Know Before You Go: Spain

By Michelle Yastremsky

Tapas, flamenco, whimsical buildings that seem to reach towards the sky...Spain is a country for the explorer! Here’s what you need to know before your trip to Espana.

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Be mindful of the siesta. While most tourist spots will stay open during regular business hours, many businesses throughout Spain will close between the hours of 1pm-4pm (hours vary by city). Keep this in mind when planning your itinerary for the day so you don't miss the the destinations you've been dreaming about.

Remember to relax. Things in Spain move at a slower pace. Don’t expect to sit down at a restaurant for a rushed meal. In fact, waiters in Spain will leave you be until you demand their attention so you can enjoy your meal at leisure.

Food in Spain

Spain is a city of discovery.. especially culinary discovery. Be sure to sample the specialties of each city or region, such as paella in Barcelona or Jamon Iberico in Madrid. While you’ll love indulging in the mouth-watering snacks and sips, following Spain’s unique eating schedule make time some getting used to.

Breakfast is optional. Many locals skip breakfast altogether, but if it is a breakfast meal you’re after, you can do so between the hours of 7:00-9:00am. Spain is a country of late mornings, so finding a café that opens before 7:00am is a rarity. Once you do find a breakfast spot, your options will almost always include a variety of sandwiches (with omelets or meat paste slathered inside) or a selection of sweet baked goods.

Mid-morning snack (Almuerzo). This late-early snack (10:30-11:00am) will usually consist of coffee or juice, paired with a croissant sandwich.
Don’t forget lunch. Lunch is the most important meal in Spain, so important in fact, that the word for lunch, la comida translates to “the meal.” Satisfy your craving between the hours of 2-3:30pm, and make sure to always ask for the menu of the day!

Snack for socializing. The merienda, or mid-afternoon snack, is served between 5:30-7:30, and is a time to just grab coffee and a light snack over some socialization with friends and family.

Time for Tapas! The moment you’ve been waiting for..tapas! The city streets come alive from 8:00-10pm when locals and visitors pour into the city’s most popular tapas bars. Size and style of the tapas vary by region, and are often eaten standing up at the bar.

Tapas at 8, Dinner at 10. Dinnertime in Spain is typically from 9:00-11:00pm, and is usually much lighter than that of an American dinner. You won’t find many of Spain’s heartier dishes on the dinner menus, but are more likely to find a menu offering Spanish omelets, cured meat assortments , and a variety of croquettes, waiting to be devoured.

Weather in Spain

Spain is known throughout Europe for its fantastic climate! The Mediterranean coastline sees an average of over 300 days of sunshine a year, and the city of southern city of Seville has warmest average temperature in Western Europe. Feeling caliente yet?

Currency in Spain

Spain uses the Euro, and is a very wallet-friendly country. Many bars will serve free tapas with beer – who says there’s no such thing as a free lunch?

Transportation in Spain

Spain’s major cities have a convenient public transportation system including trams and busses. Getting around in between cities is fairly easy as well; choose from trains, buses, or rent a car and hit the road.

Language in Spain

While English is not spoken everywhere, in most major cities you will be able to get by with English. Spanish is the official language of Spain, however any regions in Spain have their own dialects – some so different they are actually different languages, such as Catalan, spoken in the Catalonia region of Spain (Barcelona!).

Useful Spanish phrases:

Hello - Hola
Thank you - Gracias
Where is the bathroom? - Donde esta el bano?
One beer, please - Una cerveza, pr favor
Cheers - Salud
Sorry - Perdon

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