As a half-Spanish citizen, I can tell you that traveling Spain is one of the most amazing experiences you can get to do! Not only because of the people, who are wonderful on its own, but for the impressive landscapes and delicious local food you’ll taste! But Spain is a pretty unique country to travel to, especially if you come from a different culture, so read these useful tips to have a perfectly authentic experience!
1. You’ll Hear More Languages Than Spanish
So this is something many travelers do not know. Apart from speaking Spanish, which is the most used language in the country, you’ll hear Galician, Basque and Catalan. It’s useful to know this in case you’re heading to places like Galicia, Basque Country, Catalonia, Valencia, Mallorca…) because many signs in the streets and even in restaurants may not be written in Spanish. Here you have an useful guide about all languages spoken in Spain.
2. Locals Have Lunch & Dinner LATE
And when I say late, I mean 3 and 10 pm. These are the usual hours you’ll see Spanish people eat, if not later. They have kind of a relaxed mood, so it’s very normal to find restaurants and bars serving manus around 4 and 11 pm. (These places, where food is served until late, are the ones to go, where menus aren’t adapted to tourists and food is 100% local).
3. Siesta Is Not Something Everyone Does
I feel like making this clear is important. Please, do not follow all stereotypes you hear out there! It’s very common to say that people from Spain (and especially from Andalusia) nap at all times, which isn’t actually true. Workdays are quite long in general and if you head to bigger cities like Madrid, Barcelona or Valencia, shops will be open all day long.
4. Paella Is Not a Specialty in Every Community
Paella is very well known as a typical Spanish dish. But… it’s actually typical only in Valencia (and some parts of Balearic Islands), so not all bars will prepare it in the right way. Just by talking to locals you’ll get to know which dish is worth a try wherever you travel to. If you accept suggestions, here you have some: bocadillo de calamares in Madrid, pantumaca in Barcelona, pescaito frito in the coast of Andalusia, Galician octopus in Galicia and lamb in Segovia.
5. Food Dishes Are Shared
Yes, and it’s amazing! I say so based on experience! When you go out to have dinner or lunch, it’s very common for people sit at the table to order a few plates and share them, so everyone can taste a bit of everything. I feel like Mediterranean culture is about sharing for the most part and I’m sure you’ll love all local experiences you'll enjoy here! As well as the two good hours Spanish people take to eat (if they don’t have to go back to work!)
6. Flamenco Is Not a General Hobby
Not even close. It’s pretty weird to see locals going to have some fun with a flamenco show. Of course, it’s something worth checking because dancers (called “bailaores/as”) are really passionate, they involve you in the spectacle as if you were dancing too and there’s no doubt that it has a huge traditional value. But you won’t find a flamenco show in every corner. There are specialized places where shows take places certain days, but they’re not the cheapest plan you’ll come across with. Just so you know.
7. Metros, Buses and Trains Take You Wherever You Want
Connections in Spain are excellent. If you can, skip taking a car and go for the urban connections, they will take you anywhere! Metro in Madrid and Barcelona work until 1.30 am and even later during the weekends. Trains will take you wherever you want across the country. They are really comfortable, same as buses. Some lines even have Wi-Fi and a screen in every seat for travelers to spend their time watching movies or listening to music. And… you won’t be polluting as much, which is something very important to take into consideration when traveling and doing in-destination activities!
8. You Have Great Architecture EVERYWHERE
This is definitely one of the things I love the most about traveling around Spain. Anywhere you go, gothic, romantic and medieval structures will impress you for sure. Spain is full of cathedrals- the ones in Burgos, Santiago de Compostela, Leon, Barcelona and Palma de Mallorca are a true sign of the strong religious feeling you’ll encounter all around Spain. Apart from that, you’ll find modernist museums, aqueducts, mosques and all kinds of Muslim relics to visit (especially in the south: Granada, Almeria and Cordoba).
9. Madrid and Barcelona Aren’t Everything
Okay, they are the most cosmopolitan cities in the country. But that doesn’t mean that the rest of places aren’t worth a visit. Like every country in the world, actually. Visiting Spain out of the beaten is going to make you understand the culture so much more. And people in the smallest villages are so welcoming and warm, even if they don’t understand a single word. (Make sure you learn some basic Spanish if you head to smaller spots!) You will be amazed of how beautiful some tiny villages of the middle part of the country are during the winter. Snow and hot chocolate, what else do you want?
I hope all of these Spain travel tips are useful for all of you who want to explore a bit more this wonderful country. I can’t say enough of how great people make you feel in Spain, how amazing the food is and how you won’t want to leave it once your trip is over. If you’ve been to Spain and have some other tips for making your authentic experiences an unforgattable memory, leave them down below so we can all learn! Responsible traveling is something we have to achieve together! All kinds of tips and advice are useful for our readers from all over the world.
Main picture: Victoriano Izquierdo