Viva La Espanya

The Kingdom of Spain or simply called Spain is an independent democratic country at southwestern Europe. It was once ruled by Romans, Germans, and Moors. But in the 15th century, Spain rose and become the first global colonial empires.

Spain is an interesting country because of the merger of cultural influences from neighboring countries as well as its own. These have influenced their architectures and artworks. In addition to this, their natural topography and geographical location had attracted foreigners to take a trip to this country.

LOCATION

Spain is located on the Iberian Peninsula of southwestern Europe. It occupies a total land area of 505,992 square kilometers.

The mainland is bounded on the south and east by the Mediterranean Sea, on the south Gibraltar, on the north and northeast by France, Andorra and the Bay of Biscay, and on the west and northwest by Portugal and Atlantic Ocean. Also included in its territory are Balearic Islands in the Mediterranean, Canary Islands in Atlantic Ocean, three exclaves in North Africa: Ceuta, Melilla, Penon de Velez de la Gomera, and the islands and rocks of Alboran, Chafarinas, Alhucemas, and Perejil.

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PEOPLE

Approximately 88 percent of the population are Spaniards. The remaining 12 percent are of American, European or African descendants who have migrated and lived in Spain. The predominant language spoken by its citizen is Spanish.

Other languages spoken are Basque, Catalan, and Galician. The main religion in the country is Catholicism.

GETTING THERE

Here are a few travel reminders when travelling to Spain:

• You need a Schengen visa – a Schengen visa is valid for all European countries who have accepted this agreement. Take note that not all European countries signed the agreement.
• The monetary unit of the country is Euro. Make sure to have your local currency changed to euro upon arrival at the airport. Credit card is accepted in most stores.
• Make sure to have accommodations – before entering the country, tourists are required to fill up a form that includes accommodation. If no address is filled, tourists are not allowed to enter the country.

Once all of these are settled, entry to Spain is easy. There are different ways to enter the country. The common is by plane, but there are also road and sea transportation.

• By plane – there are 96 international and national airports in Spain; the largest and one of the most beautiful airports is Barajas International Airport in Madrid. Other busy airports are located at Barcelona, Palma de Mallorca, Malaga, Seville, Valencia, Bilbao, Alicante, Santiago de Compostela, Vigo, and Gran Canaria. The official flight carrier is Iberia Airlines. Other airlines that operate within the country are Air Europa, Iberworld, Pullmantur Airlines, Vueling Airlines, Binter Canarias, Pyrenair, and Islas Airways.

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Barajas International Airport in Madrid

• By train – the best way to reach Spain via train is from France. There is a railroad connecting Madrid and Barcelona with Paris. There are also railroads connecting Spain with Portugal. There are also metro and light railway trains across the country and important key cities.

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High-speed train from Madrid to Barcelona

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Madrid Metro

• By tram – in addition to trains, there are also trams across the country. These serve as an alternate mode of transportation.
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Eukostran in Bilbao

• By bus – Travelling by bus is a cheap alternative in and out of the city. There are numerous bus terminals along the key cities.
• By sea – There are sea routes from Britain and Northern Africa to different sea ports and harbors in Spain. There are ferries serving tourists who wish to experience something different. These are also used in transporting goods, cargo, and shipments.

TOP FIVE (5) CITIES

MADRID

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Aside from being the capital and largest city in Spain, Madrid is also known for its cultural and artistic heritage. There are a lot of tourist attractions and activities to do; there are museums, plazas, cathedrals, and parks.

Some of the tourist attractions are listed here.

• Puerta del Sol

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El Oso y el Madrono and the Tio Pepe Neon Advertisement

Puerta del Sol or “Gate of the Sun” is a very famous place located at the heart of Madrid. Also known as kilometer 0 wherein other Spanish roads are connected. Mass demonstrations and rallies are also hosted here. It is also the venue for New Year’s celebration.

There are a lot of famous buildings surrounding the square. Included in the buildings is the old Post Office which now serves as the office of the President of Madrid. There is also a mounted statue in honor of Charles III of Spain which spearheaded different public works. Other attractions are the Tio Pepe sign, Calla de Alcala, Carrera de San Jeronimo, and Mariblanca. Of course, the iconic symbol, El Oso y el Madrono, a bear and a madrone tree, is located on the east side.
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Monument of Charles III in front of the former Post Office (now the Office of the President)

 

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Kilometer 0 on the pavement at the entrance of the old Post Office

 

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El Oso y el Madrono, monument of Charles III, and the former Post Office (now the Office of the President)

• Plaza Mayor

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This is another famous plaza located near Plaza del Sol. It measures 129 meters by 94 meters. It is surrounded by a three story residential building. The most famous landmark in the plaza is the Casa de la Panaderia or Bakery House and a bronze statue of King Philip III.

The plaza has been used as a marketplace, bullfights, soccer exhibition games, public executions, and there are also a number of shops and cafes.

• Palacio Real

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This is one of the largest palace in Europe, and the most beautiful and symbolic buildings in Madrid. It serves as the official residence of the royal family at Madrid. However, the family prefers to stay at a simpler palace near the borders of the city. It is mostly used for state ceremonies. Some rooms are open to the public.

• Plaza de Cibeles

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Plaza de Cibeles surrounded by Cybele Palace and the famous Cibeles Fountain

Plaza de Cibeles is famous for its neo-classical design surrounded by marble sculptures and a fountain. It is also surrounded by four known buildings: Bank of Spain, Palacio de Buenavista, Palacio de Linares, and Cybele Palace.

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Cibeles Fountain portrays Cibeles, the Roman god of fertility, being pulled by two lions

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Cibeles Palace

• San Nicolas de los Servitas Church

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San Nicolas de los Servitas Church or Church of San Nicolas de Bari is the oldest Catholic Church in Madrid, built in the 13th century.

• Golden Triangle of Art

This is composed of three museums: Museo del Prado, Reina Sofia Museum, and Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, which are all in close proximity to each other.

Museo del Prado

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Museo del Prado is a Spanish national art museum. It houses European art collections and pieces that were made during the 12th to the 19th century. Works of Francisco de Goya, Diego Velazquez, El Greco, Titian, Peter Paul Rubens and Hieronymus Bosch are displayed here.

Reina Sofia Museum

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Reina Sofia Museum is the Spanish national museum for 20th century art. It includes the works of Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dali, Juan Gris, Joan Miro, Julio Gonzalex, Eduardo Chillida, Antoni Tapies, Pablo Gargallo, Pablo Serrano, Lucio Munoz, Luis Gordilo, Jorge Oteiza and Jose Gutierrez Solana.

Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum

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This is one of the three museums included in the Golden Triangle of Art. It is the home to art collections from the “historical to contemporary art.”

BARCELONA

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Barcelona is the second largest city in Spain and receives a great number of tourists annually. It is located at the northeastern coast along the Mediterranean Sea. Just like Madrid, Barcelona is a city of great cultural importance. There are a lot of things to do and see in this city. One would need to stay for a couple of weeks, maybe even days to fully enjoy what Barcelona has to offer.

Listed below are things that should not be missed at Barcelona.

• Beaches of Barcelona

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Being a coastal city, Barcelona has a great number of beautiful beaches. As a matter of fact, it has been named as one of the best beaches in the world by National Geographic and Discovery Channel.

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Barcelonata Beach

• Eight (8) World Heritage Sites Declared by UNESCO

Park Guell

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Park Guell is a public park on Carmel Hill built in 1900 to 1914 and opened in 1926.The park was designed by Antoni Gaudi with a theme of urbanization. He was inspired by organic shapes found in nature. The park was designed with comfortable artistic homes with a lot of symbols. They fused politics with religious belief. UNESCO declared the park as a World Heritage Site under “Works of Antoni Gaudi” in 1984.

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Viaduct

 

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Colonnaded footpath under the roadway viaduct

Palau Guell

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Palau Guell was designed by architect Antoni Gaudi as a mansion for the industrial tycoon Eusebi Guell. It was once used to entertain important guests. But in the year 2008 the mansion was opened to the public.

Casa Mila

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Casa Mila or La Pedrera was designed by architect Antoni Gaudi in 1906 to 1912. It was themed with a stone façade and wrought iron for the balconies and windows. It also became popular due to the underground garage. UNESCO declared it as a World Heritage Site in 1984. Currently, exhibitions and activities are being hosted here.

Casa Vicens

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Casa Vicens is another building designed by Antoni Gaudi. It was originally built as a home for the industrialist Manuel Vicens in the years 1883 to 1889. It was inspired by Moorish architecture. In 2005, it was listed as one of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites.

Façade of the Nativity and crypt of the Sagrada Familia

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This is one of the largest Roman Catholic Church which was designed by Antoni Gaudi in 1883. However, he died before the church was completed. It is expected to be completed by 2026. Although the church is still undergoing construction is was names as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2005, and Pope Benedict XVI named it a minor basilica in 2010.

Casa Batllo

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It was redesigned by Antoni Gaudi in 1904. Like his other works, it was unique, followed an asymmetrical pattern, and mosaic façade. A striking feature of the house was the arched roof that looks like the back of a dinosaur or dragon.

Palau de la Musica Catalana

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Palau de la Musica Catalana is actually a concert hall designed by Lluis Domenech I Montaner in the years 1905 to 1908. The hall and the architect had also received various distinguishing awards such as the UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997. The architect was also recognized by the Barcelona City Council in 1909.

Hospital de Sant Pau

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Hospital de Sant Pau or Hospital of the Holy Cross and Saint Paul was built in 1901 to 19030 and designed by Lluis Domenech i Montaner. It served as a hospital until mid-2009. After that it underwent restoration and reconstruction. Currently it is used as a museum and cultural center.

CORDOVA

Cordova is a city situated in southern Spain. Because of its cultural importance, the city has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was once the capital of a Roman province, the capital of an Arab State, and a Caliphate. Now, the city boosts its unique art, culture, and entertainment.

Here are some places that should not be missed in Cordova.

• Mezquita

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Mezquita or Mosque-cathedral of Cordova is the most famous attraction in the city. It was originally built as a cathedral dedicated to the Assumption of the Virgin Mary. During the middle ages, it was converted to an Islamic Mosque. And during the time of Reconquista, it was converted back. It is known for the numerous pillars, columns, arches, chapels and beautifully designed doors.

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The massive bell tower

• Roman Bridge

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The Roman Bridge on the foreground and Mezquita on the background

The Roman Bridge was built in the 1st century to cross the Guadalquivir River. It was originally built during the Roman Empire with modifications during the Islamic domination.

• Alcazar de los Reyes Cristianos

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Torre de los Leones and Torre de Homenaje – part of Alcazar de los Reyes Cristianos

Alcazar de los Reyes Cristianos is a castle located near the Guadalquivir River and the Grand Mosque. It was once the home of Isabella I of Castile and Ferdinand II or Aragon.

• Synagogue

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The Synagogue is a Jewish quarter built in the year 1315. It served a various functions such as a prayer room, hospital, chapel, and nursery school. In the year 1885, the place was declared as a national monument.

GRANADA

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Granada is one of the most visited places in Spain because of the place rich history and culture. It is located at the southern portion of Spain and about an hour drive to the Mediterranean Coast.

• Alhambra

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There are different things that could be done here in Granada, but the most famous attraction of all is the Calat Alhambra. Originally it was a small forest built in 889. Through years, there was rehabilitation and renovation until 1333 when it became a royal Islamic palace. It follows Moorish architect and design. Moorish poets dubbed the place as “a pearl set in emeralds.” It 1984, it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

• Generalife

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Generalife Fountain

Next to Alhambra is the famous Generalife garden. It is a place for relaxation and recreation of Muslim kings. Together with Alhambra, it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984.

• Cathedral of Granada

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The Cathedral of Granada was built in the 16th century over the Nasrid Great Mosque of Granada. It was originally built in Gothic design but due to changes, a renaissance inspired design was done. In 1664, the baroque style was introduced and added to the church.

VALENCIA

Another city not to miss out is Valencia, the birthplace of paella and the home to Fallas Festival. It is located along the Mediterranean Sea, making it a nice place to relax and unwind.

Here is a list of things that could be done in the beautiful city of Valencia.

• Go to the beaches

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Playa de las Arenas

It is undeniable that there are a number of great beaches in Valencia. Take some time and relax in the beautiful fine sands.

• City of Arts and Sciences

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The city of Arts and Sciences has a marvelous and stunning exterior as it reflects on the Turia River. It is used as an entertainment complex.

• Valencia Cathedral

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The whole name of the cathedral is the Metropolitan Cathedral-Basilica of the Assumption of Our Lady of Valencia or in English, Saint Mary’s Cathedral. The church is a combination of Gothic, Romanesque, French Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque, and Neo-classical architecture. Christian historians believe that the Holy Grail is kept inside one of the cathedral’s chapels.

Kristine Capanzana

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