In southern Europe, Spain is at the western end of the Mediterranean Sea, and is often visited by British tourists for its sunshine, beaches, friendly locals and cheap drinks. But this diverse country offers much more than sand and sangria. Spain has more UNESCO World Heritage Sites than any country in the world except for China and Italy, and they are set in some of the most glorious scenery. And many are located in some of the most vibrant cities in Europe.
The cities host a plethora of styles and architecture, and a hodgepodge of eras and regimes. Its unique history gives it Arabic and Islamic influences, and a golden past where it ruled the waves and a global empire. Historical sites abound in the countryside and they are worth making the effort to visit – as are the islands dotted about the Mediterranean, most of which have their own unique cultures and histories.
It’s worth noting that Spain is made up of some surprisingly different cultures, from the northern Basque Country, to Catalonia (there are fierce independence movements in both those), with other regions also having a strong local identity, closely tied in with the regions history. This complex country doesn’t disappoint.
UK: Not required for a stay of up to 90 days in duration.
USA: Not required for a stay of up to 90 days in duration.
Clothes are generally of the western fashion – jeans and a t-shirt would fit in casually here. Smart casual is generally worn for an evening out. Spaniards take pride in their appearance, and they respect others that do. Men would be frowned upon for going topless in public unless on a beach or at a swimming pool.
Covering of shoulders, and a longer skirt or shorts are recommended for women visiting religious sites.
Siestas mean that all things – from services and cafes to shops – do slow down (and often come to a full stop) between 2pm and 4pm in the afternoon.
The evening meal is eaten around 9.30pm or later. It can be difficult to get a full meal earlier in the evening, but tourism means that bigger cities cater to earlier appetites.
There is a calmness and leisurely pace to Spanish life, and while cheerful and friendly, you may have to just be patient about waiting for service or while standing in queues.
When passing in the street or supermarket, you are unlikely to get eye contact, and very unlikely to be smiled at or greeted. When meeting with the Spanish people, you'll find that they’re very friendly and easy to get to know, but in the street everyone keeps to themselves and goes about their own business.
Spaniards are very casual about tipping, with most locals only leaving a modest amount or rounding up to the nearest euro. In restaurants and bars for rewarding good service, a substantial tip is anywhere from 7-13% of the total bill. Tip in cash where possible. In lower-end restaurants and bars, tipping is not as common and you can just round up the bill.
Andante Travels will take care of gratuities to restaurant staff, local guides and drivers.