Having lived in Spain for many years, I´m still amazed to discover that I don´t know it all! Spain is a vast country and several languages are spoken here as well as Spanish bringing more culture to the land. Along with it´s colourful history and traditions it certainly has alot to offer. Here are 7 recommendations that spring to mind to encourage you to step away from the Irish pubs and the cheap sangria on the costas!
- If you need to unwind head off to the Balearic Islands. I had a great time when I spent a month living on a motorboat in Formentera , it honestly felt like being in the Carribean rather than in Europe. There are many Italians there in Summertime, particularly in the main resorts. The conservation of the island has been well adminstered, there is no airports, you can only get there by boat. The limited number of hotels on the island also ensures it´s not crowded. You can find places on the island which are hardly visited. I loved the natural mud baths that you can find around the island. Another good option for families is Menorca I had a great beach holiday at the Cala´n Forcat not too far from Ciutadella, which has many small calas (bays) around and rocky overhangs and ledges that make private terraces to sunbathe on. A quiet place to see the beautiful colours of the sea. There are many areas to find on Menorca (and Mallorca for that matter) with a natural environment and not at all built up.
- If you prefer Quaint villages rather than islands then I would recommend the rugged coastline of the Costa Brava , there are so many great places to go around there. An Inland village with more rural vibe, such as one of my personal favourite Begur , especially out of season. Also the city of Girona (picture below) itself has a special romatic feel with the river and the old buildings around the city. Also on the coast there are fantastic options such as Cadaques, Roses, Pals, Calella, Tamariu or L´Escala which is famous for it´s anchovies.
- If your thing is priding yourself as a culture vulture I have to recommend Cordoba the wonderfully conserved Mezquita in the centre of the city is beautifully built with columns bought from other buildings in Europe at the time of construction. The Medina Azahara site just outside of Cordoba will make any history buff happy, a great archaelogical site to visit. In Seville there are many beautiful buildings and monuments to visit, pictured below is the Golden Tower (Torre de Oro) but of course there is the Giralda belltower and the wonderful Plaza de España too mention a just a few.
- If you are a shopaholic I would advise you to head to the city of Barcelona there you can find many high end stores along the Paseo de Gracia or on Diagonal (where it crosses with Balmes or Tuset) There are also other stores in the Born and Raval districts with upcoming designers. If you want discounted prices take a day trip to La Roca Village outlet, the bus leaves from Sants bus station. This outlet is great for reduced priced labels such as Lacoste, Tommy Hilfiger etc. You´ll need around 3 hours or so to see it all. Once a year I treat myself to a cosmetics day out in Marbella usually I head to the huge El Corte Inglés there, In Marbella I´ll spend the afternoon seeing what´s new from the different cosmetics brands, trying perfumes and getting a few free samples, I also check out a few of the boutiques in the old town. Maybe pop to the Hard Rock Café Marbella which is opposite, then I get the reall really feel like a Towie star!
- If you love Art Spain has some great galleries & museums, I´d recommened Madrid for the Reina Sofia, the Prado Museum & the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza. The Prado usually has huge queues but it is really worth the wait there is so much to see. My highlight was seeing the Monet temporary exhibition a few years ago, seeing the Waterlilies huge in a clean white room with space was great. Mustn´t miss the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao & in Andalusia head to Malaga to see the Picasso Museum.
- If Adventure and outdoors is your thing, you can try the Camino de Santiago (St James Way in English ) in Northern Spain. This is a 769 km route (depending on which you choose) and you can do all of it, or just a part of it. Another great destination is the Catalan Pyreenes for hiking and other outdoor activities. You can try National Parks in Spain, popular ones for outdoor activities are Sierra de Cazorla in Jaen or Donaña National Park which is know for birdwatching particularly.
- You adore Spanish Food then come to Spain, in Galicia and Asturias you can have wonderful Pintxos (pictured below) and great seafood, in Valencia and the Alicante area taste delicious Paellas and rice dishes and in all the bars in the city of Granada enjoy FREE tapas with your drinks. Wherever you travel in Spain it´s not difficult to find yummy food on offer, actually I think it´s one of the best things about living here. The variety of food on offer and the different foods from different regions of the country.
This is not an exhaustive list, it´s not a ranking of importance either, It´s my idea of some places that maybe aren´t the first things that spring to mind when planning travel in Spain!