Officially known as the Kingdom of Spain (Reino de España, in Spanish), Spain is a major country in Western Europe. It is located on the Iberian Peninsula, which it shares with Portugal, and is situated south of France and the United Kingdom. Spain has borders with Portgual, France, Andorra, and Gibraltar, with the Mediterannean Sea being located off most of the country's eastern and southern coastline, and the Atlantic Ocean to the western side. Spain covers a total area of 195,360 square miles (505,990 square km), making it the second biggest country in Western Europe. It has an estimated population of 46.7 million. CDC information for travelers. Hours/availability may have changed.
5 of the Largest Cities in Spain
- Overview, Photo: dimbar76/stock.adobe.com
- Madrid, Photo: LucVi/stock.adobe.com
- Barcelona, Photo: valeryegorov/stock.adobe.com
- Valencia, Photo: Ester/stock.adobe.com
- Seville, Photo: k_tatsiana/stock.adobe.com
- Zaragoza, Photo: vichie81/stock.adobe.com
- Cover Photo: Courtesy of FSEID - Fotolia.com
Attraction Spotlight: L'Oceanografic
L'Oceanografic is located in Valencia, Spain and is Europe’s largest aquarium, with over 18 million gallons of salt-water exhibits. The aquarium spans several buildings as part of a concept designed by the architect Félix Candela, which makes up Valencia’s City of Arts and Sciences. Each building represents one of the world’s ocean ecosystems, and include a dolphinarium and underwater restaurant.
Each of L’Oceanografic’s buildings is identified with a specific marine ecosystem. The Mediterranean Gallery is located in its own pavilion and is host to the temporary Medusas jellyfish exhibit, as well as permanent galleries highlighting Valencia’s home ocean, the relatively small Mediterranean Sea. A large aviary is located in a spherical space and hosts wetlands exhibits as well as a variety of wetlands and marine birds. Highlights include the scarlet ibis, herons and spoonbills, as well as a variety of freshwater turtles and amphibians.
Guests pass by the Aldabra Giant Tortoises exhibit on their way to the Temperate and Tropical Aquarium galleries. Here visitors will sea the Humboldt penguin, common seal, giant spider crabs, moray eels, and a variety of tropical fish. South American Sea Lions and a butterfly garden are located outdoors before arriving at the Dolphinarium, Europe’s largest. The 1,500 capacity grandstand is host to dolphin, seal and sea lion shows. Four adjoining pools are used for training, medical care and reproduction.
From the Dolphinarium, visitors pass by an outdoor Flamingo exhibit before reaching the Antarctic exhibit, which features the Gentoo penguins. L’Oceanografic’s Arctic exhibit is housed within a large igloo shaped dome and features Beluga whales and walruses. An upper and lower viewing area allows guests to see the whales both above and below the surface of the water. Kylie, born in 2016, is the first Beluga whale born in captivity in Europe, and has become one of the most popular L’Oceanografic residents.
The crocodile exhibit is a large outdoor space designed to promote nesting. Island pits are surrounded by water and equipped with a special drainage system that promotes the viability of eggs. One of the most popular exhibits is the shark gallery, which includes two large towers connected by an underwater tunnel. Together, the exhibit is among the world’s largest, containing over 1.5 million gallons of salt water and housing over 1,300 sharks. ARK’s Sea is L’Oceanografic’s recovery center for marine wildlife. Animals are brought here to be rehabilitated before being released back into their natural environment.
There are eight dining options located within the buildings of L’Oceanografic, the most notable of which is the Submarine Restaurant. Located in the aquarium’s most iconic building, the restaurant offers fine dining surrounded on all sides by an aquarium containing over 10,000 fish. Additional facilities at L’Oceanografic include several retail shops and a children’s playground.
History: L’Oceanografic opened in 2003. Known for its avant-garde architecture, the complex is part of an Arts and Sciences pavilion, known as the City of Arts and Sciences, which includes the Palace of Fine Arts, Science Museum and the Hemisferic, an IMAX Dome cinema specializing in science and astronomy-related programming.
L’Oceanografic operates in partnership with the Oceanografic Foundation, a non-profit organization with a mission to increase knowledge of the world’s oceans and sea life to best care for animals within and without the aquarium. The organization works to promote conservation of species in their natural habitat.
Ongoing Programs and Education: A wide range of educational programming is available both at L’Oceanografic, and the adjoining Science Museum and Hemisferic cinema. For L’Oceanografic’s young visitors, themed tours and workshops are available that span a wide variety of topics, depending on the age and interests of the group. Sleeping with Sharks is a popular overnight program for children that allows for a sleepover within the aquarium’s underwater tunnel, while sharks swim above their heads.
Activities include Dive With the Sharks, which allows qualified scuba divers to swim with the sharks in the aquarium’s state of the art shark tank. Divers swim with over 50 species of sharks, represented by a total of over 1,300 specimens. Trainer for a Day is a program that allows visitors ages 13 and over to spend a day with the marine mammal trainers working with dolphins, beluga whales, walruses, seals and sea lions. The Other Side of the Aquarium is available to visitors ages 6 and older, and takes guests on behind-the-scenes tours of L’Oceanografic’s galleries.
Av. Professor López Piñero (Historiador de la Medicina), 7 46013 – Valencia, Spain, Phone: +00-9-61-97-44-00
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More Ideas: Tipping in Spain
Spain is probably one of the most common tourist destinations in the world. With its beautiful architecture, scenic spots, well-known language, and wineries, many people would definitely put this European country in their bucket lists. But while they are enjoying their stay here, in one way or another, they’d come across tipping their waiter or waitress, guides, and other service providers. But before going into the details of tipping in Spain, let us first understand how differently they view this practice compared to other countries.
Spaniards do not usually tip because many believe that owners should pay their staff proper salary. Some even go to waiting schools to learn the proper way of setting the table and serving food and drinks, so once employed, they are usually hired as full time employees, and as such, receive proper compensation. But with the influx of tourists from all over the world, tipping has most certainly found its way to Spain albeit a little different from how it is conducted in other nations.
In general, small change is given as tip for bars and taxis, and €1 for restaurants and cafés. However, around 5%-10% tip is customarily given for more elaborate meals.
If you ordered coffee at a bar, you don’t need to tip. However, if you fully utilized their facilities—stayed a while reading a book or the newspaper, or made a few trips to the restroom with your kids—or received helpful service, small change could be given as tip.
Wine, Beer, and Tapa
Small change is usually left as gratuity especially if your order was served with olives or cheese, or if you needed help in choosing wine. The same goes for when you get seated and decide to dine in for your tapa.
Simple Meals/Menu del Dia
If you received good service for a simple meal, €1 or €2 is usually enough. More than €1 per person is quite unusual, except for some cases:
If you are eating alone in a busy place, €1 or €2 gratuity is recommended. This is because many restaurants do not usually have a 1:1 ratio between waiters or waitresses and tables. So accommodating a single customer during peak hours may be a little more challenging. Gratuity is also often given if the restaurant gave free drinks or coffee. If the waiter or waitress helped translating the menu or assisted you with your kid, you might want to give a bit more as well.
On the other hand, if you needed special accommodation for your meals, such as special preparation because of food allergies, other health restrictions, or situations like needing kosher-style food preparation, a small percentage is usually given as gratuity. If dining as a large group, however, 5% to 10% tip is usually given. This also tends to be the case for dining during the evening, as meals are more elaborate.
High-end restaurants and Michelin-star restaurants, however, tend to follow international standards in tipping. About 10% tip is usually given, or more, if service was exceptional.
When dining at a restaurant, you might also notice pan (bread) in your bill. While this isn’t considered tip, it is used to ensure a certain amount per diner since many dishes are shared. It usually ranges around €2.50 per person.
Bars and Late Night Drinking
If you ordered beer or wine and received no other service, there isn’t any need to tip. However, if you ordered something more expensive and elaborate like cocktails and spirits, small change can be given as tip. Small neighborhood bars with good wine and service also usually receive a few euro coins gratuity from satisfied customers.
Hotels in Spain do not usually have porters, except for 5-star ones. If someone helps you with your luggage, you could give €1 per bag, up to €5. €1 is enough for simple room service, or €2 for more elaborate orders. You can also tip the hotel concierge €5 to €10 if they’ve been very helpful to you. You may also leave €1 or €2 for the housekeeping staff at the end of your stay.
Taxis and Station Porters
You might want to let taxi drivers keep the loose change of your fare for convenience and if you had a pleasant ride with them. On the other hand, you wouldn’t find porters at train and bus stations and airports, unless requested. Be sure to request this beforehand and even if you do, tipping isn’t necessary anymore.
Private Guides and Drivers
An interesting feature of traveling around Spain is the option to hire private guides and drivers. They are often self-employed workers who could arrange trips, restaurant recommendations, transportation, and guided tour around the place. Private guides usually receive from €10 to €15 tip for a half day trip and €15 to €25 for the whole day. Private drivers, on the other hand, usually receive €15 to €20. He would help you with your luggage, translation, and might even take you to a good winery or restaurant on the way to a far destination. Gratuity is often given at the end of the trip, day, or period of contract. Private guides and drivers offer more than guidance and transport, they may also show you places that simple online research wouldn’t be able to provide. Since they know the place more than the tourists, tipping them could also count as gratuity for their knowledge.
Hairstylists and beauticians usually receive €1 to €2 tip for good service. Therapists, however, usually get around 10% through gratuity envelopes that you can get upon request. Delivery service usually receives €1 or €2 especially if you are living somewhere out-of-the-way, and about €5 tip if someone called the plumber or locksmith for you.
Despite the cultural differences between Spain and other countries where tipping is a little more expected, it all boils down to how good the service was, and the customer’s satisfaction. So when staying in Spain, do not feel pressured to tip—only do so if you want to. Tipping is only considered a bonus, and no one would bat an eye if you choose not to, under usual conditions.
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More Ideas: Spain Currency
If you’re looking for fun in the sun, gorgeous beaches, warm waters, tasty food, vibrant festivals, and super cities, Spain is the place to be. Located on the Iberian Peninsula of Europe and divided into 17 different autonomous regions, Spain is a wonderful country to visit. It gets some of the hottest temperatures and longest periods of sunshine of any European nation, making it a prime spot for summer trips.
Some visitors to Spain choose to go to a big city like Valencia, Barcelona, or Madrid and see amazing palaces, cathedrals, and galleries. Others prefer to head to the coast and the various islands of Spain for waterfront fun. You can also explore the country’s rural regions, finding castles and quaint villages hidden among the countryside. Either way, you’ll need to take some money along. Here’s all you need to know about currency in Spain.
Official Currency in Spain
In Spain, the official currency is the euro. In the past, Spain’s currency was the peseta, but the country switched over to the euro in 2002. The euro is used in various nations all over Europe, including Spain’s neighbors of Portugal and France. Its symbol is € and it can also be identified by the code EUR.
One euro is made up of 100 cents, which are called centimos in Spanish. Spanish people also tend to refer to a single euro as a ‘pavo’, which translates to ‘turkey’ in English. The value of the euro is usually a little higher than the US dollar, but it can change greatly over time, so it’s always important to take a look at the latest conversion rates.
While traveling around Spain, you may see all or some of the following euro coins:
All of these coins are circular, which can make them hard to differentiate between at first. However, you can use the size and the color of the coins to tell them apart quite easily. The euro coins can be divided into three categories. The first category is the small value copper coins (1c, 2c, and 5c). Next, there are the medium value coins, which are gold in color (10c, 20c, and 50c). Finally, there are the high value coins (€1 and €2), which feature a dual-color system.
As for the notes, you’ll find these forms of paper money being used in Spain:
- €5 (grey)
- €10 (red)
- €20 (blue)
- €50 (orange)
- €100 (green)
- €200 (yellow)
- €500 (purple)
As shown in brackets, each note has its own color, so it’s very easy to tell them apart with just a quick glance once you know the colors. The larger value notes are also bigger in size, so a €10 note is bigger than a €5 note, for example. The notes also feature numerical values printed upon them for easy viewing.
Using Credit Cards in Spain
Cards like Visa and Mastercard are widely accepted all around Spain, and many restaurants, hotels, shops, and bars will take card payments. Compared to several other European countries, Spain is quite a card-friendly place, and you’ll find a lot of ATMs all around the country in towns and cities.
There are, however, going to be some places that don’t take cards and some instances where you’ll need to pay with cash. If you’re shopping at a market, for example, most of the vendors aren’t going to have card machines. This is why it’s important to buy euros before you go or withdraw some from an ATM so you always have at least a little cash.
Using US Dollars or Other Currencies in Spain
The euro is the only currency you can use in Spain. There may be a few hotels that would allow payments in other currencies in a big city like Madrid, but 99.9% of the time, euros are going to be your only option when spending money in Spain.
Be sure to read through these tips to have the best experience with money in Spain.
- ATMs often give you better exchange rates than the exchange offices in places like airports and hotels.
- Remember, however, that your bank will often charge you a fee every single time you use an ATM. It makes sense, therefore, to withdraw large amounts in one go rather than making lots of little withdrawals over the course of your trip.
- Try to keep some notes and coins on your person at all times. Notes will be useful for paying in shops and bars that don’t take cards, and the coins can be very helpful to have around for things like tolls, public transport, or paying for parking.
- Stay safe with your money and valuables when traveling in big cities as pickpockets are rife in certain areas of Madrid, Barcelona, and a few other places in Spain. It’s a safe country in general, but pickpockets do exist and will always see tourists as easy prey.
- Shop around and compare exchange rates at multiple locations before buying any euros. Some places will have much better rates than others, giving you a lot more cash and value.
- If you want to visit a neighboring country like Portugal or France during your trip, you can safely use your euros in these places too, so you don’t need to worry about getting any other currencies.
- A lot of shops and bars in Spain will have notices near the cash registers to tell customers whether or not they accept cards and if they have any specific rules or restrictions in place, so look out for these notices each time you enter a new establishment.
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