Need a little push to snag that latest airfare deal to Spain? Here's 10 reasons to visit Southern Spain, specifically the cities of Alicante, Valencia, Cádiz and Malaga. If sunshine, cheap croissants and the Mediterranean Sea on your doorstep don't entice you, I don't know what will.
Our family spent 5 weeks in Southern Spain a few years ago. We spent most of our time in Alicante, which is on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea in southeast Spain, on the Costa Blanca. We also spent time in Malaga, Valencia and Cádiz.
There are many reasons to visit Southern Spain, but here I'll outline just 10 of them. Are you ready? Okay, vámanos!
- 1. Paella, of course
- 2. Sunshine almost every day
- 3. They eat dinner at 9 or 10pm
- 4. Bakeries on every corner
- 5. The Mediterranean Sea is on your doorstep
- 6. It's cheap
- 7. You walk everywhere
- 8. It's full of history, even back to Roman times
- 9. Bougainvilleas everywhere
- 10. Laid-back, siesta lifestyle
- 💬 Reviews
1. Paella, of course
While paella was at the top of my list to taste and learn to make, I was delighted by the food in Spain.
Southern Spain gets so much sunshine that they have giant greenhouses that grow enormous amounts of produce for Europe.
So, that abundance translates to colorful, plentiful markets bursting with fresh fruits, vegetables, flowers and more.
The markets were so much fun to explore. Alicante, Malaga and Valencia all have large indoor markets open most days, but there are also neighborhood markets that pop up once a week.
Mounds of fresh (and cheap!) oranges, lemons, mushrooms, squash, onions, garlic and more were on offer.
Churro and hot chocolate stands, as well as textiles, shoes, clothes, locally made belts and wallets made the weekly market more of a one-stop shop.
2. Sunshine almost every day
Although we were there in the winter and it was chilly, the sun was out almost every day. I mean, who doesn't love sunshine?
3. They eat dinner at 9 or 10pm
While it took a minute to get used to the pace of life and the eating "schedule" in Spain, we actually came to really enjoy it.
Breakfast is typically very light - perhaps a pastry or toast with crushed tomato and coffee or tea - and is eaten around 8-9am.
Lunch is the heaviest meal of the day and is eaten around 1-2pm. They take their time eating lunch, enjoying it with family or friends and will often include appetizers, the main course and perhaps dessert.
Most businesses close during lunchtime/siesta and then re-open later in the afternoon.
Dinner is a light meal taken late in the evening, like 9 or 10pm. It might be a sandwich or leftovers.
Among the other food rules we learned:
- You only eat paella for lunch, since it is a heavy meal. Don't even suggest eating it for dinner unless you want disapproving looks from all Spaniards. (been there, done that)
- Restaurants will often have "menu del dia" specials for lunch that include an appetizer, main course, dessert and drink for one price. Take advantage of that to save money eating out.
- Potato chips and french fries are available everywhere.
- Most restaurants will charge you for water, since they only serve bottled water. So, unless you want to be charged 2-3 euros for water, bring your own bottle.
- Croissants are plentiful and cheap. Proceed to reason #4.
4. Bakeries on every corner
Perhaps what delighted me most as we strolled the streets of Alicante was the plethora of bakeries. If you know me, you know I love a good croissant.
One of the benefits of choosing a veganish way of eating is that I can have a good croissant or pastry when I'm in the mood and not feel guilty.
Flexitarian bonus, y'all.
And, you can bet I ate my fair share of croissants in Spain. Almond croissants are my first choice. Then, chocolate filled ones. Then, plain.
That's my hierarchy of croissants, folks.
Aside from the sweet goodies, the bakeries also supplied us with fresh bread, too. I swear there was a bakery on every block. I wasn't complaining.
5. The Mediterranean Sea is on your doorstep
Even in the winter, the Mediterranean Sea is enchanting. Deep blue water, pebble beaches, marinas, fishing boats.
I imagine that in the summer the beach is where everyone wants to be.
From what I understand, some businesses let their employees off work early throughout the entire summer so they can enjoy the long days and warm water.
6. It's cheap
How cheap? Well, cheaper than Houston, Texas, I can tell you that.
I realize that "cheap" is relative. We found that our money went further in Spain that it does at home.
Groceries were inexpensive. Eating out was about the same price as Houston.
Rental apartments were significantly less expensive than Houston (375-600 euros a month for a 2-3 bedroom furnished apartment in Alicante).
Public transport by bus and train made getting around town (and across the country) easy and inexpensive.
7. You walk everywhere
Let me tell you a story about my first week in Spain. My feet hurt. A lot.
Let me tell you a story about the next four weeks in Spain. I walked everywhere and really came to enjoy it.
There's a difference between walking to get somewhere and walking in a self-imposed circle for exercise.
By the time we had to come home, I was determined to walk more at home, but our city is just not designed for walking places. Everything is so spread out.
While I really enjoyed all of the walking in Spain, I was sorely ill-equipped in the footwear department.
So ill-equipped, in fact, that I came home with a bad case of plantar fasciitis.
Next trip, I will pack shoes that have adequate arch support (hello, Birkenstocks & Vionic) and cushion to support my feet.
8. It's full of history, even back to Roman times
Have you ever stood next to a Roman theater that was built over 2,000 years ago? I hadn't before this trip.
It was eye-opening to ponder the people, culture and events that took place where I was standing, all those years ago.
Alicante, Malaga, Valencia and Cádiz each had Roman ruins to tour. So many opportunities to learn.
9. Bougainvilleas everywhere
Bougainvilleas, palm trees, orange groves, almond trees in bloom, tomato plants. White-washed villages, castles and narrow roads.
The mountainous seaside landscape was truly beautiful to behold.
10. Laid-back, siesta lifestyle
The lifestyle in Spain was slow and laid-back, with ample opportunities to enjoy food, family, friends and just life, in general.
Don't take my word for it. Visit Southern Spain and tell me what you think.
Have you visited Spain? What did you love about it?