With a fascinating culture and rich history, Spain is undoubtedly among the world’s most visited countries. There’s more to it than Spanish language, churros, flamenco, or the ever-famous paella. Facts about Spain are helpful for those who want to discover more about the Spanish culture, history, and the locals’ way of living.
While the country is known for a number of heritage sites, excellent locally made wines, and medieval fortresses, Spain is a whole lot more. It is home to a number of world-record things and is one of the most powerful countries who participated in the world wars. Surprising facts about Spain will leave travelers in awe, especially those who are fond of the Spanish culture.
Let us also not forget that Spain has a diverse culture, with co-official languages throughout the country. Each region also has its own history, drawing tourists from around the globe.
Learn the top 10 interesting facts about Spain’s history, culture, industries, world-records, and more.
Top 10 Interesting Facts About Spain
1. Second largest mountainous country in Europe
Tailing in Switzerland, Spain is Europe’s second-largest mountainous country in Europe. The country comprises mountain ranges, from northern to southern regions. Besides the Pyrenees, there are lush, rolling hills like the Sierra Nevada, Sistema Central, Picos de Europa, Ibérico, and others.
Even buzzing cities are surrounded by hills and mountain ranges, which makes Spain a beautiful green country. In fact, rural towns and villages boast of wonderful, natural scenery, protected by the local government.
Some of the beautiful nature parks can be seen in Spain, including Ruta del Cares, Sierra de Guadarrama, Vías Verdes, and Las Cañadas del Teide National Park. These are great hiking destinations that attract adventure-seekers.
2. Spanish is World’s Second Most Spoken Mother Tongue
There are different co-official languages in Spain, including the Spanish language. Others are spoken in different regions, like Galician, Aranese, Basque, and Catalan. However, Spanish is mostly used by modern-day Spanish people, especially in the buzzing cities of Madrid and Barcelona.
Other amazing facts about Spain include the Spanish language is the second-most spoken mother tongue in the world, next to Chinese and English. More than 406 million people speak Spanish, not only those living in Spain, but also individuals in the Americas, Europe, Africa, and Asia.
3. A Child Receives Two Surnames from Parents
Some customs in Spain may appear strange to others. This adds to the excitement for learning new things about the country and its people.
Traditionally, Spanish children take the two last names from their father and mother. This is why the names are usually longer. The two are then combined to make their own surname. Therefore, names are usually Jose Gonzalez Lopez or Lucia Sanchez Garcia.
However, a 1999 law made it clear that the father’s name would come first in the ordering of the child’s surnames. Twelve years later, a new law was passed, allowing each child to choose the order of their names upon turning 18 years old.
4. More than 1 million Hectares Dedicated to Wines
There’s definitely no shortage of wine because there are hundreds of vineyards in Spain. In number, there are millions of land hectares dedicated solely for cultivating red and white wines, and Cava, the equivalent of Champagne.
The wine culture in Spain spreads all over the Iberian Peninsula, because of the vast landscapes great for cultivating specialty grapes. Facts about Spain culture include the influence of the Romans in teaching new winemaking methods and styles.
The brand Rioja comes from Spain, specifically in the La Rioja region, where wine tours are common. Each vineyard has thousands of hectares of land for producing the best grapes for winemaking. Ribera del Duero wines also originated from the country, which is made from high-quality Tempranillo grapes.
5. World’s Oldest Restaurant is in Madrid
The recipient for the Guinness World Record for the oldest operating restaurant in the world is El Sobrino de Botín, a restaurant in Madrid. This eatery opened to the public in 1725 as Casa Botín, where regular customers like Ernest Hemingway once dined. The restaurant holds a rich history in Spanish cuisine, serving authentic dishes and tapas.
According to rumors, Spanish painter Francisco de Goya was once employed in Sobrino de Botín as a waiter. To date, this restaurant is a tourist magnet, serving both locals and foreign nationals. It remains its original building with the same interior from the 18th century, which makes dining experience one-of-a-kind.
6. Biggest Producer of Olive Oil
Another interesting fact about Spain’s food is, the country is the largest producer of olive oil in the world. It is producing approximately 44 percent of the total amount of olive oil in the world, with 6 million tonnes of oil yearly. The Andalucia region produces the highest tonnes of oil yearly.
For centuries, olive oil plays a key role in the Mediterranean diet, providing a ton of health benefits. Unlike regular oils, the olive variety is healthier and contains strong anti-inflammatory properties. Because of its proven health benefits, the use of olive oil expanded to the whole European Union, the Americas, Asia, Africa, and others.
7. The First Modern Novel is Spanish
After the bible, the first ‘modern’ book translated into more languages is Miguel de Cervantes’ Don Quixote, which was written in 1605. Simply known as Cervantes, he wrote Spanish plays, poems, and novels in the early 16th century. Because of his literary contribution, his hometown in Alcala de Henares, Spain, celebrates his birth annually.
Don Quixote was the most influential literary piece that became the foundation of Western literature. Many authors considered Cervantes’ work as the best literary work ever written. The first part of the novel was published in 1605, and the second part was published ten years later.
8. Has 44 UNESCO World Heritage Sites
Spain is home to more than 44 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including the Gaudí buildings like Sagrada Familia, hilltop fortress Alhambra, medieval towns in Santiago de Compostela, cave paintings, and Roman ruins. These sites are recognized for their historical, scientific, and cultural significance.
When UNESCO declared heritage sites, these were protected from being demolished and ultimately destroyed. Besides Spain, countries like Italy and China have more heritage sites existing up to date.
According to reports, there are still 33 sites under the UNESCO tentative list, which make Spain a cultural destination. The number of protected landmarks were a result of different civilizations in history, from Celts, Iberians, Greeks, down to Moors.
9. The Spanish King Does Not Live in the Royal Palace in Madrid
Unlike the British Royal Family, who reside at Buckingham Palace, the Royal Family of Spain has lived in a petite Palace of Zarzuela since 1962. The tourist spot Royal Palace in Madrid or Palacio Real remains as the official royal residence, but they don’t live here.
The royal family has been receiving guests at the Zarzuela estate, situated on the outskirts of the city. All the ceremonial events and official meetings were held in this modest mansion, with the current reign of King Felipe VI.
The Royal Palace of Madrid exhibits the royal family’s art galleries, the luxurious rooms of about 3,418, the remnants of the past royal family members, and other attractions. Tourists are allowed to see some of the rooms and other parts of the palace, which are open for public viewing.
10. 586 Blue-Flag Beaches
Spain is one of the famous summer destinations in Europe, boasting around 586 blue-flag beaches scattered across the country. The Blue-Flag status is only given to beaches that surpass the standards of water quality, safety, and environmental management.
In total, the country has about 3,000 miles of coastline, which comprises the stunning beaches. These are located on the Mediterranean coast, rummaging from Catalunya, Andalucia, to the Balearic Islands.
Meanwhile, notable facts about Spain include a huge number of beautiful, colder waters of Galicia beaches, Canary Islands, and the other half of Andalucia.