OWhen the UK shut down due to the Covid-19 pandemic, one country was of more concern than any other: Spain. The British missed the sun, the beaches, the excellent food at good prices and above all the dynamism and the warmth of the people. In 2019, over 18 million holidaymakers from the UK chose to visit Spain, making it our most popular destination; 29% of UK overseas travelers are expected to choose a vacation in Spain in 2022. in its diversity.
Current travel restrictions and entry requirements
Vaccinated Britons do not need to take a Covid test before traveling to Spain. They must show proof of full vaccination; a booster shot is necessary if the vaccination was carried out more than 270 days before the trip.
Those not fully vaccinated need either a negative PCR performed within 72 hours of departure or a negative antigen test performed within 24 hours of travel. Alternatively, you can show proof of having recovered from Covid-19 within the past six months. You must also complete a passenger locator form if you are not vaccinated.
Children under 12 do not need to show proof of vaccination or take a test.
Masks must be worn on public transport, including on airplanes, as well as in hospitals, medical centers and pharmacies.
Best time to go
As you would expect, most UK visitors, especially families, come to Spain during the hot and sunny high season of July and August. Prices on the coast and on the islands are then inevitably higher and the beaches can be crowded. Cities, on the other hand, are cheaper, even if uncomfortably hot.
During Semana Santa (Holy Week, Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday), most towns and villages are extremely busy, so if you want to avoid the processions, head to the coast or the countryside. Otherwise, spring and fall are good times to visit, as the weather is pleasant and, although local festivals can drive up accommodation costs, vacations are generally more reasonably priced.
Main regions and cities
Mallorca and Ibiza
The Balearic Islands remain one of the most popular destinations for British tourists; Mallorcan authorities are working to clean up the image of the biggest island by taking measures such as limiting the alcohol served as part of all-inclusive holiday packages. As well as fabulous beaches, Mallorca has pretty inland towns backed by rugged mountains. Clubber favorite Ibiza has recently seen high-end hotel openings, such as W and Six Senses, while Menorca is quieter and Formentera’s tiny white-sand bays are even more unspoiled.
Always Britain’s favorite weekend getaway, the cosmopolitan city of Barcelona is worth exploring for more than just its nightlife. Climb Montjuic to the National Art Museum of Catalonia, which features a Turner exhibition until 9/11, and stroll Passeig de Gracia to see Gaudí’s extraordinary buildings – Casa Batlló offers night tours that include a rooftop concert—and, of course, the architect’s unfinished masterpiece, the towering Sagrada Familia (be sure to book tickets in advance). Then take a trip to a beach town on the Costa Brava: the remote fishing village of Cadaqués, where Dalí once lived, or Sitges, a modernist resort town with a lively gay scene.
Madrid might not be as cool as its Catalan competitor, but the Spanish capital has a more down-to-earth vibe. To see real Madrid life, head to barrios (neighborhoods) like Malasaña and Chueca: wander the bustling Gran Via, looking for the iconic winged statue of Victory atop the Edificio Metropolis. Then take in panoramic views from the rooftop terrace bar at Circulo de Bellas Artes (Negroni optional), or head to Plaza Mayor and tapas at nearby Mercado de San Miguel. Art lovers shouldn’t miss the three main museums: the Prado, Reina Sofia (home to Picasso’s searing and still relevant wartime portrait, Guernica) and the Thyssen-Bornemisza.
So many holidaymakers on the Costa del Sol still get off the plane without even stopping in Malaga. Big mistake – in terms of culture and gastronomy, from street art and the Center for Contemporary Art to flagship museums like Carmen Thyssen, Picasso (Paula Rego show until August 21) and Pompidou, and creative Michelin-starred tapas, the city does more than hold its own against rival Andalusian metropolises. Weekend street markets on the Muelle Uno waterfront, trendy Soho and La Termica cultural center offer local artisan and retro pieces.
Best under-the-radar destinations
Sanlucar de Barrameda
This year, the gastronomic capital of Spain is Sanlúcar de Barrameda, a charming coastal town in the southwest of the province of Cádiz. It’s best known for three things, two of which are a perfect match: manzanilla sherry, dry with a salty flavor, and tortillitas de camarones (thin shrimp fritters). The third is Ferdinand Magellan’s expedition, which left here just over 500 years ago – only one ship returned, in 1522, and became the first to circumnavigate the globe.
Andalucia is renowned for its fabulous cuisine and cultural riches, but head north to neighboring Extremadura and you’ll find great food, historic towns and cutting-edge museums. The Iberian pork from purebred pigs is a standout ingredient (chef Jose Pizarro is from Extremadura), as is the cheese from Extremadura – try the Torta del Casar sheep’s milk. In Mérida, explore the Roman ruins and visit the superb museum, while the charming medieval city of Caceres has narrow, cobbled streets, which contrast with the white and cubist contemporary art museum Helga de Alvear, opened in 2021, where works by Klee, Kandinsky and The Tapies are housed.
Far from the Balearics, and other off-peninsula holiday mainstays of the Canary Islands, lie the tiny Islas Cies. Off the coast of Galicia in northwestern Spain, this 7km-long protected national park in the Vigo estuary is reminiscent of the Isles of Scilly, car-free and wide stretches of white sand with turquoise waters. Two of the three islands, Monteagudo and del Faro, are connected by the famous beach of Rodas; the third, San Martiño, is not served by public transport. Attendance is strictly controlled to preserve this natural paradise: you must first request authorization beforehand; then book your boat trip from Vigo, Baiona or Cangas; ideally, camp there for at least one night (permit required). A hassle, but worth it for the peace, the unspoilt beauty – and the spectacular hike through yellow broom and rose rockrose.
The best things to do
Semana Santa in Seville
You don’t have to be religious to marvel at Seville’s Semana Santa processions – statues carried aloft on pasos (floats), accompanied by hooded figures and marching bands, wind through the city as you go. and as they advance majestically, with frequent stops, from their parish church to the cathedral, and vice-versa. Holy Week is celebrated throughout Spain, but here the scale is grander and the drama is more extravagant.
Pintxos walk in San Sebastian
Strolling around San Sebastian, snacking on pintxos (small dishes or skewers, literally “pierced”) in the bars, is one of the best ways to spend an evening. The beautiful Basque seaside town is full of atmospheric spots: try the red pepper stuffed with spider crab or a lamb skewer at Gandarias, and be sure to try the Txakoli, the local white wine.
Toss Tomatoes at La Tomatina
Said to have started as a food fight during a religious celebration in the 1940s, La Tomatina in the Valencian town of Buñol is now an international festival attended by 22,000 people (you need a ticket to to participate). From 11 a.m. to 12 p.m. on the last Wednesday in August, people are tossing overripe tomatoes at each other. White t-shirts are worn for maximum visual effect and goggles help you see through all the crushed fruit.
The best way to get around Spain is by train – the high-speed AVE, launched 30 years ago, connects major cities such as Barcelona, Madrid, Alicante, Valencia, Cordoba, Seville and Malaga (new service linking the capital from the Costa del Sol to Granada launched in April). Two newly launched fast and low-cost carriers – Avlo, operated by national rail service RENFE, and Ouigo, owned by French SNCF – now also serve the Madrid-Barcelona route, with Avlo also offering services to Valencia. They will soon reach southern cities like Seville and Malaga.
Iberia, Air Europa, Vueling, Volotea, easyJet and Ryanair all operate domestic flights within Spain.
Renting a car gives you more freedom, but can be expensive.
How to get there
It is possible to reduce your carbon footprint and travel to Spain by train, arriving the same day: take the Eurostar to Paris, then change to the TGV which serves Figueres, Girona and Barcelona.
You can also take the ferry, operated by Brittany Ferries, from Portsmouth to Santander or Bilbao, or Plymouth to Santander. It is a good option if you want to take your car.
The fastest and cheapest way to get to Spain from the UK is by plane: Iberia, British Airways, Vueling, easyJet, Jet2 and Ryanair all offer routes from UK airports. Check AENA for the latest information on individual Spanish airports, the airlines that serve them and their destinations.
Tip to save money
Avoiding the high season in July and August will save you a lot of money – the shoulder season in May or October is much cheaper, with milder temperatures. All-inclusive hotels will also help the budget; without a package, being flexible on the day of your trip will reduce flight costs. And a home exchange is the best budget.
What weather is it?
It varies greatly across the country. In general terms, winter is mild in the south and on the Mediterranean coast, and cold in central inland Spain, with heavy rainfall in the north. Spring has mild temperatures, with short but intense thunderstorms in many areas. Summer is hot in the south and the central plateau hot in the north. The Canary Islands are mild all year round, while the Balearic Islands have cooler winters and hotter summers.
What time zone is it in?
What currency do I need?
euros. Credit cards are widely accepted.
What languages are spoken?
Spanish, Catalan, Basque and Galician.