With its characteristic mix of old and new, energy and calm, Spain is full of beautiful contrasts.
With seventeen autonomous regions, Spain is as varied as it is beautiful. Art-lovers will be in their element, while the natural beauty draws hikers and sun-seekers year after year. Take your time savouring the flavour and culture, whether you choose a major city or an idyllic island.
Soak up the landscape
Spain’s landscape is striking in its diversity, and the mountain ranges — from the Pyrenees and the Picos de Europa to the Sierra Nevada — just beg to be explored. If you’re looking for a walking holiday, you’ll be spoilt for choice. The Camino De Santiago is one of the most well-known and loved network of trails, weaving through Spanish villages and beautiful countryside, although there are lesser known walking routes all over the country if you want something quieter.
With over a thousand kilometres of Mediterranean coast, as well as some interesting port cities and glitzy resort towns, beach-lovers will enjoy a dazzling choice. Culturally vibrant Málaga is located on the Costa del Sol and boasts a lively art district, and a real sense of history (the town is the birthplace of Pablo Picasso). Further up the coast, Valencia has an altogether different look and feel, with its futuristic buildings, great selection of museums, and an exciting dining scene.
Barcelona, known for its whimsical architecture and pretty seaside setting, also has a revered dining and party scene. Enjoy sundowners at the beach or dance all night to live flamenco in one of the city’s many vibey venues. Spain also has some of Europe’s most beautiful islands, popular for their sun-drenched beaches and warm waters. Enjoy the unspoilt beauty of Menorca and La Gomera, or opt for a larger island like Majorca, loved for its beaches, cycling trails and mountain walks.
Explore the cities
Packed with energy and art, Madrid boasts some of the world’s finest galleries and is home to some of the work of Spanish greats like Picasso, Dalí, and Miró. While you’ll easily spend days exploring the rich art scene (and marvelling at the mix of medieval and contemporary architecture), you’ll want to sample some of the city’s culinary offerings too. The fine dining options are extensive, with award-winning spots like La Terraza del Casino that offers a 21-course tasting menu; Santceloni, where ingredients are sourced daily from Spanish ports and markets; and Meson Txistu, where guests can enjoy traditional Basque cuisine.
For a change of pace, and a chance to enjoy some of Spain’s historic charm, Seville offers visitors the chance to wander through quaint, medieval lanes, and see baroque churches and beautiful palaces. The city also hosts some great festivals — the Semana Santa is celebrated over Easter and sees the town come alive with music, theatre and lively processions. Feria de Abril is also held annually, traditionally two weeks after the Semana Santa, and is a week of food, dancing and street parades.
Enjoy the flavours
Whichever part of Spain you choose to visit, the food is likely to be a highlight. A Spanish staple, tapas have gained global popularity, and if you’re familiar with these little dishes you’ll know why. In fact, many of these signature dishes traditionally served as appetisers and snacks, now take centre stage at restaurants around the world. Some well-known favourites include pulpo gallego, which is tender grilled octopus served simply with olive oil, salt and smoked paprika; boquerones fritos, crispy fried anchovies; tigres, mussels stuffed with minced onions and breadcrumbs; and croquettes, lightly breaded, creamy fritters often filled with ham. Other classics include patatas bravas, spicy fried potatoes; tortilla espanola, a traditional Spanish omelette; and a variety of cured meats, like chorizo and jamón.
If you get beyond the tapas menu, be sure to try an authentic paella, which can be made with a variety of ingredients depending on your taste — from shellfish, squid and eel, to pork, chicken and vegetables. Another hearty option is the traditional fabada, a rich stew made with beans and smoked sausages. Gazpacho, a cold vegetable soup typically made with tomatoes, cucumber, peppers and onions, is a flavourful and refreshing choice.
When travelling, dessert is, of course, a must, so don’t miss a taste of leche frita, a cold milk pudding encased in a crunchy fried dough; crema catalana, a custard dessert flavoured with cinnamon and orange rind; and the much-loved churros, fried dough pastries sometimes sprinkled with sugar or dipped in chocolate.