Spain travel tips and things to do: 10 things Spain does better than anywhere else

1 EAT

TAPAS

Small-plate dining has conquered the globe, but in Spain, tapas often still consists of small snacks handed out at bars along with a drink. This, of course, makes it a fabulous place to hop between small bars. Tapas can veer between a small hunk of omelette in spit-and-sawdust joints to the fabulously elaborate pintxos of the Basque region. Michelin-star-drenched San Sebastian is the high temple of the latter, but most cities have handy tapas tours at night. See www.sansebastianpintxos.com

2 DEVOUR

SUCKLING PIG

The Spanish love of jamon is no great secret – giant hanging hams are often the sign of a great restaurant. But where this obsession approaches divinity is in the suckling pig, often served on its own with no garnish or accompaniment. The world's oldest restaurant – El Botin in Madrid – serves it. But the real HQ is Segovia, where pretty much everywhere does it brilliantly. See www.botin.es

3 ADMIRE

ALCAZARS

Segovia is also home to an absolutely splendid alcazar, a distinctively Spanish hybrid of palace, castle and fortress. This one overlooks the vast plains of Central Spain from the edge of an escarpment, taking on fairytale looks. But it's by no means the country's only tremendous alcazar – and for sheer bulk and majesty of interior decoration, Seville's is arguably the champion. See www.alcazardesegovia.com, www.alcazarsevilla.org

4 DANCE

FLAMENCO

Seville is also the birthplace of flamenco, which is way more than just a style of music or a type of dancing. The two combine for a soulful, intense spectacle in nightly flamenco shows that sprout up all over the city. Some are more authentic than others, but the shows at the Casa De La Memoria are reliably good. See www.casadelamemoria.es

5 DRINK

SHERRY

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Aside from tapas and flamenco, Andalucia's other great gift to the world is sherry. It derives from the Jerez region, which is teeming with bodegas all too willing to let you taste test your way through the surprisingly large array of flavours. A good place to start differentiating manzanillas from olorosos is the Bodegas Gonzalez Byass next to the alcazar in Jerez city – it's home to the globetrotting Tio Pepe brand. See www.bodegastiopepe.com

6 PARTY

CLUBS

Miami and Las Vegas can try to muscle in, but the centre of the world's clubbing scene is still the Balearic island of Ibiza. The massive summer party season sees people from around the world flock to gigantic superclubs such as Pacha and Privilege for hedonistic sweat-fests and the biggest-name DJs on earth. See www.pacha.com, www.privilegeibiza.com

7 VISIT

ART MUSEUMS

No city on earth has a more impressive trio of art museums than Madrid, where the old-master-packed Prado, masterpiece-packed Thyssen-Bornemisza (Picasso's Guernica is here) and 20th-century-leaning Reina Sofia congregate. But there are big beasts elsewhere too – including the Museo Picasso in Malaga and the Dali Theatre-Museum in Figueres. See www.museodelprado.es, www.museothyssen.org, www.museoreinasofia.es, www.museopicassomalaga.org, www.salvador-dali.org

8 GET WILD AT

MAD FESTIVALS

Pamplona's Running of the Bulls in July has gained a fair degree of notoriety over the years – largely due to gung-ho tourists getting gored. But it is by no means Spain's only absurd festival. Valencia's Las Fallas in March sees giant papier-mache effigies being paraded through the streets then burned. And La Tomatina in Bunol, held on the last Wednesday every August, is basically an excuse for tens of thousands of people to throw tomatoes at each other. See www.sanfermin.com, www.fallasfromvalencia.com, www.latomatina.org

9 WALK ON A

PILGRIMAGE

The Camino de Santiago has enjoyed a curious renaissance over the past couple of decades, and often amongst people who aren't even religious. The long-distance hike across the mountainous regions of Northern Spain, staying in simple huts along the way and finishing in Santiago De Compostela, has become as much a challenge as a pilgrimage. See www.caminoadventures.com

10 SEE THE

MOORISH ARCHITECTURE

For a long time in Europe's medieval period, much of Spain was under Islamic rule, and this shines through in the architecture of some of the country's most magnificent buildings. The two absolute must-see pinnacles of this "Moorish" architecture are the sprawling yet intricate Alhambra palace in Granada and the Mezquita in Cordoba. The latter has hundreds of mesmeric stone and bridge archways, plus a Christian cathedral built inside a giant mosque. See www.alhambradegranada.org, www.mezquitadecordoba.org

See also: 20 things that will shock first-time visitors to Spain

See also: Why Spain is the country with the best food in the world

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