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LIFE IN SPAIN

Life in Spain in 2022: 16 things to add to your bucket list

The Local brings you the ultimate Spanish bucket list.

Life in Spain in 2022: 16 things to add to your bucket list
Spain is just waiting to be explored. Photo: Rvdo. Kaskajales / Flickr

Visit the Alhambra


Photo: Depositphotos

The Moorish fortress in Granada is Spain’s most-visited tourist attraction for a reason; the stunning building has some of the best-preserved examples of Islamic architecture in the world and is, along with the nearby Generalife gardens, a Unesco World Heritage Site.

Marvel at Guernica


Photo: AFP

If you had to see only one painting in Spain make it Picasso´s masterpiece in Madrid´s Reina Sofia Museum. The Spanish artist was inspired to paint the black and white depiction of the bombings of the Basque city of Guernica after reading a graphic description of the carnage that followed by British journalist George Steer.

Eat jamón

The undisputed national food of Spain, you have to try some authentic jamón iberico from acorn-fed pigs who have been lovingly raised to make the very finest hams. Marvel as the expert ham-cutters slice wafer thin slices of the melt-in-the-mouth meat.

Visit the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao


Photo: AFP

The Frank Gehry-designed Guggenheim Museum is a modern architectural masterpiece. Sitting on the banks of the Nervion River, the museum helped garner the former industrial powerhouse of Bilbao with a new reputation as a centre of art and culture.   

Hike the Camino de Santiago


Photo: AFP

The pilgrimage route leading to the shrine of St. James in the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in northwestern Spain has been popular with walkers for centuries. Nowadays the route is popular with both the faithful and non-religious, attracting over 200,000 walkers in 2014 alone. Look out for the St. James´shells – the symbol of the route – which are located along the way. 

Kill the night in Madrid


Photo: Jose Maria Cuellar/Flickr 

“Nobody goes to bed in Madrid until they have killed the night,” Ernest Hemingway famously said of the Spanish capital, renowned for its hedonistic nightlife. Madrid has some of the most bars per capita of any country in Europe, so you’ll be spoilt for choice as you explore what the city has to offer.

Eat at Spain’s best restaurant 


A dish from El Celler de Can Roca. Photo: Robert Young/Flickr 

If you are lucky enough to get a table then tick off a visit to Spain’s best restaurant, El Celler de Can Roca in Girona. The three Michelin star Catalan restaurant, owned by three brothers, is number three on the list of  the World’s 50 Best Restaurant awards, but held the top spot in 2015.  

Winter sports in the Sierra Nevada


Photo:  Álvaro Salas Ordóñez / Flickr Creative Commons.

Spain might be famous for its sun. sea and sangria but you could soon be adding snow to that list. Hit the powder at Europe’s most southerly ski resort, the Sierra Nevada, near Granada. The resort is the highest in Spain and the ski season can last from late November until early May. 

Eat pintxos in San Sebastián


Photo: AFP

San Sebastián in the Basque Country is the home of pintxos – tiny morsels of delicious food usually on top of a slice of baguette. The city is world-famous as the culinary capital of Spain and is not to be missed. From hearty traditional pintxos on bar tops to some of the most exciting modern cuisine – you’ll find it all in San Sebastián. 

Wine tasting in La Rioja


Photo: SantiMB.photos/Flickr

Spanish wine is among the most underrated in the world and there’s no better way to learn more about it than to go wine tasting in Spain’s most famous wine-making region: La Rioja. The Ebro valley is scattered with vineyards and is a perfect destination for gourmets and wine buffs. 

Throw tomatoes at La Tomatina


Photo: AFP

One of Spain’s most iconic and messiest festivals, La Tomatina attracts thousands of participants every year to the town of Buñol for nothing more than a giant food fight exclusively featuring tomatoes. Make sure you come prepared – goggles are a must! 

Watch an Easter Parade


Photo: AFP

Spaniards love Easter and every town and city has at least one major Easter Parade, often several throughout Holy Week. Members of religious brotherhoods march through the streets in the traditional robes and conical hoods carrying huge statues of Jesus. Some of the most elaborate and exciting parades to watch take place in southern Spanish cities such as Seville and Malaga. 

Watch authentic flamenco in Andalusia


Photo: AFP

It might be a Spanish cliché but authentic flamenco is an immersive, dramatic and unforgettable experience. You can do no better than watching flamenco in the region where it was born: Andalusia. Be it in Granada or during the Feria de Abril in Seville, experiencing flamenco is a must when visiting Spain. 

Discover Gaudi’s Barcelona


Photo: Juan Salmoral/Flickr 

You can’t visit Barcelona without learning about its most famous son, who left an indelible mark on the city – Antoni Gaudi. Visit the still-unfinished Sagrada Familia (get there early to beat the crowds) and Park Güell, which looks like it has been based on the house made of sweets in Hansel and Gretel. Climb up to the rooftop of the Casa Milà for great views over the city and marvel at the legacy left by the man who designed the city’s most iconic architecture.  

Dream in a piece of history


Parador de Santo Estevo, Ourense. Photo: parador.es

Spain’s state-run Parador hotel chain offers luxury accommodation in some of the most beautiful, unusual and historic buildings across the country. From an old monastery perched in the Galician hills to the fourteenth century Arab fort of Carmona, you are guaranteed an unforgettable stay if you choose a parador.

Cheer on a football team


Photo: IntangibleArts/Flickr 

Spain is football mad and the ultimate experience for any footie fan is to watch one of the big Spanish teams play a home match. Watching Real Madrid at the Bernabeu or Barcelona at Camp Nou is an unforgettable experience – and you’ve really hit the jackpot if you’re in town for El Clásico – when Real Madrid take on Barcelona. The atmosphere is electrifying. 

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LIFE IN SPAIN

Does Spain have a dog poo problem?

Many foreigners in Spain complain that the streets are full of dog faeces, but is that actually true and what, if anything, is being done to address it?

Does Spain have a dog poo problem?

Spain is a nation of dog lovers.

According to the country’s National Institute of Statistics (INE), 40 percent of Spanish households have a dog.

In fact, believe it or not, the Spanish have more dogs than they do children.

While there are a little over 6 million children under the age of 14 in Spain, there are over 7 million registered dogs in the country. 

But one bugbear of many foreigners in Spain is that there’s often a lot of dog mess in the streets, squares and parks.

The latest estimates suggest it’s as much as 675,000 tonnes of doodoo that has to be cleaned up every year in Spain.

Many dog owners in Spain carry around a bottle of water mixed with detergent or vinegar to clean up their dog’s urine and small plastic bags to pick up number twos.

And yet, many owners seem to either turn a blind eye to their pooches’ poo or somehow miss that their pets have just pooed, judging by the frequency with which dog sh*t smears Spanish pavements. 

So how true is it that Spain has a dog poo problem? Is there actually more dog mess in Spain than in other countries, and if not, why does it seem that way?

One contextual factor worth considering when understanding the quantity of caca in Spain’s calles is how Spaniards themselves actually live.

When one remembers that Spaniards mostly live in apartments without their own gardens, it becomes less surprising that it feels as though there’s a lot of dog mess in the streets. Whereas around 87 percent of households in Britain have a garden, the number in Spain is below 30 percent.

Simply put, a nation of dog lovers without gardens could mean more mess in the streets. 

Whereas Britons often just let their dogs out into their garden to do their business, or when they can’t be bothered to take them for a walk even, Spaniards have to take them out into the street, unless they’re okay with their pooches soiling their homes. 

There aren’t many dog-friendly beaches in Spain, and the fact that on those that do exist, some owners don’t clean up their dogs’ mess, doesn’t strengthen the case for more ‘playas para perros‘ to be added. (Photo by JOSE JORDAN / STR / AFP)

Doggy dirt left in the streets is most certainly not a Spain-specific problem either, but rather an urban one found around the world.

In recent years, there have been complaints about the sheer abundance of canine faecal matter left in public spaces in Paris, Naples, Rome, Jerusalem, Glasgow, Toronto, London, San Francisco and so on.

READ ALSO: Why do some Spanish homes have bottles of water outside their door?

Unfortunately, there hasn’t been a worldwide study to shed light on which cities and countries have the biggest ‘poo-blem’, with the available investigations mainly centred on individual nations, such as this one by Protect my Paws in the US and UK

And while it may be more noticeable in Spain than in some countries, it doesn’t mean the Spanish are doing nothing about it.

In fact, Barcelona has been named the third best city in Europe for dealing with the problem, according to a study by pet brand Tails.com.

Although Barcelona’s score of 53/80 was significantly lower than many British cities (Newcastle scored 68/80 and Manchester 66/80, for example) its hefty fines of 1,500 for dog owners caught not cleaning up after their canine friends might be a reason. 

And some parts of Spain take it even more seriously than that.

In many Spanish regions doggy databases have been created to catch the culprits. Over 35 Spanish municipalities require dog owners to register their pets’ saliva or blood sample on a genetic database so they can be traced and fined, if necessary. 

In Madrid, you are twice as likely to come across someone walking a dog than with a baby’s stroller. (Photo by JAVIER SORIANO / AFP)

This DNA trick started earlier in Spain than in many other countries; the town of Brunete outside of Madrid kicked off the trend in 2013 by mailing the ‘forgotten’ poo to neglectful owners’ addresses. Some municipalities have also hired detectives to catch wrongdoers.

So it’s not as if dog poo doesn’t bother Spaniards, with a 2021 survey by consumer watchdog OCU finding that it’s the type of dirt or litter found in the streets than bothers most people.

READ ALSO: Clean or dirty? How does your city rank on Spain’s cleanliness scale? 

It’s therefore not a part of Spanish culture not to clean up after dogs, but rather a combination of Spain’s propensity for outdoor and urban living, the sheer number of dogs, and of course the lack of civic duty on the part of a select few. Every country has them. 

On a final note, not all dog owners in Spain who don’t clean up after their pooches can be blamed for doing it deliberately, but it’s certainly true that looking at one’s phone rather than interacting with your dog, or walking with your dog off the leash (also illegal except for in designated areas) isn’t going to help you spot when your pooch has done its business.

Article by Conor Faulkner and Alex Dunham

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