Spain holidays

Experience Spain

Best Places to Visit

Broadly speaking, Spain divides into four main areas, each of which has appeal for a different group of holidaymakers. The mainland caters for city breaks, with culture and heritage in the big cities of Madrid and, of course, Barcelona. These are suitable for holidays of all lengths, from a weekend spent soaking up the atmosphere, to a longer week or fortnight vacation that allows you to not only explore the city in which you stay but also potentially to get out into its surrounding area too and discover some of the sights less often seen.

Spain's most famous holiday resorts are found along the coast of the mainland, in areas such as the Costa del Sol: the Coast of the Sun. This name is more than just good branding. The region has year-round sunshine and warm temperatures, allowing holidaymakers to top up their tan by the pool or on the beach, before plunging into the water or the waves for a swim. Just two hours from the UK by direct flight, it can feel like a world away when you take off from a rainy England, and touchdown in an idyllic sun-baked beach resort.

The Balearic Islands each have distinct personalities, from Ibiza with its vibrant nightlife to the mismatched twins of Majorca and Minorca - their names containing 'major' and 'minor' in reference to their relative sizes. Like the Costas, the Balearics have been family favourites for generations and were among the first destinations regularly accessed by Brits from the early days of package tours and affordable jet-powered flights.

Finally, and much further away than the rest of Spain, the Canary Islands are found close to the Equator off the African coast. The flights take around twice as long, which may be off-putting for some people, but the rewards are substantial, with temperatures receiving a boost by the breeze blowing over from the Sahara Desert in mainland Africa, and a uniquely laid-back atmosphere. Tenerife is the place to be for nightlife and a faster pace while Gran Canaria is ideal for relaxation; all of the Canaries make for a memorable break and the chance to try cuisine not commonly found elsewhere in Spain.

Top Landmarks

It's hard to think about package holidays to Spain without immediately thinking of Barcelona, which is home to arguably the most significant landmarks in the entire country. The architecture of Gaudi dominates the attractions here. In places, these structures remain unfinished, and work continues to complete the masterpieces that require it, while some may be closed in full or in part for conservation work and restoration of their ornate and delicate decorations. Guide books are easily available to help you understand the significance and function of the various buildings. They also serve the very practical purpose of giving you directions to get around them all. For the most part it's a route that can be taken on foot, and is a very pleasant way to spend your time in Barcelona.

For those of you heading to the Spanish capital, Madrid, the Puerta del Sol is the beating heart of the city. The statue of King Charles III is the focal point, standing proud in the centre of the square. If you have ever seen footage of Spain's New Year celebrations you may recognise the adjacent clock tower - and if you happen to be spending New Year's Eve in Madrid, this is the place to join the revellers. You should be sure to take a dozen grapes with you if do, as the local tradition is to eat one each time the clock strikes on the midnight hour.

Entertainment

Spain's beaches and coastline form much of the appeal for holidaymakers from the UK, and also provide the setting for a large part of the entertainment. For many people, simply lounging on the beach is a chance to relax and unwind during their annual summer holiday, but there are plenty of spur-of-the-moment activities that you can participate in without any prior planning. Many beaches have pedalos and other boats that can be taken out on to the waves, and these often have a small slide built into them, allowing younger children to launch themselves into the sea. For adults and older children, banana boats offer a challenge, as you try to keep your grip on the slippery surface of the 'sausage' or 'banana' as it is dragged at high speed across the swells of the waves.

Spain's many festivals are among the most popular events for tourists from all corners of the world. These begin as early as Easter and the springtime, and continue right through the peak summer period in July and August. April and May are particularly busy times on the festival calendar, and the biggest of all the celebrations is probably the Feria de Abril in Sevilla, attended by many thousands of international visitors, and combining revelry and drinking with traditional Spanish arts like Flamenco dancing and a healthy dose of local folklore too. An event people the world over would like to attend - and one you are unlikely to forget.

Dining Out

The tourist resorts will typically have a good variety of venues for your lunch or evening meal, including a restaurant in your hotel in many cases. If you just want a taste of home, then some English dishes are bound to appear on the menu, including lighter options like salads if the hot climate leaves you with less of an appetite. However, it is worth being a little adventurous, as there is nothing to fear from trying some authentic Spanish cuisine instead.

Paella is a celebration of a dish, usually sold in servings of two portions or more, and brought to the table in its cooking dish ready for you to serve yourself. It's a rice-based recipe, with plenty of vibrant colours and a good selection of extra ingredients. In most cases there will be a certain amount of seafood involved, such as mussels and prawns, often accompanied by diced chicken or other meat, and chopped salty chorizo adding its distinctive smoky taste to the dish as a whole. Wash it down with a pint of local beer, or Cerveza, which is often priced very reasonably as the resorts aim to support their local producers.

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Need to know

Language

Spanish and its dialects are the primary language throughout Spain, and of course it is beneficial to know some basic phrases in preparation for your package holiday. Even individual words like 'agua' if you are in urgent need of water. Unless you travel to a very remote area, there is a good chance that somebody will have at least a basic grasp of English though, and in the main tourist areas, including the coastal and island resorts, and the big cities like Madrid and Barcelona, it should be very easy to find local residents who are fluent or near-fluent in English.

Currency

The Spanish currency is the euro, the single currency used in many EU member states. It's easy to obtain in the main resorts and cities, with ATMs that will accept major debit and credit cards - be aware your bank back home may charge a fee for using your card abroad, especially if withdrawals are classed as a credit card cash advance. Travellers' cheques are widely exchanged, and prepaid travel currency cards are a great modern option to avoid transaction fees - buy in the UK before you go, and look for a card you can top up online or by phone without incurring extra charges.

Visas

If you are a British citizen, all you need to get into Spain is a valid passport - and not a separate visa. Your passport should be in date, not just at the start of your trip but also for your return journey. There's no requirement for it to remain in date beyond your return trip (unlike the six months some countries demand) but remember that delays can happen, so be very cautious before travelling on a passport that's due to expire within days of your return to the UK.

Climate

Spain generally has a warm and welcoming climate, in terms of the weather and its hospitability to tourists. The summer may feel very warm for Britons, so seek shade when you need it, stay hydrated, and wear loose-fitting long sleeves when the sun is at its hottest, not just sun cream. Winters are cooler, but still warm, and an ideal time of year for a city break or an out-of-season coastal visit.

Main Airports

A relatively large number of airports cater for international travellers, although this is partly perhaps due to the fact that Spain includes a number of islands, most of which have their own airport terminal. Madrid and Barcelona are two of the busiest for international arrivals, and many of the most popular tourist destinations are served by one of these. Barcelona itself, of course, is hugely popular as a destination for a city break, with a wealth of architectural heritage that deserves as long a time as you can afford to spend there. Malaga is also a key route into Spain for international flights, and this serves many of the coastal holiday resorts that cater particularly to the UK tourist trade.

Flight Options

Besides the Spanish mainland, there are the island groups that are equally popular with holidaymakers. The Balearic Islands (which include Majorca, Minorca and Ibiza) all have huge appeal in their own right, and you can fly direct from the UK to each of these. Similarly, many of the Canary Islands take direct international flights from the UK.

Travel Advice

Remember, the Canaries are much further south, off the coast of Africa, and this affects the flight time significantly. Whereas mainland Spain and the Balearics are around two hours' travel from the UK, getting to the Canaries will take you over four hours in the air. If you are likely to find a long plane journey uncomfortable for any reason, it might be wise to opt for one of the Spanish resorts closer to home.

Other Transport Options

There are plenty of options open to those wanting to travel to Spain a little differently. There’s the train, for example: simply hop on the Eurostar to Paris, then a connection to beautiful Barcelona. You could even drive to Spain, utilising a ferry service, or head across the water on a cruise ship.

Getting Around

You are spoilt for choice when it comes to transport on your holiday in Spain. Not only are all the major cities linked by air and railway links, but there is also a reliable bus service and numerous car hire services.

Bus

Most of Spain is well served by buses, and these are quite an easy way for tourists to get around the country. Routes are quite straightforward, making it easy to navigate in unfamiliar surroundings, and importantly they depart fairly often too - so if you happen to miss your bus due to taking a wrong turning, there should be another one soon after that you can catch. If you are staying in one of the big cities, it is usually much easier to travel by bus, rather than hiring a car, as it can be very difficult to park and you could land a hefty fine if you park in the wrong place.

Train

Spain has a great rail network, connecting the main tourist destinations. There are long-haul routes, as well as local connections between cities via Cercanias trains. If you are tempted to take a train over a longer distance, then the longer, the better. Journeys over a greater distance tend to run on time more often than those over a shorter distance. In fact, the shortest of trips can be up to half an hour behind schedule, especially in the areas surrounding the biggest cities. The local wisdom is that if you need to get there when your train is due to arrive, you may be better off boarding the train before it instead. Look into the Renfe Spain Pass.

Air

Most of the major Spanish cities are connected by internal flights of less than two hours (Except to the Canary Islands). Most of the airports are less than 20km away from the main city centres, too, so you can easily pick up a taxi, bus or metro for the remainder of your journey.

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FACTS

  1. Spain has the largest number of UNESCO World Heritage Cities in the world - although it's worth noting this is World Heritage 'Cities' and not World Heritage 'Sites'. That accolade is held by Italy.
  2. Holidaymakers often visit Spain for one of two main reasons. For families with young children, in particular, the hotels with their swimming pools and easy access to the beach are an easy way to relax for a week or so.
  3. In contrast, many couples instead journey to Spain's cities, in particular, Barcelona, for a cultural city break over a weekend or longer, to take in the sights of the spectacular and truly unique architecture dotted around the vibrant city.

FACTS

  1. Spain has the largest number of UNESCO World Heritage Cities in the world - although it's worth noting this is World Heritage 'Cities' and not World Heritage 'Sites'. That accolade is held by Italy.
  2. Holidaymakers often visit Spain for one of two main reasons. For families with young children, in particular, the hotels with their swimming pools and easy access to the beach are an easy way to relax for a week or so.
  3. In contrast, many couples instead journey to Spain's cities, in particular, Barcelona, for a cultural city break over a weekend or longer, to take in the sights of the spectacular and truly unique architecture dotted around the vibrant city.

Where to go in Spain

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