There is no culture in the world as frisky and romantic as Spanish culture. The bewitching aura of Flamenco, an extraordinary artistic heritage, and convivial gatherings… These are only a few of the unique elements that make Spain one of a kind. The country owes these to its turbulent yet fascinating history. Spain has been a passageway of countless civilizations from the Greco-Roman world to the Islamic era and independence.
Packed in small neighborhoods that make up Spain’s huge cities is the cultural trove of each of their traditions. The entire society unites around a strong sense of national identity. But, you will see that entirely different cultural happenings erupt in Castilla, Andalucia, and Catalonia.
A vibrant street culture is the core of Spanish society. You will see communities of all ages and groups come together in the atmospheric plazas at the weekend. Spend some time people-watching, and the key concepts of Spanish culture will soon unfold. A staggering architectural heritage surrounds it all, making the scene all the more ravishing. Anchored by literary geniuses like Cervantes, painted by art history’s most prominent figures like Dalí, and made into concrete by the phenomenal Gaudí, Spanish culture is the most charismatic experience you will ever have.
Eating & Drinking
“Unexpected nods of culinary experience and unique tastes constitute the heart of Spain’s eating and drinking scene.”
The world’s largest producer of olive oil knows how to use it well—it is the base of many mouth-watering sauces served with eclectic tapas. Garlic is a staple in every salty dish and regional herbs like oregano and thyme are common in all of Spain’s cooking cultures. Speaking of, Spain consists of 6 culinary regions, each of which has incredibly rich elements that go into the food. Andalucia is the realm of exquisite tapas, while in Catalonia, you will have the best casserole of your life. Keep in mind that you will find everything everywhere in Spain, but for the ultimate experience of Spanish culture, try the dishes in their places of origin.
It would be fair to say that the Spanish follow a 5-meal plan when it comes to the daily food agenda. After breakfast comes the traditional mid-morning coffee break. You may still go on with the breakfast delicacies like tortilla de patata or bollos. Tapas are perfect appetizers at any time of the day, whether as a street food escape or to get your stomach running before a hearty meal. Contrary to what you might expect, la comida (the mid-day meal) is the largest meal of the day. Usually served in two or three courses, the Spanish lunch is the best way to experience most aspects of Spanish food. Then comes snack time, similar to the British five o’clock tea but much more satisfying. This is the best time to visit Spain’s tantalizing tapas bars. As for dinner, it is more about wine or beer than food.
Eating in Spain is not only about appetite, it is a social ritual and the most joyful occasion of daily life. The celebratory spirit is most intensely reflected in the tasteful Sangria. A perfect symbol of Spanish culture, Sangria hails the highest quality Spanish wines and local fruits. Feeling fancier? Revel in a bottle of cava, Spain’s own variety of champagne.
Unique Crafts & Shopping
Spain’s shopping scene is almost as grand as that of Paris. From worldwide fashion brands to local designer’s lines, luxury shopping is the main thing in the big cities. On the other side, small-scale ateliers and workshops await in the back-of-the-beyond corners of the old towns. On top of it all, there is that timeless beauty to Spanish culture that manifests in various iconic products such as Spanish leather or organic delicacies like saffron and olive.
When in Barcelona, the answer to your shopping problems is the phenomenal Boqueria Market. This is where you will find all things edible that are quintessentially Spanish. Iberico jamón and all varieties of Spanish wine and cava are some of the best gift items. Madrid is home to some of the oldest bakeries and crafts shops in Spain. Get some colorful handmade espadrilles for your loved ones. Identified as the cultural calling cards of Spain, Seville and Granada are those places where you need to explore every single alley on foot. From handcrafted jewelry shops to leather studios, myriad locally owned places offer unique items for good deals.
The most iconic items to buy in Spain are flamenco dresses, leather boots and bags, and the frisky Abanicos (handheld fans). The fans are not only essential items of the Flamenco dance but make their appearance in daily life as well. They reflect the best of skillful Spanish handiwork. Also popular are castanets, the percussion instruments that constitute the soul of Flamenco. But this is not all. A bottle of Cava, the blissful Spanish wine, olive oil, saffron, and packaged pastries such as the Mallorcan Spiral Pastry will deliver what many hail as Spanish food culture.
Religion & Etiquette
The majority of the Spanish population is Catholic, with the remaining following Islam. Catholicism has a significant influence on everyday life as well as society, with most celebrations and festivities being based on important dates of the religion. These days, many Spaniards report having religion as more of a cultural drive in their lives. They live by traditions and customs brought to them by Catholicism, but keep it as modern and open-minded as possible. As a result, you will get to experience religious rituals as cultural spectacles, and be yourself comfortably when in Spain.
Spanish people won’t mind if you are reasonably late to a casual meeting or even a special occasion. What they consider rude, however, is not giving greetings to people in elevators, shops, and restaurants; arguing over a bill when someone wants to pay it for you; or wasting food. Still, Spaniards rarely judge people, if you are not one to mistake casual indifference for judgment. Tolerance and hospitality are some of the core values of Spanish culture—no wonder they have the famous saying “mi casa es su casa”. Always show your gratitude and appreciation, whether you are invited to a local home for dinner or just having a meal at a restaurant. Although not always expected, tipping is a great way to do this.
One of the few behaviors that may attract negative attention in Spain is excessive drunkenness. It may seem like the Spanish are always drinking, which is partially true. It takes people too long to finish a drink because of the generally relaxed way of life. But in fact, Spaniards are rarely too drunk. So, there may come a time when you need to hold your liquor. Also, try to be more careful with your clothing when visiting sacred places and even the most touristic churches.
Festivals & Events
“All of Spain comes to life whether in daylight or after dark, through trendy festivals, hippest art shows, and high-spirited carnivals.”
Spain celebrates even the oldest religious days with the most innovative style. And when it comes to partying it out in the name of arts, culture, and all things quintessentially Spanish, it doesn’t hold back. Throughout the year, a plethora of extravagant and more modest celebrations take place all across the colorful land. No matter which month you are planning to visit, Spain has something to satisfy all your needs. Sometimes things may seem like they are getting out of hand—like the unbelievably chaotic La Tomatina, the world-famous tomato-throwing festival that takes place annually in Valencia. This is one of the most famous occasions in Spanish culture, so do pay a visit if you are traveling in summer.
Less hectic but equally extravagant, Semana Santa, or the Holy Week, is simply the most important event in the Spanish calendar. Thousands of people come together to celebrate the Passion of Jesus Christ. This is when you will the most heartfelt expressions of Spanish culture manifest all throughout the country. San Juan is another religious festival, during which locals celebrate St John the Baptist, together with the arrival of summer.
Experience the best of evocative flamenco in Seville during the electrifying Feria de Sevilla. The most unique elements of Spanish music, dance, and fashion come together in this event. Las Fallas in Valencia is almost equal in visual lavishness. It is one of the biggest bonfire fests in the world. You will see the streets of Valencia witness a parade of surreal costumes and events through many nights in mid-March.
Tours visiting Spain
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