From inventing the stapler and the mop to legal nudity, Spain is more than just sunshine and beaches. Test your knowledge with this mix of informative and interesting facts about Spain.
When you think of Spain, images of bull fighting, Flamenco dancing and fiestas undoubtedly spring to mind. But what else is there to Spain? These interesting facts about Spain will get you prepared if you’re planning a move to Spain, or if you are already here, test yourself to see how well you know the Spanish!
1. The Kingdom of Spain, as it’s officially known, is the second largest country in the EU
With an area of 505,955 square kilometres, Spain covers about 85% of the Iberian Peninsula, which it shares with Portugal.
2. Spain was once a number of separate kingdoms with different languages
They were unified in the 15th century after the marriage of two Catholic monarchs Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabella of Castile. These kingdoms became the basis for many of the different regions in modern Spain. Today, there are 17 autonomous regions (15 on the mainland and the Balearic and Canary Islands), and two autonomous enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla in North Africa.
3. Spanish is the second most widely spoken language in the world
There are an estimated 437 million people native speakers of Spanish, it comes only after Chinese. While Castilian Spanish is the official language, in Catalonia, the Basque country and Galicia, the regional languages of Catalan, Basque and Galician all have official status.
4. Nudity is legal in Spain
– some say all the better to enjoy the country’s mainly Mediterranean-temperate climate with its hot dry summers, mild, rainy winters and more than 3,000 hours of sunlight a year. Spain also had the youngest marrying age in Europe before it changed the legal age from 14 to 16 years in 2015.
5. The population of 49 million is the fifth largest in Europe
– with more than three-quarters living in urban areas. Around 6.5 million people live in Madrid and 5.5 million in Barcelona – both cities have more inhabitants than the entire populations of Ireland or New Zealand.
6. Spain has the second highest life expectancy of all the OECD countries
With a life expectancy of 83 years, Spain comes second only after Japan. Spanish women live longer than men: 85 compared to 79 years.
7. The United Nations projects that Spain will be among the world’s oldest countries by 2050
– with over 30% of the population aged aged 60 and above.
8. Only 13.6% of Spain’s population actually goes to church on Sundays
Yet some 70% of the population are Roman Catholic, according to a 2012 study by the Centre for Sociological Studies in Spain.
9. Spain is a constitutional monarchy
Former king Juan Carlos I came to the throne after the right-wing dictator General Franco died in 1975. Once one of Europe’s most beloved monarchs, Juan Carlos fell from favour in recent years and abdicated in favour of his son, King Felipe VI, in 2014.
10. There is only one tax inspector for every 1,928 taxpayers
– compared to one per 729 people in France. So while Spain’s economy ranked 13th in the world, with a GDP of 1,356 billion USD (€989 billion) in the 2013 Centre for Economic Research (Cebr) World Economic League Table, the Spanish Inland Revenue says a quarter of the GDP comes from the ‘black’ economy.
11. In 2015, Spain has the second highest unemployment rate in Europe
It is also the third highest among the OECD countries at 24.2%, only slightly behind Greece and South Africa, and high above the OECD average of 7.3% (2014). Youth unemployment is even worse: around half of 15 to 24 year-olds who could be working are unemployed.
12. Female entrepreneurs set up 40% of all new businesses in Spain
– since the beginning of the recession in 2008 to 2013, totalling some 800,000 businesses.
13. Spain has Europe’s biggest wealth gap
– according to findings in two reports by Credit Suisse and the Catholic charity Caritas. In 2012, while more than 6 percent of the population lived on €307/month or less (double that of 2008), the number of dollar millionaires rose to 402,000, an increase of 13% on the previous year.
14. Out-of-school hours childcare is limited
About a quarter of all grandparents take cake of their grandchildren on a daily basis.
15. Only half of all adults aged 15–64 have the equivalent of a high school degree
The OECD average is almost three-quarters. Younger people are staying on at school longer than the previous generation though, as 65% of 25–34-year-olds gain the qualification.
16. The Spanish love to chill out
According to the 2013 OECD report, on average Spaniards devote 16 out of every 24 hours to leisure, eating, drinking and sleeping.
17. The first ‘novel’ is attributed to a Spaniard
Cervantes’ Don Quixote, written in 1605, is considered to be the first modern novel.
18. Spain has 47 UNESCO World Heritage Sites
This makes Spain the 3rd ranked country in the world, with pre-historic rock art, historic cities and buildings, bridges, national parks and landscapes. Only Italy with 49 sites and China with 45 have more.
19. The next time you use a stapler, thank the Spanish
The first known stapler was made in the 18th century in the Basque country for the French King Louis XV – and every single staple was engraved with the royal emblem. Spain has also given the world the mop and bucket (1956), the forerunner of the modern cigarette (17th century) and the astronaut’s space suit (1935).
20. Spain produces over half of the world’s olive oil
– more than some 1.5 million tons, and almost all of it comes from the southern region of Andalusia. Spanish Wine is also a noted product: Spain is the second largest producer in the world, only after Italy, making 4,6 million tonnes (metric tons) in 2015.
21. Spain was the first country in the world where wind power was the greatest source of electricity
Red Eléctrica de España (REE), operators of Spain’s electricity system, revealed that in 2013 wind turbines generated over just under 54,000 gigawatt hours of electricity – a fifth of the nation’s usage.
22. Spain has produced some of the world’s greatest artists
Among many others, the most notable Spanish artists are Velázquez in the 17th century, Goya in the 18th and 19th to Picasso, Miró and Dali in the 20th.
23. There’s no tooth fairy in Spain
When Spanish children lose a tooth, they put it under their pillow and a small mouse called Ratoncito Pérez comes to collect it and leaves a small gift or money in its place.
24. Until 2013, the age of consent to have sex or marry in Spain was among the lowest in the world
Until 2013, the Spanish age of consent was 13 for sex and 14 for marriage. Spaniards now have to wait until they are 16 to do both, in line with other European countries such as the UK, the Netherlands, Norway and Belgium.
25. The Spanish are a tolerant society
The European Social Survey in 2010 found that 80% of respondents agreed that ‘gay men and lesbians should be able to free to live their own lives’, compared to less than 40% of Croatians, Lithuanians and Russians. Same-sex marriage has been legal in Spain since 2005.
26. You can enjoy a meal in the oldest restaurant in the world in Spain’s capital, Madrid
Although other restaurants claim they are older, the title has been awarded by Guinness World Records to Restaurante Botín, which has been open since 1725. The signature dish? Cochinillos asado (roast suckling pig).
27. Spain is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world
Spain was the world’s third most popular tourist destination in 2016 – after France and the US, attracting a jaw-dropping 75.6 million visitors.
28. Spain is the country of fiestas, with hundreds of festivals taking place throughout the year
The oldest fiesta, Romería de Nuesra Señora de le Cabeza, has been held for over 800 years and the Fiesta de los Patios was even awarded UNESCO World heritage status in 2013. Be chased by bulls during the festival of San Fermin, throw overripe tomatoes during La Tomatina or watch while huge ninots (statues) are burnt during Las Fallas.
29. Spain’s Christmas lottery has the world’s biggest payout
Spain’s national lottery, El Gordo (‘the fat one’), held just before Christmas has a jackpot of €720 million, and a total payout of some €2.3 billion in 2017.
30. The Spanish national football team topped the FIFA World rankings for five consecutive years – from 2008 until 2013
La Roja (The Red One), La Furia Roja (The Red Fury), La Furia Española (The Spanish Fury), or La Furia (The Fury), as the national team is known, also holds the world record (28) for winning the most consecutive competitive matches.