Travelling to Spain is on just about everyone’s travel bucket list, with good reason too. Spain offers up the perfect European playground for adventurers and fun-lovers alike. It’s a gorgeous sun-drenched destination with incredible food, vibrant culture and gorgeous coastline. If you’ve ever thought about visiting Spain or are in the throws of planning your first trip, this is everything you need to know!

When to visit

If you’re planning your first trip, it can be a bit tricky trying to work out the very best time to go. The most popular times to visit are June through to August because the weather is beautifully warm with little rain. That said, you could time your visit for May or September, to miss the big crowds. I took a trip to Ibiza, from London, in the off-season and scooped up incredibly cheap flights and accommodation, so budget travellers might like to do the same. It’s a great way to see Spain without as many tourists buzzing around.

An essential guide to Spain, for first timers!

Must-visit spots in Spain

Deciding where to visit is a little harder than you might think because there are so many incredible places to see. Ideally, you’d want to spend a good few weeks or months slowly exploring the country, but if you don’t quite have time to do that, these are the spots to prioritise:

  • Barcelona, for its iconic culture and nightlife mixed with incredible history, like Antoni Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia church and Casta Batllo. Eat, drink and dance the night away in Barcelona! Catch a flamenco show, party and immerse yourself in a wild European adventure.
  • Spanish Islands, for perfect, bright blue water and gorgeous summer days spent sipping cocktails on the beach, you have to visit the Spanish Islands. Try the Balearic Islands, like Ibiza, Formentera, Mallorca and Minorca for stunning water, sun-drenched days and more cocktails and fresh seafood than you can poke a glow-stick at.
  • Madrid, for the incredible San Miguel Market and for days spent exploring Spain’s lively capital city, discovering its history and amazing food scene. It’s the largest city in Spain to expect to see a sprawling city packed with great food, drink and lots to discover.
  • San Sebastian, to learn about the city that was nearly destroyed during the Napoleonic Wars but now boasts some of the most gorgeous and well-loved beaches in Europe. Seriously, the beaches here are insane!
  • Valencia, to explore a city that perfectly combines modern architecture with its amazing history, like the winding park right through the middle of the city, created after they diverted the flood-prone river.

An essential guide to Spain, for first timers!

Things to know before you go

To save yourself feeling a tad overwhelmed when you first arrive, here are a few things you need to know before you go.

  • It goes a long way to learn a few key Spanish phrases and really, Spanish is quite an easy language to pick up.
  • Siesta is a real thing, so don’t be shocked if you plan to go shopping and find a whole lot of shops closed between 2pm and 5pm-ish. Pro tip: join in. Siesta is an amazing thing!
  • Pick-pockets run rife in big cities like Barcelona, so make sure you don’t carry valuables or any money in your outside pockets. You’ll need to have everything secured and be wary of falling victim to scams. Don’t walk off on your own and be aware of any distractions or diversions. You’ll need to be vigilant.
  • In Spain, it’s common for breakfast to be eaten around 10am and lunch to be served from 2pm.
  • You don’t need to tip in Spain, though if you really must, one or two euro is sufficient.
  • Typically you’ll find Sunday to be a quiet day in Spain and may find it hard to find a decent place to eat, so prepare accordingly.

An essential guide to Spain, for first timers!

Must try food

Spain is famous for incredible food and drink, so don’t be afraid of getting among it and trying everything you can!

  • While it may be tempting to get stuck into a whole lot of Paella, the truth is you’ll find the best stuff where it was invented, Valencia. If you try it anywhere else you may find yourself with a soggy plate that doesn’t live up to expectation. Avoid sketchy knock-offs and only opt for top-notch stuff!
  • Spain is home to the well-loved meal of Tapas, so be sure to enjoy as much as you can. Order and share lots of small dishes, including the incredible Patatas Bravas, split it with friends over a bottle of wine or a few cold beers for the perfect afternoon.
  • When it comes to finding great food, don’t get sucked into the sad cafes and bars that line popular tourist spots like Las Rambla. You’ll need to research great spots so you don’t waste a single meal!
  • When visiting the islands of Spain or places like San Sebastian, be sure to indulge in as much fresh seafood as your body can possibly handle.
  • Don’t forget to enjoy a few jugs of sangria too! You’ll find the sangria in Spain is second to none.

An essential guide to Spain, for first timers!

What to pack

  • Pack light, comfortable and breathable clothing if you’re visiting in summer. It gets very, very hot so you’ll want clothes that don’t make you feel sweaty and gross.
  • I recommend packing comfortable, flat shoes as you’ll be doing a lot of walking
  • Be sure to take sunscreen, a hat and sun-safe clothing with you to keep you protected when you’re at the beach. Swimwear is a must!
  • If you plan on hitting the clubs, you might want to pack a few nice outfits. There are a lot of other travellers in Spain, so don’t worry about packing your very best threads.
  • Throw a scarf or shawl in your bag so you can cover up respectfully when visiting churches and cathedrals

Phoebe is a travel writer and photographer with a love for storytelling and making people laugh. Matt is a videographer and photographer with a passion for the great outdoors and big adventures. Together we inspire big adventures through our guides, videos, vlogs and photographs. Find out more about us here.

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