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Spain

Southern Spain has long been a popular holiday destnation, but tourists are increasingly turning to the fascinations of another Spain, far removed from the high-rise developments lining the Costa del Sol. Spain is a treasure chest of unforgettable scenery. Separating Spain from France, the snow-capped Pyrenees, as well as having breathtaking views, offer resorts like La Molina and Panticosa with plenty of opportunities for skiing. In the north, the winding rivers and lush, green forests of Galicia present a picture not usually associated with Spain, and in complete contrast to the Moorish-influenced south, Galician culture traces its routes to a Celtic origin.

Practical Information

Area: 505 988 km² (195 363 miles²)

Capital: Madrid. Population: 5.5 million

Population: 44.1 million

Currency: Euro (Eur) = 100 cents

Government: Parliamentary monarchy since 1978.

Tipping: Restaurants often include service in the bill so a tip is discretionary. In cafes and bars, it is 5 to 10%.

Time zone: Mainland Spain/Balearics: GMT + 1 (GMT + 2 from last Sunday in March to last Sunday in October) The Canary Islands: GMT (GMT + 1 from last Sunday in March to last Sunday in October)

Languages: Spanish (Castillian), Catalan (in the northeast), Galician (in the northwest) and Basque (in the north)

Additional descriptions

Spain: Social customs

Spanish life has undergone rapid change in recent years and many of the stricter religious customs are giving way to more modern ways, particularly in the cities and among women. Nonetheless, many old customs, manners and traditions have not faded and hospitality, chivalry and courtesy remain important. Handshaking is the customary form of greeting. Normal social courtesies should be observed when visiting someone’s home. If invited to a private home, a small gift is appreciated. Flowers are only sent for special celebrations. Conservative casual wear is widely acceptable. Some hotels and restaurants encourage men to wear jackets. A black tie is only necessary for very formal occasions and is usually specified if required. Outside resorts, scanty beachwear should be confined to beach or poolside. The evening meal is taken late, generally 2100-2200. The Spanish have two family names; in conversation only the first should be used. A law banning smoking in offices, shops, schools, hospitals, cultural centres and on public transport was introduced on 1 January 2006.Read more customs, manners and traditions have not faded and hospitality, chivalry and courtesy remain important. Handshaking is the customary form of greeting. Normal social courtesies should be observed when visiting someone’s home. If invited to a private home, a small gift is appreciated. Flowers are only sent for special celebrations. Conservative casual wear is widely acceptable. Some hotels and restaurants encourage men to wear jackets. A black tie is only necessary for very formal occasions and is usually specified if required. Outside resorts, scanty beachwear should be confined to beach or poolside. The evening meal is taken late, generally 2100-2200. The Spanish have two family names; in conversation only the first should be used. A law banning smoking in offices, shops, schools, hospitals, cultural centres and on public transport was introduced on 1 January 2006.

Spain: Food and local specialties

Eating out in Spain is often cheap and meals are substantial rather than gourmet. One of the best ways to sample Spanish food is to try tapas (snacks), which are served at any time of day in local bars.Read more These range from cheese and olives to squid or meat delicacies and are priced accordingly. Things to know: Restaurants and cafes have table service. Cocktail lounges have table and/or counter service. There are no licensing hours. The national specialties are: Seafood: cod vizcaina or cod pil-pil (Basque provinces), angulas, tasty baby eels (Aguinaga), shellfish and hake à la Gallega (Galicia), lobster Catalan (Catalonia), fresh anchovies (Andalucía). Paella based on meat or seafood (Eastern provinces). Butifarra sausage stewed with beans (Catalonia). Roast meats: lamb, beef, veal and suckling pig (Castile). Gazpacho, a delicious cold vegetable soup (Andalucía). Sherry (there are four main types: fino (very pale and very dry), amontillado (dry, richer in body and darker in colour), oloroso (medium, full-bodied, fragrant and golden) and dulce (sweet)). Wine: Rioja (Logroñ), Valdepeñas (midway between Madrid and Cordóba), Ampurdán, Chacolí (Basque Country) and Perelada (Catalonia), Cava (sparkling wine): Codorniú and Freixenet . Spanish brandy: Lanjarón, Vichy Catalan, Malavella and Font Vella.

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