Spain is a stunning country in the Mediterranean, famous for a lot of things. From bizarre events like La Tomatina to the insane beach parties in Ibiza – the only constant is the extravagance and pure hedonism.
And that’s just scratching the surface. I will tell you about 20 most popular things that Spain is famous for, including people, buildings, events, traditions and foods. You are already familiar with some of them, and others might surprise you.
Keep reading to find out exactly what Spain is famous for!
Easily the most famous thing about Spain is Ibiza and its wild parties. The party island is known for having some of the best parties in Europe that last well into the night, with the most famous DJs in the world.
But, it is also popular for the stunning beaches and crystal clear azure sea. In fact, in the early 2000s, the Spanish Tourist Office tries to promote it as a place ideal for family vacations. They even closed down all the nightclubs that played music late into the night. Well, we all know how that turned out – the policy was reversed by 2010.
Another lesser known fact about Ibiza is that several spots on the island are registered as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Perhaps the most popular sites like this are Renaissance walls of Ibiza Old Town – these are one of the few Renaissance walls in the world that were never demolished, and a part of those walls is still visible today.
Football is a close second when it comes to things Spain is famous for. El Clasico is probably the most famous derby in the entire world – the term was originally used to refer to competitions held in the Spanish championship, but nowadays it refers to every single match between Real Madrid FC Barcelona.
Everyone has a favorite, and I’m not going to say who mine is because I want you to keep reading. :>
All over the world you can see children wearing Messi and Ronaldo jerseys. Well, the latter is less seen nowadays, since he officially transferred to Juventus. But, a couple years ago it was always a hot debate which of these two players was better. The debate which football club is better is a reason for broken hearts and terminated friendships even today.
Even though there are disagreements on where exactly in Spain flamenco was created, there’s no doubt that this is the country it originated from. The term itself refers to a variety of Spanish musical styles that were developed in the 19th century.
Flamenco is an art form, that consists of three parts – cante (song), baile (dance), and toque (guitar playing). Each of these parts is easily recognizable for what it is, and particularly the dancers in the ruffled red gowns.
Today’s flamenco has changed a lot since its origin, mostly due to influences of salsa, bossa nova and jazz. But, it remains a crucial part of Spanish culture, and something you absolutely have to try if you’re ever in the country. Throughout Spain you can find dance clubs and locales where you can have a drink and try to dance flamenco with some of the best dancers in the country.
Spain is pretty famous for its delicious and spicy dishes. And one of those is paella – a rice dish that originated in Valencia. Spanish people view paella as a regional Valencian dish, but many non-nationals consider this to be the national dish of Spain.
There are loads of types of paella. The most prominent one is the Valencian paella, which is pretty much the original recipe and the basis for all other versions. The authentic recipe consists of white rice, green beans, meat (usually chicken, rabbit and duck), garrofó (lima beans), saffron and rosemary.
Another really popular version of this dish is seafood paella, which is served with seafood instead of meat. All seafood is served in shells, which is what makes this type of paella easily recognizable. This recipe is also considered authentic by Valencians, and it is particularly popular on the Mediterranean coast.
Tapas are snacks or appetizers that are very popular in Spanish cuisine. They can be served hot or cold, depending on the type of food.
Tapas are traditionally Spanish, and they are served in bars, pubs and restaurants throughout the country. They are popular with drinks – in fact, it is considered that the original tapas were thin slice of meat or bread, used to cover glasses of sherry between sips. This was done in order to protect the drinks from fruit flies.
But nowadays, you can eat tapas pretty much anywhere in the world, and not just as appetizers. Tapas can be served as main courses, when several different dishes are combined.
Sangria is another thing that is originally Spanish, but pretty famous worldwide. Not much is known about the origins of this alcoholic beverage – it is considered that the name draws origin from the Spanish word sangre (blood), and that the term dates back to the 18th century. This would make sense, because of the dark red color of the drink.
Sangria is a drink that consists of red wine, chopped fruit, sugar and usually orange juice or brandy. The mixture is then chilled for at least an hour, and served cold with pieces of fruit in every glass, and sometimes ice. It’s delicious, but also pretty strong.
La siesta is something that goes hand in hand with paella, tapas and sangria. It is a quick, 15-30-minute nap, usually after lunch-time. Siesta is particularly popular during hot summer days, and favored times are 2-5PM.
Even though you don’t really need a reason for a quick siesta, the most popular ones include avoiding the heat, resting after lunch, preparing for a late night, avoiding work and because it is healthy to nap in the afternoon.
And it’s the one Spanish thing that you can do everywhere in the world and it will still be authentic. Literally anywhere; lie down on the beach or take a short nap on the train back home – it counts!
It might be similar to la siesta in spelling, but la fiesta has an entirely different meaning. Fiestas are festivals that are held in Spain, and which get thousands of people out in the streets. There are festivals in all parts of the country pretty much any time of the year, so you should be able to attend one while you are in Spain.
But, not all of those festivals are internationally famous. In fact, the most popular ones, which are known worldwide are the bull-running of Pamplona, mock battles of Moros y Cristianos in Alcoy, La Tomatina, Feria de Abril in Seville and the fireworks of Las Fallas in Valencia.
Some of them last for several days, while other last for several hours. But, the partying starts well before the fiestas, and continues long after.
La Tomatina is a type of fiesta. It is the largest tomato fight in the world, and it takes place on the last Wednesday of August, in Buñol near Valencia. The partying and preparation for Tomatina start a week earlier, but the highlight of this fiesta is the tomato fight that takes place between 11AM and 1PM.
This is a truly unique event, and it gives a whole new meaning to the phrase paint the town red. Thousands of people flock to Buñol to throw tomatoes at each other, and I honestly don’t understand why.
But that has also become a downside – because there are so many people, it is pretty hard to reach the main area where you can find the tomato trucks. And if you don’t get there early enough, you will be a few streets away from the main action. But don’t worry – the partying continue well after the tomato fight is over.
Spain is not just popular for delicious foods and crazy fiestas. Some of the most prominent artists in the world are from this country – painters, writers, poets etc. One of them is Salvador Dali, the surrealist painter from Catalonia.
He is known for his bizarre work and incredible skills. His most prominent work is The Persistence of Memory, which is especially remembered for the motif of melting pocket watches. Dali is particularly popular for the use of symbolism in his works – the watches in the aforementioned painting are supposed to represent Einstein’s theory that time is relative.
Other recurrent images in his works are eggs, elephants, ants and snails. In fact ,the egg is such a strong Dali-esque image that there are giant egg sculptures on museums dedicated to this Spanish artist. You can see these at the Dalí Theatre and Museum in Figueres, and the Dalí House in Port Lligat.
Pablo Picasso is another world renowned artist from Spain. Not only is he regarded as one of the most influential and prolific artists of the 20th century, but he is also considered to be one of the founders of cubism. And he is also credited with inventing the constructed sculpture and co-inventing collages.
His most famous known work is Guernica, which is a dramatic depiction of the bombing of Guernica during the Spanish Civil War. Other prominent works by Pablo Picasso include the painting above, Three Musicians, Girl before a Mirror, Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, Le Rêve, The Weeping Woman and many others.
Picasso’s work is usually categorized into periods depending on his style at the time. The most commonly accepted categorization of his works is the Blue Period, the Rose Period, the African-influenced Period, Analytic Cubism and Synthetic Cubism. It is interesting that his self-portraits from these periods are a clear reflection of hist constantly changing style.
Bullfighting is a contest that originated in Spain, and is pretty popular even today. Traditionally known as corrida, this event includes three matadores, each of whom fight two out of six bulls total. The two bulls fight to death, and they have to be at least four years old and weigh at least 460 kilos.
There is a lot of controversy surrounding corrida – they are often deemed unethical, and are particularly despised by animal rights activists. However, there’s no denying that Spain is pretty famous for bullfighting, and I reckon you are old enough to decide for yourself whether or not you are interested in these events.
In case you are, you should know that bullfighting season usually lasts from April until September. In most major cities there is at least one fight a week, but there are also lots of bullfighting fiestas, which feature a fight almost every day of the week.
I’ve already told you about Sangria – the delicious beverage made with wine and chopped fruit. Well, wine on its own is another thing that Spain is famous for. The countryside is full of vineyards, with the Rioja, Ribera del Duero, Valdepeñas, Jerez de la Frontera, Rías Baixas and Catalonia being the most popular wine regions.
Spain is the third largest producer of wine in the world, after Italy and France. It has over 2.9 million acres of plantation, which actually makes it the the most widely planted wine-producing nation.
So, in addition to crazy fiestas, gorgeous architecture and delicious tapas, wine tastings should definitely be a part of your trip to this gorgeous country. Due to Spanish labelling laws, the wines are generally labeled according to the amount of ageing they have received. There are three most common types – Crianza (red wines aged for 1 year), Reserva (red wines aged for at least 3 years) and Gran Reserva (red wines aged at least 5 years/whites and roses aged at least 4 years).
Antoni Gaudi is a famous Spanish architect, known for his unique works, most of which are located in Barcelona. He is also considered one of the greatest exponents of the Catalan Modernism, and he was a part of the Modernista movement. Gaudi’s most famous work of all time is Sagrada Familia – a church in Barcelona that I well you more about a bit later.
Gaudi paid attention to all the little details in his works, and considered everything that was included in his structures – ceramics, carpentry and stained glass. In addition to that, he is also credited with inventing new techniques in the treatment of materials, in particular trencadís – creating new sculptures with discarded pieces of ceramic.
Seven of his works are considered UNESCO World Heritage Sites, which is pretty amazing. His other prominent works include Casa Vicens, which is considered one of the first Art Nouveau buildings in the world, and Casa Milá, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the most popular modernist building in Barcelona.
Sagrada Familia is the most famous work of Spanish architecture Antoni Gaudi. It is considered his masterpiece by many, even though it is one of his few unfinished works. In fact, the construction of the church began under a different architect, Francisco de Paula del Villar. But, he eventually resigned and Gaudi took over, transforming the entire project in his style.
He combined Gothic and Art Nouveau forms, giving the basilica such a unique look. Gaudi spend the better part of his life working on this project, but at the time of his death less than a quarter of it was complete.
The construction of Sagrada Familia continued over the years and was interrupted by the Spanish Civil War. In fact, in 1936 the crypt where Gaudi was buried was set on fire, and all of his original plans and plaster models were destroyed. It took 16 years to piece them back together, and construction did not resume until the 1950s.
Plaza de España is a square in Maria Luisa Park in Seville. It is a world famous example of Regionalism Architecture, with mixed elements of the Renaissance Revival and Moorish Revival – both are popular styles of Spanish architecture.
The square was originally built for the Ibero-American Exposition of 1929 – a world’s fair attended by 18 countries including Portugal, United States, Brazil, Mexico and many others. The city of Seville spent 19 years preparing for this two-day event.
Plaza de España was since featured in some very popular movies, including Lawrence of Arabia, The Dictator and Star Wars: Episode II. Which is one of the reason why Spain is famous for this building worldwide!
Alhambra is a palace complex and one of the best examples of Islamic Architecture in the entire world. The UNESCO World Heritage Site is located in Granada, and it is one of the most famous tourist attractions in Spain.
It was originally designed and constructed as a small fortress in AD 889, and then converted into a royal palace in the 14th century. In the 15th century the palaces were partially altered to fit Renaissance style, and in the 16th century an entirely new Renaissance palace was commissioned.
Over time, Alhambra became what it is today – an exquisite example of Islamic architecture and Christian gardens, popular with travellers from all over the world.
Spain is a country on the Mediterranean coast and, among other things, it is known for its stunning beaches. It is not at all easy to name just a few of the best, since so many of them are incredibly beautiful. But I will try.
Playa de Ses Illetes in Formentera is considered Spain’s most gorgeous white sand beach. And for good reasons – white azure sea and the white sand make it reminiscent of the beaches in the Caribbean.
Playa de Maspalomas in Gran Canaria is the biggest beach in the country. If you also count the small desert behind the beach, its total size is a whooping 400 hectares!
And of course, there’s the Playa d’en Bossa in Ibiza – the best party beach in probably entire Europe. It is lined with bars and restaurants, and tends to get super busy during the season. Oh, and it is a white sandy beach with crystal clear blue sea – but that’s not even important.
Inditex is a huge corporation that Spain is very famous for. They own several really popular high-street brands, but the biggest name they own is Zara. Yeah, you’ve heard of them. Other stores owned by Inditex are Bershka, Oysho, Stradivarius, Pull & Bear, Massimo Dutti and Uterqüe. That’s why the clothes are really similar in all these stores!
I know you’ve heard of at least one of these stores, but maybe you didn’t know that they were all owned by the same corporation. Well, they are – Inditex is globally popular, with around 8000 stores worldwide. The multi-billion dollar corporation is known for knocking off runway brands in very little time. In Zara, a garment can go from design to shelves in stores in just 15 days, which is pretty much the definition of fast fashion.
Miguel de Cervantes is probably the most famous Spanish writer of all times. His best known work is Don Quixote – a novel that is studied in schools even today. It is the story of a disenchanted Spanish nobleman who strives to resurrect chivalry, and who is best known for tilting at windmills. The novel was translated into 140 languages and dialects, and it is the second most translated work ever – right after the Bible.
Cervantes had a huge impact not only on literature, but also on the Spanish language of his time. But it is interesting that, although he is considered the great Spanish-language writer of all times, Cervantes enjoyed very little popularity during his life. At one point he was even imprisoned for bankruptcy!
Roger is a little obsessed with travel. He has been to over 40 countries, broken 3 suitcases and owned over 10 backpacks in 12 months. What he doesn't know about travel, ain't worth knowing!