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All-in-one guide for visiting Spain

Lydia Crispin | Communications Assistant
Last updated 27 June 2022
AllClear Travel - Spain

Before you go to Spain

Spain has been a popular destination for us Brits for a long time. In 2019 over 18 million UK tourists headed to the country.

You may have also seen reports about Spain introducing strict new rules. But are these anything to worry about?

Firstly the rules vary from town to town, so it’s worth checking your destination for specific regulations. Most of the changes are relatively common sense, and if you act respectfully, you shouldn’t have any issues.

  • On the beach, avoid littering and don’t use a grill.
  • Some beaches also do not allow smoking.
  • When using the beach showers, do not use shampoo or soap.
  • Using any outdoor area as a lavatory could also net you a sizable fine.
  • Many restaurants are introducing dress codes.
  • Make sure you check your destination to ensure you aren’t caught out.

With so much to experience in Spain, here are some ideas for your next trip

5 Things to do

1. Visit the Alhambra in Granada.

Spain has a long history which features many different cultures. Built in 1238, the Alhambra was chosen for its prestigious location and has played host to the Muslim kings of Granada and, starting in 1492, the Spanish royal court.

You can explore the beautiful palace, which features a blend of Moorish and Hispanic treasures. From royal baths and marble fountains to the impressive ceilings and pomegranate gardens.

It has long been called the eighth wonder of the World.

2. Take in one of the many festivals.

Spain’s calendar is chock full of various festivals, so whenever you take your holiday, there will be something to see.

Many are religious festivals such as Fiesta De La Mercè in Barcelona at the end of September.

Free music concerts are plentiful during this event in honour of the city’s patron saint, Our Lady of Mercy. You can also see traditional dances, giants, and other figures of Spanish folklore walking the streets.

Not all the festivals are religious. At the Las Fallas festival in Valencia, which takes place on 15th-19th March each year, massive high-tech puppets take pride all over the city. From traditional figures to more modern icons such as Shrek, you won’t have long to see these marvels, as the locals set them on fire at bonfires by the end of the festival while having a huge party.

3. Relax in the Pink Lake of Torrevieja

Thanks to a mix of bacteria and algae, this saltwater lake on the Costa Blanca, has an usual bright pink hue. While we don’t advise that you drink the water, for obvious reasons, the high salt content means you can enjoy a nice relaxing float on the rose-coloured water, making it a natural spa.Not only that, but the mix of mud and salt found at the bottom can help with some skin conditions.

You won’t be alone enjoying the waters, as many flamingos use the lake, almost matching the colour of the water.

4. Swing by the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona

This somewhat controversial church is one of Spain’s top tourist attractions, bringing in 2.8 million visitors annually.

One look at the unique design choices, and it’s not hard to see why so many flock to see it. Construction started in 1882, but a year later, when famous architect Antoni Gaudi got involved, the building took off.

The building was only 15-25% completed when Gaudi died in 1926, but construction is still ongoing, more than 130 years after it began. It’s due to be completed between 2026 and 2040, so at least for now, it might be the World’s most beautiful building site.

Arrive early in the morning or late in the evening to make the most of the sunlight bursting through the stained glass windows.

5. Walk around the mediaeval walled town of Cuenca.

Perched atop a steep hill, this UNESCO world heritage site is full of churches, and every street has something to see. It is one of Europe’s best-preserved mediaeval towns.
Many houses are brightly coloured, and a number are casas coldagas or hanging houses. These houses jut out over the sheer cliffs below.

Two of these unique houses have been converted into modern galleries, and the town as a whole embraces contemporary art.

So for a walk with a beautiful mix of old and new, it’s hard to beat Cuenca.

5 Best Beaches

If you’ve got time to relax and enjoy a good book on the beach, why not check out one of these breathtaking beaches?

1. Calella de Palafrugell, Costa Brava

Located on Spain’s northern Mediterranean coast, this hidden gem has many hidden coves. You can also explore the traditional fisherman’s houses and narrow streets.

With clear waters and warm sands, Calella de Palafrugell also benefits from being far from the overcrowded beaches in the South.

2. Tossa de Mar, Costa Brava

Tossa de Mar is worth checking out if you want a mix of relaxing in the sun, water sports, a dash of shopping and food, all while avoiding the crowds. This hidden gem offers several golden beaches situated around an old mediaeval town.

Part of its unusual charm is the many pine trees which line the beach, lending their aroma to that of the sea.

3. Ballota Beach, Asturias

For a more back-to-nature approach, this beach is a nature lovers paradise. You’ll need to bring lunch with you as there are no cafes or bars nearby, but the wide-open landscape and beautiful sea make up for this.

You’ll also be able to breathe easily, with the many eucalyptus trees growing in the area.

4. La Concha, San Sebastian

This large beach, named after the shell it is shaped like, has plenty of room to offer those who want to visit a city beach.

You won’t struggle to find lunch, as San Sebastian is famous for its fine restaurants and tapas bars.

5. Nerja Beach, Andalusia

Located only an hour away from Malaga airport, this beautiful town includes a promenade to stroll along and a large beach. You can also make camp in one of the several small coves, which offer some shelter from the wind.

It’s also located near El Cielo, the highest mountain in the region, in case you fancy a walk for some breathtaking views.

5 Best Restaurants

Spain has seven restaurants on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list. So there are plenty of options when it comes to dining.

1. Can Majó, Barcelona

This restaurant is a must for lovers of seafood. They use only the freshest seafood from the Catalan coast to make these delicious dishes. Daily deliveries of Galician clams, barnacles and sea cucumbers ensure that this is one paella you’re not likely to forget. Also recommended is the zarzuela., a traditional seafood casserole.

2. Mugaritz, San Sebastián

Ranked number 14 in the World, Mugartiz doesn’t have a menu. Instead, patrons are served 20-30 dishes with unusual names, such as How Long a Kiss Lasts. A broad and unique array of dishes are served. While not for everyone, this is certainly one to visit for those who are into their food.

3. Restaurante Botín, Madrid

If you want more traditional Spanish food, why not pop into the oldest restaurant in the World?

It’s been running since 1725, and over that time, it has attracted stars such as Ernest Hemingway and F.Scott Fitzgerald. It offers an array of meats roasted in a traditional Castilian oven.

4. Asador Etxebarri, Atxondo

Fancy some barbecue? This is the place for you. The chef even designed the grills to have more control over how they cook the wide variety of available dishes. Highlights include homemade chorizo as well as tender beef chops and fresh prawns.

It is the number 3 rated restaurant—the highest on the list from Spain.

5. El Diablo Restaurant, Teguise

Custom grills are one thing, but the chefs at El Diablo in Lanzarote go one further. They use an active volcano.

The chefs cook delicious local dishes using a grill over a pool of bubbling 400-degree lava.
Don’t worry, though, as the volcano has been dormant since 1824. Between the food and the views, El Diablo is a good place for a bite to eat.

5 top tips

1. Get used to the Spanish time.

This is more than just adapting to the new timezone. Generally, in Spain, everything is a bit later. The afternoon lasts until about 8 pm, and many restaurants won’t open until this time. Most locals don’t have dinner until around 10 pm.Many shops, offices and restaurants will close around 1-4 pm, especially in less touristy spots.So to get the most out of Spain, it’s worth getting used to this.

2. Don’t be afraid to head North.

While most of us have an image of Spain built around the southern coast, Spain is much more than this. The North of the country is just as steeped in culture and history as the rest. As a bonus, it’s also usually quieter and cooler, well worth considering if you’re visiting at the height of summer.

Each region has unique food and culture, so it’s well worth exploring the more northern reaches of Spain.

3. How to get free food

If you visit the south of Spain and order a drink, you’re likely to get a little bowl of tapas. This can be anything from some olives to some sundried tomatoes and cheese. This isn’t given out to pad your bill but is instead given out for free in many bars in Andalusia.

Some other areas of Spain do charge for this tapas, but it’s usually pretty inexpensive.

4. Learn some of the lingo

If you’re visiting a city, you’ll get by with English. But if you plan to go a bit off the beaten track, learning at least a few Spanish words and phrases will help. Only around 27% of Spaniards speak English, with most of those that do focused on the tourist hot spots and big cities.

5. Book attractions in advance

Spain attracts a lot of tourists, and for good reason. So if you plan to go to one of the major attractions, booking your tickets in advance is well worth it.

For example, the Alhambra we looked at earlier can sell out of tickets a month in advance. So to ensure you don’t miss out, pre-book your tickets.

Spain has a lot to offer for visitors. From bustling cities to quiet beaches, it has something for everyone.

But whatever you do in Spain, make sure you have Spain Travel Insurance to cover your trip.

Author notes

Written by Russell Wallace, Content Creator at AllClear
Edited by Letitia Smith, M.Sc. Content Manager at AllClear




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