Backpackers' Spain

See all the sights of beautiful Spain.
By: Andre Legaspi


Photo by: Sergey Borisov

Sergey Borisov

There are 2 words you need to know when you head west to Espana. Calimoxto and botellon. You'll know them well after a few days in the country. The latter is the weekly pre-drinking event that decimates town plazas all around Spain and buries them in a pile of plastic cups. Calimoxto is the sweet fuel (a mixture of cola, wine and/or liquor) that these botellons and their participants run on. Almost every major city and town has some version of a botellon, and while the country has tried to make them illegal, congregations of partiers still flock to the plazas after their late dinners to start off their night. Like everything else in Spain, the bars and clubs don't reach capacity until the wee hours. So to kill the few hours between dinner and midnight (when the lines for the clubs start building), revelers hit up the public squares.

Afterward, instead of nursing that nasty wine hangover for the entire afternoon, cure it with the breakfast of Spanish champions: cafe con leche and churros. The sweet and robust coffee will give you the needed jolt, while the fried sticks of dough should settle your system. Now you'll have the energy to start exploring places like the Alhambra (Palacio de Carlos V) in Granada. Considered one of the greatest structures in the world, the palace/fortress is an imposing sight for any visitor to Granada and exploring every inch of it can take up a good portion of your afternoon.

Wandering around the complex under the burning sun is tiring, so bring water and dependable runners. It's also prudent to take a nap when you finally make it back to your hotel or hostel. You'll need it to recover in time for a night out at Granada 10, a popular nightclub that was once a theater. It's arguably the town's best spot to let loose with locals and travelers alike.

Madrid's Prado Museum, while considerably smaller than the Alhambra, is just as impressive. It has become one of the most esteemed art museums in the world, and its collection of legendary works receives busloads of tourists daily. Among the 7,000 paintings and sculptures at the Prado, you'll find works by such notables as Goya, Velezquez, Bosch, El Greco, Rubens and Durer.

Don't leave Madrid without taking a stroll past Palacio Real. You'll need only a few minutes to take in the impressive exterior of the landmark, and you won't miss out on much if you skip the inside altogether. Instead continue east to the Malasana neighborhood, where the city's youngest and most artistic residents converge around Calle de Fuencarral. The coffeehouses, clothing stores and bars have a wonderful, fecund feel that, unlike other trendy regions in the world, make it more like a true art collective than just the next "it" neighborhood. It's easy to waste a day away here, so kick back and enjoy Madrid's most charismatic area once you've tackled all of the city's museums.

Madrid's discotheques and bars are among the best in the country. Get your pulse racing with a visit to Ananda (Metro: Estacion de Atocha). Rife with Madrid's most beautiful assets outside of the Prado, the charged dance floor is where locals groove to incredibly smooth DJs and mingle with a carefree and gorgeous collection of 20-somethings.

In Spain's East is the inimitable and beguiling Barcelona. It may not be as classy and urbane as Madrid, but it's an incredible party city in its own right. Just see if you, and your ears, can handle KGB (Alegre de Dalt 55). The brash bar isn't for the faint of heart, and it should be painfully obvious when the first notes get pummeled out of the club's speakers. You won't find bubbly pop or easy, breezy light rock on rotation here. Instead, loud patrons take their beers and guzzle to the sound of hard punk and underground hip-hop. Park Guell (Carrer del Carmel 28), which could easily be categorized as an outdoor museum, is just as loud. The park is like no other in the world, with its massive menagerie of tiled structures and sculptures. It's also a great place to recover from a night out on the town.

However, the image that many associate with this city are the tall, prickly spires of the impressive, and still incomplete, Sagrada Familia church. The architect responsible for its creation also imagined Park Guell, all the way to its construction. But Antoni Gaudi, the often heralded and sometimes disparaged artist, devoted close to 40 of his 76 years solely on the gargantuan and whimsical structure. The artist combined his trademark hyperboloid shapes, influences from nature and fluid design across the Sagrada Familia to create one of the most striking structures in all of Europe.

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