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Are you planning on visiting Spain and would like to learn more about the country before travelling there? Or would you like to know some interesting and fun facts about Spain most people don’t know? You’ve come to the right place. Spain is a stunning country in Europe which has a lot to offer to most visitors. With dramatic mountain ranges, beautiful beaches, impressive castles, delicious food and a very rich culture, Spain is a ridiculously interesting and intriguing country. Did we spike your curiosity? Keep reading and discover some of the most unique and interesting facts about Spain.
Unique and Interesting facts about Spain
General Spanish facts
- Before the Euro was introduced in Spain, the country’s national currency was the Spanish Peseta. It was used as a currency between1868 and 2002. The Peseta never had a symbol, but was shortened with pta. or ptas.
- The ‘Kingdom of Spain’ is a constitutional monarchy, where the executive decisions are taken by the Government.
- The monarchy of Spain, is also referred to as La Corona or The Crown.
- The current king of Spain is king Felipe VI, reigning with his wife Queen Letizia. She used to work as a journalist and news anchor when she met her husband.
- Kilometre zero is a small sign on the Puerta del Sol in Madrid which marks the geographical centre. From this point all the distances of the national roads leaving Madrid are measured.
- The naming custom in Spain is that everyone has a double surname. Traditionally, the first surname is the fathers first surname and the second surname is the mothers first surname. When I used to live in Spain, I sometimes had to use 2 surnames on official documents, which was a problem since officially I only have one, but I had to use 2. Also if your parents have the same first surname in Spain, a name can sound pretty double, especially when using a derivation of that surname as a first name. In other words, I have a friend who’s name is Fernando Fernandez Fernandez. That’s one of the fun facts about Spain with a lot of Fernandoz,…
- The highest mountain in Spain is not located on the mainland. With an altitude of 3718 metres above sea level, and located on Tenerife on the Canary Islands, Mount Teide is in fact the highest mountain in Spain.
- With no less than 47 sites, Spain comes third on the list of countries with the most amount of Unesco World Heritage Sites.
- The most famous building on the Unesco World Heritage sites list is probably the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. This Roman Catholic church is a masterpiece designed by the Catalan architect Antonio Gaudí. The construction of the church started in 1882 and is to this date still under construction. It is estimated that the Sagrada Familia will be finished in 2026 which also marks 100 years after Gaudí has died.
- Spain has hosted the Olympic games only 1 time, which were the Summer Olympic Games in 1992 in Barcelona.
- With an elevation of 667 metres, Madrid is the 2nd highest capital city in Europe after Andorra la Vella, the capital of Andorra.
- According to the Foundation for Environmental Education, Spain has the worlds highest amount of Blue Flag beaches. In 2019, a total of 566 beaches in Spain were awarded with the Blue Flag status.
Interesting facts about Spanish food and drinks
- Spain is the worlds largest producer of olive oil accounting for nearly 40% of the total global production. Around 75% of the Spanish olive oil production is derived from the south, in the Andalusia region. The Spanish olive oils have quality seals named ‘denominación de origen’, which ensures the quality and taste of the olive oils of a specific region.
- Saffron is an important spice among others used in Spanish cuisine to provide the special taste and bright yellow colour to the Paella dish. Did you know that Spain is the worlds second largest producer of saffron?
- In contradiction to popular believe that in Spain fish and seafood is all that counts, Spain is one of the highest meat-consuming countries per person in Europe. Even globally, Spain is within the top 15 countries of highest meat consumption per person per year.
- Spain is home to the oldest restaurant in the world, according to the Guiness Book of Records (counted as continuously operating). Established in 1725 and located close to the Plaza Mayor in Madrid, the restaurant Sobrino de Botín serves traditional Spanish food. Yes, I have eaten there, yes, their specialty is a meat dish, ‘cochinillo asado’ (roasted suckling pig) and yes, it’s good.
Address: Sobrino de Botín, Calle de los Cuchilleros 17, 28005 Madrid
- The biggest annual food fight is held in Spain. Every year, the Tomatina festival takes place in the month of August in the town of Buñol (Valencia province). The purpose of the festival is to throw over 100 tons of tomatoes at one another for one hour.
- It is said that Spain has the highest amount of bars per inhabitant of any country in the European Union. I don’t know for sure if this fact is true. I only know that you do see a lot of bars in Spain. When I lived in Madrid I had the feeling that literally every other house held a bar.
Historical facts about Spain
- Madrid is the capital of Spain since 1561. Prior to that date, Toledo was the capital city of the country until King Felipe II decided to move his court to Madrid.
- ‘Marcha Real’ is the national anthem of Spain and currently has no words.
- Spain was occupied by the Moors for 800 years. The Moors arrived in Spain in the year 711 up to 1492 and left a significant cultural influence on the country still visible today.
- The Moorish influence is still visible in some of the most visited sites in Spain. Examples are The Alhambra in Granada, The Mezquita (or Mosque) and the Medina Azahara in Córdoba, the Royal Alázar and the Giralda in Seville. Visiting these beautiful historical sites are some of the top things to do when visiting Spain.
- Every two years in the town of Aínsa, the festival of ‘La Morisma’ is held which conmemorates the victory of the battle against the army of the Moors in 724.
Photo credit: Paulien De Gaspari
Spanish culture facts
- Don Quixote, written by Cervantes and published in 1605 (the first part), is considered the first modern novel.
- Spain is a country filled with traditions. One of those traditions takes place on New Year’s Eve where 12 grapes are eaten during the last 12 seconds of the year. So the idea is to eat one grape on the second for the last 12 seconds of the year, which in return will bring good luck for the next 12 months. My experience was that when finally the clock hits midnights, it’s very quiet in Spain since everyone is still trying to swallow those 12 grapes.
- Some of the most famous painters from the past centuries are from Spanish origin or lived in Spain, such as El Greco, Velázquez, Goya and more recent ones like Picasso, Dalí and Miró.
- One of the most internationally known festivals in Spain is San Fermín. The annual festival takes place in Pamplona and starts on the 6th and runs until the 14th of July. The most famous activity is the running of the bulls (or el encierro). The festival got internationally known due to the book ‘The sun also rises’ from Ernest Hemingway.
Spanish language facts
- In total Spain has 4 official languages; Castilian, Catalan, Galician and Basque.
- Castillian (which in Spain is referred to as either Castellano or Español) is widely spoken all over Spain. The other 3 languages are widely spoken in the specific region the language is attached to.
- Spanish (or what they call Castillian in Spain) is the second most studied language in the world.
- The Spanish language worldwide has around 483 million native speakers.
- The Basque language (or Euskera) is a pre Indo European language and is not related to any other Western European language. So even if you would speak Castillian, Catalan or Galician, you will not be able to understand anything of the Basque language. I speak fluent Spanish and have lived in the Basque country for a while, so I know how hard it is.
- Spanish (Castillian) is a relatively easy language to learn. It’s more a phonetic language, meaning you pronounce all letters very clearly and its written form is very close to its spoken language. And by this, I mean the properly spoken Spanish with no dialect pronunciations. Compared to my native language Dutch, where writing without mistakes is hardly possible, Spanish is really easy to write if you know certain easy language rules.
- Spanish (Castillian) is a Romance language, but unlike French or Italian, Spanish also has some Arab influences in their language, coming from the era when Moors inhabited large parts of Spain.
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