Eating out in Spain is often resonably priced and the meals
are substantial rather than gourmet. One of the best ways
to sample Spanish food is to try tapas, or snacks, which are
served at any time furig the day in local bars. These range
from cheese and olives to meat delicacies or squid and are
Most of the specialities of Spanish cuisine are based on seafood,
although regional specialities are easier to find inland than
along the coast.
In the northern Basque provinces, there is
cod vizcaina or cod pil-pil,
angulas, the tasty baby eels from Aguinaga,
bream and squid. Asturias
has its bean soup, cheeses, fabada, and
the best cider in Spain, and in Galicia
there is shellfish, especially good in casseroles, and a number
of regional seafood dishes such as hake à la
In the eastern regions of Spain , the paella
has a well-deserved reputation. It can be prepared in many
ways, based on seafood or meat. Catalonia
offers, among its outstanding specialities, lobster
Catalan, butifarra sausage stewed with beans,
and partridge with cabbage. Pan amb
tomaquet, bread rubbed with olive oil and tomato,
is a delicious accompaniment to local ham and cheese.
The Castile area specialises in roast meats,
mainly beef, lamb, veal and suckling pig, but there are also
stews, sausages, country ham and partridges. Andalucía
is noted for its cooking ,which has a strong Arab influence,
especially gazpacho, a delicious cold vegetable
soup, a variety of fried fish including fresh anchovies, jabugo
ham from Huelva and many dishes based on
the fish that the coast provides in such abundance.
Restaurants are classified by the Government and many offer
tourist menus called menu del día.
Many Restaurants and cafes have table service.
Spain is essentially a wine-drinking country, with sherry
being one of the principal export products. Its English name
is the anglicised version of the producing town Jerez,
from which the wine was first shipped to England. Today, Britain
buys about 75 per cent of all the sherry exports. There are
four main types, fino (very pale and very
dry), amontillado (dry, richer in body and
darker in colour), oloroso (medium, full-bodied,
fragrant and golden) and dulce (sweet).
Sanlúcar de Barrameda and Puerto de
Santa María are other towns famous for their
sherry and well worth visiting. Tourists are able to visit
one of the bodegas (above-ground wine stores)
in Jerez. In the Basque Country, a favourite
is chacolí - a green wine, slightly
sparkling and a little sour, rather than dry.
The principal table wines are the riojas
and valdepeñas, named after the regions
in which they are produced. In general, rioja,
from the region around Logroño in
the northeast, resembles the French Bordeaux, though it is
less delicate. Valdepeñas is a rougher
wine, but hearty and pleasant It will be found at its best
in the region where it is grown, midway between Madrid
In Catalonia, the ampurdán
and perelada wines tend to be heavy and those
that are not rather sweet are harsh, with the exception of
the magnificent full-bodied Burgundy-type penedés
wines. The Alicante wine, dry and strong,
is really a light aperitif. Nearby, the Murcia
region produces excellent wine. Often it makes a pleasant
change to try the unbottled wines of the house (vino de la
casa). It is much cheaper than the bottled wines and, even
in small places, is usually quite good. Similarly, inexpensive
supermarket wine is very acceptable. Among the many brands
of sparkling wines known locally as cava
and the most popular are Codorniú
and Freixenet, dry or semi-dry. The majority
of Spanish sparkling wines are sweet and fruity.
Spanish brandy is as different from French as Scotch whisky
is from Irish. It is relatively cheap and pleasant, although
some brandy drinkers find it a little sweet.
Spain has some good mineral waters. A popular brand is Lanjarón
which comes from the town of the same name. Vichy
Catalan is almost exactly like French Vichy. Malavella
is slightly effervescent and Font Vella is
still. There are no licensing hours in Spain.
Spaniards often start the evening with el paseo,
a leisurely walk through the main streets. A cafe terrace
is an excellent vantage point to observe this tradition, or
enjoy street theatre in the larger cities. The atmosphere
is especially vibrant at fiesta time, or when the local football
team has won, when celebrations are marked by a cacophony
of car horns, firecrackers and a sea of flags and team regalia.
Tapas bars offer delicious snacks in a relaxed, enjoyable
setting and it is fun to try several bars in one night. The
nightclubs of Ibiza, Barcelona and Madrid
have attracted the attention of the international media, but
the variety on offer caters for most tastes. Things work up
to la marcha, good fun, relatively late and it is possible
to literally dance until dawn. Flamenco or
other regional dancing displays provide an alternative for
those who prefer to watch dancing.
In Spain, the shopper can find items of high quality at a
fair price, not only in the cities, but in the small towns
and villages as well.
In Madrid, the Rastro Market
is recommended, particularly on Sundays. Half of the market
takes place in the open air and half in more permanent galleries,
it has a character all of its own. Catalonian
textiles are internationally famous and there are mills throughout
the region. Spanish leather goods are excellent and prized
throughout the world, offering high-fashion originals at reasonable
prices. Of note are the suede jackets and coats. In general,
all leather goods, particularly those from Andalucía,
combine excellent craftmanship with high-quality design.
Fine, handcrafted wooden furniture is one
of the outstanding products; Valencia is
especially important location in this field, and has a yearly
international furniture fair. Alicante is
an important centre for toy manufacturing.
Shoe manufacturing is also of an especially
high quality; the production centres are in Alicante
and the Balearics. Fine rugs and carpets
are made in Cáceres, Granada and Murcia.
The numerous excellent sherries, wines and spirits produced
in Spain make good souvenirs to take home.
hours: Monday-Saturday 1000 hrs-1300 hrs and 1600
hrs-2000 hrs. However, most commercial stores and malls stay
open from 1000 hrs-2200 hrs.
Throughout Spain, folklore is very much alive and there is
always some form of festival occurring. It is almost impossible
for a visitor to be anywhere in the country for more than
a fortnight without something taking place.
The Ministry of Tourism produces a booklet
listing and describing Spain’s many national and regional
feasts and festivals, of which there are over 3000 each year.
Fiestas, Saints’ Days,
Romerías (picnics to religious shrines) and
Verbenas (night festivals on the eve of religious
holidays) are all celebrated with great spirit and energy.
Holy Week is probably the best
time of year to visit for celebrations and it is then that
the individuality of each region’s style of pageantry
is best revealed.
For further information, contact the Spanish National
Tourist Office (see Contact
The following is a selection of
special events occurring in Spain in 2005:
||Moors and Christians
(traditional festival), Bocairente
||Carnival in Sitges
(gay carnival), Barcelona
||Holy Week (religious
May Festival of the Courtyards and May Fair, Cordoba.
|| Cruces de Mayo,
||Feria del Caballo
(horse market), Jerez
||Fiestas de San
||San Bernabe Fair,
(Running of the Bulls), Pamplona
de Leire (traditional festival), Pontevedra
|| La Merced,
||Moors and Christians,
(popular music festival), Malaga
Carnival celebrations start around February 8th and last for
up to two weeks. Although Carnival is celebrated nationwide,
the most famous carnival celebrations are held in the capitals
of the Canary Islands, Santa Cruz
de Tenerife and Las Palmas
de Gran Canaria. For a full list of Carnival events
and dates, contact the Spanish National Tourist Office
(see Contact Addresses section).
Spanish life has undergone rapid change in recent years and
many of the stricter religious customs are giving way to the
more modern ways, particularly in the cities and among young
Nonetheless, many old customs, manners and traditions have
not faded and hospitality, courtesy and chivalry remain important.
Handshaking is the customary form of greeting. Normal social
courtesies should be observed when visiting someone’s
house. If invited to a private home, a small gift is appreciated.
Flowers are only sent for special celebrations.
Conservative casual wear is widely acceptable. Some of the
hotels and restaurants encourage men to wear jackets. A black
tie is only necessary for very formal occasions and is usually
specified if required. Outside resorts, scanty beachwear should
be confined to beach or poolside.
Smoking is widely accepted. The evening meal is taken late,
generally 2100 hrs-2200 hrs. The Spanish have two family names,
in conversation only the first should be used.
Service charges and taxes are usually included in hotel bills,
however in addition, a tip should be left for the chambermaid
and porters should be tipped per bag. It is also customary
to leave a tip for the waiter. Restaurants often include service
in the bill so a tip is discretionary. In cafes and bars,
it is 5 to 10 per cent. Tip taxis 10 to 15 per cent when metered.