Spain Travel Guide
“Believe there are no limits but the sky.” – Miguel de Cervantes
Before You Go
Places to Visit
Cities to See
A trip to Spain is hard to describe in words, because the experience of the country is so visceral, so tactile. You don’t just “see” Spain, you experience it, with hearing, taste, smells, everything. The Iberian Peninsula has been a unique location in Europe since the Middle Ages, and that caused Spain to develop a culture that’s simultaneously European and singularly Spanish. The weather here is, like it’s people, smooth and steady and welcoming, making Spain a year-round destination for college travelers.
So whether you decide to go during Spring Break or right before your next semester starts, Spain will be great. Fiestas, carnivals, and holy weeks cram the Spanish calendar year, so no matter when you go there’s an event going on somewhere. Read our Spain Travel Guides, travel to Spain, and learn what this colorful, lively country has to offer.
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5 Things to Know Before You Visit Spain
Dust off those old high school language skills, because in Spain, they speak Spanish (although sometimes they refer to their language as castiliano, not español). Students usually study a bit of english in school, but they remember as much english as you do spanish, so your conversations might be a bit limited. As usual in Europe, people tend to know more english in the big cities than they do the countryside, so be aware when you start wandering the beautiful wilds of Spain.
Currency & Tipping
You’ll be using the euro on your trip to Spain. The euro (€) is currently about .90 to every US dollar, but check before you head out on a Spanish getaway. Spain is refreshingly credit card friendly, and street markets or small town stores will accept plastic and cash. Tipping isn’t included in your bill at a restaurant, but service industry workers make closer to a living wage than they do in the US. Usually, tipping 10% on top of your bill is a nice gesture, and expected.
The headliner in Spain is tapas, which isn’t a specific food. It’s a sampler plate of finger-foods, and it’s everywhere. This is their version of bar food, but it’s way tastier than a bowl of pretzels, and you will often find yourself ordering a drink and getting a plate of food with it; something we like to call “living the dream.” Not all tapas is free with a drink; when you do pay for it, it’s usually a step up in quality even higher than the already delicious free stuff.
Tech Tips for Spain
In some of the major cities, like Barcelona, there is free city-wide WiFi connections. It’s not the best WiFi connection in the world, but it can help you out with maps and translation apps. Outside the cities, you’re not going to be so lucky, so you might need to rent a WiFi device if you want to stay connected all the time. Also, bring an outlet adaptor for the sockets in Spain, so you can charge your phone after a long day of wandering around and taking photos.
One thing you’ll immediately notice on a trip to Spain; a lot of businesses close around 1 and 2 pm and then reopen later around 4 or 5 pm, and restaurants close around 4 and 5 pm and open again at 8 or 9 pm. This is a holdover from the old tradition of a “siesta.” Although many Spaniards don’t actually nap during this time, they like to take a long lunch and relax before getting back to work. This pushes lunch and dinner much later than the US, so keep that in mind.
Tourism in Spain
When is the best time to visit Spain?
Spain has some legendary beaches along the Mediterranean coast, so it’s hard not to suggest going during the summer. But really, Spain is pretty comfortable year-round. The downside to summer travel? It’s real hot, and the beach resorts are real crowded, so keep that in mind. If you’re looking for things to do in Spain but you're worried about sweating to death, you’re better off visiting in the spring or fall, when the weather is comfortable. If you want to go in the winter, stick to southern Spain, where it’ll be the warmest at that time of year.
Is it safe to travel to Spain?
Spain is very safe for student travelers, but it does have a bit of a petty theft problem in the touristy and crowded city areas. Pickpocketing is the most common occurrence of this, so it’s smart to stay alert and keep watch on your wallet and phone, even if you think there’s no way someone could slip them from your pocket without you knowing. Pickpockets are good at their job. There’s also a small chance someone might try to run by and grab your phone out of your hand, like when you’re taking a selfie in front of the Basilica of the Sagrada Familia. Just be smart and alert, and it’ll be fine.
- All Emergencies: Dial 112
- Police: Dial 092
- Tourist Helpline and Emergency Number: Dial 902 102 112
Places to Visit in Spain
Spain is so vast and varied that we tried hard to give you a little taste of everything in this list. There are incredibly beautiful churches, ancient Roman ruins, art galleries and museums, nature hikes and wild dance clubs.
Basilica of the Sagrada Familia
This Roman Catholic church, designed by architect Antoni Gaudi, soars above the Barcelona skyline like a Disney castle on steroids. It has an unreal view of the city from it’s spires, bring your student ID and get a discount on the ticket.
This palace in Granada might seem like a tourist trap, but the awe-inspiring structure, built back when Spain was mostly Islamic, is worth a visit. It was updated in the renaissance, and now is a blend of a thousand years of architecture.
There’s a buzz you get when you step out into the stands of Camp Nou and let the passion of the singing, cheering Barcelona football fans wash over you. This legendary soccer stadium is the largest stadium in Europe.
Serra de Tramuntana
If you can’t decide between hiking beautiful mountains and going to unreal beaches, hit this mountain range on the island of Mallorca. If you’re brave, there’s even companies that will take you cliff-diving here.
Camino de Santiago
Known as “The Way of St. James,” this medieval pilgrimage probably deserves it’s own travel guide. It’s a legendary hiking route, where you’ll cross the entirety of northern Spain while traveling through rural villages and sleeping in hostels.
Touch Karaoke, Barcelona
This karaoke bar is a big hit with locals and travelers. Get up on stage, and sing your heart out, but remember that this is Spain, and locals consider any time before midnight “too early” to start partying, so you might want to go late.
Cities to See in Spain
Spain is perfect for students for two reasons; everywhere you turn has something beautiful to see, and every street corner has cheap and delicious food. This is an explorer’s paradise, where wandering around can show you hidden sights and lead you to secret tapas bars crammed with friendly locals. Check out our budget tips for Spain, and get lost in the winding streets.
Incredible food and legendary nightlife, “Barca” has it all. Check out the neighborhood of Barrio Gotico for a historical feel and quaint bars, the neighborhood of Born for bakeries and street art, and the Gracia neighborhood for shopping during the day and great nightlife. Check out the city from the top of the Basilica of the Sagrada Familia, and start exploring.
A modern city that has been able to maintain its historic charm, Madrid is inarguably, quintessentially spanish. Visit the Plaza Mayor, a massive central square surrounded by balconies where people can drink or dine, or spend an afternoon trying all the tapas in the La Latina neighborhood. At night, take in a flamenco show to start the dancing off right.
A gem of Andalusian Spain, Seville is a small city that is jam-packed with old world charm. Game of Thrones has used the renaissance-style city as a backdrop, just to give you a hint of how fantastic this city looks and feels. You can see a lot of what it has to offer in a few days, but it can be a great base camp for your exploration of southern Spain.
This island is known across Europe as the party island. At night it is coast-to-coast dancing and music, and during the day it is beach lounging. There is so much partying in Ibiza that you can find the type of party that fits you best; from wild EDM ragers to low-key affairs. This is the perfect place to recharge from a face-paced travel schedule.
Like a lot of southern Spain, Granada has an incredible blend of western architecture and middle eastern art, as a throwback from the middle ages. There are a lot of beautiful touristy sights to see, like the Alhambra, and it’s a perfect walking city with a ton of gardens and scenic views. Make sure to explore the tiny side streets and try every tapas bar.
Spain Blog Posts
Spain on a Student Budget
To help ease the tension that accompanies budgeting a vacation, here are some tips to help you make the most of these popular Spanish cities while sticking to a student budget.
Study Abroad in Spain
From the amazing cities to the unbeatable food to siestas and fiestas, we've got 8 reasons why Spain is THE place to study abroad.
Music, Food and Fun in Spain
When you go on an adventure to Spain, you can get the best of three things; great music, delicious food, and unforgettable partying. All go hand-in-hand everywhere, but we’re going to try and send you to the best spots. We need to let you in on where to see the best traditional music and the best DJs, point you towards some incredible paella, and get you to a savage party.
Flamenco Music and Dance The duality of Spain, its deep traditions and its modern culture, are shown the clearest in these two types of music. Flamenco, traditional Spanish music and dance, is at it’s height in Granada. We suggest checking it out at Peña la Platería, which is only open to tourists one night a week. For nightlife music? We recommend heading to Ibiza, but we’ll talk about that more below.
The Best Paella in Spain We’ve already touched on the food in our Spain travel guide above, but mostly on tapas. It’s everywhere, it’s cheap and it’s great. But paella is a legendary rice dish you need to get in Spain, and in Spain you need to get it in Valencia (where it was invented). A restaurant that shows up on every best of list for paella? Casa Carmela, on the Malvarrosa beach.
Partying in Ibiza This is the island that parties the hardest in Spain, and maybe the hardest in the world. It’s not a big island, but it’s completely packed with clubs, and each one throws insane parties. We recommend hitting up Space, a club that has a different party every night of the week, a huge dance floor, and multiple areas inside it with different sounds blasting all night.