Spain stands out significantly among other European countries. Its position at the crossroads of Europe and Africa, the Christian and the Islamic worlds, the closed Mediterranean and the vast Atlantic left an indelible mark on the whole image of the country. Thus, Spain is one of the largest world centers of tourism and recreation. Spain is very popular with travelers and tourists from all around the world. Spain is famous for its ancient cities and sunny beaches, wonderful culture and tasty food. Spanish pleasant climate, rich cultural heritage, as well as architectural and natural attractions annually attract millions of tourists from all over the world.
History of Spain
Historical chronology of Spain covers a long period of time – about 35 000 years. Since ancient times, the central part of the Iberian Peninsula was inhabited by representatives of different cultures and nationalities. “The Iberian Peninsula occupies several crucial crossroads providing connections between Europe and Africa, the Mediterranean and the Atlantic, and Europe and the Atlantic World”. Due to the geographical location, Spain was a meeting place of East and West since ancient times. The Iberians, the Celts, the Greeks, and the Phoenicians lived on its territory. These people brought achievements of original culture and new technological inventions.
Carthage, the Roman Empire, the Visigoths, and finally the Arabs took possession of Spain. The Arabs formed the Caliphate of Cordoba. It became the center of Arab culture. “The Muslim eruption into the Iberian Peninsula took place near the end of the first century of massive Islamic empire-building”. The reverse conquest of the peninsula, the Reconquista, took about four centuries. In the XV century, conquered regions became a single state. In the XVI century, absolutism was established in Spain. In the XVI century, Spain reached the highest power. It entered the path of the conquest of America becoming the Spanish colonial empire. During many years, there were many wars and revolutions, the struggle for the Spanish throne, the loss of colonies, and colonial divisions. In 1854, Queen Isabella II established a constitutional monarchy in Spain. The devastating Spanish-American War of 1898 led to the collapse of the Spanish Empire. Many Spanish colonies moved to the United States. The XX century also brought many troubles and internal contradictions to Spain. Nowadays, Spain is a developed country and one of the most visited countries in the world. Spain attracts many tourists and travelers.
Territory of Spain
Spain is located in southwestern Europe. It occupies the bigger part of the Iberian Peninsula. Spain includes the Canary and the Balearic Islands, as well as small African territories and cities of Melilla and Ceuta. A total territory of Spain is 504,782 square kilometers. Spain has borders with Portugal, France, Morocco, Andorra, and Gibraltar. Forming a natural border with France, the Pyrenees for centuries were the main cause of the political and social exclusion of Spain from Central Europe. An inextricable link of Spaniards with the sea is of great historical significance. Almost 3200 kilometers is the length of the coastline of the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. Finally, the culture of Spain was decisively influenced by the proximity of the African continent. “Spain’s connections with Africa date from prehistoric times”. The width of the Strait of Gibraltar is 14 kilometers. Without the influence of the East, neither the architectural style Mudejar nor flamenco or cultivation of citrus would be possible in Spain today. Despite the common opinion that Spain is a classic variant of the abundance of beaches and sun, it is the second mountainous country in Europe. On its territory, there are the Cantabrian Mountains, the Iberian Mountains, the Central Cordillera, and the Andalusian Mountains. Madrid is the most mountainous capital in Europe. It is located 650 meters above the sea level.
Spanish culture is rich, beautiful, and mysterious. It is quite different from other European cultures. The special geographical position of Spain on the European continent postponed its mark on its culture. For this reason, Spain was under the influence of many cultures from the Greeks and Romans to the Muslims. “Spain’s exciting culture has been influenced by the many peoples who conquered the country over thousands of years”. In general, Spain is a Christian country. About 77% of people are Catholics. However, there are also other religions in Spain, basically Islam. Although Catholicism has deep roots in all aspects of Spanish society, only about 40% of Spaniards regularly attend church.
Spanish is the official language in Spain. It is often called Castilian. 99% of the Spanish population knows Spanish. For 89% of people, it is the native language. In some autonomous communities and municipalities, other languages such as Catalan, Galician, Basque, and Occitan are used as official in addition to Spanish. Spanish food has earned a good reputation. Paella, gazpacho, and chorizo are well-known Spanish dishes.
Spain is the last state of modern Europe where the fascist dictatorship has existed for the longest time. It is the only country, where the ideology of fascism survived the Second World War, and the authoritarian regime disappeared naturally as a result of Franco’s death. A year of Franco’s death marked the democratic beginning of modern and enlightened Spain. After 20 years after the death of General Franco, Spain became a valuable member of the European Union. In such a way, in 1975, Spain entered a new era in its history and became a truly democratic country. It was able to integrate into the world community in record time.
Spain is a constitutional monarchy. The King of Spain has certain powers. In particular, he appoints candidates for ministerial positions advanced by the government. Nevertheless, according to the constitution, parliament and a functioning government have the main power. The king has no right to destitute government officials from office. He has a consultative voice in parliament.
According to the constitution of Spain, the power is divided into three branches, legislative, executive and judicial ones. Legislative power is represented by parliament while executive by state government. The highest judicial body is the Supreme Court. Spain is divided into 52 provinces, which are combined into 17 regions with a wide range of powers. Thus, each region has its government and parliament. Despite the considerable autonomy, some small nationalities insist on greater independence from the central government. They often advocate for the creation of a fully sovereign state. The central government of Spain tries to keep the situation under control.
The Role of Tourism Industry to Spanish Economy
The economy of Spain is one of the most advanced in Europe. A segment of the tourist business is one of the main and important sectors of the country. It plays a great role in the economic development of the country. The tourism sector is responsible for 11.8% of employment and 10.8% of GDP in Spain. A previous year, Spain had a record income from tourism. Tourists spent a total of more than 65 billion Euros. This figure exceeded by 6,5% from 2013. In 2014, the British, Germans, and French made the biggest contribution to the elimination of the Spanish economy from the crisis. Employment in the tourism field also rose. Spain is the leading country in the tourism sector. For the Spanish government, the development of the tourism sector is one of the priorities.
Hotels in Spain
The tourist industry is the essential sector of the national economy. “There is a great verity of accommodation in Spain ranging from humble family-run pensions to five-star luxury hotels, often in dramatic historical buildings”. Every hotel has its traditions and differs from others. The Spanish hotel business is actively developing. Spain occupies the first place in terms of revenues from the hotel business and tourism in Europe. Spanish hotels occupy a leading position for quality of hotel service. Visitors are offered accommodation in hotels of various categories, from the lowest to five stars. The total number of hotels in Spain reaches 12 million units. Upscale hotels constitute about a fifth of all the hotels in the country. In addition to hotels having the international classification, there are many alternative facilities of tourist accommodation such as hostels, private mini-hotels, apartments, and guesthouses. In addition to the Spanish brand of hotels, there are also American and European hotel chains. American hotels are represented by such giants as Radisson, Hyatt, and Hilton. Among European chains, there are Accor (France) and Best Western (Great Britain).
Winemaking in Spain
Contrary to a popular opinion, Spain is not only a country of sun and heat. It has a great climatic variation caused by the mountainous terrain, as well as the influence of the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea. One of the peculiarities of the Spanish winemaking is that the bulk of the vineyards are located in the mountainous area at an altitude of several hundreds and sometimes thousands of meters above the sea level.
Spain has 17 autonomous regions. Only 4 of them do not have registered names, controlled by the origin. These regions are more consumers than producers of wine. Every specific province cultivates certain varieties of grapes. It determines the types of wines. It causes a very specific and unique temperamental aroma and taste of Spanish wine. Spain occupies the third place among the largest wine producing countries in the world.
Wine is made of all brands. However, red is traditionally the largest volume of wine produced in Spain. Red wine aged in oak barrels. Thus, even though the bouquet and taste of wine can vary in different provinces, all Spanish wine has astringent taste due to oak barrels. Wine is made naturally, without the addition of spirit and sugar. The most common types of wine in Spain are considered Torres Tinto, Blanco, and Sherry. Spanish wine is exported to different countries. Although many people prefer Italian and French wines, Spanish wine is widely popular around the world.
Sports Event and Entertainment
Despite the fact that Spain is famous for its magnificent beaches and interesting attractions, sports activities occupy an important place in the country and have a lot of followers. Fans of the equestrian sport can not only visit the horse fiesta, but also ride a horse. For paintball fans, there are all conditions in the suburb of Madrid. Golf is also very popular in Spain. “Spain is synonymous with golf”. Water sports including scuba diving, sailing, windsurfing, and sports fishing are also enjoyed by many people. The Formula 1 racing is not less popular. World Championship is held annually on the racetrack the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya. It attracts thousands of fans from around the world. People in Spain are especially fond of football. Every region has its football team.
Bullfighting is the most popular entertainment in Spain. It was brought to Spain by the Phoenicians and Greeks. Bullfighting has a long history. Today, bullfighting is a part of the Spanish culture. Initially, bullfights looked like a bull fight with a man riding a horse. Later, a man was left alone with the bull. Currently, bullfighting is a special tradition and a ritual in the culture of Spain.
Santander is the largest financial institution in Spain. The bank has more than 15,000 offices worldwide and serves more than 90 million customers. Bank of Spain is the Central Bank in Spain founded in Madrid in 1782 by Charles III. BBVA is one of four Spanish banks which constitute the core of the Spanish banking system. Other popular banks in Spain are Bancaja Group, Bankinter, Gaja Madrid, and others.
The textile industry is the most important among the branches of light industry. The main centers of the textile industry are located in Catalonia, Valencia, Alicante, in the provinces of Salamanca, Zaragoza, and Seville. Some Spanish brands such as Inditex (Massimo Dutti, Zara, Stradivarius, Pull & Bear, Oysho, and Bershka), Cortefiel (Springfield, Women’secret), Punto Fa (Mango), Adolfo Domínguez, Caramelo, Armand Basi, Custo Barcelona, and Desigual are widely represented on the international market with a reliable reputation.
Granada has a wonderful location; it is situated at the foot of the north-eastern slope of the Sierra Nevada. Granada is located on three hills descending into the valley. According to the legend, Granada received its name because of the hills that look like an open pomegranate. The ancient architecture, extraordinary beautiful landscapes, and white blocks of new developments are wonderfully combined in this city. Granada is one of the most beautiful cities all over the world. Its architecture, traditions, and history in conjunction with the uncommon natural landscape attract many tourists. There are many sights in the city. One of the most striking sights is the magnificent Arabic palace La Alhambra.
Cordoba is a city which has no analogs anywhere in the world. History of Cordoba amazes and delights. In the past, it was the center of a single Islamic caliphate in Europe. Today, it is a modern European city that cherishes its multicultural heritage. UNESCO declared Cordoba the World Heritage. The main attraction of the city is the Cathedral Mosque. “As the Muslim population of Cordoba increased, the city’s Great Mosque was enlarged in successive stages to become a building of imposing scale and unusual beauty and elegance”. The synagogue, the old Arab market, the bullfighting museum, the main square, and the chapel of St. Bartholomew constitute an architectural ensemble of the Jewish Quarter. Cordoba is a city that every tourist should definitely visit during a trip to Spain.
Seville is the capital of Andalusia. It is a unique, colorful and beautiful city with the most spectacular bullfights and most passionate flamenco. Being the center of Andalusia, Seville is also a place of infinite continuing holidays. The historic quarter of Seville is one of the largest in Europe. A local Art Museum is the most visited place in Andalusia. The main cathedral is considered the third largest in the whole Catholic world. In the cathedral, there are remains of Christopher Columbus, who started his first expedition from the city’s harbor. The famous Giralda is a symbol of Seville. It is a bell tower of the cathedral, which was originally the minaret of the grand mosque built in the XII century. Like no other city, Seville reflects the characteristics of the Spanish national character with the combination of different cultures and traditions.
Cadiz is one of the oldest cities in Europe. It was founded by the Phoenicians in the XI century BC. The town is a peninsula located in the most southern autonomous region of Spain, Andalusia. Cadiz has been the largest trading port for a long time because of its strategic location at the crossroads of the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. Today, in addition to all the charms of the geographical location, this city offers a rich storehouse of culture and history stretching over many centuries of capture and release, obedience and freedom. The main attractions of Cadiz are the Cathedral, the Roman Theatre, a monument to the Constitution, the Tavira Tower, the building of Municipality, and many others. The city hosts an annual carnival, which is known not only throughout Spain but also worldwide.
Toledo is the ancient capital of Spain and one of the most beautiful cities in the world. The city keeps scents of different eras such as the aqueduct, city walls and the arena from the Roman times, the mosque of Cristo de la Luz, a giant Gothic cathedral, and the Alcazar Castle. “Few other cities can have symbolized so many different sides and stages of a nation’s history”. Attractions of Toledo, along with the architectural masterpieces of Madrid, Barcelona, and Granada, constitute a historic national treasure of Spain. The local cathedral is considered one of the most beautiful in the country. The museum of Santa Cruz is well-known worldwide. For centuries, Toledo united representatives of different cultures and religions within its walls. Like Jerusalem, the city has a nickname “the city of three cultures”. Christians, Jews, and Muslims have left their mark in the architectural appearance of Toledo. In Toledo, every tourist can truly feel the extraordinary atmosphere of one of the ancient Spanish capitals.
Madrid is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. The capital has a great artistic and cultural heritage. The city organically unites medieval architecture, modern business centers, the largest outlets, the best night clubs, numerous museums, and beautiful parks. Culture and the appearance of Madrid reflect its history as a royal city, the center of the Spanish Empire. The Royal Palace, wide squares, and monumental buildings built by monarchs, abnormally large cathedrals, and churches represent the appearance of Madrid. The center of Madrid and the whole Spain is considered the Puerta del Sol. Nowadays, being the capital of Spain, Madrid is a cosmopolitan city-millionaire. It is a large economic and cultural center that attracts million tourists every year.
Barcelona is one of the most beautiful cities not only in Europe but around the world. Barcelona is a Spanish architectural wonder. Its places of interest attract many tourists throughout the year. It is an open-air museum, where the Gothic masterpieces of the Middle Ages, the experimental building in the Art Nouveau style, and modern buildings in high-tech are harmoniously combined. Barcelona is divided into ten administrative regions. Its main attractions are concentrated in three areas: the Old Town, Montjuic, and Eixample. La Rambla, the Gothic Quarter, Casa Batllo, Casa Mila, Barcelona Cathedral, Sagrada Familia, and many others are considered as the main attractions of Barcelona. This wonderful city can impress every tourist.
Spain is significantly distinguished among other European countries. It consists of different regions. Every region has its culture and traditions. Culture of Spain was affected by several countries and peoples due to an interesting geographical position at the crossroads of Europe and Africa and some historical events. The people of Spain are the owners of rich and original culture. Many regions have their language which along with Spanish is considered official. The tourism sector is of paramount importance for the Spanish economy. In addition to tourism, Spain is famous for its wine. In Spain, there are many wonderful cities that represent the amazing combination of different cultures.