When Isabella I inherited the throne of Castile in 1474, and her husband Ferdinand II inherited that of Aragon in 1479, the two largest kingdoms were finally united to form the kingdom of Spain. During the 16th century, Spain became one of Europe’s leading powers following the conquest of the New World by the Conquistadors.
Church of the Holy Family, Barcelona © Tourist Office of Spain
- 1808-1813 Spanish insurrection against French occupation. One by one, the American Colonies gain their independence.
- 1923-1930 Military dictatorship of Miguel Primo de Rivera.
- 1931 Alphonso XIII goes into exile without abdicating. The Spanish Second Republic is proclaimed on April 14th.
- 1936 The elections are won by the left wing parties, who have united as a popular front. Disorder rapidly ensues (including street fighting) and on July 13th, 1936, the opposition leader Calvo Sotelo is assassinated. A military insurrection begins, led by General Francisco Franco. The civil war begins.
- 1936-1939 The civil war rages between the Nationalists and the Republicans.
- 1939-1975 Franco sets up a dictatorial regime.
- 1939-1945 Spain remains neutral during the Second World War.
- 1955 Spain joins the United Nations.
- 1975 Death of Franco. Juan Carlos, the grandson of Alphonso XIII, is appointed as his successor.
- 1976 Carlos Arias Navarro, the pro-Franco Prime Minister, resigns from office.
- 1978 A new constitution, ushering in a democratic regime, is approved in a referendum.
- 1982 Spain joins NATO.
- 1986 Spain joins the EEC.
- 2004 José Luis Zapatero is elected as head of the government on April 16th.
- 2008 The socialist party under Prime Minister Jose Luis Zapatero wins the parliamentary elections and the elections of the senate.
- 2017 Catalonia declare independence from Spain.
As Spain’s second city in terms of its population and economic activity, Barcelona is one of the leading urban centres of Catalonia and of Spain as a whole. Founded more than 2,000 years ago, the city is home to countless riches dating back to Roman times, including the remains of the wall which once encircled the town, the temple of Augustus, the necropolis, and the architectural features to be seen in the basement of the town’s History Museum. The port of Barcelona is a genuine economic powerhouse. As a major hub for foreign trade, it has made Barcelona an important European trading center. Barcelona is also a leading tourist destination. Its cultural and architectural heritage (including the church of the Sagrada Familia, the medieval district of Barrio Gotico, the Pedralbes Monastery, the Royal Palace, the Picasso Museum, the Juan Miro foundation and the town’s History Museum) regularly attracts tourists from all over the world. Considered to be one of the finest Mediterranean towns, Barcelona is characterized by a charm and a dynamism unique of its kind.
Plaza del Rey, Barcelona © Tourist Office of Spain
A tradition dating back several centuries, the Spanish “Corrida” (bullfight) is one of the country’s best known popular customs. These fights, which set the bravery of the bull against the courage of the matador, have become extremely popular in Mediterranean Europe. The art of bullfighting, which first appeared during the 11th century, must be practiced according to clearly defined rules. The show takes place in three phases known as “Tercios”, during which the matador engages in face-to-face combat with the animal. Other forms of corrida have also appeared. The famous bull run in the town centre, the “encierro”, is without a doubt one of the most spectacular Spanish festivals. The event involves running in front of the bull for as long as possible and getting as close as possible to the animal. This has led to the Spanish corrida becoming well known far outside the borders of Spain, just like the horseback corrida, the “rejoneada”, an ancient activity which is still practiced today.
© Tourist Office of Spain
Tasty and colourful, Spanish paella is one of the country’s most popular dishes. Its name refers to the way in which the rice is cooked in the pan and is today well known worldwide.
One of the country’s greatest stars is certainly Antonio Banderas, the famous actor who appeared in Interview with a Vampire and The Mask of Zorro.
The festivity of night owls
The Spanish way of life owes a great deal to the country’s climate and its Mediterranean traditions. Whereas in most countries sunset signals a time of rest and tranquillity, in Spain this is a time of fun and celebration. The streets are full of people singing, dancing, and visitors could be forgiven for thinking that the Spanish never sleep. Fortunately, the Spaniards also invented the siesta, to catch up on some of that spent energy!