1. EVENTS CALENDAR 1.1. Public Holidays 1.2. Week before Ash Wednesday 2. FESTIVALS 3. SPAIN, A LAND OF FIESTAS AND TRADITIONS 3.1. Traditions and Folklore 3.2. Major festivals 3.3. Andalusían fiestas 3.4. Romerías 3.5. Semana Santa 4. SOME MORE INFO ABOUT… 4.1. Alacant / Alicante 4.2. Almería 4.3. Barcelona 4.4. La Coruña 4.5. Costa Blanca 5. TYPICAL SOUVENIRS 5.1. Pottery and ceramics 5.2. Lace, woven and embroidered goods 5.3. Metalwork 5.4. Leatherwork 5.5. Basketwork 6. TRADITIONS AND FOLKLORE 6.1. Life in the Street 6.2. Daily Schedule 6.3. Tapas and Aperitif Time 6.4. Bars 6.5. Terraces 6.6. Beach bars 6.7. Nightlife 6.8. The Siesta 6.9. The Family 6.10. The Work Ethic
1. EVENTS CALENDAR
Spain’s major festivals are mentioned in the list below. In order to confirm exact dates and times, which may vary slightly, contact the relevant local tourist office, which will be able to provide an up-to-date calendar of events. During the summer months, practically every small town and village in the country hosts a fiesta in honour of its own patron saint.
1.1. Public Holidays
||New Year's Day
||Saint John's Day (Catalonia)
||National day of Catalonia
||La Mercé (Barcelona)
||All Saints' Day
||Spanish Constitution Day
|1.2. Week before Ash Wednesday
||Cadiz, Santa Cruz de Tenerife
|1st Sunday in March
|International Vintage Car Rally
|3rd Sunday in Lent
|Feast of the Magdalena; bullfights, processions
||Castellón de la Plana
|Las Fallas Festival
||Cartagena, Cuenca, Málaga, Murcia, Sevilla, Valladolid, Zamora
|First week alter Easter
|22-24 or 24-26 April
|St George’s Festival: “Moors and Christians”
|Last Sunday in April
|Romería (pilgrimage) to the Virgin de la Cabeza
|April or May
||Jerez de la Frontera
|1st fortnight in May
|Las Cruces Festival and patio competition
|San Isidro Festival
|Pilgrimage to the Nuestra Señora del rocío shrine
La Caballada Festival
|El Roció (Huelva)
|2nd Sunday alter Whitsun: in celebration of Corpus Christi
|Streets carpeted with flowers
Streets carpeted with flowers; competitions
|“Hogueras” Midsummer’s Day (St John) Festival
Midsummer’s Day (St John) Festival
|“A rapa das Bestas” Festival
||Sabucedo, A Estrada (Pontevedra)
|“Los Sanfermines” Festival with bull-running
|Elche Mystery Play
|America Day in Asturias
|St Matthew’s (San Mateo) Festival
|La Rioja Wine Harvest Festival
|Festival of Our Lady of Mercy (Virgen de la Merced)
|Procession of the Virgin Guadalupe
|Week of 12 October
|Sacred Music Festival
|June and July
|International Music and Dance festival
||958 276 200 Granada
|International Classical Theatre Festival
||Almagro (Ciudad Real)
|3rd week of July
|Last week of July
|Classical Theatre Festival
Castell de Perelada Festival
|Last two weeks of September
|San Sebastian International Film Festival
|First two weeks of October
|Catalonia International Film Festival
|Last week of October
|Seminci (International Film Week)
|End of November
|Ibero-American Film Festival
3. SPAIN, A LAND OF FIESTAS AND TRADITIONS
3.1. Traditions and Folklore
Spain has kept alive its old traditions, as can be witnessed by the huge number of fiestas fervently celebrated around the country throughout the year. These unique and varied outpourings of religious sentiment and joy are a clear demonstration of Spain’s rich cultural heritage and diversity.
Numerous fiestas are celebrated across Spain. Unbridled joy, pomp and ceremony, and a sense of theatre are just some of the characteristics associated with these traditional aspects of Spanish life.
3.2. Major festivals
To a greater or lesser degree, every Spanish town and city celebrates one main festival every year, normally in honour of its patron saint. These celebrations, many of which take place over the summer months, attract the entire local population, as well as inhabitants from outlying villages and rural areas. Typical events will include religious celebrations and processions, bullfights and bull-running, while many will attend just to indulge in animated discussions with friends until the early hours, or to enjoy rides on the fairground attractions that are traditional features of these events.
The most important festivals in Spain include:
Los Sanfermines de Pamplona (July)
Las Fallas de Valencia (March)
3.3. Andalusían fiestas
Seville’s April Fair is the most famous of these festivals, with a reputation that has stretched far beyond the borders of Spain. Andalucían fiestas are renowned for their exciting atmosphere, colourful costumes and spontaneous dance, with mountains of tapas consumed, accompanied by a glass or two of chilled dry sherry (fino) or manzanilla. The streets of the fairground area are a mass of colour as Andalusian women parade up and down on foot or on horseback dressed in the breathtaking flamenco dresses for which the region is famous.
Romerías (pilgrimages) are an important aspect of religious life in Spain. Although each of these colourful events has its own specific characteristics, the basic principle is the same: a pilgrimage on foot, and occasionally on horseback to a hermitage or shrine to venerate a statue. Usually, this religious peregrination will also include a procession, music, dancing and a festive meal in the countryside.
The pilgrimage to El Rocío (Huelva) is the most extravagant and popular romería in the whole of Spain, attracting around one million pilgrims every year.
3.5. Semana Santa
Holy Week processions are another vivid expression of the Spanish character. Numerous villages, towns and cities around the country participate in these outpourings of religious fervour, which see thousands of people taking to the streets to accompany the passion of Christ and the pain of his mother.
4. SOME MORE INFO ABOUT…
4.1. Alacant / Alicante
Alicante has always been enjoyed for its remarkably luminous skies – the Greek called it Akra Leuka (the white citadel), the Romans Luccentum (the city of light). It is a friendly, typically Mediterranean town, where unhurried provincial calm mixes pleasantly with the bustle of a major tourist centre.
Capital of the Costa Blanca - Because of its mild climate and proximity to vast beaches (El Postiguet, La Albufereta and San Juan), Alicante has developed into the tourist capital of the Costa Blanca, with seaside resorts such as Santa Pola, Guardamar del Segura, Torrevieja, Campoamor springing up all along the southern part of this flat, sandy coastline.
Explanada de España (promenade)
Catedral de San Nicolás
Ayuntamiento (Town Hall)
Iglesia de Santa María
Museo de la Asegurada (20C painting and sculpture)
Castillo de santa Bárbara
Elche with the Dama de Elche, El Misteri (medieval verse drama), El Palmeral (Palm Grove), Huerta del Cura (garden), Parque Municipal, Museo Arquelógico, Basílica de Santa María
The city of Almería appears as a swathe of white between the Mediterranean and an arid hill crowned by an impressive Arab fortress.
Its magnificent climate – a line of mountains acts as a major tourist destination. Life in the city centres on the paseo de Almería, an elegant tree-lined avenue bordered with shops, banks and cafés, while another oasis of greenery, the parquet de Nicolás Salmerón, stretches out along the harbour beneath the palm trees. La Chanca, to the west, is the fishermen’s quarter, where the houses, each with its own terrace, have been built into the rock.
Worth a Visit
Alcazaba (fortress), Catedral, Iglesia de Santiago
Tour along the east coast: Parque Natural de Cabo de Gata-Níjar – Agua Amarga – Mojácar – Níjar
The road to the northeast
The road to the northwest
Barcelona is perhaps the most cosmopolitan of all Spanish cities. As the capital of an autonomous community, it has succeeded in combining the traditional and the avant-garde to forge an identity that is both open and welcoming. Barcelona is many things: a Mediterranean metropolis, a major port, a centre for modern art, and a city that lives to the full, with cultural and nocturnal attractions which tempt millions of visitors here every year.
Population: 1681132. the capital of Catalunya and one of the leading ports in the Mediterranean, Barcelona stretches along the Mediterranean shore between the hills of Montjuic, Vallvidrera and Tibidabo. It is the hub of an important road network: the A7 motorway runs along the Mediterranean coast from Murcia to the French border, passing trough Girona; the A19 heads to the resorts north of the city; the A16 continues south to Tarragona; while the A 18 veers inland towards Manresa. The El Prat airport is located 18km south of the city centre.
The growth of the city- the city was founded by the Phocaeans. It grew in the Roman era and was known as Barcino in the 1C BC. The Romans settled on Mount Taber (the site of the present cathedral) and a fortified wall was built in the 3C. in the 12C, Barcelona took control of most of the former Catalan earldoms and became the capital of Catalunya and the seat of the joint kingdom of Aragon-Catalunya as well as a very important market centre. It conquered considerable territories in the Mediterranean. At the same time, the Catalan Gothic style of architecture blossomed, many new buildings were erected and the city spread beyond its walls. During the war of the Spanish Succession (1701-14), Catalunya took sides with Charles, Archduke of Austria. After the victory of the Bourbons (on 11 spetember 1714) Barcelona lost its municipal government and its historical independence. Montjuic hill was then fortified, a citadel, Ciutadella, was built and the district of Barceloneta was developed. The townspeople were not allowed to build beyond the walls within a radius of 2km, a distance corresponding to the range of cannon fire. The town then grew upwards inside the fortifications, with an extraordinarily high population density. The ban on building was not lifted until the middle of the 19C when a decision was taken to urbanise all the no man´s land around the old city. To this end the Cérda plan was chosen. Over a period of 30 years, Barcelona grew quickly ans substantially, rapidly incorporating small neighbouring villages such as Gracia, Sants, Horta, Sarriá and Pedralbes. Industrialisation made Barcelona one of the most active towns in Europe and two International Exhibitions were held here, one in 1888 (on the site of ciutadella) and the other in 1929 on Montjuic hill. There was an explosion of Modernist architecture during this period.
Barcelona present and future
More dynamic than ever, Barcelona is not only a large industrial centre with a very busy port, it is also a university town and the seat of the Generalitat de Catalunya. It is an important cultural centre with an opera house and many museums, theatres and concert halls. The Olympic Games, held in Barcelona in 1992, brought about the development of large-scale planning projects which have had an enormous impact on the city’s appearance. This included the extension of the Diagonal, the building of a ring road and the reconstruction of part of the seafront which was converted from a free port zone into a residential area.
Barcelona is above all a Catalan town. This is evident in the use of Catalan which is considered the official language along with Castilian Spanish. The Catalan people are proud to speak their own language which was banned for many years under the Franco regime. A simple stroll around the city will reveal that all the street names and signs are in Catalan. The same goes for the literature, as a glance at a bookshop window will show.
A thriving centre for artists
Barcelona has been and still remains a thriving city and place for great artists. Among the best-known modern artists are the painters Picasso, Miró, Dali, Tapies, the sculptor Subirachs and the architects Gaudi, Josep Lluìs Sert, Bofill and Bohigas.
Airport, taxis, metro, regional railway network, bus turistíc, boat trips
Barri Gótic, Ciutat Vella, Eixample, Grácia, ribera, Barceloneta, Vila Olpímpica, Les Corts (Ciudad universitaria, Camp Nou, Museo del Barça, Sarriá, Pedralbes, Sant Gervasi de Cassoles, Sants, Horta-Guinardó, Laberinto de Horta, Velódromo)
Taking a break
Café de la Opera
Bars and cafes
La Fira, Jamboree, Karma, La Paloma, London Bar, Margarita Blue, Marsella, Nick Habana, Torres de Ávila, Xiringuito Escribá
Palau de la Música Catalan, Gran Teatre del Liceu, Auditorio,Palau Sant Jordi
Velódromo de Horta, Plaza de Toros Monumental, Sot del Migdia, Festival del Grec
Teatre Grec de Montjuic
Shopping, Plaza de la Catedral, Plaza Sant Joseph Oriol, Calle de la Palla and calle Banys Nous, Bulevard Antiquaris
Carles Tatché, René Metras, Sala Gaudí, Joan Prats, Galeria Maeght, Sala Montcada
4.4. La Coruña
The site of this pleasant Galician city is a rocky islet, linked to the mainland by a narrow strip of sand. The lighthouse stands to the north, the curved harbour to the south, with the impressive glass tower of the pleasure port, and along the west side of the istmus, the sandy Riazor and Orzán beaches. Three distinct quarters testify to La Coruña´s growth: the city (ciudad), at the northern end of the harbour, a charming old quarter with its small peaceful squares and Romanesque churches, the business and commercial centre on the isthmus with wide avenues and shopping streets (avenida de Los Cantones, calles Real and Sán Andres), and the Ensanche to the south, built up with warehouses and industrial premises, a reminder that La Coruña is the sixth largest commercial port in Spain as well as an important industrial and fishing centre.
Ciudad vieja, Collegiata de Santa Maria del Campo, Plazuela de Santa Bárbara, Jardin de San Carlos, Castillo de San Antón: Museo Arqueológico e Histórico, Iglesia de Santiago, El Centro, Avenida de la Marina ,Plaza de María Pita
Worth a visit
Castillo de San Antón: Museo Arquelogico e Historico, Museo de Bellas Artes, Domus-Casa del Hombre, Aquarium Finisterrae, Torre de Hercules
4.5. Costa Blanca
The Costa Blanca or White Coast stretches south from the shores of the Valencian province of Alicante to those of Murcia. It is mainly flat and sandy with the occasional area of high land where the sierras drop to the sea. The hot climate, low rainfall, dazzling white light after which the coast is named, long beaches and turquoise water attract a vast number of Spanish and foreign tourists throughout the year.
Bars and cafes
Calle Santo Domingo
Casino de Torrevieja
LA Cava Aragonesa
Nightlife: Avenida d´Alcohol, Avenida Comunidad Valenciana, Calle Apolo
From Denia to Guadalest, Denia, Cap de Sant Antoni, Xabiá
Cabo de la Nao: La Granadilla and Cala Blanca
Calp: Penyal d´Ifac, Altea, Benidorm, Terra Mítica
5. TYPICAL SOUVENIRS
Spain has always had a rich tradition of arts and crafts reflecting the character of the various civilisations – Iberian, Roman, Visigothic, and Muslim – that have marked the country’s history. Traditional wares such as pottery, ceramics, basketwork and woven goods are produced countrywide.
5.1. Pottery and ceramics
The difference between pottery and ceramics is that pottery has been baked just once. In Castilla, pottery is mainly made by women who use a primitive technique. Among their specialities are kitchen utensils, jars and water pitchers. The basic items of crockery used in farmhouses – dishes, soup tureens and bowls made of glazed earthenware (barro cocido) – appear in villages and on stalls in every market. Many of the techniques (metal lustre, cuerda seca, decorative motifs, and colour) used in ceramics have been influenced by Islamic traditions. There are two large pottery centres in the Toledo region. The first, Talavera de la Reina is famous for its blue, green, yellow, orange and black ceramics, while the second, El Puente del Arzobispo, mainly uses shades of green. Pottery from La Bisbal d’Empordà in Catalunya has a yellow background with green decorative motifs. The Mudéjar tradition is evident in Aragón and the Levante region where blue and white pottery is made in Muel, green and purple ceramics in Teruel and lusterware in Manises (Valencia). Most of the figurines used as decoration for cribs at Christmas are produced in Murcia. Spain’s richest pottery region is Andalusia with workshops in Granada (glazed ceramics with thick green and blue strokes), Guadix (red crockery), Triana in Seville, (polychrome animal figures, glazed and decorated), Úbeda, Andújar (jars with cobalt blue patterns) and in Vera (white pottery with undulating shapes). In Galicia, porcelain and earthenware goods with contemporary shapes and designs are factory-made at the Sargadelos centre in the province of La Coruña, but there is also a craft industry at Niñodaguia in Orense (where the yellow glaze only partially covers the pottery) and at Bruño (where yellow motifs set off a dark brown background). Mention should be made of the famous xiurels, whistles decorated in red and green from the Balearic Islands.
5.2. Lace, woven and embroidered goods
The textile industry was very prosperous under the Muslims and several workshops still thrive today. Brightly coloured blankets and carpets are woven in the Alpujarras region, la Rioja, the area around Cádiz (Grazalema) and at Níjar near Almería (where tela de trapo carpets are made from strips of cloth). Blankets from Zamora, Palencia and Salamanca are weel known. The village of El Paso, on the island of La Gomera, in the Canary Islands, is the only place in Spain that still produces silk fabrics.
In some villages in the province of Ciudad Real (particularly in Almagro) women lace makers may still be seen at work in their doorways with bobbins and needles. Lacework from Camariñas in Galicia is also widely known. The most popular craft, however, is embroidery, often done in the family. The most typical, geometrically patterned embroideries come from the Toledo region (Lagartera and Oropesa). Embroidery has been raised to the level of a veritable art in two thoroughly Spanish domains: firstly, in the ornaments used for pasos during Holy Week and secondly in bullfighters’ costumes.
Iron forging, a very old practice in Spain, has produced some outstanding works of art such as the wrought-iron grilles and screens that adorn many of the country’s churches.
Blacksmiths continue to make the grilles for doors and windows so popular in architecture in the south of Spain (La Mancha, Extremadura and Andalusia).
Guadalupe, in Extremadura, is an important centre for copper production (boilers, braziers etc). Damascene weapons (steel inlaid with gold, silver and copper) are still being produced today, in Eibar (País Vasco) and in Toledo particularly, according to pure Islamic tradition. The best switchblades and knives in Spain are produced in Albacete, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria and Taramundi (Asturias).
Gold- and silver smithing was developed in Antiquity and throughout the Visigothic period and has retained some of its traditional methods. One example is filigree ornamentation (soldered, intertwined gold and silver threads) crafted in Cordoba and Toledo. Salamanca, Cáceres and Ciudad Rodrigo specialise in gold jewellery. Santiago de Compostela is the world’s leading centre for black amber ornaments.
Leather-making has always been an important trade, especially in Andalusia, and has become industrialised in some areas. The town of Ubrique (Cadiz) is the leading producer of leatherwork in Spain, followed by the Alicante area and the Balearic Islands. The production of the famous Cordoba leather, including embossed polychrome leatherwork, continues to be produced to the same high standards. Workshops specialising in the manufacture of harnesses and horse riding and hunting accessories are predominantly found in Andalusia (Jerez de la Frontera, Alcalá de los Gazules, Villamartín, Almodóvar del Rio and Zalamea la Real).
Typically Spanish gourds and wineskin containers are made in the provinces of Bilbao, Pamplona/Iruña and Burgos and in other wine-growing areas. The wineskins produced in Valverde del Camino (Huelva) are known throughout Spain.
Basket-making remains one of the most representative of Spanish crafts. Although carried out countrywide, it is particularly rich on the Mediterranean coast and in the Balearic Islands.
The type of product and the material used vary from region to region. Baskets, hats and mats are made of reeds, willow, esparto grass, strips of olive-wood and birch and chestnut bark, while furniture may be rush or wickerwork. Willow is used in Andalusia and in the Levante, hazel and chestnut in Galicia and in the Asturias, and straw and esparto grass on the island of Ibiza
6. TRADITIONS AND FOLKLORE
A Way of Life
Whenever foreigners conjure up an image of Spain, their thoughts inevitable turn to leisurely lifestyle, plentiful sunshine, noisy and lively towns and cities, and an extrovert, friendly people whose daily timetable is impossible to comprehend!
Yet, irrespective of the crazy rhythms imposed by the demands of modern life, the Spanish always attempt to extract the very maximum from life; the maxim that most applies to them is that of having to work to live rather than living for work.
6.1. Life in the Street
The excellent climate is one of the main reasons for the Spaniards’ passion for living outdoors. Spain is a country of informal get-togethers and social gatherings, in bars, cafés, restaurants, at work, and of chance meetings of a couple of friends – any excuse is good enough to indulge in a friendly chat or animated discussion. This affection for going out as a group, meeting friends for dinner, or enjoying a drink, is to the Spanish a sign of identity, irrespective of their age or social standing. Nor is it uncommon for Spaniards to have a relaxed drink with friends or colleagues before heading home after a long day’s work.
6.2. Daily Schedule
The daily schedule of the Spanish is completely different from the rest of Europe and as such is the major characteristic that distinguishes the country from its European neighbours. Spaniards don’t usually have lunch before 2pm, or dinner before 9pm, a custom that results in long mornings and afternoons and provides ample time for them to indulge in their passion for a leisurely stroll, shopping or meeting up for a snack with friends and work acquaintances.
6.3. Tapas and Aperitif Time
This gastronomic pastime is one of the most deep-rooted traditions in Spain, with youngsters, couples and entire families heading for bars to tapear, either standing at the counter or, if time allows, sitting down on a café terrace.
These traditional appetisers come in many guises, ranging from the small tapa itself to larger portions known as a media ración or ración. Choose a media ración of manchego cheese or Jabugo cured ham, a ración of chorizo sausage, or a selection of vegetarian, fish, seafood or meat dishes – washed down perhaps with a glass of draught beer (una caña) or a glass of fino sherry (una copa de fino).
There are literally tens of thousand of bars in Spain, including in the smallest and most remote hamlets and villages. They act as a focal point for locals, who congregate here with friends or family in the evening and at weekends. During the afternoon and early evening in smaller towns and villages you’re bound to come across locals playing cards over a coffee or something stronger. The mornings are busy in bars as well, with regulars stopping by for a pastry and coffee for breakfast.
With the onset of fine weather, terraces spring up across Spain – outside restaurants, cafés, bars and ice-cream parlours, on pavements and patios and in gardens and narrow alleyways. During the warmer months, it is pleasant at any time of day to take the weight off your feet for a short while and watch the world go by in front of your table.
6.6. Beach bars
These typical features of resorts along the Spanish coast come in various guises, ranging from the cheap and cheerful to the expensive and luxurious. These chiringuitos, as they are known, have grown in popularity, particularly given that customers can enjoy a drink or have a meal wearing only their swimming costumes. In the more popular tourist areas they have become a meeting-point for locals and visitors, with some also open for dinner.
The lively character of Spanish towns and cities and summer resorts is often a cause of great surprise to visitors. Nowadays, the choice of venues is often overwhelming, with something to suit every budget and taste: quiet cafés for a drink and a chat with friends; lively bars packed to the rafters, with dance floors and music played at full volume; clubs offering a variety of shows; and nightclubs ranging from small holes-in-the-wall to mega-venues where the pace doesn’t stop until late the next morning.
On Thursday and Friday nights and at weekends, as well as in summer and during holidays, the action is almost constant, with youngsters migrating from one club or bar to the next – don’t be surprised if you get stuck in a traffic jam at three in the morning! An example of this is on the Paseo de la Castellana, in Madrid, with its numerous outdoor bars open until the small hours.
6.8. The Siesta
Although the demands of modern life prevent most people from perpetuating this healthy custom, most Spaniards long to have an afternoon nap and will make sure that they take a restorative siesta at weekends and when they’re on holiday. Although less common nowadays, those Spaniards whose work schedule allows them three hours off from 2pm till 5pm will try to make it home for lunch and a short sleep.
6.9. The Family
In line with other Latin countries, the family remains the bedrock of Spanish life, and is a determining factor in behaviour and many of the habits of Spanish society at large. Without a solid family base, it would be hard to understand how a country with a high rate of unemployment and one in which children continue to live with their parents until their late-20s and even early-30s could prosper without too many problems. It should also be added that numerous Spanish celebrations and fiestas are based upon these close family ties.
6.10. The Work Ethic
Foreigners who have chosen to live in Spain soon realise that the old image of Spain as a country where very little work is done – a view perpetuated by the country’s way of life, and the Spaniards’ well-documented liking for enjoying themselves to the full – is far removed from modern reality.
Nowadays, the work ethic in Spain is similar to that in any other European country. Visitors may wonder how this is possible, given the unusual lifestyle. The answer is simple: The Spanish sleep less. Working hours are little different from those in the rest of Europe, but from an early age the Spanish are brought up used to sleeping less during the week and trying to catch up on lost sleep at the weekend.