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Spain is known for it's vibrant culture, fascinating history and UNESCO heritage sites.
Learn more about this European country below.

Destination:
Spain

 

Facts About Spain

The Vital Stats:
  • Official Name: Kingdom of Spain

  • Population: 47.4 million (2020)

  • Area: 505,990 sq km (51st in the world)

  • Capital: Madrid

  • Largest City: Madrid

  • National Language: Spanish

  • Say Hello: Hola!

  • Currency: Euro

  • Driving Side: Right

  • Anthem: Marcha Real (Royal March)

  • Time Zone: UTC and UTC +1 in the west

  • GDP per capita: $43,007 (30th in the world)

  • Human Development Index: 0.893 (very high – 25th in the world)

The Flag of The Spain

DID YOU KNOW?

The Flag of Spain has a super cool name: the Bandera de España. Government offices in Spain and abroad must fly the flag 24-hours a day. At night, it must be lit up!

The Plaza de España is a plaza in Maria Luisa Park, in Seville. It was built in 1928 for the World's Fair.

Welcome to The Spain!

The Kingdom of Spain is in south-western Europe on the Iberian Peninsula. To the north is tiny Andorra and the (much bigger!) country of France. Portugal lies to the west. Morocco and the continent of Africa lies just across the straits of Gibraltar to the south and the vast Atlantic Ocean is to the west beyond Portugal. Spain has a few curious territories as well – the Canary Islands and the Balearic Islands, and the African enclaves of Ceuta, Melilla, and Peñón de Vélez de la Gomera. Spain is the only European country to have a border with an African country – in this case Morocco.

 

Madrid is the capital city and is home to about 6.6 million people. Other major cities include Barcelona, Valencia, Seville, Zaragoza, Málaga, and Bilbao.

 

From the 15th to the early 19th centuries, the Spanish Empire controlled a huge amount of land in the Americas and the Philippines, as well as in Europe and Africa. It was one of the most powerful empires of the last millennia and it became known as "the empire on which the sun never sets" because it was so widespread around the globe.

This means that today, Spanish is the second most popular language in the world (after Mandarin) and has the third highest number of UNESCO heritage sites.

 

The head of state is King Felipe, but a parliament with a Prime Minister runs the country. Spain is a member of the EU and the Schengen Area and is a major developed country. Its economy is about the fourteenth largest in the world and Spanish citizens enjoy a high standard of living.

 

Read on to learn more about the colourful history of Spain and don’t forget to check out the full guide to Spain in the shop.

Mt Teide and Orotava Valley

A brief history of Spain

The first evidence of humans on the Iberian Peninsula is from fossils that date to about 1.2 million years ago. Modern humans arrived 35,000 years ago from the north and left some stunning evidence of their existence with the famous paintings in the Altamira cave in Cantabria. Prior to the Roman age, the major people living in the peninsula were the Celts (the inner and Atlantic areas) and the Iberians who occupied the northwest to the southwest. The Basque people also lived in the north.

 

Around 200 BCE the Romans began capturing settlements along the Mediterranean coast of the Iberian Peninsula and over the next two centuries, they invaded and took control over the whole Peninsula which they called Hispania. They remained in power for six centuries and during this tie Hispania was a major source of food for the empire. Christianity was introduced into Hispania in the 1st century CE and it became immensely popular. Most of Spain's present language, religion, and the basis of its laws, come from the time of the Romans.

 

By the 5th century CE the Western Roman empire had disintegrated and the Visigoths from the north had invaded and taken over the Iberian Peninsula. The Visigoths were central Europeans who were previously part of the Roman Empire. The Visigoths and the Hispano-Romans ended up marrying each other over time and their cultures fused into the beginnings of the country of Spain.

 

In the 8th century, most of the Iberian Peninsula was invaded and conquered by Muslim armies from North Africa. The Reconquista (Reconquest) began by the Christina people to regain control over the land. It took until 1492 for this to happen when the last Nasrid sultanate of Granada surrendered to the Catholic monarchs Queen Isabella I and King Ferdinand II.

 

In 1492, the Italian explorer Christopher Columbus arrived in the New World in a voyage paid for by the Spanish Queen Isabella. He reached the Caribbean but thought he had landed in Asia! In any case, the Spanish quickly conquered much of the New World through advanced weaponry, tactics, and through the diseases they brought with them from which the locals had no immunity. It is estimated that 70 million of the 80 million inhabitants of the New World died as a direct result of the Spanish conquest.

 

Spain was one of the most powerful countries in the world in the 16th century and 17th century and had a formidable navy. They gained a lot of wealth directly from their colonies and through trade. The Spanish empire grew and included vast areas in the Americas, cities in North Africa, islands in the Asia-Pacific, as well as parts of Italy, Germany, France, and the Netherlands.

 

In the 18th and 19th centuries, Spain was caught up in the many conflicts that raged through Europe. The most significant happened when the French Imperial forces arrived and seized control. In 1808 the Spanish began a revolt against the French which eventually succeed in 1814. However, the Spanish colonies in the Americas used this opportunity to have revolts of their own, taking back control of their own lands. By 1840, Spain was economically poor and politically unstable.

 

In the early 20th century, Spain decided to remain neutral in World War I and in the 1920’s a series of dictators ruled over the country. In 1931 Spain had a democratic election which resulted in the formation of the Spanish Republic. Unfortunately, it was short-lived, and the Spanish civil war broke out in 1936. On one side was the Republican government and on the other The Nationalists under General Franco. Over 500,000 people died in the fighting. In 1939, Franco won and imposed a dictatorship over the country. Franco’s ruled until his death in 1975. IN 1978 a new constitution was adopted and Spain became democratic once more.

 

During the 1980’s, the Spanish economy blossomed and became more open to the rest of the world. They joined the EEC (European Union) in 1986 and began using the euro currency in 2002.

La Tomatina Festival

Our 'TOP SPOTS' Map of Spain

DID YOU KNOW?

Spanish is the second most native spoken language in the world. Mandarin is first and English is third.

Geography of Spain

Spain is the fourth largest country in Europe, and second largest in the EU.

The highest point is Mt Teide on the island of Tenerife on the Canary Islands. Spain is known as a transcontinental country because it has territories in both Europe and Africa.

In the north of Spain are the imposing Pyrenees mountain range which runs for 491km along the north-east border with France. Overall, Spain is quite hilly with several major mountain ranges. In the centre of Spain is the massive Meseta Central (Inner Plateau) which is surrounded by the mountain ranges. The regions in the south-east of Spain are particularly vulnerable to water shortages

 

There are three main climate zones in Spain:

  1. The Mediterranean climate, where warm dry summers are typical.

  2. The semiarid climate in the south-east of the country, which is dry most of the year.

  3. The oceanic climate in the north, where the winter and summer temperatures are influenced by the ocean.

 

The Environment of Spain

Spain is the most biodiverse country in Europe because of its location on the Iberian Peninsula and because of the many islands groups that have their own unique species. Spain is mainly a highland plateau surrounded by mountain ranges. Much of this plateau has thick shrubs called maquis, with scattered low trees and bushes. Pine trees are common in sandy soils and oak and juniper grow well in the rocky areas.

 

You can find many kinds of native freshwater fish in Spain as well as native hedgehogs, moles, and shrews. Larger mammals include the brown bear, the Iberian wolf, deer, boars, and foxes. Spain has 644 species of birds of which 7 are native.

Massive olive tree plantation in Andalusia, Spain

The Spanish People

With a population of just over 47 million people, Spain has a relatively low density compared to other EU countries. The most populated areas are at the coasts (except for Madrid!). Around 12% of people in Spain are immigrants, mainly coming from Romania, Morocco, UK, and Ecuador.

 

Spain has distinct regions and according to their constitution, legally multi-lingual. Although all Spaniards learn Spanish (Castilian) the people also speak Catalan in Catalonia, Galician in Galicia, Basque in Basque Country and Navarre, and Occitan in Catalonia.

 

The education system in Spain is free to age 16, and the healthcare system is universal, free, and considered one of the best in the world as ranked by the WHO.

 

Spanish culture is rich and steeped in history. From Flamenco music and dance, to their tasty and varied cuisine, obsession with football, unique structure of their days, and incredible art and architecture, Spain will be sure to capture the heart of all our virtual  travellers!

Fun facts about Spain
  • Spain is the world’s largest producer of olive oil, making around 40% of global production.

  • On New Year’s Eve, a popular tradition is to try to eat 1 grape each time the clock chimes at midnight. If you eat all twelve in time, then you will have good luck for the rest of the year!

  • There are no words in the Spanish national anthem!

  • La Tomatina is a fun festival in Buñol near Valencia where participants throw tomatoes at each other. A LOT OF TOMATOES!

  • A restaurant named Botín in Madrid could be the world’s oldest, having opened its doors in 1725

  • The Spanish love football! Real Madrid is probably the richest club in the world valued at over 2 billion euros, and FC Barcelona has a massive stadium that seats 99,786 people!

  • The Spanish are well-known for their famous artists including Picasso, Gaudi, Dali, and Goya.

  • Chupa Chups lollipops were invented in 1958 in Spain by Enric Bernat

download a sample recipe and activity from the
 

Spain: Explore-the-World-from-Home Guide

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