At dawn, the Spanish sun tints the sky red, during the day it rides bright and yellow in the sky and in the evening it is a red ball slowly disappearing over the horizon.
Think of Spain, and you think of sun. And whoever thinks of the sun is often also thinking about sea and sand. Spain has an abundance of all three. From north to south and east to west there could hardly be greater contrasts.
n the north you will find the fascinating, rugged Atlantic coast with the beautiful towns of Bilbao or San Sebastian. In the west, slightly inland, you will find the famous pilgrimage centre of Santiago de Compostela, which marks the end of the Way of St James. Then in the south you will find the smooth beaches of Andalusia. This area embodies many people’s idea of Spain, with its flamenco, white villages and sherry.
Or maybe it’s the Mediterranean isles of Ibiza and Mallorca? Or La Mancha in the country’s heartland, where Don Quixote and Sancho Panza jousted with windmills? Spain is so diverse and multi-faceted. This is largely due to its turbulent history. The country has always been a melting pot of many different cultures. For centuries it has been the meeting point of East and West. The Romans ruled the land for over 700 years, and for many years the Moors, invaders from Arabia and North Africa, dictated the destiny of the Iberian Peninsula. Many amazing buildings still bear witness to this age.
The most well-known of these is the Alhambra, the world-famous Moorish palace and fortress complex which was constructed during the mid 14th century in Granada in southern Spain. The famous Mezquita, Cordoba’s old mosque, also enchants visitors with its play of light and shade and countless pillars.
Spain shows its gentle side in spring and autumn. The sun is less strong and in many places nature is fresh and colourful. It is also often much quieter in the cities, on the beaches and around the main sights. At the height of summer the temperature can often climb well above 30 degrees. Along with Spain’s coast, culture and climate, many people are also fascinated by the relaxed way of life. Or is it because of the sun which brightens everyone’s mood? To find out, you just have to go there.
Tips for destinations
Madrid is the capital of Spain and has a population of over three million. It is a cosmopolitan city, a business centre, headquarters for the Public Administration, Government, Spanish Parliament and the home of the Spanish Royal Family.
Art and culture are central to Madrid life. The city has 73 museums that cover all fields of human knowledge. The most important ones are the Prado Museum, one of the world’s greatest art galleries, the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum with more than 800 paintings, sculptures and tapestries that go from the earliest Dutch masters to the most avant-garde trends, and the Reina Sofía National Art Centre, which is dedicated to Spanish contemporary art, with works by Picasso, Joan Miró, Salvador Dalí and Juan Gris among others.
Madrid’s impeccable parks and gardens invite residents and visitors alike to enjoy the sun, go for walks, go rowing or feed the squirrels. The Retiro Park, once playground of Spanish Monarchs, the Casa de Campo and the Juan Carlos I Park among others make Madrid one of Europe’s greenest capitals.
Madrid boasts concerts, exhibitions, ballets, theatre productions, and the latest cinematographic releases. You can sample a wide variety of the finest Spanish and international cuisine or be enchanted by its bars and taverns. These are just some of Madrid’s leisure alternatives, alongside tempting shopping in the most traditional establishments and world-famous outlets stocking the finest international brands.
Catalonia & Barcelona
Catalonia has a history that is among the oldest in Europe, a capital, Barcelona, which never sleeps, an inland full of charm, not forgetting of course, the beautiful beaches on the Costa Brava. A variety of artistic treasures awaits you, such as Romanesque churches and the great names in modern art and architecture, Dali, Gaudi, Miro and Picasso.
Barcelona is situated between the sea and the mountains and has the reputation of being the most cosmopolitan, modern and avant-garde city in Spain. It is a dynamic, open Mediterranean city and is perfect for relaxing, strolling around and enjoying its unique way of life.
There is a lot to see, such as Gothic architecture, the famous Las Ramblas avenue, Gaudi’s Güel Parc and the unfinished La Sagrada Cathedral, the old Raval quarter, La Ribera and La Barceloneta, a beachside ravel of corridor style streets where you can find some fantastic local restaurants and bars, away from the typical tourist area.
Getting around Barcelona is easy. You can pretty much walk around the whole city. They also have a daily rent-a-bike system and the Metro is very good and simple to use.
Costa del Sol & Málaga
Málaga Province and Costa del Sol offer their visitors beautiful landscapes, delicious food, and friendly people. Visitors can also discover a rich cultural heritage, fabulous beaches and coastal sites, and charming hinterland villages.
The Costa del Sol is famous for the hundreds of beaches to be enjoyed along its coast, from quiet, hidden coves to trendy stretches of sand with fashionable beach clubs. One of the most popular pastimes on the Costa is golf – there are over 50 golf courses in the area, with stunning mountain and clifftop locations offering spectacular views over the area’s varied landscapes and down to the sea.
Less well-known, but definitely worth a visit, are the many stunning national parks around Málaga province, often located just a short, easy drive inland. You can go hiking, caving, wild swimming, four-wheel-driving, horse-riding and enjoy countless other adventurous activities. For a less strenuous day out, the villages of the Axarquia region are some of the most picturesque in all of Spain.
If night-time is your time, then you’ll find a huge selection of bars and clubs along the coast, especially around Marbella and Puerto Banus, ranging from the fun and easygoing, to the chic and sophisticated.
If you’re coming to the coast on holiday, don’t miss Málaga city, which has reinvented itself in recent years as a cultural and gastronomic centre. It has an unparalleled offering of museums, including the Picasso Museum, a buzzing contemporary arts scene, and top-class tapas bars and restaurants.