Spanish Culture

Contributor: Tara Ondra. Lesson ID: 13370

From the running of the bulls in Pamplona to flamenco dancing in Andalucia to the architectural feats of Gaudi in Barcelona, Spain is packed full of fascinating culture, arts, and traditions.


Fine Arts, World Cultures

learning style
Auditory, Kinesthetic, Visual
personality style
Lion, Otter, Beaver
Grade Level
Middle School (6-8), High School (9-12)
Lesson Type
Quick Query

Lesson Plan - Get It!

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Sights, sounds, tastes, and movement enhance our understanding of different cultures.

Click on the white triangle play button below to listen to Spanish guitar music as you explore the food, dance, music, sports, art, architecture, and literature of Spain:

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Imagine that you've just hopped off the plane in Spain's capital city of Madrid, a cosmopolitan city with a population of 3.3 million.

  • What's the first thing you notice?

Your ears perk up as you hear the Spanish language. But did you know in addition to the official language of Spanish (or Castilian), at least 16 co-official languages are spoken throughout the regions of Spain?

The most commonly spoken are:

  • Catalan (19% of the population)
  • Galacian (5%)
  • Basque (2%)

Click through the slides below to hear each of these languages spoken by people who live in Spain. (If the subtitles do not automatically turn on, click on the CC inside the white box.)

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While in Madrid, you hit up the Museo Nacional del Prado to learn about Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes (1746-1828), one of Spain's numerous important artists.

Goya is recognized as one of the last Old Masters and as a forefather of Modern Art. Goya came from the region of Zaragoza but studied in Rome and Italy, and later he lived in Madrid where he worked as a painter for the royal court.

Use the slider beneath the images to look at four of his paintings:

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Time to get out of the city and head south to the region of Castilla-La Mancha. Grab your map and go!

map of Spain

If you like literature, perhaps you've heard of Don Quixote (Don Quijote de la Mancha) by Miguel de Cervantes.

  • Do you have any idea how old this book is?

Considered to be the first modern novel, the first part was written in 1605 and the second part in 1615. The main character, Alonso Quijano, rides around the countryside of central and northern Spain with his squire, Sancho Panza. They have many adventures including charging at windmills which he believes are giants.

  • Still not inspired to read the book?

Watch Why should you read "Don Quixote"? - Ilan Stavans, from TED-Ed:

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From Castilla-La Mancha, we'll head to the Mediterranean coast to the port city of Valencia to taste paella, a delicious dish made of rice, meats, seafood, and saffron.

Paella originated in Valencia in the mid-19th century. Today, it is eaten throughout Spain and has become popular around the world.


Next up, you'll head to Barcelona, a city of 1.6 million and the capital of the region of Catalonia. Here, you'll practice your Catalan and see the famous works of architect Antoni Gaudi (1852-1926).

Without a doubt, Gaudi's most famous architectural feat is the cathedral La Sagrada Familia. Construction on the cathedral began in 1882 and, believe it or not, is still going on with the estimated completion date being 2026!

When completed, this masterpiece will have 18 towers representing the apostles, evangelists, the Virgin Mary, and Jesus Christ.

La Sagrada Familia

To learn even more, visit La Sagrada Familia: 15 Amazing Facts You Need to Know from Culture Trip.

Next, it is time for an adrenaline rush! Heading northwest, we'll pass through the foothills of the Pyrenees before arriving at our next destination: Pamplona.

Pamplona is the capital of the region of Navarre and is famous for the annual Festival of San Fermín. This festival dates back to the 12th century as a celebration of Saint Fermín. Of the 400 different events and festivities you can participate in today, the most famous is the running of the bulls:

running of the bulls at San Fermin

For a musical interlude, head back south to the region of Andalucia. It's a long ride so feel free to listen to some of Paco de Lucía's flamenco music along the way.

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Seville, the capital of Andalucia, is famous for its churches, palaces, Moorish buildings, and flamenco.

the Plaza de Espana in Seville

The word flamenco applies to the song, dance, and guitar as well as the relationship between these elements. Flamenco can be traced back to the 9th to 14th centuries when Muslim, Christian, Jewish, and gypsy musical elements were combined thanks to the presence of these cultural and religious groups in southern Spain.

The TEDx Talks video below will stop at its 3:50 mark. If you are interested, you may watch the full video.

Flamanco is a language | Alice Blumenfeld | TEDxFulbrightSantaMonica:

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Back to the capital for one last cultural event: fútbol!

Also known as soccer in the USA, fútbol is the most popular sport in Spain. In addition to the Spanish national team, Spain's fútbol league consists of several divisions or leagues. The top two divisions are national and include teams from the different regions, while the lower divisions are regional.

The most popular teams are Real Madrid C.F. and F.C. Barcelona, shown here in a match:

Real Madrid and Barcelona futbol match

Image by Alejandro Ramos, via Wikimedia Commons, is licensed under the CC BY-SA 2.0 license.

Game over! Time to head home. But before hopping back on the plane, head over to the Got It? section to review what you've learned.

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