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Making the most of your trip to Spain

With every Spanish destination promising you new experiences, twists on classic cuisines and exciting sights to discover, if you’re planning on jetting off to somewhere in Spain, then it’s always worth doing a bit of research beforehand so you can really make the most out of your trip. Spain is not short of options for going away, whether that’s for a city break, a relaxing beach vacation or a family holiday.

Spain is made up of 17 regions, all with varied culture, diversities and ways of life. From small towns nestled in breathtaking mountain ranges, to dreamy sandy beaches, every destination promises you  something new to discover.

Travel time: It takes between 2 to 2.5 hours to get to Spain from a UK airport, which makes it a great option if you don’t want to travel too far. If you do have young children and are a bit concerned about a long-haul flight, then definitely consider somewhere in Spain.

Some of the most popular regions in Spain include:

Barcelona

Renowned for its art and architecture, incredible dining experiences and thriving nightlife, it’s no wonder that Barcelona is one of the most popular destinations to visit in Spain for both city breaks and longer holidays. With its cobblestone streets laced with exciting markets and beaches that resemble a tropical paradise, it provides the opportunity to have both a relaxing and activity packed break – what you choose, is up to you. At night Barcelona comes alive, with its vintage cocktail bars, music halls, word class restaurants and clubs where you can dance the night away.

Where to go:

Gothic Quarter – This is the old city centre of Barcelona, laced with labyrinthine streets. Regular traffic is not permitted in this area, so you can wander around and just enjoy the architecture and sense of history it has to offer. With plenty of places to shop and eat, this part of Barcelona really provides the perfect backdrop for a great day out.

Parc de la Ciutadella- Way back when, this park was the only green space in Barcelona. Since then more have popped up, however this one not to miss. Its quaint lake and idyllic setting make it the perfect spot to stop and relax for a while. It’s just nearby to Mercat de Santa Caterina, which is great if you need to stop for a bit of lunch.

Parc del Laberint d’Horta- Developed in the late 18th century for an upper-class family, this is one of the oldest gardens in Barcelona and features the famous cypress hedge, a lake, waterfalls and a pavilion. It is the perfect place to wander around, soak in the sun and escape for a while.

Basílica de la Sagrada Família – Famously unfinished, this grand cathedral stands in the northern part of the city and consists of 18 spindly towers which soar above all the other buildings nearby. It is one of Europe’s less conventional churches and has become a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

What to eat:

Barcelona really does have it all when it comes to food. From local bodegas offering cheese, ham and wine straight from the barrel, to Michelin star restaurants promising a world class experience – you’re sure to not be disappointed. There are plenty of markets where you’ll find everything from fresh local produce to tapas bars where you can pull up a stall and tuck in. For anyone chocolate lover, you’re sure to be satisfied with Barcelona’s many chocolate ships and granjas (dairy stores).

Barcelona is the perfect place to taste Catalan cuisine; in February to March you can try calçots, a type of green onion served with romesco sauce, while during the summer you can sit at one city’s beachside restaurants and enjoy some of the finest seafood.

Madrid

 Spain’s capital is a great place to visit if you want a long weekend with your friends or partner. Madrid’s nightlife is infamous, with cocktail bars, live music, mega clubs and a wide variety of restaurants to choose from. It is said to be one of the richest culinary capitals of Europe, embracing traditional Spanish cuisine whilst also introducing creative and new twists on the dining experience, to make it truly unforgettable.

Madrid’s architectural history sweeps through the city, with its medieval mansions and royal palaces. This is balanced out with contemporary architecture including the sober brickwork and slate spires of Madrid baroque to the incredible confections of the belle époque. This is a truly beautiful city and real must see.

Where to go:

Museo del Prado – This is one of the most elite art museums in Europe, home to Spain’s premier collection of art, including Goya and Velazquez. It sits along the city’s grand boulevard, Paseo del Prado. With so much to take in, more than one visit is recommended.

Tapas La Latina – One of the main gastronomic streets is La Latina’s Calle de la Cava Baja. It is lined with tapas bars, that really get creative with their dishes, making the tiny portions look like an art form. Definitely one for food-lovers.

Parque del Buen Retiro – This stunning corner of the city, with its eye-catching architecture, statues, beautiful lawns and peaceful lake, makes its not only one of the largest but also the most popular parks to visit in Madrid. Enjoy a boating afternoon on the lake, or even lay on the lawn and enjoy the rays.

Chueca- This lively district in Madrid, has blossomed over recent years and become a real hub for nightlife and shopping. With bars for all budgets, this is definitely a place to visit if you want to let your hair down for the night with the odd mocktail or two.

What to eat:

Madrid is the home to Spanish cuisine, with local classics including callos (tripe) and caracoles a la Madrileña (Madrid-style snails) available, should you feel brave enough to give them a go! Nearby markets like Mercado Antón Martín have delicious local produce and are a great place to grab some picnic bits before heading to Retiro park for an afternoon and eating and relaxing.

Seville

Seville is the capital and largest city of Andalucía. It is sat on the lower reaches of the River Guadalquivir, in the southwest of the Iberian Peninsula. It is known for its hot summers, mild winters, incredible food and Gothic and Renaissance architecture. There are plenty of reasons to visit Seville, with its heritage, amazing weather, culture and shopping just scratching the surface. With plenty to do and see, Seville does not disappoint.

Where to go?

Seville Cathedral- This incredible structure with its beautiful architectural flourishes, relics and historical attributes will leave you in complete awe. It has 80 different chapels, making it the largest cathedral in the world in terms of volume.

Real Alcázar- This is a stunning UNESCO listed palace which is still used to this day by the Spanish royal family. If you’re willing to pay a little extra, you can actually view their chambers, state rooms and halls situated on the upper level. The palace has a Mudéjar style (Moorish-inspired architecture for non-Islamic buildings) and was designed by Pedro the Cruel. The courtyard is the perfect place to go for a stroll and surround yourself in all the greenery.

Tablaos and Flamenco Shows- No matter what month you visit Seville, there are sure to be flamenco shows happening across the city on any given evening. The tablao is a great way to watch and enjoy a shown, with live musicians and either bar or restaurant service. If you are in Seville during the Spring or Autumn time then you can watch the Peñas de Guardia, a series of shows organised for local or up-and-coming flamenco talent.

What to eat:

Seville is not short on options when it comes to food. There are some many dishes you just have to try! There’s Secreto ibérico & presa ibérica – this is Iberian pork. Whilst you’ll find pork dishes throughout Spain, no one seems to do it quite like Seville. It is a melt in your mouth kind of dish and said to be one of the best kept secrets of Seville. It’s rival is presa ibérica, a cut from near the top of the pork shoulder. No matter which option you choose while dining out, you won’t regret it! Another dish is Espinacas con garbanzos. Now, there aren’t that many vegetarian friendly tapas dishes, however this traditional combination of spinach and chickpeas is simply delicious. Espinacas con garbanzos is influenced by Seville’s Moorish and Jewish history, and is still popular in today’s tapas bars, where it’s often served with a picatoste (a type of crouton).

Granada

Many people visit Granada not knowing exactly what to expect. What you’ll find is a city decorated in Islamic architecture and Arab-inspired street life. It’s churches, tapas bars and graffiti art promise a cultural experience unlike no other.

The streets of Granada are packed with bars, bohemian cafes and flamenco clubs. This combined with the traditional and historical sights, will keep you entertained for days on end.

Where to go?

Alhambra- The Alhambra is known as Grenada and Europe’s love letter to Moorish culture. Set at the foot of Sierra Nevada, this palace began as a walled citadel before becoming what it is today. The palaces date back to the 14th century Palacios Nazaries and are some of the most beautiful Islamic buildings in all of Europe. Tickets do sell out fast, so try and get them ahead of time!

Mirador de San Nicolás – This is perhaps one of the most famous viewpoints in Granada. Even Bill Clinton upon his visit in 1997 said it has “the most beautiful sunset in the world.” The beauty of this viewpoint is unlike you could imagine, with the Alhambra and the Generalife facing one another, the city at its feet and the stunning Sierra Nevada behind. The Mirador is situated in the Albayzin neighbourhood and is known for its charming surroundings, cobbled streets, white houses, tapas bars and friendly and inviting locals.

What to eat:

As a result of being ruled by the Moors until 1492, the city of Granada has a rich and multicultural food tradition. The streets of the Albayzin play host to tea houses where you can try spiced tagines, sweet green tea and Arab sweets, while a lot of of the city’s tapas dishes are Moorish-inspired.

Granada is also famous for its free tapas; purchase a drink and you’ll receive a plate of something delicious for free! Be sure to try the local cured ham, Jamón de Trevelez, as well as fried fish and migas, a breadcrumb dish decorated with a fried egg and topped with sausages.

Malaga & Costa del Sol

If you are visiting Malaga and Costa del Sol then get ready for beautiful landscapes, sandy beaches, delicious food and wonderful customs and traditions. It is rich in cultural heritage, as well as having stunning coastal surroundings and charming villages.

Costa del Sol combines Mediterranean old towns with developed beach resorts. It acts as a gateway to family favourite destinations such as Benidorm and Fuengirola, whilst also being a great spot for a romantic holiday.

Where to go?

Unlike some of the other destinations in Spain, Costa del Sol is less about history and architecture and more for those who want a relaxing holiday, full of water sports, dinners out, mocktails on the beach – just the perfect summer holiday.

There’s bike and bus tours, day trips to Gibraltar and Tangier, tapas and wine tasting, not to mention a whole host of water sports.

Our recommendation is if you are off to Costa del Sol then make sure you have added an activity pack to your policy. They’re so many water sports you can take part in, so just make sure you are covered! For more information, click here.

What to eat:

If you are going to Costa Del Sol, then there are some dishes you just have to try. One of those is Gazpacho a tomato soup dish, served cold. Don’t knock it before you try it, it is actually said to be refreshing and perfect to cool you down in the Spanish heat. If you are a fan of seafood then be sure to try Gambas al Pil-Pil. This dish consists of prawns served with a spicy sauce made up of a combination of garlic, paprika, chillies, and white wine. Cooked in an oven-proof dish, this starter arrives to your table sizzling hot and is truly delicious.

Travelling to Spain Tips and Advice

Make a note of the emergency services number: Whenever you go away you should make sure you know the emergency service number. In Spain that is 112. However, there are actually other national emergency numbers used in Spain that are worth having saved on your phone. They are:

Police091

Health emergencies 061

Fire Brigade – 080

Local Police – 092

Be discreet carrying around cash: As with anywhere there are always pick pocketers who are just waiting for an opportunity to pounce, especially when someone clearly looks like a tourist. They know that often these people aren’t very aware of their surroundings and may be easier to steal from whilst their enjoying exploring the cities. If you are carrying money around with you either keep it in your bag which is securely on your person and not easy for others to get into or keep it somewhere you wouldn’t typically expect money to be, such as in your sock.

There are a lot of debit/credit card providers that offer a great exchange rate when you are going away. If you do have one these cards then make the most of it and do the majority of your spending via your card. It is a lot safer and you won’t have to take as much cash out with you.

Indulge in tapas culture: You will never experience tapas as good as what you get in Spain, so make the most of it and tuck in!

Don’t expect everyone to understand English: It’s always handy when you’re going away to learn some phrases, even if your pronunciation isn’t the best. Depending where you’re going in Spain you may find some local residents do not speak any English. Try ahead to learn just a few words and sentences – it goes along way and may really help you out!

Don’t expect shops to open at the same time as back at home: In Spain many shops open in the morning and then close for a couple of hours in the afternoon. This is often between 2-4pm. So, if you are planning on travelling for a day of shopping, either be up nice and early or explore the shops in the evening.


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