The Many Faces of Spain

Whirling Dervish
The Many Faces of Spain Winston Ross for Newsweek

Road tripping from Spain's Basque Country in the north to its sunbaked southern shores is a journey through vibrant cultures, fantastic gastronomy and diverse architecture. To slice through Spain from Bilbao to San Sebastian, then to Seville, Jerez and finally to the port town of Tarifa is to appreciate why movements for independence remain alive and well in this country. Spain is a half dozen distinct cultures that happen to occupy the same land mass. And it's more than tapas: it's cowboys, flamenco, gorgeous beaches, art, passionate politics, each subset with its own vibe and charm.

Bilbao’s Guggenheim
If you thought Manhattan had the market cornered on Guggenheim museums, you thought wrong. Bilbao is home to this Frank Gehry-designed masterpiece that has helped elevate the city’s caliber on the global art stage. Winston Ross for Newsweek
Sepia tones in San Sebastian
Many of the buildings near San Sebastian’s famous La Concha beach were constructed during the Belle Époque era. A grand example of this architectural style is the Hotel Maria Cristina, situated gallantly along the banks of the Urumea. The hotel was named for its first guest in 1912, Spain’s longest reigning queen, Maria Cristina herself.Winston Ross for Newsweek
The Basque Prisoners
Protesters carry a banner through the Plaza de la Constitución just days after the notorious Basque separatist group ETA officially disbanded. The marchers held photographs of loved ones they complain are imprisoned by the Spanish government in facilities that are too far from their families, making visits impossible. Winston Ross for Newsweek
Pinxtos on Parade
You can’t walk more than a few steps in San Sebastian’s Old Town without encountering a bar piled high with the city’s famous pintxos—small snacks of every variety, traditionally served atop a slab of crusty bread and pierced with a cocktail skewer. Visitors travel here by the thousands to sample the region’s best bites by crawling from bar to bar, an activity known in the local dialect as txikiteo. Winston Ross for Newsweek
Barnacle Bounty
Among the most prized pintxos of Basque Country are percebes—wild goose barnacles—a local delicacy that looks prehistoric but tastes as fresh as a day at the beach. The briny snack is at least as revered as the oyster in San Sebastian, and pairs best with a chilled glass of Tio Pepe fino sherry. Winston Ross for Newsweek
Fungal Fiesta
Spring is mushroom season in Basque Country. At local restaurant, Ganbara, Chef Amaiur Martínez Ortuzar puts the integrity of the product first by keeping things simple, like a plate of sauteed wild mushrooms, unadorned, save for a decadent side of seared foie gras. Amelia Pape for Newsweek
Stewing over Pears
Though San Sebastian is known for its bar snacks and Michelin stars, some of the best cooking is found inside private gastronomic societies. Visitors require an invitation from a member to attend, but some companies like regional winery, Beronia, give guests a taste of the experience through private events. Here, a society member poaches pears in the bodega’s own crianza wine.Winston Ross for Newsweek
A Secret Kitchen
Chef Bendur Elizondo plates a 20-min slow-cooked egg atop seasoned breadcrumbs and pork belly in the private dining room hidden under the charming Casa Nicolasa, a pensión steps from San Sebastian’s Old Town. One of the few private chefs in the gastronomic mecca, Elizondo offers travelers a respite from the boisterous pintxos taverns through custom dinners, guided market visits and cooking lessons that feature regional recipes and products.Winston Ross for Newsweek