Are you planning on visiting Spain and would like to learn more about the country before travelling there? Or would you like to know some interesting and fun facts about Spain most people don’t know? You’ve come to the right place. 

Palacio de comunicaciones on plaza Cibeles in Madrid

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Spain is a stunning country in Europe which has a lot to offer to most visitors. With dramatic mountain ranges, beautiful beaches, impressive castles, delicious food, famous landmarks and a very rich culture, Spain is a ridiculously interesting and intriguing country. Did we spike your curiosity? Keep reading and discover some of the most unique and interesting facts about Spain.

Table of Contents

General Spanish facts

The kingdom of Spain

The ‘Kingdom of Spain’ is a constitutional monarchy, where the executive decisions are taken by the Government.

Spain has a royal family

The current king of Spain is King Felipe VI, reigning with his wife Queen Letizia. She used to work as a journalist and news anchor when she met her husband. The king is a member of the House of Borbón-Anjou, and ascended the throne in 2014, following his father Juan Carlos I. The monarchy of Spain is also referred to as La Corona or The Crown.

Palacio Real in Madrid or the royal palace
Palacio Real or Royal Palace in Madrid

The Spanish Peseta preceded the Euro

Before the Euro was introduced in Spain, the country’s national currency was the Spanish Peseta. It was used as a currency between 1868 and 2002. The Peseta never had a symbol but was shortened with pta. or ptas.

Spain has the worlds third-largest number of Unesco World Heritage sites

With no less than 50 sites, Spain comes in third on the list of countries with the most amount of Unesco World Heritage Sites. It’s a combination of historical buildings, cathedrals, historical city centres as well as national parks and mountain peaks.

Monument Alfonso XII with boats on the lake retiro park in Madrid
Retiro Park in Madrid is on the Unesco list

The highest point in Spain is Mount Teide in Tenerife

The highest mountain in Spain is not located on the mainland. With an altitude of 3718 metres above sea level, and located on Tenerife on the Canary Islands, Mount Teide is in fact the highest point in Spain.

It all starts at kilómetro zero

Kilometre zero is a small sign on the Puerta del Sol in Madrid which marks the geographical centre. From this point, all the distances of the national roads leaving Madrid are measured.

Kilometro cero plaque on the puerta del sol in Madrid

The Sagrada Familia remains under construction

The most famous building on the Unesco World Heritage site’s list is probably the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. This Roman Catholic church is a masterpiece designed by the Catalan architect Antonio Gaudí. The construction of the church started in 1882 and is to this day still under construction. It is estimated that the Sagrada Familia will be finished in 2026 which will also mark 100 years after Gaudí has died.

Madrid is Europe’s second highest capital city

At an elevation of 667 metres, Madrid is the 2nd highest capital city in Europe after Andorra la Vella, the capital of Andorra.

View over Madrid and the palacio real

Spanish people have a double surname

The naming custom in Spain is that everyone has a double surname. Traditionally, the first surname is the father’s first surname and the second surname is the mother’s first surname. When I used to live in Spain, I sometimes had to use 2 surnames on official documents, which was a problem since officially I only have one, but I had to use 2. Also, if your parents have the same first surname in Spain, a name can sound pretty double, especially when using a derivation of that surname as a first name. In other words, I have a friend whose name is Fernando Fernandez Fernandez. That’s one of the fun things about Spain with a lot of Fernandoz…

Barcelona hosted the Olympic Games

Spain has hosted the Olympic games only once, which were the Summer Olympic Games in 1992 in Barcelona. Madrid was nominated as a candidate city to host the Olympic Games of 2020, but lost the bid to Tokyo.

Spain has the worlds highest amount of Blue Flag beaches

Spain has a coastline of roughly 5000 km, which obviously means there are lots of beautiful beaches in Spain. According to the Foundation for Environmental Education, Spain has the worlds highest amount of Blue Flag beaches. In 2019, a total of 566 Spanish beaches were awarded the Blue Flag status.

Beach Calpe in Costa Blanca Spain

Spain is part of the Iberian Peninsula

Spain takes up the largest part of the Iberian Peninsula, located in the southwestern corner of Europe. It is shared with Portugal and for a smaller part with Andorra, Gibraltar and France. Spain also has some well-known island groups of which the largest are the Balearic Islands, located in the Mediterranean Sea, and the Canary Islands, located far out in the Atlantic Ocean off the west coast of Africa.

Interesting facts about Spanish food and drinks

Spain produces nearly 40% of the worlds olive oil

Spain is the worlds largest producer of olive oil accounting for nearly 40% of the total global production. Around 75% of the Spanish olive oil production is derived from the south, in the Andalusia region. The Spanish olive oils have quality seals named ‘denominación de origen’, which ensures the quality and taste of the olive oils of a specific region.

Tapas were invented in Spain

Tapas were started in Spain, hence ‘Spanish tapas’. The word is derived from the verb ‘tapear’ which means ‘to cover’. Small plates with a little snack were served with a drink. The small plates were also used to cover the glass to protect it from insects. Nowadays, Spanish tapas are a real cultural thing in Spanish cuisine.

Plate of tapas served when ordering a drink in Spain
Spanish tapas

Spanish saffron is a thing

Saffron is an important spice among others used in Spanish cuisine to provide the special taste and bright yellow colour to the Paella dish. It was introduced to Spain by the Moors in the 8th or 9th century but is originally from Asia Minor. Did you know that currently Spain is the world’s second-largest producer of saffron?

It’s all about the meat

One of the more interesting food facts about Spain is that in contradiction to the popular belief that fish and seafood is all that counts, Spain is in fact one of the highest red meat-consuming countries per person in Europe. Even globally, Spain is within the top 15 countries of the highest meat consumption per person per year.

The worlds oldest restaurant is in Madrid

Spain is home to the oldest restaurant in the world, according to the Guinness Book of Records (counted as continuously operating). Established in 1725 and located close to the Plaza Mayor in Madrid, the restaurant Sobrino de Botín serves traditional Spanish food. Yes, I have eaten there, yes, their speciality is a meat dish, ‘cochinillo asado’ (roasted suckling pig) and yes, it’s good.

Address: Sobrino de Botín, Calle de los Cuchilleros 17, 28005 Madrid

Sobrino de Botin oldest restaurant in the world in Madrid

The Mediterranean diet is on the Unesco list 

The Spanish food tradition is part of the ‘Mediterranean Diet’, which is more than just the food but also includes the products, way of cooking, traditions, harvesting and consumption of food. It is since 2013 inscribed on the list of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity of Unesco. Other countries that are part of this diet are Morocco, Italy, Portugal, Greece, Cyprus and Croatia.

Spain has the highest amount of bars per inhabitant in the EU

It is said that Spain has the highest amount of bars per inhabitant of any country in the European Union. I don’t know for sure if this fact is true. I only know that you do see a lot of bars in Spain where you can try some of the best Spanish drinks. When I lived in Madrid I had the feeling that literally every second building contained a bar.

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Historical facts about Spain

Madrid was not always the capital of Spain

Madrid is the capital of Spain since 1561. Prior to that date, Toledo was the capital city of Spain until King Felipe II decided to move his court to Madrid.

Spanish flag in Madrid

The Spanish national anthem has no words

‘Marcha Real’ is the national anthem of Spain and is one of the four national anthems without any words. Dating back to 1761, it is said to be one of the oldest national anthems in the world.

The Moors occupied Spain for 800 years

Spain was occupied by the Moors for 800 years. The Moors arrived in Spain in the year 711 up to 1492 and left a significant cultural influence on the country still visible today.

The influence of the Moors is still visible in Spain…

The Moorish influence is still visible in some of the most visited sites in Spain. Examples are The Alhambra in Granada, The Mezquita (or Mosque) and the Medina Azahara in Córdoba, the Royal Alázar and the Giralda in Seville. Visiting these beautiful historical sites are some of the top things to do when visiting Spain.

…and is still commemorated

Every two years in the town of Aínsa, the festival of ‘La Morisma’ is held which commemorates the victory of the battle against the army of the Moors in 724.

Spanish culture facts

The first modern novel was written by a Spanish author

One of the most important cultural facts about Spain is the novel Don Quixote. It was written by Cervantes and published in 1605 (the first part) and is considered the first modern novel. The full name of the novel is ‘The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote of La Mancha’. It is also said to be one of the world’s most translated books. Read the novel of Don Quixote to prepare for your next vacation in Spain.

Molinos or Spanish windmills of Don Quixote in Castilla La Mancha
The famous windmills as described in the book of Don Quixote

The tradition of the 12 grapes

Spain is a country filled with traditions. One of those traditions takes place on New Year’s Eve where 12 grapes are eaten during the last 12 seconds of the year. So the idea is to eat one grape on the second for the last 12 seconds of the year, which in return will bring good luck for the next 12 months. My experience was that when finally the clock hits midnights, it’s very quiet in Spain since everyone is still trying to swallow those 12 grapes.

Some of the worlds biggest painters are Spanish

Some of the most famous painters from the past centuries are of Spanish origin or lived in Spain, such as El Greco, Velázquez, Goya and more recent ones like Picasso, Dalí and Miró.

San Fermin festival is internationally the most well known

One of the most internationally known festivals in Spain is San Fermín. The annual festival takes place in Pamplona and starts on the 6th and runs until the 14th of July. The most famous activity is the running of the bulls (or el encierro). The festival got internationally known due to the book ‘The sun also rises’ by Ernest Hemingway.

The Tomatino festival is big

The biggest annual food fight is held in Spain. Every year, the Tomatina festival takes place in the month of August in the town of Buñol (Valencia province). The purpose of the festival is to throw over 100 tons of tomatoes at one another for one hour.

pile of tomatoes on the market

Spanish language facts

Spain has four official languages

One of the Spanish facts that most people will not know is that Spain has in total 4 official languages; Castilian, Catalan, Galician and Basque. Castillian (which in Spain is referred to as either Castellano or Español) is widely spoken all over Spain. The other 3 languages are widely spoken in the specific region the language is attached to.

Spanish is the worlds second most studied language

Spanish (or what they call Castillian in Spain) is the second most studied language in the world.

…and has the worlds second most native speakers

The Spanish language worldwide has around 483 million native speakers. Even though English is number one when it comes to both native and non-native speakers, Spanish comes second after Mandarin when it comes to native speakers.

The Spanish language is relatively easy to learn…

Spanish (Castillian) is a relatively easy language to learn. It’s more a phonetic language, meaning you pronounce all letters very clearly and its written form is very close to its spoken language. And by this, I mean the properly spoken Spanish with no dialect pronunciations. Compared to my native language Dutch, where writing without mistakes is hardly possible, Spanish is really easy to write if you know certain easy language rules.

…but the Basque language is not

The Basque language (or Euskera) is a pre-Indo European language and is not related to any other Western European language. So even if you would speak Castillian, Catalan or Galician, you will not be able to understand anything of the Basque language. I speak fluent Spanish and have lived in the Basque country for a while, so I know how hard it is.

Osbourne Bull statue next to the Spanish highway by the olive fields
The Osbourne bull can be seen in various places in Spain

The Moors even influenced part of the language

Spanish (Castillian) is a Romance language, but unlike French or Italian, Spanish also has some Arab influences in their language, coming from the era when Moors inhabited large parts of Spain.

So this was our list with some fun, interesting and historical facts about Spain. We hope you enjoyed these cool Spanish facts and that you learned more about this beautiful country.

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