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Features of culture in Spain

What’s on this page?

  1. Historical influences on Spanish culture
  2. Language and communication in Spain
  3. Art and architecture in Spain
  4. Cuisine and culinary traditions of Spain
  5. Religious influences and celebrations in Spain
  6. Carnivals and festivals in Spain
  7. Music and dance in Spain
  8. Social customs and etiquette in Spain
  9. Sports and leisure in Spain

Bright carnivals, expressive flamenco, impressive architecture and delicious Mediterranean cuisine - if all this interests you, or you want to learn more about it - then you definitely need to come to Spain.

We are going to tell you about the culture in Spain, its main traditions and customs.

Location in Europe and interaction with Western neighboring countries greatly influenced the culture in Spain. Historically, the Catholic religion prevails in Spain. The country and its inhabitants are strongly influenced by ancient national and religious traditions. They include not only faith, but also literature, architecture, art and cuisine.

The following names you have already heard come from Spain:

  • Antonio Gaudi
  • Pablo Picasso
  • Salvador Dalí
  • Miguel de Cervantes
  • Federico García Lorca
  • Penelope Cruz
  • Antonio Banderas
  • Pep Guardiola
  • Gerard Pique

Historical influences on Spanish culture

The development of art, which is still talked about all over the world, took place in Spain during the Golden Age. Then such artists as Diego Velasquez, El Greco and many others became famous. The most famous Spanish literary work, Don Quixote, was also published at this time. Spain is the third country in the world in terms of the number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Only Italy and China are ahead.

.The Elche palm forest

The first written record of Spain

The country got its name Spain, earlier (Ispania) from the Phoenicians. These people began to colonize the territory of the peninsula. The Phoenician word "i-spn-ya" is first mentioned in Ugaritic texts (Eastern Mediterranean) dating from the XV-XII centuries BC.

But the ancient Greeks called the country Iberia. The oldest written record dates back to about 500 BC in the work of Hecataeus of Miletus "Travels around the Earth".

In 700 AD, the Arabs (Moors) occupied the entire modern territory of Spain. But in 1212, the combined forces of the Spaniards defeated them in the battle of De Tolosa. Then the Moors kept only Granada.

Formation of modern Spain:

  • 1479 - the marriage of Fernando of Aragon and Isabella of Castile created a single Spanish kingdom.
  • 1492 – end of the expulsion of the Moors from the country - Granada was occupied.

Wars of Spain:

  • 1807 - 1814 - war in Spain against the troops of Napoleonic France.
  • 1810 - 1826 - war for independence in the American colonies of Spain. The Spanish managed to keep only Cuba and Puerto Rico here.
  • 1834 — the official abolition of the Inquisition in Spain.
  • 1898 — the Spanish-American War and the loss of Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines. 

Spain during the world wars:

  • 1914 - 1918 - Spain remained neutral in the First World War.
  • 1939 - 1945 - Spain remained neutral in World War II.

The modern kingdom of Spain

Spain has 17 autonomous regions. Spain also includes two archipelagos: the Pitius Islands in the Mediterranean Sea, and the Canary Islands off the coast of Africa in the Atlantic Ocean. The mainland part of the country is washed by the Mediterranean Sea in the south and east, except for a small land border with Gibraltar; in the north and northeast it borders France (623 km) and Andorra (63.7 km); in the west — Portugal (1,214 km) and the Atlantic Ocean.

The area of Spain is 505,990 km², which makes Spain:

  • the largest country in Southern Europe
  • the second largest country in Western Europe and the European Union
  • the fourth largest country on the European continent
  • the only country in Europe that has a physical border with an African country (Morocco) 

Map of Spain

Language and communication in Spain

Spain was one of the world's earliest empires, which left behind a great cultural and linguistic legacy. Now Spanish is the second most spoken language in the world. And the language issue itself has always influenced Spain (culture and traditions).

Spanish is the official language throughout Spain. Other languages have official status only in some autonomous regions.

REGION OFFICIAL LANGUAGE
all of Spain Spanish
Basque country Basque *
Valencia Valencian
Catalonia Catalan
Galicia Galician
Balearic Islands Catalan

* One of the oldest living languages in Europe (according to some sources, the oldest) is Basque. It is still used in the territory of the Spanish autonomous region País Vasco. Also, the Basque language is the only one in Europe that is isolated, that is, it has no connection with any other living or dead language in this territory.

However, most Spaniards speak only Spanish. Spanish is a beautiful and expressive language. You will get along with the local population thanks to a few words and gestures. But in order to communicate globally with the inhabitants of this country, you will have to contact an interpreter, if, of course, you do not know this language. It is because the Spaniards themselves are too lazy to learn any other language. However, they are proud when people who come to Spain learn their language.

Art and architecture in Spain

In Spain, culture is very diverse, but the country is especially known for its artists and ancient architecture. Art is the main focus in Spain. There are many art schools in the country, which hold various artist plein-airs. And Spanish artists gave the world the main art movements.

Outstanding artists and their paintings

Under the influence of Italy of the 16th century the school of mannerism appears in Spain.

Artists of the school:

  • Luis de Morales (ca. 1508-1586)
  • El Greco (1541-1614)

Greco's painting

The 17th century is called the "Golden Age" of Spanish painting. The following great artists lived and worked during this time:

  • Giuseppe Ribera (1588-1652)
  • Bartolomé Esteban Murillo (1618-1682)
  • Francisco Zurbaran (1598-1664)
  • Diego de Silva Velazquez (1599-1660)

"Cubism" is another genre that originated in Spain. Its father is the famous Pablo Picasso (1881-1973).

Picasso's painting

And one of the main representatives of surrealism of the 20th century is Salvador Dali (1904-1989). He is also a Spaniard, who is known for his paintings and sculptures in every corner of the world.

Painting Salvador Dali

The most popular literary work

"The Wise Hidalgo Don Quixote of La Mancha" is a novel by the Spanish writer Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra. This work, better known simply as “Don Quixote”, is the most influential literary work of the Spanish Golden Age. The literary world community considers it one of many best novels in general.
 
The incredible architecture of Spain

The architecture of Spain in general requires a whole scientific study, and even better a tourist review. Culture in Spain is generally built around its architectural monuments and buildings.

Sagrada Familia

Sagrada Familia is a Catholic temple in Barcelona, the construction of which began in 1882 and, attention, continues to this day. We have prepared for you interesting facts about Spain (culture), which are related to this attraction. 

These are the following:

  • the territory of the temple, which was allocated by the authorities of Barcelona at that time, was several kilometers from the city;
  • the basilica was dedicated to the Holy Family (Family) - Jesus, Mary and Joseph;
  • the first project of the temple was in the neo-gothic style;
  • the first architect of the Sagrada Familia was Francisco del Villaro, but he only managed to make a crypt under the apse;
  • in 1883, Antonio Gaudi became the chief architect of the construction;
  • construction has been going on for over 141 years.

The Basilica of the Holy Family in Barcelona is the only case in the history of world architecture when a long building has such enormous tourist popularity and is included in the UNESCO World Heritage List.

Antonio Gaudi can actually be called the main architect of Spain of his time. He also designed such incredible buildings as the Mill House and the Batlló House.

Batlló House

Cuisine and culinary traditions of Spain

Food is considered an important tradition in Spanish culture. Regardless of whether you have come to Spain for the first time or have been here several times before - you must try paella and tapas.

Breakfasts and dinners are dominated by light dishes, while lunches are the main meals of the day. Each region of Spain has its own specialty in food. But in general, Spaniards follow a healthy Mediterranean diet.

What does the Mediterranean diet include?

  • olive oil,
  • legumes,
  • seasonal vegetables and fruits,
  • nuts,
  • fish,
  • meat.

Spaniards love to eat well, especially something interesting. Here you will not find a family or a restaurant where you will be served a table with a huge number of different dishes. But here they prepare large and hearty portions of food. In cafes and bars, with a glass of wine or beer, you can be given tapas for free - this is a small snack in the form of nuts, varieties of cheese or olives. Spaniards like to order a glass and taste tapas after several hours of conversation with friends, relatives or acquaintances.

Some traditional dishes that are loved throughout Spain:

  • tortillas de patatas (potato omelette)
  • albóndigas (meatballs),
  • croquettes,
  • jamon,
  • squid,
  • gazpacho (cold tomato soup),
  • bocadillos (sandwiches),
  • tapas,
  • paella,
  • churros

Paella with seafood

Culinary traditions are followed by Spaniards on some holidays as well. Here are some of them: on New Year's Eve, as the clock ticks down to midnight, the people of Spain must eat 12 grapes and drink them with cava, a traditional sparkling wine drink such as prosecco or champagne. 12 grapes symbolize the coming months. So if you can eat all the grapes in time, then the new year will bring you luck and happiness.

Coffee and grape berries

On the Costa Blanca coast, the local authorities organize a mass celebration of Christmas (December 25) and New Year's (January 1) every year. On the Playa de la Zenia beach, thousands of people gather from different parts of the world, wearing traditional New Year's hats and costumes, setting up barbecue areas, grilling fish, vegetables and meat. They have fun, sing, dance and even swim in the sea. Often there is also a stage where various musical groups perform. When it comes to Spain (culture), facts are numerous.

People on the beach a in new year's costumes

TOP 10 places worth visiting on the Costa Blanca coast:

  • The ancient city of Guadalest
  • Castle of Santa Barbara in the city of Guadalest
  • The ancient city of Cartagena
  • The ancient city of Cartagena
  • Canelobre Caves
  • Palm forest in the city of Elche
  • Aitana Safari Park
  • Salinas La Mata (salt lakes) in the city of Torrevieja
  • Mount Ifach in the city of Calpe
  • Alcoy City of Rivers and Bridges 

Religious influences and celebrations in Spain

More than 95% of Spaniards are Catholics. So traditions and culture in Spain are strongly connected with religion. Spaniards celebrate both religious and public holidays. In addition, each province and even each city has its own public holidays.
 
Main holidays in Spain

January 1 New Year
January 6 The Day of the Magi, or the Day of the Three Kings
the date changes every year Holy Friday
the date changes every year Easter
the date changes every year Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ
March 19 Saint Joseph's day
May 1 Labor Day
July 15 Saint James' Day
August 15 Ascension (Assumption) of the Blessed Virgin Mary
October 12 Day of the Spanish Nation
November 1 All Saints' Day
December 6 Constitution Day
December 8 Feast of the Immaculate Conception of the Mother of God
December 25th Christmas

Carnivals and festivals in Spain

In Spain, there are more than 200 holidays and festivals that play an important touristic role.

In February, Spain celebrates a noisy and fun holiday - carnivals. This is not just one day of celebration, but even several weeks of mass parties and balls. Parades are held in almost every city. Artists and groups dressed in bright outfits pass through the central streets. Often they are on a specially arranged platform that symbolizes a story or is dedicated to one of the characters. All this looks like a real large-scale show, in which not only Spaniards, but also guests of the country participate.

.Carnivals on the streets of Spain

Festivals play a special role in Spain. People dance and sing in the streets, play musical instruments, present their traditional dishes, and scatter flowers. Each such event is quite loud and interesting. You can't just watch it. When they start dancing next to you and spin you in the dance - you will definitely take your breath away.

The most popular festivals in Spain

NAME OF THE FESTIVAL TRADITIONS AND ORIGIN DATE CITY
Fallas holiday Burning of large papier-mâché dolls and bullfighting March 19 Valencia
Semana Santa (Holy Week) Solemn processions Sunday before Easter Sevilla, Málaga, Granada, Murcia
April fair A night when people are dancing, eating and drinking non-stop on the territory of the fair 10 days after Easter Seville
San Isidro's Feast Day The biggest bullfight of the season is the Feast of the Patron Saint of Madrid May 15 Madrid
St. John's Eve Folk festivities and launching of fireworks June Alicante, Valencia, Catalonia
Festival of San Fermin bullfighting, thrill-seekers run through the streets of the city in front of the bulls July 6-7 Pamplona
Mystery in Elche The Ascension of the Virgin Mary is the only performance in the world that is performed in a church, or rather, in the Basilica of Santa Maria August 14-15 Valencia
La Mercè celebrations A holiday in honor of the patron saint of Barcelona September 24 Barcelona

Music and dance in Spain

The flourishing of Spanish musical culture, especially in the genre of church music, began in the 16th century. Modern Spain has produced such world-famous opera singers as Plácido Domingo, José Carreras and Montserrat Caballé.
 
TOP-5 most popular songs in Spain in 2023:

  • La Oreja De Van Gogh - Rosas
  • Rosalía & Rauw Alejandro - Beso
  • Enrique Iglesias & Descemer Bueno & Gente De Zona - Bailando
  • Rosalía - Despécha
  • Ha-Ash & Melendi - Destino O Casualidad

The folk dance of Spain is flamenco. It is also called the dance of lovers. This is not only part of the dance culture in Spain, but also the song culture. After all, during flamenco they sing to the playing of the guitar and castanets. Another interesting fact - rhythm in flamenco is called compass.

Flamenco dancer

Social customs and etiquette in Spain

One of the most famous customs of Spain is the siesta. This is an amazing thing that happens in Spain every day. And it doesn't matter what the weather is or the time of year. 

After lunch, the Spaniards definitely go to rest. They close their shops, but in recent years the siesta does not apply to large retail chains, supermarkets and cafes. Siesta is something that the Spanish love, although not all of them have the opportunity to sleep during the siesta. Scientists believe that the siesta is very useful.

The Spanish live a very relaxed life. They enjoy every moment and very often postpone their affairs until the next day or the day after that. Therefore, one of the first phrases you will hear in Spain is Mañana, or Pasado mañana.

Spaniards dine only in company. They have to discuss with friends and acquaintances everything that happened to them during the day. Spaniards can also talk to the cashier for 15 minutes and even create a queue. They can also create traffic jams on the road, because they communicate with a passerby they know. And Spaniards can start talking to strangers on the street without hesitation, as if they were old friends.

For a Spaniard, the most important thing is family. Relatives, and especially children, are the meaning of life for the Spanish. There are playgrounds in every city and town, almost at every step. You can come to any place, cafe or office with a stroller, and the staff will be happy to serve the children and even gather several employees of the institution to play with the child and talk with the parents.

Sports and leisure in Spain

In Spain, people devote a large part of their lives to sports and an active lifestyle. From the little to people of a respectable age - everyone goes for walks and runs, does yoga and various active sports right on the beach.
 
The most popular sports in Spain:

  • football
  • golf
  • tennis
  • basketball
  • cycling

Sport is a big part of culture in Spain. And football plays an important, and perhaps the main role, among Spanish traditions. During important matches and championships, everyone is obsessed with football. Even tourists can feel these emotions as everyone tries to get to a football match of the Spanish team, even if they are not fans of this sport. However, Spaniards don't really like to watch football on TV, for them it is better to visit the stadium, or gather themselves to chase the ball.

Interesting facts: The Spanish national football team won the European Championship in 2008, 2012 and the World Cup in 2010. The leading teams in the Spanish and European football championships are Real Madrid and Barcelona. Have you heard such an expression as El Clasico? So it is precisely about the most vivid and fundamental confrontation of the football world between Barcelona and Real Madrid.

Teams of the Spanish Championship 2023-2024

NAME OF FOOTBALL CLUB YEAR OF FOUNDATION CITY
Alaves 1921 Vitoria-Gasteiz
Almeria 1989 Almeria
Athletic 1923 Bilbao
Atletico 1903 Madrid
Barcelona 1899 Barcelona
Betis 1907 Seville
Valencia 1919 Valencia
Villarreal 1923 Villarreal
Granada 1931 Granada
Girona 1930 Girona
Cadiz 1910 Cadiz
Las Palmas 1949 Las Palmas
Mallorca 1916 Palma de Mallorca
Osasuna 1920 Pamplona
Rayo Vallecano 1924 Madrid
Real Madrid 1902 Madrid
Real Sociedad 1909 San Sebastian
Seville 1905 Seville
Celta 1923 Vigo
Getafe 1983 Getafe

Spain is a country with various customs and traditions. Here they still follow what their grandfathers and great-grandfathers did. This is a country of sun, fun and delicious cuisine. Spaniards are never in a hurry, on the contrary, they enjoy every moment, study everything around them, love to travel within the country and discover their country in a new way for themselves every time!

FAQ

What defines the culture of Spain?

Spaniards do not hide their passion for art, music, football and culinary traditions. The culture of Spain is diverse, here everyone will find something to their liking. The culture of Spain has been influenced by the history, location and diversity of people in different regions of the country.

What are some key elements of Spain's cultural identity?

Spain's cultural identity is shaped by its language, Spanish traditions, flamenco music and dance, bullfighting, and a strong emphasis on family and social connections.

Can you share some interesting facts about Spain's culture?

Spain is the third country in the world in terms of the number of UNESCO world heritage sites. And there is also a traditional flamenco dance. The Spanish love and respect football very much. And it is also a country of very open people who like to communicate and visit various festivals.

How do traditions play a role in Spanish culture?

Traditions hold immense significance in Spain, from religious celebrations like Semana Santa to regional festivals showcasing unique customs. They contribute to the cultural richness and identity of each Spanish community.

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