Although I have only spent a total of 6 months in Spain, it included four and a half months with a family in Madrid, and another month with a friend I made while I was there the first time in Santiago de Compostela. I think that travel tips by EasyVacationPlanning and my experiences living with these real Spaniards for extended periods of time really helped me understand the country and the culture, and whenever I traveled to Andalucia, Barcelona, Valencia, Bilbao, San Sebastian, or wherever, I found that the advice I got from them was always sound. That said I have included some important tips from different regions:
Go out all night to discotecas at least once. Kapital near Atocha is one of the biggest. Try “cocido madrileno” for lunch and go bar hopping for tapas for dinner.
Probably the worst place in Spain to attempt to practice your Spanish. Most people speak English but the International Community is a strong presence which means great non-spanish food. If you have time, the Dali museum is like an hour an a half north by train in Figueres.
Galicia – Santiago de Compostela
The destination for the famous “Camino de Santiago.” This is my favorite part of Spain. The people are friendly, prices are reasonable, and the weather is must more hospitable than the south. Excellent seafood.
Best for those who seek Sun, and lots of it. Moorish history makes it a very interesting destination for “Reconquista” buffs and the food is excellent but heat can be oppressive at best during the long summer and fall.
Things like bread, olives, wine, and paella are likely to be good no matter where you go but try to avoid overly touristy places in Spain as the quality of food and service is often better in smaller businesses. Some Spanish is definitely a good idea, but as in most countries, it is possible to get by with nothing but English without too much trouble.