Updated: February 20, 2023Published: January 13, 2023
Were you looking for a quick history review of Spain? I might not know the purpose of your search, but I am sure this article will come in handy.
Forty-five interesting facts are a lot! So, just imagine the amount of history that Spain hides in each corner of the country.
This article will help you have a basic knowledge of the history and culture of Spain for any time you need.
And, if you were looking for more chronological history facts, I will leave a link below to a free timeline!
1. The only European country with cities on African soil in Spain
Ceuta and Melilla are on the borders of the coasts of the Mediterranean Sea, sharing soil with the Moroccan border. There are only two European cities that are outside Europe. Ceuta is located to the right, and Melilla is close to the border with Argelia.
More than a thousands of African citizens try to get into Europe as refugees through the towns of Ceuta and Melilla.
2. Soccer: More than a century of rivalry (Real Madrid v.s. FC Barcelona)
Spain is very popular for having two of the best soccer teams: Real Madrid and Barcelona. These two teams have been competing for centuries to become the best team. Both have had some of the best players you can imagine in the world.
3. Spain has had some of the most important pioneers’ writers
Spain is highly known for its literature. For example, one of Spain’s oldest preserved epic poems is El Cantar del Mio Cid, to represent the reconquest of Spain from the Moors. Another pioneer is Miguel de Cervantes, whose two-volume Don Quijote de la Mancha series was translated into 140 languages.
4. In Spain, we don’t have the tooth Fairy; we have the Ratoncito Perez
You might be wondering what it is; instead of having a tooth fairy that takes your teeth when it falls when you are a kid, we have a mouse. In Madrid, you can even visit the Ratoncito Perez museum, an experience you will always remember (read more).
5. The most impressive dances originated in Spain
Dancing in Spain is very common; it’s an easy way to represent our culture and traditions. Some of the most famous dances are; Flamenco, Jota, Paso Doble, Muñeira… In these dances, you will see people with spectacular dresses, accessories, and instruments (read more).
6. The popular festive of La Tomatina
La Tomatina is the biggest tomato battle in the World, and it’s celebrated every year in August when people throw tons of tomatoes at each other. I recommend you wear a pair of goggles!
7. Religion Is related to cultural festivals in Spain
In Spain, it is traditional to celebrate “Día de Los Reyes Magos” (Three Wise Men) in honor of the gifts that were brought to Baby Jesus after his birth. Another celebration is Semana Santa, the Christian feast commemorating the last moments of Christ on Earth: passion, death, and resurrection (read more).
8. Religion Is related to cultural architecture in Spain
Religious origins dominate the architecture in Spain; there are over 90 cathedrals.
If you want to know more about Spain’s religion, check out this article:
It was not until the end of the 15th century, with the Catholic Monarchs and the discovery of America reached its maximum splendor with Philip II. At this moment, the Kingdom of Spain came to control territories on every continent (read more).
10. Madrid was not always the capital of Spain
Toledo, Valladolid, Seville, Cádiz, San Fernando, Valencia, Barcelona, Gerona Figueras, and Burgos were also capitals of Spain throughout wars such as the War of Independence and the Spanish Civil War.
11. There have been three kings under ten years old that have reigned.
These were: Carlos II, Alfonso XIII and Isabel II.
12. In Spain, you can speak many different dialects
Depending on your location in Spain, you will encounter different dialects. Some of them are Catalan (9.8 million speakers), Valencian (4.1 million speakers), and Galician (2.4 million speakers), among many others. Yet, 99% of Spaniards speak Spanish, but some with varying accents (to understand, it’s just like the difference between American English and British English).
If you are curious about Spanish or languages in Spain, this articles can help you with any information you might need:
13. Spain has the highest number of bars per inhabitant in the World.
The city with the highest number of bars in Spain is León.
14. One of its primary incomes comes from tourism
Spain is one of the most visited countries in the World, ranked number three, due to their exciting culture and traditions; the United States and France only surpass it.
15. The oldest restaurant in the World is located in Madrid.
The restaurant is called ‘The Botin’ and was founded in 1725. Technically is not the oldest, but it was the only one to remain operational EVERY day since its opening, even during the civil war.
16. The Spanish Flu was not from Spain
The Spanish Flu was a pandemic that emerged in 1918. But it didn’t originate in Spain as people think. It originated in China, France, and the United States. So why is it called the Spanish Flu? It was because Spain was the first country to say how many deaths there were. The other countries hid it because it manifested itself during the First World War.
17. It has the oldest active lighthouse in the World.
The Tower of Hercules in La Coruña was built in the 2nd century, and it is the oldest Roman lighthouse in the World and the only one still in operation.
18. Coffee tastes very strong in Spain
Coffee in Spain has a strong taste, and it’s difficult for a Spaniard to find a good coffee outside Spain that is not “agua chirri” (watery). But the truth is that commercial coffee brands roast the beans so much that the coffee has a burnt aftertaste. That is why any other beans with a lighter roast taste watery to Spanish. On top of that, some brands roast it with sugar (a crime in the coffee world!).
Madrid and Barcelona are constantly growing in the specialty coffee shops market, these are some of my favourites!
They like going out for beers, having an aperitif, and meeting up with friends, but all of this without setting a date and time and leaving everything to improvisation until the last minute.
20. Eating grapes on New Year’s Eve
On New Year’s, every Spanish person eats twelve grapes at midnight. It’s a tradition that dates back to 1909; due to an abundant harvest surplus. So, to use the grapes, it was said that people should eat twelve grapes with each stroke of the bell that rang at midnight on December 31, and the following year would be full of luck (read more).
21. There is a territory that changes nationality (French and Spanish) every six months
This territory is the Island of the Pheasants, and it changes nationality from Spanish to French every six months since the Treaty of the Pyrenees.
She was Eugénie de Montijo from Granada, who married the last French emperor, Napoleon III.
23. According to the Romans, Spain was where the World Ended!
The Romans believed that Finisterre was the place where the World ended. The word Finisterre represents in a way where the earth ends.
24. The best is in Spain
Camino de Santiago is the best-known pilgrimage route; the symbol of a scallop shell represents this pilgrimage. In the beginning, the shell was given to all pilgrims who had already visited the tomb of St. James Apostle and then headed back home.
25. Spain is the third country with the largest number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites
There are 49 UNESCO World Heritage Sites throughout Spain, starting with entire historical centers and finishing with some of the most spectacular bridges, buildings, and prehistoric rock art.
26. The first “novel” is attributed to a Spanish author
There are other authors and novels, but Don Quixote, written in 1605, was the World’s first “modern” novel. It was written by the Spanish author Miguel de Cervantes, the story of a man who has read too many tales of knights, romances, and chivalry.
27. The Spanish national anthem has no lyrics
Most national anthems are sung, but in Spain, they don’t sing anything; they listen to the melody of their national anthem. It used to have lyrics but no longer does. It’s called “Marcha Real” and is one of the oldest national anthems in the World, written in 1761.
28. After 140 years, the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona is not finished
The famous cathedral in Barcelona is probably the most visited work in the World, attracting 2.8 million visitors each year. It was designed by Antoni Gaudí, began its construction in 1882, and has been under construction for more than 140 years. It’s expected to be completed in 2026.
29. The capital city is in the center of the country
Madrid is in the middle of the country, which is rare for a capital city. More specifically, the Plaza Puerta del Sol in Madrid is the exact center of the country.
30. Moors legacy in Spain
The Moors controlled large parts of Spain from the 8th to the 15th century, what we used to call Al- Andalus. Even though it has been long since they were in control, you can see their influence in architecture, for example the Alhambra or the Great Mosque of Cordoba.
31. Buy a drink and enjoy complimentary “tapas.”
Spain is highly known for its appetizers! If you order a drink in a bar, you will also get a small dish known as tapas or pintxos in the north.
32. The national dish of Spain is Paella
Paella is the national dish of Spain. The dish originated in the region of Valencia. The traditional recipe has rice, saffron, chicken, rabbit, and shellfish. You might have seen this in other countries, but the real one is in Spain.
33. There Is A Town In Spain Where 700 People Have The Surname “Japón”
This is a fascinating fact that even I didn’t know about! In a little town called Coria del Rio, close to Seville, there are around 700 inhabitants who are descended from Hasekura Tsunenaga. He was a 17th-century samurai who stopped there during a diplomatic journey.
34. Spain doubles the amount of oil that Italy produces (around 44%)
Most of the world’s olive oil is produced by Spain, and even though olive oil is usually associated with Italy, Spain makes more.
35. Spain is the second-largest producer of wine in the world!
Spain makes a lot of wine, with almost one million hectares of vineyards. Spain ranks number one in the world with the most farmland planted with vines, including upcoming China, which has grown wine production rapidly in the last few years.
36. The art world wouldn’t be the same without Spanish painters
The most significant painters in the world, like Velázquez, Goya, Sorolla have created a before and after in Spanish art history. Specially artists like Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dalí who were great contributors of modern art, Cubism and Surrealism respectively.
According to some sources, Cadiz was founded around the time of the Trojan War’s end, around the 13th and 12th centuries BC.
38. The famous siesta
I can assure you that a good siesta is one of the best things in the World. They are so great that they have become part of Spanish culture. People like to take a nap after lunch to start the rest of the day with strength and motivation (read more).
But don’t take my word for it. Listen to Spaniards asking the question… “How much “Siesta” do you sleep?
39. The richest man in Spain is Amancio Ortega
I’m sure you have bought in ZARA or Pull & Bear. Amancio is the owner of INDITEX. He is also the sixth richest man in the world, with a fortune of around 70,000 million euros.
40. The most expensive restaurant in the world is in Spain.
The restaurant is called “El Sublimotion,” and it’s in Ibiza. The dinner cost in this restaurant can rise to 1700 euros per person.
41. Spanish inventions have marked a before and after in the history
Some famous Spanish inventions are the stapler, the radio, the lollipop, and the table soccer (read more).
42. Spain is the second biggest country in the European Union
Spain has almost 47 million inhabitants. Most of them live in urban residential areas. In the largest cities, Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia, and Seville, there are thousands of residents and sometimes several million. With this, Spain is already ahead in terms of population compared to many other European countries (read more).
43. Every Spaniard has two surnames in Spanish culture.
You’ll receive the first surname from your father and the second from your mother. Usually, when we use it in everyday life, we only use one surname (usually the first one).
44. Spain Hosts the world’s Oldest Fiesta
The Romeria de Nuestra Señora de la Cabeza in the Sierra Morena has been going on for more than 800 years. The sanctuary of the Virgin is found on the highest mountain of the Sierras. Pilgrims go to the sanctuary to sing and dance in front of it during the annual festivities.
45. Spain Hosts an Annual Lottery with the Biggest Payout in the world
El Gordo is the Spanish Christmas Lottery with the world’s largest total payout. Winners receive a whopping €2,240,000,000 (read more).
Here is what I promised! The free timeline on Spanish history:
Inigo Navarro is a seasoned travel writer with a deep understanding of Spain's cities, culture, people and language. Born and raised in Spain, he has spent years exploring the country and is currently one of the most-read Travel Bloggers about Spain. Inigo is also an experienced digital marketer, a father to 4 beautiful children and a huge Real Madrid Fan. ¡Hala Madrid!