Spain is a country with a rich history and culture. It’s also famous for its dedication to football and a brilliant national team, and for varied and beautiful natural landscapes. These and other interesting facts about Spain make it one of the top tourist destinations in the world. But there’s a lot more to Spain than just these popular images.
While most people have ideas of Spain connected to music, dance, and even bullfighting, they may not know that the country is a world leader in the use of alternative energy sources, or that it has the fourth highest life expectancy in the world. These and other little-known facts about Spain will give you a clearer picture of this complex and fascinating country.
Interesting Facts About Spain
Spain Is the Second Largest Country in the EU
Spain is a large country, located in the Iberian peninsula at the southwestern tip of Europe. It covers some 505,955 square kilometers or 195,360 square miles. This makes it the second largest country in the EU, after France and ahead of Sweden, Norway, and Germany.
Spain is bordered by France to the east, from which it is separated by the Pyrenees mountain range, and by Portugal to the west. It has the fifth largest population in the EU, with 49 million people. Madrid and Barcelona qualify as mega-cities, with populations of 6.5 million and 5.5 million, respectively.
First Modern Novel Was Written in Spain
Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes is considered to be the first modern novel. Written between 1605 and 1615, it tells the story of the adventures of a gentle knight and his faithful companion, Sancho Panza.
In fact, Cervantes is considered to be the greatest writer in Spanish. His influence on the language is so great that Spanish is sometimes called la lengua de Cervantes or “the language of Cervantes.”
The Spanish Have a High Life Expectancy
Life expectancy is considered to be a reliable indicator of the well-being of the population. One of the facts about Spain that many people may not know is that the country scores high in this area. Average life expectancy in Spain is 83 years, with 85 years for women and 79 years for men.
As of 2016, Spain ranks fourth in the world in terms of life expectancy, according to data from the World Health Organization (WHO). It was tied at the fourth spot with Australia, behind only Japan, Switzerland, and Singapore.
The Spanish May Not be That Religious
Here’s another of those interesting facts about Spain that destroys popular stereotypes. Most people think that adherence to the Roman Catholic faith implies greater religious belief, but that’s not the case in Spain.
Even though the large majority of the population, some 70%, is Catholic, the Spanish are not that religious. Only about 13.6% of the people attend Sunday services in a church.
Assuming that church attendance is an indication of religious belief, this may show that the Spanish are not really all that religious after all.
The Stapler is Just One of Many Everyday Things Invented in Spain
This may be one of the most surprising facts about Spain: the humble stapler was invented there in the 18th century in the Basque Country.
The origins of the stapler were not humble at all: it was developed for King Louis XV of France as a substitute for the royal seal. The first one was made of gold and precious stones, and it was engraved with the royal insignia.
Staplers quickly replaced the glue, ribbons, tape and wax seals that had been used to hold papers together. Other inventions credited to the Spanish include the modern mop and bucket, cigarettes, and even an early version of the space suit.
Spain Produces a Significant Portion of the World’s Supply of Olive Oil and Wine
If you’re one of those people who considers olive oil and wine to be necessities, you’ll be impressed by this one. More than half of all the olive oil produced in the world comes from Spain.
The southern province of Andalusia is the source of nearly all of Spain’s production of olive oil, which tops 1.5 million tons annually.
Spain is the second largest wine producer in the world, after Italy. In 2015, Spanish wine output totaled 4.6 million tonnes (metric tons). The history of grape cultivation and wine production in Spain goes back thousands of years.
Spain has some 2.9 million acres planted with grape vines, making it the largest grape growing area in the world.
Spain Is a World Leader in the Use of Wind and Solar Energy
Spain is one of the world leaders in the use of alternative energy sources like wind and solar. In fact, it was the first country in the world to achieve an important milestone in the use of wind power: In 2013, it became the first country in the world where wind energy was the single greatest source of electricity.
In that year, wind turbines produced around 54,000 gigawatt-hours of electricity, which was about one-fifth of total eclectic power usage in the country.
Spain has invested in both the design and installation of wind power and other alternative energy sources. In fact, by 2016, Spain had achieved a 47.2% share of renewable energy in total electricity generation.
This included wind, solar, hydroelectric and other renewable sources. The country remains at the forefront of efforts to further develop wind and solar energy.
Some of the World’s Greatest Artists Are From Spain
From the 17th century to the present, Spain has been home to some of the greatest artists and painters. The work of the masters like Velázquez, Goya, El Greco, Picasso, Miró, and Dali is part of the universal heritage of humankind.
Add classic and cutting edge architecture, music and dance, and you have a cultural feast that attracts people from around the world. Museums, churches, historic buildings, and even streets and public squares are home to this heritage, which is part of the daily life of the people.
Football Is a National Passion in Spain
Football — or soccer to Americans — is a national passion in Spain, and they’re also good at it. Fútbol asociación, as it is called, is the most popular sport.
The Spanish national football team has a number of nicknames bestowed by fans, including La Roja or “The Red One”, La Furia Roja or “The Red Fury”, La Furia Española or “The Spanish Fury” and La Furia or “The Fury”.
The team lives up to these names and fans’ expectations and was at the top of the FIFA World rankings for five consecutive years from 2008 to 2013. It also has held the world record for winning the most consecutive competitive matches, with 28 straight wins.
Every town and village has its own football pitch, and games at every level draw enthusiastic participants and spectators.
Tourists and Visitors Flock to Spain
With all of these interesting facts about Spain, it’s not surprising that visitors flock to the country. In fact, 75.6 million tourists visited Spain in 2016. This makes it the third most popular destination for tourists around the world. Only France and the US attract more tourists.
From cultural treasures to religious pilgrimages to historical sites and the beauty of the Balearic islands, there’s plenty to see and do. Spain is home to 47 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including caves with prehistoric rock art, cities, buildings, national parks, bridges, and natural landscapes.
Add to that the largest number of bars in any European country and 8,000 kilometers or nearly 5,000 miles of beaches and coastline, and it’s easy to see the attraction.
Fiestas are another popular tourist attraction, and the Romería de Nuesra Señora de le Cabeza has a history that dates back 800 years. The Fiesta de los Patios is a UNESCO World Heritage event.
Other world famous festivals include the running of the bulls at San Fermin and the tomato-throwing at La Tomatina.
Extra: The Christmas Lottery
To round out our list, here’s an extra. One of the facts about Spain you didn’t know is that if you win the national Christmas lottery there, you’re set for life. El Gordo or “the fat one,” as it is called, has the biggest payout in the world and the drawing is held just before Christmas.
In 2017, the jackpot was 720 million euros, and the total payout was around 2.3 billion euros.
Facts About Spain: Conclusion
One of the facts about Spain that people may know and love is the phrase Mañana Mañana, which means “tomorrow tomorrow.” It is used like the English phrases “no stress” and “no worries,” but means much more.
It expresses a culture where it is important to enjoy life and to value good food, wine, and people. It means that the most important cultural value is to live life to the fullest.
With such a rich mix of culture, history, sports, natural beauty, and technological innovation, Spain is an exciting country to visit. Learning some interesting facts about Spain before you go will make your visit even more enjoyable.
Featured Image via Pexels