History of Spain
It was 35,000 years ago when the first permanent human settlers to the Iberian Peninsula arrived. By 200 BCE, the region was ruled by the Roman Empire, receiving the name Hispania. Over 6 centuries, the Empire laid the foundation of Spain's distinct language and culture.
When the Roman Empire fell in the Middle Ages, Spain was conquered by German tribes, and later on by Muslims of North Africa in 711, with its dominance lasting for over 7 centuries.
By the 15th century, Spain was a unified country due to the completion of the reconquest of the Iberian Peninsula from the Moors in 1492. The marriage of the Catholic monarchs equally played a significant role in the making of one of history's first global colonial empires.
With Christopher Columbus' discovery of the New World, Spain became one of the largest and most powerful states in the world. But due to countless warfare over the centuries, Spain came under the French sphere of influence by the 18th century, which lasted for 100 years until the defeat of Napoleon.
In 1931, due to rising political and social uprisings, King Alfonso XIII was forced to abdicate Spain, making it a republic. In 1936, the Spanish Civil War began, which lasted until 1939. At the end of the war, Francisco Franco ruled the country in a dictatorship, until his death in 1975.
The Spanish rule was taken over by King Juan Carlos I (named by Franco as his successor), who then led the country to democracy.
Spain is located in the southwestern part of Europe, in the Iberian Peninsula. It is one of only 3 countries in Europe to have Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea coastlines. It is bordered by the Mediterranean to the south and east, and France and Andorra to the north and northeast. Its west and northwest borders are Portugal and the Atlantic Ocean.
Spain is the 2nd largest country in Western Europe, and the 5th in Europe. Aside from the mainland, Spain's territory includes several islands which include the Balearic Islands on the Mediterranean, Canary Islands on the Atlantic, Cueta, Melilla, 3 exclaves in North Africa, and several islands and rocks of the Perejil, Alhucemas, Alboran, and Chafarinas.
Spain is a constitutional monarchy with the King as Head of State and the Prime Minister as Head of Government. The Executive branch is governed by the Council of Ministers, led by the Prime Minister; and the Legislative branch is governed by the Congress of Deputies, with its 350 members.
In 2013, the UN World Tourism Organization named Spain as the 3rd most visited country in the world. With incredible beaches, historic cities, and a welcoming atmosphere, Spain is one of the best places to travel to.
One of the most famous attractions is the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona. During the San Fermin Festival, which takes place every year from July 6-14, the highlight of the event is the El Encierro - where a number of bulls are released on the town's streets, and people, mostly men, run in front of them.
Cuenca is a city located between Vienna and Valencia, known for its medieval city, specifically its hanging houses. The houses are located on steep sides of a mountain and are still being used today. The city itself is a magnificent example of medieval architecture and culture, with a vast number of sites such as churches, bridges, and a number of convents and monasteries.
And speaking of Valencia, this town is most popular with tourists for La Tomatina, which is the largest tomato fight in the world. Held every last Wednesday of August during the Bunol festivities, thousands of locals and tourists hit the streets and throw tomatoes at each other for pure fun. Considered to be Spain's messiest festival, it attracts over 20,000 participants each year.
Ibiza is one of the most popular party destinations in Europe, and that of the world. One of the Balearic Islands on the Mediterranean, the island's population doubles during the peak summer season.
For two of Spain's most popular architectural structures, the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona and the Alhambra palace and fortress in Granada are among the most visited attractions. The huge Roman Catholic Church Sagrada Familia began construction in 1882 and it's still unfinished up to this day; while the Alhambra is a spectacular Islamic palace with its courtyard of patios, a tower, a square, a harem, and several other structures.
Education in Spain is free and compulsory from the ages of 6-16. The current education system was implemented in 2006, and is run by the LOE or Ley Organica de Educacion, which stands for the Fundamental Law of Education.
The levels below higher education consist of: preschool (ages 3-6), primary (ages 6-12), compulsory secondary education (ages 12-16), and Post-compulsory schooling (ages 16-18).
18 of Spain's universities are included in the 2014/2015 QS World University Rankings, which are mostly concentrated in Madrid and Barcelona.
Last Updated : August 16, 2016
- Locals eat lunch at 2pm and dinner at 9 or 10pm.
- Same sex marriage in Spain became legal on July 3, 2005.
- Spain is the number 1 producer of olive oil, making 44% of the world's supply.