) is a diverse country in Mediterranean Europe, sharing the Iberian Peninsula with Portugal at the western end of the Mediterranean Sea. Among many places, Spain is the home of the thriving capital Madrid, the vibrant coastal city of Barcelona, the famous running with the bulls at Pamplona, and the city where flamenco was born: Sevilla.Regions
AndalucÃaAragÃ³nAsturias (Spanish: Principado de Asturias)Balearic Islands (Spanish: Islas Baleares, Catalan: Illes Balears or Ses illes)Basque Country (Spanish: PaÃs Vasco, Basque: Euskadi)Canary Islands (Spanish: Islas CanarÃas)CantabriaCastile-La Mancha (Spanish: Castilla-La Mancha)Castile and Leon (Spanish: Castilla y LeÃ³n)Catalonia (Spanish: CataluÃ±a, Catalan: Catalunya)CeutaExtremaduraGalicia (Spanish: Galicia, Galician: Galiza)La Rioja (Spain)Madrid - the region includes the second, fourth and current capital of Spain Madrid with three world class museums (Prado, Sofia, and Thyssen-Bornemisza), and Aranjuez, the Escorial,Salamanca, Segovia, Toledo, and the Valle de los Caidos are also nearbyMelillaMurciaNavarra (Spanish: Navarra, Basque: Nafarroa)Valencia (Spanish: Comunidad Valenciana, Catalan: Comunitat Valenciana)
Spain is now divided into autonomÃas or autonomous regions/cities. Some of the autonomÃas - notably the ones with languages other than Spanish as co-official (Basque Country or Euskadi -Basque language-, Galicia -Galician language-, Catalonia or Catalunya, Valencian Country or PaÃs ValenciÃ , and Balearic Islands or Illes Balears -Catalan language-) and AndalucÃa - are historical regions. Travelers to these parts of the Iberian Peninsula will do well to respect their history and language. The Canary Islands are actually off the coast of Morocco and are properly in Africa and so are the two Autonomous cities: Ceuta and Melilla.Cities
Spain has hundreds of interesting cities. In addition to its vibrant capital, Madrid, here are 9 of the most popular destinations:Barcelona - lively cosmopolitan city that is capital of the Catalans, and famous for the architecture of Antoni GaudiBilbao - former industrial city, home to the Guggenheim MuseumCadiz - oldest city in Western Europe, celebrates a famous carnivalCÃ³rdoba - The Grand Mosque ('Mezquita') of Cordoba is one of the world's finest buildingsGranada - stunning city in the south, surrounded by snow capped mountains of the Sierra Nevada, home of La AlhambraSan SebastiÃ¡n - wealthy city with a large sandy beach baySantander - well-styled city with beautiful coastal parksSeville - a beautiful, verdant city, and home to the world's third largest cathedralValencia - paella was invented here, has a very nice beachOther destinations
Andorra - a principality nestling in the Pyrenees, and one of the smallest countries in the world BÃ©jar - really nice place to visitEl Arenosillo - rocket launch site near MazagÃ³n in Huelva, AndaluciaJerez de la Frontera - home of sherry wineLa Rioja - Rioja wine and fossilized dinosaur tracks PeÃ±iscola - nice town on the east coast with a medieval castleRÃas Altas (comprising the province of Lugo plus the northern part of the province of CoruÃ±a) - beautiful beaches and foodRÃas Baixas (comprising the province of Pontevedra plus the southern part of the province of CoruÃ±a) - beautiful beaches and foodRonda - beautifully preserved old town in southern Spain with the oldest still-used bullring in Spain - it was the location for the film of Carmen with Placido DomingoSalamanca - home to the oldest University in Spain, the premier learning center during the middle agesToledo - the first capital of Spain, the eclesiastical capital of SpainValladolid - the third capital of Spain, a nice place to visitUnderstand
Once the center of a global empire with territories in North, Central and South America, Africa i.e. Equatorial Guinea, andAsia i.e. the Philippines, contemporary Spain has overcome civil war and fascism in the 20th century to stand proud and centered in itself. With great beaches, fun nightlife, many cultural regions and historic cities, Spain makes a great destination for any kind of trip.
Spain holds a historical attachment to its neighbors within the Iberian Peninsula i.e. Andorra and Portugal, to its former colonies, to its former citizens and their descendants, and to a special category of former citizens i.e. Sephardic Jews. Individuals from these categories may acquire Spanish citizenship in an accelerated fashion which may or may not require that the individuals reside in Spain, and residency requirements are as short as one year and as long as three years depending on the category. Citizens of countries in the European Union may acquire citizenship after residing in Spain for five years. Citizens of any other country may acquire citizenship after residing in Spain for ten years.
The population of Spain is exhibiting a positive growth in large part due to migrations from economically and/or politically unstable areas of South America i.e. Argentina, Colombia, Cuba, Ecuador, and Peru, and Europe i.e. Romania that have either a historical and/or a linguistic attachment to Spain.
A country of large geographical and cultural diversity, Spain is sometimes a surprise to people who know its reputation for great beach holidays. There is everything from lush meadows , snowy mountains, huge marsh and salines, and some desert zones in east Andalusia.Get in
Spain is a member of the European Union and the Schengen Agreement, which governs its visa policies. No visa is required for citizens of other EU member states, and those of nations with whom the European Union has special treaties. There are no border controls between Spain and other Schengen Agreement nations, making travel less complicated.
As of May 2004 citizens of the following countries do not
need a visa for entry into Spain. Note that citizens of these countries (except EU nationals) must not stay longer than three months in half a year and must not work in Spain: Andorra, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bermuda, Bolivia, Brazil, Brunei, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, El Salvador, Estonia, Finland, France, Greece, Guatemala, Honduras, Hong Kong, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macao, Malaysia, Malta, Mexico, Monaco, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Netherlands, Norway, Panama, Paraguay, Poland, Portugal, Romania, San Marino, Sweden, Switzerland, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, South Korea, United Kingdom, United States, Uruguay, Vatican City and Venezuela.
There are a number of ways to get into Spain. From neighboring European countries, a drive with the car or a train ride are feasible; visitors from further away will probably be using air travel. By plane
The busiest airports are Madrid, A CoruÃ±a, Palma de Mallorca, Malaga, Murcia, Barcelona, Jerez de la Frontera, Seville, Valencia, Bilbao, Alicante, Santiago de Compostella
All are listed on the following web page which is the official site of the airports governing body.By trainRENFE - Timetables and PricesFEVE - FEVE's web page
Train system in Spain is modern and reliable, most of the trains are brand new and the punctuality rate is one of the highest in Europe, the only problem is that not all the populated areas have a train station, sometimes small towns don't have one, in those cases you need to take a bus. Another issue with the Spanish Rail network is that the lines are disposed in a radial way so almost all the lines head to Madrid. That's why sometimes traveling from one city to another geographically close to it might take longer by train than by bus if they are not in the same line. Always check whether the bus or the train is more convenient.By bus
Bus travel in Spain is increasingly an attractive option for people traveling on a tight budget. Thanks largely to European Union funding, Spain's road network has vastly improved over the past twenty years, so bus journeys don't take nearly as long as they used to.
There are lots of private bus companies offering routes to all major Spanish cities. If you want to travel around Spain by bus, the best idea is to go to your local bus station (Apart from Madrid and Barcelona, most towns and cities have just one) and see what is available.
Traveling by bus in Spain is usually reliable (except on peak holiday days when roads can be very crowded and you should expect long delays on popular routes),coaches are modern and comfortable. You can expect to pay about 8 Euros per 100km.By boatGet around
By trainRenfe is the Spanish national rail carrier. Long-distance trains always get in time, but be aware that short-distance trains (called CercanÃas) can bear long delays, from ten to twenty minutes, and especially in the Barcelona area. To be safe, always take the train before the one you need.By bus
The easiest way to get around most parts of Spain is by bus. Most major routes are point to point, and very high frequency. There is a different operator for each route, but usually just one operator per route. At the bus station, each operator has its own wicket. The staff at any of them are usually happy to tell you who operates which route, however.Movelia - provides schedules and fares for most operators.By thumb
Hitchhiking is not
illegal, however Spain does not have a strong hitchhiking culture and getting a ride can be much more difficult than in other European countries.
A good alternative to hitchhiking is organized ride sharing, popular in many european countries. There are several ride sharing communities on the web, for example viajamosjuntos.org.By boat
Wherever you are in Spain, from your private yacht you can enjoy gorgeous scenery and distance yourself from the inevitable crowds of tourists that flock to these destinations. May is a particularly pleasant time to charter in the regions of Costa Brava, Costa Blanca and the Balearic Islands as the weather is good and the crowds have yet to descend. The summer months of July and August are the hottest and tend to have lighter winds. There is no low season for the Canary Islands, as the weather resembles springtime all year round.
If you would like to bareboat anywhere in Spain, including the Balearic or Canary Islands, a US Coast Guard License is the only acceptable certification needed by Americans to bareboat. For everyone else, a RYA Yacht Master Certification or International Certificate of Competence will normally do.
Although a skipper may be required, a hostess/chef may or may not be necessary. Dining out is strong part of Spanish custom and tradition. If you are planning on docking in a port and exploring fabulous bars and restaurants a hostess/cook may just be useful for serving drinks and making beds. Extra crew can take up valuable room on a tight ship.Sailing in Spain - All types of yachts for charter, skippered and bareboat. Hire a motor boat, sailing boat, exclusive mega yacht, wooden gulet or motor sailer for an unique nautical experience.Talk
Unsurprisingly, the primary language used in Spain is Spanish (espaÃ±ol
), but it's more complicated than that. It differs in pronunciation and other details ( and is designated as the Burgos/Castilian dialectic pattern) from the Spanish spoken in most of Latin America (which is designated as the Andalusian/Sevillian dialectic pattern) and taught as a foreign language in the United States. It is part of the Romance family of languages (which together with Portuguese, Italian, French, and Romanian constitutes one of the main branches of that family), and is more properly called Castilian
). It is consistently pronounced (except in the Canary Island where the Andalusian/Sevillain dialectic pattern still predominates) and almost universally understood throughout Spain, and is the day-to-day language of the majority of Spaniards.
However, despite efforts by Franco in the mid 20th century (and earlier regimes) to impose Castilian upon the the rest of the nation, there are several other languages and many dialects spoken in various part of Spain. These languages are dominant in their respective regions, and following their legalization in the 1976 constitution, in several areas they are co-official with Castilian. With one exception (Basque), the languages of the Iberian Peninsula are all part of a dialect continuum associated with the Romance family of languages (French-Occitan-Provencal, Galego-Portuguese, Asturian-Spanish) and are fairly easy to understand if you know Castilian well. Learning a little of the local languages where you will be traveling will help endear you to the locals.Catalan (Catalan: catalÃ , Castilian: catalÃ¡n), is a distinct language similar to Castilian but related to the L'Oc branch of the French language group and specifically associated with Provencal. Various dialects are spoken in the northeastern region of Catalonia, the Balearic Islands, and Valencia (where it is often referred to as ValenciÃ ), east of AragÃ³n, Murcia, as well as neighboring Andorra and southern France. Certain dialects are referred as MallorquÃ after Majorca, MenorquÃ after Menorca, and Eivissenc after Ibiza (Eivissa).Galician (Galician: galego, Castilian: gallego), very closely related to Portugese, Galician is spoken in Galicia and the western portion of Asturias. Galician predates Portuguese and is deemed one of the four main dialects of the Galician-Portuguese family group which includes Brazilian, Southern Portuguese, Central Portuguese, and Galician.Basque (Basque: euskara, Castilian: vasco), a language unrelated to Castilian (or any other known language), is spoken in the the three provinces of the Basque Country, on the two adjecent provinces on the French side of the Spain-French border, and in Navarre. Basque is unrelated to any Romance language or to any branch of the Indo-European or Indo-Iranian family of languages. It currently remains unclassified and is deemed a linguistic isolate seemingly unrelated to any branch of the linguistic family tree. Asturiano (Asturiano: asturianu, Castilian: asturiano, also known as bable), is spoken in the province of Asturias, where it enjoys semi-official protection. It was also spoken in rural parts of Leon, Zamora, Salamanca, in a few villages in Portugal (where it is called Mirandes) and in villages in the extreme north of Extremadura. While the constitution of Spain explicitly protects Basque, Balearic-Catalan-Valencian under the term Catalan, Galician, and Spanish, it does not explicitly protect Asturian. The province of Asturias explicitly protects it and Spain implicitly protects it by not objecting before the Supreme Court. Aragonese (Aragonese: aragonÃ©s, Castilian: aragonÃ©s, also known as fabla), is spoken in the north of AragÃ³n, but is not recognized as an official language. This language is similar to Catalan and Castilian with some Basque and Occitan (southern France) influences.Aranes (Castilian: AranÃ©s, Catalan: AranÃ¨s), is spoken in the Aran Valley, and is recognized as an official language of Catalonia (not of Spain). This language is strongly related to Occitan.
In addition to the native languages, French, English, and German are commonly studied in school, so locals may be conversant in various languages specially in areas related to the tourist industry. It is not unusual to find a waiter in a restaurant that is fluent in English, French, and German because the typical tourist in Spain is British, French, or German.Do
Spain has a lot of local festivals that are worth going to.CÃ³rdoba en Mayo (Cordoba in May) - great month to visit the Southern cityLas Cruces (1st week in May) - big flower-made crosses embellishing public squares in the city center, where you will also find at night music and drinking and lot of people having fun!Festival de Patios - one of the most interesting cultural exhibitions, 2 weeks when some people open doors of their houses to show their old Patios full of flowersCata del Vino Montilla-Moriles - great wine tasting in a big tent in the city center during one week in MayFallas - Valencia's festival in March - burning the "fallas" is a mustSeville's April Fair - flamenco dancing, drinking sherry, bullfightsHoly week - best in Seville and the rest of Andalusia; also interesting in ValladolidCarnival - best in Santa Cruz de Tenerife and CÃ¡dizCabalgata de los Reyes Magos (Three wise men parade) - on the eve of epyphany, 5th of January, the night before Spanish kids get their Christmas presents, it rains sweets and toys in every single town and cityLa Tomatina - a giant tomato fightMoros y Cristianos (Moors and Christians, mostly found in Southeastern Spain during spring time) - parades and "battles" remembering the fights of medieval agesContact
To call home cheap you may opt to buy prepaid calling cards which are widely available in newspapers or groceries stores around the city. Simply ask for a "tarjeta telefonica".
Another convenient alternative is to use call-through services such as http://www.chollofon.com. By simply dialling an access number before the number you wish to call you will enjoy pretty cheap international calls. For example you can call US and most European countries for only 2ct/min by dialling 901 888 020. You can use it directly from any landline or payphone. Buy
Spain is part of the European Union and the Eurozone; as such it replaced Spanish pesetas with the Euro (symbol: â‚¬) in the year 2002. Since it has been only a few years since the introduction of Euro cash, a few people will still use the old national currency names. For example, it is entirely possible that a Spaniard would still refer to peseta. They mean Euros and Cents, so just mentally substitute the two.
Do not expect anybody to accept other types of currency, or to be willing to exchange currency. An exception are shops and restaurants at airports. These will generally accept at least US Dollars at a slightly worse exchange rate. If you wish to exchange money, you can do so at any bank (some may require that you have an account there before they will exchange your money), where you can also cash in your traveller's cheques. Currency exchanges, once a common sight, have all but disappeared since the introduction of the Euro. Again, international airports are an exception to this rule.
Credit cards are well accepted. Most ATMs will allow you to withdraw money with your credit card, but you'll need to know your card's PIN for that. Notice many Spanish stores will ask for your passport, driving license or ID card before accepting your credit card. Although somewhat awkward for people from Eurozone countries that do not have an ID Card, this measure helps avoid credit card robbery.Eat
The Spanish are very passionate about their food and wine and Spanish cuisine. Spanish food can be described as quite light with a lot of vegetables and a huge variety of meat and fish. The Spanish cuisine does not use many spices; it relies only on the use of high quality ingredients to give a good taste. Bars and fast food
The entry level to Spanish food is found in bars as tapas
, which are a bit like "starters" or "appetizers", but are instead considered side orders to accompany your drink. Some bars will offer a variety of different tapas; others specialize. A Spanish custom is to have one tapa and one small drink at a bar, then go to the next bar and do the same. A group of two or more individuals may order two or more tapas
or order raciones
instead, which are a bit larger in order to share. Tourists are easily spotted when they load their plates full of tapas.
Fast food has not yet established a strong grip on the Spaniards and you will find McDonalds and Burger King only in bigger towns in the usual places. The menu can be a surprise since it has been customized to appeal to the locals and beer, salads, yogurt primarily Dannon, and wine are prominent. Pizza is increasingly popular and you will find some outlets in bigger towns but it can be their own homegrown franchise, TelePizza, as well as Pizza Hut that you will find.Restaurants
Restaurants deliver a wide range of food. In coastal areas seafood deserves some attention, especially on the north Atlantic coast. Spanish are very concerned about the freshness of seafood and you may place an order only to have the waiter tell you that he can not serve this dish, because they did not receive this particular seafood freshly that day. It is very unlikely to find dishes prepared from frozen fish in a real Spanish restaurant. Obviously so much freshness has its toll and seafood is quite pricey. Meat products are usually of very good quality, because Spain has maintained quite a high percentage of free range animal. A specialty is "jamÃ³n iberico" from free range pigs.Tipping
A service charge is automatically included in the bill, but a little extra tip is common and you are free to increase that if you are very pleased. Obviously you donâ€™t have to tip a lousy waiter. You would typically leave the small change after paying with a note.Special offers
Many restaurants offer a complete lunch meal for a fixed price – "menÃº del dÃa" – and this often works out as a bargain. Water and wine are commonly included in the price.Lunch and dinner times
Spaniards have a different eating timetable than most people are used to, spreading meals out over a longer period of the day. Breakfast is of course eaten first thing of the day. The main lunch time starts around 2-3 pm. Most shops and public offices will also close from 1:30 pm to 4:30 or 5 pm, excluding those located in large malls or belonging to big stores. Dinnertime starts at around 9 or 10 pm so donâ€™t be surprised that a restaurant looks completely deserted at 8 pm and crowded at 11 pm. Normally, restaurants in big cities don't close until midnight during the week and 2-3 am during the weekend.Touristy places
Typical Spanish food can be found all over the country, however top tourist destinations such as Costa Brava and Costa del Sol have turned all existing traditions upside down. Meaning that drinks are generally more expensive (about double) and it is difficult to find proper Spanish food in the tourist centers. However you will get Schnitzel, original English breakfast, Pizza, Donair, and frozen fish. However, if you are prepared to look a little harder, then even in the busiest tourist towns, you can find some exceptional traditional Spanish restaurants. If you are on the coast then think fish and seafood and you wont be disappointed.Spanish dishes
Typical dishes are:Mariscos: Shellfish. Best shellfish in the world you can eat in the province of Pontevedra.Calamares en su tinta: Squid in its ink.Chipirones a la plancha: Grilled Little squids.Caracoles: Snails in a hot sauce.PescaÃto frito: Delicious fried fish that can be found mainly in southern SpainChorizo: Spain's most popular sausage is made from pork, ham, salt, garlic and pepper and is produced in multitude of varieties, in different sizes, shapes, short and long, spicy, in all different shades of red, soft, air dried and hard or smoked.Cheese: Spain offers a wide variety of regional cheeses. The most famous one is the "Queso Manchego"Fabada asturiana: Bean stew from Asturias.Gambas al ajillo: Prawns with garlic and chile. Fantastic hot stuff.Gazpacho Andaluz: Cold vegetable soup. Best during the hot weather. It's like drinking a salad. Merluza a la Vizcaina: The Spanish are not very fond of sauces. One of the few exception is merluza a la Vasca. The dish contains hake (fish of the cod family) prepared with white asparagus and green peas. Morcilla: Sausages made from pig blood flavoured with anise, it comes as a fresh, smoked or air dried variety. Aceitunas, Olivas: Olives, often served for nibbling.Lentejas EspaÃ±olas: A dish made from lentils with chorizo sausage and/or Serrano ham.Potajes or pucheros: Garbanzo beans stew at its bestÂ¡Â¡Paella: Famous rice dish originally from Mediterranean area. There are different variations: seafood, chicken and rabbit, etc. Pimientos rellenos: Peppers stuffed with minced meat or seafood. The peppers in Spain taste different than all other peppers in Europe.Potaje de espinacas y garbanzos: Chick pea stew with spinach. Typical of SevilleJamÃ³n Serrano: Air/salt cured ham similar to Italian Parma Ham. Ask for "Pata Negra" ham and you will taste the best ham in the world.Tortilla de patatas: Spanish omelette. Probably the most popular dish in Spain. You can easily assess how good a restaurant is by having a small piece of its potato tortillas.Churros: Typical spanish breakfast or for tea time. Served with hot chocolate drink.Drink
The drinking age in Spain is 16, however some bars and nightclubs restrict to persons over 18. Bars
Probably one of the best places to meet people in Spain is in bars. Everyone visits them and they are always busy and sometimes bursting with people. There is no age restriction imposed to enter these premises although children and adolescents will not be served alcoholic drinks. Age restrictions for the consumption of alcohol are clearly posted at bars and are enforced more often. It is not uncommon to see an entire family at a bar.
Bars are mainly to have drink and a small tapa
while socializing and decompressing from work or studies. Usually Spaniards can control their alcohol drink consumption better than their northern Europeans and drunk people are rarely seen at bars or on the streets. A drink, if ordered without an accompanying tapa, is always served with a "minor" or inexpensive tapa as a courtesy. It is considered bad form to drink alcohol without eating thus discouraging drinking for its own sake i.e. binge drinking.
The tapa, and the related pincho, trace their existence in Spain to both acting as a cover on top of a cup of wine to prevent flies from accessing it, and as a requirement of law when serving wine at an establishment during the middle ages.Beer
The Spanish beer is not too bad at all and well worth a try. Most popular local brands include San Miguel, Cruzcampo, Mahou and many others, including local brands at most cities; import beers are also available. A great beer is 'Mezquita' (Cervezas Alhambra), try to find it! In Spain, beer is often served from a tap in 25 cl ("caÃ±a") or 33 cl ("tubo") tube glasses. Bigger servings are rare, but you can also ask for a "corto", "zurito" (round the Basque country) or simply "una cerveza" or "tanque" (south of the country) to get a half size beer, perfect to drink in one go and get quickly to the next bar while having tapas.
If you're in Barcelona (or Catalonia, in general), the best beer available is the Pilsner-type Estrella Damm (5.4 alc.) and the stronger Voll Damm (double malt, 7.2 alc.). They are very tasty, refreshing and bitter. Beware with Voll Damm, it's strong and makes quite easy to get drunk without even realizingCava
Cava is Spanish sparkling wine and was invented after a long lasting dispute with the French about the right name for the sparkling wine. The Spanish called it for a long time champan, but the French argued that champagne can made only from grapes grown in the Champagne region in France. Nevertheless, Cava is a quite successful sparkling wine and 99% of the production comes from the area around Barcelona.Sangria
Sangria is drink made of wine and fruits and usually is made from simple wines. You will find sangria mainly in touristy places prepared for tourists. Spanish prepare sangria for fiestas only and not every day as seen in Mallorca.
Sangria in restaurants aimed for foreigners are best avoided, but it is a very good drink to try if a Spaniard prepares it for a fiesta!Sherry (Fino)
The wines around Jerez are very high in alcohol and they produce the famous sherry. If you would like to have one in a bar you have to order a fino. Wine
Spain is a country with great wine-making and drinking traditions: 22% of Europe's wine growing area is located in Spain, however the production is about half of what the French produce. The most famous wines come from Rioja region, less known but also important comes from Ribera del Duero. The latter are becoming more and more popular and are slightly more expensive than Rioja wines. White, rose and red wines are produced, but the red wines are certainly the most important ones.
The primary red grape used is Tempranillo, the primary white grape used is Albarino, and the privary Jerez grape used is Pedro Ximenez but others can be found. The grapes used are quite delicate and thus there is a reduction in yield.
Spanish quality wines are produced using an aging process and they have been in a oak barrel for at least one year before they can be labeled Crianza and then spend another two years in a bottle before been sold. Reservas are aged for five years and Gran Reservas are aged for 10 years.
Spain has seen a tremendous rise in wine prices over the last decade and Spanish wines are not as much of a bargain as they were a decade ago. However you will still find 5, 10 and 20 year old wines at affordable prices especially when compared with similar quality wines from Australia, Chile, France, and the US.
To order a red wine in a bar you have to ask for a "un tinto por favor", white wine "un blanco por favor" and last but not least rose "un rosado por favor".
Young people in Spain have developed their own way to have wine. When having "botellones" (big outdoor parties with drink and lots of people from the same town), most of them will be mixing some red wine with Coke and drink such mix straight from the Coke bottle. The name of this drink is "calimocho" or "kalimotxo" (in the Basque Coutry and Navarre) and is really very popular... But don't ask for it while in an upper class bar, or among adults, since they will most certainly not approve of the idea!Sleep
There are many different kinds of tourist accommodations, ranging from hotels, pensions, rented villas, to campings or even monasteries.Casa Rural, the B&Bs of Spain
If you are looking for a more homely sort of accommodation then it is recommended that you look for a Casa Rural. A Casa Rural is the equivalent to a Bed and Breakfast or a GÃ®tes. Not all houses are situated in the countryside, as the name implies. Some are situated in the smaller towns. Casa Rurals, throughout Spain, vary in quality and price. In some regions, like ], they are strictly controlled and inspected. Other regions are not so though in their regulations.
Here is a or that owners have to pay to be on There are reviews of the houses, in several languages.Paradores
("inn") is a state owned hotel in Spain (rating from 3 to 5 stars). These are a chain of hotels founded in 1928 by the Spanish King Alfonso XIII. The unique aspects of Paradores are their location and their history. Found mostly in historical buildings, such as convents, Moorish castles (like La Alhambra), or haciendas, Paradores are the exact opposite of the uncontrolled development found in coastal regions like the Costa del Sol. Hospitality has been harmoniously integrated with the restoration of castles, palaces and convents, rescuing from ruin and abandonment monuments representative of Spain's historical and cultural heritage.
For example the Parador in Santiago de Compostella is located next to the Cathedral in a former royal hospital built in the year 1499. Rooms are decorated in an old-fashioned way, but nevertheless have modern facilities. Other notable Paradores are in Arcos de la Frontera, Ronda, Santillana del Mar (Altamira cave) as well as more than 100 other destination all over Spain.
Paradores will serve breakfast (about â‚¬10) and often have very good local cuisine typical for their region (about â‚¬25).
Accommodation prices are a good value, when you consider that the hotels are often found in the heart of scenic areas, varying from â‚¬85 for a double room to â‚¬245 for a twin room (like in Granada). Two of the most beautiful paradors are in LÃ©on and Santiago de Compostela.
There are some promotions available:60+ can enjoy a discount.youngsters under 30 can visit the paradors at a fixed rate of â‚¬35 per person.two nights half board have a discount of 20%.a dreamweek of 6 nights is cheaper.5 nights at â‚¬42 per person.
The promotions do not always apply, especially in August they are not valid. It's not possible to have a discount at the parador of Granana, which had no vacancies, unless you book at least 6 months before your arrival.
There are plenty of hostels in Spain, mostly in Madrid. Prices can vary from â‚¬15 to â‚¬25 per night.Stay safe
There are four kinds of police: 'PolicÃa Municipal' or 'Local' (metropolitan police). Uniforms change from town to town, but they use to wear black or blue clothes with pale blue shirt and a blue cap (or white helmet) with a checkered white-and-blue strip. This kind of police keeps order and rules the traffic inside cities, and they are the best people in case you are lost and need some directions. Although you can't officially report theft to them, they will escort you to 'Policia Nacional' headquarters if required, and they will escort the suspects to be arrested also, if needed.'PolicÃa Nacional' wear dark blue clothes and blue cap (sometimes replaced by a baseball-like cap), unlike PolicÃa Municipal, they do not have a checkered flag around their cap/helmet. Inside cities, all offenses/crimes should be reported to them, although the other police corps would help anyone who needs to report an offense.'Guardia Civil' keeps the order outside cities, in the country, and regulates traffic in the roads between cities. You would probably see them guarding official buildings, or patrolling the roads. They wear plain green military-like clothes; some of them wear a strange black helmet ('tricornio') resembling a toreador cap, but most of them use green caps or white motorcycle helmets.Given that Spain has a high grade of political autonomy released to its regional governments, some of them also have regional law forces, such as PolicÃa Foral in Navarra, the Ertzaintza in the Basque Country or the Mossos d'Esquadra in Catalonia.
All kinds of police also wear high-visibility clothing ("reflective" jackets) while directing traffic, or in the road.Theft
Spain is a safe country, but you should take some basic precautions:Try not to show expensive cameras in depressed areas.Try not to show the money you have in your wallette or purse.Always watch your bag or purse in touristic places, buses, trains and meetings.Do not carry large amounts of money with you.Beware of pickpockets when visiting areas with large numbers of people, like crowded buses or the Puerta del Sol.In Madrid and also in Barcelona, some criminal groups think that people from the far east (especially Japan) are easy prey.Don't hesitate to report crimes to local police.In general, you must bear in mind that those areas with a larger number of foreign visitors, like some crowded vacation resorts in the East Coast, are much more likely to attract thieves than places which are not so popular among tourists.Avoid gypsy women offering rosemary, refuse it always; they will read your future, ask for some money, and your pocket will probably be picked. Some gypsy women also will approach you on the street repeating "Buena suerte" ("good luck") as a distraction for another gypsy woman to try to pickpocket you. Avoid them at all costs.Swindles you should avoid
Some people could try to take advantage of your ignorance of local customs.In Spanish cities, all taxis should have a visible fare table. You shouldn't agree a fixed price to go from an airport to a city: in most cases, the taxi driver will be earning more money than without a pre-agreed tariff.In many places of Madrid, especially near Atocha station, and also in the Ramblas of Barcelona, there are people ('trileros') who play the "shell game". They will "fish" you if you play, and they will most likely pick your pocket if you stop to see other people play. Many of them used to be foreign immigrants.Other things you should knowSpanish cities can be LOUD at night, especially on weekends -- you have been warned.All stores, hotels and restaurants should have an official complaint form, in case you need it.The emergency telephone number (police, firefighters, ambulances) is 112. You may call it from any phone at no cost, in case you need to.Stay healthy
Pharmaceuticals are not sold at supermarkets, they're sold at 'farmacias' (chemistries), identified with a green cross or a Hygeia's cup.People from European Union and a few more European countries can freely use public health system, if they have the appropriate intereuropean sanitary card. That card does not work in private hospitals. Agreements are established to treat people from a few American countries; see the Tourspain link below for more info.However, do not hesitate to go to any healthcare facility should you be injured or seriously ill, as it would be illegal for them not to treat you, even if you are uninsured.Though most foreigners tend to think Spain is a warm place, it can be terribly cold in winter, especially in the Central Region and in the North, and in some places it is also rainy in summer. Remember to travel with adequate clothes.In summer, avoid direct exposure to sunlight for long periods of time to prevent sunburn and heatstroke. Drink water, walk on the shady side of street and keep a container of sun cream (suntan lotion) handy.Most cities have a good water supply, especially Madrid, but you may prefer bottled water to the alkaline taste of water in the east and south.Respect
Spaniards in general are very patriotic about both their country and the region in which they live. Try to avoid arguments about whether people from Catalonia or the Basque Country are Spaniards or not.It is customary to kiss friends, family, and acquaintances on both cheeks (without the lips actually making contact with the cheek) upon seeing each other and saying goodbye. Male-to-male kisses of this sort are limited to family members.During lunch or dinner, Spaniards do not begin eating until everyone is seated and ready to eat. Likewise, they do not leave the table until everyone is finished eating.When Spaniards receive a gift or are offered a drink or a meal, they usually refuse for a bit, so as not to seem greedy. This sometimes sparks arguments among especially reluctant people, but it is seen as polite. Remember to offer more than once (on the third try it must be fairly clear if they will accept it or not). On the other hand, if you are interested in the offer, politely smile and decline it, saying that you don't want to be a nuisance, etc. but relent and accept when they insist.When in a car, the elderly and pregnant always ride in the passenger's seat, unless they request not to.Appearing drunk in public is generally frowned upon.
(Spanish: , IPA: É›ËˆspaÉ²a), officially the Kingdom of Spain
(Reino de EspaÃ±a), is a country located in Southern Europe, with three small exclaves in North Africa (all bordering Morocco). The mainland of Spain is bounded on the south and east by the Mediterranean Sea (containing the Balearic Islands), on the north by the Bay of Biscay and on the west by the Atlantic Ocean (containing the Canary Islands off the African coast). Spain shares land borders with Portugal, France, Andorra, Gibraltar, and Morocco. It is the largest of three sovereign states that make up the Iberian Peninsula — the others being Portugal and Andorra.
There are a number of hypotheses as to the origin of the Roman name "Hispania," the root of the Spanish name EspaÃ±a
and the English name Spain.
Spain is a democracy which is organised as a parliamentary monarchy, and it is a member of the European Union since 1986. It is a developed country with the eighth-largest economy in the world.History
Different cultures have settled in the area of modern Spain, such as the Celts, Iberians, Romans, Visigoths, and Moors. For just over five centuries, during the Middle Ages, large areas were under the control of Islamic rulers, a fragment of which survived as late as 1492, when the Christian kingdoms of Castile and AragÃ³n completed the 770 years long process of driving the Moors out. That same year, Christopher Columbus reached the New World, leading to the creation of the world-wide Spanish Empire. Spain became the most powerful country in Europe, but continued wars and other problems gradually reduced Spain to a diminished status. The 20th century was dominated in the middle years by the Franco dictatorship; with the dawn of a stable democracy in 1978, and having joined what is now known as the European Union in 1986, Spain has enjoyed an economic and cultural renaissance.Prehistory and pre-Roman peoples in the Iberian Peninsula
Modern humans in the form of Cro-Magnons began arriving in the Iberian Peninsula from north of the Pyrenees some 35,000 years ago. The best known artifacts of these prehistoric human settlements are the famous paintings in the Altamira cave of Cantabria in northern Spain, which were created about 15,000 BCE.
The historical peoples of the peninsula were the Iberians and the Celts, the former inhabiting the Mediterranean side from the northeast to the southwest, the latter inhabiting the Atlantic side, in the north and northwest part of the peninsula. In the inner part of the peninsula, where both groups were in contact, a mixed, distinctive, culture was present, known as Celtiberian.
The earliest urban culture is believed to be that of the semi-mythical southern city of Tartessos (perhaps pre-1100 BCE). Between about 500 BCE and 300 BCE, the seafaring Phoenicians, and Greeks founded trading colonies along the Mediterranean coast. The Carthaginians briefly took control of much of the Mediterranean coast in the course of the Punic Wars until they were eventually defeated and replaced by the Romans. The base Celt and Iberian population remained in various stages of romanisation, and local leaders were admitted into the Roman aristocratic class.
The Romans improved existing cities, such as Lisbon (Olissipo
) and Tarragona (Tarraco
), and established Zaragoza (Caesaraugusta
), MÃ©rida (Augusta Emerita
), and Valencia (Valentia
). The peninsula's economy expanded under Roman tutelage. Hispania served as a granary for the Roman market, and its harbors exported gold, wool, olive oil, and wine. Agricultural production increased with the introduction of irrigation projects, some of which remain in use. Emperors Trajan, Hadrian, Marcus Aurelius and Theodosius I, and the philosopher Seneca were born in Hispania. Christianity was introduced into Hispania in the first century CE and it became popular in the cities in the second century CE. The romanised Visigoths entered Hispania in 415, and, after the conversion of their monarchy to Roman Catholicism, the Visigothic Kingdom eventually encompassed great part of the Iberian Peninsula Only three small areas in the mountains of northern Spain managed to cling to their independence, Asturias, Navarra and Aragon.
Under Islam, Christians and Jews were recognised as "peoples of the book", and were free to practice their religion, but faced some discriminations. Conversion to Islam proceeded at a steadily increasing pace, starting with the aristocracy, as it offered an escape from the limitations and humiliations of their dhimmi status. By the 11th century Muslims were believed to have outnumbered Christians in Al-Andalus.
The Muslim community in Spain was itself diverse and beset by social tensions. The Berber people of North Africa had provided the bulk of the armies and clashed with the Arab leadership from the Middle East. Over time, large Moorish populations became established, especially in the Guadalquivir River valley, the coastal plain of Valencia, and (towards the end of this period) in the mountainous region of Granada. Mediterranean trade and cultural exchange flourished. Muslims imported a rich intellectual tradition from the Middle East and North Africa. Muslim and Jewish scholars played a major part in reviving and expanding classical Greek learning in Western Europe. Spain's romanised cultures interacted with Muslim and Jewish cultures in complex ways, giving Spain a distinctive culture. The breakup of Al-Andalus into the competing Taifa kingdoms helped the expanding Christian kingdoms. The capture of the central city of Toledo in 1085 largely completed the reconquest of the northern half of Spain. After a Muslim resurgence in the 12th century, the great Moorish strongholds in the south fell to Christian Spain in the 13th century—CÃ³rdoba in 1236 and Seville in 1248—leaving only the Muslim enclave of Granada as a tributary state in the south. Also in the 13th century, the kingdom of AragÃ³n expanded its reach across the Mediterranean to Sicily.
In 1469, the crowns of the Christian kingdoms of Castile and AragÃ³n were united by the marriage of Isabella and Ferdinand. In 1492, these united kingdoms captured Granada, ending the last remnant of a 781-year presence of Islamic rule on the Iberian Peninsula. The year 1492 also marked the arrival in the New World of Christopher Columbus, during a voyage funded by Isabella. That same year, Spain's large Jewish community was expelled during the Spanish Inquisition.
As Renaissance New Monarchs, Isabella and Ferdinand centralised royal power at the expense of local nobility, and the word EspaÃ±a
began to be used to designate the whole of the two kingdoms.
The Spanish Empire expanded to include nearly all of South and Central America, Mexico, southern portions of today's United States, the Philippines in Eastern Asia, the Iberian peninsula (including the Portuguese empire (from 1580)), southern Italy, Sicily, as well as parts of modern Germany, Belgium, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands. It was the first empire about which it was said that the sun did not set. This was an age of discovery, with daring explorations by sea and by land, the opening up of new trade routes across oceans, conquests and the beginning of European colonialism. Along with the arrival of precious metals, spices, luxuries, and new agricultural plants, Spanish explorers and others brought back knowledge that transformed the European understanding of the world.
Of note was the cultural efflorescence now known as the Spanish Golden Age and the intellectual movement known as the School of Salamanca.
The coast villages of Spain and Balearic Islands were frequently attacked by Barbary pirates from North Africa, the Formentera was even temporarily left by its population and long stretches of the Spanish and Italian coasts were almost completely abandoned by their inhabitants. In 1514, 1515 and 1521 coasts of the Balearic Islands and the Spanish mainland were raided by infamous Turkish privateer and Ottoman admiral Hayreddin Barbarossa. According to Robert Davis between 1 million and 1.25 million Europeans were captured by North African pirates and sold as slaves between the 16th and 17th century. These slaves were captured mainly from seaside villages in Spain, Italy and Portugal.
Spain faced decline from the middle decades of the 17th century. A major factor behind this was the strain of continuing military efforts in Europe as the Spanish Habsburgs enmeshed the country in continent wide religious-political conflicts. These conflicts drained it of resources and undermined the European economy. Spain managed to hold on to the majority of the scattered Habsburg empire, and help Imperial forces of the Holy Roman Empire reverse much of the advance of Protestant forces, but it was finally forced to recognise the independence of Portugal (with its empire) and the Netherlands, and eventually began to surrender territories to France following the Thirty Years War.
From the 1640s Spain went into a gradual but seemingly irreversible decline for the rest of the century.
Controversy over succession to the throne consumed the first years of the 18th century. The War of Spanish Succession (1701-1714), a wide ranging international conflict combined with a civil war, cost Spain its European possessions and its position as one of the leading powers on the Continent (although it retained its overseas territories).
During this war, a new dynasty—the French Bourbons—was installed. Long united only by the Crown, a true Spanish
state was established when the first Bourbon king Philip V of Spain united Castile and Aragon into a single state, abolishing many of the regional privileges (fueros).
The 18th century saw a gradual recovery and increasing prosperity through much of the empire. The new Bourbon monarchy drew on the French system of modernising the administration and the economy. Towards the end of the century trade finally began growing strongly. Military assistance for the rebellious British colonies in the American War of Independence improved Spain's international standing.Napoleonic rule and its consequences
This new foreign monarch was regarded with scorn. On May 2, 1808, the people of Madrid began a nationalist uprising against the French army, known to the Spanish as the War of Independence, and to the English as the Peninsular War. Napoleon was forced to intervene personally, defeating the Spanish army and Anglo-Portuguese forces. However, further military action by Spanish guerrillas and Wellington's Anglo-Portuguese army, combined with Napoleon's disastrous invasion of Russia, led to the ousting of the French from Spain in 1814, and the return of King Ferdinand VII.
The French invasion proved disastrous for Spain's economy, and left a deeply divided country that was prone to political instability for more than a century. The power struggles of the early 19th century led to the loss of all of Spain's colonies in Latin America, with the exception of Cuba and Puerto Rico. Spanish-American War
At the end of the 19th century, Spain lost all of its remaining old colonies in the Caribbean and Asia-Pacific regions, including Cuba, Puerto Rico, Philippines, and Guam to the United States after the Spanish-American War of 1898. In 1899, Spain sold its remaining Pacific possessions to Germany.
"The Disaster" of 1898, as the Spanish-American War became known, gave increased impetus to Spain's cultural revival (Generation of '98) in which there was much critical self examination. However, political stability in such a dispersed and variegated land, comprising strongly differentiated regional identities and deeply held divisions over governmental legitimacy, would elude the country for some decades and was ultimately imposed via dictatorship in 1939.The 20th century
The 20th century brought little peace; Spain played a minor part in the scramble for Africa, with the colonisation of Western Sahara, Spanish Morocco and Equatorial Guinea. The heavy losses suffered during the Rif war in Morocco helped to undermine the monarchy. A period of dictatorial rule under General Miguel Primo de Rivera (1923–1931) ended with the establishment of the Second Spanish Republic. The Republic offered political autonomy to the Basque Country, Catalonia and Galicia and gave voting rights to women.
The bitterly fought Spanish Civil War (1936-39) ensued. Three years later the Nationalist forces, led by General Francisco Franco, emerged victorious with the support of Germany and Italy. The Republican side was supported by the Soviet Union and Mexico, but it was not supported by the Western powers due to the British-led policy of Non-Intervention. The Spanish Civil War has been called the first battle of the Second World War; under Franco, Spain was neutral in the Second World War though sympathetic to the Axis.
The only legal party under Franco's regime was the Falange espaÃ±ola tradicionalista y de las JONS
, formed in 1937; the party emphasised anti-Communism, Catholicism and nationalism.
After World War II, Spain was politically and economically isolated, and was kept out of the United Nations until 1955, when it became strategically important for the U.S. to establish a military presence on the Iberian peninsula. In the 1960s, Spain registered an unprecedented economic growth in what was called the Spanish miracle, which gradually transformed it into a modern industrial economy with a thriving tourism sector.
Upon the death of General Franco in November 1975, his personally designated heir Prince Juan Carlos assumed the position of king and head of state. With the approval of the Spanish Constitution of 1978 and the arrival of democracy, political autonomy were established. In the Basque Country, moderate Basque nationalism coexisted with a radical nationalism supportive of the terrorist group ETA.
In 1982, the Spanish Socialist Worker's Party (PSOE) came to power, which represented the return to power of a leftist party after 43 years. In 1986, Spain joined the European Community (which was to become the European Union). The PSOE was replaced by the PP after the latter won the 1996 General Elections; at that point the PSOE had served almost 14 consecutive years in office.21st century
On January 1, 2002, Spain terminated its historic peseta currency and replaced it with the euro, which has become its national currency shared with 13 other countries from the Eurozone. This culminated a fast process of economic modernisation.
On March 11, 2004, a series of bombs exploded in commuter trains in Madrid, Spain. This act of terror killed 191 people and wounded 1,460 more, besides possibly affecting national elections scheduled for March 14, three days after the attack. The Madrid train bombings had an adverse effect on the image of the then-ruling conservative party Partido Popular
(PP) which polls had indicated were likely to win the elections, thus helping the election of Zapatero's Partido Socialista Obrero EspaÃ±ol
(PSOE). There were two nights of incidents around the PP headquarters, with the PSOE and other political parties accusing the PP of hiding the truth by saying that the incidents were caused by ETA even though new evidence that pointed to an Islamic attack started appearing. These incidents are still a cause of discussion, since some factions of the PP suggest that the elections were "stolen" by means of the turmoil which followed the terrorist bombing, which was, according to this point of view, backed by the PSOE.
March 14, 2004, three days after the bombings, saw the PSOE party elected into government, with RodrÃguez Zapatero becoming the new Presidente del Gobierno
or prime minister of Spain thus replacing the former PP administration.Politics
Spain is a constitutional monarchy, with a hereditary monarch and a bicameral parliament, the Cortes Generales
. The executive branch consists of a Council of Ministers presided over by the President of Government (comparable to a prime minister), proposed by the monarch and elected by the National Assembly following legislative elections.
The legislative branch is made up of the Congress of Deputies (Congreso de los Diputados
) with 350 members, elected by popular vote on block lists by proportional representation to serve four-year terms, and a Senate or Senado
with 259 seats of which 208 are directly elected by popular vote and the other 51 appointed by the regional legislatures to also serve four-year terms.
Spain is, at present, what is called a State of Autonomies
, formally unitary but, in fact, functioning as a highly decentralised Federation of Autonomous Communities; it is regarded by many as the most decentralised nation in Europe; for example, all territories manage their own health and education systems, and other territories (the Basque Country and Navarre) manage their own public finances. In Catalonia and the Basque Country, an autonomous police corps widely replaces the State police functions (see Mossos d'Esquadra and Ertzaintza).
The Government of Spain has been involved in a long-running campaign against Basque Fatherland and Liberty (ETA), a terrorist organisation founded in 1959 in opposition to Franco and dedicated to promoting Basque independence through violent means. They consider themselves a guerrilla organisation while they are listed as a terrorist organisation by both the European Union and the United States on their respective watchlists. The current nationalist-led Basque Autonomous government does not endorse ETA's nationalist violence, which has caused over 800 deaths.Administrative divisions
Spain is divided into 17 autonomous communities (comunidades autÃ³nomas
) and 2 autonomous cities (ciudades autÃ³nomas
) - Ceuta and Melilla. These autonomous communities are subdivided into 50 provinces (provincias
Historically, some provinces are also divided into comarcas
(roughly equivalent to a US "county" or an English district). The lowest administrative division of Spain is the municipality (municipio
At 194,884 miÂ² (504,782 kmÂ²), Spain is the world's 51st-largest country. It is comparable in size to Turkmenistan, and is somewhat larger than the U.S. state of California.
On the west, Spain borders Portugal, on the south, it borders Gibraltar (a British overseas territory) and Morocco, through its cities in North Africa (Ceuta and Melilla). On the northeast, along the Pyrenees mountain range, it borders France and the tiny principality of Andorra. Spain also includes the Balearic Islands in the Mediterranean Sea, the Canary Islands in the Atlantic Ocean and a number of uninhabited islands on the Mediterranean side of the strait of Gibraltar, known as Plazas de soberanÃa
, such as the Chafarine islands, the isle of AlborÃ¡n, the "rocks" (peÃ±ones
) of VÃ©lez and Alhucemas, and the tiny Isla Perejil. In the northeast along the Pyrenees, a small exclave town called LlÃvia in Catalonia is surrounded by French territory.
Mainland Spain is dominated by high plateaus and mountain ranges, such as the Sierra Nevada. Running from these heights are several major rivers such as the Tajo, the Ebro, the Duero, the Guadiana and the Guadalquivir. Alluvial plains are found along the coast, the largest of which is that of the Guadalquivir in Andalusia.
Due to Spain's geographical situation and orographic conditions, the climate is extremely diverse; it can be roughly divided in three areas:A temperate version of the Continental climate takes place in the inland areas of the Peninsula (largest city, Madrid).The Mediterranean climate region, which roughly extends from the Andalusian plain along the southern and eastern coasts up to the Pyrenees, on the seaward side of the mountain ranges that run near the coast (largest city, Barcelona).An Oceanic climate takes place in Galicia and the coastal strip by the Bay of Biscay (largest city, Bilbao). This area is often called Green Spain.Territorial disputesTerritories claimed by Spain
Spain has called for the return of Gibraltar, a small but strategic British overseas territory near the Strait of Gibraltar. In referenda held in this regard to date, the overwhelming majority of Gibraltarians have rejected any union with Spain. UN resolutions call on the United Kingdom and Spain to reach an agreement over the status of Gibraltar.Spanish territories claimed by other countries
Morocco claims the Spanish cities of Ceuta and Melilla and the lesser plazas de soberanÃa off the northern coast of Africa. Portugal does not recognise Spain's sovereignty over the territory of OlivenÃ§a / Olivenza
According to the World Bank, Spain's economy is the eighth largest worldwide and the fifth largest in Europe. As of 2005, the absolute GDP was valued at $1.12 trillion, just behind Italy and ahead of Canada (see List of countries by GDP (nominal)). It is listed 22nd in GDP per capita, just behind the United Arab Emirates and ahead of Singapore.
Spain's mixed economy supports a GDP that on a per capita basis is 90% of that of the four leading West European economies and slightly below the European Union average. The centre-right government of former prime minister Aznar worked successfully to gain admission to the first group of countries launching the euro in 1999. Unemployment stood at 7.6% in October 2006, a rate that compares favorably to many other European countries, and which is a marked improvement over rates that exceeded 20% in the early 1990s. Perennial weak points of Spain's economy include high inflation, a large underground economy, low productivity and one of the lowest rates of investment in research and development among developed countries, also an education system slated in OECD reports as one of the worst in Western Europe. Due to the loss of competitiveness, manufacturing jobs are being lost to cheaper workforce countries in Eastern Europe and Asia.
On the brighter side, the Spanish economy is credited for having avoided the virtual zero growth rate of some of its largest partners in the EU. In fact, the country's economy has created more than half of all the new jobs in the European Union over the five years ending 2005. The Spanish economy has thus been regarded lately as one of the most dynamic within the EU, attracting significant amounts of foreign investment.
During the last four decades the Spanish tourism industry has grown to become the second biggest in the world worth approximately 40,000 million Euros in 2006 More recently, the Spanish economy has benefited greatly from the global real estate boom, with construction representing 16% of GDP and 12% of employment. However, the downside of this has been a corresponding rise in the levels of personal debt; as prospective homeowners struggle to meet asking prices, so the average level of household debt has tripled in less than a decade. Among lower income groups, the median ratio of indebtedness to income was 125% in 2005.Demography
In 2007 Spain officially reached 45 million people registered at the PadrÃ³n municipal
, an official record analogous to the British Register office. Spain's population density, at 87.8/kmÂ² (220/sq. mile), is lower than that of most Western European countries and its distribution along the country is very unequal. With the exception of the region surrounding the capital, Madrid, the most populated areas lie around the coast.
The population of Spain doubled during the twentieth century, due to the spectacular demographic boom by the 60's and early 70's. The pattern of growth was extremely uneven due to large-scale internal migration from the rural interior to the industrial cities during the 60's and 70's. No fewer than eleven of Spain's fifty provinces saw an absolute decline in population over the century. Then, after the birth rate plunged in the 80's and Spain's population became stalled, a new population increase started based initially in the return of many Spanish who emigrated to other European countries during the 70's and, more recently, it has been boosted by the large figures of foreign immigrants, mostly from Latin America (38.75%), Eastern Europe (16.33%), North Africa (14.99%) and Sub-Saharan Africa (4.08%). In 2005, Spain instituted a 3-month amnesty program through which certain hitherto undocumented aliens were granted legal residency. Also some important pockets of population coming from other countries in the European Union are found (20.77% of the foreign residents), specially along the Mediterranean costas
and Balearic islands, where many choose to live their retirement or even telework. These are mostly English, French, German, and Dutch from fellow EU countries and, from outside the EU, Norwegian.Immigration in Spain
According to the Spanish government there were 3.7 million foreign residents in Spain in 2005; independent estimates put the figure at 4.8 million people, or 11% of the total population (Red Cross, World Disasters Report 2006). According to residence permit data for 2005, about 500,000 were Moroccan, another 500,000 were Ecuadorian, more than 200,000 were Romanian, and 260,000 were Colombian. Other important foreign communities are British (8.09%), French (8.03%), Argentine (6.10%), German (5.58%) and Bolivian (2.63%). In 2005, a regularisation programme increased the legal immigrant population by 700,000 people. Since 2000, Spain has experienced high population growth as a result of immigration flows, despite a birth rate that is only half the replacement level. This sudden and ongoing inflow of immigrants, particularly those arriving clandestinely by sea, has caused noticeable social tension.
Based on 2004 figures Spain has the second highest immigration rates within the EU, just after Cyprus.
There are a number of reasons to explain this, including Spain's cultural ties with Latin America, its geographical position, the porosity of its borders, the large size of its submerged economy and the strength of the agricultural and construction sectors which demand more low cost labour than can be offered by the national workforce. Another statistically significant factor is the large number of residents of EU origin typically retiring to Spain's Mediterranean coast. In fact, Spain has been Europe's largest absorber of migrants for the past six years, with its immigrant population increasing fourfold as 2.8 million people have arrived (see Immigration to Spain).Minority groups
In the 16th century, a famous minority group, the Gitanos, a Roma people group, began to arrive in Spain.
Spain has a number of descendants of populations from former colonies (especially Equatorial Guinea) and immigrants from several Sub-Saharan and Caribbean countries have been recently settling in Spain. There are also sizeable numbers of Asian immigrants, most of whom are of Chinese, Filipino, Middle Eastern, Pakistani and Indian origins; Spaniards of Latin American descent are sizeable as well and a fast growing segment. Other growing groups are Britons (761,000 in 2006), Germans and other immigrants from western and eastern Europe.
After the 19th century, some Jews established themselves in Spain as a result of migration from former Spanish Morocco, escape from Nazi repression, and immigration from Argentina. Spanish law allows Sephardi Jews to claim Spanish citizenship.Most populous Urban Regions
#Bilbao 946,829 Culture
Spain is, along with Italy, the country with the highest number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the word, with a total of 41.Identities
The Spanish Constitution of 1978, in its second article, recognises historic entities ("nationalitiesâ€œ, a carefully chosen word in order to avoid the more politically loaded "nations") and regions, inside the unity of the Spanish nation. Spain's identity is for some people more an overlap of different regional identities than a sole Spanish identity. Indeed, some of the regional identities may be even in conflict with the Spanish one.
It is this last feature of "shared identity" between the more local level or Autonomous Community and the Spanish level which makes the identity question in Spain complex and far from univocal.Languages
[[Image:Spain languages.PNG|thumb|right|250px|The languages of Spain
The Spanish Constitution, although affirming the sovereignty of the Spanish Nation, recognises historical nationalities.Spanish
(called both espaÃ±ol
in the language itself) is the official language throughout Spain, but other regional languages are also spoken, and are the primary languages in some of their respective geographies. The following languages are co-official with Spanish according to the appropriate Autonomy Statutes.Aranese (aranÃ©s)Basque (euskera).Catalan (catalÃ ), which is known as Valencian in the Autonomous Community of Valencia.Galician (galego).
There are also some other surviving Romance minority languages such as Asturian, Astur-Leonese, Leonese, Extremaduran, Cantabrian, Aragonese, and others. Unlike Aranese, Basque, Catalan and Galician, these do not have any official status because of their very small number of speakers or because of lack of political will in the regions they are spoken.
In the tourist areas of the Mediterranean coast and the islands, English and German are widely spoken by tourists, foreign residents, and tourism workers.Religion
Although Chapter 2 of the Constitution states that no religion shall have a state character, Roman Catholicism is the main religion in the country. About 76% of Spaniards self-identify as Catholics, about 2% with another religious faith, and about 19% identify as non-believers or atheists. A study conducted in October 2006 by the Spanish Centre of Sociological Investigations shows that from the 76% of Spaniards who identify as Catholics or other religious faith, 54% hardly ever or never go to church, 15% go to church some times a year, 10% some time per month and 19% every Sunday or multiple times per week. About 22% of the whole Spanish population attend religious services at least once a month.
Evidence of the secular nature of contemporary Spain can be seen in the widespread support for the legalisation of same-sex marriage in Spain — over 66% of Spaniards support gay marriage according to a 2004 study by the Centre of Sociological Investigations. Indeed, in June 2005 a bill was passed by 187 votes to 147 to allow gay marriage, making Spain the third country in the European Union to allow same-sex couples to marry after Belgium and the Netherlands.
Protestant denominations are also present, all of them with less than 50,000 members, about 20,000 in the case of the Latter-day Saints (Mormons). Evangelism has been better received among Gypsies than among the general population; pastors have integrated flamenco music in their liturgy. Taken together, all self-described "Evangelicals" slightly surpass Jehovah's Witnesses (105,000) in number.
The recent waves of immigration have led to an increasing number of Muslims, who have about 1 million members. Muslims had not lived in Spain for centuries; however, colonial expansion in Northern and Western Africa gave some number of residents in the Spanish Morocco and the Sahara Occidental full citizenship. Nowadays, Islam is the second largest religion in Spain, accounting for approximately 3% of the total population.
Along with these waves of immigration, an important number of Latin American people, who are usually strong Catholic practitioners, have helped the Catholic Church to recover.
Judaism was practically non-existent until the 19th century, when Jews were again permitted to enter the country. Currently there are around 50,000 Jews in Spain, all arrivals in the past century and accounting less than 1% of the total number of inhabitants. Spain is believed to have been about 8% Jewish on the eve of the Spanish Inquisition.Gallery of images
Image:Sagrada familia by night 2006.jpg|The Sagrada Familia by night, Barcelona
Image:SevillaGiralda.jpg|The Cathedral of Seville
Image:Alhambradesdegeneralife.jpg|The Alhambra, Granada
Image:Segovia Aqueduct.JPG|Roman Aqueduct of Segovia
Image:Santuario Novelda.jpg|The Sanctuary of Santa MarÃa Magdalena in Novelda, Spain
Image:Guggenheim-bilbao-jan05.jpg|Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao
Image:Antequera pena de los enamorados.JPG|Antequera, in MÃ¡laga (Spain)
Image:Berria3 lou.JPG|Coast of Cantabria, in the so called Green Spain.
Image:DÃ¼ne4.jpg|The Maspalomas dunes Gran Canaria,Canary Islands
Image:Val d'Aran.jpg|Aran valley, Catalonia
Image:Central pyrenees.jpg|The Pyrenees
Image:Jaen Cathedral.jpg|Jaen Cathedral
John Hickman and Chris Little, "Seat/Vote Proportionality in Romanian and Spanish Parliamentary Elections", Journal of Southern Europe and the Balkans Volume 2, Number 2, November 2000.Harold Raley, "The Spirit of Spain", Houston: Halcyon Press 2001. (ISBN 0-9706054-9-8)George Orwell's Homage to Catalonia.External links
OverviewsSpain: CIA World Factbook entry (Updated on May 16 2006; info as available on January 1 2005)Encyclopaedia Britannica's Spain Portal siteMaps of Spain: satellite images, relief maps, outlines and themed maps of Spanish autonomous communities, provinces and municipalitiesiberianature a guide to the environment, geography, climate, wildlife, natural history and landscape of SpainSpain: The Economist Country Briefings entry (current) (Link to Library of Congress Spain Country Series site (1988))GovernmentLa Constitucion — Spanish ConstitutionCasa Real.es – Official site of the Spa