Great Countries: Spain
No matter who you are or what you like to do, there will be something for you
to enjoy in Spain. There are the beaches of Barcelona and the Balearic Islands for the sand-friendly, while there are the many mountain ranges for the hiker. For the art enthusiast, there is the famous Prado Museum in Madrid embellished by works of El Greco, Velàzquez and Goya. You can also experience Madrid by foot, and that itself shows Spain’s regard to its detailed history. Flamenco dancing is sure to appeal to all. Spain’s Mediterranean cuisine is unique and delectable, and who can resist the fine wine and tasty tapas? The Mediterranean beaches are white-sand and surrounded by turquoise water. The Spanish love their football, bullfighting, paella (a rice-based dish), the famous La Tomatina festival and, of course, partying in Ibiza.
There are no direct flights connecting India and Spain, but there are plenty of stopover flights. The cheapest are the Saudia flights to Madrid from New Delhi and Mumbai (as low as approx. ₹34,000 round trip). Flights to other cities such as Barcelona (lowest ₹45,000 round trip from Delhi), Màlaga, Las Palmas, Bilbao and Seville are more expensive. Overall, these stopover flights take a minimum of 11 hours. Saudia, Jet Airways, KLM, SWISS, Brussels Airlines, Air France, Emirates, Qatar Airways, Lufthansa, Aeroflot and Etihad are only some of the carriers that connect India and Spain.
Visa: india.blsspainvisa.com has all the information on how to get a tourist visa for Spain (also known as a short-term Schengen visa). There is one application form for the visa (a maximum of 90 days granted to applicants), which you can download online and print and fill offline, a checklist (also downloadable online; make sure to print on back-to-back format) and a travel declaration form—all of which you must print out and submit. For other documents, see the website. Submit applications at Visa application centres locates in New Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Pune, Kolkata, Chennai, Kochi, Chandigarh, Jalandhar, Hyderabad, Ahmedabad and Puducherry. Then, book an appointment at the centre where documents and passport will be checked, the fees will be collected and a receipt will be given. It will take a minimum of 15 days for then to process your visa. An adult Spanish Schengen Visa’s fee is ₹4,300, service charge extra. You can track your application online.
What to See Do
In Madrid, the capital, visit the National Archaeological Museum (man.es/man/en/home), filled with artifacts dating back from the Visigoth Kingdom all the way up till the middle ages. The Làzaro Galdiano Museum, housing the art collection of Làzaro, the Prado Museum (museodelprado.es/en), known for artworks by famous romantic painter Francisco de Goya and Spanish Golden Age painter Diego Velázquez, and Reina Sofía Museum (museoreinasofia.es/en), which houses Pablo Picasso’s Guernica, are treats for art lovers. The Royal Palace of Madrid, the official residence of the Spanish royal family, the breathtaking arcaded square, Plaza Mayor and Spain’s famous Kilometre Zero marker in Madrid’s Puerta Del Sol are other attractions that must be visited. For the shopper, an evening at the El Rastro flea market and for the football enthusiast, a visit to Santiago Bernabéu and Vicente Calderón football stadiums are musts. For those looking for tapas, visit the neighbourhood Barrio de Chueca. Bullfighting can be enjoyed at Plaza de Toros bullring in Madrid. Visit madridtourist.info
Just as exciting is the city of Barcelona, Spain’s second largest, located at the coast of the country’s Catalonia region. Visit Casa Batlló (casabatllo.es/en), which is a well-known building designed by the famous 19th century Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí, Casa Amatller, designed in the Modernisme Art-Nouveau style of architecture and Casa Milà or La Pedrera (lapedrera.com/en/home), a beautiful stone quarry with a rough-hewn look.
For museum lovers, there is more of Picasso at the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya (museunacional.cat/en). Incredibly scenic is the Gothic Quarter, which is the old city of Barcelona. Another work by Gaudí, but this one unfinished, is the church of the Sagrada Família (sagradafamilia.org/en/index.html), which looks beautiful even in its incompletion.
The Palau de la Música Catalana, however, is a completed concert hall built in the Modernisme style. The Crypt of Colònia Güell (gaudicoloniaguell.org) is located in Park Güell, which is a public park system designed in the early 20th century by none other than Gaudí. Shop at Boqueria Market, which is one of Barcelona’s best known. You should also take a guided tour of Passeig De Gracia and Quadrat D’or—both culture- and heritage-rich areas. See barcelonaturisme.com
Then there is Seville, with its Moorish heritage and many historical treasures. Famous for its flamenco dancing, experience it at Tablao Flamenco Los Gallos theatre (tablaolosgallos.com). Experience the traditional culture at districts such as Triana and La Macarena and take a tapas tour around the city. Visit the well-known Museum of Fine Arts of Seville, which has a fine collection of visual artworks, the water gardens of Reales Alcazares, the complex around the Seville Cathedral, and the cathedral’s bell tower or Giralda. Experience river Guadalquivir and the 2011-opened Metropol Parasol, which is a wooden structure designed by a German architect. See visitasevilla.es/en
In Spain’s Basque Country, which is home to its Basque people and their culture, there are three main cities—San Sebastian, Bilbao and Vitoria. While at San Sebastian, do make it a point of explore Old Town, visit San Telmo Museum (santelmomuseoa.eus/index.php?lang=en), which houses ‘Wind Comb’, a sculpture by Eduardo Chillida, enjoy wave spotting in Paseo Nuevo (paseonuevoshopping.com) and end the day at La Concha beach. Bilbao is known for its Guggenheim Museum (guggenheim.org), filled with sculptures by contemporary artists and well-known architects.
A visit to Puente Colgante or Transporter Bridge, which is a world heritage site, is also a great idea. For shoppers, a visit to the Ribera Market is a great way to purchase food. See basquecountry-tourism.com
And then, what’s a Spain trip without going to Ibiza? At island, located 79km east of the Iberian Peninsula, visit Botafoc, the magnificent lighthouse. Visit the Archeological Museum, which gives takes you into the city’s past. The necropolis of Es Puig Des Molins, which is an elaborate cemetery area, the Phoenician settlement of Sa Caleta, where over 3,500 Punic and Phoenician graves have been found along with statues such as those of goddess Tanit and god Bes, are must visits. Finally, the tourist centre of Portinatx, located along the seaside and the church located at Puig De Missa should be a part of your itinerary. Visit ibiza.travel/en
At Málaga, along the Mediterranean, there are plenty of options. Festivals such as Starlite or Luna Mora (festival of the Moorish Moon) in Guaro and La Noche en Blanco (Literally, All-nighter; see lanocheenblancomalaga.com) can be enjoyed here. Picasso Museum (museopicassomalaga.org/en/home), since this is Picasso’s native town, is worth a visit. Málaga is great for those inclined towards history as well, given Málaga Historical District’s preservation of over 3,000 years of archeological evidence. The Málaga Cathedral, the Gibralfaro Castle, the roman theatre and the Alcazaba, a fortification resembling a palace are some of the other exciting attractions here. At Serranía de Ronda, modern bullfighting was invented (€6.50 individual entry; visit rondatoday.com for month-specific timings). You may also enjoy shopping at luxury boutiques in Puerto Banús.
At Valencia, iconic buildings include the UNESCO World Heritage Site Lonja de La Seda, which is the silk exchange, those of the La Almoina, which is the roman ruins of the cities, the Serranos, which is an administrative region, Quart Towers, which are gothic-style defensive towers and the cathedral. The Albufera Natural Park is one of Europe’s most fascinating botanical gardens and must be visited. Churches such as Santa Catalina Church, San Nicolás Church, Santos Juanes Church, El Patriarca Church are just some of the many with brilliant frescoes here. Festivals worth celebrating include the Maritime Holy Week and Las Fallas. See visitvalencia.com
At Canary Islands there are beaches, theme parks as well as volcanic landscapes. Siam Park (siampark.net) on Tenerife is very well known, while Aquapark Costa Teguise (aquaparklanzarote.es/en) in Lanzarote, Acua Water Park (acuawaterpark.com/en) in Fuerteventura and Holiday World are popular too. Canary islands showcases more parrots than anywhere else in the world. For the astronomy enthusiast, the Roque de los Muchachos Observatory (iac.es/eno.php?op1=2lang=en) is a world of discovery. See hellocanaryislands.com
Other things to do in Spain:
The Alhambra and Generalife Gardens (alhambradegranada.org) in Granada is a Moorish palace that is sure to take your breath away with its façade alone.
The La Tomatina festival is held in Buñol, a small eastern Spanish town of about 9000 people. Here a large number of people from all around the world gather to participate in a food fight—armed with tomatoes. It is quite an explosion of fruit and colour and is held on the last Wednesday of August. See latomatina.org
The great mosque of Cordoba too is Moorish and known as an important mosque of western Islam. The architecture is incredibly symmetrical.
La Rambla is a beautiful tree-lined boulevard in Barcelona that must be visited.
Where to Eat Drink
In Madrid, clubs such as TupperWare and Madrid Me Mata are very popular, while Serrano 41 nightclub is perhaps the best known. As for food, there are plenty of options in the fine-dining space (Dstage and Maitia, both Mediterranean cuisine restaurants) as well as the cheap-food and-tapas-space (Cerveceria Gandario and Tinto y Tapas, both Mediterranean cuisine eateries).
In Barcelona, AbaC is two-star Michelin modern Catalan restaurant that provides an amazing dining experience. Cinc Sentits, known for its seafood, serves traditional cuisine. Barcelona also has some great bars—with Dry Martini Speakeasy known world-over and Bar Mutis invitiation-only. In the street-food realm, Caravan Made, which serves sandwiches and buns, and Chivuo’s, who serve a classic ‘burger and beer’ combo, are two options worth reckoning.
Basque country has nearly 40 Michelin starred restaurants, and that’s an amazing statistic—do try the Michelin three-star options Arzak, Akelarre and Martín Berasategui in San Sebastian and Azurmendi in Bilbao. As for bars, give Kafe Antzokia, where the Basque culture and alcohol both can be enjoyed, a chance.
Canary Islands too have its fair of food and beverages options—there is Lucas Maes, a Canarian restaurant in Tenerife, where traditional dishes are reinterpreted. In Gran Canaria you have Allende, where traditional cuisine is mixed with influences from around the world. At six-year-old the Eiffel Bar here, enjoy the Spanish wine. And at La Azotea de Benito Cocktail Bar, be exposed to some cocktails made with classic techniques.
In Seville, nightlife is an absolute treat. There are many traditional bars in Santa Cruz, where impromptu flamenco dances occur. Calle Mateos Gago, Calle Betis and Plaza Alfalfa are some of the best streets and locations to enjoy the nightlife. Bar Alfafa is great for tapas, while Las Golondrinas is Andalucian cuisine. El Badulaque has pizzas and salads.
In Ibiza, Atzaro is known for its buffet spreads and light lunches. Well-known cafés include Café Benirràs (+34-971-310161), Macao Café (macaocafe.com) for Italian food and Las Dalias (lasdalias.squarespace.com). For Spanish food, visit El Brasa the Ibizan Bon Lloc (Nuestra Señora de Jesus). For seafood, there is Es Torrent (estorrent.net) and for pan-Asian, Bambuddha Grove (bambuddha.com). Sunset beach cafés include Café Del Mar (cafedelmarmusic.com), Bora Bora (boraboraibiza.com) and UShuaia (ushuaiaibiza.com)
In Velencia, begin with a cold beer at Café Negrito and then carry on to Café de las Horas, where the setting in a townhouse would certainly get you excited. As for food, Bodega Casa Montana is famous for its wine and tapas, while Palace Fesol is a must do for those who wish to experience authentic Valencian cuisine.
If in Màlaga, there’s plenty you can do—head over to Bodegas Bar El Pimpi, which is one of the city’s most famous bars, or to Vista Andalucia, where authentic Spanish music will accompany your drinks. As for food, there’s Manducare, where the Andalusian dishes are ravishing. There’s also Maricuchi with its excellent seafood.
Where to Stay
In Barcelona, an en-suite hostal (hostel) comes for about E50 a night on single occupancy basis during off-season. Hostal Girona and Hostal Goya are two well-rated ones. In the luxury segment, there is Hotel Monte Carlo on La Rambla. More information on hotels: Barcelona–tourist-guide.com
Seville: A five-star option includes Hotel Alfonso XIII (from €300 with breakfast; hotel-alfonsoxiii.com). A boutique hotel option is Corral del Rey (from €300; corraldelrey.com). Mid-range options are The Hotel Vincci La Rábida (from €105; vinccihoteles.com), Hotel Doña María (from €107; hdmaria.com) and Hotel Las Casas de la Juderia (from €130;casasypalacios.com). Hostal Sierpes (from €65; hsierpes.com) or the Hostal Picasso (from €65; +34 954-220-521) are the cheaper options.
In Ibiza, options include Can Curreu (between €220 and €275; cancurreu.com), Atzaro (between €160 and €350; atzaro.com) and Es Cucons (between €195 low season and €270; escucons.com). Budget options include Hostel Europa Púnico (from €45; hostaleuropapunico.com) and Hotel Tropical (from €40; hoteltropicalibiza.com)
All rates below are from booking.com
In Madrid, properties such as the five-star Silken Puerta América (from approx. ₹9,450 for double sharing; see hoteles-silken.com), the four-star Ayre Gran Hotel Colòn (from approx. ₹4,700 for double sharing; see ayrehoteles.com/en/hotels/ayre-gran-hotel-colon) and the boutique hotel Only YOU Boutique Hotel Madrid (from approx. ₹16,000 for double sharing; see onlyyouhotels.com/en) are some great options.
A good option in Basque Country is the four-star Hotel Mercure Jardines de Albia (from approx. ₹9,450 for double sharing; see hoteljardinesdealbia.com). However, if you can afford it, certainly go for the Maria Cristina, A luxury Collection Hotel, Sab Sebastian (from approx. ₹46,600 for double sharing; see hotel-mariacristina.com/en), which is opulence at its best.
In Màlaga, Santa Cruz Apartments are nice and cozy (see from approx. ₹9,400 for double sharing; see santacruz-apartments.com), while Room Mate Valeria (from approx. ₹11,700 for double sharing; room-matehotels.com/en/valeria) is a well-rated four-star option.
In Valencia, Sorolla Centro (from approx. ₹6,400 for double sharing; see hotelsorollacentro.com/en) is a reasonable and convenient option, while those on a budget can go for The River Hostel (from approx. ₹3,850 for double sharing; see riverhostelvalencia.com/en).
In Canary Islands, the moderately priced H10 Playa Meloneras Palace (h10hotels.com/en/gran-canaria-hotels/h10-playa-meloneras-palace) is a five-star option that will certainly suit your ne (from ₹14,150 for double sharing), while the three-star Aparthotel El Galeón (from approx. ₹3,600 for double sharing; see hotelelgaleon.com/en/index.html) works if you’re on a budget.