Spain is a sovereign state located on the Iberian Peninsula in southwestern Europe. Its mainland is bordered to the south and east by the Mediterranean Sea except for a small land boundary with Gibraltar; to the north and northeast by France, Andorra, and the Bay of Biscay; and to the west and northwest by Portugal and the Atlantic Ocean. Along with France and Morocco, it is one of only three countries to have both Atlantic and Mediterranean coastlines. Spain's 1,214 km (754 mi) border with Portugal is the longest uninterrupted border within the European Union.
Three main climatic zones can be separated, according to geographical situation and orographic conditions:
• The Mediterranean climate, characterized by warm and dry summers. It is dominant in the peninsula, with two varieties: Csa and Csbaccording to the Köppen climate classification. The Csb Zone, with a more extreme climate, hotter in summer and colder in winter, extends to additional areas not typically associated with a Mediterranean climate, such as much of central and northern-central of Spain (e.g. Valladolid, Burgos, León).
• The semiarid climate (Bsh, Bsk), located in the southeastern quarter of the country, especially in the region of Murcia and in the Ebro valley. In contrast with the Mediterranean climate, the dry season extends beyond the summer.
• The oceanic climate (Cfb), located in the northern quarter of the country, especially in the region of Basque Country, Cantabria, Asturias and partly Galicia. In contrary to the Mediterranean climate, winter and summer temperatures are influenced by the ocean, and have no seasonal drought.
Spain is openly multilingual, and the constitution establishes that the nation will protect "all Spaniards and the peoples of Spain in the exercise of human rights, their cultures and traditions, languages and institutions. Spanish (español)—officially recognized in the constitution as Castilian (castellano)—is the official language of the entire country, and it is the right and duty of every Spaniard to know the language. The constitution also establishes that "all other Spanish languages"—that is, all other languages of Spain—will also be official in their respective autonomous communities in accordance to their Statutes, their organic regional legislations, and that the "richness of the distinct linguistic modalities of Spain represents a patrimony which will be the object of special respect and protection.
In 2008 the population of Spain officially reached 46 million people, as recorded by the Padrón municipal (Spain's Municipal Register). Spain's population density, at 91/km² (235/sq mi), is lower than that of most Western European countries and its distribution across the country is very unequal. With the exception of the region surrounding the capital, Madrid, the most populated areas lie around the coast. The population of Spain more than doubled since 1900, when it stood at 18.6 million, principally due to the spectacular demographic boom in the 1960s and early 1970s.
Roman Catholicism has long been the main religion of Spain, and although it no longer has official status by law, in all public schools in Spain students have to choose either a religion or ethics class, and Catholicism is the only religion officially taught. According to an April 2014 study by the Spanish Centre for Sociological Research about 69% of Spaniards self-identify as Catholics, 2% other faith, and about 26% identify with no religion (9.4% of the total are atheists). Most Spaniards do not participate regularly in religious services. This same study shows that of the Spaniards who identify themselves as religious, 59% hardly ever or never go to church, 15% go to church some times a year, 8% some time per month and 14% every Sunday or multiple times per week.
Spanish cuisine consists of a great variety of dishes which stem from differences in geography, culture and climate. It is heavily influenced by seafood available from the waters that surround the country, and reflects the country's deep Mediterranean roots. Spain's extensive history with many cultural influences has led to a unique cuisine. In particular, three main divisions are easily identified: Mediterranean Spain – all such coastal regions, from Catalonia to Andalusia: heavy use of seafood, such as pescaíto frito; several cold soups like gazpacho; and many rice-based dishes like paella from Valencia and arròs negre (arroz negro) from Catalonia. Inner Spain – Castile – hot, thick soups such as the bread and garlic-based Castilian soup, along with substantious stews such as cocido madrileño. Food is traditionally conserved by salting, like Spanish ham, or immersed in olive oil, like Manchego cheese. Atlantic Spain – the whole Northern coast, including Asturian, Basque, Cantabrian and Galician cuisine: vegetable and fish-based stews like caldo gallego and marmitako. Also, the lightly cured lacón ham. The best known cuisine of the northern countries often rely on ocean seafood, like the Basque-style cod, albacore or anchovy or the Galician octopus-based polbo á feira and shellfish dishes.
RENFE is the Spanish national rail carrier. Long-distance trains always get in time, but be aware that short-distance trains (called Cercanías) can bear long delays, from ten to twenty minutes, and especially in the Barcelona area, where delays up to 30 minutes are not uncommon. To be safe, always take the train before the one you need. Trains and facilities are clean, services are fast and reliable and prices are on par with those found elsewhere in Western Europe, but there is one catch. Since absolutely all long-distance trains require a reservation (not only the high-speed AVEs!) and are booked out long before, especially in the tourist season, getting around Spain by train is rather difficult and planning ahead is essential. If you turn up at the Madrid-Atocha station expecting to buy a same-day AVE ticket to Barcelona or to the Costas, you'll be disappointed. On the other hand, passengers in Spain ride in style, everyone seated and no people standing in the aisle. This is in sharp contrast with most other European countries, where compulsory reservations are either non-existent or only required for the highest category of trains.
The easiest way to get around most parts of Spain is by bus. Most major routes are point to point, and very high frequency. There is a different operator for each route, but usually just one operator per route. At the bus station, each operator has its own ticket. The staff at any of them is usually happy to tell you who operate which route, however.
All the major cities in Spain are served by taxis, which are a convenient, if somewhat expensive way to get around. That being said, taxis in Spain are more reasonably priced than those in say, the United Kingdom or Japan. Most taxi drivers do not speak English or any other foreign languages, so it would be necessary to have the names and/or addresses of your destinations written in Spanish to show your taxi driver. Likewise, get your hotel's business card to show your taxi driver in case you get lost.
: Barcelona’s biggest ornamental fountain, which was built in 1929 for the International Exhibition, offers a spectacular display of music, water acrobatics and lights which generate over 50 kinds of shades and hues. The Montjuïc Magic Fountain has become one of Barcelona’s most popular attractions and is where the “Piromusical” is held, a true balletic spectacle of water and light.
L'Aquàrium of Barcelona in Port Vell is one of Europe’s biggest marine leisure and education centres and the most important concerning Mediterranean species. Its mission is to provide visitors with a greater understanding of undersea life with 11,000 marine animals from 450 different species which live in five million liters of water.
Like a needle pointing towards the sky, the Collserola tower has been an iconic part of the Barcelona skyline since the year of the Olympics, 1992. It has become a major landmark which combines modernity with the most spectacular views of Barcelona and its surrounding area, from its observation deck, which is the highest in the city.
The Tibidabo Amusement Park has stood for more than a century on Barcelona’s highest point. It exists in the memories of generations of the people of Barcelona, and continues to be a place for fun, surprises and entertainments, with rides and attractions for young and old, for the wary and most daring.
The Poble Espanyol, or Spanish Village, is an open-air museum comprising full-scale replicas of 117 buildings from different parts of Spain. It was built on Montjuïc Mountain for the 1929 International Exhibition in Barcelona and the diversity of its squares, streets and houses give it the feel of a real village.
Over 7,000 animals from 400 different species live in Barcelona Zoo. A visit to the zoo becomes a living spectacle with inhabitants from around the world, as you discover its fauna: primates, felines, tropical birds, dolphins… The attractions at the zoo make for an unforgettable, perfect day out for all the family.