10 things I loved about Spain
Spain is the number one destination for British tourists, and its not hard to see why. Sun, sea, sand, lively nightlife, a rich cultural history and cheap flights mean this country has a little something for everyone.
I have been to Spain a number of times over the past few years including trips to Madrid, Ibiza, Menorca, Valencia (x2) and Barcelona (x3). I have even spent a little time studying in the country and every time I go I experience something new and something different. Although, the one thing I have never experienced over there is rain.
It's difficult to condense my experiences into a small list, but here are the 10 things I loved most about Spain,.
10. The Beaches
I'm not much of a beach guy, I have the attention span of a goldfish and get restless pretty easily, however, as far as beaches go, Spain has some of the best I have seen.
Depending on your age and preferences, certain beaches will seem better than others. The beaches in Ibiza, especially around San Antonio and Playa d'en Bossa are busy, lively and there is always a beach party going on somewhere or another. Some of the beaches belong to certain hotels and are blocked off but most stretches of beach are open to the public.
The beaches in Menorca are the exact opposite, slow, quiet and very peaceful, especially outside of the summer holidays. The island is not too large and you can experience beaches on different parts of the island over a couple of days, each with its own unique character.
Barcelona and Valencia offer something slightly different, the culture of a large city and relaxed atmosphere and fun of the beach. Of the two, I would say the beach at Barcelona is better, simply because there is a lot more going on, especially with a large strip of bars and restaurants right on its doorstep, however that's not to say Valencia's is poor by any measure.
9. Barcelona Graduate School Library
Originally built in 1874, the fantastic library at the Barcelona Graduate School of Economics is one of the most spectacular libraries I have ever been to.
The entrance is through a staircase in the courtyard and is quite underwhelming, however, once you reach the old part of the library, you can spend hours looking at the Roman style architecture with 12 metre high brick work vaults. It literally felt like I had been transported to another time period and its not something I will forget in a hurry,
8. Old Town, Valencia
The third largest city in Spain is also one of the oldest continuously inhabited places in the country. The streets of the Old Town date back to Roman and Arabic rule and every corner has impressive buildings, each with its own story.
Specific stand out moments for me were the Serrano Towers, large defensive structures built in the 15th century and the 13th century Cathedral which dominates the skyline of the Old Town.
7. Las Fallas, Valencia
I literally have no words to describe just how amazing this festival is. Las Fallas is a pre-Christian festival to welcome in the Spring and it does so with a bang (literally!). Parts of the festival are all about making the loudest noise possible and when you hear fireworks in the middle of the day its a pretty strange experience, but it was at night where things got really crazy. The fireworks were so loud and so bright it felt like for a few moments that night had turned to day and the whole ground was shaking.
At other times, large crowds, in their thousands, would gather to hear gunpowder shots or other shows and then disperse just as quickly as they came. The streets of the Old Town are also filled with singing and dancing. It remains one of the best festivals I have ever had the privilege of experiencing.
6. Gothic Quarter, Barcelona
Like the Old Town in Valencia, just larger and more varied. You can easily get lost (and I did) in the maze of alleyways stretching from La Rambla to Via Laietana.
Most of the buildings here date back from the Medieval period, however, there are large tracts that have remained unchanged since Roman rule.
I preferred the Gothic Quarter at night, there is something about the lighting that makes you feel you are back in the Medieval period and the bars and restaurants, although a little pricey, are all very good in this part of the city.
5. Bunkers, Barcelona
As far as views in Spain go, there not many better than Bunkers. Situated next to Park Guell in the El Carmel district just outside the city centre, Bunkers is an old fortification dating from around the Civil War. Its a short but relatively steep hike to the top, but the views are unmatched anywhere else within the city. You can see everything from the Torre Agbar, Gothic Quarter, Port, Sagrada Familia and the beach.
It gives a good idea of (a) just house large the city is, and (b) just how diverse and varied Barcelona is. It's easy to spend a few hours just taking in the views and relaxing on the numerous benches on the climb up that directly overlook the city,
4. The Nightlife, Ibiza
The centre of the European club scene and by some accounts one of the main destinations for party goers worldwide, there's not many places that can compete with Ibiza when it comes to nightlife. I worked in the largest club in the Midlands for a number of years, but the size and scale of the clubs in Ibiza dwarfs anything in England. They usually have guest residencies where some of the most famous DJ's perform in different clubs.
There are drawbacks, if you dont like house music, chances are you wont like Ibiza. The only hiphop I heard was on a boat party. That being said, I wasnt a fan of house music going into Ibiza but I didnt mind it so much by the time I had left. It can also be pretty expensive to buy anything, even water, but the experience is still like nothing else.
Other parts of Spain also have fantastic hotspots. I had a great time In Madrid, in its largest club Kapital, and Barcelona has a couple of areas where there is a conglomeration of clubs. Valencia has the spectacular City of Arts and Sciences that transforms into a huge open roof club at night.
3. Architecture of Madrid
The 16th century was the Golden Age of Spain and its Empire and with trade flourishing, the capital, Madrid became home to some of the greatest artists, designers and builders in the world and so it is no surprise that the capital exudes the grandeur of Spain's past.
Everywhere you look, there are impressive buildings and details in random places. Unlike Barcelona and Valencia, very little Medieval structures survive, however, most of the spectacular buildings were constructed during Habsburg rule in the 16th and 17th centuries.
The Ministry of Agriculture, Congress of Deputies, Gate of Toledo and Madrid Cathedral were some of my favourite buildings, but the numerous plazas across the city were also incredibly beautiful. Madrid also manages to combine its historical past with modernity very well and there are also a number of newer skyscrapers closer to the Bernabeu.
2. Nou Camp & Santiago Bernabeu
And speaking of the Bernabeu. If you've read my other blog entries, you know how much I like exploring different football stadiums across Europe, and the Santiago Bernabeu and Nou Camp are two of the largest on the continent.
These stadiums are completely different to some of the English stadiums I have visited. Not as modern of the Emirates, Etihad or Wembley and with a different type of history than the likes of Villa Park, the scale of both stadiums is incredible. Although both stadiums are only slightly larger than Wembley, they feel like monoliths in comparison.
Sight lines aren't as good as some of the newly designed stadiums but the atmosphere is simply incredible. With increasing levels of security around sporting arenas across the world and issues for Sikhs in entering these arenas, there were no such problems in any of the stadiums here.
If I had to choose, I'd put the Nou Camp slightly ahead in terms of preference. The feeling I had when I first walked out of the stand and looked over the stadium and I could see the city over the side of it was breathtaking.
1. Sagrada Familia, Barcelona
Sure its in the middle of the city, sure its almost always busy and you have to buy tickets in advance and sure the tickets are a little pricey, however, there is nothing I can say that can do the Sagrada Familia justice.
It is one of the most ambitious and unique pieces of architecture that I have ever seen, the centre piece of the Gaudi revolution that swept across the city at the turn of the 19th century. The building is a large Catholic Cathedral that began construction in 1882 and largely relies on private donations to fund its completion. Its these lack of funds that means over 100 years later, it still isn't finished, in fact its the longest running construction project in the world.
The inside has different colours, patterns, shapes and designs with a lot of curves and quirky features. It really can be sensory overload. You can also climb some of the towers to get a view of the city and although good, is not quite as impressive as the view from Bunkers or Park Guell. Nevertheless, the Sagrada Familia is without a doubt one landmark you must visit.
The Mercado de San Miguel in Madrid is amazing indoor food market where I spent a number of hours trying dishes from across Spain. In fact, food in Spain in general is very nice and tapas seems to work incredibly well.
The City of Arts and Sciences in Valencia is an ambitiously large complex that is an entertainment based cultural capital of the Mediterranean city and well worth a visit.
Is there anything on the list you didn't enjoy or anything that I have left out? Have you visited Sevilla, Galicia or one of the other islands? Leave me a comment or Tweet me @travellingsingh
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British Sikh, born in the Midlands, based in London, travelling the world seeing new cultures.