Seeking some interesting facts about Spain? Spain is one of the most popular tourist destinations in all of Europe. Spain has it all if you want to explore the beaches, walk around historic cities, enjoy a relaxed lifestyle, revel in the cuisine, or experience the vibrant nightlife.
We spent a few weeks in Spain exploring the best the country offers, including jumping in and out of all the UNESCO World Heritage Sites (we’ll get to that!). Let’s dig into some interesting Spain facts!
Fun and Interesting Facts About Spain!
1. Spain is the only European country to have a physical border with an African country
We begin with one of the most fun geography-based facts about Spain; it has a land border, not a sea, with an African country. That country is Morocco. How could this be? Because Spain maintains a small outpost on the African continent called Ceuta.
This city has been of strategic importance since the first millennium BC, and passed through many different hands before it got to Spain in 1668.
2. Spain was the world’s first global empire
And, for a while, the most powerful country in the world – talk about one of those interesting facts about Spain. Taking it a notch above the Portuguese trading empire, the Spanish pioneered their way across North, Central, and South America and took hold of the Philippines for over 300 years. They got themselves a lot of gold and left a big ol’ cultural legacy – and a whole lot of Spanish-speakers.
3. Spanish is the world’s second-most spoken native language
With over 570 million Hispanophones, Spanish is second only to Mandarin Chinese. Spain, most Latin American countries, and Equatorial Guinea have Spanish as (one of) their official languages. A total of 21 nations speak Spanish daily.
4. Spain boasts the world’s third-largest number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites
This is not one of the most well known facts about Spain, but one you may notice if you’re traveling the country. There are 47 UNESCO World Heritage Sites spread throughout Spain, from entire historic city centers all the way to bridges, buildings, and pre-historic rock art.
5. Spain was also influential in Europe
From the late 15th century to the early 19th century, Spain may have controlled a lot of overseas territories, but it had its fingers in a lot of pies. Due to various marriage alliances and inheritance, Spain had sway in parts of Italy, France, Germany, Belgium, and the entire Netherlands – which was actually known as the Spanish Netherlands from 1556 to 1714.
6. Spain has a load of islands
On any Spain itinerary, you’ll be hitting up some beaches. It’s not just the Iberian Peninsula where you’ll find Spanish territory. There are the famous Balearic Islands in the Mediterranean Sea – including the very famous party island of Ibiza, of course – and then way out in the Atlantic Ocean, there are the Canary Islands.
There are also the Plazas de soberanía just off the Mediterranean coast of Morocco.
7. There is a Spanish royal family
If you thought there wasn’t, then we’d say you needed to know this fun fact about Spain. It’s a constitutional monarchy and the current monarch – as of 2014 – is King Felipe VI. Democracy began to take place after the Glorious Revolution of 1868 deposed then Queen Isabella II.
8. The first circumnavigation of the world was carried out between 1519 and 1521
And it was a Spanish expedition that did it. Setting sail from Seville in 1519, the expedition was led by Ferdinand Magellan. The point was to find a route to East Asia through the Americas and across the Pacific. Though Magellan was Portuguese, Spanish navigator Juan Sebastian Elcano finished the job in 1522.
9. Spain had the first empire on which it was said that the sun never set
Though this is attributed to the British Empire, you can’t ignore this fact about Spain: with Southern and South America on the one hand, the Philippines on the other, and actual Spain in the middle, the sun really did never set on the Spanish Empire.
10. The Spanish Civil War broke out in 1936
With a left-leaning Republican government aligned with anarchists and communists on one side and Conservative, Royalist, Nationalist, Catholic interests on the other side, things were bound to get ugly. A British-led policy of international non-intervention allowed General Franco (supported by Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy) to emerge victorious in 1939, plunging Spain into an authoritarian dictatorship until 1975. Great.
11. Spain isn’t all “Spanish”
Probably a mind-blowing fact about Spain right now, but what you thought was just plain, regular ol’ Spain, isn’t as simply defined as that. It’s made up of various Autonomous Communities that have a certain level of self-government.
Galicia is Celtic. The Basque Country speaks Basque (which is unlike any European language). Valencia, Catalonia, and the Balearic Islands are Occitan and Catalan. Super interesting.
12. The first ‘novel’ is attributed to a Spanish author
There are other claimants, but let’s say that Don Quixote, written in 1605, was the world’s first “modern” novel. Written by the Spanish author Miguel de Cervantes, it tells the story of a man who has read too many tales of knights, romance, and chivalry.
13. Madrid has the oldest restaurant in the world
Any food facts about Spain make us instantly want to go again and try out everything tasty in existence in the Iberian nation. This one is about El Restaurante Botín – the oldest restaurant in the world, recognized as such by Guinness World Records, no less. Opened in 1725, you have to check this place out when you’re in the Spanish capital.
14. Spain was under Muslim control for five centuries
What were known as “Moors” from North Africa invaded Spain in 711 AD. They called it Al-Andalus. What followed is a long history of Arabic and Islamic influence on the language, culture, and art of Spain, until the invaders were finally kicked out in 1492. Nowhere is this felt more than in the southern region of Andalusia.
15. Spanish people live a long time
In Spain, the life expectancy is on average 82 years (that’s 79 for men, 85 for women). That’s up there with the big hitters of life expectancy – Switzerland, Italy, and, of course, Japan.
16. There are some pretty famous festivals in Spain
You probably know the Running of the Bulls, right? This is held in Pamplona every year. What you probably don’t know is that its part of a longer nine-day festival in honor of Saint Fermin. There are other “bull-runs,” but that one’s the most famous.
Elsewhere, there’s La Tomatina, the world’s biggest food fight. It started in 1945 when some guy started throwing tomatoes at his friends. It was banned in the 1950s but reinstated in 1957 when residents held a funeral for the festival – complete with a tomato in a coffin.
17. There is a town in Spain where 700 people have the surname “Japón”
A fact about Spain you probably don’t know is that there’s this little town called Coria del Río near Seville, with a lot of inhabitants descended from Hasekura Tsunenaga, a 17th-century samurai who stopped there during a diplomatic journey. “Hasekura de Japón” became simply “Japón.”
18. In 2006, Spain hosted one half of the world’s first Earth Sandwich
How in the heck? Well, a radio show host wondered if it was possible, so a few people in Spain and a few people in New Zealand placed baguettes on the ground. With the miles and miles of molten magma and scorching core as the filling, the result was an Earth Sandwich, obviously.
19. New Year means eating grapes
While for many New Year means a countdown before/after/during getting pretty drunk, in Spain, there’s one delicate tradition that we like – eating grapes. Twelve, to be precise. If you manage to eat one grape on each exact stroke of midnight, it’s said you’ll have good luck for the rest of the year.
21. There is no tooth fairy in Spain, but rather a tooth mouse called Ratoncito Perez
One of the more weird facts about Spain – there’s no tooth fairy! Okay, so that’s not the weirdest part. Instead of a tooth fairy, they’ve got a tooth… mouse. It’s called Ratoncito Pérez, and it originates in the stories of the 19th-century writer, Luis Coloma.
22. The Spanish national anthem has no words
Most national anthems are there to be sung and half-forgotten as you hum along trying to make it at least look like you know the words. Not so in Spain; you won’t have to go through the trouble of remembering anything but the tune to their national anthem. It used to have words, but it doesn’t anymore. Called ‘Marcha Real,’ it’s also one of the world’s oldest national anthems, written in 1761.
23. Spain has more bars than any other EU country
You’d think that accolade would go to Ireland with all their pubs, but no, Spain has the highest number of drinking holes in the European Union. You’ll get to have some pretty good bar crawls here.
24. Around 44% of the world’s olive oil is produced by Spain
That’s more than double the amount that Italy makes. Yes, even though olive oil is very much associated with Italy, Spain makes more. Spain also makes a lot of wine, with a cool million hectares dedicated to wine-producing (ever heard of Rioja?). So, yeah, Spain is also the second-largest producer of wine in the world.
25. Spain has over 8,000 kilometers of coastline
One of the most romantic things to do in Spain is head for the coast. And all that coastline means a lot of beaches. One of our favorite facts about Spain is that the country actually has over 8,000 beaches, too. That’s like… one beach every kilometer.
26. Siesta is still very much part of Spanish life
If you know about siesta, you may think it’s a bit of a stereotype – but it’s not. If you’re wondering what a siesta is, don’t worry, we’re about to tell you. Siesta is an afternoon nap. Twenty minutes, max. It affects the entire country; from 2 to 5 pm, many stores and establishments are closed for siesta time. For real.
27. The Sagrada Familia in Barcelona is still not finished
Construction began on the city’s famous Antoni Gaudí-designed cathedral in 1882 and has been under construction for more than 130 years. It’s expected to be completed in 2026. It’s probably the world’s most visited construction site, attracting 2.8 million visitors every year.
28. Catalonia is small but packs a punch
The relatively small Autonomous Region of Catalonia makes up 6.3% of Spain’s territory, but there’s a lot going for it. The population is 7.5 million (16% of the national total), it’s got the fourth-highest income in Spain, boasts the Catalan language, has the highest nominal gross regional product in the country, and is home to Spain’s most visited city – Barcelona, of course.
29. In Valencia, you’ll find the biggest market for fresh food in Europe
The 8,000-meter-squared Mercado Central was designed in 1914 and exemplifies the interesting Valencian Art Nouveau architectural style. Inside, there are 900 stands selling everything from cold meats, fish, and cheese to olives, wine, and spices. It’s a great place in Valencia to check out, see a more detailed Valencia itinerary here.
30. The first-known stapler came from Spain
We bet you were waiting for a fact about Spain as awesome as this one. But yeah, the first stapler. Spain. Well, the Basque Country. It was made in the 18th century as a present for King Louis XV of France. Every single staple was apparently engraved with Louis’ royal emblem.
31. Spain also gave the world many other firsts
From the complicated to the mundane and outright addictive, Spain’s inventions include the ancestor of the cigarette (17th century), the astronaut’s spacesuit (1935), and the humble mop and bucket (1956).
32. Spain has produced some amazing artists
The art world wouldn’t be the same without Spanish creativity. There are greats like El Greco, Velázquez, and Goya, to start with. Then things start to get modern (and weird) with Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dalí. Imagine the world without those abstract faces or melting clocks. You can’t, can you?
33. New World foods entered Europe through Spain
New World Foods sounds like some organic supermarket, but anyway, it’s true. Peppers, beans, potatoes, and tomatoes. Spain’s adventures (and misadventures) in the New World of the Americas brought back some culinary firsts in terms of fresh produce.
And before anyone else got to sample ‘em, it was Spain’s turn first. Honestly though, what would Spanish and Italian cuisine be without these foodstuffs?
34. One popular custom when going out is to be served tapas with a drink
Yep. You pay for the drink, but the tapas are free. Why? Well, tapas is the plural of tapa, meaning “top” or “cover.” The original tapas were intended to cover drinks between sips, so no flies or whatever got in them. Many bars today exist simply for the joy of tapas. And drink, of course.
35. Spain gets more tourists than the number of people who live there
Tourism is big news in Spain. It’s a little-known fact about Spain that tourism is quite as big as it is, though. In 2018, the country received 82.5 million tourists, making it the second-most visited nation on the planet. Spain’s population is 46.7 million, so tourists account for almost double the population.
36. Which is probably down to all those beaches…
… With 681 Blue Flag beaches, Spain has the most of any country in the Northern Hemisphere. That’s some quality sea and sand right there.
We hope you enjoyed these fun facts about Spain! See below for more facts around the world!
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