Sangria and tapas under the Iberian sun
As a cultural crossroads, Spain is known for its rich mix of Moorish and European influences, which you’ll notice played out in everything from food to architecture if you keep your eye out on your daily paseo—a late afternoon walk to see and be seen. The second-largest country in Europe, Spain stretches down the Iberian Peninsula crisscrossed by mountains and animated by distinct cultural regions. Discover the pintxos bars of the Basque Country and passionate flamenco in Andalusia. Beware: don’t call Catalonia Spain, Vale?
Though celebrated for its rich history, Spain lives in the moment, and so should you. Order your sangria by the pitcher and if you’re choosing between jamón ibérico and pimientos de padrón, just have both—you only live once after all. In between meals, you’ll visit ancient Roman cities in Baelo Claudia or the Moorish palaces of Alhambra, just leave time for an afternoon siesta so you can dance until dawn like a true Spaniard. But don’t have to worry too much about fitting in—Spain is a fiesta where everyone is invited.
An unfinished building was never so famous, but La Sagrada Familia doesn’t need to be complete, in order to wow you on your tour. Visit the Eixample district of Barcelona to see the soaring towers in person. From a distance, La Sagrada Familia has the effect of a melted candle, but closer inspection reveals a facade dripping with intricate relief carvings. Inside is no less impressive. Just don’t lose your balance—the ceiling is basically a kaleidoscope.
In the rocky hills of Southeastern Granada, Europe’s definitive site of Moorish architecture draws up to 6,000 visitors daily—so book in advance. From its humble beginnings as a Roman fort, Alhambra became the seat of the Nasrid emirs after major additions in the mid-13th century. Take your time as you explore the “pearl set in emeralds”—as Moorish poets used to call these bright palaces surrounded by lush forest.
With Mediterranean beaches, romantic facades, and delicious tapas, Barcelona doesn’t have to try hard to impress. But don’t let the laid back atmosphere fool you: there’s no down season in Catalonia’s capital—unless you count Sundays. Explore the Gothic corridor, catch a soccer match, and enjoy iced vermouth on a leafy patio. Dinner isn’t until 9 pm, but your afternoon merienda snack will hold you over. Patatas bravas anyone?
During the day, you’ll want to enjoy the national treasures of this capital city—El Retiro Park and Picasso’s Guernica—but nighttime is when Madrid truly comes alive. Here, an afternoon siesta is imperative so you can dance until dawn like a true Madrileño. Find a terraza to call home for the evening—whether a rooftop bar in Salamanca or cozy courtyard in Lavapies— and alternate rounds of cava with delectable boquitas.
The summer never ends in this tropical archipelago. The Canaries are made up of seven volcanic islands, each one with its own distinct flavor. Explore the lunar landscape of Teide National Park and lounge on the beaches of Las Palmas. Spelunk in Lanzarote or explore the sand dunes of Maspalomas. Whether it’s snorkeling through schools of colorful fish, or kiteboarding across white-capped waves, you’ll want to take advantage of the balmy waters—wherever you land.
For many, Andalucía’s rich culture typifies Spain. Here is the birthplace of tapas and flamenco—need we say more? Explore Europe’s gateway to Africa through its rich cities. See the Arab district of Granada, dance the night away in Seville’s Trana neighborhood, and lounge on the yellow sand beaches of Málaga. Wherever you go, this region runs on duende—the heightened state of emotion felt in the heat of performing.
The most popular time to visit Spain is during high summer, July through August, when the days are long and the weather hovers in the mid-70s, though some regions, especially in the south, may reach mid to upper 90s. Many seasoned travelers opt to visit Spain in the spring and autumn, March through May and September through November respectively. During these shoulder seasons, the weather continues to hover from 60 to 80 degrees, though you’re more likely to experience the odd rain shower. Winter is generally an off-season for tourism, though carnival in February is a tempting draw for the Canary Islands.
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