Medieval Castles turned into luxury hotels and mansions converted into youth hostels typify the variety of places to stay in Spain. The tourists who sustain Spain's economy have almost 10,000 establishments to choose from, offering around 1 million beds. Suites in once royal palaces are at the top of the scale. Then there are luxury beach hotels on the Costa del Sol in the Balearic and the Canary islands. Visitors can also stay on remote farms, or in villas and old houses let for self catering. For budget travel there are pensions, family run casas rurales and guest houses, camp sites, and refuges with stunning views for mountaineers.

One of the joys of eating out in Spain is the sheer sociability of the Spanish. Family and friends, often with children in tow, can be seen eating out from early in the day until after midnight. Spanish food has a regional bias. Traditional restaurants originated as taverns and tapas bars serving dishes based on local produce. Spain also has its fair share of top quality gourment restaurants, notably in the Basque Country.

Spain is one of the world's largest wine producing countries and many fine wines are made here, particularly reds in La Rioja and sherry in Andalusia. Many other beverages both alcoholic and nonalcoholic are served in bars and cafes, which provide an important focus for life in Spain. Spaniards are also great coffee drinkers. In the summer months a tempting range of cooling drinks is on offer, in addition to beer, which is always available. Brandy and variety of liqueurs, such as anis, are drunk as aperitifs and digestives, as is chilled pale gold fino sherry.

Shopping in Spain is a pleasurable activity, particularly if you approach it in a leisurely way, punctuating it with frequent breaks for coffee. In small, family run shops especially, people will go out of their way to fulfil your smallest request. Markets sell the freshest of produce and quality wines can be found at almost any grocer. Leatherwork is still highly regarded among Spain's many traditional crafts. Spanish design has come to the forefront in both fashion and decor.


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