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Spain Information


 

Spain (Spanish: España) is a diverse country in Mediterranean Europe, sharing the Iberian Peninsula with Portugal at the western end of the Mediterranean Sea. Among many places worth visiting are Spain's thriving capital Madrid, the vibrant coastal city of Barcelona, the famous running with bulls at Pamplona, and the city where flamenco was born: Seville.

With great beaches, fun nightlife, many cultural regions and historic cities, Spain makes a great destination for any kind of trip. A country of large geographical and cultural diversity, Spain is sometimes a surprise to people who know its reputation for great beach holidays. There is everything from lush meadows, snowy mountains, huge marsh and salines and deserts in the south east.

Spain is divided into autonomías or autonomous regions, plus two independent cities. Some of the autonomías - notably the ones which have other official languages alongside Spanish - are regions with their own unique historical tradition. These include the Basque Country or Euskadi (Basque), Galicia (Galician), Catalonia or Catalunya, the Valencian region or País Valencià, and the Balearic Islands or Illes Balears (Catalan), but also Andalucía. Travelers to these parts of the Iberian Peninsula should respect their history and language. The Canary Islands lie off the coast of Morocco and are geographically part of Africa, as are the two cities of Ceuta and Melilla.

Catalonia (Spanish: Cataluña, Catalan: Catalunya) Catalonia is the one of the richest and most visited regions of Spain, and retains a strong sense of its own culture and traditions. The capital is Barcelona, one of the most famous and cosmopolitan cities in Europe. Barcelona is well known for its museums, such as the Picasso Museum, MACBA or MNAC, and also for its architecture. Other cities in Catalonia are Lerida/Lleida and Girona.

Madrid region includes the second, fourth and current capitals of Spain. Madrid itself, with three world class museums (Prado, Sofia, and Thyssen-Bornemisza), and Aranjuez, El Escorial, Segovia, Toledo, and the Spanish civil war memorial at Valle de los Caidos are also nearby.

Cities


Spain has hundreds of interesting cities. In addition to its vibrant capital, Madrid, here are 9 of the most popular destinations:

    * Barcelona - Spain's second city, capital of Catalonia, full of modernist buildings and a vibrant cultural life, nightclubs, and beaches.

    * Bilbao - former industrial city, home to the Guggenheim Museum.

    * Cadiz - oldest city in Western Europe, celebrates a famous carnival.

    * Córdoba - The Grand Mosque ('Mezquita') of Cordoba is one of the world's finest buildings.

    * Granada - stunning city in the south, surrounded by snow capped mountains of the Sierra Nevada, home of La Alhambra.

    * San Sebastián - wealthy city with a large sandy beach bay and bay of Viscaya.

    * Santander - well-styled city with beautiful coastal parks.

    * Seville - a beautiful, verdant city, and home to the world's third largest cathedral.

    * Valencia - paella was invented here, has a very nice beach.

Other destinations


    * León - used to be a Roman colony, great monuments, nice food.
    * Béjar - really nice place to visit.
    * El Arenosillo - rocket launch site near Mazagón in Huelva, Andalucia
    * Jerez de la Frontera - home of sherry wine.
    * La Rioja - Rioja wine and fossilized dinosaur tracks.
    * Peñiscola - attractive town on the east coast with a medieval castle.
    * Rías Altas (comprising the province of Lugo plus the northern part of the province of Coruña) - beautiful beaches and food.
    * Rías Baixas (comprising the province of Pontevedra plus the southern part of the province of Coruña) - beautiful beaches and food.
    * Ronda - beautifully preserved old town in southern Spain with the oldest still-used bullring in Spain - it was the location for the film of Carmen with Placido Domingo.
    * Salamanca - home to the oldest University in Spain, the premier learning center during the middle ages.
    * Toledo - the first capital of Spain, the ecclesiastical capital of Spain
    * Valladolid - the third capital of Spain, a nice place to visit.
    * Sitges - a seaside resort near Barcelona.
    * Costa Brava - features rocky cliffs and beach resorts.
    * Mérida - an historical city in the west.

Driving in Spain


In major cities like Barcelona and in mid-sized like San Sebastian, moving around by car is both expensive and nerve-wracking. Fines for improper parking are uncompromising (€85 and up).

Having a driving map is essential - many streets are one-way; left turns are more rare than rights (and are unpredictable).

Getting around by car makes sense if you plan to move from one city to another every other day, ideally if you don't plan to park overnight in large cities.

Intersections of two highways typi