Secrets of Spain: What the Guidebooks Won’t Show You

Photo: Two Red Dots
Photo: Two Red Dots /

Spain is like the gift that keeps on giving.

Every corner you turn there is some delightful surprise for you to discover, whether it’s a unique local tradition, a neat bar or restaurant, the cities and streets of Spain are waiting for you to explore and find all their mysterious locations. People are friendly and the more you get to chatting, the more likely you’ll get some local tips on how to find the best stuff around.

Christmas Bike Race in Segovia

The main attractions that bring tourists to Segovia are its incredibly well-preserved Roman aqueduct, a castle that is said to have been the inspiration to Walt Disney’s Cinderella castle, and a well-documented medieval Jewish quarter. These sites are definitely worth checking out, but what you probably won’t find in a guidebook is information about the bike race that Segovians hold on Christmas day.

Rather than staying at home all day and eating, the people of Segovia take to the streets to watch their fellow townspeople compete in a race.

The catch – there are no breaks and no pedals. Competitors start at the top of a hill and fly down without any way of stopping, other than gravity.

Girona aka King’s Landing

This is not a well-kept secret anymore, but most mainstream guidebooks haven’t been updated to let fans know that the famous city from the Game of Thrones series is actually, at least partially, in Spain.

Most notably, the steep steps leading up to Game of Thrones’ Great Sept of Baelor. These 91 steps actually lead up to the Cathedral in Girona. Apparently, it took several days for the horse trainer to train Jaime Lannister’s horse to walk up those steps.

Barcelona Beach Trick

Barcelona is well-known for its fantastic beaches. People from around Europe will flock to this beach town during the summer months to sit on the sand and enjoy a mojito or two. Most people will head to the main beach located by the W Hotel. What you should know is that for the less crowded beaches, you’ll need to head further down to the Playa de la Nova.

There you’ll find volleyball tents and some fantastic restaurants with ocean views. Drinking on the beach is fine, so bring a few cans or buy once you’re there.

Hats of San Sebastian

In the Basque region of Spain, you’ll notice many of the old men sporting flat, black berets. The guidebooks will tell you they are called “txapelas” (pronounced cha-peh-lah) and they are the traditional headwear of Basques.

What they won’t tell you, is where to buy them. Listen up, because to get a hat from this famous store you need to be on location in San Sebastian – they do not take online orders and they will not ship.

Casa de Ponsol has been making and selling hats since 1838, and they have perfected their craft. Even if a beret is not your thing, they’ll have all kinds of styles to satisfy your headwear needs.