About Spain
Geographical location 

Spain covers an area of 505,955 square kilometres, which places it amongst the fifty largest countries in the world. The largest part of the territory is located in the Iberian Peninsula, the remainder, approximately 12,500 square kilometres, are islands, -Balearics and the Canary Islands- plus 32 square kilometres that are accounted for by the cities of Ceuta and Melilla, situated on the coast of Africa.

The situation of the Iberian Peninsula in the extreme south west of Europe and only 14 kilometres away from the African continent, endows Spain with a great strategic value: projecting into the Mediterranean on one side and acting as an intersection on the path to Africa and America on the other. The fact that a large part of Spain is peninsular also explains the length of its coastline, which runs along the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea. As a result of its position, between 36 and 43 degrees North latitude, the climate ranges from the mild oceanic climate in the North, to the continental Mediterranean in the centre and the Mediterranean in the East and South, factors which combine to create a wet Spain in the North and mountainous areas, green Spain with luxuriant forests and a dry Spain in the Mediterranean.


Source: "Tourism in Spain", [http://www.spain.info ]

Cultural wealth

Originating in its rich historical flux, the Spanish culture has played an important role throughout time.

Spain is, above all, a mosaic of cultures. Heterogeneous. Old and modern. Refined and popular. Holy and secular. Plural and diverse. The variety of its cultures attracts. The historic heritage dazzles. The vital power of its people fascinates.

Spanish culture is extremely rich and touches upon all forms of artistic expression. From literature to painting, music to architecture, the theatre to sumptuary arts. In each of these aspects, at some time in history or other, Spanish culture has reached the highest artistic heights: from bygone times (with outstanding examples of cave art) until present day (a time in which Spanish architecture is universally avant-garde), culture and art in Spain are prominent features of the country.

Current Spanish culture is enjoying good health, as can be seen, for example, in a prosperous editorial industry that produces over 90,000 volumes per year. Cultural tourism is becoming an alternative to sun and beach tourism, as a result of the wealth and quality of the museums, monuments, fiestas and traditions, not to mention the expositions and various cultural displays.

Just to give an example, Spain boasts one of the greatest collections of historical and architectural monuments in the world, as demonstrated by the fact that it is the country with the second highest number of UNESCO World Heritage designations. An approximate inventory of the monuments in Spain would reveal over 20,000 important pieces.

Spanish theatre and cinema is becoming a reference point in Europe, thanks to events such as the Theatre Festivals of Mérida, Sagunto and Almagro and the San Sebastian and Valladolid cinema festivals. Spanish universities play a very important role in the diffusion of the national culture, and their summer courses, held in universities such as El Escorial, Salamanca, Santander and the International University of Menéndez Pelayo (UIMP), with seats in Santander, Barcelona, Cuenca, Galicia, the Pyrenees, Seville, Tenerife and Valencia are of particular relevance. Scientific and cultural research is carried out by the state-dependent Superior Council of Scientific Research.


Source: "Tourism in Spain", [http://www.spain.info ] 


Spanish art constitutes one of the most important cultural heritages of the world.

The first artistic samples date back to the Superior Palaeolithic age and feature cave paintings from the Altamira cave and the Mediterranean arch.

The Phoenician and Greek influence is evident in the gold work and sculpturing. Hispanic Roman art reached its zenith in the Imperial era (1st century A.D.). Important vestiges including the walls of Lugo, the theatres of Sagunto and Merida, the aqueduct of Segovia, Italica in Seville and the several displays of this art in Tarragona, amongst others.

Early Christian art began in the 3rd century and was followed by Visigoth art from the 5th century onward. Important remnants from these periods such as the Constantinian necropolis of Centcelles (Tarragona), the Church of San Juan de Baños (Palencia), the early Christian sarcophagus and the Visigoth goldwork have remained.

The Hispanic-Muslim art period extended from the 8th century through to the 15th in various phases: the Cordoba mosque stems from the Caliphal period; beautifully decorated palaces remain from the period in which small Spanish kingdoms reigned after the disintegration of the Caliphate of Cordoba in 1031 (Aljafería, Zaragoza); the Giralda de Seville is conserved from the period of Almoravid art; and the impressive Alhambra of Granada remains from the Nazarite period.

In the North of Spain, various artistic examples such as Mozarab art (San Millán de la Cogolla, La Rioja), the Asturian pre-Romanesque (Santa María del Naranco, Oviedo) and Catalan pre-Romanesque art (Churches of Terrassa) were developed during these centuries.

From the 11th century onward, Romanesque art began to dominate in Christian Spain, where it played an important role in the construction of monasteries (Sant Pere de Rodes, San Martín de Frómista).

From the 13th century onward, a new style began to become prominent: Gothic art, extended throughout Europe thanks to the Cistercian Order. There are important examples in Spain, such as the monasteries of Poblet and Santes Creus (Catalonia), and the Cathedrals of Leon, Burgos and Toledo. Painting and sculpture reached a peak during the Gothic age; particularly prominent were the monumental doorways and tempera painted altarpieces.

Parallel to the Romanesque and Gothic period, a peculiar artistic style emerged in Spain: the Mudejar, a combination of Christian and Muslim styles. The best examples thereof can be found in Toledo and Teruel.

At the end of the 15th century, Renaissance art, imported from Italy, began to dominate. The most important examples of architecture are the Charles V Palace (Granada) and the El Escorial monastery (Madrid); the works of Alonso Berruguete and Juan de Juni are fundamental in the area of sculpture; with regard to painting important pieces include the work of Juan de Juanes, Pedro Berruguete and above all, the figure of El Greco.

The Baroque period in Spain extended throughout the 17th century and the first half of the 18th. Ornamental architecture became more pronounced (Cathedral of Murcia, Palace of the Marques de Dos Aguas in Valencia); religious imagery proliferated, in particular the works of Gregorio Fernández and Juan de Mesa; and this was the best period in the history of art painting in Spain, during which time artists such as Ribera, Zurbarán, Murillo and above all the master Velázquez stood out.

In the middle of the 18th century, neoclassicism began to prevail; this is evident in the architecture of the Prado Museum, the return to the classic canons in sculpture, and painting which was strongly dominated by Goya. The arts known as minor arts gained great importance thanks to royal protection, embodied by the Royal Factories such as the Tapestries Factory, founded by Phillip V, and the Buen Retiro Porcelain Factory, founded by Charles III.

Romanticism broke with the Neoclassic style in the 19th century. The National Library and the paintings of Mariano Fortuny and Pérez Villaamil stand out from this period.

Modernism was particularly triumphant in Catalonia; its most important representative being Gaudí, designer of the Sagrada Familia and Casa Milá, amongst others.

The 20th century was influenced by diverse styles: contact with the Parisian ambience at the beginning of the century, international isolation following the civil war and the opening up to new trends from the fifties onward. Twentieth century Spanish painting reached great levels of international recognition, thanks to painters such as Pablo Picasso, Joan Miró and Salvador Dalí.

In present day art, artists such as Bofill, Moneo and Calatrava (architecture), Chillida (sculpture) and Tàpies and Barceló (painting) are of great importance.


Source: "Tourism in Spain", [http://www.spain.info ]