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There’s a passionate spirit that runs throughout Spain, a love of life that can be seen in its food, arts, architecture, and every bit of its culture. Sitting on the Iberian Peninsula to the east of Portugal, the south of France, and just north of Morocco, the country is as known for its waterfront hotspots — islands such as Mallorca, Tenerife, and Ibiza, and coastal cities such as Barcelona and Málaga — as well as its inland hub, the capital of Madrid in the center of the nation. Anywhere you go in the country, that contagious sense of vibrancy lures visitors to Spain’s enchanting landscapes, history, and, of course, fiestas.
The biggest airports in Spain are Adolfo Suárez Madrid-Barajas (MAD) in Madrid, Josep Tarradellas Barcelona-El Prat (BCN) in Barcelona, Palma de Mallorca (PMI) in the Balearic Islands, Málaga-Costa del Sol Airport (AGP) in Málaga, and Alicante-Elche (ALC) in Elche in the southeast. Madrid and Barcelona have robust public transportation systems, with metro rail systems, buses, cabs, and rideshares, and are best navigated without a car if you’re staying in the city centers. On the island of Mallorca, however, a car is the best option, as is the case with the Costa del Sol, especially if you plan on hopping among the villages and towns along the Mediterranean. Elche has cabs, rental cars, and buses in the area. The major cities on the mainland are connected by rail within the country, as well as with other European nations.
Both spring and fall are generally great times to visit the country, when the weather is temperate and the crowds are manageable. Summers can get toasty and uncomfortable, and some shops and restaurants also close for the month of August. The winters are a definite off-season with some areas cutting back on hours. Of course, in the major urban hubs of Madrid and Barcelona, those closures won’t be felt as much. Spain is known for its many festivals, with Holy Week in the spring as a major event throughout much of the country. On the opposite end, there’s Carnival in February and March, the San Juan Bonfires in June, and the Tomatina Festival, where tomatoes are hurled in the streets, in Bunol in August.
While the capital of Madrid is a thriving cultural hub, Barcelona has a lovable offbeat vibe that can only be understood by experiencing it firsthand. Much of it comes from the whimsical artwork of Barcelona’s best-known architect in buildings like Casa Milà and the eternal work-in-progress La Sagrada Familia as well as the colorful mosaics at Park Güell. Add to that the charming old streets of Barri Gòtic, the vibrant main street of Las Ramblas, the lively beachfront, numerous museums, and Catalonian markets and squares galore, and it’s the kind of place to carve out your own kind of urban adventure.
València lays on Spain’s eastern coast at the mouth of the Turia River. Best known for its wildly eclectic Fallas festival in March, as well as its most famous dish, paella (which was invented here), and the long stretches of white sand beaches, it also boasts a delightful Old Town and ultramodern City of Arts and Sciences complex.
The southernmost region of the country is also perhaps its most colorful. The whitewashed architecture adorned with bright colors pops along the Mediterranean coast in the stretch of beach towns and villages known as the Costa del Sol. Inland, Seville is magnetic with the scent of jasmine through its squares, while Granada is packed with Renaissance architecture, Moorish influences, and Al-Andalus heritage.