting going away completely any time soon.
14. Day Trip to Gibraltar
If you’re looking at a map of Southern Spain, you may notice there’s another peculiar country at the bottom of the Iberian Peninsula. Gibraltar may be enclosed completely by Spanish borders, but it’s actually a British Overseas Territory.
That means as soon as you cross the border you can be eating fish and chips at the pub! Gibraltar is a super fun day trip to make from Spain. The humongous Rock of Gibraltar stands tall above the town, and you can even see the coast of Africa on a clear day.
15. Spain Has 49 Unesco Sites
By now you know that some of the most interesting facts about Spain have to do with its history. Spain has an incredible 49 Unesco Sites, which ranks 4th in the world only behind Italy, China, and Germany.
Some of the most popular tourist destinations in this diverse country include castles, churches, and historic city centers. For more of our favorite Unesco World Heritage Sites around the world check out these posts below.
- Visiting Butrint National Park in Albania
- My Son Sanctuary: Vietnam’s Extraordinary UNESCO Site
- Rhodes Old Town Guide: The Medieval Island City in Greece
- Walking the City Walls of Dubrovnik Croatia
- Sunrise at Angkor Wat: One Day Tuk Tuk Tour
16. Flamenco Dancing
Music and dancing are such an integral part of life in Spain, and there is no better example than this! Flamenco began at the end of the 18th century in the Andalusia region.
It is believed that its influence came from the Romani gypsies and transformed into what is still performed now. The musical style combines song and dance for a special performance. To this day, some of Spain’s most iconic musicians are Flamenco artists.
17. Spanish Royalty
Spain is one of the few countries in the European Union that still celebrates its royal family. The King of Spain Felipe VI and Queen Letizia live on the outskirts of Madrid in Zarzuela Palace.
While they don’t retain much political power, the king still represents Spain in international matters in more of a symbolic role. The constitutional monarchy is referred to as “The Crown” and is the head of the state, and the Prime Minister runs the government.
18. The 12 Grapes of Luck
One of the most fun facts about Spain is its unique New Years tradition. At midnight the Spanish eat 12 grapes with each clock strike hoping it will bring them luck and happiness for the new year.
Just don’t get a sour one! Some believe that this will bring you the opposite of good luck.
19. Most Bars in Europe
Spain has the most bars in Europe! The astounding figure equals out to 1 bar for every 175 inhabitants. There are also over 270,000 bars across the second largest country in the EU.
There are so many exciting places to go out and have a good time in Barcelona and the capital city of Madrid. They range from small holes in the wall to full on night club experiences. Needless to say, if you’re thirsty you won’t have to walk far to get a drink in Spain.
20. Spanish Civil War
This part of Spanish history sometimes slips under the radar as it happened right before World War II. The civil war took place from 1936 to 1939 as a revolt by the Nationalists against the Republican government.
It was a pent-up frustration that had been building for many years when the Nationalists eventually took Barcelona. It would only end when the same party captured Madrid in 1939. The leader of the Nationalists, Francisco Franco, would go onto rule Spain until his death in 1975.
21. La Sagrada Familia
Okay, back to more fun facts about Spain! While we’re on the topic of Spain’s cities, you should know that Barcelona holds one of its most prestigious churches. It would be impossible to miss the massive basilica as it towers over 500 feet high.
La Sagrada Familia was designed by Antoni Gaudí and began construction in 1882. If you can believe it, the church is still being built to this day.
22. Picasso’s Home Country
The last of our Spain facts has to do with maybe the most famous artist of all time! Pablo Picasso grew up in the city of Malaga in Southern Spain.
The time he spent here is thought to have influenced work throughout his life and all Spanish artists to come after him. Make sure to visit the museum dedicated to his work if you’re in Picasso’s hometown!
More Fun Facts About Spain
We hope that after reading all these interesting facts about Spain you’re ready to hop on a flight! From its scenic national parks to the history, and delectable food options, there is so much to see and do in this country.
Have any questions about this article or want to share your own fun facts about Spain? Leave us a comment below!
Brigitte & Jake
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Spain Travel Planning
Flights: We always find the best flights using Skyscanner. Sometimes it’s cheaper to fly between cities in Spain than driving or taking the train!
Rental Car: We use Discover Cars to explore when traveling. Consider renting a car in one city and dropping it off in another for an epic Spain road trip!
Tours: Check out Get Your Guide for thousands of activities around Spain. You can book a tour of the Madrid Royal Palace, skip the line and explore the Alhambra de Granada, or even jump on a Tenerife Dolphin cruise!
Travel Insurance: Never travel abroad without protection! We’ve been using SafetyWing for the last few years on the road and they are there when we need them.