Flamenco flourishes in historic Seville. Credit: Shutterstock.

Spain travel guide: Everything you need to know

Author: Nicole Carmichael

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Sun-drenched beaches, incredible food, unrivalled
architecture and stunning landscapes – Spain has it all says Nicole Carmichael

Ever since Brits started holidaying abroad, Spain has been our favourite sunshine destination.

Why? Well, whatever style of holiday you’re looking for, you can find it on these sun-kissed shores.

While its 3,500-mile coastline includes some of the world’s most famous resorts, Spain also offers more UNESCO Biosphere Reserves than anywhere else on earth.

In fact, from lush green forests and wetlands to stunning cities and sleepy villages, few countries can boast such an incredible variety of landscapes.

Barcelona’s Parc Guell, adorned with colourful mosaics by Antoni Gaudi. Credit: Shutterstock.

A nation of fiercely independent regions such as Catalonia and the Basque Country, Spain is justly proud of a rich cultural history that reflects its unique position at the crossroads of Europe, Africa and the Mediterranean.

But it’s also a country that loves to party, with colourful fiestas, flamenco and feasting.

A cruise along Spain’s coastline offers easy access to most of its greatest cities, with their dazzling galleries and museums, unlimited shopping and world-class sports stadiums.

And naturally it’s the best way to explore those famous holiday isles such as Mallorca, Ibiza and the Canaries.

But let’s start with Spain’s most famous port.

Elegant buildings and townhouses line the streets of Valencia for less this Wave Season. Credit: Shutterstock.

Barcelona, the capital of Catalonia, draws visitors from all over the world with its eye-popping architecture designed by Antoni Gaudi, its famous La Rambla promenade and the incredible Picasso Museum.

A highlight of just about every western Mediterranean itinerary, this is a city you’ll never tire of exploring.

From Barcelona, a day’s sail along the coast will bring you to Valencia, Spain’s third largest city. Known as the birthplace of paella (authentically made with rabbit, not chicken), it’s also the perfect blend of old and new – so after exploring the cobbled ancient quarter, prepare to be wowed at the futuristic City of Arts and Sciences.

Cadiz is both the birthplace of flamenco dance and steeped in naval history. Credit: Shutterstock.

Stunning Seville in the southern province of Andalucia is home to three UNESCO World Heritage Sites – the cathedral of Santa Maria, the Royal Alcazar palace, and the Archive of the Indies.

And if you’re sailing home, don’t miss a port stop at the stunning northern city of Bilbao, home of Frank Gehry’s extraordinary Guggenheim Museum and Jeff Koons’ giant flower sculpture, known as Puppy.

Want more? There’s buzzy Malaga, the capital of the Costa del Sol; San Sebastian, known for its wonderful cuisine; and Cadiz, the historic home of the Spanish navy.

Other must-sees include enchanting Cordoba; Jerez de la Frontera, the home of sherry; fascinating Granada, and beautiful sun- drenched Marbella.

Mallorca offers beautiful beaches to tourists from all across the world. Credit: Shutterstock.

And that’s without even mentioning Madrid, the nation’s capital, with its elegant boulevards and amazing art galleries including the Royal Palace and the Prado, which house works by Spanish masters including Goya and Velazquez.

As a destination for sun-worshippers, Spain offers no end of stunning beach resorts, from the rugged Costa Brava to the white sands of the Costa Blanca, the Atlantic-facing Costa de la Luz and, of course, the famous (and aptly named) Costa del Sol.

But for the classic combination of sun, sand and sea, you can’t beat the Balearics and Canaries.

The former offer something for everyone, from multi-gen gatherings in Mallorca to gangs of friends hitting Ibiza for serious clubbing, while the latter enjoy year-round sun and a variety of welcoming beaches from the Sahara- sized sand dunes of Gran Canaria’s Maspalomas to the volcanic black beaches of La Palma.

A Spanish voyage is an excellent opportunity to sample authentic paella – made with rabbit! Credit: Shutterstock.

And still, we’ve barely scratched the surface of what Spain has to offer.

There’s skiing in the Pyrenees, incredible fiestas such as Pamplona’s Running of the Bulls, world-class football from the likes of Real Madrid and FC Barcelona, and so much more.

As chef Anthony Bourdain once said: "Any reasonable, sentient person who looks at Spain, comes to Spain, eats in Spain, drinks in Spain, they’re going to fall in love. Otherwise there’s something deeply wrong with you.

"This is the dream of all the world."

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