The best things to discover in Spain

Hello everyone,

What have you discovered in Spain that you would recommend to other expats?

Are there any places that you enjoy visiting on the weekends, be it areas of natural beauty or shopping malls? Are there any Spanish dishes that you would recommend?

What are some of the best activities in Spain?

Are there any unique customs or places you were introduced to by locals that you think other expats might be interested in? Are there any local festivals that expats might want to get involved with?

Thank you for sharing your thoughts.


I can only speak for the island of Menorca where the 'must see' is their unique ‘jalea'.  During the fiesta season each town has its own way of celebrating but in every case it will feature the spectacular caixers (male and female riders) dressed in traditional costumes with long-tailed frock coats and two-pointed hats, mounted on specially bred, un-gelded stallions.  These magnificent horses are beautifully groomed with brightly coloured ribbons and rosettes platted into their mains and tails. 

They appear on several days but the main event will be held in the square.  There will be a brass band, a stand for the local dignitaries and the ground covered in sawdust.  Everyone will be waiting eagerly for the caixers to arrive.  A beat on a drum and a short toot on a whistle signals their entry into the square.  They turn this way and that and then rear up on their hind legs.  As they do so young people rush forward under the hooves to touch the horses heart to demonstrate their valour.  The band plays, the crowds surge around the horses and the atmosphere is electric.  All is chaos but after each caixer has taken their turn, the horses leave the square and stands quietly out of sight until they enter the square once again.

Unlike some traditions there is no cruelty to the animals.  The horses are a breed unique to Menorca and treated with great pride and affection.  They are not panicked by the crowds or the noise as they are schooled to be used to it.  The only danger is for those running under the hooves and the next day it is not unusual to see several young people with arms in slings or walking on crutches because of broken toes.

The season begins in June with the Fiesta de San Joan in Ciutadella and includes equestrian games which are breath-takingly dangerous for the spectators as the caixers, armed with pointed lances ride at full gallop through the crowds attempting to spear a ring hanging over their heads.

If anyone is holidaying in Menorca during the fiesta season, do try to see a jalea.  You will never forget it.

We've been in Valencia since September/October, so are in no way experts.  But, a couple of things stand out in particular:

Number One.  The Fallas.  This is the most amazing fiesta I have ever seen, in the world, and no matter where you are in Spain, you have to see it.  I could wax lyrical for hours, but words cannot express how amazing it is.  Read up on it, watch YouTube videos, but whatever you see, it is a thousand times better in real life.  If you are travelling from afar, you will need to book accommodation at least six months in advance, as in addition to the Valencians, I  think half of Madrid travels to watch too. Not sure of exact dates, but around mid Feb I think.

Number Two;. The Santa Semana processions at Easter.  Now, we are moving to Southern Spain in a few weeks, and apparently there are truly magnificent ones there ...but if you want to go small scale and intimate, but incredibly moving, up close and personal, then try a trip to Terruel and get to the  Plaza del Torro.  It's a small square, so get there early evening, and bag a spot at one of the restaurants under the arches around the edge.  We watched the processions into the square, and then once every one was in position, silence fell and you could have heard a pin drop, above us from a balcony, two acoustic guitars started playing, then a soloist sang beautifully.  More guitar, and two dancers in traditional dress swirled and danced like wraiths.  Sometimes small is better, and although I'm not of a religious persuasion, the atmosphere and the magic of being up and close brought a tear  or two.

Just a couple of other nice simple things to do if you're in Valencia province.  Take a trip to Albarracin, up in the hills, a stunningly beautiful Moorish town built in red stone, picture postcard perfect, interesting cathedral, stunning.

If you like walking, then a couple of nice ones.  The mountain gorge of Chulilla (if you're into climbing, even better,  there were teams from Germany, Scandinavia, France while we were there.

Nice and simple,  Pedralba has a lovely little restaurant serving delicious food, and then go for a walk along the river, where you can swim, picnic, see a variety of wildlife. Unsignposted, so a secret and wonderful find, lots of bird life for any budding ornithologists!. Ask for the Sports centre.

Also a another river walk between Buñol and Alborache, following the route of the old mills.  Quiet, and peaceful, and then have fantastic meal from  Menu del Dia at either El Forcat or Abetos, we haven't found better food anywhere in the province.

Carajillos! Small glasses of espresso with rum or brandy. Even better, carajillo that is flambed with a bit of citrus peel and cinnamon.

Tinto de verano - summer wine. Much lighter and more refreshing than sticky sweet Sangria, this is red wine simply mixed with lemon fanta, ice and a slice.

Paella - If you find peeling prawns etc too messy for you, order paella senyoret where all the hard work is done for you.

Empanadas - we love the tiny ones with pisto, a tomatoey filling.

The Oceanografic in Valencia. Definitely worth half a day.