Spain is an endlessly diverse country in terms of landscape, culture and cuisine. Here you will experience something different every day and never get bored. Yet there are a number of thoroughly Spanish experiences, things that as a lover of Spain you must have experienced sooner or later. That’s why we’re performing our ultimate Spanish lead list.
1/ ski and swim on the same day
The Sierra Nevada is home to the southernmost ski area in Europe. In favorable snow years, you can ski here until the end of May. By then, the sun is already shining profusely on the shores of the Costa Tropical, barely 90 kilometers away. So in Spain you can perfectly combine lats with swimming trunks.
2/ Learn to cook paella in Valencia
Valencians take their paella very seriously. This rice dish is deep in the DNA of the city of Valencia and the surrounding region. No better place to learn how to prepare it. During a cooking class, a local will first take you to the market to buy the right ingredients and then get to work with one of those huge pans.
3/ visit the Guggenheim Museum
Not only for the art inside – including by Mark Rothko – but especially for the architectural masterpiece that is this museum. This design by architect Frank Gehry transformed the entire city of Bilbao from an industrial hub to a place where people wanted to be.
4/ taste wine in La Rioja
Spanish wine can perfectly compete with those from France or Italy. The most famous wine region is La Rioja, in the north of the country. Those who like to indulge in noble grape juice can hop from one winery to another here.
5/ behold an Easter procession
Semana Santa is important in Spain. During Holy Week, fraternities in traditional robes roam the streets of cities like Seville and Malaga. As they do so, they carry with them pasos, pompons bearing images of a suffering Jesus or a biblical scene. Also worthwhile for those who do not believe.
6/ experience the flamenco
It’s a Spanish cliché, all right, but try not to be impressed by a performance of this passionate dance. And it’s even harder to sit still to the rhythm of castanets and a flamenco guitar. Opt for a performance in Andalusia, the birthplace of flamenco.
7/ sample chocolate con churros
Churros are the oblong smoute balls that you may know from the carnival at our place. Spaniards dip them in a thick chocolate milk, a popular breakfast especially in the north of the country. Although we recommend you to taste this delicacy in Villajoyosa, a village on the Costa Blanca known for its chocolate.
8/ visit the Alhambra
This Moorish fortress in Granada is one of the most visited tourist attractions in Spain, and for good reason. One of the most famous examples of Islamic architecture, declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. The rest of the city is also worth visiting, with its winding, cobblestone streets, whitewashed houses and brightly colored flower pots.
9/ attend a soccer match
Soccer is considered a religion in Spain, stadiums like Camp Nou or Bernabéu as modern cathedrals. Whether you have sympathy for the tiki-taka of FC Barcelona, the regal image of Real Madrid or the street urchin mentality of an underdog like Atlético, you will never forget the first match you experience in Spain.
10/ venture down the king’s path
In the province of Malaga, El Caminito del Rey, or the King’s Trail, towers a hundred meters above a gorge. Once known as one of the most dangerous hiking trails in the world, it is now thankfully secured with railings. Nevertheless, this is not a trip for those with a fear of heights, but for those who kick on adrenaline.
11/ Relax on the beaches of the Costa Blanca
The Costa Blanca – the white coast of Spain – runs from Denia to Pilar de la Horadada, nearly 250 kilometers of world-class pearly beaches. Whether you want to windsurf, hike, bike, party or just relax at a beach bar, you are guaranteed to get your fill at the Costa Blanca.
12/ surf in the Canary Islands
The Canary Islands, a volcanic archipelago off the coast of Africa, offers winter sun, beautiful nature and beaches. Surfers of all levels can catch waves all year round in Tenerife, Fuerteventura and Gran Canaria. For beginners, these are ideal places to learn to surf.
13/ marvel at Guernica
Art is in Spaniards’ genes. Think Dali, Goya and Miró. This is reflected in a whole host of world-class museums. But if you look at just one painting, let it be Guernica, which impressively depicts the bombing of the city of the same name. Picasso’s masterpiece hangs in the Reina Sofia museum in Madrid.
14/ walk the camino de santiago
Hundreds of thousands of walkers make this centuries-old pilgrimage every year. Yet it is still a unique spiritual experience. Buckle your hiking boots and follow the scallop trail over dusty paths and through majestic forests, all the way to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela.
15/ plunge into the nightlife of Madrid
Spaniards are notorious party animals. When most mortals have long been yawning to go to bed, they really come into their own. Few European cities have as many cafes per capita as Madrid. Even Ernest Hemingway wrote, “In Madrid, no one goes to bed before they have killed the night.” And he could tell!
16/ get lost in pueblos blancos
Andalusia is dotted with pueblos blancos – white villages, not infrequently perched atop cliffs. Get lost in the cobbled winding alleys, stroll past Gothic churches, Moorish castles, past ancient hammans from the Arab era and fresh flower pots.
17/ take a mud bath in the Mar Menor
Some call the Mar Menor, an inland sea in the Murcia region, “the largest swimming pool in the world.” If you like spa procedures and pampering, be sure to stop by the mud baths (
baños de lodo
). There you can rub yourself with beneficial mud for free.
18 / sample jamón
Without a doubt, the foodstuff that Spaniards are most proud of. Jamón iberico, meat from pigs fed on acorns, melts right away in your mouth. And would be one of the secrets to why Spaniards live so long. We don’t know if it’s true, but in this case it’s not a punishment to be sure.
19/ throw tomatoes during La Tomatina
Our mothers always forbade us to play with food, we know. But for this fiesta in Buñol, we make an exception. In the spilliest festival of the year, thousands of contestants tackle each other with more than a hundred tons of tomatoes.
20/ do a night in Ibiza
In fact, during the day you can catch up on your sleep on one of the beaches. Ibiza is known as one of the biggest party metropolises on the planet for a reason, a place where the music is always loud, the nights are balmy and the tubs of sangria and mojito are bottomless.
21/ golf on the Costa del Sol
Alias: Costa del Golf. With 70 golf courses – the highest concentration anywhere in Europe – on the Costa del Sol you can practice your right-handed swing on a different course every day if you wish. Under a bright sun, that speaks, because this region counts more than 300 sunny days a year.
22/ climb the Teide
Spain’s highest mountain is on the Canary Island of Tenerife, a volcanic juggernaut of nearly 4,000 feet that gives you views all the way to the Atlantic Ocean. On the mainland, the Mulhacen in the province reaches farthest toward the sky, nearly 3500 meters.
23/ explore the green north
Spain is infinitely diverse. Living in the south, you may think that it never rains in Spain. But a jaunt along the northern coast quickly adjusts that image. Asturias, for example, turns greener than Mieke Vogels’ underpants. You will also find charming fishing villages, historic towns and castles.
24/ eat pintxos in San Sebastian
Speaking of the north: San Sebastian lures foodies from around the world to the Basque Country. Those come mostly to sample pintxos – tasty morsels, usually on a small baguette. The Basque answer to tapas.
25/ discover the Barcelona of Gaudi
Antoni Gaudi left an indelible mark on Barcelona. From the impressive Sagrada Familia – arguably the oldest building site in the world – to the fairy-tale Park Güell, his influence is felt everywhere. Park Güell lends itself perfectly to sunset picnics.