45 Fun Facts About Spain You Probably Didn’t Know

Spain is one of the most visited countries in the world. But how much do you really know about Spain? If you want to expand your knowledge, here you’ll find many fun facts about Spain you probably didn’t know. Read them before your next trip to Spain or trivia night and you’ll surely impress everyone.

Some of these Spain facts are so interesting they will blow your mind. For example, did you know that Coca-Cola was invented in Spain? Did you also know that the most expensive restaurant in the world is in Ibiza? Or did you know that there’s a fiesta in Spain where living people are paraded through the streets in open coffins?

If you answered “no” to any of the above, then you’re in for a real treat. Here I’ve compiled dozens of interesting facts about Spain that you’ll want to share with everyone.

Fun facts about Spain

Let’s start with some of the best Spain facts that are light, fun, and entertaining. Some of them will surely make you want to pack your bags right away.

A dramatic coastline scenery in Spain
Views of the Mediterranean coastline of Spain | Image © SpainWanderlust.com

1. Spain has nearly 8,000 km of coastline

A country known for its turquoise waters, wild coves, rolling waves, white sands, volcanic beaches, and dreamy sunsets, Spain has a total of 7,905 kilometers (4,911 miles) of coastline (and more than 3,000 beaches!).

This positions Spain at #34 on the list of countries by length of coastline. Spain’s shores are bathed by the waters of the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean and include peninsular Spain as well as the Balearic and Canary islands.

2. Spain has more blue flag beaches than any other country

A really cool fact about Spain is that it has more blue flag beaches than any other country — a whopping 729 as of 2022. Only 4,831 beaches in the world have received this certification for complying with a series of accessibility, cleanliness, safety, and sustainability criteria.

This means 15% of the world’s blue flag beaches are found in Spain. The Valencian Community has garnered more awards than any other region in Spain, closely followed by Andalucia.

Another interesting fact is that Spain has been heading this list ever since this eco-label gained acceptance across Europe in 1987.

3. Spain has more bars and restaurants per capita than any other country in the world

In Spain, there’s a bar or restaurant for every 175 people, which makes it the country with the most bars and restaurants per capita.

In fact, the region of Andalucia alone has as many bars as Ireland, Denmark, Finland, and Norway combined. Now, this is what I call a fun fact about Spain!

If you want to know more about Spaniards’ eating habits, I also wrote a post with interesting facts about Spanish food.

4. Spain has been in the wrong time zone for almost 8 decades

The Greenwich meridian passes through Spain, so technically, Spain should be in the UTC±0:00 time zone.

However, during WWII, dictator Francisco Franco set the country’s clocks an hour ahead and adopted the central European time (except in the Canary Islands), to match that of Nazi Germany.

Once the war was over, nobody bothered to turn back the clocks, which is part of the reason why Spanish mealtimes are so late.

5. Spaniards end each year with 12 grapes for good luck

If you spend New Year’s Eve in Spain, remember to do as the locals do and eat 12 grapes. This is a fun tradition dating back more than a century when after a particularly good harvest, the grape producers decided to sell “uvas de la suerte” (lucky grapes).

The 12 grapes are eaten after dinner, when the clock strikes midnight on December 31. This is believed to bring good luck in the year to come.

6. Spain is home to the oldest restaurant in the world

Sobrino de Botin is the oldest restaurant in the world that has never closed and never changed location according to the Guinness Book of World Records.

You can find it in the center of Madrid, just a short stroll away from Puerta del Sol. It has an old-world charm and serves delicious dishes typical of central Spain.

7. Spain is also home to the most expensive restaurant in the world

Sublimotion is an imaginative, high-end Mediterranean restaurant in Ibiza that charges an eye-watering €1,900 (approx $2,000) per person for a 20-course tasting menu.

The restaurant is run by 2-star Michelin chef Paco Roncero and only opens from June to September. The whole dining experience is enhanced by laser light shows and virtual reality sets, taking the concept of dining out to a whole new level.

With Spain having a reputation for being quite affordable, I bet you didn’t expect to see this on a list of facts about Spain!

8. Coca-Cola was invented in Spain, probably

While it’s commonly believed that a chemist from Atlanta invented Coca-Cola back in 1886, a small village near Valencia claims they invented it first.

Indeed, there’s evidence that a Spanish drink called Nuez de Kola Coca existed before that. And it looks like the owner of Destilerías Ayelo (that still exists today) took this drink to a fair in Philadelphia where he sold the recipe to the Americans in 1884.

9. The world’s smallest (and most unusual) beach is in Spain

Only 40 meters long and 15 meters wide, Gulpiyuri Beach in Northern Spain is considered the smallest beach in the world.

As this wouldn’t be noteworthy enough, another fun fact about Gulpiyuri is that it’s an inland beach connected to the Cantabrian Sea by a cave. Access is only possible on foot and the crystal clear waters are only one meter deep, so anyone can enjoy them.

10. Spain has no shortage of crazy festivals

From the famous La Tomatina in Buñol, where more than 150 tons of overripe tomatoes are thrown at anything that moves to Las Fallas from Valencia where satirical cardboard puppets of celebrities and politicians are burned in huge bonfires, Spain has more than its fair share of crazy and weird festivals.

But nothing compares to Fiesta de Santa Marta de Ribarteme, during which survivors of near-death experiences are paraded through the streets in open coffins.

11. Spain is home to the only desert in Europe

Located north of Almeria, the Tabernas Desert is Europe’s only desert. It gets 3,000 hours of sunshine, average temperatures above 17ºC (63ºF), and under 250 mm of rainfall per year, and is home to several plant and animal species unique in Europe and even the world.

The Tabernas Desert is best known for its connection with the Hollywood film industry. Movies such as Once Upon a Time in the WestIndiana JonesLawrence of ArabiaThe Good, The Bad, and the Ugly, and more recently, Game of Thrones were filmed here.

12. Spain has a free wine fountain

One of the quirkiest sites on the Camino de Santiago in northern Spain is a drinking fountain that serves red wine for free. The fountain is part of Irache Monastery in the town of Ayegui.

Pilgrims can stop to fill their scallop shells (or bottles) with the blessed wine. While light and refreshing, the wine is also quite strong. Now, this is some crazy stuff about Spain. But seriously, how cool is this?

13. Spain has an obsession with playing the lottery

A funny fact about Spain is that Spaniards love playing the lottery, especially around Christmas time, when El Gordo (literally “the fat one”) lottery is organized.

This is the world’s biggest lottery in terms of cash prize payouts (over €24 billion paid in 2020). It has been celebrated since 1812, making it the second longest continuously running lottery in the world.

El Gorgo is one of the most treasured Christmas traditions in Spain, with many family members and coworkers buying lottery tickets together. The tickets cost €200, with the option of buying a tenth of a ticket for €20.

Interesting facts about Spain

Some of these Spain facts are more data orientated, so they might seem a bit dry, but I found them super interesting as they help build a more complete image of Spain.

An empty bullring in Spain
A bullring in Spain | Image © SpainWanderlust.com

14. Spain is the second most visited country in the world

Spain is the second most visited country in the world after France. While this might come as no surprise, a little know fact is that the number of people who visit Spain each year (83 million in 2019) is almost double the number of the local population (47 million).

If you want to know this fascinating country better, check out my 2 weeks in Spain itinerary.

15. Spaniards prefer Madrid while travelers from abroad favor Barcelona

Madrid is the most visited city in Spain. Nevertheless, Barcelona, the second most visited city in Spain, receives more visitors from abroad than Madrid.

While Barcelona remains a hub for international travelers, the Spaniards are more likely to visit the capital.

If you want to join the locals, I put together a fun 3 days in Madrid itinerary for you. I also wrote a guide on the best things to do in Barcelona in 3 days.

16. Spain has 49 UNESCO-listed attractions

Spain has 49 UNESCO World Heritage Sites and 20 UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage Elements (such as flamenco and the Mediterranean diet among others).

This places Spain among the top four countries in the world by the number of UNESCO-listed items, after Italy, China, and Germany.

Many of these sites are among the most famous landmarks in Spain and are definitely worth adding to your Spain bucket list.

17. Spaniards live a very long life

Spain has the second-longest life expectancy at birth after Japan. It’s also predicted that it will overthrow Japan into second place by 2040.

This, apparently, has a lot to do with the Mediterranean diet, which was declared a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage. Some things about Spain are so cool!

18. Mental health has a long history in Spain

The first psychiatric hospital in the world was founded in Valencia in 1410. It was called Hospital de Los Inocentes (Hospital of the Innocents). While this hospital was knocked down a long time ago, there are plenty of other interesting things to see in Valencia.

19. Some pretty handy stuff was invented in Spain throughout the years

You can thank Spain for inventing the mop, the stapler, the sharpener, the table football, the lollipop, the Gregorian calendar, the classical guitar shape, the epidural anesthesia, and the eyeglasses, among others.

20. Spain’s national anthem has no official lyrics

‘Marcha Real’, Spain’s national anthem, is one of only three national anthems in the world that has no official lyrics.

21. The first modern novel was published in Spain

Cervantes’ Don Quixote is considered to be the first modern novel and some even consider it to be the best literary work ever written. It was published in two parts, the first one in 1605 and the second in 1615. The majority of the first edition copies were lost at sea on the way to the Americas.

22. These days, bullfighting is often frowned upon in Spain

Most Spaniards don’t approve of bullfighting. The practice has been banned in the Canary Islands since 1991 and in Catalonia since 2009. The two regions where bullfighting is still very much in fashion are Andalusia and Madrid.

23. People in Spain have two surnames

One of the most interesting facts about Spain and one that puzzles people from other countries the most is that everybody in Spain has two surnames – one from their father and one from their mother.

Also, Spanish women don’t change their surname when they marry.

The most common surname in Spain is Garcia, followed by Rodrigues and Gonzalez. Other countries that have two surnames are former Spanish colonies in Latin America.

24. Spain is the 5th largest wind power producer in the world

This right here is one of my favorite facts about Spain – over 46% of the electricity used in Spain comes from clean, renewable, and indigenous sources, with wind energy accounting for over 50%.

The first wind turbines were installed in 1984. Since then over 1,200 wind farms were built throughout the country. Wind power now produces more than 23% of the energy supply in Spain.

Interesting enough, Spain is also the 5th largest wind and solar power producer in the world and the 2nd in Europe, by MW (megawatts) generated annually, according to Red Electrica.

25. Throughout the years, several Nobel Prizes went to Spain

Out of the 904 people to have been awarded a Nobel Prize between 1901 and 2019, eight of them were Spanish — six Nobel Prizes in Literature and two in Medicine.

26. Spain is the most decentralized country in the world

Spain is divided into 17 autonomous communities, 15 of which are part of continental Spain. The other two are the Canary Islands and the Balearic Islands.

Spain also has 2 autonomous cities (Ceuta and Melilla on the north coast of Africa). This makes Spain the most decentralized country in the world.

27. Spain is the only European country with a land border with Africa

As mentioned above, Spain has 2 autonomous cities – Ceuta and Melilla – located on the Mediterranean coast of Africa. They both have a land border with Morocco and are 375 km (233 miles) apart from each other.

Ceuta is a short ferry ride – 38 km (24 miles) – from Algeciras, one of the southernmost cities in peninsular Spain. Neither Ceuta nor Melilla is a big tourist destination, but they are at the center of controversy for receiving waves of migration from Africa every year.

28. Spain has an island that they share with France

Isla de Los Faisanes (Pheasant Island) is an uninhabited island in the Bidasoa river on the border between Spain and France and the most curious trivia fact about this island is that it’s the world’s smallest condominium.

The island is under the joint sovereignty of both Spain and France and its administration alternates every 6 months between the two countries. The most important historical event that took place here was the signing of the Treaty of the Pyrenees in 1659.

Also, this is the place where Louis XIV (known as the Sun King, the longest-ruling monarch in history and the guy who built the Palace of Versailles) and Maria Theresa of Spain met for the first time before getting married.

29. Spain is a non-denominational state

An interesting fact is that Spain is a non-denominational state with high levels of secularization. Each citizen is free to choose what to believe in and freedom of religion is guaranteed by the Spanish Constitution.

While 56% of Spaniards declare themselves Catholic, under 20% are in fact practicing this religion. Another 40% of Spaniards say they are irreligious. This is a quite surprising fact about Spain that shows how far the country has come since the Spanish Inquisition.

30. Spain is the second most mountainous country in Europe

One of the most interesting facts about Spain, especially given the prominence of its coastline, is that it’s incredibly mountainous. In fact, it has most mountains than any other country in Europe, except Switzerland.

This results in a rugged landscape and more wild places than in any other European country. From the Pyrenees and the Cordillera Cantábrica in the north to the Sierra Nevada in the south, Spain has numerous mountain chains crossing its landscape.

31. Most people in Spain live on the coastline and around the capital

This interesting fact is related to the one above. Given the fact that mountains impose many challenges and restrictions and enormous costs when it comes to urban development, Spain’s biggest urban centers are concentrated on the peninsula’s periphery.

Therefore, most of Spain’s population lives in and around big cities such as Barcelona, Valencia, Seville, and Bilbao and in the center of the peninsula around the capital, Madrid.

32. Most Spaniards live in apartments

Living in a house in Spain is a luxury, and that’s a fact. And I’m not even talking about detached properties with a garden – living in one of those is like winning the lottery. This is one of the biggest surprises for ex-pats moving to Spain.

Due to a highly concentrated urban development (read the fact above to understand why) up to 65% of Spaniards live in apartments. This makes it the second country in the EU with the highest percentage of the population living in an apartment.

33. Spain has a relatively low population density

Even though Spain is the 5th most populated country in the EU, it has a relatively low population density with only 94 people per square kilometer. This makes Spain the country with the lowest population density in Western Europe, after Ireland.

If you’ve visited Spain before, this fact might seem counterintuitive, as Spain’s largest cities are quite overcrowded. But you have to take into consideration the three facts about Spain above – most Spaniards live in cities concentrated around large urban centers and there’s a lot of wilderness in between.

In fact, only 13% of Spain’s territory is inhabited. But out of the 33 points in Europe that have more than 44,000 inhabitants per square kilometer, 23 are in Spain.

34. Spain doesn’t have an official national dish

Now, this is a surprising fact about Spain. While many foreigners consider paella to be the national dish of Spain, most Spaniards beg to differ.

Why? Because Spanish cuisine is incredibly diverse from one region to another and paella is simply a dish from the Valencia region. Yes, it happened to gain more international popularity than any other Spanish dish, besides tapas, but this doesn’t make it the national dish of Spain.

If there was a national dish of Spain, this would probably be the humble “tortilla de patatas“. But so far, no national dish has been officially designated.

35. Spain has 16 national parks

Spain has 16 national parks – eleven in mainland Spain, four in the Canary Islands, and one in the Balearic Islands. This places Spain at #6, on par with Germany, on the list of EU countries with the most national parks.

Each of these parks is unique and special in its own way. The two best-known ones are the national park of the Teide volcano in the Canaries (the most visited national park in Spain) and the Sierra Nevada in Andalucia.

But other lesser know Spanish national parks, such as Picos the Europa (the first national park of Spain) and Ordesa and Monte Perdido are maybe even more impressive.

Historical facts about Spain

Like most countries in Europe, Spain has a long and fascinating history. These historical facts about Spain touch on some of the most influential events in Spanish history.

A man dressed in colorful Moorish clothes at a Moros y Cristianos parade in Alcoy
Reconquista reenactment in Alcoy | Image © SpainWanderlust.com

36. Spain was under Moorish rule for eight centuries

The Moors invaded the Iberian peninsula in as little as 7 years (between 711 and 718). It took the Christians almost 800 years to defeat them and regain control over the peninsula. This period in history is known as the Reconquista.

Granada was the last Moorish stronghold in Spain. It fell back into Christian hands in 1492. The Reconquista is celebrated at festivals around the country. One of the best holidays of this kind is the Moors and Christians festival in Alcoy.

37. The Spanish Inquisition lasted 350 years

The Spanish Inquisition started in 1478 and wasn’t abolished until more than three and a half centuries later, in 1834.

The Inquisition was approved by the Pope at the request of Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella I of Castile. This is the same couple that united Spain through their marriage and elevated Spain to the most powerful nation in Europe during the 16th century (as a result of founding Christopher Columbus’ expeditions).

38. Spain didn’t participate in WWI nor in WWII

Officially, Spain didn’t participate in the two world wars. That’s not to say that during the first part of the 20th century it enjoyed a period of peace. The Spanish Civil war lasted from 1936 until 1939 and it is often referred to as a ‘dress rehearsal’ for WWII.

Language facts about Spain

The Spanish language is widely spoken around the world but there are quite a few interesting facts about it that you probably didn’t know. Not only that, but Spain has some fascinating quirks when it comes to languages.

39. Spanish is the second most spoken language in the world

More than 437 million people in the world speak Spanish as a native language. This makes Spanish the second most spoken language by the number of native speakers, after Chinese. When you also take into consideration people who speak Spanish as a second language, this number grows to 577 million. It’s safe to say that speaking Spanish makes traveling around the world much easier.

40. Many Spanish words have Arabic origins

There are over 4,000 Arabic and Arabic-derived words in the Spanish language. Many of them start with al.

41. Spanish is not the only language spoken in Spain

Although Spanish (or Castellano) is the official language of Spain, a curious fact is that it is not the only language spoken in Spain.

Co-official languages are spoken in 4 out of the 17 autonomous communities — Valencian in the Valencian Community, Galician in Galicia, Euskera in Basque Country, and Catalan (and to a smaller extent Aranese) in Catalonia and Balearic Islands.

42. Some 750,000 Spaniards speak a language of mysterious origins

Spanish, Catalan, Valenciano, Galician, and Aranese are all derived from Latin. Euskera on the other hand is of unknown origins.

This language spoken by almost 750,000 people from northern Spain is not related to any other living language and therefore it is considered to be the oldest isolated living language in Europe.

I think this is one of the weirdest facts about Spain. If you want to hear what Euskera sounds like, check out this YouTube video.

Spain facts for kids

While the above Spain facts are meant for a more mature audience, here are 3 fun facts about Spain for kids. These facts will hopefully make kids more excited about visiting Spain.

43. Spanish children get presents from the Three Wise Men rather than Santa

Christmas is a special time of year in Spain. In preparation, kids write a letter to the Three Wise Men who arrive on the 5th of January, riding camels in the middle of a spectacular parade.

Before going to bed kids leave them milk and cookies. Later on that night, the Three Wise Men come in through the window and leave presents for the good kids and (sweet) coal for the naughty ones.

44. In Spain, the tooth fairy is actually a mouse

There’s no tooth fairy in Spain as this job falls to a sweet little mouse, called Ratoncito Pérez. He comes during the night and trades the teeth under the pillow for candy.

Luis Coloma first mentioned him in a story he wrote for the 8-year-old king-to-be Alfonso XIII. Ratoncito Pérez lives in Madrid and you can visit his house on Calle del Arenal, 8.

45. The world’s first Paleolithic painted cave was discovered by an 8-year-old Spanish girl

An 8-year-old girl called Maria, made one of the most fascinating discoveries when in 1879 she led her father into the then unexplored Cave of Altamira and exclaimed ‘Look, dad… painted oxen!’.

This was the first painted cave acknowledged as dating all the way back to the Paleolithic. The Altamira Cave is now nicknamed the Sistine Chapel of Prehistory.

A movie about the discovery of Altamira was released in 2016 starring Antonio Banderas. Pablo Picasso is famously credited for saying “After Altamira, all is decadence. We have invented nothing new.”

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