Spain: From beaches to bullfights, 10 must-see attractions
January 16, 2005
More than 50 million tourists visit Spain every year. That’s more visitors than the United States attracts annually and second only to France, according to the World Tourism Organization.
It’s easy to see why. The weather is often perfect and there is so much to do. For the traveler in the mood for a fiesta, there is no better place.
Here are 10 things for the most energetic traveler to do in Spain:
Watch the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona
Few Spanish traditions draw as many spectators — or injuries. That is why it might be smarter to watch this one from a safe distance. Every year, the city of Pamplona runs bulls through the city streets and people can take their chances by running with them. But it is not a requirement to make the mad dash yourself. The Running of the Bulls is just one part of the Basque region’s weeklong San Fermin festival.
Attend a flamenco show in Jerez de la Frontera
Flamenco is Spanish art in motion and song. It primarily consists of singing, dancing and guitar playing. Flamenco’s roots come from gypsies and its birthplace is the sherry-making city of Jerez.
Throw a tomato in Bunol’s Tomatina
Who doesn’t enjoy a good food fight? Every year, the small, quiet town of Bunol erupts into the mother of all food fights. On the last Wednesday in August, truckloads of tomatoes are dropped in the city’s center and tens of thousands of people throw them at each other — for fun. How on earth did this wacky fiesta start? Legend has it that in 1945, a fight in the town square spread to the vegetable stalls. The following year, teens remembered the fight but resorted to tomatoes instead of fists. The event has become one of Spain’s most popular festivals.
Visit the Alhambra in Granada
This sprawling castle served as the final stronghold of the Moors in Andalusia and stands as the best example of Moorish architecture. The fortress dates to the ninth century, and historians believe Romans had been there.
When in Spain, do as the Spaniards do. That means enjoying both the food and the nightlife. Tapas are small portions of food found at small bars in cities throughout the country. Spaniards often chip in money and then go from bar to bar ordering various plates of ham, chopped tomatoes, olives and prawns. For years, bars in the south used to top glasses of wine with either a slice of cured ham or bread to keep the flies out. Over the years, bars tried to outdo each other, providing more and more snacks to bring in customers.
Walk the beaches
The Costa del Sol, a stretch of sand from Gibraltar to the outer edges of Almeria, is the most popular — and congested. Costa Brava, which is near Barcelona, attracts a lot of northern Europeans to its rocky coves. Costa de la Luz, which is along the Atlantic Ocean, is not as developed as some of the other coasts but is gaining in popularity. Tarifa, at the southernmost point, is considered the windsurfing capital of the world.
Enjoy the art in Madrid museums
Art lovers will be in awe of the thousands of masterpieces on display. The Prado is one of the world’s best museums and boasts works by El Greco, Goya and Velazquez. You can spend two days in the museum’s two buildings and not see everything.
Attend a feria
Every city has a fair. Seville April Fair is the biggest and most popular, but Jorge Torres, the tourist operation coordinator at Naval Station Rota and a native of Spain, prefers Jerez de la Frontera’s feria. The city combines its tradition of horses and sherry for a party that can’t be beat. “It has a little bit of everything,” Torres said. “It has a good vibe to it.”
Tour the Pueblos Blancos, or White Villages
The best travel route through Spain is arguably in Andalusia through a trail of more than a dozen whitewashed villages. Nearly every town on the route could be a day-trip filled with a walking tour and a long lunch. The Pueblos Blancos name comes from the many homes and buildings that are white.