Spain, that is to say, the country between Portugal, Morocco, and France, may not have the cachet of its northern neighbor or the culinary fame of Italy. Still, this monarchy has a more vibrant and more diverse history than perhaps any other nation on earth. From Moorish occupation to its glorious time as a global superpower that colonized much of the new world, from the continued fight for the liberty of almost-independent Catalonia to Ibiza becoming the planet's de facto party capital, a lot has happened in Spain.


Spain is one of those places that carry an immediate association in people's minds: an image of carefree, happy people, sunshine, good food, and the iconic red color of pimiento peppers. Not everything about this country is quite as rosy as it appears. The Spanish empire was built on inquisitions and wars. But that takes away nothing from the fact that, from the peaks of the Sierra Nevada to the shores of the Costa del Sol, Spain is full of life and will make you feel it like no other place does. Whether it is architecture, fine art, dance, or molecular cuisine, Spain is full of exciting experiences.


Spain is one of the nations that excel at the cultivation of natural products — olives, grapes, ham, and cheese — so you should make sure to try as many of those as you can in the irresistible form of tapas. Tapas are small plates of food that accompany a drink before, after, or instead of dinner. For those wondering, no, it is not possible to avoid overeating when you set out to dine at a tapas bar. Too many things will look too good to pass up, and the small size of the plates is misleading. But there is a unique pleasure that is born from the suffering of a full stomach when it happens in Spain. And then forget all your woes from the night before and get the standard hot chocolate and churros for breakfast.


In Spain, dinner is served at ten, and things go on from there until the small hours, whether it happens to be a Monday or not. Staying out late just feels different in Spain: it isn't done with any kind of fervency, but like going home at three in the morning is the most normal thing in the world, which is bound to give visitors the feeling that Spaniards don't have to get up to go to work the next day. Thankfully, whether they do or not is not your concern, because you're visiting and won't have to go anywhere in the morning, if not to the beach or the Prado, the most beautiful museum in the world by many standards.