Top 10 Myths & Misconceptions About Spain

The French all wear berets, the Germans are very punctual, the English can't cook and the Australians all wear cork hats. At least these are the popular myths about these countries. The truth is usually a long way from the popular belief. Here are some of the most famous myths about Spain exposed for what they are - if not complete fabrications, then at least distorted versions of the truth.

01 of 10

Myth #1: La Sagrada Familia is Barcelona's Cathedral

Stained Glass windows inside La Sagrada Familia

 TripSavvy / Chris VR

Barcelona's cathedral is called Cathedral of Santa Eulalia and can be found at Plaça de la Seu, near the Gothic Quarter. La Sagrada Familia, the famous unfinished basilica designed by Antoni Gaudi, is another building entirely.

You say cathedral, They say basilica - does it matter when everyone knows what they're talking about? Yes, it does: if you ask your hotel the way to Barcelona cathedral ​when you want to go to see La Sagrada Familia, you'll end up disappointed, as Barcelona cathedral has nothing on La Sagrada Familia

02 of 10

Myth #2: Paella is a Seafood Dish

A dish of seafood paella.
Jurg Achterberg / EyeEm / Getty Images

Paella is a rice dish. It can have seafood in it, just as pizza can, but (also as with pizza) you can put any 'topping' on it you like. The Margarita of paella is paella Valenciana, which was invented in the fields of Valencia, a place where prawns and squid are a bit of a rarity! Paella Valenciana is made up of chicken, pork, and rabbit, though in older (poorer) times, snails were often included.

03 of 10

Myth #3: Bullfighting is Spain's National Sport

Nabil El Zhar of Leganes competes for the ball with Akieme of Rayo Vallecano during the Copa del Rey match between Leganes and Rayo Vallecano at Estadio Municipal de Butarque on October 30, 2018 in Leganes, Spain.


Quality Sport Images / Contributor/Getty Images 

Wrong on two counts – for a start, it's not a sport (the fight isn't even enough for that), and it's not truly national. It is true that you will encounter bullrings throughout Spain, but these were largely built during the reign of Franco (the dictator that ruled Spain from 1939 until 1975), a ruler who had a particular image of Spain that he wanted to promote. Spain's real national sport is futbol (or soccer).

04 of 10

Myth #4: The Drink of Choice in Spanish Bars is Sangria

Glasses of sangria on a table
PublicDomainPictures / Public Domain

Sangria is a party drink, like a tropical punch. It exists for one purpose – to get everyone drunk cheaply. That isn't to say that it can't be made with a bit of loving care and attention, but there is no 'traditional' recipe. 95% of people drinking sangria in bars are tourists and the bar owners know it and will charge you accordingly.

Continue to 5 of 10 below.
05 of 10

Myth #5: Flamenco is a Popular Dance in Spain

A flamenco dancer dancing.
Thomas Roche / Getty Images

Flamenco often contains dancing, but it isn't predominantly a dance. Flamenco contains four main elements: the guitar, the vocals, the dancing and las palmas (hand claps). In fact, of the four disciplines, the dancing is the part that is the most easily dropped.

Flamenco is also specifically an Andalusian art, though through internal migration flamenco has quite a history in Madrid and even Barcelona. You're unlikely to find much flamenco in other parts of Spain.

06 of 10

Myth #6: Bring Sunscreen, not an Umbrella, no Matter When You Visit

A stormy Mauro Island Lighthouse in Spain.
Juan Carlos Munoz / Getty Images

Spain is not the tropical paradise that many think it is (though global warming is pushing it in that direction). During autumn and winter, Galicia can expect rain every other day, while Madrid and the cities to its west and north can get exceptionally cold in the winter.

07 of 10

Myth #7: Malaga is a Must-See City in Spain

The sunset in Malaga
Marius Roman / Getty Images

Malaga is always on tourists' radars, mainly due to its popular airport. But that's the best thing about Malaga - that it's easy to get away from it. Yes, Malaga has flamenco and bullfighting, but so do other cities (such as Seville, Granada, and Madrid. And yes, Malaga's summer festival is one of Spain's most spectacular. But if you're visiting Spain at any other time of year, Malaga should be well down your list of cities to visit.

08 of 10

Myth #8: Spanish Food is Hot & Spicy, like Mexican

Spanish tapas at a bar.
Panoramic Images / Getty Images

Like in the story of the princess and the pea, put a drop of Tabasco in a pot of stew for twenty people and a Spaniard will wave his hand in front of his mouth as if trying to cool the fieriest Mexican dish. Well, that's a slight exaggeration, but not by much – many in Spain genuinely think that a sprinkling of paprika on food qualifies it as 'picante' (spicy).

Continue to 9 of 10 below.
09 of 10

Myth #9: Tapas are a Specific Type of Food

Light tapas on a cutting board.
Maik Schmalenberg / EyeEm / Getty Images

Tapas are a way of eating food, not a type of food. Anything can be tapas. Paella, couscous, shrimps, brochette, even hamburgers. A tapa is a small dish, usually taken with a drink (sometimes it comes free, sometimes you pay for it). You can stick to one bar and order a series of tapas to go with your drinks, but it's far more proper (and fun) to bar hop ( or tapear in Spanish) and sample the culinary delights of a number of different bars.

10 of 10

Myth #10: Tipping is Expected in Spain

An outdoor cafe in Andalusia
Peter Zoeller / Design Pics / Getty Images

Probably the myth most perpetuated by ​guidebooks and Web sites about Spain. Tipping is not common in Spain, particular for cheap meals. The Spanish might leave change from a 50 euro bill if the meal has been good, but they rarely dig into their pockets to give the waitress any extra.

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