Passionate, sophisticated and devoted to living the good life, Spain is at once a stereotype come to life and a country more diverse than you ever imagined.
Why I Love Spain
By Anthony Ham, Author
More than a decade after I fell in love with Spain and decided to call it home, the life that courses relentlessly through the streets here still produces in me a feeling that this is a place where anything can happen. Here, the passions of Europe’s most passionate country are the fabric of daily life, a country with music in its soul and an unshakeable spring in its step. And over time Spain's passions – for fine food, for wild landscapes, for a life lived to the full – have become very much my own.
An Epic Land
Spain's diverse landscapes stir the soul. The Pyrenees and the Picos de Europa are as beautiful as any mountain range on the continent, while the snowcapped Sierra Nevada rises up improbably from the sun-baked plains of Andalucia; these are hiking destinations of the highest order. The wildly beautiful cliffs of Spain's Atlantic northwest are offset by the charming coves of the Mediterranean. And everywhere you go, villages of timeless beauty perch on hilltops, huddle in valleys and cling to coastal outcrops as tiny but resilient outposts of Old Spain.
Art Imitates Life
Poignantly windswept Roman ruins, cathedrals of rare power and incomparable jewels of Islamic architecture speak of a country where the great civilisations of history have always risen, fallen and left behind their indelible mark. More recently, what other country could produce such rebellious and relentlessly creative spirits as Salvador Dalí, Pablo Picasso and Antoni Gaudí and place them front and centre in public life? Here, grand monuments to the past coexist alongside architectural creations of such daring that it becomes clear that Spain's future will be every bit as original as its past.
Fiestas & Flamenco
For all such talk, this is a country that lives very much in the present and there's a reason why 'fiesta' is one of the best-known words in the Spanish language. It's because life is itself a fiesta here and everyone seems to be invited. Perhaps you'll sense it along a crowded post-midnight street when all the world has come out to play. Or maybe that moment will come when a flamenco performer touches something deep in your soul. Whenever it happens, you'll find yourself nodding in recognition: this is Spain.
A Culinary Feast
Food and wine are national obsessions in Spain, and with good reason. The touchstones of Spanish cooking are deceptively simple: incalculable variety, traditional recipes handed down through the generations, and an innate willingness to experiment and see what comes out of the kitchen-laboratory. You may experience the best meal ever over tapas in an earthy bar where everyone's shouting, or over a meal prepared by a celebrity chef in the refined surrounds of a Michelin-starred restaurant. Either way, the breadth of gastronomic experience that awaits you is breathtaking.
Need to know
Catalonia packs a lot into its four provinces. The stunning cove beaches of the Costa Brava make it one of Spain's loveliest coasts, backed by the top foodie scene and Jewish history of the medieval city of Girona, and Salvador Dalí's gloriously surreal 'theatre-museum' in Figueres.