Widely known for Flamenco music and dance, bullfights, fantastic beaches and lots of sunshine, Spain has much more to offer than that. It is-and has been for thousands of years-one of the cultural centres of Europe.
"Spain is different!", Spaniards use to say. They don't specify compared to what: to the rest of Europe, to the rest of the world, or even to itself ? We don't know either, but we do our best to supply you with lots of information so you can find the answer to this question and many others by yourself.
Spain has an extraordinary artistic heritage. The dominant figures of the golden age were the Toledo-based artists El Greco and Diego Velasquez. Francisco Goya emerged in the 18th century as Spain's most prolific painter and he produced some wonderfully unflattering portraits of royalty. The art world in the early 20th century was influenced by a remarkable group of Spanish artists: Pablo Picasso, Juan Gris, Joan Miró and Salvador Dalí.
Spain's architecture ranges from prehistoric monuments in Minorca in the Balearic Islands, through to the Roman ruins of Mérida and Tarragona, the decorative Lonja in Seville, Mudéjar buildings, Gothic cathedrals, castles, fantastic modernist monuments and Gaudí's intricate fabulist sculptures.
The guitar was invented in Andalusia in the 1790s when a sixth string was added to the Moorish lute. It gained its modern shape in the 1870s. Spanish musicians have taken the humble guitar to dizzying heights of virtuosity and none more so than Andrés Segovia (1893-1997), who established classical guitar as a genre. Flamenco, music rooted in the cante jondo (deep song) of the gitanos (gypsies) of Andalusia, is experiencing a revival. Paco de Lucia is the best known flamenco guitarist internationally.
His friend El Camarón de la Isla was, until his death in 1992, the leading light of contemporary cante hondo. In the 1980s flamenco-rock fusion (a.k.a. "gypsy rock") was developed by the likes of Pata Negra and Ketama, and in the 1990s Radio Tarifa emerged with a mesmerizing mix of flamenco and medieval sounds.
Bakalao, the Spanish contribution to the world of techno, emerged from Valencia.