60 Amazing and Interesting Facts about Spain (Part I) | Amazing Facts 4U
Land & Geography
- The official name of Spain is the Kingdom of Spain having a population of about 48 million. The total area of Spain is 505,370 sq. km. Spain is the least densely populated country in Europe, with just 80 inhabitants per square Km.
- The name Spain diverged from the word Ispania, which means the land of rabbits.
- Spain is the second largest country in Western Europe after France and the second most mountainous after Switzerland.
- The largest city and capital of Spain is Madrid with a population of 6 million. It is actually situated in the center of the country. The second largest city is Barcelona with 1.6 million residents.
- Spain is the closest European country to the African continent. Spain still has two major exclaves, Ceuta and Melilla, in mainland Africa on Morocco coast line.
- Amazingly Spain has 4,964 km of coastline and 8000 km of beaches. Spain is one of only three countries to have both Atlantic and Mediterranean coastlines. The others are France and Morocco.
- The Pyrenees is a mountain range that divides Spain and France. Since the Pyrenees Mountains were such a significant barrier in the north, and Spain is just 9 miles from Morocco in the south, Spain shares much of its early history with Africa.
- Mount Teide is the highest mountain in Spain (3718 m, 12198 ft) and an active volcano.
- Longest river is Rio Ebro having a length of 910 km. The largest lake is Mar Menor which is also the largest salt lake in Europe.
Flora & Fauna
- During the last ice age, most of Europe was covered in glaciers, but most of Spain was far enough south to escape the ice. Consequently, plants that were wiped out across Europe survived in Spain. Europe as a whole has 9,000 plant species; there are over 8,000 plant species in Spain alone, with 2,000 of them being unique to the country.
- The most widely known mammal in Spain is the Bat with over 50 different species found in Spain alone.
- Spain is home to a type of tailless monkey, the macaque, which is the only type of wild monkey that lives in Europe.
- In 2007, scientists in Spain found a tooth from a distant human ancestor that is more than 1 million years old.
- Most of Spain was under Muslim domination (Moors) from 711 AD to the Middle of 11 th century. The full peninsula was not reconquered by the Christian powers until 1492.
- The Moors occupied Spain for 800 years; consequently, over 4,000 Arabic words and Arabic-derived phrases have been absorbed into the Spanish language. Words beginning with “al,” are derived from Arabic. The Moors were also advanced in medicine, science, and astronomy, and Arabic words such as algebra, alcohol, chemistry, nadir, alkaline, and cipher entered the language. Even words such as checkmate, influenza, typhoon, orange, and cable can be traced back to Arabic origins.
- Under Islamic law in Spain, Christians and Jews were considered dhimmi, which allowed them to practice their religion as “people of the book” but they had to pay a special tax.
- Muslims founded the first Spanish university at Valencia in 1209.
- In 1492, Ferdinand V of Aragon and Queen Isabella paid for Christopher Columbus to explore the west in search of a new route to India. Columbus landed on one of the islands of the Bahamas by mistake. His mistake made Spain one of the richest nations in the world for a time.
- Under Philip II’s reign (1556-1598), and until 1640, Spain ruled over an empire comprising Spain, the Spanish Netherlands (most of present Belgium, and Northern France), Southern Italy, most of South and Central America (Brazil included), about half of the present USA, the Philippines (named after Philip II), as well as various smaller colonies in Asia and Africa (Macao, Malacca, Goa, Daman, Diu…).
- Spanish sailor Juan Sebastián Elcano (1476-1526) was the first man to circumnavigate the world.
- Spanish explorer Vasco Núñez de Balboa (1475-1519) was the first European to see the Pacific Ocean.
- Spanish explorer Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo (1499-1543) discovered California. In 1603, Spanish sailor Gabriel de Castilla (1577-1620) became the first man ever to see Antarctica.
- In 1588, the king of Spain sent 133 ships (the Armada) to England. Almost half of the ships sank in stormy weather or while fighting the British navy. It was a significant defeat for Spain and marked the beginning of the end of Spain’s global power.
- The conquistadors that conquered central and South America loaded thousands of tons of gold back to Spain yet 2/3 of the gold was sunk or raided by pirates.
- Long after primitive horses became extinct in the Western Hemisphere, Spanish conquistadors introduced the horses we know today. Christopher Columbus (who is actually Italian) and Hernán Cortés are just two of the explorers who brought horses to the Americas. Today the Andalusian, also known as Pure Spanish Horse, is known around the world for its beauty and athletic ability.
- Tomatoes, potatoes, avocados, tobacco, and cacao, were all brought to Europe and then spread around the world by the Spaniards from their American colonies. All these words were imported from Spanish language into English, which explains why they end in “-o”.
- Gibraltar was ceded by Spain to Britain in 1713, controlled the entrance to the Mediterranean.
- The Spanish colonies in the Americas (except Cuba and Puerto Rico, lost to the USA in 1898) became independent between 1809 and 1825, mostly due to Napoleon’s occupation of Spain between 1808 and 1814.
- In 1894, Japan offered to buy the Philippines from Spain for 40 million pounds.
- Spain did not participate in either the First or Second World War.
- Spain experienced a civil war (1936-1939) which killed over 500,000 people. The Victorious General Francisco Franco ruled as a brutal dictator until his death in 1975. During the Franco regime (1936-1975), Spain was like fundamentalist Islamic countries. The Spanish civil code declared that a woman needed her husband’s permission to conduct any sort of activity outside the home. Women were banned from having a job, opening a bank account, starting a business, buying or selling goods, or initiate legal proceedings. Until the 1960’s there was no legal recourse against a man mistreating his wife.
- Spain has spectacularly changed since the 1975 after defeat of dictator. From one of the poorest and most backward countries in Europe, it has since raised its GDP per capita to the level of Italy, and has become one of the most socially liberal and progressive nations in the world.
Places / Architecture
- Spain has 44 Unesco World Heritage Sites. Only Italy with 49 sites and China with 45 have more.
- The oldest known cave painting is found in the Cave of El Castillo in northern Spain. There researchers have found a faint red dot that is thought to be over 40,000 years old. The second-oldest known cave art is in France. The Cave of Altamira near Santander, Spain, is also known as the “Sistine Chapel” of cave painting.
- The ancient Roman Aqueduct of Segovia in Spain was built in the 1st century A.D. and still supplies water to the city.
- The world’s oldest existing lighthouse is the Tower of Hercules, in Spain, erected in the first century which is still operational.
- Amazingly two Roman dams in Spain are still in use after 1900 years.
- The outer castle wall of the Moorish palace Alhambra (literally “the red one”) at Granada is one of Spain’s architectural masterpieces. Alhambra was the seat of Muslim rulers from the 13th century to the end of the 15th century. The Alhambra is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
- The Sagrada Familia church in Barcelona Spain, has been under construction since 1882 and it’s only expected to be complete by 2026.
- The Port Vell area in Barcelona houses Aquarium Barcelona , one of Europe’s largest aquariums with 8,000 fish and 11 sharks housed in more than a million gallons of seawater.
- The Madrid subway is the second largest underground system in Europe and the sixth largest system in the world measuring about 300 km and about 300 stations.
- Madrid subway system has 1,656 escalators, most in any metro system in the world.
- There’s a zipline connecting Spain and Portugal. It’s 2,365 ft (720 m) and 60 seconds long.
- The Columbus monument, built in 1888 for the World Exposition, honors Christopher Columbus’ first voyage to the Americas, and serves as a reminder that he reported to Queen Isabella I and King Ferdinand V in Barcelona after his first trip to the new continent.
- There’s a 47-story skyscraper in Spain that has no elevator.
- The Rio Tinto River in Spain is so polluted by toxic pollution from 5,000 years of mining that it contains little to no life.
- The Eiffel Tower was originally intended for Barcelona, Spain, but the project was rejected.
- The Spanish people have their own monarchy living in the royal place, the ‘Zarzuela Palace’, outside of Madrid. The Royal Palace, Palacio Real, in the city of Madrid is the place where official functions take place. On 19 June 2014, the son of former king Juan Carlos , Felipe VI, was crowned the new king of Spain. Juan Carlos retired due to old age.
- The national anthem of Spain has no words and is the only one in world without words.
- The Bull is the national animal of Spain.
- Spain is one of the most decentralized democracies in Europe. Each of its 17 regions manages its own school, hospitals, and other public services.
- In 2004, Spain built more housing per capita than any other country. 750,000 new homes were built nationwide, more than in Germany, France and Italy combined!
- In July 2005, Spain became the third country on Earth to legalize same-sex marriage, after the Netherlands and Belgium. In the same year the country also legalized full joint adoption by same-sex couples.
- Personal consumption and home cultivation of cannabis are legal in Spain.
- Spain was one of the first European countries to ban smoking in in all workplaces, and bars and restaurants from 2006, following the lead of Ireland and Norway in 2004.
- Spain is the only country in the EU, along with Portugal, where life imprisonment has been abolished.
- Amazingly it is a crime in Spain to slander or libel the dead.
- The Basques in Spain were great warriors and the only people in Spain who never totally came under control of the Romans. Some Basque separatist groups are currently fighting for complete independence from Spain. The Basque region in Spain is one of most prosperous.
- There are no laws against public nudity in Spain. Spain has the lowest age of consent for sexual activity in Europe at 13 years old. Legal age for marriage is 16 years.
- It is estimated that 200,000-400,000 women work in prostitution in Spain. 90% of them are illegal immigrants. The Criminal Code of Spain does not address prostitution itself, but some activities associated with prostitution, such as pimping, are illegal. In other words, prostitution is essentially legal in Spain.
By Amazing Facts 4U Team