What is Spain known for? 20 famous things thoroughly explained

Spain is one of the most crucial tourist destinations globally, and its culture, history, and personality are well known. Here, we will explore what is Spain known for and many of its contributions to the world.

Located in the Iberia Peninsula, Spain borders Portugal, France, and tiny Andorra in the Pyrennes. It is a country of great diversity and historical importance. It helped shape an extended part of human history.

So, what do people immediately think when Spain is mentioned? The beaches, the sun, the famous Spanish painters, the superb Spanish food… Without further delay, this is our list of what Spain is famous for!

Famous things about Spain – culture

#1 Flamenco

Flamenco is a style of music played primarily on the guitar and accompanied by singing and dancing; it originated in Andalusia in the south of Spain. It has a unique art style that 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.

What is Spain known for
Spanish Dance – Flamenco | photo by Cornfield via Depositphotos

#2 Siesta

One of the most famous things about Spain is the Siesta. For those who don’t know, a Siesta is 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, usually kids and the elderly.

Understandably, the working Spanish people no longer have time for it. I don’t believe I have ever met a Spaniard that actually confirmed having a siesta regularly.

As it was impossible or at least inhuman to work under the sun, workers took a longer lunch hour and rested/took a siesta. The Siesta was a pivotal part of the Spanish culture, particularly in the central south, where it reaches really high temperatures during the day.

Even today, in Spain, everything supposedly closes between 2 pm and 5 pm; this is a legacy of the Siesta (but to some lucky ones, it’s still siesta time).

#3 Bullfights “Corrida de Toros”

What is Spain known for? Bullfighting is one of the first things many people will talk about.

Bullfighting has been an essential part of Spanish culture for centuries. Historians tell us that there has been bullfighting in Spain since Roman times. However, this is a tradition in a profound identity crisis due to the growing concerns about animal cruelty. In 2015, Catalonia even prohibited bullfights altogether.

In a Spanish bullfight, the matadores fight the bull to death. It has three 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 kills the bull skillfully, he can take the bull’s ear home as a trophy for this achievement.

Bullfighting is sometimes referred to as a blood sport, but it’s viewed as an art form and cultural event in Spain. Either way, it’s one of the first things people think of when thinking about Spain and Spanish Culture.

What is Spain Famous for
What is Spain known for? Bullfights

What is Spain known for? Fiestas

The Spaniards are street people and love going out, mingling, talking, and partying. Naturally, the country is full of festivities celebrating religious patrons, saints, and any other things. Some of these are pretty obscure, but others are internationally renowned, like the Tomatina and the Bull run of San Fermin. Anyway, whenever you plan a trip to Spain, you should always look at what’s happening because you may have a cool festivity waiting for you.

#4 Tomatina

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.

#5 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 had occurred every year in July almost 1000 years ago when the butchers had to transport bulls from the ranches outside Pamplona to the bullring.

Every morning for a whole week, there’s a Bull Run where anyone can participate. Each day, six bulls are freed and run for 825 meters. Locals and tourists then run in front of the bull in a crazy, obviously perilous stunt…

famous things in Spain
Statue of the bull runs of San Fermín in Pamplona in Spain

What is Spain Famous for Food

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 their quality and diversity. They are easily one of my favorite things about Spain.

#6 Tapas

Tapas are a straightforward but broad concept. Simply put, 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 considerably influenced 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.

Eat Pintxos San Sebastian in Spain
Tapas in Spain – one of the most famous things about Spain

#7 Paella

Paella is probably the most famous Spanish dish and comes from the Valencia region. A Paella is a rice-based dish cooked with saffron, olives, spices, herbs, olive oil, and vegetables, meat, or seafood.

The original Valencian paella is cooked with meat, but there’s also the seafood paella (primarily 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, the US, the Philippines, and much more. In Spain, you can easily find Paellas in many restaurants and sometimes even at fairs.

Everything you need to know in Spain
Famous dish of Spain – Paella | photo by donogl via Depositphotos

#8 Cured meats – Chorizo & Jamón ibérico

Chorizo is a cured sausage with both sweet and spicy flavors and red smoked-pepper coloring. They are delicious and can be served 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 significantly associated with Spain.

Jamón Ibérico is made from Iberian black pigs 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 determining 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).

What to eat in Spain
What is Spain famous for? Spanish food

#9 Sangria

Sangria is an alcoholic drink that originated in Spain and is made with red wine and chopped fruit, often with other ingredients such as orange juice or brandy. However, there are many variations in 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.

Cool things about Spain
Spanish drink made with red wine and fruit | photo by AlinaRosanova via Depositphotos

Famous Spanish people

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. But there are also sportsmen like Nadal or famous historical figures like “the conquistadores.”

#10 Picasso

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 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.

What is Spain famous for? the painters
Malaga Picasso’s hometown

#11 Dali

Salvador Dali was born in Catalonia and was one of the most prominent surrealist artists because of his flamboyant personality and talent. Dali is among the most versatile and prolific artists of the 20th century.

Besides being a painter, Dali was a Sculptor, Filmmaker, Printmaker, and Performance Artist. His most famous work is The Persistence of Memory (1931).

Everything about Spain
Dali’s museum in Figueres, Spain | photo by wjarek via Depositphotos

#12 Gaudí

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 indeed 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.

Check the most famous landmarks in Spain (including several Gaudi masterpieces)

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.

What is Spain Famous For? Gaudi's masterpieces
Casa Milà Barcelona in Barcelona by Gaudí

#13 Rafael Nadal

Born in the Balearic Islands, Nadal is among the best tennis players of all time and is unanimously considered the best clay court ever. Together with Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic, they are considered the 3 great ones of tennis.

Nadal won 22 Grand Slams (the first tennis player to reach this number) and won 102 ATP titles. He has also won an Olympic gold medal. Out of his 22 Grand Slams titles, 14 were in Roland Garros, the French Open, which is players on clay.

Rafa (as his fans affectionately know him) is naturally a source of pride for Spain and a great ambassador of the country. He has founded several tennis schools and created the charity Rafa Nadal Foundation.

Even his play style and personality make Spain the perfect representative of Spain with high mental strength, tenacity, and spirit. As Nadal said, “I play each point as if my life depends on it!!

#14 The Conquistadores

The Conquistadores, or the conquerors in English, were the Spaniards who sailed beyond Europe to the Americas and Asia, conquering territory, 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 defeated the Incan Empire (Peru). One of the most impressive things was their ability to conquer vast territories with minimal resources and man.

The conquistadores played a tremendous role in shaping the Hispanic world as we know it, both in Spain and Latin America.

Facts about Spain
Painting in the Chapultepec Castle in Mexico City

Other things Spain is known for

#15 Wonderful Beaches

If there’s something everyone knows about Spain is that it has fantastic beaches. During summer, Spain’s Mediterranean beaches become full of people looking for warm water and nice yellow sand.

When it comes to the beaches, Spain has more than its share. You can find the Balearic Islands, the Canary Islands, and the southern Mediterranean coast in Spain. All of them have warm water and some idyllic beaches.

You can also find lovely urban beaches in Barcelona, Malaga, Valencia, Marbella, Coruña, San Sebastian, and so on… Finally, you have the colder but stunning beaches of the Atlantic in Galicia, Asturias, and the Basque country!

Famous Spain - beaches
What is Spain famous for? the beaches

#16 Sun and nice weather

Together with the beautiful beaches, Spain is famous for its generally lovely 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 winter.

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).

Are you traveling to Spain? Check the 50 things you need to know before traveling to Spain!

What you should known about Spain
Marbella in the South of Spain

#17 Spanish Football

The Spaniards are crazy about football (European football, obviously), and for a reason, they are very good at it. The Spanish national team has been European champions three times (1964, 2008, 2012) and world champions once (2010). This means that between 2008 and 2012, they won all three major competitions!

However, it’s not only the national team that has success; two of the world’s most successful and famous football clubs are also Spanish. Both Real Madrid and Barcelona have fans and generate passion worldwide. They are genuinely global clubs.

What is Spain Famous for - the football clubs
Camp Nou Barcelona Stadium is famous worldwide

#18 Ibiza and its wild parties

Ibiza is one of the islands of the Balearic Islands in the Mediterranean. Ibiza is famous for attracting many 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 Spain and the world and the most happening place for people to unwind and lose themselves in music.

Known things about Spain
Ibiza in Spain | photo by lunamarina via Depositphotos

#19 Catalan and Basque independence movements

Lately, Spain has been in 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 even declared its independence, which led to the most significant political crisis in Spain in decades. Things have somehow calmed down, but this isn’t a solved issue.

The Basque country’s independence bid has a more extended and more tragic history, with terrorist attacks led 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.

Famous things about Spain -  the independence issue
Geopark in the Basque Country – What is Spain known for

#20 Famous Spanish brands

One thing that makes 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 worldwide.
  • Movistar – One of the leading telecommunications providers in all of Latin America and Spain.
  • Stradivarius – another Inditex brand with stores spread all over the world.
  • Mango – the most prominent contender of Zara and Inditex, comes from Barcelona and has more than 2200 Stores in more than 100 countries.

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What is Spain Famous for?

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