Spain is one of the most important tourist destinations in the World, and its culture, history and, personalities are well known. Here, we will explore what is famous for and many of Spain’s contributions to the world.
So, what do people immediately think when Spain is mentioned? The beaches, the sun, the famous Spanish painters, the wonderful Spanish food… This is our list of the things Spain is famous for!
Famous things about Spanish Culture
Flamenco is a style of music played especially on the guitar and accompanied by singing and dancing, originated in Andalusia in the south of Spain. It has a very unique art style which includes toque (guitar playing), cante (singing), baile (dance), jaleo (vocalizations and chorus clapping), pitos (finger snapping), and palmas (handclapping).
Flamenco’s origin is debatable but it seems to have been created through the cultural exchanges of the many peoples in Andalusia, Andalusians, Romani, Castilians, and Moors. In 2010 UNESCO declared flamenco one of the Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity. Interestingly, Flamenco has been spreading throughout the world and nowadays there are many more flamenco academies outside Spain than inside.
One of the most famous things about Spain is the siesta. For those who don’t know a Siesta is basically a short, afternoon nap, taken usually after lunch. A great idea that unfortunately is fading away… Studies show that less than 20% of the Spanish take the Siesta, and it’s usually kids and elderly. Understandably, the working Spanish people don’t really have time for it anymore. I don’t believe I have ever met a Spaniard that actually confirmed having a siesta regularly.
The Siesta was a pivotal part of the Spanish culture, particularly in the central south, where temperatures reach really high temperatures during the day. As it was impossible or at least inhuman to work under the sun, workers took a longer lunch hour and rested/took a siesta. Even today, in Spain, everything closes between 2 pm and 5 pm supposedly this is a legacy of the siesta (but to some lucky ones, it’s still siesta time)
#3 Bullfights “Corrida de Toros”
Bullfighting has been an important part of the Spanish culture for centuries. In fact, historians tell us that there has been bullfighting in Spain since Roman times. However, this is a tradition that it’s in a profound identity crisis, due to the growing concerns with animal cruelty. In 2015, Catalonia has even prohibited bullfights altogether.
In a Spanish bullfight, the matadores fight the bull to death. It has 3 stages, tercio de varas(the lancing third), tercio de banderillas ( the third of banderillas) and tercio de muerte ( “the third of death”). If the matador manages to kill the bull skillfully, he is allowed to take the bull’s ear home as a trophy for this achievement.
Bullfighting is sometimes referred to as a blood sport but in Spain, it’s viewed as an art form and cultural event. Either way, it’s definitely one of the first things people think of when thinking about Spain and Spanish Culture.
The Spaniards are street people and really love going out, mingle, talk and party. Naturally, the country is full of festivities celebrating religious patron, saints or any other thing. Some of these are pretty obscure but others are international renown, like the Tomatina and the Bull run of San Fermin. Anyway, whenever you are planning a trip to Spain you should always have a look at what’s going on because you may have a really cool festivity waiting for you.
La Tomatina is an annual festival in the small town of Buñol, in the Valencian Community. It’s considered the world’s biggest food fight! It only takes about an hour but nearly 150 000 tomatoes are thrown. Every year around 40 000 people participate in this pretty cool festival, which started only in 1945 when a street food fight started and people started throwing vegetables. Now it’s one of the most famous festivities in the world.
Bull runs of San Fermín
The Bull Runs of San Fermín is the most important festival in the city of Pamplona, Navarre. It’s also one of Spain’s most notorious fiestas. This adrenaline-fueled festival occurs every year in July since almost 1000 ago, when the butchers had to transport bulls from the ranches outside Pamplona to the bullring.
Every morning for a whole week occurs a Bull Run where anyone can participate. Each day 6 bulls are freed and then they run for 825 meters. Locals and tourists then run in front of the Bull in a crazy obviously very dangerous stunt…
Famous Spanish food and drinks
Spanish food is one of the most influential cuisines in Europe, with many relevant dishes and ingredients that spread through Europe and the World. Spanish food and drinks are now world-famous for its quality and diversity. They are easily one of the famous things about Spain.
Tapas are a very simple but wide concept. To put it simply tapas can include anything edible as long as it’s a small portion. It may be a smaller version of a dish or a different dish on its own. It’s usually served with a drink.
Tapas have a huge influence on Spanish culture as people tend to go out to bars and have a drink and tapas. It’s a cultural activity and a style of eating. I would say it’s almost a way of life, enjoying the company of friends while drinking and eating small portions of great food. It can’t be a surprise that the Spaniards love going out.
Tapas are now spread everywhere as we can see tapas bars in almost every major city in the world and thus one of the most famous Spanish things.
The Paella is probably the most famous Spanish dish and comes originally from the region of Valencia. A Paella is essentially a rice-based dish cooked with saffron, olives, spices, herbs, olive oil, and vegetables or meat or seafood.
The original Valencian paella is cooked with meat, but there’s also the seafood paella (mostly done in the coastal areas) and the controversial mixed Paella includes both meat and seafood.
There are variations and versions of the paella around the world, in France, Portugal, Latin America, US, Philippines and much more. In Spain, you can easily find Paellas in many restaurants and sometimes even in fairs.
#7 The cured meats – Chorizo & Jamón ibérico
Chorizo is a cured sausage with both sweet and spicy flavors and red smoked-pepper coloring. They are absolutely delicious and may be eaten as an appetizer, tapas or as an ingredient in another dish.
Jamón Ibérico is the specific ham that one can see hanging in most bars and restaurants. It’s called Ibérico because it’s both from Portugal and Spain, particularly Easter Portugal and Western Spain, though it’s a dish very associated with Spain.
Jamón Ibérico is made with Iberian black pigs, which are known as pata negra (black paw) due to their distinctive black hooves. Jamon is a serious business and even an art form in Spain, with many factors in place to determine quality, such as what the pigs are fed, the type of pig and the curing process. The top category of the Jámon is the Jamón ibérico de bellota, where Iberian pigs (Ibérico) are free-range and acorn-fed (bellota).
Sangria is an alcoholic drink originated in Spain that’s made with red wine and chopped fruit, often with other ingredients such as orange juice or brandy. Though there are many variations on the original recipe.
Sangria is like Spain, festive, fruity and fun – perfect for receiving friends and pairing it with… tapas! It is believed that the name Sangria comes from Sangre which means blood due to the deep red color of the drink.
Famous Spanish people
#9 The Painters
Spain has been influential in world culture and art for a really long time, particularly in painting. Some of the most well known and loved Spanish artists include Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dalí and Antoní Gaudi.
Pablo Picasso was born in Malaga but lived most of his adult life in Paris. Picasso is surely one of the most influential artists of the 20th century. Though the paintings are his most famous works Picasso was a complete artist. Besides being a painter he was a sculptor, printmaker, ceramicist, stage designer, poet, and playwright.
Picasso is also widely known for his cubist period and more importantly for co-founding this artistic movement. Besides the cubism, he’s also linked to the invention of constructed sculpture, the co-invention of collage, and the wide variety of styles he helped develop and explore.
Salvador Dali was born in Catalonia and was one of the most prominent surrealist artists, both because of his flamboyant personality and his talent. Dali is among the most versatile and prolific artists of the 20th century.
Besides a painter, Dali was a Sculptor, Filmmaker, Printmaker, and Performance Artist. His most famous work is The Persistence of Memory (1931).
Antoni Gaudí was a Spanish architect famous for being the exponent of Catalan Modernism. Most of his famous works are located in Barcelona, and if you have visited the city you are surely aware of Gaudí’s work. Each of Gaudí’s production is truly one of a kind as he considered every aspect of his creations deeply and usually included different techniques and crafts into them.
The Sagrada Familia in Barcelona is Gaudí’s most famous work, but it wasn’t finished when he died and it still isn’t finished now (though there are plans). Between 1984 and 2005, seven of his works were declared World Heritage Sites by UNESCO, such as Parque Güell, Palacio Güell, Casa Mila, Casa Vicens, and Casa Batlló.
#10 The Conquistadores
The Conquistadores, or the conquerors in English, were the Spaniards who sailed beyond Europe to the Americas and Asia, conquering territory and opening trade routes. and ultimately colonizing almost half of the world for Spain.
The two most famous Conquistadores were Hernán Cortés who conquered the Aztec Empire (in Mexico) and Francisco Pizarro who led the conquest of the Incan Empire(Peru). One of the most impressive things about them was their ability to conquer such vast territories with very little resources and man.
The conquistadores played a tremendous role in shaping the Hispanic world as we know it, both in Spain and in Latin America.
Other famous things about Spain
#12 Wonderful Beaches
If there’s something everyone knows about Spain is that it has amazing beaches. During Summer the Mediterranean beaches of Spain become completely full of people looking for its warm water and nice yellow sand.
When it comes to the beaches Spain really has more than its share. In Spain, you can find the Balearic Islands, the Canary Islands, and the southern Mediterranean coast. All of them have very warm water and some idyllic beaches. You can also find, nice urban beaches in Barcelona, Malaga, Valencia, Marbella, Coruna, San Sebastian, and so on… Finally, you have the colder but also wonderful beaches of the Atlantic in Galicia, Asturias, and the Basque country!
#13 Sun and nice weather
Together with the wonderful beaches, Spain is famous for its general nice weather and sunny days. The south of Spain is one of the sunniest regions in Europe, with really high temperatures in Summer and relatively warm during winters. However, you should note that the north of Spain (Galicia, Asturias, Cantabria and the Basque Country) have much more mild Summers, while the winters are colder and rainy (very rainy)
#14 Spanish Football
The Spaniards are crazy about football (European football, obviously) and with a reason, they are very good at it. The Spanish national team has been European champions 3 times (1964, 2008, 2012) and world champions once (2010). This means that between 2008 and 2012 they have won all 3 major competitions!
However, it’s not only the national team that has success, two of the most successful and popular football clubs in the world are also Spanish. Both Real Madrid and Barcelona have fans and generate passions worldwide. They are truly global clubs.
#15 Ibiza and its wild parties
Ibiza is one of the islands of the Balearic Islands in the Mediterranean. Ibiza is famous for attracting lots of tourists due to its extraordinary beaches and most importantly its unmatched nightlife.
Ibiza became worldwide famous for its wild parties, huge discos, and crazy nightlife. Ibiza is considered the party hub of not only Spain but the whole world and the most happening place for people to unwind and lose themselves in music.
#16 Catalan and Basque independence
Lately, Spain has been on the news for its lack of internal cohesion, with several regions wanting independence, particularly the Basque Country and Catalonia.
In June 2018, after a very controversial referendum, Catalonia has even declared its independence, which led to the biggest political crisis in Spain in decades. Things have somehow calmed down, but this isn’t a solved issue.
The Basque country independence bid has a longer and much more tragic history with terrorist attacks lead by the Basque organization ETA, between the 1950s and 2010. In the last decade, things have calmed down and peace has been achieved with a ceasefire in 2010, demilitarization in 2017 and dissolution in 2018.
#17 Famous Spanish brands
One thing that turns a country famous is its companies and brands! Spain has quite a few internationally known brands and some global companies that you, and almost everyone know. Here are some of the most famous Spanish brands:
- Santander Bank – a multinational commercial bank and financial services company founded and based in Santander. It has subsidiaries all over the world.
- ZARA – The biggest and most famous clothes brand from the Inditex group
- Repsol – The biggest oil company in Spain with a strong presence all over the world.
- Movistar – One of the main telecommunications providers in all of Latin America and Spain.
- Stradivarius – another Inditex brand with stores spread all over the world.
- Mango – the biggest contender of Zara and Inditex comes from Barcelona and has more than 2200 Stores in more than 100 countries
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