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Interesting Facts About Spain

Part 2      Facts 21 - 40

21.  One of the most important foods in Spain is rice - el arroz.  Rice is cultivated in Spain.

It is the main ingredient of la paella which is one of the most famous, traditional dishes of Spain.  La paella originates from the area of Valencia and it is cooked in a very big pan called la paellera.    It is often prepared outside in the open air during Spanish picnics and day trips.

La paella is a mixture of rice, meat, seafood and vegetables.


Saffron - el azafrán -  is a spice that is often used in Spanish cookery.  It has a strong yellow dye and that is why the rice of la paella is yellow! 

Another commonly-used spice in Spain is paprika - el pimentón.  It gives the food a red or orange colour.


Potato omelette - la tortilla de patatas -  is a well-known Spanish dish.  It is also called la tortilla española - the Spanish omelette.   It is thick, served cold and cut into triangular slices like a cake.

Tortilla de patata. detail on an spanish

Before eating, it is polite and correct to say ¡Buen provecho! meaning 'Enjoy your meal!'


22.   The pomegranate is the symbol of the Spanish city and province of Granada.  In fact, the Spanish word for 'the pomegranate' is la granada.   

The pomegranate representing the city is also displayed at the bottom of the national coat of arms of Spain. 


Image by Ali Kokab

A crowned pomegranate was the personal symbol of Catherine of Aragon - the first wife of Henry VIII of England.  She was Spanish.

Here you can see the coat of arms of the city of Granada - el escudo de Granada.   There is a pomegranate displayed at the lower right and the parents of Catherine of Aragon seated in the centre.  They are King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella.

The pomegranate represents 'rebirth' and 'fertility'.  

23.   In Spanish punctuation there is an upside-down question mark ¿ at the beginning of a question and a normal one at the end.  ¿Cómo estás? 

In written Spanish, there is also an upside-down exclamation mark.  ¡Ay!

The Spanish alphabet contains an additional letter - ñ.  It is the letter n or with a tilde over it.  This letter is called la eñe.  Here are a few examples:  mañana - morning / tomorrow,  niño - boy,  español - Spanish,  España - Spain.

24.   Spain is famous for producing beautiful horses with arched necks and long manes.  The Andalusian horse from Spain - el caballo andaluz-  is believed to be the oldest breed of riding-horse in the world.

The word for horse is el caballo.  The Spanish word for 'the gentleman' is el caballero meaning 'man on horseback'.    In historic times,  a man on horseback (a knight) was of higher class and greater importance than a man on foot.

Image of Andalusian horse below- from Wikimedia Commons, original source: Eigene Aufnahmen. 
Animation by Waugsberg.



25.   Until the late 20th century, it was the tradition in Spanish towns for a nightwatchman to keep an eye on the local security during the night and to carry a heavy bunch of keys to open the main entrances to the buildings.   Often, people would whistle as a signal to call him to come and open the door to their block of flats at night time.  He was known as el sereno. 

Interestingly, there are some Spanish towns where a modern version of this tradition is making a comeback!  Los serenos are active in towns such as an area of Madrid called Chamberí and also in Oviedo and Gijón in the region called el Principado de Asturias.  It is understood that many other Spanish towns would like to see los serenos return to their streets.

Below is an image of un sereno from the early 1900s and an image of un sereno who currently works in the town of Gijón.

sereno de gijon.jpg

26.  Although Christopher Columbus was Italian, he became an explorer for the Spanish King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella (the parents of Catherine of Aragon) in the 15th. century. 
He made four voyages to the New World by ship across the Atlantic Ocean.  On his first voyage, he took three famous ships called -  La Niña, La Pinta and La Santa María. 


In Spanish, his name is Cristóbal Colón.

The date when Cristóbal Colón  arrived in the Americas (12 October, 1492) is celebrated every year in Spain.  For this reason, the date of 12 October is the national day of Spain called La Fiesta Nacional de España.  There are lots of parades, and the King of Spain always takes part in the celebrations in Madrid.

Portrait by artist Sebastiano del Piombo.


The tomb of Christopher Columbus is situated in la Catedral de Sevilla - Seville Cathedral in the region of Andalucía.

It is held by the statues of four kings.  Each king represents a kingdom of Spain. The four kingdoms are - León, Castilla, Aragón and Navarra.

27.   The Spanish national anthem is called La Marcha Real -  The Royal March.     It has no official words.


28.  The oldest, still-functioning restaurant in the world is situated in Madrid.  It was orignally called Casa Botín and it opened in 1725.  Now it is called Restaurante Sobrino de Botín and its address is calle de Cuchilleros, 17.

Photo below by Esetena, Wikimedia

casa botin.JPG

29.   In Spain, the bars serve small plates of food to accompany a drink.  This small dish is called una tapa.  
The word tapa actually means  'lid'.  Originally, workers would go to a tavern after a hard day's work.  
Their glasses of wine or beer would be covered with a slice of food (just like a lid) to keep the flies and dust away from the drink underneath. 

Nowadays, la tapa is food served on a little plate beside the drink.  It is no longer used as a lid on top of the glass!

30.   The University of Salamanca - la Universidad de Salamanca - is famous for a frog that is carved into the stone wall above the main entrance!  This frog is called la rana de Salamanca.

It is said that if you can encontrar la rana  'spot the frog' - you will have good luck.  Traditionally, students go to see the frog for good luck before exams!  Can you spot the frog?  A helpful hint: it is sitting on top of a skull.


31.   Spain has won the Football World Cup - el Mundial - just once - in 2010.  

The national Spanish football team is nicknamed la Furia Roja (the Red Fury).   The word for the sport 'football' in Spanish is el fútbol.


32.   There is no tooth fairy in Spain.  Instead, there is a tooth mouse and his name is Ratoncito Pérez.


33.   The 6 January is the most important date during Christmas-time in Spain.  This is known as the day of the Kings - el día de los Reyes.   

In Spain, during the night of 5 January, the Three Kings - los Reyes Magos - travel on their camels and leave presents for children to open on the morning of 6 January! 

To celebrate the day of the Kings, a special cake is prepared called el roscón de Reyes.  It is a ring-shape and is covered in coloured sweets.  The sweets represent the sparkling jewels worn by the Three Kings who followed the star to find the Baby Jesus - el Niño Jesús - in the stable in Bethlehem - Belén. 

Inside the cake, there is a lucky charm called una figurita de Rey Mago


34.    New Year's Eve is called la Nochevieja - the old night.  At New Year in Spain, it is the tradition to eat twelve grapes at midnight - one for each stroke of the clock and for each month of the new year to come.  

Those who eat the twelve grapes believe they will have a year of good luck.  The grapes are known as las uvas de la suerte - the lucky grapes - or las doce uvas - the twelve grapes.

Image by Jerry Wang

35.    A famous festival is las Fallas in the city of Valencia.  It begins around the end of February, lasting until the 19 March.  The most important part takes place during the last five days, from 15 - 19 March each year.  The festival honours Saint Joseph - San José - and for this reason the event ends on 19 March, Saint Joseph's day.


All over the city, groups of people known as falleros create painted cardboard statues.  Each statue is known as un ninot.    A competition takes place to decide which are the two best ninots. 

The winners are placed in a special permanent display and are 'pardoned'.  This means they will not be burnt to ashes like the others.

The ceremony of placing el ninot on top of its decorative base in the street is known as la plantà.   The combination of a base + a statue is called una falla.  



On the last night of the festival, 19 March, las fallas are set alight.  Even though so much work has gone into creating them, they are turned into bonfires.  The act of setting them alight is called la cremà. 

It is a very risky event and for that reason firefighters - los bomberos - are always involved.

You can read more about this festival on our Fallas page.

36.    The famous artist Pablo Picasso (Pablo means 'Paul') was born in Málaga in southern Spain in 1881.  His father was an art teacher. 
Picasso produced more art work than any other artist:- thousands of paintings, engravings, prints, book illustrations, ceramics and sculptures. 

In the Spanish tradition, Pablo Picasso had two surnames - Ruiz and Picasso. Picasso was his mother's Italian surname.

His full name was VERY long indeed!  According to his baptismal certificate it was - Pablo Diego José Francisco de Paula Juan Nepomuceno María de los Remedios Crispiniano de la Santísima Trinidad Ruiz Picasso.


37.    One of the greatest Spanish writers was Don Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, known simply as Cervantes.  He was born in Alcalá de Henares, near to Madrid, in 1547.  

He wrote novels, plays and poems but his most famous work was El Ingenioso Hidalgo de Don Quijote de la Mancha (1605).

Below is a portrait of Cervantes,  painted by Juan de Jáuregui.


Every year, there is a celebration in Cervantes' home town to celebrate the writer's birth.  This period is called la Semana Cervantina.  People dress up in 16th. century clothes and there are markets selling goods in the style of around 500 years ago!

A very big coincidence:  It is amazing that the great Spanish writer Cervantes died on the very same day as the great English writer William Shakespeare, on April 23, 1616!


38.   Two of the most well-known Spanish newspapers are called El Mundo (The World) and El País (The Country).   Other popular newspapers are: ABC and La Vanguardia

The word for 'the newspaper' is el periódico.  

Image by Roberta Sorge

39.   Spain is the biggest producer of olive oil in the world. 

The International Olive Oil Council is based in Madrid.  This organisation is in charge of the world's production of olive oil.  The name of this organisation in Spanish is:-  El Consejo Oleícola Internacional.

el aceite de oliva
- the olive oil

40.   The Pyrenees Mountains form a natural border between the countries of France and Spain.  In Spanish, these mountains are called los Pirineos.  The highest peak of this mountain range is called el Aneto with an altitude of 3404 metres.  It is the third highest mountain of Spain.

The second highest Spanish mountain is situated within the
Sierra Nevada mountain range in Andalucía.  It is called el Mulhacén and has an altitude of 3478 metres.

The highest mountain of Spain is in fact the volcano called el Teide in Tenerife.  It has a peak reaching over 3700 metres.  This means that the highest Spanish mountain is not actually positioned on the Iberian Peninsula but on the Canary Islands.

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