From the moment you land in Spain, you feel it: a shift in culture and energy. It’s calm and vibrant, with sounds of bustling streets bursting with music and scents of fresh spices and flowers filling the air.
There’s something for everyone in this beautiful country—and that goes beyond just what Spain is known for. So, we asked travelers and staffers what they think the top things to know about Spain before visiting are, and what they love about traveling there. Here’s what they said.
1. The food
Of course, we couldn’t talk about a visit to Spain without diving into the food. We even have an entire Food & Wine Tour dedicated to it! But what food is Spain known for? Here are some favorites:
- Paella. This classic dish combines rice, saffron, vegetables, and typically chicken and seafood all cooked together and served in one pan.
- Pintxo. This famous small snack of fish, meats, or vegetables on bread is typically served by street vendors or in bars. It’s named after “spikes” because of the toothpick that keeps it together.
- Tapas. This isn’t just one food, but a variety of small, savory dishes of all kinds. People eat tapas as shared appetizers, snacks, or even full meals. They’re what Spain is famous for!
- Churros. These popular snacks are made from fried dough pastry, cut into sausage shapes and doused in sugar. And they’re delicious dipped in melted chocolate!
“In Spain, I ate and drank very well,” said first-time traveler Kristen about A Taste of Spain. “Given the chance I would gladly repeat the whole tour again just to enjoy Spanish hospitality, food, and wine.” Check out our Spain food and wine guide for more you can eat and drink in the beautiful country!
2. The markets
This may go hand-in-hand with the food, but Spain’s markets are a must for anyone. You can eat all kinds of authentic foods, chat with locals at the different stalls, sit at a bar sipping sangria while you people watch, and simply explore! Learn about exploring Spain’s Market of San Miguel here.
“My favorite part of Spain was trying all kinds of foods and meeting all kinds of people at the incredible markets,” said staffer Lauren. “Every city in Spain has one, and they’re all perfect in their own way. If you’re ever in Spain, try to go to at least one. You’ll thank me later.”
While each market is memorable, La Boquería in Barcelona is a classic stop that staffer Steph loved exploring during free time. “This indoor market is wonderfully hectic and the perfect spot to pick up any sort of produce, meat, or prepared food if you’re hungry and looking for a snack to fuel a day of sightseeing,” she said.
3. The architecture
One of the most interesting things about Spain is its architecture. Here are some of the most well-known, and artfully designed sites:
- The Sagrada Familia, Catalan Modernist architect Gaudí’s famous masterwork-in-progress
- The Alhambra, the Moorish sultans’ last stronghold in Spain
- Valencia Cathedral, a Roman Catholic parish church and epitome of Gothic and Baroque architecture
- Plaza de España, a lavish building, known for its brightly colored tilework that’s surrounded by a canal and fountains
- The Royal Alcázar, a gorgeous, ancient, UNESCO-protected building—and the oldest royal palace in use in Europe
“This is probably somewhat cliché, but the architecture of Antoni Gaudí is truly otherworldly,” explains staffer Steph. “I recommend either finding a guided Gaudí tour of the city, or even looking up a self-guided walking tour if you’re feeling brave! It’s a great way to explore the city of Barcelona and take in all of the dreamy architecture.”
Fourth-time traveler Angi took our Food & Wine Tour of Spain and fell in love with the diverse architectural details. “One of my favorite parts was Gaudí’s Sagrada Familia (Cathedral) for the uniqueness and architectural marvel that it is,” she said. “Gaudí’s Casa Mila/La Pedrera was amazing! Like nothing I’ve ever seen before. Beautiful and odd. Awe inspiring.”
If you ask anyone “What dance is Spain known for?”, they’ll tell you flamenco. Flamenco is more than a dance, however. It’s a UNESCO-declared art form based on the various folkloric music traditions of southern Spain. Dancers showcase emotions and tell stories through body movements and facial expressions.
You can see a professional show, or simply visit a restaurant in Seville that has performances while you eat. Either way, it’s worth watching. Flamenco is one of the best things about Spain tours!
“The accommodations, food, drinks, local guides, and Flamenco Dinner Show blew us away!” said second-time traveler Julie about her New Year’s Eve in Madrid with Barcelona & Seville.
Soccer (“football” in Spain) is a huge part of their culture. Spain has some of the biggest club teams and a very talented FIFA national team, and the locals go wild watching them play! Stop by any bar or cafe while a game is going on, and let the sport and excitement entrance you.
“I don’t even like sports, and I couldn’t help but feel invested while I watched the game and cheered with the rest of the crowd. It’s just... fun!” staffer Lauren explained.
Now that we’ve tired ourselves out talking about what is Spain famous for, it’s time for a little rest. A siesta is a short nap that takes place in the early afternoon, often after lunch, every day. Nearly the whole country shuts down—including popular tours, shops, and restaurants.
If you really want to experience Spanish culture on tour in Spain, try taking a siesta yourself! You might be surprised at how at peace you feel—and how much later you’ll be able to stay up.
“I think if you open yourself up to the culture, Spain can make you feel incredibly free!” added staffer Steph. “When I think of Spain, I remember midday sangria breaks that led beautifully into siestas. I remember eating some of the most sensational, wonderfully seasoned foods I’ve ever tasted, but never feeling too over-indulged, as taking long strolls through Spanish cities makes getting your daily steps in thrilling.”
7. Nighttime adventures
Speaking of staying up, one of the most unique things about Spain is how late people stay out at night just living life. Take it from Tour Director and Spanish native Leonor. “Spain is different from the rest of Europe because we love to go out in the evenings,” she said. “Whether it’s summer or winter, after 6:30pm you find that families come out for walks, shopping, sitting at outside cafeterias or bars, dinner, and in general, hanging out in a relaxed and cheerful way.”
Staying out late isn’t just for partying. It’s “sometimes just walking around and running into friends,” Leonor said. “And this goes on until quite late. There’s this joyful feeling of enjoying life everywhere, no matter how hard times could be.”
As you can see, there are so many things to do on tour in Spain—no matter what you’re interested in. So, get out there! Once you immerse yourself in the Spanish culture, you’re guaranteed an experience you’ll never forget.