EuNIC-Europe: European Information Center for Culture

Culture in Spain

Spain is a nation in South-western Europe, located on the Iberian Peninsula and bordered by France to the north and Portugal to the west. A unified nation since the 15th century when it had a global empire that encompassed most of South America, Spain is today a constitutional monarchy with 17 autonomous regions. The strong regional influence of the likes of Andalucia and Catalunya means that the culture of Spain is a diverse one, although large elements of it can be considered homogenous.

An overwhelmingly Catholic country, Spain is however officially a secular state and fewer Spaniards than before now identify as regular churchgoers. Spain is a multi-lingual nation with the constitution protecting the cultures, traditions and languages of the regions, such as Basque, Catalan and Galician.

Siestas and sunshine

One of the greatest beneficiaries of the rise of mass tourism in the last 50 years, Spain has become known for its long Mediterranean coastline of beaches and resorts known as the Costas. For visitors, the most recognisable aspects of Spanish culture are bullfights, tapas and Flamenco music and dance. And while those are valid examples, they do not express the genuine diversity of Spanish culture, one that has been influenced by the Romans, by two centuries of Moorish occupation and by the rise and fall of the Spanish empire.

Art, literature and music are probably the most distinctive parts of Spanish culture. Spain’s Golden Age in the 16th and 17th century still defines the nation’s artistic style, with literary works such as Don Quixote and artists such as El Greco and Goya. In the modern era, the abstract works of the likes of Picasso and Dali represent a new golden age of Spanish creativity.

Sporting life

Football is the Spanish obsession with the nation idolising its leading soccer clubs and the national team being crowned both European and world champions recently. Sport is, along with cinema and food, leading examples of Spanish culture that have been exported successfully to the rest of the world. Spanish cinema, created by the likes of Luis Buñuel and Pedro Almodovar, is considered both avant-garde and mainstream. Meanwhile, food such as paella, tapas (little dishes eaten with a drink in a bar) and olive oil, and drinks such as wine and sherry are world famous.