/ Travel & Leisure

Why is Spain so popular with Brits?

Costa del Sol, Spain

Nearly half of all foreign holidays taken by Brits are spent in just three countries, a new survey suggests. And Spain, with its winning combo of sun, sea and sand, is still the most popular destination by far.

The Co-operative Travel analysed 8.9 million travel bookings made over the last six years, and found that a staggering 29% of them were for holidays to Spain. The next most popular destination – Greece – accounted for just 10% of Brits’ foreign holidays, while third-place Turkey attracted 8%.

It’s not like Spain is just going through a popular spell, either – research shows it’s consistently the favourite among British holidaymakers. The question is, why?

Why Spain?

Well there’s the culture, for starters. Then there’s the epic coastal scenery, the gorgeous sun-scorched countryside and the magnificently soulful food. Add in vibrant fiestas, a smile-inducing climate and a couple of Europe’s most enticing city-break destinations, and you can start to see why Spain is so popular.

But I think there’s another reason why Brits go to Spain. The fact is, after decades of other British people holidaying there, the place feels kind of familiar.

And in some of the most popular resorts on the Costa del Sol, you’ll see that just about everything has been done to make Brits feel like they’re not actually abroad. Union Jacks flutter outside English pubs and cooked breakfasts are served at cafés by the beach. It’s sunny and warm, but somehow it feels like home.

Home from home

And that’s what keeps a lot of people coming back. For all the talk of wanting to get away from it all, plenty of Brits still love to start their day with a nice cup of tea.

Personally, I think the most exciting part about travelling is leaving behind the things you know. But familiarity can be comforting. And when you want good weather and great beaches less than a three-hour flight from home, Spain is always ready to deliver the goods.

What do think? Is Spain still a good option for a holiday? Or would you rather go somewhere with fewer Brits?

Fat Sam, Glos says:
16 May 2011

Personally, I couldn’t think of anything worse than heading to the Spanish Costas to spend half the time in front of a widescreen TV eating a Full English at 4pm whilst watching live Premiership football next to a table full of fat blokes in football shirts from Barnsley or Wigan.

But then I can see the appeal to some: it’s reliably hot and it’s cheap. Cheaper than staying in similar accommodation in the UK.

But I think it’s sad that so many people simply head to the beaches when there is SO MUCH more to see in Spain away from the concrete resorts. A fascinating and beautiful country with a rich culture and history and some amazing scenery.

In a way, maybe that’s a good thing. The last thing you’d want to see wandering the streets of Cordoba is a pink, rotund, lager-swilling, belly-showing, football song-chanting, Man U shirt-wearing lout from Slough.

Fat Sam, Glos says:
16 May 2011

Ooops, meant to say (final para), ‘maybe that’s not a BAD thing’!

I think I was right first time round.

I am not having a good day, am I?

I agree with most of that fat sam, except I would counter that Spain doesn’t have amazing scenery. It is a horribly dry and dusty place with hardly any greenery (except maybe olive trees) or natural water. Forgive me but scenery to me is about life, Spain just seems dead, with lots of insects feeding off the corpse 🙂

I really enjoyed Spain as a kid because you never forget the first time you walk out of a plane at night and it is hotter than in the day in the UK.

Spain isn’t just popular with the Brits, our teutonic cousins are just as well catered for in Spain .It’s simply that Germans tan well and brits don’t means that we stand out more. Plus we are more inclined to wear our flag as part of our clothing than any German would

I wouldn’t call much of the Pyrenees, Astirias or the Sierra Nevada in the deep south particularly dry and dusty and even some less-developed parts of Ibiza and Majorca are absolutely stunning. Many of the towns, cities and villages, like much of continental Europe, retain their rustic charm. Something for everyone though the Costas is my idea of Hell-on-Sea 🙂

hmm, may be not!

OK, this word, backwards: LLEH

Aaargh! Health and Safety Expletive Police gone barmy…

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Having said all that… I’ve just found out the football team I play for have arranged a long weekend near Malaga.

Somehow I can’t see a group of sporty males wanting to absorb the cultural delights or venture for a trek into the mountains

but it is free, heh heh! 🙂

Great scenery doesnt have to be loads of greenery.
Away from the coasts ( and the other tourists) Andalucia offers a wide range of great scenery and culture especially for walkers in the Spring and Autumn.
Been going there on organised walking holidays for several years and back next week to the Subettica National Park.
I think the laid back attitude in the small towns and villages, the climate in the spring and autumn, basic food and a relatively easy language makes it an ideal place to get away to from the UK .
Its also a large country offering a wide variety of places to visit at any time of the year.

Yes there is the Sierra Nevada (I stopped in Granada once) but the question was, why do brits still go there? For me it’s simply the guaranteed sunshine.
Mountains you can get anywhere, sea you can get anywhere, I just prefer lush green valleys in between them with lots of rivers and lakes. I would never go to Spain for the scenery

The Costas and the ex-pat golf gettoes are dredful places.
In a way they remind me of the Asian “no go areas” in some of our major centres. To my mind there’s something “seperate” and not quite right about them, and I doubt the Spanish like them much either.
The Spanish heartland on the other hand is wonderful, “real Spain”, full of history, scenery and culture. Go where most Brits don’t and you’d have to go a very long way to do better.

Chris, tell me more about these ‘Asian no go areas’ – I’m intrigued. Do they serve Full English and can I catch a live Saturday afternoon Premiership match?

I think you should try some of these ex-pat ghettoes in Spain. You might even be able to buy your copy of the Daily Mail.

Hi Fat Sam, I think you may have got the wrong end of the stick with Chris’s comment. Either way, this Convo appears to be veering a little off-topic, so please try and keep it on track. Thanks.

Apologies. Mental note to self: refrain from making fun of people whose only source of a ‘balanced’ argument are newspapers with a particular editorial bias as it’s probably not their fault.

Yes, Spain is great. You can even buy British newspapers there. Of any political stance.


The North West coast of Mallorca is beautiful with quiet coves and cliffs backed by mountains. Great for a walking holiday. Fortunately not over-crowded with Brits and Germans so hardly relevant to this conversation!

Costa del Tennis says:
7 March 2013

No question about it …..Spain is the place to play. We love Spain with a passion…and including a holiday with tennis is really where it’s at in Spain due to the weather and sunshine. Not to mention the facilities and coaches. Kudos to your article!

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Spain is Spain and its hot and full of Spanish people – exactly what I like

Raymond says:
7 August 2016

I’ve been coming to Spain for years and it never ceases to amaze me (yes even the Costas). I just love the varied scenery, white villages, medieval cities, the hidden beaches and everything about this beautiful kingdom. There.

Anthony says:
26 September 2018

Spain’s got lush valleys, pine forests , waterfalls, rivers ,beaches and lakes. They even have a desert much like in California. The cities and villages are amazingly beautiful. Its art and culture is next to none. I can be in Spain in a heartbeat.