Guide to Popular Sports in Spain


Updated on May 09 • 5 minute read

When you think about sports in Spain, you probably think of football. Indeed this game became the country’s pride and joy. But sports are rooted deep in the Spanish culture and Spaniards have made a name for themselves in basketball and annually host the Spanish Grand Prix too.

This unique sports culture is one of the reasons why fans love living in Spain. Are you intrigued?

Then you’ve come to the right place to learn more about:

  • most popular sports in Spain,
  • unique and traditional sports in Spain, and
  • scheduled dates of major sports events in Spain.

What are the most popular sports in Spain?

Some of the most popular sports in Spain include:

  • football
  • basketball
  • cycling
  • motorsports
  • running
  • handball
  • tennis
  • padel

Most of these sports have earned Spain a championship title!

What is the national sport of Spain?

The national sport of Spain is football. And that shouldn’t be surprising since Spain is pretty good at it!

Even if you’re not into football, the names Real Madrid CF and FC Barcelona probably ring a bell. That’s because these 2 teams are some of the best ones in the world. Combined, they’ve brought Spain close to 200 trophies!

And when it’s time for an important match,

the whole country comes to a halt, gathering at the stadiums or around TVs to root for their favourite team.

In Spain, football feels almost like a religion!

In 2020, more than 1.1 million players were registered in the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) and had a licence that allows participating in official Spanish competitions.

If you’d like to make some new friends and play football in Spain, you can sign up at a local sports centre. Or, if you have more serious intentions, join one of the amateur leagues.

A few of the major amateur football leagues in Spain are The Barcelona International Football League in the Porta neighbourhood of Barcelona and FC Británico de Madrid in the Ventas neighbourhood of Madrid.

Another very easy way to join a game in Madrid, Barcelona or Málaga is through Celebreak app.

And since you’ll probably get to play with locals, it’s helpful to learn some Spanish football terms:

Fuera de JuegoOffside
PrórrogaExtra time

Top sports in Spain


Basketball is the second most popular sport in Spain after football.

According to FIBA basketball ranking, Spain has the best basketball team in Europe. It also ranks second in the world after the sport’s birthplace, the USA!

Spain has won many tournaments including 3 silver and 1 bronze Olympic medal and 3 EuroBasket cups. One of Spain’s most famous basketball players is Pau Gasol who’s won 2 NBA championships, playing for the LA Lakers.

Even though basketball isn’t as popular as football in Spain (nothing is or can be), the Spanish are surely doing a great job at it!


Thanks to its jaw-dropping coastal routes, Spain makes a perfect place for cycling. Maybe that’s why cycling is one of the most practised sports in Spain, with over 5,000 annual cycling races and events taking place throughout the year.

One of the biggest ones is Vuelta a España. This 23-day-long race is internationally famed for its unbelievably challenging climbs along the route that always traditionally ends in Madrid.

Spain also boasts some famous cyclists that won Tour de France such as Federico Bahamontes and Pedro Delgado.


Did you know Spain hosts the annual Spanish Grand Prix? It takes place on the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya that’s 4,675 kilometres long!

In fact, Spain hosted its first Grand Prix back in 1913. But it wasn’t until the economic boom and success of world champion Fernando Alonso that Spain became one of the leading auto-sport countries.

Today, you can witness a Formula 1 race, 4 motorcycle Grand Prix events and the World Rally Championship in Spain each year.


Running in Spain is becoming increasingly popular. In 2021, more than 12% of respondents practised the sport — which is the highest number recorded! Respectively, the number of locally organised races and marathons has been growing too.

The most popular ones are the Trinidad Alfonso Marathon in Valencia and Zurich Barcelona Marathon (Marató Barcelona). These’re surely spectacular events to watch as more than 20,000 runners pass the historical landmarks and characteristic sights of the cities!

Fun fact: Almost half of the runners registering in the Barcelona Marathon each year are foreigners!


If you haven’t heard of handball, the easiest way to imagine it is as a hybrid between football and basketball. Teams of 7 play against each other, passing a ball using their hands and trying to score it into the goal of the other team.

And Spain’s been impressively successful in this sport too. Spain has won 2 World Championships in handball and is known for winning the most medals at the European Championship over the years. Well done, Spain!

Fun fact: Valencians have their own version of handball called Valencian Pilota.

One of the traits of this traditional Spanish sport is that visitors are seated so close to the court that they can easily be hit by the ball!


Tennis used to be an elite sport in Spain. But thanks to the rapid growth of the Spanish economy at the end of the 20th century, tennis became more accessible to the public. More public courts and tennis academies have opened up, giving rise to today's popularity of this sport in Spain.

Since then Spain’s produced many successful players. The most prominent of them is Rafael Nadal who’s won 20 Grand Slam titles!

2 major tennis events take place in Spain each year: Madrid Open and Barcelona Open.


The padel scene is growing rapidly in Spain, with more than 1,000 padel clubs and 11,000 courts where you can practise this game.

And if you don’t know what padel is, you’re not alone. This sport is still quite under the radar, though its popularity is set to increase.

Padel is a racket sport that might resemble a mix between tennis and squash. It’s played with 2 players in a smaller version of a tennis court enclosed by glass walls.

Why is it so popular in Spain? Because it’s fun, cheap and way easier compared to tennis and squash. But most importantly, the Spanish love this game for its intimate and social nature!

The first-ever edition of the Padel World Championship was held in Spain in 1992.

Unique and traditional sports in Spain


Of course, when talking about unique sports in Spain, bullfighting or corrida de toros can’t go unmentioned. It’s one of the most traditional sports in Spain, although equally controversial.

The traditional corrida consists of 3 stages during which 3 matadores (bullfighters) fight 2 bulls each to death.

Unsurprisingly, this ancient tradition takes its inspiration from Roman gladiator games. When Spain was under Roman rule, gladiators fought animals for entertainment. This sport or as it’s often called performance art has managed to survive to this day in most parts of Spain.

The support for bullfighting among the Spanish population has been steadily decreasing and it is banned in Catalonia and Canary Islands. However, there’re still about 50 functioning bullfighting schools in Spain and the conservative Spanish government is trying to preserve the traditional sport.

Caliche murciano

Caliche murciano is a traditional Spanish sport from Murcia in southeastern Spain, though not a very known one.

It’s played in 2 teams of 2 where players try to knock a small metal disk (moneda) off a wooden baton (caliche) by throwing pieces of metal (moneo) into it. Once the moneda is down, the goal is to throw the rest of moneo as close to the moneda as possible.

Tiro de reja

Another traditional sport in Spain is Tiro de reja. It’s also a throwing sport that comes from Castilla-La Mancha.

The rules are very simple. Each person takes turns throwing a ploughshare — the blade of a tool used for loosening soil back in the days. The player whose ploughshare lands the farthest and straightest wins.

Annual sports events in Spain

If you’d like to see Spaniards in action, there’s no better way to do so than during one of the major sports events in Spain!

And of course, pay a visit to a football match sometimes. Spain’s football spirit is something you need to see for yourself!

Each year, Spain holds La Liga where 20 Spanish teams compete to qualify for the next UEFA Champions League. The events take place from August to May – 38 matches in total. So you’ll have plenty of time to get a hang of the Spanish football chants!

Vamos! (Let's go!)

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