Culturally, Spain is a Western country. Almost every aspect of Spanish life is permeated by its Roman heritage, making Spain one of the major Latin countries of Europe. Spanish culture is marked by strong historic ties to Catholicism, which played a pivotal role in the country's formation and subsequent identity. Spanish art, architecture, cuisine, and music has been shaped by successive waves of foreign invaders, as well as by the country's Mediterranean climate and geography. The centuries-long colonial era globalised Spanish language and culture, with Spain also absorbing the cultural and commercial products of its diverse empire.
Monuments and World Heritage Sites
It should be noted that after Italy (49) and China (45), Spain is the third country in the world with the most World Heritage Sites. At the present time it has 44 recognised sites, including the landscape of Monte Perdido in the Pyrenees, which is shared with France, the Prehistoric Rock Art Sites of the Côa Valley and Siega Verde, which is shared with Portugal (the Portuguese part being in the Côa Valley, Guarda), and the Heritage of Mercury, shared with Slovenia. In addition, Spain has also 14 Intangible cultural heritage, or "Human treasures", Spain ranks first in Europe according to UNESCO's Intangible Cultural Heritage List, tied with Croatia.
- 1984 — Alhambra, Generalife and Albayzín(Granada, Andalusia).
- 1984 — Burgos Cathedral (Burgos, Castile-León).
- 1984 — Historic Centre of Córdoba (Córdoba, Andalusia).
- 1984 — Monastery and Royal Site of El Escorial(Madrid).
- 1984 — Works of Antoni Gaudí (Barcelona, Catalonia).
- 1985 — Cave of Altamira and Palaeolithic Cave Art of Northern Spain (Asturias, Basque Country and Cantabria regions).
- 1985 — Monuments of Oviedo and the Kingdom of Asturias (Asturias).
- 1985 — Old Town of Ávila with its Extra-Muros Churches (Ávila, Castile-León).
- 1985 — Old Town of Segovia and its Aqueduct(Segovia, Castile-León).
- 1985 — Santiago de Compostela (Old Town) (A Coruña, Galicia).
- 1986 — Garajonay National Park (La Gomera, Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Canary Islands).
- 1986 — Historic City of Toledo (Toledo, Castile-La Mancha).
- 1986 — Mudéjar Architecture of Aragon (Provinces of Teruel and Zaragoza in Aragon).
- 1986 — Old Town of Cáceres (Cáceres, Extremadura).
- 1987 — Cathedral, Alcázar and Archivo de Indias in Seville (Seville, Andalusia).
- 1988 — Old City of Salamanca (Salamanca, Castile-León).
- 1991 — Poblet Monastery (Tarragona, Catalonia).
- 1993 — Archaeological Ensemble of Mérida(Badajoz, Extremadura).
- 1993 — Route of Santiago de Compostela(Provinces of Burgos, León and Palencia in Castile-León, Provinces of A Coruña and Lugo in Galicia, La Rioja, Navarre, and the Province of Huesca in Aragon).
- 1993 — Royal Monastery of Santa María de Guadalupe (Cáceres, Extremadura).
- 1994 — Doñana National Park (Provinces of Cádiz, Huelva and Seville in Andalusia).
- 1996 — Historic Walled Town of Cuenca (Cuenca, Castile-La Mancha).
- 1996 — Silk Exchange of Valencia (Valencia).
- 1997 — Las Médulas (León, Castile-León).
- 1997 — Palau de la Música Catalana and Hospital de Sant Pau in Barcelona (Barcelona, Catalonia).
- 1997 — Pirineos – Monte Perdido (Huesca, Aragon – Spanish part / Midi-Pyrénées and Aquitaine – French part). (Shared with France).
- 1997 — San Millán Yuso and Suso Monasteries (La Rioja).
- 1998 (2010) — Prehistoric Rock Art Sites in the Côa Valley (Guarda, Norte Region – Portuguese part) and Siega Verde (Salamanca, Castile-León – Spanish part). (Shared with Portugal).
- 1998 — Rock art of the Iberian Mediterranean Basinon the Iberian Peninsula (Andalusia, Aragon, Castile-La Mancha, Catalonia, Murcia and Valencia regions).
- 1998 — University and Historic Precinct of Alcalá de Henares (Madrid).
- 1999 — Ibiza, Biodiversity and Culture (Ibiza, Balearic Islands).
- 1999 — San Cristóbal de La Laguna (Tenerife, Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Canary Islands).
- 2000 — Archaeological Ensemble of Tarraco(Tarragona, Catalonia).
- 2000 — Archaeological Site of Atapuerca (Burgos, Castile-León).
- 2000 — Catalan Romanesque Churches of the Vall de Boí (Lleida, Catalonia).
- 2000 — Palmeral of Elche (Alicante, Valencia).
- 2000 — Roman Walls of Lugo (Lugo, Galicia).
- 2001 — Aranjuez Cultural Landscape (Madrid).
- 2003 — Renaissance Monumental Ensembles of Úbeda and Baeza (Jaén, Andalusia).
- 2006 — Vizcaya Bridge (Biscay, Basque Country).
- 2007 — Teide National Park (Tenerife, Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Canary Islands).
- 2009 — Tower of Hercules (A Coruña, Galicia).
- 2011 — Cultural Landscape of the Serra de Tramuntana (Majorca, Balearic Islands).
- 2012 — Heritage of Mercury. Almadén (Ciudad Real, Castile-La Mancha – Spanish part) and Idrija (Slovene Littoral – Slovenian part). (Shared with Slovenia).
The earliest recorded examples of vernacular Romance-based literature date from the same time and location, the rich mix of Muslim, Jewish, and Christian cultures in Muslim Spain, in which Maimonides, Averroes, and others worked, the Kharjas (Jarchas).
During the Reconquista, the epic poem Cantar de Mio Cid was written about a real man—his battles, conquests, and daily life.
Other major plays from the medieval times were Mester de Juglaría, Mester de Clerecía, Coplas por la muerte de su padreor El Libro de buen amor (The Book of Good Love).
During the Renaissance the major plays are La Celestina and El Lazarillo de Tormes, while many religious literature was created with poets as Luis de León, San Juan de la Cruz, Santa Teresa de Jesús, etc.
The Baroque is the most important period for Spanish culture. We are in the times of the Spanish Empire. The famous Don Quijote de La Mancha by Miguel de Cervantes was written in this time. Other writers from the period are: Francisco de Quevedo, Lope de Vega, Calderón de la Barca or Tirso de Molina.
During the Enlightenment we find names such as Leandro Fernández de Moratín, Benito Jerónimo Feijóo, Gaspar Melchor de Jovellanos or Leandro Fernández de Moratín.
During the Romanticism, José Zorrilla created one of the most emblematic figures in European literature in Don Juan Tenorio. Other writers from this period are Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer, José de Espronceda, Rosalía de Castro or Mariano José de Larra.
In Realism we find names such as Benito Pérez Galdós, Emilia Pardo Bazán, Leopoldo Alas(Clarín), Concepción Arenal, Vicente Blasco Ibáñez and Menéndez Pelayo. Realism offered depictions of contemporary life and society 'as they were'. In the spirit of general "Realism", Realist authors opted for depictions of everyday and banal activities and experiences, instead of romanticised or stylised presentations.
The group that has become known as the Generation of 1898 was marked by the destruction of Spain's fleet in Cuba by US gunboats in 1898, which provoked a cultural crisis in Spain. The "Disaster" of 1898 led established writers to seek practical political, economic, and social solutions in essays grouped under the literary heading of Regeneracionismo. For a group of younger writers, among them Miguel de Unamuno, Pío Baroja, and José Martínez Ruiz(Azorín), the Disaster and its cultural repercussions inspired a deeper, more radical literary shift that affected both form and content. These writers, along with Ramón del Valle-Inclán, Antonio Machado, Ramiro de Maeztu, and Ángel Ganivet, came to be known as the Generation of '98.
The Generation of 1914 or Novecentismo. The next supposed "generation" of Spanish writers following those of '98 already calls into question the value of such terminology. By the year 1914—the year of the outbreak of the First World War and of the publication of the first major work of the generation's leading voice, José Ortega y Gasset—a number of slightly younger writers had established their own place within the Spanish cultural field.
Leading voices include the poet Juan Ramón Jiménez, the academics and essayists Ramón Menéndez Pidal, Gregorio Marañón, Manuel Azaña, Maria Zambrano, Eugeni d'Ors, Clara Campoamor and Ortega y Gasset, and the novelists Gabriel Miró, Ramón Pérez de Ayala, and Ramón Gómez de la Serna. While still driven by the national and existential questions that obsessed the writers of '98, they approached these topics with a greater sense of distance and objectivity. Salvador de Madariaga, another prominent intellectual and writer, was one of the founders of the College of Europe and the composer of the constitutive manifest of the Liberal International.
The Generation of 1927, where poets Pedro Salinas, Jorge Guillén, Federico García Lorca, Vicente Aleixandre, Dámaso Alonso. All were scholars of their national literary heritage, again evidence of the impact of the calls of regeneracionistas and the Generation of 1898 for Spanish intelligence to turn at least partially inwards.
The two main writers in the second half of the 20th century were the Nobel Prize in Literature laureate Camilo José Cela and Miguel Delibes from Generation of '36. Spain is one of the countries with the most number of laureates with the Nobel Prize in Literature, and with Latin American laureates they made the Spanish language literature one of the most laureates of all. The Spanish writers are: José Echegaray, Jacinto Benavente, Juan Ramón Jiménez, Vicente Aleixandre and Camilo José Cela. The Portuguese writer José Saramago, also awarded with the prize, lived for many years in Spain and spoke both Portuguese and Spanish. He was also well known by his Iberist ideas.
The Generation of '50 are also known as the children of the civil war. Rosa Chacel, Gloria Fuertes, Jaime Gil de Biedma, Juan Goytisolo, Carmen Martín Gaite, Ana María Matute, Juan Marsé, Blas de Otero, Gabriel Celaya, Antonio Gamoneda, Rafael Sánchez Ferlosio or Ignacio Aldecoa.
Artists from Spain have been highly influential in the development of various European artistic movements. Due to historical, geographical and generational diversity, Spanish art has known a great number of influences. The Moorish heritage in Spain, especially in Andalusia, is still evident today and European influences include Italy, Germany and France, especially during the Baroque and Neoclassical periods.
During the Golden Age we find painters such as El Greco, José de Ribera, Bartolomé Esteban Murillo and Francisco Zurbarán. Also inside Baroque period Diego Velázquez created some of the most famous Spanish portraits, like Las Meninas or Las Hilanderas.
Francisco Goya painted during a historical period that includes the Spanish Independence War, the fights between liberals and absolutists, and the raise of state-nations.
Joaquín Sorolla is a well-known impressionist painter and there are many important Spanish painters belonging to the modernism art movement, including Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dalí, Juan Gris and Joan Miró.
The Plateresque style extended from beginnings of the 16th century until the last third of the century and its stylistic influence pervaded the works of all great Spanish artists of the time. Alonso Berruguete(Valladolid School) is called the "Prince of Spanish sculpture". His main works were the upper stalls of the choir of the Cathedral of Toledo, the tomb of Cardinal Tavera in the same Cathedral, and the altarpiece of the Visitation in the church of Santa Úrsula in the same locality. Other notable sculptors were Bartolomé Ordóñez, Diego de Siloé, Juan de Juni and Damián Forment.
There were two Schools of special flair and talent: the Seville School, to which Juan Martínez Montañés belonged, whose most celebrated works are the Crucifix in the Cathedral of Seville, another in Vergara, and a Saint John; and the Granada School, to which Alonso Canobelonged, to whom an Immaculate Conception and a Virgin of Rosary, are attributed.
Other notable Andalusian Baroque sculptors were Pedro de Mena, Pedro Roldán and his daughter Luisa Roldán, Juan de Mesa and Pedro Duque Cornejo. In the 20th century the most important Spanish sculptors were Julio González, Pablo Gargallo, Eduardo Chillida and Pablo Serrano.
Spanish cinema has achieved major international success including Oscars for recent films such as Pan's Labyrinth and Volver. In the long history of Spanish cinema, the great filmmaker Luis Buñuel was the first to achieve world recognition, followed by Pedro Almodóvar in the 1980s (La Movida Madrileña). Mario Camus and Pilar Miró worked together in Curro Jiménez.
Spanish cinema has also seen international success over the years with films by directors like Segundo de Chomón, Florián Rey, Luis García Berlanga, Carlos Saura, Julio Medem, Isabel Coixet, Alejandro Amenábar, Icíar Bollaín and brothers David Trueba and Fernando Trueba.
Actresses Sara Montiel and Penélope Cruz or actor Antonio Banderas are among those who have become Hollywood stars.
Due to its historical and geographical diversity, Spanish architecture has drawn from a host of influences. An important provincial city founded by the Romans and with an extensive Roman era infrastructure, Córdoba became the cultural capital, including fine Arabic style architecture, during the time of the Islamic Umayyad dynasty. Later Arab style architecture continued to be developed under successive Islamic dynasties, ending with the Nasrid, which built its famed palace complex in Granada.
Simultaneously, the Christian kingdoms gradually emerged and developed their own styles; developing a pre-Romanesque style when for a while isolated from contemporary mainstream European architectural influences during the earlier Middle Ages, they later integrated the Romanesque and Gothicstreams. There was then an extraordinary flowering of the Gothic style that resulted in numerous instances being built throughout the entire territory. The Mudéjar style, from the 12th to 17th centuries, was developed by introducing Arab style motifs, patterns and elements into European architecture.
The arrival of Modernism in the academic arena produced much of the architecture of the 20th century. An influential style centred in Barcelona, known as modernisme, produced a number of important architects, of which Gaudí is one. The International style was led by groups like GATEPAC. Spain is currently experiencing a revolution in contemporary architecture and Spanish architects like Rafael Moneo, Santiago Calatrava, Ricardo Bofill as well as many others have gained worldwide renown.
Music and dance
Spanish music is often considered abroad to be synonymous with flamenco, a West Andalusian musical genre, which, contrary to popular belief, is not widespread outside that region. Various regional styles of folk music abound in Aragon, Catalonia, Valencia, Castile, the Basque Country, Galicia and Asturias. Pop, rock, hip hop and heavy metal are also popular.
In the field of classical music, Spain has produced a number of noted composers such as Isaac Albéniz, Manuel de Falla and Enrique Granados and singers and performers such as Plácido Domingo, José Carreras, Montserrat Caballé, Alicia de Larrocha, Alfredo Kraus, Pablo Casals, Ricardo Viñes, José Iturbi, Pablo de Sarasate, Jordi Savall and Teresa Berganza. In Spain there are over forty professional orchestras, including the Orquestra Simfònica de Barcelona, Orquesta Nacional de España and the Orquesta Sinfónica de Madrid. Major opera houses include the Teatro Real, the Gran Teatre del Liceu, Teatro Arriaga and the El Palau de les Arts Reina Sofía.
Thousands of music fans also travel to Spain each year for internationally recognised summer music festivals Sónar which often features the top up and coming pop and techno acts, and Benicàssim which tends to feature alternative rock and dance acts. Both festivals mark Spain as an international music presence and reflect the tastes of young people in the country.
The most popular traditional musical instrument, the guitar, originated in Spain. Typical of the north are the traditional bag pipers or gaiteros, mainly in Asturias and Galicia.
Spanish cuisine consists of a great variety of dishes which stem from differences in geography, culture and climate. It is heavily influenced by seafood available from the waters that surround the country, and reflects the country's deep Mediterranean roots. Spain's extensive history with many cultural influences has led to a unique cuisine. In particular, three main divisions are easily identified:
Mediterranean Spain – all such coastal regions, from Catalonia to Andalusia – heavy use of seafood, such as pescaíto frito (fried fish); several cold soups like gazpacho; and many rice-based dishes like paella from Valencia and arròs negre (black rice) from Catalonia.
Inner Spain – Castile – hot, thick soups such as the bread and garlic-based Castilian soup, along with substantious stews such as cocido madrileño. Food is traditionally conserved by salting, like Spanish ham, or immersed in olive oil, like Manchego cheese.
Atlantic Spain – the whole Northern coast, including Asturian, Basque, Cantabrian and Galician cuisine – vegetable and fish-based stews like caldo gallego and marmitako. Also, the lightly cured lacón ham. The best known cuisine of the northern countries often rely on ocean seafood, like the Basque-style cod, albacore or anchovy or the Galician octopus-based polbo á feira and shellfish dishes.
While varieties of football had been played in Spain as far back as Roman times, sport in Spain has been dominated by English style association football since the early 20th century. Real Madrid C.F. and FC Barcelona are two of the most successful football clubs in the world. The country's national football teamwon the UEFA European Football Championship in 1964, 2008 and 2012 and the FIFA World Cup in 2010, and is the first team to ever win three back-to-back major international tournaments.
Basketball, tennis, cycling, handball, futsal, motorcycling and, lately, Formula One are also important due to the presence of Spanish champions in all these disciplines. Today, Spain is a major world sports powerhouse, especially since the 1992 Summer Olympics that were hosted in Barcelona, which stimulated a great deal of interest in sports in the country. The tourism industry has led to an improvement in sports infrastructure, especially for water sports, golf and skiing.
Rafael Nadal is the leading Spanish tennis player and has won several Grand Slam titles including the Wimbledon 2010 men's singles. In north Spain, the game of pelota is very popular. Alberto Contador is the leading Spanish cyclist and has won several Grand Tour titles including two Tour de France titles.