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Spain's Best

Simple...a series of lists declaring Spain's "best" in anything and everything...they may be lists compiled by independent reviewers or by myself....whichever, I hope you find them useful :-)

Historical Restaurants in Spain
Friday, September 16, 2022

In Spain, there are as many as 120 hundred-year-old restaurants. The term is used to define what used to be called "casas de comidas" (meal houses), although the name was created in France in the second half of the 18th century. "Restaurants" constituted another sort of eating establishment, a new one if we define them as places where one can order a meal from a range of choices at a range of times and eat it on the premises.

About 1765, people rounding the corner of the Rue Bailleul and the Rue des Poulies, just a few blocks east of the Café de la Régence, passed by the innovator’s sign: “Boulanger débite des restaurants divins” (Boulanger sells divine restaurants). Boulanger was originally a soup vendor and certain soups were known as restaurants—literally, “restoratives.” The Encyclopédie defined restaurant as “a medical term; it is a remedy whose purpose is to give strength and vigour.” Thanks to Boulanger and his imitators, these soups moved from the category of remedy into the category of health food and ultimately into the category of ordinary food...Almost forgotten in the spread of restaurants was the fact that their existence was predicated on health, not gustatory, requirements. None the less I can assure you these restaurants found around Spain were certainly founded on gustatory requirements and still do to this very day serve some of the finest food in the country. Here are 10 of the oldest and best restaurants in Spain in no particular order:

 


1. Botín (C/ Cuchilleros, 17. Madrid) - 1725

In 1989 the Guinness Book of Records classified it as the oldest restaurant in the world. This establishment in Madrid is the genuine birthplace of suckling pig and lamb, which they continue to roast with holm oak wood in the oven that was used on the date the premises were founded, in 1725. The restaurant was founded by the Frenchman, Jean Botín, and then handed down to his nephews. Since 1930, it has been run by the González Martín family. It achieved the world record as it has been the only restaurant so far that can certify how long it has been a "restaurant" - as we understand it today. Others may have started out as taverns or shops that sold food and later transformed into restaurants.


2. Lhardy (Carrera de San Jerónimo, 8. Madrid) - 1839

Thanks to Lhardy, founded in 1839 by Emilio Lhardy, gastronomic modernity arrived in Madrid. In a building near the Puerta del Sol, the restaurant is divided into three floors and 6 dining rooms. It is said that Isabel II used to meet her lovers in one of them, the Japanese room. Eating in Lhardy is like travelling back in time, everything is just the same as it was when the establishment first opened.


3. Casa Gerardo (Carretera AS-19, km 8.5. Prendes) - 1882

It opened its doors in 1882 and today it is managed by the fourth and fifth generations of chefs. Pedro and Marcós Morán, father and son, are specialists for including Asturias in their dishes. Their most well-known creations are the fabada desgrasada (fat-free bean stew with Spanish sausage) and merluza a la sidra (hake with cider). Their menu also includes room for innovation, and this is reflected in the traditional and new dishes.


4. Casa Duque (Calle Cervantes, 12. Segovia) - 1895

The first meal house in Segovia belongs today to Marisa Duque, the fourth generation of restaurateurs. Keeping to the traditional essence, the typical Segovian menu always features large French beans, Castilian soup and suckling pig. For starters, there is nothing better than some juicy slices of bacon


5. Hotel Santa Catalina (C/ León y Castillo, 227. Las Palmas de Gran Canaria) - 1890

The restaurant that is now managed by José Rojano belongs to the hotel that was initially planned for the English who, looking to make their fortune, used to stopover in the Canary Islands on their way to America. Now the menu has been renewed and, as a consequence of the chef's birthplace, includes creations from the Islands as well as the Basque Country.


6.  7 Portes (Passeig Isabel II, 14. Barcelona) - 1836

Josep Xifré i Cases was a powerful Catalan businessman in the first half of the XIX century; the richest Catalan at the time. He built the so-called Xifre houses in the Isabel II Promenade in Barcelona and took a hand in the design himself, as he wanted to create buildings with porches similar to those in the Rue Rivoli and the central squares of Paris.

He made his home and office in the new building and decided to place a luxurious café on the site as well. The café had seven doors through which the public could enter, and an eighth entrance for staff and goods.

Nowadays the restaurant is famous for its rice dishes. Politicians and intellectuals have sat at its tables since 1836, but when the restaurant was taken over by the Parellada family, who continue to run it today, it became a meeting point for expert gourmets. 


7. Arzak (Avenida del Alcalde José Elosegi, 273. Donostia) - 1897

Not everyone knows that Arzak is a hundred years old. It was Juan Mari's grandparents who decided to open a business in Alza (today part of Donostia) which the locals used to call the “highest of vinegars”, because of the quality of the wines served in the restaurant. His mother took a step forward with her baby cuttlefish in their ink or hake in parsley and wine sauce, her son followed in her wake, representing a benchmark in New Basque Cuisine, and now her granddaughter, Elena. 


8. Echaurren (C/ del Padre José García, 19. Ezcaray) - 1698

In 1898, Pedro Garcia and Andrea Echaurren decided to remodel their old coach house that served as a refuelling stop for carriages. The imminent arrival of the railroad forced to anticipate the future, to refocus its business and where previously housed the stables and carriages, they decide to install a dining hall taking advantage of the culinary virtues of his wife, Aunt Andrea. It started with them, this proud culinary tradition and hospitality that has endured for five generations. 

 

9. Antigua Taberna Las Escobas de Sevilla - 1386

Opposite the Cathedral of Seville, in the heart of the Andalusian capital, as Escobas is a living testimony of the history of Seville. There are writings that rate it as the oldest tavern in Spain, founded in 1386, when it was also grocery shop, where wine was sold and brooms were made and hung from the ceiling.


10. Cal Xarina (Collsuspina - Barcelona) 1550

The restaurant Can Xarina of Collsuspina (Barcelona) is a handsome Gothic-Renaissance mansion where you can taste the best flavours of the traditional Catalan cuisine. The restaurant Can Xarina prioritizes local and seasonal produce, so the ingredients are always fresh and high quality (mushrooms, tomatoes, beans, peas, artichokes, etc.). Some of his most characteristic dishes are baked shoulder of lamb, oxtail stew in the pot or preparations with hake and monkfish.

 

Other Centenary Restaurants in Spain:

Hotel Lleida, Graus, Huesca (1867)
Miramar, Alcúdia, Mallorca (1871)
Mesón de Borleña, Borleña de Toranzo, Cantabria (1834)
Las Cabañas, Peñaranda de Bracamonete, Salamanca (1885)
Venta de Aires, Toledo (1891)
Fonda Europa, Granollers, Barcelona (1771)
Gaig, Barcelona (1869)
Hostal Jaumet, Torà, Lleida (1890)
Hotel Durán, Figueres, Girona (1855)
Hostal Coca, Torredembarra, Tarragona (1820)
Paz Nogueira, Santiago de Compostela, A Coruña (1838)
Café Gijón, Madrid (1888)
El Vinagrero, La Unión, Murcia (1910)
Café Roch, Pamplona, Navarra (1898)
Casa Montaña, Valencia (1836)



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Spain's Biggest Swimming Pool?
Thursday, August 25, 2022

 

“From space, you can see the Great Wall of China, the Himalayas and also the Orcera pool”, says the lyrics of the song that the singer Zahara dedicated to the great Amurjo pool, in Orcera (Jaén), a huge backwater in which they fit four million litres of water, surrounded by pine trees and embedded in an idyllic natural setting. 

Zahara Gordillo composed the song with the complicity of humorist David Broncano. The two met as children at the Orcera school —both their mothers were teachers there— and, years later, their paths crossed again to shout from the rooftops the benefits of what is already the most famous swimming pool in Spain and, in the absence of scientific verification, it may also be the largest. In addition, it is a pioneer in having a summer cinema where viewers enjoy the film lying on boats on this immense inland sea.

"I challenge everyone to come and take a long swim, it's amazing," says José Luis Endrino proudly, a young man from Orcero who goes almost daily to bathe in this large pond whose official measurements are 85 meters long by 30 wide. The operators take almost three days to fill it. Its capacity is for 1,200 people (just under the 1,700 inhabitants of this small municipality in the Sierra de Segura in Jaén), a figure that has meant that restrictions did not even have to be applied in the first two summers of the pandemic.

But this magical place has not always been like this. Until 1987 it was an area where the water from the Amurjo River was dammed. Subsequently, an agreement was signed with the Institute for the Conservation of Nature (ICONA) to divert the course of the river and turn this continental bathing area into a "blessed swimming pool", as is sung in the song by Zahara.


In some way, this inland ocean that represents the Amurjo pool serves as a metaphor for the greatness that this area once had, converted into a large reserve of the Spanish Navy. In Orcera, the Segura Common Ordinances were signed in 1580, a legal reference framework for almost 200 years until, in 1748, Fernando VI declared the so-called Segura Maritime Province (which included territories of Jaén, Albacete, Murcia and Ciudad Real). for the management of forest resources that were mainly used for shipbuilding. “Amurjo is something very special due to the connection with this space every summer. We speak of Amurjo with pride as one of the elements that identify us”, says Sergio Rodríguez, historian and official chronicler of Orcera.

 


"A pool like this, in the middle of such a beautiful natural setting, is a real luxury," remarks Clara Herreros, who goes daily with her two children to this "privileged place." This user highlights the accessibility and adaptability of Amurjo and the wide leisure-cultural offering that is generated around it. From the Summer School to the Multisport Campus, passing through the lifeguard courses, everything has its epicentre in this natural area, which since this summer is also the starting point for a tourist train. "It is clear that it is the flagship of tourism in the entire region, but at the same time it becomes an important source of local employment," says Sonia Romero, the councillor responsible for managing Amurjo. In addition to the dozen direct jobs created, the City Council has opened a job bank for young people looking for their first job, where they offer 15-day contracts for the maintenance tasks of this large pool that, as Zahara sings, seems to be “the bathtub of the gods”.

 

  

 

Finally one of the main attractions of this great aquatic complex is its peculiar summer cinema. The stage is set up in the water and viewers can watch the movies from the pool steps or by renting a boat to watch from the water. The films are usually related to the aquatic world and during the projection the lighting of the pool is played with, which changes colour offering spectacular effects.

 

 



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12 Stunning Landscapes in Spain
Saturday, July 23, 2022

From mountian lakes to deserts and beaches, natural scenery which is certain to captivate any visitor can be found all over the country, Spain has it all. Few countries offer such a variety of breathtaking landscapes.

Discover my top 12…..(I couldn’t cut it down to 10!)

 

1.Garajonay National Park (La Gomera, Canary Islands) 

Thanks to its geographic location and subtropical climate, the center of La Gomera island preserves an extraordinary jungle site, featuring an abundance of protected species. The forest at Garajonay National Park presents visitors with an image of the earth as it was 60 million years ago.

 

2. Sakoneta Beach (Basque Country) 

An hour's drive from San Sebastián, land and sea intertwine on the lovely Sakoneta beach, which shines with its greatest splendor at low tide. Erosion has carved continuous, vertical patterns into the cliff walls, known to geologists as flysch, and it makes the rocks especially scenic.

 

3. Ordesa Valley (Aragon) 

At the heart of Ordesa y Monte Perdido National Park, through the wide array of climates brought by the deep valleys and the high mountains, a large inventory of species abound. The result is a site with an incredible diversity of living organisms. Eagles thrive, as do marmots, and pine trees grow beside oaks in the forests.

 

4. Bardenas Reales (Navarre) 

These miniature, desert-like badlands in northern Spain are unique due to their location in a region that is much better known for its wet and green landscapes. Erosion from wind and rainfall have carved out surfaces that are commonly referred to as “elephant hides.”

 

5. Aigüestortes i Estany de Sant Maurici National Park (Catalonia) 

Located in the central Pyrenees, the Aigüestortes i Estany de Sant Maurici National Park stands out for its huge mountains towering more than 3,000 meters above sea level. The eastern part of the park is especially stunning, as the reflection of the mountains can be seen on the water. The installation of ramps in certain areas also means that people with limited mobility can also enjoy the beauty.

 

6. Lakes of Covadonga (Asturias) 

The Lakes of Covadonga are situated 1,000 meters up in the Picos de Europa mountains. Around them, herds of horses, cows and goats graze at their leisure in a calm and tranquil environment. Visitors are also encouraged to take advantage of the surrounding hiking trails – no hiking or climbing experience is required to embark on them.

 

7. Cabo de Gata (Andalusia) 

Cabo de Gata Natural Park is a volcanic complex that also features traces of human activity in the area ranging castles to 19th century mining villages and 20th century flour mills. As beautiful as the land is the sea that lines its coast, perfect for swimming and sailing.

 

8. Las Médulas (Castilla y León) 

The Romans scavenged these hills of León for gold and ended up creating the largest open pit mine in the history of their empire. What remains is a striking contrast or red sand against the green forest. Visitors can walk inside the holes bored by the Romans or view them in their entirety from the Orellán observation deck. It’s been a World Heritage Site since 1977.

 

9. Garrotxa volcanoes (Catalonia) 

The La Garrotxa Volcanic Zone Natural Park features almost 40 different volcanoes. Despite the landscape being formed by volcanic activity, the area’s rainy climate has resulted in the long dormant volcanoes being covered in vegetation.

 

10. Naranjo de Bulnes (Asturias) 

The peak of the mountain Urrielu, or Naranjo de Bulnes, is more than 2,500 meters above sea level. Although it’s not the tallest mountain in the Picos de Europa range to which it belongs, its vertical walls make it perfect for climbers.

 

11. Teide (Tenerife, Canary Islands) 

175,000 years ago, lava emerged from the Earth, giving shape to the Teide volcano, which is also Spain’s tallest mountain. Still active, it’s the third tallest volcanic formation in the world, rising 7,500 meters from the ocean floor. Because of its height above sea level (3,718 metres), it regularly snows at the peak, providing, in a single image, a beautiful contrast between winter wonderland at its summit and arid desert at its base.

 

12. Playa de Catedrales (Galicia) 

On the coast of northern Spain near the Galician town of Ribadeo, waves crash against a series of arches that resemble a great cathedral. In fact, the proper name of this beach is Praia de Augas Santas (“Holy Waters” in Galician). It’s advisable to visit during low tide to admire the sand from the caves and the arches.



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The Best Campsites in Spain
Friday, July 8, 2022

With the return to nature that tourism is experiencing, the campsites have experienced a small rebirth. Now they are as cool as ever. There are also those that offer innovative tree houses, waterfront cabins and even luxury safari tents.

It is becoming increasingly difficult to choose, but the Best Campsite in Spain awards make it a little easier. These awards given by the Spanish Campsite Federation (FEEC) are granted to certain establishments taking into account both their characteristics and the evaluation of the campers themselves.

The winners reveal spectacular landscapes and luxurious facilities, both aimed at the whole family and focused on enjoying peace and silence. Here they are the main prize winners:

 

1. BEST MOUNTAIN CAMPSITE: PINETA (BIELSA, HUESCA)

https://campingpineta.com/

The location of this campsite is truly spectacular. It sits at the entrance to the extraordinary Ordesa y Monte Perdido National Park, in the Pineta Valley.

It is surrounded by majestic mountains, pine, beech and fir forests and next to the source of the River Cinca and is located in the spot where the majority of walking routes in the area begin. It has bungalows, double rooms and plots for rent.

 

2. BEST BEACH CAMPSITE: PINAR SAN JOSÉ (ZAHORA, CÁDIZ)

https://www.campingpinarsanjose.com/

In the beautiful Natural Park of La Breña y Marismas de Barbate, a large dune populated by pines, wild olive trees and mastic trees and located next to magnificent cliffs, is the Pinar San José. There, time is spent surfing or hiking, riding bicycles, spotting dolphins or strolling under the sun on mythical beaches like those of Bolonia.

Nearby are some popular towns like Vejer and Conil. The facilities also cater for sports, a children's club, swimming pools and a dog area.

 

3. BEST FAMILY CAMPSITE: RIBADESELLA (RIBADESELLA, ASTURIAS)

https://camping-ribadesella.es/

Spa, gym, playgrounds, entertainment activities for children, miniature golf, sports courts, outdoor and heated swimming pools ... The Ribadesella campsite is certainly an Eden for the whole family, located just one kilometre from the beach.

In fact, the little ones will dream of sleeping in their safari tent in the glamping area, although the enclosure also has bungalows and a camping area. It is, of course, a destination to remember only when the sun rises, since it only opens from the end of April to the end of September.


4. BEST CAMPSITE OPEN ALL YEAR ROUND: MOLINO DE CABUÉRNIGA (CABUÉRNIGA, CANTABRIA)

https://www.campingcabuerniga.com/

This family business, which pampers every aspect of its accommodation, prides itself on the beauty of its protected natural environment, the Cabuérniga Valley. Its greatest asset is its tranquillity.

Open since 1991 and named Best European campsite open all year round in 2017, Cabuérniga offers pitches, as well as cabins and apartments with a rural air, lined with stone from the area.


5. MOST ORIGINAL ACCOMMODATION CAMPSITE:  SON BOU (ALAIOR, MENORCA)

https://www.campingsonbou.com/es/inicio

70,000 square meters of pine forests and large green areas and the most charming architecture based on wooden chalets make up this beautiful Mallorcan campsite with a swimming pool, restaurant, sports courts, mini-club and children's playground.

Nearby, the Son Bou beach, the Cavalleria lighthouse and the Sanitja port are wonderful excursions for the whole family.


6. SPECIAL MENTION: CAMPSITE BAYONA PLAYA (BAIONA, PONTEVEDRA)

https://www.campingbayona.com/

The wonderful renovation carried out at this campsite, which now has a series of modern glazed bungalows with a terrace practically on the seashore, has earned it a special mention from the FEEC. They also have a glamping area made up of two-level raised wooden tents with a dining room, storage area and bedroom, as well as traditional pitches.

The accommodation offer is complemented with all kinds of attractions for children -animation, trampolines, zip line, water slides ... as well as a privileged environment, formed by wide beaches and very close to the interesting old town of Baiona.



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Discover Madrid's Artistic Treasures on Foot
Friday, July 1, 2022

Many people visit Madrid and are unaware of how rich in culture one particular area of the city is. This area, known in English as the 'Art Walk' or ‘Paseo del Arte’ in Spanish, boasts art and beauty as you’ll see nowhere else in the world. Along a stretch of just over one kilometre, you’ll find the Prado Museum, the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum and the Reina Sofía Museum, as well as a number of other institutions and buildings which are well worth visiting. Few places on the planet offer such as variety of art and culture in such a small place. Here are the top 10 places to visit on Madrid's Art Walk

 

1. Prado Museum

Paseo del Prado, s/n

The Prado Museum is the crown jewel of one of the capital’s most visited tourist itineraries: the Paseo del Arte (Art Walk). Its walls are lined with masterpieces from the Spanish, Italian and Flemish schools, including Velázquez’ Las Meninas and Goya’s Third of May, 1808. Its collection comprises 8,600 paintings and over 700 sculptures, so we recommend you decide what you want to see before stepping into the museum.

 


2.Thyssen-Bornemisza Museu
Paseo del Prado, 8

Located on the Art Walk, this museum’s collection traces the history of European painting from the Middle Ages through to the late 20th century.
Given the wealth and variety of its treasures, comprising more than a thousand works of art, you should start your visit in the section that most interests you. Italian primitives, the German Renaissance, 19th century American art, Impressionism, German Expressionism and Russian Constructivism are the most widely represented schools and movements in the museum.  

 

 

3.Reina Sofia Museum
Calle Santa Isabel, 52

Located on the Art Walk, the Reina Sofía houses works by Dalí, Miró and Juan Gris as well as Picasso’s masterpiece: Guernica.
This passionate journey along the history of Spanish contemporary art is divided into three collections: ‘The Irruption of the 20th Century. Utopia and Conflict (1900-1945)’; ‘Is the War Over? Art in a Divided World (1945-1968)’ and ‘From Revolt to Postmodernity (1962-1982)’. The star piece of the museum is Guernica, one of Picasso’s most famous paintings. Exhibited by the Republican Government at the International Exhibition in Paris in 1937, this mural depicts the pain suffered by the victims of the bombing of the Spanish city of Guernica on 27 April, 1937.

 


4.National Archaeological Museum
Calle Serrano, 13

The National Archaeological Museum (MAN), which houses one of the world's most important antique collections, has just reopened after a comprehensive remodelling process that lasted for six years. Comprising implements and works of art from Mediterranean cultures, its exhibits span from prehistory to the 19th century.

 

 

5.Casa de América
Plaza de la Cibeles, 2

Casa de América is one of the most active cultural institutions of our city. With a view to fostering contact between the Latin-American peoples and Spain, it organises all kinds of cultural activities (exhibitions, lectures, film and literary cycles, etc.).
Its premises, the Palacio de Linares in the Art Walk, are a real jewel which must be visited. The limestone building, with its clean lines, the work of Carlos Colubí, Adolf Ombrecht and Manuel Aníbal Álvarez, houses an interior rich in furniture, lamps and bronzes from Paris, crystal from Antwerp, carpets from the Royal Tapestry Factory and a choice collection of paintings by artists of the stature of Francisco Pradilla, Manuel Domínguez and Alejandro Ferrant.

 


 

6.Naval Museum
Paseo Prado, 5

The origin of the Naval Museum goes back to September 28th 1792, thanks to an initiative of Antonio de Valdés y Fernández Bazán, Navy Secretary of King Carlos IV. After multiple vicissitudes, the current Museum reopened in October 1932 in the current location of the old Navy Ministry, currently the Spanish Army Headquarters, located in the Art Walk.

 

7.National Museum of Decorative Arts
Calle Montalbán, 12

Located between the Art Walk and Retiro,  this museum – created in 1912 - was intended to be a place for the education of artisans, craftsmen, artists and connoisseurs of the industrial arts, following the inspiration of other museums of the same type, such as the South Kensington Museum (now the Victoria and Albert Museum) in London, and the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris.

 

8.Royal Botanic Gardens
Plaza Murillo, 2

Declared an Artistic Garden in 1942, its collections include an outstanding herbarium with more than a million entries, the library and the archive - with nearly 10,000 drawings - as well as the exhibition of 5,000 species of live plants.

 

9.Royal Observatory of Madrid
Calle Alfonso XII, 3

The Royal Observatory of Madrid was commissioned by Charles III at the suggestion of Jorge Juan. The construction of the main building, designed by Juan de Villanueva, began in 1790 on a small hill situated beside the present day Retiro Park. At the same time the astronomer W. Herschel was commissioned to build a 60 cm diameter reflecting telescope. 

10.Biblioteca Nacional
Paseo Recoletos, 20 - 22

This museum, whose aim is to promote the importance of books throughout history, comprises eight rooms. As well as conserving original manuscripts, the library allows visitors to learn about the work of librarians and reveals the secrets of Miguel de Cervantes. The National Library aims to contribute to the city’s culture by offering public educational activities which are difficult to find in standard museum programmes.



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It's Water Park Season - Check out the best in Spain!
Friday, June 24, 2022

Summer holidays and the beach go together like a bucket and spade, sure, but there are many more ways to get wet and have fun in Spain. Although the beach is undoubtedly one of the best places for cooling off, another great idea is to take your family, grandchildren or some friends to a water park where children will have an awesome time and adults will get to feel like kids again. Here are some of the best water parks in Spain and the first two in the ranking boast worldwide recognition.

 

1. SIAM PARK - TENERIFE

Siam Park, the water kingdom opened its doors in 2008 as the most spectacular theme park with water attractions in Europe and many would consider it the best park in the world.

Siam Park adds a whole new dimension to the leisure offering in the Canary Islands and is located in Adeje, south of Tenerife. Siam Park will amaze everyone with its diverse attractions and exotic settings.

The park covers 185,000m2 of natural landscapes and exquisite oriental design makes it a major new development in tourism, where all the family will experience adventure, excitement and plenty of adrenalin.

Every attraction offers a unique experience and combines the mystery of the ancient kingdom of Thailand, to transport visitors into a world of excitement and magic. 

Siam Park offers exclusive facilities for every occasion; events, birthdays, conventions and concerts.  It also has its own surf school where both adults and children can learn to surf. 

 

2. AQUALANDIA - BENIDORM

Aqualandia in Benidorm, the first water park built in Spain, opened in 1985. Since then it has been not only one of the largest water parks in the world but also ranks among those which offer the most attractions and facilities as well as outstanding customer service.

Aqualandia is an extensive natural area where you can enjoy a wide variety of water activities and many other amenities. It covers an area of 150,000 square metres and has 50,000 square metres of free parking.
With their great range of record-breaking water rides, splash pools and other attractions there’s something for everyone to enjoy a fun day out.

 

3. AQUOPOLIS - MADRID (7 parks around Spain)

Of course, there are no beaches in the Spanish capital but you don’t need a beach to cool off and forget about the almost unbearable summer heat. Aquopólis is opening a new attraction this summer 2014. Waikiki Jungle, a gigantic, semi-covered water slide for an adventure in pairs on the new-style rubber rings. For a spot of relaxation before returning to the action, there’s nothing like renting one of the cabins in the VIP area. This park forms part of the Parques Reunidos programme, meaning that annual pass holders can enjoy Aquópolis throughout the summer season.

 

4. AQUATROPIC - ALMUÑECAR

Located in Almuñecar, the Aquatropic water park was opened over 20 years ago, being a reference for entertainment experience on the Costa Tropical. Year after year since opening, they have incorporated new attractions suiting the needs of the visitors, using 35,000 m² of the park.

It offers multiple water attractions such as Tropical Trails, Lake Cascade, the Wave Pool, the Zig-zag, the Kamikaze, the Hidrotubo, the Black Hole, and the Children’s pool and more. As well the parkland is surrounded by extensive vegetation to create shadows and spaces designed for Pic-Nic, to make your visit more enjoyable. The park is an environmental benchmark as it’s the only saltwater water park in Spain.

 

5. AQUALAND - MALLORCA

It is worth tearing yourself away from the wonderful bays of Majorca for a day to visit Aqualand. Of course, relaxation won’t be the reason because nobody goes there to sunbathe; they go to experience the adrenaline rush brought on by its 17 attractions for both the young and not-so-young. However, if you do want to chill out for a while, this can also be done in the water in either the jacuzzi or on the Congo River - a relaxing journey on which you wouldn’t be the first to close your eyes and let yourself be carried away by the current. 

 

6. COSTA CARIBE AQUATIC PARK - TARRAGONA

Installed in the heart of the Costa Daurada this amazing water park will plunge you into a refreshing trip that will transport you to paradise in an aquatic adventure. At the Costa Caribe Aquatic Park of Port Aventura, you can practise rafting, go down trepid slides or relax on a lounger indulging yourself with a mixture of the sound of the waves that reach the sand and the tasty reggae rhythm that runs through every corner of this amazing water park. 

During its more than 50,000 square meters you can see more than 4,300 tropical plants that are all carefully looked after to the smallest detail to make your visit an unforgettable experience in PortAventura. 

 

7. AQUARAMA - BENICASSIM

Just 45 minutes from Valencia, Aquarama water park with over 45,000 square meters is packed full of fun for all of the family. There are some amazing slides from the daring slides such as “The Devil’s Drop” which holds the record as the highest slide in all of Europe with a height of 30 meters with the slide angling in at 62 degrees. The Space shot, which is the only one in Spain, the Whirlpool and more and more rides…. For those who like to relax a bit more, there are pools, jacuzzis and wave pools. There is also The Pirates Cave and the Mini Dunes areas which are for the exclusive use of the younger ones of the family.

 

8. WATER WORLD / AQUADIVER - LLORET DE MAR - PLATJA D'ARO

Here you are entering a world of experiences of two of the finest water parks imaginable, Aquadiver in Platja d’Aro and Water World in Lloret de Mar. In the two water parks on the Costa Brava, you can enjoy various rides, such as wave pools, rapid rivers, and kamikaze…. A set of attractions for children and adults public. Aquadiver water parks in Platja d'Aro and Waterworld in Lloret de Mar are perfect places to spend unforgettable days with family and friends. You'll find the best services in the same water park, for your comfort and experience, such as restaurants, pancake houses, picnic areas and pine forests, where they can relax and enjoy a wonderful environment.


9. AQUA-CENTER - MENORCA

Aqua Center Los Delfines is in Ciutadella, Menorca. Although it only has 12.500 m², it is the only park on the island but offers a great day out for the whole family with the most modern water attractions:  Black Hole (2-seater float), Adventure River (Single seater float with 91,5m run), Giant Slides, Water Tunnels, Children's Water Shuttles, Kamikaze, Jacuzzi and so on.


10. PARQUE ACUATICO MIJAS - FUENGIROLA, MIJAS

Park Aquatico Mijas is located in Fuengirola, Mijas, Costa del Sol. The park offers great attractions such as water rides for all ages, shows, beach areas, wave pool, and Spa treatments.



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Spain's Best National Parks
Friday, June 17, 2022

 

Spanish geography is marked by a large number of green spaces where we can discover rich and wide biodiversity. Places where we can escape to breathe clean air, do all kinds of activities or simply admire the landscape. With this in mind, I am going to briefly review the best national, natural and regional parks in the country following the recommendations of Antonio Puente in his book 'Spain Inédita: 100 fascinating places you should know' (GeoPlaneta).

 

Galicia

Cies Island.

In Galician lands, we find the National Maritime-Terrestrial Park of the Atlantic Islands, which extends from the Arousa estuary to the Vigo estuary. It is in its rich seabed where its most precious jewels are found: wide biodiversity guarded by ancient sunken ships. On the other hand, the Fragas do Eume Natural Park is one of the best preserved Atlantic riparian forests in all of Europe.

 

Asturias

Peaks of Europe.

The Picos de Europa National Park extends into the Communities of Cantabria, Castilla y León and Asturias, although it is in the latter where it occupies the most space. It stands out for its high peaks, its beautiful lakes and a landscape marked by glacial erosion.

 

Basque Country

Aizkorri-Aratz Natural Park.

Located between the provinces of Álava and Gipuzkoa, the Aizkorri-Aratz Natural Park stands out for its limestone mountains and extensive beech forests. In addition, here is the highest peak in the Basque Country, Aitxuri, 1,551 meters in height, and the largest colony of griffon vultures in Gipuzkoa.

 

Navarre

Bardenas Reales Natural Park.

The Bardenas Reales Natural Park forms a harsh desert landscape of over 42,500 hectares. Its relief is spectacular and its fauna and flora are more typical of the African continent. It is an ideal place to explore on foot or by bicycle through its three paths.

 

Aragon

Ordesa and Monte Perdido National Park.

The Ordesa y Monte Perdido National Park is dominated by a huge 3,355-meter massif, to which are added forests, meadows, caves, canyons and waterfalls. For its part, the Posets-Maladeta Natural Park contains the highest peaks in the entire Spanish Pyrenees.

 

Catalonia

More than 200 lakes form the landscape of the Aigüestortes i Estany de Sant Maurici National Park, as well as its cliffs known as Els Encantats and its beautiful high mountain meanders. Likewise, in Catalonia, we also find the Ebro Delta Natural Park, one of the most important aquatic habitats in the western Mediterranean.

 

Castile and Leon

Laguna de Peñalara in the Sierra de Guadarrama.

 

In the south of Castilla y León, the Sierra de Gredos Regional Park extends, the highest in the interior of Spain. Here we find lagoons, cliffs and gorges marked by glaciations. On the other hand, shared with the Community of Madrid, the Sierra de Guadarrama National Park crosses the centre of the Iberian Peninsula from east to west, leaving behind rich biodiversity.

 

Extremadura

Monfrague Natural Park.

The Monfragüe National Park has the Tagus River as its backbone, which crosses gentle mountains and extensive meadows. In this place, we can enjoy bird watching, and even contemplate fauna in danger of extinction.

 

Castilla la Mancha

Tablas de Daimiel

One of the most valuable spaces in the Montes de Toledo is the Cabañeros National Park, home to large birds of prey or black storks. All this is dominated by extensive valleys and high peaks. The Tablas de Daimiel National Park is a unique wetland in Europe since it is the last representative of the ecosystem known as fluvial tables.

 

Valencia

 

The Sierra de Espadán Natural Park is marked by a mountainous massif full of springs, leafy ravines and forests. Added to this is a landscape that combines a rugged relief with a humid climate.

 

Balearic Islands

Cabrera Bay.

To the south of the island of Mallorca, we find the Cabrera Archipelago National Maritime-Terrestrial Park, a practically virgin ecosystem that is home to large colonies of seabirds, an incredibly well-preserved seabed and even some endemic species.

 

Murcia

The Calblanque, Monte de las Cenizas and Peña del Águila Regional Park is located at the eastern end of the Murcian coast, specifically between Cabo de Palos and Portmán. Its landscapes are very varied, being able to find everything from pine forests to sandbanks, passing through salt flats.

 

Andalusia

Sierra Nevada.

The latest addition to the national parks is Sierra de las Nieves, due to its great botanical interest, mainly for its Spanish firs. Likewise, the Sierra Nevada National Park stands out for its high snow-capped peaks most of the year. While the Doñana National Park is made up of an immense wetland where ecosystems as varied as beaches, dunes or marshes come together.

 

Canary Islands

The Canary Islands are home to four national parks. On the island of La Palma is the Caldera de Taburiente, a huge circus 8 kilometres in diameter. For its part, the Garajonay National Park, in La Gomera, is characterized by its large extensions of laurel forest.

In Tenerife, the Teide National Park is home to the highest peak in all of Spain, as well as its unique nature. And finally, the Timanfaya National Park, in Lanzarote, is home to a large number of endemic animals and plants.



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Spain's Most Impressive Rocks!
Wednesday, May 4, 2022

Spain contains some of the best exposed outcrop geology in Europe. The Iberian Peninsula contains rocks from every age from Ediacaran to Recent, and almost every kind of rock is represented. The core of the Iberian Peninsula consists of an Hercynian cratonic block known as the Iberian Massif. In the northeast this is limited by the Pyrenean Fold Belt, and in the southeast it is limited by the Betic Foldchain. These two fold chains are part of the Alpine Belt. The western peninsula is delimited by the continental boundary formed by the magma poor opening of the Atlantic ocean. The Hercynian Foldbelt is mostly buried by Mesozoic and Tertiary cover rocks on the east side, but nether the less outcrops through the Iberian Chain and the Catalonian Coastal Ranges. here are 10 of the most important geological sites in Spain:

 

1. Sobrarbe, Huesca


 

Sobrarbe, in the Aragonese province of Huesca, is home to some of the most striking landscapes in the entire Pyrenees, from the calcareous summits of Treserols to the canyons of Ordesa and Añisclo (pictured), the valleys of Pineta and Escuaín, the Posets massif, the valley of Chistau and the Sierra de Guara mountains. 

 

2. Molina de Aragón and Alto Tajo, Guadalajara


A new Spanish member joined the European Geopark Network in March of this year: the Molina de Aragón and Alto Tajo geopark in Guadalajara province. Its 4,000 square-kilometer area includes the Gallo River Gorge, the fossil forest of Aragoncillo and the pit of Alcorón. The park’s symbol is aragonite, a variety of calcite that crystallizes in hexagonal prisms and was first described thanks to samples found in Molina de Aragón.


3. Cabo de Gata-Níjar, Almería


Dating from 10 million years ago, the formations at Cabo de Gata on the Almería coast are one of the largest magma-derived mountains in Europe. Old lava flows, volcanic domes, craters and fossilized beaches make up a landscape that, despite looking like a semi-desert, is home to a variety of ecosystems, including more than 1,000 endemic plant species and some of Spain’s most beautiful beaches. 


4. Sierra Norte, Seville


Seville’s Sierra Norte mountains stretch from the mine at Cerro del Hierro (Iron Hill) to the spherical granite rocks of El Pedroso and Real de la Jara. In between, visitors can find the Los Covachos cave, the Huéznar River waterfall, the fossilized jellyfish of Peña Escrita, and over 170,000 hectares of cork oak, holm oak and olive trees. 

 

5. Central Catalonia, Barcelona


Around 36 million years ago, Catalonia’s interior was covered by a sea that disappeared as a result of the great folding process that gave birth to the Pyrenees. Among the products of that geological process are the Toll and Salnitre caves, the serrated peaks of Montserrat (pictured) and the Catalan potassium basin.

 

6. Sierras Subbéticas, Córdoba


The collection of limestone massifs extending southeast of Córdoba province, along the border with Jaén and Granada, show the effect of water over the course of eons. This is a chaotic landscape filled with pits and sinkholes, karst formations such as the limestone pavement of Los Lanchares, the Bailón River Canyon and the Bat Cave, near Zuheros. The area is also known for its ammonite fossils – the remains of cephalopods that ruled the seas during the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods. 

 

 

7. Basque coast, Gipuzkoa


Fossils trapped for over 50 million years in the pastry-puff rock formation – technically known as flysch – along a 13-kilometer stretch of land on the western coast of Gipuzkoa have earned this place a spot in the European Geoparks Networks. Like a book written in stone, each stratum of flysch contains a 60-million-year-old chapter in the history of the Earth, from the Upper Cretaceous period (around 100 million years ago) to the Eocene (40 million years ago). 

 

8. Villuercas-Ibores-Jara, Cáceres


Extremadura conceals unexpected landscapes, such as the one to be found at the Villuercas-Ibores-Jara geopark in Cáceres, where deciduous forests sit alongside olive groves, holm oak and fields of rockroses. It is a rocky place of jagged-peaked mountains that rise above the oak forests like dinosaur backbones. And beneath it lies a striking world of karst formations inside the cave of Castañar de Ibor, which was declared a natural monument in 1997 thanks to its eccentric calcite stalactites, arboreal shapes and delicate aragonite “flowers.” 

 

9. Island of El Hierro, Canary Islands


The eruption of an underwater volcano off the Canary island of El Hierro in 2011 is just the latest chapter of an epic geological journey that began 100 million years ago, when the seabed opened up and released the magma that formed the isle. The smallest and wildest island in the archipelago, its 278 square kilometers contain over 500 volcanic cones and nearly 70 lava-made caves such as Don Justo, whose galleries span over six kilometers. 

 

10. El Maestrazgo, Teruel


From the heights of Gúdar down to the border with Lower Aragón, the Guadalope River crosses a network of mountains, peaks and canyons that were once home to the Sea of Tethys and monsters such as the Elasmosaurus. Its tracks, and those of other dinosaurs from the Jurassic and Cretaceous eras, are on display at nearly 70 paleontology sites inside the El Maestrazgo geopark. 



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The European cities with the most hours of sunshine
Wednesday, April 20, 2022

Spring, is the season of light and sun. The favourite of so many... Because who doesn't like sunny days? The warmth of its rays revitalizes us, wakes us up and makes our souls happy.

It's no wonder then that those who are tired of the bleak, dark winter months want to escape to sunny places with long days and warm nights.

So if you are looking for cities where the sun is almost guaranteed. Using data from World Weather Online, Holidu, the travel site has tallied up the average number of hours of sunshine per month and created the ultimate guide to finding your next perfect vacation destination, with the sunniest cities in Europe.


This is the ranking, from 11 to 1:


At 11, Seville


The top 11 is completed by the impressive Seville, the capital of the Andalusian region, in the south of Spain. It is a historic city of dreams for lovers of culture, tradition and tasty tapas. Spring is, without a doubt, one of the ideal times to visit them as its temperature is around 23 degrees and the sun has a special shine.


At 10, Palermo


Palermo, the capital of Sicily, enjoys an average of 340 hours of sunshine per month. Rated as a cultural melting pot, this city offers tourists authentic Sicilian street food, the largest opera house in Italy, and many historic buildings listed as World Heritage Sites by UNESCO.


At 9, Granada

The mythical Spanish city of Granada enjoys about 341 sunshine per month. The Andalusian city is full of history, romance, magic and beautiful corners. One of the best plans is to walk through the narrow streets of the Albaicín neighbourhood, which will take you to witness one of the most incredible sunsets in the world in front of the Alhambra.


At 8, Las Palmas

This island of the Canary archipelago offers 341 hours of sunshine per month. It is an ideal place during the months of March to June, or between October and November, as temperatures in Las Palmas reach an average of 21 degrees. Playa de Las Canteras, a 3-kilometre long sandy beach, attracts visitors throughout the year.

 

At 7, Nice


In seventh place, we have Nice, the capital of the Alpes-Maritimes department and located on the Côte d'Azur. Nice, with its 342 hours of sunshine per month, offers visitors sandy beaches, excellent bars and restaurants, an abundance of cultural and architectural offerings and, to top it off, fantastic weather.

 

At 6, Valencia


Valencia is the sixth sunniest city in Europe, with an average of 343 hours of sunshine per month. Located on the southeast coast of Spain, it is a true delight for a city break combined with a beach getaway. You can visit the famous museum of the City of Arts and Sciences in Valencia, or stroll through its streets and squares full of tapas bars.

 

At 5, Messina in Sicily.

In fifth place, with an average of 345 hours of sunshine per month, is the Italian city of Messina, the third-largest city on the island of Sicily. This city is a thriving cruise ship tourist destination and offers a wide range of beautiful coastlines to choose from as soon as you dock in the city.

 

At 4, Malaga


This city on the Costa del Sol, with its 345 hours of sunshine per month, is a very popular tourist destination throughout the year, but especially during the hot summer months, for its beaches and its summer leisure activities. In addition, Malaga also has a great cultural offering and the Picasso Museum is a must.


At 3, Murcia


The third place, with 346 hours of sunshine per month, is occupied by Murcia, a city that has a historic centre and wonderful works of architecture, such as Plaza Cardenal Belluga. Nearby, the beaches and coves of the so-called Costa Cálida are an unbeatable sun destination at almost any time of the year.

 

At 2, Catania

Another Italian city makes an appearance in this ranking. Located on the eastern coast of Sicily, it lies at the foot of the famous active volcano, Etna. It boasts 347 hours of sunshine per month, its baroque old town, declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, and beautiful beaches where you can enjoy the sun and free time.

 

And at Number 1, Alicante

Alicante is the sunniest city in Europe! With an average of 349 hours of sunshine per month, this is the ultimate destination for sun-seeking travellers. The city is known for its stunning Costa Blanca coastline, which offers wide public beaches where you can sunbathe on the sand or jump into the water and try out some water sports. As if the sunny weather wasn't enough, Alicante is a beautiful city, with a colourful old town, an abundance of museums, historic sites, a variety of excellent restaurants and a vibrant nightlife.



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10 Cities to enjoy free Tapas
Tuesday, April 12, 2022

Arguably one of Spain’s most significant contributions to global gastronomy, the tapa comes in all shapes and sizes, from the humble olive or a few potato chips all the way through to miniature banquets. The pincho, the tapa’s larger and more elaborate cousin, is to be found in the Basque Country, most notably in San Sebastián. The price of tapa or pincho varies: some are offered free with a caña of beer or a glass of wine, and others are charged separately. Below, are 10 Spanish cities where tapas are offered free with drinks or some might say included in the price of the drink and to be honest, if the price of the drink is slightly more, the tapas are so good the increase in price is negligible and well worth it. 

 

Alcalá de Henares

A visit to the historic town of Alcalá de Henares, birthplace of Cervantes and just half an hour from central Madrid, is not complete without taking in a tapa or two in the old quarter, where any number of bars will be happy to provide a free munch. There are Patatas bravas (fried potato with hot sauce), huevos estrellados (fried eggs on a bed of crispy French fries), a humble sandwich mixto (toasted cheese and ham), hamburgers, and a wide variety of bocadillos (filled bread rolls). Among the hot spots are Índalo, El Tapón, or Maimónides. The price of a beer in these places is around €2.80, which is at the pricier end of the scale, but the generous tapas more than make up for it, such as a fried egg with morcilla (blood sausage).

 

Ávila

(The tower of Babel tapa at Las Cancelas, Ávila.)

The tradition in Spain’s highest city – and one of its coldest – is for customers in bars to choose their own free pincho, making it important to know what to ask for, and where to ask for it, which means patatas revolconas (mashed potato mixed with paprika and chunks of crispy pork belly) in Barbacana in the old market, or pig’s ears, snouts and much more in El Rincón, next to the town hall. Nearby, stewed wild boar can be found in Gredos, or chorizo mincemeat in Don Camilo. For a divine (this is the birthplace of Saint Teresa) tortilla de patata (Spanish omelette) try El Rincón de Jabugo in San Segundo street, opposite the cathedral. The house speciality at Las Cancelas, in Cruz Vieja street, is the tapa de la alegría, skewered kidneys with potato. The price of a beer here is between €1.20 and €1.90. 

 

Almería


(Infernal chorizo at Bella Ciao in Almería.)

A wander through the old quarter of this Andalusian port city yields a plethora of bars offering abundant and free tapas with each drink, which typically costs around €2. El Bonillo, popular with locals since time immemorial, has delicious Patatas a la brava, while the recently opened Bella Ciao has remojón, a broth made from dried tomatoes and hot peppers, typically with salt cod. Tío Tom, in the nearby Zapillo neighbourhood, is popular for its generous tapas. 

 

Badajoz

(Matured cheese and Iberico ham at La Corchuela, Badajoz.)

Badajoz, on the Portuguese border, is one of Spain’s tapa capitals. Most bars provide something to munch on with the beer and wine they serve, but there are three neighbourhoods particularly worth noting: Valdepasillas, San Roque, and Santa María de la Cabeza. The latter manages to bring together, in equal parts, low prices and large portions (fried potatoes, chicken wings, pasties…) La Roca (Ricardo Carapeto street) the venerable La Corchuela (Meléndez Valdes street), Bar Manolo (Muñoz Torrero street), or Mehtura (Jacinta García Hernández street) are just a few of the bars where beer tastes better with higadillos (chopped liver), mashed tomatoes, prueba de matanza (chorizo mincemeat), pancetta (fried belly pork), or fried eggs with chorizo. Beers cost around €1.20.


Granada

(The Alhambra tapas bar, next to Granada’s cathedral.)

As if the Alhambra weren’t enough, Granada also offers the visitor a warm welcome, masses of culture, and perhaps most importantly, very generous tapas: three or four are usually enough for a meal. Just about every bar in the city competes to provide the best or the most abundant. One of the best areas is around the bullring and the Realejo neighbourhood. You can get a taste of what’s on offer at Antigualla II (Elvira street), El Pesaor (Pío Baroja street), Bodegas Castañeda (Almiceros street), or Los Pescadores (Dr. Pareja Yébenes street). Prices for a drink range from €1.40 and €2.20 depending on the place and tapa you choose.

 

Jaen

(La Barra, one of Jaén’s best-known bars.)

In Jaén, tapas means tascas, and the historic centre of the city is filled with these revered bars, which seem to have been here since the dawn of time. The best places for a free feed with your beer or wine are to be found on Arco del Consuelo, a narrow street a stone’s throw from the cathedral. Try Casa Gorrión or La Manchega. Close by is La Barra, on Cerón street, where the house speciality is morcilla (black pudding) with migas (chunky bread crumbs lightly fried in olive oil and garlic). There are also free tapas to be had a couple of hundred meters away in the streets around the church of San Ildefonso in bars such as El perol de la abuela, as well as in the Gran Bulevar, near the railway station, such as Tito Nono (Cataluña street), which also serves reasonably priced larger portions, known as raciones. The typical price of a beer, is between €1.30 and €1.50. 
 

León

(Cervezería Flandes, Leon)

The bars of this bustling northern city has a long tradition of serving free tapas with wine or beer, and going out for a drink usually means eating as well. The best place to head is the old quarter, with its Romántico and Húmedo neighbourhoods. Among the top tapas spots are Ribera, famous for its potatoes, Flandes for boiled ham, or the morcilla at La Bicha. Then there is el Miche, el Llar, and La Trébede, all of the classics. For something newer and trendier, try Camarote Madrid, Monalisa, Flechazo, Gaia, and El Patio. Beers tend to cost around €1.60, with wines a little pricier at around €2. 

 

Salamanca

(Tapas on parade at El Bardo, Salamanca)

Perhaps because of its huge student population, the price of a beer and a generous pincho in Salamanca is still less than €2. Pork is the raw material here, in all its varieties: Guijuelo cured ham, jeta (cheek), pincho moruno (skewered pork chunks), or farinato sausage from nearby Ciudad Rodrigo. The best areas for tapas are the old quarter and Van Dyck. The morcilla with caramelized onions is a must at El Bardo, as are the pinchos morunos and patatas meneás (mashed, with paprika and crispy pork belly) at the Café Real, while the Mesón Cervantes has a wide variety of different tortillas. Bambú is the place to try a local delicacy, chanfaina salamantina: stewed rice with lambs’ trotters, cumin, and paprika. 

 

Segovia

(Duque, one of Segovia’s most popular bars.)

A beer with an unstinting pincho is a must when going out for a beer with friends in Segovia. Just about every bar in this historic city, particularly around the main square next to the cathedral and the nearby Infanta Isabel street, which is lined with bars. Among the essential stop-offs on the tapa trail are bars such as San Miguel, Los Tarines, or Duque. Beers come in at around €1.20.


 

Vigo

(A Mina, in Vigo.)

This Galician port city is known for the abundance and quality of its tapas, and a couple of beers or locally produced albariño wines will usually yield enough nibbles that you won’t need to eat afterwards. Try A Mina, a newish place that relies on favourites such as mussels. The Bouzas area is filled with old bars, along with newer establishments such as Patouro, which uses seasonal products such as mushrooms in autumn. Imperial, on Colombia street, has imported beers and generous tapas. Most bars charge around €1.60 for a beer or a glass of wine. 



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