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11 Interesting Facts about Spain You’d Be Surprised to Know

11 Interesting Facts about Spain Youd Be Surprised to Know

Now that we live in Spain, we have been inclined to share more about its culture. Quirky and interesting facts about Spain — now this one should be fun to write about. Let’s start.

📌 Traveling in Spain? Don’t forget the best SIM Card to use in Spain and our recommended travel insurance for long and short stays in Spain

Fact #1: The Spanish Siesta – Not Just a Nap, It’s a Lifestyle!

Plaza de Mayor Madrid scaled

Ever wondered why the streets of Spain suddenly quiet down after lunch? Welcome to the world of the Spanish siesta, where businesses shut their doors and locals take a break to recharge their batteries. But it’s not just about catching some zzz’s; the siesta is a cherished cultural tradition that shows how seriously Spaniards take their work-life balance.

Why Siesta?

Back in the day, the intense midday heat made it practical to rest and avoid the scorching sun. Today, it’s less about the heat and more about a cultural preference for enjoying life at a leisurely pace. Whether it’s hanging out with friends, spending time with family, or just enjoying a quiet moment alone, siesta time is sacred.

Modern Twist

While the traditional long breaks are less common in bustling cities like Madrid and Barcelona, many smaller towns and rural areas still swear by their afternoon shut-eye. And let’s be honest, who wouldn’t love a sanctioned nap time?

So next time you’re in Spain and find yourself in a ghost town between 2 and 5 PM, don’t panic. Grab a hammock, embrace the slow life, and maybe even sneak in a siesta yourself. It’s all part of the Spanish charm!

Fact #2: Sobremesa – Where Conversations Flow and Time Stands Still

Coffee in Spain scaled

Pilgrims in Santiago De Compostela taking a break at a local café in Rúa das Carreras

Picture this: you’ve just finished a hearty Spanish meal, maybe a plate of paella or a hearty fabada, and no one rushes to leave the table. Welcome to the “sobremesa,” the art of lingering at the table after the meal has ended. It’s not just about relaxing; it’s about bonding, sharing stories, or debating the day’s events—all over a few more sips of wine or a café con leche.

Why Sobremesa?

In Spain, meals are more than just eating; they’re a platform for connection. Sobremesa is where the magic happens in Spanish social life. It embodies the Spanish philosophy that meals are a time to slow down and enjoy the finer things in life with loved ones.

Cultural Spotlight

Unlike in many cultures where meals are a quick refuel, in Spain, a long lunch can effortlessly extend into the evening. Whether at a simple family lunch or a lavish Sunday feast, skipping sobremesa is like skipping the dessert – unthinkable!

So, don’t rush off once the plates are cleared. Stick around for the sobremesa. You’ll find that laughter is loudest in these moments, and friendships grow deepest. And who knows? You might just solve the world’s problems between your espresso shot and that last piece of flan!

Fact #3: Menú del Día – Your Passport to a Culinary Adventure

Ever stumble upon a Spanish restaurant with a chalkboard outside listing a “Menú del Día”? This isn’t just any daily special—it’s your ticket to a culinary adventure without the hefty price tag. The Menú del Día, or “Menu of the Day,” is a tradition rooted in practicality but celebrated for its gastronomic delight.

What’s on the Menu?

Typically, you get to choose from a set of starters, main courses, and desserts, and yes, this often includes a drink (even wine or beer) and bread— all for a fixed, wallet-friendly price. It originated as a way for workers to have a hearty midday meal affordably during Franco’s Spain, but it has since evolved into a beloved culinary practice across the country.

Why You Can’t Miss This – Interesting Facts about Spain

This isn’t just a meal; it’s a slice of Spanish culture. The Menú del Día offers a glimpse into the region’s flavors and local produce, from bustling city eateries to quiet seaside cafes. It’s a fantastic way to eat like a local without breaking the bank. In Madrid, you can easily get a full Menu Del Dia for 12-13 Euros, and that will include an appetizer (not even counting the bread, which is part of every Spanish meal), a main meal, and then a choice of dessert or coffee.

So next time you’re in Spain, do as the Spaniards do: dive into a Menú del Día. Whether it’s a savory seafood paella in Valencia or a mouth-watering gazpacho in Andalusia, it’s an affordable indulgence that promises more than just good food—it’s a feast for your senses.

Fact #4: The Spanish Summer Horario (Horario de Verano) – Clocking Out at 3 PM

Malaga Spain Spanish Horario Horario Verano scaled

Have you ever imagined finishing your workday at 3 p.m.? In Spain, this isn’t just a dream during the summer months; it’s the norm. The “horario de Verano,” or summer schedule, is tailored to let you make the most of the long, sunny afternoons.

Summer Shifts Explained

As the summer heat kicks in, many Spanish companies shift their work hours forward. Starting earlier in the morning allows employees to complete their workday by 3 PM, avoiding the peak afternoon heat and aligning more time for personal life.

Why the Change?

This schedule isn’t only about escaping the heat—it’s deeply rooted in the Spanish value of enjoying life. Longer afternoons mean more time for beach outings, long lunches, or siestas. It’s a perfect example of how Spaniards balance productivity with leisure, emphasizing the importance of family, friends, and well-being.

Cultural Adaptation

While tourists might marvel at the early closure, for locals, this adjustment is a strategic move to enhance the quality of life during the hottest part of the year. Shops might close, and streets quiet down, but the vibrant social life just starts to pick up.

Work-Life Harmony

This seasonal adjustment to work hours reflects a broader cultural approach in Spain that values flexibility and life satisfaction over sticking rigidly to the clock. It’s about making work fit life, not the other way around.

So, if you find yourself working in Spain or planning a visit during the summer, get ready to embrace early mornings and luxuriously long afternoons. It’s an ideal way to experience the Spanish ethos of living life to the fullest.

Fact #5: Dinner at 10PM – Spain’s Late Night Culture

Paella in Barcelona scaled

Ever wonder why the streets of Spain are bustling with energy even at midnight? It’s all part of Spain’s legendary late-night culture. From leisurely late dinners to vibrant nightlife, the Spanish know how to keep the party going well into the wee hours of the morning.

Why So Late?

Dinner at 10 PM? Absolutely! In Spain, eating dinner late is more than just a meal—it’s a social event. Late dining times result from the long work hours and the siesta culture, but they have also become a cherished part of Spanish life, allowing everyone to unwind and gather with friends and family after the day’s duties.

Nightlife Like No Other

After dinner, the real fun begins. Whether it’s hitting the local bars, enjoying a live Flamenco show, or simply strolling through beautifully lit plazas, nightlife in Spain offers something for everyone. Cities like Madrid and Barcelona are famous for their dynamic nightlife scenes, where clubs don’t start filling up until well past midnight.

Cultural Insight

This nocturnal lifestyle also influences business hours. Don’t be surprised to find shops reopening in the evening and people shopping and socializing late into the night. It’s a rhythm that suits the warm Spanish climate and the laid-back attitude towards life.

Embrace the Night

If you’re planning a trip to Spain, adjust your clock and embrace the night. Sleep in a bit later, take your time at dinner, and don’t rush to the dance floor until you’ve truly savored the evening’s first few hours. In Spain, the night is just as important as the day.

Fact #6: Flamenco: More Than Just Dance

Flamenco Dance in Seville Interesting Facts About Spain scaled

Step into the passionate world of Flamenco, where every stamp of the foot and strum of the guitar tells a story. Flamenco isn’t just a dance; it’s an intense emotional journey expressed through movement and music, deeply woven into Spain’s cultural fabric.

Roots and Rhythms

Originating from the Andalusian region, Flamenco combines elements from various cultures, including Gypsy, Moorish, and Jewish influences. This art form comprises three main components: ‘cante’ (the song), ‘baile’ (the dance), and ‘toque’ (the guitar playing), each essential for conveying the deep emotions and stories that Flamenco is famous for.

Cultural Emblem

Recognized by UNESCO as a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity, Flamenco goes beyond entertainment; it’s a celebration of life’s most profound emotions. Whether expressing joy, suffering, or celebration, Flamenco performances are captivating and raw.

Experience It Live: To truly understand the power of Flamenco, seeing a live performance is a must. Cities like Seville and Granada offer authentic Flamenco shows in intimate settings known as “tablaos,” where the connection between performer and audience is palpable.

Beyond the Stage: Flamenco is also celebrated in numerous festivals across Spain, such as the renowned Bienal de Flamenco in Seville, which attracts performers and enthusiasts from around the world. These events are a spectacular way to experience the diversity and richness of Flamenco styles.

Immersive Tip: If you’re captivated by the allure of Flamenco, consider taking a dance class during your visit to Spain. It’s a fun way to connect with Spanish culture and feel the rhythm of Flamenco firsthand.

Fact #7: Tapas – A Spanish Eating Philosophy

Living in Madrid for a year 1 scaled

Welcome to the world of tapas, where every bite is an invitation to explore Spain’s rich culinary landscape. Far more than just appetizers, tapas are a philosophy of eating that turns every meal into a social event. From tiny bars in bustling cities to quaint bistros in sleepy villages, tapas are Spain’s way of making food a shared pleasure.

What Are Tapas?

Tapas are small dishes that range from simple olives or chunks of cheese to elaborate mini-feasts of seafood paella or chorizo in cider. The beauty of tapas lies in their variety and the way they encourage conversation and community as dishes are passed around and shared.

The Origins

Tapas, a traditional Spanish dish, started as a practical way to keep flies out of drinks by covering glasses with bread or slices of meat. It has evolved into a fundamental part of Spanish dining culture, embodying the spirit of leisure, friendship, and good times.

Cultural Staple

Whether it’s a casual after-work meetup or a pre-dinner social hour, tapas are central to daily life in Spain. They reflect the Spanish ethos of eating not just to live, but to enjoy life, to gather and celebrate even the smallest moments.

Try It Yourself

To dive into the tapas experience, head to a local “tapería.” Start with classics like ‘patatas bravas‘ (spicy potatoes) or ‘gambas al ajillo’ (garlic prawns). Remember, the key is variety—order many different tapas to share and savor each flavor.

Tapas Tour Tip

In many cities in Spain, some bars offer a free tapa with every drink purchased. This is a fantastic way to taste local specialties without spending a fortune and to mingle with locals.

Fact #8: Pueblo Español – The Architectural Time Capsules

Benalmadena Spain Spanish Pueblo scaled
Benalmadena Spain – beautiful, right?

Step into Spain’s “pueblos,” the quaint towns scattered across the countryside, and you’ll feel like you’ve traveled back in time. These charming villages, with their cobblestone streets and ancient buildings, are not just picturesque—they’re living museums, each telling its own unique story of Spain’s rich history and culture.

Why Visit Pueblos?

Beyond the hustle and bustle of Spain’s major cities lies a world where time slows down. In the pueblos, you can explore medieval castles, stunning cathedrals, and tranquil plazas. These towns offer a glimpse into the past and showcase Spain’s architectural and cultural diversity, from Moorish influences in the south to Celtic roots in the north.

Cultural Hotspots

Some pueblos are famous for their historical significance and unique festivals. For instance, Ronda, perched on a towering cliff, is known for its breathtaking views and ancient bullring, while Albarracín, with its winding lanes and terracotta-colored houses, is often hailed as one of the most beautiful villages in Spain.

Preservation and Pride

Many of these towns are proud recipients of the “Pueblo Más Bonito de España” (The Most Beautiful Village in Spain) award, a testament to their beauty, preservation, and cultural importance. This recognition helps attract tourists, which supports local economies and preservation efforts.

Experience It

When visiting, take your time to wander the streets, chat with locals, and of course, enjoy the local cuisine. Each pueblo offers its own version of regional dishes that you won’t find in the big cities.

Photography Tip

For photographers and Instagram enthusiasts, these pueblos offer endless opportunities to capture stunning shots of Spain’s lesser-known but equally impressive landscapes and architectural wonders.

Fact #9: Spanish Coffee Culture – Much More Than Just a Drink

coffee in spain scaled

Step into any Spanish town, from the bustling avenues of Madrid to the sleepy villages of Andalusia, and you’ll quickly notice the vibrant coffee culture. Coffee is as integral to Spanish life as flamenco or football. In Spain, coffee is more than just a drink; it’s a way to connect, relax, and enjoy the moment.

Morning Rituals and Afternoon Delights

Unlike the quick espresso shots gulped down in Italy or the grande lattes often carried on the go in the U.S., coffee in Spain is meant to be savored. Mornings might start with a ‘café con leche’ (coffee with milk), enjoyed leisurely at a local café, while afternoons often see Spaniards lingering over a ‘cortado’ (espresso cut with a little milk) after their meal.

The Social Connector

Coffee shops in Spain are gathering places where people meet to chat, work, or simply watch the world go by. They serve as community hubs, reflecting the Spanish emphasis on social connectivity and leisure.

Variety is the Spice of Life

Spanish coffee is remarkable in its diversity. From the strong and thick ‘café solo’ to the sweet and creamy ‘café bombón,’ each region boasts its own specialties. In the north, for example, you might find ‘café carajillo,’ coffee laced with brandy or rum, a testament to the Spanish knack for combining pleasure and tradition.

Coffee Time is Any Time

Coffee time is any time in Spain. Whether it’s a pick-me-up ‘café con leche’ at breakfast, a mid-afternoon ‘cortado’, or a late-night ‘descafeinado’ (decaffeinated coffee) after dinner, there’s always a perfect time for a coffee break.

Eco-conscious Evolution

Reflecting global trends, Spanish coffee culture is also embracing sustainability. More cafes offer organic and fair-trade coffee options, and reusable cups are on the rise, showing that this traditional practice can adapt to modern environmental concerns.

Fact #10: Spain’s Ghost Towns

Aragon Spain scaled
An ancient ruin area in Aragon Spain

Venture off the beaten path and you might stumble upon one of Spain’s mysterious ghost towns. These “pueblos abandonados” are abandoned villages that whisper tales of a bygone era, each desolate street and crumbling building holding stories of life before depopulation swept through.

Why the Abandonment

Over the decades, many rural areas in Spain have seen a dramatic decline in population. Younger residents often leave in search of better opportunities in larger cities or abroad, leaving behind aging populations and, eventually, no one at all. Economic hardships, the lure of urban life, and a lack of local opportunities have accelerated this trend.

Cultural Significance

These ghost towns are poignant reminders of Spain’s rural heritage and the shifting dynamics of modern life. They stand as stark symbols of change but also as custodians of history, architecture, and forgotten ways of life.

Exploring the Silence

Visiting these ghost towns can be a hauntingly beautiful experience for the adventurous soul. Places like Belchite in Aragon, destroyed during the Spanish Civil War and left as a ruin, offer a powerful glimpse into Spain’s turbulent past. Others, like Granadilla in Extremadura, are slowly being revitalized through cultural projects that aim to preserve their historical significance.

Revitalization Efforts

Various initiatives have been put in place to breathe new life into these ghost towns. Local governments and organizations promote rural tourism, offer artist residencies, and sell properties for symbolic prices to attract new residents and revive these historic communities.

Photography and Preservation

These towns are invaluable for photographers, historians, and culture enthusiasts. They are open-air museums, perfect for capturing the beauty of decay and the poignant reminder of transient human endeavors.

Fact #11: The Three Kings Day – A Grand Celebration in Spain

Three Kings Spain Spanish Roscon
Roscon de Reyes – the special cake during Three Kings’ Celebration in Spain

In many parts of the world, Christmas ends on December 25th, but in Spain, the festive spirit extends until January 6th with the celebration of the Three Kings Day, or “Día de los Reyes Magos.” This holiday is as significant, if not more so, than Christmas Day in Spain, filled with joy, gifts, and spectacular parades.

Historical and Cultural Significance

The Three Kings Day commemorates the Biblical story of the three wise men — Melchior, Caspar, and Balthazar — who followed a star to Bethlehem to present gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh to the newborn Jesus. This day is celebrated as a conclusion to the Christmas season, reflecting the importance of this event in the Christian faith.

Celebrations Across Spain

On the eve of January 5th, cities and towns across Spain host majestic parades, known as “Cabalgatas,” where the Kings parade through the streets on floats or horses, throwing candies and small toys to the children in the crowds. These parades are not just fun for kids; they’re a spectacle of lights, music, and excitement that captivate the entire community.

Gift-Giving Tradition

Unlike in many countries where gifts are exchanged on Christmas Day, Spanish children traditionally receive their presents from the Three Kings on January 6th. Children leave out shoes in a spot where the Kings are sure to see them, sometimes along with snacks or hay for the Kings’ camels.

Culinary Delights

No celebration would be complete without special food. On Three Kings Day, families enjoy the “Roscón de Reyes,” a sweet, circular pastry that often contains a small surprise—a figurine or a bean. Whoever finds the figurine is said to have good luck for the year, while finding the bean means you have to pay for the cake next year.

Public Holiday

This day is a public holiday in Spain, giving families a chance to enjoy the festivities together, attend church services, and relax at home with loved ones.

Concluding Thoughts – Were You Surprised by Any of These?

Even with us now living in Spain, we still get surprised about these in Spain. It’s amazing to discover how the Spanish culture focused on quality of life, on being close to family and friends, on making sure there’s time for pleasure and not just work and enjoying the seasons – whether it’s summer or the times in the past. Let us know what you think and if you can think of any interesting facts about Spain!

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