The third largest country in Europe; Spain includes two island groups, the Canaries and the Balearics and reaches down to the tip of North Africa. Spain has a predominantly warm Mediterranean climate, with dry summers and winters with balanced temperatures. Here you can enjoy more than 3,000 hours of sunshine per year. It’s no wonder that Spain and its islands are a favorite winter escape for northern Europeans.
Spain is a mosaic of several very different cultures. The Basques live in the Pyrenees region, and do not consider themselves Spanish. The Catalans who inhabit Barcelona and environs have their own independent identity as well. The Spaniards who inhabit the rest of Spain are noble people who are proud of their country. What brings these diverse people together is their love of family, the land and their love of life.
Sightseeing in Spain
As the capital of Catalonia and one of the Mediterranean’s busiest ports, Barcelona, Spain draws thousands of sightseers each year. Its Old Town includes many historical monuments. The Gothic Barcelona Cathedral, dating from the 14th century, has 28 side chapels surrounding its nave. The Ramblas, a pedestrian thoroughfare is the place to be both day and night.
Montjuic Castle is a huge 17th century structure overlooking the city. The Palau Nacional houses the National Museum of Catalonian Art, including an extensive medieval art collection. Barcelona is perhaps best known, though, for having more Modernist buildings than any other in the world.
Castles of Castile
The largest concentration of Spain’s castles is in Castile. A number of these were built in the 10th and 11th centuries when Moors and Christians were at war and towns were fortified for protection against the enemy. Those built in later centuries served as palaces for the nobility. Castile’s castles include Belmonte, Coca, La Mota, Penafiel and Segovia.
Spain’s capital includes a royal palace, several significant museums, and impressive town squares. The Palacio Real, built by Spain’s first Bourbon kings, takes up a good portion of the city’s Old Town; inside, the palace rooms are extravagantly decorated and worth seeing.
Madrid’s important museums include: the Museo del Prado, housing the world’s greatest collection of Spanish painting, with especially fine collections of Goya and Valazquez; the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, exhibiting works by Goya, Picasso, Rubens, Titian, and Van Gogh; and the Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, home to 20th century works, including Picasso’s famous “Guernica”.
Important town squares include: the Plaza Mayor, a 17th century square once used for bullfights, Inquisition trials, and executions; and the Plaza de Cibeles, a square surrounded by significant buildings, including the 19th century Banco de Espana and the city’s main post office. Just outside of Madrid is one of Spain’s most famous monuments; the palace of El Escorial; this massive monastery/palace includes lavish décor accented with significant artworks and its Royal Pantheon contains the remains of most of the Spanish monarchs.
The capital of Navarra, this town is famous for its annual fiesta, Los Sanfermines, which includes the Encierro, the running of the bulls through the streets of the city.
Santiago de Compostela
This majestic cathedral, dating back to the Middle Ages, is one of the most important shrines in medieval Christendom. It attracts thousands of pilgrims and tourists each year. Legend has it that the body of Jesus’ apostle James was brought to Galicia and that the cathedral was built in his honor. Along the pilgrimage route, there are many fine examples of Romanesque architecture.
Situated on the banks of the Rio Guadalquivir and packed with historical architecture, Seville is well worth sightseeing. The city is most famous for its Plaza de Toros de la Maestranza, a stunningly white ring where bullfights (corridas) have been staged for more than two centuries.
Sightseeing in Spain; the islands
The Balearics and The Canaries
If you’re looking for sunny climes and sandy beaches, it’s hard to go wrong here. Plus, both the Balearics and the Canaries include some interesting geological and historical sites made for sightseeing.
Written by Terri Fogarty for EuropeUpClose.com