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La célèbre fontaine de Cibeles à Madrid

- © Eszter Szadeczky-Kardoss / Shutterstock
Spain
Spain

From costa to sierra, from playa to pueblo, from tapas to paella

Spain in short

Historic cities, monasteries, cathedrals, castles and world-famousmuseums are all part of Spain's impressive cultural heritage, with many UNESCO-listed sites. From snow-capped sierras to sun-drenched costas, via the plazas of its typical villages, flamenco, bullfights, férias, sangrias, fresh cervezas and tapas are combined with exceptional local gastronomy. The sweet perfume of its archipelagos, the Balearic Islands in the Mediterranean and the Canary Islands in the Atlantic, completes the picture. A trip to Spain is a guarantee of unforgettable memories in its tourist paradores and charming fincas, at the end of wild fiestas. On the other side of the Pyrenees, discover the white villages of Andalusia, admire the Alhambra in Granada, the Mezquita in Cordoba, the Alcazar and Giralda in Seville, and discover the wonders of Catalonia: Barcelona and its Sagrada Familia, the mythical Costa Brava, and the PortAventura theme park.

Los Cancajos, Canary Island

- © Serenity-H / Shutterstock

The cradle of tourism

It was here that modern tourism was born, with the first seaside resorts, and Spanish hotel groups are among the best known in the world of tourism. It has to be said that the concreting of the coastline in the 1970s disfigured certain parts of the Spanish coastline, notably Benidorm on the Costa Blanca, Lloret del Mar on the Costa Brava, Torremolinos on the Costa del Sol, Playa Las Americas in Tenerife on the Canaries and Playa de Palma in Mallorca on the Balearic Islands. But these excesses should not obscure the fact that the vast majority of the coastline remains unspoilt and sublime. Whether it's Mallorca, Ibiza, Formentera or Menorca, the Balearic Islands are home to delightful coves with turquoise waters bathed in a pleasant scent of pinewoods that add to the charm of these Mediterranean islands. In the Canaries, bathed by the Atlantic Ocean, the seven islands of the archipelago - Tenerife, Gran Canaria, Fuerteventura, Lanzarote, La Gomera, Hierro and La Palma - offer surprising volcanic landscapes of incredible diversity in a climate of eternal spring. As for Spain's major cities, Barcelona, Madrid, Seville and Valencia, they seem to have been designed with city breaks in mind!

Madrid's Plaza Mayor with the equestrian statue of King Philip III

- © May_Lana / Shutterstock

A cultural destination with numerous UNESCO sites

It's not for nothing that Spain is the world's second most popular tourist destination after France. It has to be said that the country enjoys a privileged climate, with plenty of sunshine and particularly mild temperatures, and is home to some of the most prestigious sites on the planet, such as the Alhambra in Granada, the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona and Seville Cathedral.

The Sagrada Familia, unfinished masterpiece of the genius Antoni Gaudi

- © TTstudio / Shutterstock

A richly festive and cultural destination

There are many festivals and festivities throughout the year in Spain, most of them religious in origin. Make sure you find out all you can about them before you leave - some are really worth it! Holy Week, of course, is spectacular in Andalusia. It begins on Palm Sunday and ends after Easter Sunday. Other festivities well worth attending include the horse fair in Jerez de la Frontera, the international guitar festival in Cordoba, and the carnival, which is very famous in Cadiz, as well as in the Canary Islands, particularly in Santa Cruz de Tenerife and Gran Canaria. You can also attend bullfights, if you feel like it!

Museo Guggenheim de Bilbao

- © Rudy Mareel / Shutterstock

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The must-sees

All the must-sees

How to get there?

Spain's main airports are Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia, Seville and Malaga, the latter being the gateway to the Costa del Sol. From these points of entry, you can easily discover much of the country. Spain is very easy to get to from France.

For example, it takes just 1 hour 40 minutes to fly to Barcelona from Paris - in short, it's right next door! The same goes for Bilbao, the gateway to the Basque country, 1h45 for Valencia, 2h to reach Madrid, Majorca and Ibiza, and 2h15 for Seville and Malaga.

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Where to stay?

From lively clubs and chic, trendy urban hotels to top-of-the-range resorts, palaces, thalassotherapy hotels, charming fincas and historic parador hotels (in a convent or castle, for example), Spain offers a wide range of accommodation to suit all budgets and categories (luxury, family, charming, guest house, etc.). There are, of course, the major brands from Mallorca (Riu Barcelo, Iberostar, Bahia Principe, etc.), which have since conquered the entire planet!

Practical information

When should you visit Spain?

Thanks to its geographical diversity and different climates, Spain can be visited all year round. While summer is the ideal time to enjoy maximum sunshine and high (even too high) temperatures, winter is also a pleasant season. In Madrid, for example, the average maximum temperature between December and February is over 10°C. This is the perfect time to visit the Cannaries. The Islands of Eternal Spring, winter is the high season when mainland Europe is shivering.

Finally, winter sports fans can hit the slopes in the Pyrenees (on the French border), the Sierra Nevada (in Andalusia) and the Picos de Europa (shared by the provinces of Asturias, Cantabria and León), in the north-west of the country.

Formalities and visas

French nationals and citizens of the European Union only need a valid identity card to enter Spain.

Health

No vaccinations are required to enter Spain. An identity card is sufficient. There are no longer any restrictions against Covid 19.

Currency

As a member of the European Union, Spain's official currency is the euro. It is therefore not necessary to change euros into another currency to buy local products.

Language

Spanish is the country's official language. However, there are a few subtleties when you move from one region to another. You may hear Catalan spoken in Barcelona and the surrounding region, for example. Whatever the case, Spanish is enough to make yourself understood throughout the country.

Specialities

The whole world knows the classics of Spanish gastronomy: Andalusian gazpacho, paella, sangria, tapas... But when you travel around Spain, you'll discover many more. It's up to you to discover them during your stay.

What to bring back?

At the crossroads of civilisations, Andalusia in particular is full of ideas for crafts. Ceramics are very famous, made by Andalusian craftsmen inspired by the Muslim tradition. These decorative objects will be a delight in the home when you return. You can also take home guitars, flamenco dresses, fans and even castanets as gifts for the whole family!

Seville is famous for its mantillas. Made from silk or lace, this is a traditional dress worn by women during Holy Week. Cordoba is renowned for its leather. For pretty pearls, head for Mallorca, of course!

Each region inspires us with its treasures, and visitors will always find a little something to put in their suitcases, for example, an aloe vera-based product in the Canaries. Sometimes it's even a culinary speciality, such as turron, the Spanish nougat, or Iberian ham, the best ham in the world!

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Where to get a bargain?

In Spain, life is cheaper than in France, and you'll be pleasantly surprised by the prices of taxis, meals, cafés and beers, which are better and fresher than in France. It's in the Canaries that you'll find the cheapest products (tobacco, alcohol, etc.) because the archipelago enjoys special status.

Tapas, how does it work?In the evening, visit the tapas bars, order a good beer for a euro, and you'll be served free tapas to go with it: an opportunity to spend typical, fun evenings without breaking the bank!

Live Spanish-styleIn Spain, the way of life is quite different from ours. Live on Spanish time: there's no need to have lunch before 2pm or dinner before 9pm, and between 2pm and 5pm is siesta time, which is sacred here, so you won't find much open... As for party-goers, the wild Spanish nights don't start until 11pm or midnight! At night, the cities are even livelier than during the day!

Useful links
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