49 Interesting Facts About Spain

By Abi King | Spain

Apr 26

Interesting facts about Spain

49 Interesting Facts About Spain

Did you know that…

1 – It rains. Especially in Asturias and the Basque Country in the north.

2 – There’s snow, too. In fact, you can ski in the Pyrenees and also take to the slopes down south near Granada.

3 – Not everyone eats paella. It’s a Valencia based dish (that, properly done, takes all day to make.)

4 – While we’re on the subject of food, Spain has some of the best restaurants in the world. According to Spaniards, of course, but influential outsiders tend to agree.

5 – It takes over 100 years to make fino sherry in the stacked black barrels of Andalucia.

6 – And the heart of the sherry region, Jerez, also specialises in dancing white horses.

5 – No one speaks Spanish. Castellano refers to what most of us think of as Spanish, while more than five other languages flourish across the rest of Spain.

6 – There’s no word for deadline in Castilian Spanish. There are plenty for relax and take it easy.

7- Come Christmas, children wait til January and the procession of the Three Kings (or Reyes Magos) to open their presents.

8 – While naughty children receive lumps of black coal (it’s a sugary treat called carbon dulcé)

8- Pointed hats and self-flagellation mark the run up to Easter in Seville; polka dot dresses and fiestas take place afterwards.

9 – Spain has a Royal Family.

10 – And also had a military dictatorship – Franco ruled as a dictator until his death in 1975.

11 – People drink tinto de verano rather than sangria, especially in the summer

12 – And eat twelve grapes at midnight when New Year’s Eve rolls around (try it one day, it’s harder than it sounds.)

13 – You can find papier maché models the size of houses in Barcelona’s Festival de Gracia

14 – And aerial rotten tomatoes at the ludicrous Tomatina.

15 – The world’s “first true novel” hails from Spain, through Don Quixote written by Cervantes

16 – So too, does the first large scale civilian bombing, via Franco and the Nazis, embodied by the painting Guernica from Malaga born artist Pablo Picasso

17 – Hot chocolate comes thick enough to support a standing spoon. (It also comes with churros, as a late night kebab-equivalent snack.)

18 – Gustave Eiffel (of the tower of the same name) made his mark here in Girona before letting loose on the skyline of Paris.

19 – While an ex boxer has made it his mission to create the world’s most creative pizzeria.

20 – Students spot the frog in Salamanca to wish for good luck in their exams.

21 – And waiters pour cider from a great height in Asturias.

22 – Black sand and mystic stone pyramids wait on the island of Tenerife.

24 – And the world’s largest olive oil region still gathers its produce by hand.

25 – Spain has more festivals than there are days in the year.

26 – And specialises in innovative architecture like the lollipop building in Avilés.

27 – And the shark fins in Valencia.

28 – You can stay in a castle.

29 – Or on a vintage-inspired train

30 – When the Christians defeated the Moors at the Alhambra, the defeated Sultan’s mother responded with the words “Do not weep like a woman for what you could not defend as a man.” Ouch.

31 – A deserted Wild West film set lives in the sands of Andalucia

32 – Along with a bandit museum

33 – And the original cigar factory building that inspired the opera Carmen

34 – That Spaniards rub garlic and tomato on their bread in the morning instead of butter or margarine

35 – And talk on mobile phones during solemn religious processions

36 – There’s an outpost of Spain on mainland Africa

37 – And a diverted riverbed in the heart of Valencia (it’s now a park you can walk though – or Segway if you’re feeling brave.)

38 – Siestas are real. At least in the south.

39 – So are the late nights, late lunches and flamenco

40 Bullfighting, too, though it’s a pastime that splits the nation

41 While flamingoes flock to the water’s edge at the Doñana National Park.

42 El Rocio has a bar you can ride up to on horseback. Drink cerveza at the table without needing to dismount.

43 – Salvador Dali built a fantasy castle in Figueres to showcase his eccentric taste (look out for melting clocks and a golden statuettes looming overhead.)

44 – Bull heads without an ear mark the sign of a good fight (traditionally, the victorious matador slices it off and offers it to a beautiful woman as a token of romance.)

45 – On the night before marriage, the groom must serenade his bride at her window

46 – People live in caves in the foothills of the Alpujarras

47 – And tapas comes for free in the bars around Granada

48 – A river flows gold in Andalucia

49 – And finally, for now at least: that I know very little about Menorca and the Balearics but that that’s about to change…

 

Disclosure

I’ve visited Spain many times and lived there for years as well. Some of my time there was hosted, most of it was not. Either way, it really doesn’t matter when it came to writing this list. I write what I like here. As ever, as always. Even when it comes to interesting facts about Spain*

 What other interesting facts about Spain do you know?

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About the Author

Abigail King is an award-winning writer and author who swapped a successful career as a hospital doctor for a life on the road. With over 60 countries under her belt, she's worked for Lonely Planet, the BBC, National Geographic Traveller and more. She is passionate about sustainable tourism and was invited to speak on the subject at the EU-China High Level summit at the UNESCO Headquarters in Paris.Here she writes about food, travel and history and she invites you to pull up a chair and relax. Let's travel more and think more. Welcome!

  • Great list, full of things I didn’t know. GG

  • I´m living in Spain right now. Thanks for this great list, some things I knew, some I didn´t – all good!! I´m learning new things every day!!

    • Abi King says:

      Ah – whereabouts are you based? I LOVE that there’s still so much to find out – even in our hyper-connected global world.

  • Andy says:

    Some interesting facts here Abi. And 49? I’m moving to Spain (for a year) in a few weeks, starting off in Granada, so this one especially piqued my interest. Thanks for the inspiration. I hoping 47 doesn’t turn me into an alcoholic and (mental note) must read 15.

    • Abi King says:

      Hehe. Enjoy Granada! Absolutely fantastic place – even without the bars and tapas.

  • Lizzie says:

    Great selection of facts! I moved to Spain last year and am learning something new about it every day – I actually knew very little about it before I moved here, it turns out!

    • Abi King says:

      I think that’s true about everywhere in the world. Until you really live somewhere, there are sides you’ll never see. Enjoy!

  • Estelle says:

    Fun and interesting list.
    You could also add that there is a brittish enclave in Spain: Gibraltar where you get through customs, you eat fish&chips and you pay in pounds sterling.

    • Abi King says:

      Yes, Gibraltar is a fascinating place to visit. There are those who would disagree with the geographical description, though. As I’m sure you know, it’s a hot topic with passionate opinions on both sides. Great fish and chips though – and marmite and Branston Pickle!

    • Abi King says:

      Hm. From my time spent living in Spain, I’ve learned to stay well away from the subject of Gibraltar! But yes, it is an interesting place :-)

  • De'Jav says:

    Good list of things I didn’t know. Didn’t know there was no word for deadline which makes sense for the culture having a lack of purpose of time.

    • Abi King says:

      Yep, the relationship with time is more different to Britain than first appears. And I still can’t work out which is the healthier approach ;-)

    • Abi King says:

      Or, as I’ve heard some Spaniards say, their purpose is to enjoy life, not be a slave to the time machines :-)

  • Mmmm carbon dulcé, and garlic and tomato toast ;)

  • Jackie De Burca says:

    Superb list Abi. :) In the village I live in – San Rafael del Río, in the Comunidad Valenciana but 2 minutes walk from Catalonia – they announce deaths and funerals over the village’s public loudspeaker. They also announce fiestas, the opening of the fish shop and other more cheerful subjects. A little bit of music precedes each announcement, so one knows immediately from the tune, if there has been a death or not!

  • For the very first guidebook I ever wrote (10 years ago! whoa), Frommer’s sent me to Spain for a month and change. I was in the Pyrenees (Aragon) and Basque Country and was so shocked at how different it was from the other parts of Spain I had previously visited (Barcelona, Madrid, Valencia). Love this! Such a huge, diverse country.

    • Abi says:

      YES! Such diversity – and yet flamenco dots and bullfighting still haunt the stereotypes.

  • Sally says:

    So many things I didn’t know about Spain. There’s a few I did know, but it seems that it’s such a varied country. To know Spain well you clearly have to travel the whole entire country. I like that there are a lot of festivals.

    • Abi says:

      And I still didn’t really touch on the Balearics…And more! Watch this space for ‘another 49 things’ ;-)

  • Leah says:

    I just learned number 18 today! And I recognized the bridge from your post the moment I saw it :) Loving Spain (as I knew I would) and will be very sad to leave!

    • Abi says:

      SO glad you are enjoying Spain (and spotted the bridge ;-) ) Buen viaje!

  • Christophe says:

    Really interesting article! I didn’t know that paella comes from Valencia!

  • María says:

    Great list, but some facts are wrong…

    -We don´t rub garlic and tomato on our bread for breakfast, most of us use butter or margarine.
    -The groom must serenade the bride? Maybe that was a thing centuries ago, but not now.

    I´m not saying that some people don´t do these things, but it isn´t common.

    And yeah, you are right, bullfighting splits the nation, some of us don´t like the fact that a dude with a matador sword (estoque) totures an animal to death just for the sake of fun. In fact a lot of animal rights platamors are fighting to make bullfighting illegal in the whole country. So if you are foreing and you are going to visit Spain make sure you know how violents, bloody and disgusting the bullfiths are, it isn´t the first time I see a group foriengers crying or in shock because the didn´t know it was like that.

    • Abi King says:

      Hey Maria – I wonder where in Spain you’re from? I’d guess it’s not Andalucia ;-) To be fair, I only went to one wedding and was told that the serenade was a sweet tradition (and the groom did do it.) On the other hand, everyone I met used tomato and garlic instead of butter! So perhaps it’s a regional thing? Ah, the bullfighting. I was surprised it still existed at all – in the UK, the view of the event from an animal rights point of view is very well known; it came as a shock that it is still so popular in certain places. And yes, the first one I saw (in France, as it happens, and the only one I ever want to see) was as bloody and violent as you describe. I shan’t be going back…

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