Fiestas, tapas & playas: the full travel guide for backpacking Spain

Fiestas, tapas & playas: the full travel guide for backpacking Spain

Ah Spain, the land of sun, sea, flamenco, fiesta and siesta. With this guide we want to help you make the most out of your stay by avoiding tacky, tourist traps, stretching your money and living like a local.

  1. The best time to visit Spain
  2. Traditional Spanish celebrations
  3. Best music festivals in Spain
  4. Spain travel costs
  5. Travelling around Spain
  6. Spain road trip
  7. Cheap day tours in Spain
  8. Food in Spain
  9. Spanish culture
  10. Is Spain Safe?
  11. Spain travel tips
  12. Spain Packing List

1. The best time to visit Spain

Recommended by Andrea

The best time to visit the Northern Region: Bilbao & San Sebastian

Best time to visit: April-June/September. Visit the north in late spring, early summer or early autumn. It still has a pleasant climate and you will be able to swim at almost empty beaches (albeit the water temperature is still cool). The maximum temperature rarely exceeds 26 degrees (perfect!).

Worst time to visit: July– August/December. Summer is incredibly hot and the tourists descend in droves.

Backpacking Spain - surf

Playa Zurriola 📷:@gorkagurdi

The best time to visit Central Spain: Madrid & surroundings

The centre of the country has the most extreme temperatures, with a cold climate in winter and sometimes stifling heat in summer. Locals usually leave cities like Madrid in August, looking for beautiful beaches or cooler climates.

Best time to visit: October-November. Spring or autumn is beautiful when the leaves and scenery turn to brown, red and orange tones. The climate is also milder.

Worst time to visit: July-August. The heat can be intense and make sightseeing difficult and unbearable.

Backpacking Spain - Street art

Streeat Art, Madrid 📷:@dorotheegmz

The best time to visit the South: Granada, Sevilla & Cordoba

If you want to experience nice weather and a bit of sun during winter, the best option is to go south to the shores of the Mediterranean Sea. The Canary Islands are also an option.

Best time to visit: September-November – March-June: During summer the south has overwhelmingly high temperatures. Visit during spring where it is sunny and warm, but not so warm you have to sit in front of air conditioning.

Worst time to visit: July-August:  Avoid summer in south of Spain as it’s overbearingly hot.

 

Backpacking Spain - Gran Teatro Falla

Gran Teatro Falla, Cordoba 📷:@dorotheegmz

2. Traditional Spanish celebrations

The Festival of San Fermines

Celebrated every year in Pamplona on July 6th, San Fermines is a traditional festival which gives daredevil amateurs the chance to come face to face with bulls that are released into the streets. The event is chaotic and can be dangerous, but is very much a cultural tradition. If the running of the bulls isn’t for you, there is also partying, fireworks, food and music to enjoy.

La Semana Grande De Bilbao

Another really famous festival in the north of Spain is Semana Grande de Bilbao. The event includes nine days of parties, concerts and fireworks.

The Festival of Aquasella

Aquasella is celebrated every year in August and begins in Arriondas (Asturias) with an electronic music festival and includes concerts, local cider (the traditional drink of Asturias) and partying.

Tamborrada De San Sebastian

Every January La Tamborrada takes place in San Sebastián and is one of the only festivals held in winter. This festival pays tribute to the idol of the city.

Fiestas Del Pilar

Fiestas del Pilar is held every October in Zaragoza. There is a week of concerts, bulls and jotas (a typical regional dance).

Fallas De Valencia

Las Fallas is held Valencia from the 15th to 19th of March. Throughout the year, art made of paper, wax and wood, often about political or satirical themes, is created and then burned at the festival.

La Tomatina

La Tomatina is the most famous food fight in the world, where thousands of people throw 160 tonnes of tomatoes at each other in Buñol, Valencia on August 29th.

La Feria De Abril

La Feria de Abril, held in Seville, is a festival where flamenco and amazing food are honoured. Held  in April, at the beginning of spring, it’s a colourful event with tents, horses and lots of Spanish guitars.

Los Carnivale

The carnivals in Tenerife are the most famous in Spain and celebrated every year around January or February. Travellers and locals wear bright clothes and dance all day and night.

 

Backpacking Spain - La feria

La Feria, Seville 📷@nika_buterfly

3. Music festivals in Spain

BBK LIVE

BBK Live is celebrated in Bilbao. It takes place in mid-July at the top of Mount Kobetas, and has been headlined by bands like Depeche Mode, Grimes, The Machine, The Chemical Brothers, The XX and Gorillaz.

Primavera Sound

Barcelona hosts Primavera Sound every spring, a festival with independent pop, rock and underground music between May and June at the Forum Park.

Sonar

Sónar takes place every June in Barcelona. This electronic and experimental music festival  is already in its 25th year.

Rototom Sunsplash

Located in Benicassim, Rototom is a reggae festival which started in Italy in 1994, but has been hosted in Benicassim since 2010.

backpacking Spain - Primavera Sound

Primavera Sound, Barcelona 📸 @caramelo_sky

 4. Spain travel costs

The currency in Spain is the euro (EUR).

Here are the average prices of a few travel essentials:

  • A single metro or bus ticket costs around €1.50-2
  • A beer can vary between €2 (cheap bar) and €6 (trendy club).
  • A breakfast, including coffee and juice, can vary between €2 and €4 depending on the place.
  • A daily special menu in a casual restaurant costs around €10. A la carte menu costs €18.

All establishments in Spain include the service charge, however, tipping is usual in bars and restaurants if you really like the service and enjoy the food.

backpacking Spain - Park Güell

Park Güell, Barcelona 📷: @abbybertram5. Travelling around Spain

Recommended by Silvia

Renting a car

Want to see more than the cities? Rent a car to really see what Spain has to offer. We also recommend mixing different transports together. This way you can choose to alternate between flights, cars and public transport depending on your itinerary. Many car rental companies allow you to make a reservation by only paying a small deposit, and cancellations are free if you cancel 48 hours before the trip. This can be much cheaper than renting a car two weeks before your trip.

These are some tips and the documents you need to rent a car in Spain.

  • A valid driver’s license. Non-EU license holders may need an international driver’s license. Always check the rental requirements of the individual car hire company.
  • Credit or debit card. Many companies require customers to have a credit card, but Spain is one of the few countries where rental companies also accept other methods of payment, such as debit cards or even cash.
  • The speed limits are 120 km/h on highways and motorways, 100 km/h on conventional roads, 90 km/h on the rest of roads, and 50 km/h in urban areas.
  • The legal driving age is 18, however most car rental agencies require a minimum age of 22. If you are younger, Sixt rental cars accepts drivers from 18 but you’ll have to pay € 9.99 more per day.
  • Many cars will have a manual transmission
  • Be cautious: always lock your car and never leave anything on display. Some organised gangs roam the most touristy parking areas, looking for rental cars.

Public transport

Spain’s train and bus networks are comprehensive and will connect you to the places you’ll most likely to want to visit. High-speed train is useful to cover long distances and Madrid and Barcelona have the most extensive public transport network. Cities like Seville, Bilbao and Valencia all have convenient metro networks.

Backpacking Spain - Cordoba

Alcázar de los Reyes Cristianos, Cordoba 📷 @merrow26

6. Where to go on a Spain road trip

Two week itinerary

Start in Barcelona, but avoid driving in the city centre. It is chaotic, difficult and parking spaces are rare and expensive. Our suggestion is to pick up your car once you leave for your next destination.

What to do: One of the most unique attractions of Barcelona is it’s Gaudi architecture. Don’t miss the surreal and colourful Parc Güell, Monastery of Pedralbes, La Pedrera and Casa Batllo. We also have a four-day itinerary to get the most of the city and recommendations for the best things to do for free in Barcelona.

Less touristy? We know, we know… You don’t want to miss Sagrada Familia on the outside, sure, but you might want to give a miss to the inside and skip the long queue. Go to Hospital de Sant Pau instead, one of the modernism gems in Barcelona. Just follow the beautiful Avenida de Gaudí after Sagrada Familia to get there. Walking through its pavilions and gardens is like taking a trip back to the 20’s!

Local tip: It is worth leaving the centre and reaching El Carmel bunkers to get the best views of the cities. Better at sunset -and much better if you bring a bottle of cava! It is relatively remote, but not difficult to reach without a car. Buses 24, 92, 114, 119 and V17 also stop quite close.

Good to know: Primavera Sound is one of the most popular festivals in Spain. It takes places between end of May – beginning of June, if you make it there, you’ll have an unforgettable time in Barcelona!

Hostel tip: Stay in Amistat Beach Hostel just 400 meters from the Playa de la Mar Bella, with its beautiful promenade and endless bars to get a drink, tapas… What better way to say hola to Spain than enjoying a bath in Mediterráneo?

Or check out our recommendations for our best hostels in Barcelona!

Backpacking Spain - Tibidabo

Parc d’Atraccions Tibidabo, Barcelona 📷@bru_no_reis

How to go from Barcelona to Valencia?

By car – 3h30 if you’re not driving your own car, it’s a common ride in BlaBlaCar from €17
By train – 3h25 tickets from €24.40 with Renfe
By bus – 4h15 ticket from €10.80 with Alsa

What to visit: The stunning City of Arts and Sciences, the Valencian Institute of Modern Art, and the famous bell tower of the Cathedral, the highest point to admire the whole city.

What to do: Stroll through the noble and centuries-old stones of the Castillo de Sagunto, buy some chorizo or souvenirs at the markets stalls (wait, can chorizo be a souvenir?). And if you wanted to eat paella at some point of your trip, now it’s the time to do it! Valencia has the tastiest paella you’ll ever eat in the entire world (yes). Just find any small and local restaurant and indulge!

Less tourist? Gulliver Park in Jardines del Turia, inspired by the famous adventure book, there is a gigantic figure that represents Gulliver, with tunnels, stairs, ramps and slides if you want to treat the kid inside you!

Local tip: La Malvarrosa is the famous beach *infinite golden sand* that host some events during spring and summer, check out calendar before going! And if you’re planning more than one day, check out the Albufera Natural Park with its curious (but beautiful) birds!

Good to know: If you happen to be there in March you’ll witness Valencia come alive during Fallas: fire, fireworks and fiestas in the street!

Hostel tip: Up! Hostel Valencia has great rooms. Peaceful, cosy, conveniently located next to trains and other central attractions. It also has a huge bar area where food and alcohol is served till late, sangria?

 

Backpacking Spain - Alicante
Stunning view of Alicante 📸 @irinanikitina84

How to go from Valencia to Alicante?

By car – 1h55 if you’re not driving your own car, it’s a common ride in BlaBlaCar from €9.5
By train – 2h10 tickets from €16.30 with Talgo
By bus – 2h35 ticket from €11.50 with Alsa

What to visit: Santa Barbara Castle, Museum of Contemporary Art (MACA), Explanada de España,  Plaza de Luceros, Casa de Brujas.

What to do: Take the tram just for the ride itself to enjoy the beautiful Costa Blanca coastline. If you’re planning a beach day, stop at San Juan.

Less touristic: Barrio de Santa Cruz is still relatively unknown. It is worth walking through its narrow and steep streets, with colourful houses and the flowers adorning the facades.

Local tip: Practice with locals, what they call a “tardeo”, which consists of going out for a snack, then another one and another one and ending up dancing in bars and pubs near the Central Market area, passing through pedestrian Castaños St, Montanyeta Sq and the Town Hall.

Good to know: If you happen to be there in June… you can experience the popular Hogueras de San Juan festivity!

Hostel tip: X hostel is a social hostel conveniently located just 5 minutes far from the train station. It has an outdoor terrace perfect for barbecues and an ideal place to meet other travellers!

 

Backpacking Spain - Granada

 Beautiful Alhambra, Granada 📷 @sohaychtioui

Southern Spain itinerary

How to travel from Alicante to Granada?

By car – 3h 31m via A-7
By bus – 5h 10m ticket from €10.60 with Alsa
By train is much longer and much more expensive than bus, so its not worth it.

What to visit: As you might know, a visit to the magnificent Alhambra Castle and Palace is a must. Our top tip? Book ahead. If you can’t find tickets before going, you will have to wake up veeeery early to line up for tickets, without guaranteed entry. Also visit Granada Cathedral, old silk markets and Plaza Bib Rambla.

What to do: Tapas Crawl! Forget about the tapas concept that you experienced so far. It will take on a new dimension. Don’t pay for your tapas, just have few drinks and you will be full in no time. You will also enjoy exploring (or getting lost) in the ancient Arabic neighbourhood the Albayzín and taking pics from any of the “Miradores” (lookouts) The most famous is the Mirador de San Nicolas.

Less touristy? Treat yourself to a bit of r & r at the Hammam Arab Baths. After all, you’re on holiday, you deserve it! Relax, listen to Arabic music, have some tea, try the rooms with different temperatures, book a massage… and you’re ready for another busy day!

Local tip: Have a stroll through Carrera del Darro, one of the most charming and romantic streets in the city. Listen to the babbling of the river Darro that runs parallel to its left side.

Good to know: If you happen to be here in May… you can experience the vibrant festivity of Las Cruces!

Hostel tip: Makuto Backpackers is a charming historic mansion, located in the most enchanting neighbourhood of Granada, Albayzín. Chill in their outdoor terrace with bar, treehouse, and comfy lounge areas with hammocks, cushions and guitars. You’ll love their free evening walking tours of the Albayzín and Sacromonte and their budget-friendly home-cooked dinners!

 

Backpacking Spain - shops in Granada @dorotheegmz

Local shops in Granada 📷 @dorotheegmz

How to travel from Granada to Malaga?

By car – 1h36 via A-92
By bus – 1h50 ticket from €6.45 with Alsa
By train there’s no direct connection, you need to travel to Madrid first, so it’s not worth it.

What to visit: The Alcazaba, Gibralfaro Castle and Roman Theatre are the most important archaeological sites in the city. Also don’t miss La Farola (for spectacular views), Malaga’s Cathedral, Parque de Malaga, and CAC Malaga (Contemporary Art Centre).

What to do: Take a walk through Pedregalejo Promenade. Take any of the buses on lines 11 or 34, which will take you to the Pedregalejo beaches to enjoy a bit of sun. Try the most typical Malaga gastronomy, in its “chiringuitos” and restaurants next to the sea: anchovies, spinach, thin shells, fried malagueña…

Less touristy? Malageños have the aperitivo before lunch, so make sure you do too! Antigua Casa de Guardia is found in every guide book, but we suggest you try the sweet wines at La Odisea Vinos de Malaga, a bit less touristy. The decoration of the walls is like entering your grandmothers’ house and travelling back to the past. The wooden barrels contain different wines from Malaga. If you are not sure what to order, ask the waiters, who are mostly relatives of the grandmother who owns the house, and are always willing to help!

Local tip: Montes de Málaga is a chain of hills about five kilometres far from the city and is a stunning location for hiking!

Hostel tip: Oasis Backpackers: best party hostel with amazing central location right in the historic city centre. They organise free walking tours, beer Olympics, pub crawls and other activities! If you can’t meet anyone there, you can’t meet anyone anywhere!

Backpacking Spain - Beach in Malaga

Main beach in Malaga 📷 @tunckiymaz

How to travel from Malaga to Cadiz

By car – 2h41 via AP-7 y A-381
By bus – 4h €30,85 with Avanza
By train there’s no direct connection, so the bus is the fastest and best option.

What to visit: Plaza de las flores, Central Market, San Sebastian Castle, Santa Catalina Castle, Museo de Cadiz (free) and Playa de la Caleta for a romantic sunset (some movies were filmed here such as “Tomorrow never dies”)

What to do: Climb the Tavira Tower (highest point of Cadiz) and visit the Camera Obscura experience for a bit of history. The old neighbourhood of Barrio del Pópulo is also just a few steps away. Walk through the cobblestone streets where you’ll find plenty of good tapas to devour!

Less touristy? Drink craft beer in Cervecería Maier, a small factory in the centre of Cádiz. You will learn the brewing process, with tasting included in the end!

Local tip: Visit the “Piojito” a street market where you will hear an indecipherable variant of Spanish…

Good to know: If you happen to be there in February… you can experience the fun-tastic Carnivals!

Hostel tip: Casa Caracol is a chilled & relaxed hostel with free hot breakfast, a rooftop terrace with hammocks and organised day activities such as surfing, sand-boarding and cheap bike rentals.
If you have some time to kill, we recommend making two more extra stops on your way to Cadiz:

Ronda: Visit Puente Nuevo (the iconic bridge), walk down into the gorge along the Camino de los Molinos and enter to Plaza de Toros (the bullring), one of the oldest and most picturesque in Spain.
Senetil de las Bodegas: one of the famous “Pueblos blancos” (white villages), named for the characteristic tone of its facades painted with lime, a method used to protect the houses from heat. It is known for being a town “under” a rock.

Backpacking Spain - Seville

 Metropol Parasol, Seville 📷 @globusliebe

How to travel from Cadiz to Seville?

By car – 1h25 via AP-4 if you’re not driving your own car, BlaBlaCar offer rides from €8.5
By train – 1h40 tickets from €16.05 with Renfe
By bus – 1h45 ticket from €16.95 with Comes

What to visit: Plaza España, (one of the prettiest squares you’ll ever see) Sevilla Cathedral and the Giralda bell tower, Real Alcázar (the castle is used in many Hollywood movies and that famous tv-series with eternal winter)

What to do: Watch flamenco performances for free! In many of Seville’s flamenco bars, there is no entry charge, however you should buy one or two drinks. (La Carbonería, La Taberna, or Lola de los Reyes are some of the great ones) Watch the sun set at the Setas in Seville (also named the Metropol Parasol). The modern building looks completely different at sunset.

Less touristy? Triana neighbourhood doesn’t have many tourist attractions. But its main charm is the typically Sevillian atmosphere at the lively Calle Betis, on the river side. It’s the ideal place for bar hopping, as it is full of quality bars and restaurants. Also just for strolling and contemplating the city.

Local tip: Mercadillo El Jueves is the oldest outdoor market in Seville taking place every Thursday. You can find almost any kind of antiquities and vintage stuff such as clothes, vinyls, pins, books… (in English too!) Even if you don’t want to buy anything, it’s worth a visit.

Good to know: Many travellers are attracted by the famous Feria de Abril, what they don’t know is that you MUST know somebody to be able to enter to the “casetas” (basically, where the party is). There are few public ones, but the privates are the ones with the authentic spirit.

Hostel tip: The incredible rooftop hangout of La Banda offers stunning views of the cathedral and big family dinner parties every night. Their concept is simple: La Banda means the gang of friends, and this is the vibe they strive to create in every aspect of the hostel.

How to travel from Seville to Madrid?

By car – 5h18 via A-66 y A-5
By train – 2h22 tickets from €37 with Renfe
By bus – 6h25 ticket from €26 with Socibus

What to visit: Plaza Mayor, World-famous Prado / Reina Sofia or Thyssen museums, Royal Palace, the curious Rastro (flea market on Sundays) and refreshing Retiro Park.

What to do: Have an outdoor dinner with cañas in the lively Plaza Santa Ana, or visit the trendy social hubs like Matadero, Casa encendida or Tabacalera (mostly frequented by locals)

Less touristy? Go to authentic bars.l That means, no chains and definitely no spots near Puerta del Sol. Instead, immerse yourself in Malasaña bars, in this hipster neighbourhood each bar is as authentic and original as you can expect! Check out our recommendations for fiesta on a budget.

Local tip: Capricho Park is one of the most beautiful parks and one of the most unknown. Three styles of garden are concentrated here: English Garden, French Garden and Giardino Italian Garden. Only open Sat, Sun and bank holidays.

Hostel Tip: Ok Madrid is not just ok, it’s superb according to our reviews! Everybody agrees that the staff are friendly and helpful. It’s located in the bohemian Barrio La Latina (a must on the weekends) and only a few steps away from metro line and all the major touristic attractions. You can get fed and meet people during the 10 euro hostel dinners – a 3 course meal plus unlimited drinks!

Backpacking Spain - Pompidou centrePompidou Centre, Malaga 📷 @katewhiteyoga

7. Cheap day tours in Spain

Of course you don’t need to sleep in every town you visit. These are the day tours we recommend:

From Madrid: Only 33 minutes from the capital, you can find the “city of the three cultures”, Toledo, because it has a concentration of monuments from Muslim, Jewish and Christian communities. The fastest and most convenient way to get here is by high-speed train that leaves from Atocha station. A return ticket is €21. By bus, the return ticket is €10 from Estación de la Plaza Elíptica. If you come by car, leave it in the free Safont car park, which you find at the first entrance of the city.
Finally if you decide to take a guided tour, they will take you to the most significant places such as Santo Tomé church, Synagogue of Santa María la Blanca, The Cathedral of Toledo and the mosque of Cristo de la Luz.

From Barcelona: Fancy a beach day trip? Because let’s be honest, Barceloneta is full of tourists and street vendors, and the water and sand isn’t as clean as other distant beaches like Ocata, Montgat or Badalona. If you don’t have your own car, R1 train is efficient and quick, with tickets from €2.

From Malaga: The pretty fishing town of Nerja is worth a visit, only an hour from Malaga. You can join an organised day tour, and stop in Frigiliana, Nerja Caves (world’s largest known stalactite) and enjoy Nerja itself. You can go by bus (return ticket with Alsa costs €10) and of course you can go in your own car at your own pace to enjoy the Costa del Sol.
Don’t miss Balcon de Europa, which is a promontory offering impressive views up and down the coast. Be sure to explore the quaint back streets with plenty of charm or catch some rays at the excellent beaches.

As you can read, this is a really organised schedule. If this trip is just too exhausting for you, you can always choose to take half day trips. Or, if you fall in love with a city and you want to stay a day or two more days – no problem! One of the advantages of travelling in low season is the possibility to extend/modify your stay in a hostel. You can always find availability in dorms with our app. Easy peasy. Make your own on-the-go road trip. España here we come!

8. Food in Spain

Recommended by Alba

When someone mentions Spanish food, paella or tapas are the first things that usually come to our minds BUT Spain has very different climates and cultures, and it often feels like several small culinary countries rolled into one!

The variety is reflected in the gastronomy, so you can anything from fresh summer soup ‘Gazpacho’ in the Mediterranean coast, to the traditional ‘pintxos’ in the Basque Country. Keep reading to check out the traditional dishes and recommended places that you can’t miss before leaving Spain!

 

Backpacking Spain - churros

Okay, we are melting 😍 Jardines del real, Madrid 📸 @hamiltonbarkley

Churros con chocolate

To start the day with energy (and sugar) have breakfast at the ‘chocolatería San Gines’ where you will find the best churros in town. If you’ve never heard of churros (where have you been?) they are made of long and thin fried dough that is crispy on the outside, and spongy in the inside. They are usually served with a hot chocolate cup, and you can get it at any time of the year. This bar is open 24 hours, every day. So you have no excuse to miss it!

Good address: Pasadizo de San Gines,5, Madrid.

Tortilla

If you have been to Spain, or you have a Spanish friend, then you probably have already tried it. Ingredients are simple, as it was a popular meal during war times, and it was considered easy to cook and very nutritious -potatoes, eggs, onion and oil are the main ingredients. You can choose to eat this delicious dish caramelised or not.

You can have it almost anywhere you go, but we suggest:

-Flash Flah, in Barcelona. Address La Granada del Penedes,25. Average price €10
-Jose Luis,in Madrid. Address Rafael Salgado,11. Average price €8 (€10 the whole omelette)

Backpacking Spain - paella

We can’t resist in front of a good paella!! @beatripolo

Paella

Even if it is known as a typical dish in Spain, it initially comes from Valencia. This area has many rice fields, so it has the best conditions to cook this traditional dish. The main ingredients are rice, chicken, vegetables and seafood. Moreover, a yellow saffron is added so it gets that beautiful and characteristic yellow colour. You must try it (particularly if you’re in Valencia).

Where to get it?

– Duna (El Saler) is charazterized by its astonishing location, totally immersed in the Natural Park of La Albufera, next to the sea. Average price € 18/The whole paella €20-30 /starters around €12  Quality ingredients and more than 50 varieties of rices! Address: Paseo Pintor Francisco Lozano, modulo 3.
– La Riuá. Over 15 tradicional Valencian  paellas and rices, plus the local meat and fish. Address  Carrer del Mar,27. Average price  €20 /€8 starter, €12 paella, €15 meat.

 

Backpacking Spain - salmojero

A proper Salmojero in Seville 📷 @lessouriresdeceline

Gazpacho VS Salmorejo

Healthy, fresh and delicious. It is especially well done in Andalucia and perfect to have in summer!

There is another similar dish called salmorejo. The key is that it contains the perfect mix of vegetables such as cucumber, pepper and tomato mixed together with garlic, olive oil and sometimes even bread. Salmorejo  has added boiled eggs and ham. Both of them are delightful!

Where to get it?

Eslava, Seville.
Located in the popular neighbourhood of San Lorenzo, it offers the perfect balance between traditional and creative gastronomy, plus has great service. Gazpacho also used vegetables from their own garden. We love every dish, so try them all! Address: Eslava Street 3, Seville. Average price €15-20.

Pintxos

Pintxos are an invention from the north of Spain, particularly in the Basque Country. Made up of the most common products of this area, such as hake, cod, mussels, anchovies or onions. There are thousand of varieties, but some classics are: prawns skewer, gulas prepared with garlic and olive oil, or marmitako ( tuna stew with tomatoes and potatoes).

If you are in Bilbao, you should check out Santa María street and its vibrant bars. You can find modern bars such as ‘Irrintzi’, to the classic ones like Txiriboga, which is famous for its divine croquettes and rabas.

Bar Irrintzi – Santa Maria Street, 8. Average price €15/20
Bar Txiriboga- Santa Maria Street,13. Day menu price €12, small glass of wine €0.70

Pa amb tomaquet

It literally means bread with tomato in catalan. It is a traditional food from the Mediterranean areas (Valencia, Murcia and Balearic Islands) but it stands out especially within Catalan cuisine.  It is actually not complicated to prepare, as it consists of a toast with mature tomato, olive oil and salt on it. It’s perfect to eat for breakfast or as a dish accompanied by a slice of serrano ham. Simple and delicious!

Where to get it?

-La Bodegueta del Poble Sec, Barcelona ; open since 1990 and located in an area full of bars where you can create your own gastronomic route. Average prices are around €5-10
Address Blai Street, 47.

-Can Vallés, Barcelona. Charming place where the cook becomes an artist due to its fusion cuisine. Catalan food & innovative flavours. Average price €25
Address: Carrer de Aragó,95

Cocido madrileño

When in Madrid…you  must try the local food called cocido. It is a very good dish, perfect to eat in winter as a way to get warm. The first dish consists of a noodle soup with a tasty stock. After that, you will get the second course which is chickpeas with chorizo, meat, and cabbage among other things. Some people like to eat everything together in one dish, but one way or another, you’ll finish the lot!

You can get the best cocido in town at ‘La Cruz Blanca’ 
Address: Carlos Martín Álvarez Street, 58. Madrid.

Backpacking Spain - cocido

We’re hungryyy!! @fernandodeseta

Mojo picón

It might not be as well-known, but it’s a perfect representation of Canary Islands’ gastronomy! It is a sauce that is in many dishes of the region. There are some varieties, but it mainly contains breadcrumbs, vinegar, olive oil, garlic and pepper (it doesn’t sound very appealing, but it’s super addictive). You can choose to have it more or less spicy.

Places you must try:

-Otelo Restaurant, Tenerife: big food portions and stunning scenary. For some people it has “the best mojo picón on the island.” Average price is around 12€ / Canarian soup €3, chicken in garlic €4,95
Address: Molinos Street, 44, Adeje, Tenerife.

-Las Lagunetas Restaurant is another must to enjoy the best of the Canarian cuisine, located in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. The menu changes every day, but traditional produce is always used. ‘Churros de pescado’ and Russian Salad are our favourites. Menu costs €9 per person.
Address: Calle Sagasta, 48, Las Palmas De Gran Canaria, Las Palmas

Backpacking Spain - grilled octopus

The famous Grilled Octopus, San Sebastian 📷 @daniel_chaim18

Seafood

Mussels, prawns, spider crabs, squid, lobster, or clams? As Spain is surrounded on three sides by water, you can imagine that there is an important seafood culture wherever you go; however Galicia has a special reputation. Each clam or mussel must be the perfect size and quality. The result is the most delicious canned seafood in the world.

Some recommendations:

Bar Muelle, A Coruña: a simple snack joint. Don’t miss the quality of their clams, its steamed mussless, or its incredible octopus. The owner Diego will help you with anything you need, and you can have a proper meal for €15.
Address: Avenida José Graña, 35. Aldán.

Filiberto Taberna Singular, A Coruña.
Hake pie, beef jerky croquettes, grilled octopus with potatoes are some recommendations for this cosy restaurant. Live music on Saturday nights, and good prices. The lunch menu during the week costs €12
Address: Avenida de Santa Minia, 76. Brión.

Sangria

Obviously we cannot miss the most famous drink in Spain! It has a unique charm and a relatively simple composition: red wine, a soft mixer and fruits. It can vary as you can add more wine or fruit, meaning if iced wine with lemon isn’t your thing, there is another version to suit you.

Backpacking Spain - tostadas

We are officially hungry 📸 @pixbystep

Tostadas con tomate

It is the traditional breakfast in Spain (yes forget about any croissant or pastries for now). You need the proper tosted spanish round bread, add pure olive oil on top, fresh tomato puree, see salt and jamon iberico. Deliciouuuus!

Tapas

This wonderful custom consists of having small plates of food like olives, ‘patatas bravas’, croquettes, cheese, or serrano ham during the ‘aperitivo.’ There are many types of tapas and sometimes you can get them for free with your drink (especially in Andalucia).

Visit the ‘Mercado de San Miguel’ in Madrid to get your tapas fix and other traditional food.
Address: San Miguel Square (next to Plaza Mayor)

ALSO, If you are in Madrid , you can’t miss the traditional squids baguette in Postas Street. The usually cost €3 and you can it get anywhere on this street.

Sweets

If you have a sweet tooth, you’ll need to pass by the oldest bakery in Madrid, called ‘La Mallorquina.’ Founded in 1894, it has lived through the history of the capital. On the outside it looks like a normal bakery, however, one bite into their delicious pastries such as the ‘napolitanas’ or ‘palmeras de chocolate’ and you’ll see what the fuss is all about. Delicious.

 

Backpacking Spain - menorca

Clear as crystal, Menorca 📷@handluggageonly 

 

9. Spanish Culture

Facts about Spain

  • The Kingdom of Spain is the second largest country in the EU
  • Spanish is the second most widely spoken language in the world
  • Spain has the fourth highest life expectancy of all the OECD countries
  • The Spanish love to chill out (siesta anyone?)
  • Nudity is legal in Spain
  • The United Nations predicts that Spain will be the world’s oldest country by 2050
  • Spain has 44 UNESCO World Heritage Sites
  • Spain produces over half of the world’s olive oil
  • There’s no tooth fairy in Spain
  • You can enjoy a meal in the oldest restaurant in the world in Spain’s capital, Madrid
  • Spain is the country of fiestas, with hundreds of festivals taking place throughout the year

Language in Spain

The vast majority of Spanish population speaks Spanish, the national and official language of the country. There are a few languages spoken in certain regions of Spain such as Catalan, Basque, Galician and Aranès.

In terms of foreign languages, English and French are the most commonly spoken languages.

10. Is Spain Safe?

Travelling through Spain is generally safe: there are no threats or serious dangers, but being such a touristy country, a large number of pickpockets are concentrated in the main cities. A few simple precautions will reduce the chances of falling victim to a pickpocket.

  • Extra care in crowded areas

We don’t need to tell you that you should be extra careful at outdoor bars, beaches or crowded streets, such as Las Ramblas de Barcelona. Don’t let anyone hug you if you don’t know them. Be cautious with those who approach you for directions. These people are magicians in the art of pick pocketing. But don’t walk with fear either. It’s a spectacular city with very friendly people who may want to genuinely help you. Just be smart.

  • Secure your belongings

Be vigilant at transport hubs like train stations. In the subway coaches of the main cities, there can be up to a hundred thieves. They are very discreet and it is very difficult to identify them or catch them red handed. That’s why it’s best to take a series of precautions: wear backpacks on the front or put them on the floor where you can see them. Don’t leave anything valuable in your back pockets.

  • The most common scams

Madrid and Barcelona are the city with the largest number of scams, but only in the very touristic areas. In the city centre, you should be aware of this type of scam:

Fake petitions: You can be approached by a lady or by young people to sign a fake petition for a good cause, but most likely they will be trying to distract you while their accomplices pick your pockets.
Map Directions: asking for directions on a map is another technique to empty your pockets. Don’t make a fool of yourself and leave your precious phone on a table while you’re sitting outside. They will place the map right on top of your phone and they just need a second to make it disappear.
Lucky rosemary: The technique is to offer a sprig of rosemary for good luck with apparently no cost, but then they will try to read in your hand your good fortune and charge you up to 10 euros for it. Believe us, there are cases of people running into an ATM with these ladies to avoid a curse from them.
Fake beggar: less common than the ones above, but you might find a very well dressed man asking for money because he just has been robbed and just happened to be near the tourist attraction you’re visiting. A good idea is to offer your help saying you can call the police to report it and the scammer’s reaction will tell it all.

  • What about terrorism?

It is true that in 2017 a van rammed into a crowd in the heart of Barcelona and chaos took over the country but, in reality, Spain has no greater risk of terrorism than any other European city. Moreover, due to these recent events in Europe, security measures have been reinforced, as well as border control becoming stricter with entering and exiting. There’s nothing to worry about!

Backpacking Spain - Alcazar Cordoba

Alcázar de los Reyes Cristianos, Cordoba 📸 @gscenes

11. Spain Travel Tips

Recommended by Silvia

Eat, sleep, drink like a local

Breakfast is usually from 8am to 10am. But there are food chains serving breakfast deals until 12 pm or 1 pm (like 100 Montaditos, Rodilla, Vips). Lunch in restaurants will start from 1pm to 3.30pm. It is very rare to find someone eating before 1.00 pm, but not strange to see people seating after 3.30 pm.

Dinner is served from 8:30pm to 11pm. Of course you can find dinner at an earlier time in the most touristic areas (and many establishments have continuous service throughout the day) but don’t expect to find any Spanish people sharing their raciones at 7.00 pm!

We’re sure you are quite familiar with siesta. So, don’t be alarmed if you want to go to a particular shop between 2 and 5 pm and find it closed. That is because the owners are taking a siesta! But don’t worry, this is more likely to happen in small villages, and not in supermarkets or fashion chains in the city centre.

Nightlife in Spain is taken very seriously, especially from Thursday to Sunday. Pubs, cocktail bars and nightclubs usually remain open until 3 or 4 am and in large cities, they dance until dawn.

Feed yourself with free Tapas

The small amounts of food that are served in the bars to accompany the drink are popularly known as tapas. You can save money by going for lunch/dinner to places where the tapa is included with the price of a drink. They are very popular in Andalusia, but it is also common to find them in other cities such as Madrid.

Useful apps

Although Uber exists in Spain, the locals use Cabify because it’s cheaper (also, free bottles of water included!) You can find some discounts online for your first ride. Or check the ads at the airport for more info!

The original Spanish app Fever and very well known around the world, is very convenient to find something suitable to go out and with reasonable prices: restaurants, discos, festivals, cinemas, museums… locals of Madrid, Barcelona, Seville, Malaga, Bilbao, Valencia use it.

Meetup is also used to find people with your same interests. Options are as varied as the cities. Visiting Granada on a solo trip? You will find different groups there: Tapas, Walking Granada, Hike, Chat or Discover Andalucía… make some good amigos!!

Avoid tourists traps

Tourist traps in Spain are usually easy to spot, but here are some of our “favourites”.

Plaza Mayor (Madrid): Don’t sit in one of their tables for a coffee, you will only enjoy an overpriced drink while hearing non traditional music (Do we really need to tell you those mariachis are not typicallu Spanish?)
Try instead: Bocadillo de calamares. Plaza Mayor is best known for its many spots of calamari sandwiches. Even if you have to queue, they’re worth the wait. Pick one up and find a free spot to admire the beautifully decorated buildings.

Cave flamenco shows (Granada): Many of Granada’s flamenco tablaos are located in the old gypsy district of Sacromonte, up in the hills. The caves are thought to have been excavated by Jews and Moors, making them a huge part of history. Trouble is, the drinks are expensive, the music medioce and the middle-aged audience is not so fun.
Try instead: Peña La Platería, the oldest flamenco club in Spain, with shows every Thursday night.

Mercado de La Boqueria (Barcelona): It was once the best market in Barcelona. Boasting that it was the number one market for exotic fruits, the freshest fish and seafood and the wildest assortment of mushrooms, today it’s the number one visitor attraction. The authentic Spanish food it used to have is not there anymore, and anyway, you can’t see what they offer with all those tourists and selfie-sticks in front of you.
Try instead: Mercado de Santa Caterina, which stands out for the quality and variety of its products and, generally, welcomes less visitors than La Boqueria.

Try to speak basic Spanish

You can’t probably hide that you’re a guiri (this is how Spanish people refer to foreign tourists) but you can make use of your charms and speak some basic español to get a larger tapa or a local price. Learn to say “Hola ¿qué tal?” It works for everyone! Oh, but Spanish is tricky with the informal/formal form of “you” and with the feminine/masculine form. So a simple “Nice to meet you” could be either “encantado de conocerle / encantada de conocerle / encantado de conocerte / encantada de conocerte”.
You just gave up, right??? Let’s keep it simple, when being introduced to someone, just say “encantado” (if you’re a male) “encantada” (if you’re a female).

Granada: The most famous beer here is Reserva 1925 from the brand Cervezas Alhambra, but locals call it milnos or la 25, la verde (the green one, as the bottle is green). Practice the pronunciation of: “ponme una milnos bien fresquita”?

Cadiz: Pisha is the most well-known expression in Cádiz, it is widely used in conversations among locals, supporting other’s ideas, or to express exaltation.

Seville: If someone says miarma it shows affection (comes from “mi alma” – “my soul”)

Malaga: If someone calls you quillo (as a diminutive of “chiquillo”) it would be like dude – you can use it in other parts of Andalucia too!

Stretch your euros at hostel bars

Let’s be clear. Spaniards party till late, true, but this also means that they start the party quite late too. (Makes sense if groups of friends meet for dinner at 22.30!) That’s why hostel bars are the perfect place to start the party. Gather together with other travellers in the best party hostels in Spain!

Cat’s Hostel while you give madrileños (boys from Madrid lol) some time to get ready, start your night at the Cave Bar, it is sure to be a blast! Every night you will be taken to the best pub crawls, where you will meet your fellow travellers and truly experience the Madrid lifestyle. During the week, they also offer tapas and shopping tours, and in-house free Flamenco and Salsa dance classes. Wondering what our favourite event is? The paella party every Saturday night! You can’t miss this deal: a free dish of paella with every drink you order!

Kabul Party Hostel is considered one of the best party hostels in Europe, and is famous for its vibrant atmosphere and parties. It is Barcelona’s very first hostel and is still standing strong! Whether you are travelling alone, with a friend or in a group and want to have a great time, meet great people and enjoy Barcelona to its fullest, Kabul has something to offer you. Free walking tours every day, BBQs at the rooftop patio overlooking Plaza Real, and other activities before you head out to the most famous clubs in the city (a different club every night!).

Oasis Backpackers Seville this centrally located hostel has its own onsite bar, daily BBQs and home cooked dinners, and a rooftop terrace with a small pool. What’s better than spending happy hour drinking with great view of Metropol Parasol? (PS *their mojitos are highly recommended*). A few mojitos will ensure you’re ready to indulge in the vibrant nightlife of Seville during one of their pub crawls!

12. Spain packing list

In Spain the power sockets are type F. Check if you need a power plug adaptor or voltage converter.

Summer is hot and winter is dry. Northern Spain is always cooler than Southern Spain, so pack accordingly.

You’ll need to dress up for bars and nightclubs.

When visiting churches, dress appropriately, although it’s not mandatory to cover your arms and knees.

Spain is the sunniest country in Europe. Bring your sunglasses and sunscreen no matter what time of year you go

Need more reasons for backpacking Spain? 👇

📷 You will want to explore Northern Spain and Southern Spain right now

🌞 Your home in paradise: The best hostels in Spain

 

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Dorothée Gomez

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