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There is more to Spanish culture than many tourists see.

Spain boasts plenty of buildings of great architectural interest, particularly its churches and castles. But even the humblest town or village usually has its charms. Every town and village has its plaza mayor or main square, often reached by a covered arcade. The square is usually an extended forecourt of the town or village hall.

The country is also famous for its furniture (particularly chests); tapestries and embroideries; gold, silver and iron work (including wrought iron screens); sculpture; and ceramics (including azulejos, glazed pottery tiles).

Spain has consistently produced painters of note, dating back to the tenth century. Perhaps two of the most famous are Goya (1746-1828), who played a significant role in the evolution of painting in Europe and Velázquez (1599-1660) who most significant works include Las Meninas and La Rendicion de Breda, both if which can be seen at the Prado in Madrid.

This century the ‘Paris School’ has produced such internationally known names as Salvador Dali and Pablo Picasso.

Composers such as Enrique Granados, Isaac Albéniz, Manuel de Falla and Joaquín Rodrigo have gained international recognition.

Placido Domingo is one of Spain’s most famous operatic performers, closely followed by José Carreras. Cataluña’s Montserrat Caballé is known to be one of the most outstanding sopranos in the world.

The cinema is the most popular form of entertainment and, in addition, most cities of any significance have a theatre. This is mainly due to the development programme by the Partido Socialista Obrero Español government in the 1980s and ‘90s.

Flamenco is the musical tradition in the south of the country, particularly in Andalucia. It has roots in the cante jondo (deep song) of the gypsies. Sevillana, on the other hand, is more of a folk dance and almost without exception, girls all over the country learn to dance the sevillana. Flamenco shows which are tourist-orientated usually lack the emotion of real flamenco and it is preferable to try to catch a performance by one of today’s leading personalities such as Joaquín Cortes and Manuel Vargas.

One of the most important sports in Spain is football, which has a greater national following than in Britain. Around 300,000 spectators attend the games in the Primera División and millions more follow the games on television. People gamble on the football results through the quiniela or football pools.

La corrida de toros or the bullfight, still has a tremendous following within Spain. La lidia, another name for bullfighting, gained enormously in popularity in the mid-eighteenth century, when breeders developed the first breeds of toro bravo or fighting bulls.

Cafés usually provide the centre of social activity in the town and village. Spaniards usually start the day with a very light breakfast (desayuno), often being little more than a coffee, brunch (almuerzo) around 10.30 am, lunch (comida) between 1.30 pm and 4 pm, and dinner (cena) being as late as 10 pm or 11 pm.

Tapas are also an important part of the Spaniards’ way of life. Tapas are mini snacks, often displayed on the counter in bars, and include things as calamares (squid), callos (tripe), gambas (prawns), albondigas (meatballs) and boquerones (anchovies) marinated in vinegar. Tapas can be taken as a meal in themselves or as a tasty bite before going on to a restaurant for dinner. The actual translation of tapa is lid. The story is, that in the last century, bar owners used to cover drinks with a piece of bread to keep flies away. It then became practice to put a titbit on the bread and this evolved into the tapa of today. Each region of Spain has its own specialities.

Source: BlevinsFranks

See also
Painting & Sculpture
History at a Glance

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