SPAIN - LIFESTYLE AND THINGS TO DO

Spain in Short

The mainstay of the European tourist and second home buying destinations. The amazing rich culture deeply rooted in the past, the breathtaking 5,000+ kms of incredible Mediterranean coastline, the second most mountainous country in Europe with hidden valleys completely unspoilt. Heavily developed areas by the coast to the East and to the south providing a veritable playground for foreigners from many places and with something for people with all budgets, from cheap budget package tour destinations to "Golden Miles" and even boasting the most expensive and elite urbanisations in Europe.

Fully geared up and very accustomed to receiving visitors, the Spanish truly are the masters of "hosteleria" hosting, working hard to bring an amazing experience to you while you relax and party! A recent Bloomberg study officially dubbed it one of the healthiest countries in the world in which to live.

Spain has something for everyone, from beautiful museums, churches, traditional mountain villages to the hustle and bustle of the busy coastal towns. There are water parks, theme parks, golf courses and shopping centres, but never far away from massive expanses of countryside and great walks in the mountains. The forever present Spanish culture and respect for tradition can be seen everywhere in the architecture, the food and the regular fiestas and celebrations held in every town and village. You are never far from an amazing party in Spain! At the same time there are many peaceful areas enjoyed by people looking for a break in the peace and quiet of a beautiful valley surrounded by majestic mountains providing spectacular sunsets...The warm Mediterranean climate makes it such a comfortable and enjoyable experience.

Spain is cheaper than many of the Northern European countries in respect to the cost of living and property prices. The high speed internet connection is facilitating more people to work from home and Spain is becoming a very popular destination for this reason too.

We hope you enjoy exploring the information below about lifestyle, facilities and “things to do” in Spain. You may also explore our gallery full of photos and short Vision Media movies which will give you more of visual and virtual experience of life and activities in Spain.


ABOUT SPAIN - OVERVIEW

Spain is one of the warmest countries in Europe and has been a popular place for many foreigners to settle since the 1960s. The British and Germans were the first to arrive in great quantities, nowadays people come from everywhere, particularly Northern Europe and there remains a very strong international presence, concentrated in coastal areas.

Spain has the mainland, most notably the Costa Blanca and the Costa del Sol, the Balearic Islands and the Canary Islands. It has been a full member of the European Union since 1986 and as such is very easy for visa-free European travel.

There are plenty of Airports all over Spain. The Costa Blanca served by Valencia, Alicante and Murcia, the Costa del Sol is principally served by Malaga or Gibraltar. There is an enormous tourist trade in Spain giving opportunities to invest in construction, holiday accommodation and related services.

Property prices vary massively in Spain, even within a few kilometres things can be very different. Premiums are paid in relation to views, distance to the beach and local facilities. Inland properties tend to be more economical.

A 2-bedroom apartment in Denia front line on the beach would cost from 400,000€ yet 500m back would be closer to 180,000-230,000€. Go inland 15-20 minutes and the price would almost half again. All enjoy the same sun, sea and fantastic climate.


HOTELS

There is a huge selection ranging from hidden boutique hotels nestled in the mountains or back streets of towns to larger establishments by the sea. It would take months or even years to explore all the different options as all of them welcome guests who wish to book a reservation or simply view the facilities. There are really no restrictions of entry and non resident visitors love to breakfast, lunch or dinner and take in the amazing service and facilities. You can choose to join one of the super luxurious hotel spas and health clubs or just drink in the bars and restaurants within the hotels. Many are close to attractions and activities such as Surfing Kitesurfing or SUP classes, Jet ski, Water parks and more.

Some hotels offer all inclusive holidays where guests often remain there for meals and drinks. It is always recommendable to visit the local area as eating out is not expensive in Spain and there is a great tradition of going out for a coffee - meaning there are countless terraces and areas with many bars and restaurants creating a wonderful atmosphere to be able to relax and watch the world go by.

There is something for all tastes and budgets.

The main season starts at Easter through to September/October but many hotels are open year round with Christmas time being a popular time for a getaway with the family.


BEACHES

It is simply not possible for us to list all the beaches as the choice is just too vast. Spain has it all! From wild unspoilt beaches among some of the top Blue Flag awards such as Oliva or Mijas to the populated and built up areas such as Benidorm or Marbella.

Beach lovers can explore for months to find your favourite place. Rent a car, take a walk/cycle along old coastal roads or book a sun-bed and parasol and be served food and drink in one of the many Chiringuito or Beach bars that are out during the summer months.

Some beaches have wide promenade lines with bars and restaurants and others are away from it all with peace, quiet and only the sounds of the wind and waves.

Get up early to witness stunning sunrises or hang around for the most wonderful sunsets. You can even book boat tour with drinks at sunset! Follow this with a Tapas or two in a traditional Spanish bar or restaurant.

You can even take day trips out to certain smaller Islands like Formentura or Tabarca.

Vision Group are always willing to share with you the best beach locations in Spain!


NATURE, FLOWERS AND FAUNA

There are certain times of year like the famous Almond Blossom in late January - early February in the Jalon Valley when people come from far and wide to witness the beautiful carpet of pink and white flowers across the valley.

You know you are in Spain when you see the Palm trees! A feature almost everywhere, some towns having lines of them along the main roads into town.

Orange and lemon groves scattered across the ancient terracing on the sides of mountains, abundant olive trees producing delicious fruit and also natural shade from the warm sunshine. If it is magical forests you seek, enjoy the dense evergreen pine and carob trees never far away.

If you take a walk in the mountains you will be amazed by the beautiful environment and you will find all manner of interesting plants all along the way.

If wildlife fascinates you then you will enjoy visiting one of the many nature reserves such as The Albufera, or L'Albufera de València (meaning "lagoon" in Valencian) where you can go to the visitors centre to get to know the birds and wildlife that populate the reserve, or you can see the Flamingos that come the the Salt Lakes near Torrevieja - an amazing site to behold! Scuba diving and snorkelling are also very popular amongst nature and water lovers - with some natural parks spreading out into the sea to protect coastlines of rocks, caves and amazing marine wildlife. Up close with an Octopus or seeing Dolphins swimming by are not uncommon occurrences along the Spanish coastlines.


WALKING AND MOUNTAIN BIKING

Senderismo is Spanish for hiking. Rutas de Senderismo are the countless hiking routes sprawling across the countryside both along the coast and inland in the mountains. Discover restaurants hidden in the mountains with the most spectacular local dishes.

Recent years has seen a massive growth in the popularity of cycling, the Gira de España has made cycling a mainstream hobby and new laws protecting cyclists have been introduced. Spain has become a training ground for world class teams with the mountains and the climate allowing much longer training seasons than other countries. Groups of people of all ages can be found on their bikes enjoying the clean air and spectacular views of a "paseo en bici" roughly translating as a "stroll out on your bike!”

Follow the old coastal roads with the sea breeze in your face or venture high up and enjoy the almost airplane views from up in the mountains.


SPORTING LIFE

So what can you do to raise your heart rate, practise your sport or pump some adrenalin. Spain is a very outdoor and sporty country, once again there is something for everyone as there is no shortage of sporting activities. Let’s see if any of the activities below appeal to you :-

Golf - Spain is huge on Golf! You are seldom more than a few kms from not just one but many golf courses. The Costa del Sol is often known as the Costa del Golf! If Golf is your thing, you will definitely find the right course for you here!

Water Sports - A sunny Mediterranean country with huge a coastline makes it a haven for water sport enthusiasts so here are some to choose from :

Scuba Diving - There are many places to rent equipment and book classes from the beginner to experienced divers. Spain has many natural reserves along the coastline giving great places to get under the water and see life going about its business!

Wind Surfing - This action sport has been popular in Spain for decades with centres dotted along the coastline.

Paddle Boarding or SUP boarding as it’s known - A newly popular sport in Spain, particularly because of its lack of dependance of wind to practise it and the accessibility for all levels of experience or ability - on your first day you can go on your knees and paddle - even if you don't learn to stand immediately! Great for balance and core strength. Some places even offer Yoga classes floating on boards!

Kitesurfing - a very popular Sport in Spain with the main spot (in Europe) being Tarifa. Becoming an Olympic sport has caused even more of an upturn in popularity and classes are abundant in most areas - although it does need specific wind conditions and some areas are known to be much better than others.

Sailing and Boating - Spain is covered in ports and marinas where renting boats is relatively easy. If you have the licence you can rent without a captain, or if not you can book a short tour or day trip that can include the whole package with meals and drinks. Many people also choose to keep their boats here all year round.

Gyms, Health Clubs and Spas - There are Gyms, Health Clubs ad Spas all around ranging from public parks with gym equipment areas or the municipal facilities with beautiful quality gyms, tennis courts, football pitches and swimming pools amongst other things to privately owned and exclusive hotels with in house stunning Spas.

Motor Sport - GoKart centres of varying sizes, quad bike hire with and without guides, there are many ways to get about! The latest craze seems to be the electric scooters and bikes allowing the versatility to get around but without having to find a parking space!


RESTAURANTS AND TRADITIONAL CUISINE

It used to be that France owned the franchise on quality eating - but Spain has stepped up over the last decades. They now boast more Michelin stars than ever and have the finest locally sourced ingredients ripened on the plant, under the Mediterranean sun. They are becoming world leaders in high quality food. The culture in Spain means many people eat in restaurants - not just tourists so the selection is very wide and the prices are still very cheap compared to many other developed countries. The combination is very successful and great food can be obtained as very reasonable prices. The "Menu del dia" created by Franco is still a strong tradition requiring restaurants to advertise a fixed price that should include a starter, main, dessert and drink (sometimes even the coffee is included) the person should see the price and know that is exactly what they will pay for what is stated. Often several choices for each course are offered and it is a great way to "eat, drink and be merry" for a pre-agreed price.

Spanish food is so good they often don't bother with any other! That being said, there are also restaurants from all over the world in Spain: Chinese, Italian, American, French and more...that hardest part of having so many choices is to actually decide!

Traditionally the Spanish eat 5 times a day, not 3! Desayuno = Breakfast, Almuerzo = "second breakfast - or Elevenses," Comida = Lunch, Merienda = Afternoon snack, Cena = Dinner. That means you can eat out 5 times a day, not 3!

Vision Group would love to give just one recommendation of a special place to visit - but this would be impossible because of how many ideal places there are. The choice is just too great and each restaurant is special for so many reasons. We are always happy to share our local knowledge - you just have to ask.


LOCAL PRODUCE

If you simply desire to live off the land and you love cooking at home, you will adore the abundant markets and shops that sell a huge variety of colourful fruit and vegetables, all grown within Spain. There is no doubt that fruit and vegetables also like the Mediterranean climate as they are fresh and naturally delicious without preservatives and shipping damage. These green grocer’s and regular markets are very popular with the locals and foreigners alike, and there is a reason - fresh for the day and super value. Some stock locally produced goods such as cheese, sausages, eggs, olive oil, nuts and bread. Don’t forget some herbs or the famous smoked paprika to throw in your pot.

There is a wide choice of modern supermarkets fully stocked and with some of your European favoured brands. Following years of a growing international market you will find many brands from all over the world and some supermarkets dedicating to importing the things you miss.


NIGHTLIFE

Spain has Nightlife to suit all tastes and ages and operates an all welcome policy in most places. There are the classic terraces with music and drinks served late into the night and early morning, the Discoteca - some open air and some inside, choose by location or music type and there is often a local fiesta or celebration in a plaza or a few streets closed off to accommodate it. The Spanish youth tend to go out about midnight and come home around 6am!

During the summer months the sky is a mixture of stars and often fireworks. A fiesta here, a celebration there, a discoteca opening somewhere or local Fila (party organisation) crowning a new king and queen or celebrating something!

Just a stroll round the old town and an ice-cream or a coffee makes for an enchanting after dinner activity.

Where there are people there is life. Bigger towns offer more events, flamenco shows, theatre, cabaret and more!

In the summer open air cinemas are often opened on beaches or the main square of an inland village. Great to mingle with the locals and they often show Spanish or VO foreign films (Version Original with subtitles into Spanish).

Once again the choice is substantial, you just need a lifetime to explore it all.


FESTIVALS/FIESTAS

The calendar is published each year and is taken very seriously indeed. There are around 10 national fiesta days and 2 local ones. The small villages try to coordinate with other local villages to not have the same dates - to allow each other to attend the other local fiestas. The result is that there is a fiesta somewhere most weekends!! You just have to watch out for the publicity to see where the next one is.

The annual list includes:-

Kings Day - the Cabalgata, large processions where magic kings throw sweets out to the children (whilst simultaneously leaving them presents at home as traditions goes - magic!)

Fallas - specific to the Valencia region, during the year huge papier-mache statues are built which are then displayed, judged and then burnt in order of the results starting with the number 2-12 then the number 1 at the very end. It has to be seen to be believed. A must to see the Valencia Mascleta once in your life.

Moros y Cristianos - Celebrated at different times in different towns throughout the year. A procession depicting the Spanish expulsion of the Moors from Spain 800 years ago.

Semana Santa - Holy week particularly noted in Andalucia - the central point point being Malaga, with prime spot tickets being sold out generations in advance but space for everyone to get a look at least.

Las fiestas de ...... - Every town and village has it's own specific dates and style of fiesta from the Tomatina in Buñol involving the throwing of tons of tomatoes at each other to the running of the bulls still present in many towns and cities involving the young demonstrating their bravery by avoiding getting hit by a bull!


WEDDINGS

Some people choose to get legally married in their own country and then have a Blessing and celebration in Spain for all their family and friends. There are many places very well prepared to host your special day. Vision Group Spain can help with specific information once you know what area you would like to head for - just ask our team.


FOR THE KIDS

Kids are very welcome everywhere in Spain and you'll see them up late in the restaurants with their parents. There are many sports centres, groups and classes for kids. Educational and activity centres that combine fun and learning. A great healthy life for children is available in Spain. The weather alone allows for a much healthier lifestyle and "playing out" with their friends will late. Most establishments will pay more attention to the kids than the adults!


SHOPPING

The Spanish love their commercial centres. Big Spanish brands like La Zara and Mango are side by side with international brands in the many shopping centres. All shops close on Sundays, except for certain permitted Sundays, often in summer to allow for tourists. But the bars and restaurants remain open every day so you'll often see people in shopping centres on Sundays having a drink or some food.


UNIVERSITIES

There are many universities in Spain, working to the Spanish system and requiring Spanish fluency to be able to study here. Applying for attendance at a university in Spain is the first step in making your dreams of attending school in this amazing country come true. All universities in the country require that an application be completed before one can be considered for admission into a university. Luckily you will find that filling out these college applications is simple and easy to do, and takes only a short amount of time.

Bachelor’s Degree Programs & Admissions

If you wish to earn a Bachelor’s degree at a Spain university, the process of completing an application will vary according to the country in which you obtained your secondary education. European and Non-European students will need to follow the exact procedures for applications as indicated below.

European Students

For those who are in a European country, application submission takes place through the SNUDE, the Spanish National University for Distance Education. The application, called the solicitud de inscripcion, opens during the month of April. Upon completion of the application it should be printed and mailed to the address indicated on the website. You may be asked to submit a copy of a passport, identity card or school leaving certification with the application. If accepted you will receive a Credencial de Accesso within a period of three months. This should be sent to the university in which you want to attend.

Non-EU Students

If you are not from a European country and looking to earn your Bachelor’s degree it is necessary that you have a recognition from your high school. This recognition certifies that you have attained the necessary certification in compliance with requirements in Spain. The recognition can be obtained at a Spanish Embassy. The Embassy will provide you with a Volante Accreditation which can be used to apply at the universities of your choice.

After being granted the Volante Acreditativo it is necessary that you register for a Spanish University entrance exam. This exam is called the selectividad or the Pruebas de Acceso a la Universidad. You are now ready to apply.

A Look at the Exam

There are four different components of the Selectividad exam. Each is important:

Text Analysis: This portion of the exam gives you the chance to choose between two texts, written in Spanish. Once you choose the text questions related to it will be provided to you.

Questions about Spain’s History or Philosophy: You can choose between the two when it is time to take your test. You will need to answer several questions about the chosen subject in this portion. Foreign Language Exam: Take your choice of French, English, German, Portuguese or Italian.

Your Choice: The fourth and final part of the exam can be indicated by your selection, with choices which include subjects related to Art, Fine Art, Dance and Music; and subjects related to Science and Technology. Several choices are available in all.

You must successfully complete each portion of the test in order to move forward in the process of attending school in Spain.

Applying at a University for Postgraduate Degrees

Those seeking a postgraduate degree should contact the institution they are interested in attending directly to learn the admission requirements. In most cases you will need to provide proof of earning your bachelor’s degree, a copy of your passport and transcripts. This is also true for those who are returning to a university after already attending or attending a college or university in another country.

There may be more than one period of applications at the university that you want to attend, as many of the universities offer both fall and summer semesters. For the main semester (summer) it is usually required your application be submitted by July of the year. Make sure that you have all of your information, as well as the application, in as soon as possible. Never wait till the last minute to get all of the things in to the school.

Also keep in mind that all of your applications and documents must be submitted in Spanish. If your documents are not already in Spanish, you will need to have an official translator translate them into Spanish. Source: https://www.studying-in-spain.com/how-to-apply-at-a-university-in-spain/


MEDICAL SECTOR

Having one of the newer National Health Systems, many visitors are surprised and impressed with the efficiency of the Spanish medical system. There are also many private hospitals working with insurers to provide a top class service. With a large percentage of European retirees choosing Spain, the health system is always a large factor in that decision process and Spain does not disappoint.


LEGAL

Spain's legal system is the same as most European countries, based on the Roman system - and very different to the Anglo Saxon system in the UK and USA. You must use a locally qualified lawyer for any legal issues.


BANKING

Vision Group have successfully assisted hundreds of clients with banking services and opening accounts. Whether they are foreign, public, private or international, there are many banks to choose from. Some were established for and focus on the ex-pat community and all are multi lingual. Opening a bank account is relatively easy and generally require to see a passport, NIE number and a rental or purchase contract. Whilst the local currency is Euros, the best exchange rates and a swift and easy on-line experience, you may choose to use the services of VisionFX (visionfx.vision-org.com). Loans are available for smaller items such as cars however the interest rate charged is generally higher than those in Europe and they require detailed proof of contracted earnings and address. Mortgage lending is very heavily controlled after 2008 and banks will generally offer a maximum of 70% of the pre-tax value of the property and will not fund any of the costs or taxes.


GETTING AROUND

Although public transport is relatively good in Spain, it is much more preferable to hire or buy a car depending on the length of your stay. There are even many companies at airports offering 365 day parking permits as many holiday home owners keep a car at the airport to use when they come to their property. Car hire prices rocket during the summer so owning one is often more economical.


INFRASTRUCTURE

There is a fantastic network of relatively new and well maintained motorways throughout Spain allowing for easy travel by car or bus. Local roads are in good condition and constantly maintained or improved. There are new high speed trains linking Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia and more as well as the air-bridge short internal flights so it is easy to get around Spain when necessary. Water becomes more scarce the further south, particularly in summer months and hence the national system brings water down from Catalonia to Castellon and on to Valencia and on further south.

The nature of the mountainous terrain means that the landscape retains water and Spain can survive without rain for much longer than other countries with more constant rainfall.


AIRPORTS

Alicante is the main airport servicing the Costa Blanca and Malaga the Costa del Sol. Although there are many airports across the whole of the country.


POPULAR REGIONS

The Costa del Sol

The heart of Andalucia, home to Malaga, Marbella, Puerto Banus and Sotogrande amongst other well known places.

The South coast of Spain, facing Africa which you can see on a clear day, particularly in the winter.

The playground in the sun, it has been a very popular destination for tourists and holiday home owners for decades. As the available land for construction becomes more scarce, the prices reflect this and it is no longer a "budget" area.

The Costa Blanca

The Communidad Valencia, east coast of Spain, the Costa Blanca stretches between the southernmost point of the province of Alicante up to Denia at the northern tip of the province.

With prices soaring on the Costa del Sol, it became a very viable alternative and has budget areas like Torrevieja to more exclusive areas like Denia, Altea and Alicante capital.

Covered with beautiful towns, amazing beaches, mountains, inland and almost as many Golf courses as the Costa del Sol, it is a great area to consider with the bonus of slightly shorter flight times from Northern countries.