With approximately 47 million citizens, the Spanish mainland is located in south-western Europe and is neighboured by Andorra, France and Portugal. Visitors to the country are greeted with one of the most pleasant climates on the whole of the continent, along with a rich and diverse culture.
Derived from the Latin Hispania, it's believed that several rival settlements called the country home before being unified under Roman rule. In later years the Spanish Empire became a powerful sea-faring force after Christopher Columbus discovered the New World in their name; it was the expansion of trade routes to bring in such exotic goods as tobacco and potatoes which led to Spain's economic strength on the world stage during the 16th century.
Spain occupies over half a million square kilometres of the Iberian Peninsula in the southwest of mainland Europe; its only other neighbour on that landmass is Portgual, which takes up a narrow strip south-west of its borders. From Sevilla in the south to Barcelona in the northeast of the country, each of Spain's major cities is a cultural attraction in itself - and each are well-connected by one of the most organised road systems in Europe.
In terms of historical sites, only China and Italy have more UNESCO-approved World Heritage Sites than Spain in the entire world; these include The Royal Palace of Aranjuez in central Spain; the Ancient City of Tarraco in the Catalonia region found to the north-east, and the awe-inspiring paintings which were discovered in the Cave of Altamira on the northern coast.
Aside from these historical finds, Spain's cultural identity is celebrated worldwide; with sparkling nightlife and, depending which part of the country you're in, a very agreeable climate for sight-seeing and relaxing holidays from the Costa Del Sol to the annual Running of the Bulls festival. Temperatures throughout the Spanish summer are high and hot, while the country invites many a traveller to its plethora of holiday resorts and beaches.The predominant sport in Spain is football; its national side are the current World and European champions, while their two biggest clubs are renowned worldwide for their success in league and cup competitions; as a result Barcelona and Real Madrid have developed a fierce rivalry over the years.
Last updated: 14 March 2014