Spain travel guide

Where to go, what to see: your Spain travel guide

Why visit Spain?

Spain is a country with breathtaking seascapes and landscapes, picturesque villages and towns, hilltop castles, Moorish palaces, and historic cities. Typical Spanish scenery includes mountains, vast plains, vineyards, and groves of citrus, almond, and olive trees. With a territory of 195,000 square miles, Spain is only slightly smaller than its northern neighbour, France, but has almost 20 million less inhabitants. Architecture from throughout the centuries is represented—from Gehry’s futuristic Guggenheim Museum in the north to the dramatic Moorish Alhambra palace (a carefully preserved heritage from the Phoenicians, Romans, and Moors) in the south.

The wealth of Spanish culture conjures up Cervantes’ 16th-century book Don Quixote and the internationally renowned operatic voices of Placido Domingo, Jose Carreras, and Montserrat Caballé — not to mention the popular Iglesias family. Famous artists Velasquez, Goya, Picasso, and Dalí all hailed from Spain, and their works can be admired in the country’s magnificent museums. But the real essence of Spain is captured in the unique and passionate combination of voice and dance that is Flamenco, an experience not to be missed.

Weather and climate in Spain

When is the best time to visit Spain?

Spain’s coastal regions experience hot, dry summers and mild, rainy winters. If you go inland or northward, however, expect some cooler temperatures. As you travel in this region, be sure to pack a comfortable raincoat in your tote and bring a light jacket in spring and autumn. Winter conditions require lots of layers and a heavier coat.

To help you plan, below are average low and high temperatures for Spain.

 

 

 

 

 Madrid

 Seville

 Córdoba

 January

 0/11°C 

 6/16°C 

 4/15°C 

 February

 2/12°C

 7/17°C 

 5/16°C 

 March

 3/16°C 

 8/21°C 

 7/20°C 

 April

 6/17°C 

 10/22°C 

 9/22°C 

 May

 9/22°C 

 13/26°C 

 12/26°C 

 June

 13/28°C

 17/31°C 

 16/32°C 

 July

 16/32°C

 19/35°C 

 18/36°C 

 August

 16/32°C 

 19/35°C 

 19/36°C

 September

 13/28°C

 18/32°C 

 17/33°C 

 October

 8/20°C

 13/26°C 

 12/25°C 

 November

 4/14°C 

 9/21°C 

 8/19°C 

 December

 2/11°C

 7/17°C 

 6/15°C

 


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Italy food and fun facts

Food specialities of Italy

Italian food varies greatly from region to region. In the north, flat, ribbon-shaped pastas with cream sauces are most popular; in the south, the favourite pasta is macaroni served with tomato-based sauces. The most popular meats are veal and pork.

In larger bars and cafés, and at “autogrills,” you normally decide what you would like, then stand in line to pay before taking your ticket to the barman to order. You can eat your meal/snack standing at the bar, or at tables. Alternatively, there is a sit-down table service, which incurs a service charge.

Italian food you know and love from back home may differ quite surprisingly from the local reality and the ‘typical’ Italian fare you may have in mind. You may be surprised that, contrary to expectations, the warm, effusive service you receive in restaurants in other parts of the world is not necessarily the norm.

The following budget guidelines are just approximate values or starting values for meals and are per person. Actual prices will vary widely by restaurant and city within a country but below are some averages as provided by our experienced personnel.

  • The approximate cost of a soft drink/mineral water/coffee is €3-5.
  • An average lunch consisting of a salad or sandwich and a soda or water starts at approximately €15.
  • Dinner at a mid-range restaurant with dessert and a non-alcoholic beverage starts at approximately €30-40 (seafood will be slightly more expensive). Please note that soft drinks and mineral water are often as expensive, if not more expensive than wine or beer.

Fun facts

  • Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare's most popular play, was set in the backdrop of Verona, Italy.
  • The viol, violin, cello, piano, mechanical clock, barometer, thermometer, optical glasses, and telephone were invented by Italians.
  • Bubonic Plague killed one-third of the Italian population in the 14th century.
  • No other country is so immediately recognizable on a map; a high-heeled boot and the Sicilian triangular ‘ball’ form a unique silhouette.

Things to consider before visiting Italy

How to call Italy: Country code

The country code for Italy is 39. When calling to Italy from overseas, dial your international access code (+44 from the UK), followed by the country code, area code, and phone number. Phone numbers in Italy are eight digits in length.

Italy’s currency

The official currency of Italy is the Euro. Bank opening hours in Italy are weekdays 8.30am to 1.15/30pm, then 3/3.30pm to 4/4.30pm.

Keep receipts until you have left restaurants or bars, as occasionally there are spot tax checks on owners. Credit cards are accepted in the larger Italian cities (mostly Visa and MasterCard), and you should have no problems using them in shops and restaurants. However, smaller shops, especially those in rural locations, may ask you to pay in cash or have a minimum amount required to use a credit card.

Shopping in Italy

Shopping possibilities are endless with magnificent craftwork and designer goods plentifully available. Lemon-flavoured products such as limoncello are popular specialties in Sorrento and Naples. Watch out for counterfeit branded goods: anyone caught purchasing counterfeit items such as CDs/DVDs, bags, wallets, watches or sunglasses risks a substantial fine (equivalent to thousands of pounds) and plain-clothes policemen circulate in crowds. 

When and how much to tip in Italy

Where restaurant service charges are already included, round up the bill by a few Euros to show appreciation; otherwise 10% is a reasonable amount. In most Italian restaurants there is also a per person cover charge, which will be added to your bill. 

  • Taxi fares are usually rounded up to the nearest €1/2.
  • Tip hotel staff €1 for room service.
  • A few small denomination Euro coins will be needed for public toilets.
  • In Venice, a tip to water taxi staff is customary.

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