Spain is one of the most powerful countries in modern history. For 120 years, Spain ruled the world’s largest empire, stretching from the Americas to the Philippines. Many famous Spanish people have helped build the world as we know it today, including kings and queens, actors, generals, and artists.

Basilica of our lady of the pillar

If you are interested in Spanish culture, we believe you will enjoy this blog on what Spain is famous for.

6 famous Spanish people

1.    Pau Gasol

Pau Gasol is a Spanish basketball player who was born in the town of Sant Boi de Llobregat, just outside of Barcelona. Pau Gasol is the NBA’s most successful Spanish export. Gasol began his basketball career with FC Barcelona. He burst onto the scene as an 18-year-old during his second professional season.

FC Barcelona went on to win the Copa del Rey and the Liga ACB, and Gasol was named MVP in both tournaments, attracting the attention of NBA scouts. Pau was drafted third overall by the Atlanta Hawks in 2001 but was quickly traded to the Memphis Grizzlies. He was named NBA Rookie of the Year in 2002 and an NBA All-Star in 2005 while playing for the Grizzlies.

The 7-footer went on to play for the Los Angeles Lakers, where he won two NBA championships with the late-great Kobe Bryant in 2009 and 2010. He was also named to the All-Star team three more times while with the Lakers and twice more while with the Chicago Bulls.

Pau Gasol

Pau is well-known in Spain for his contributions to the Spanish national team. Pau is the team’s all-time leading scorer and rebounder, and he has led the team to numerous international medals, including a gold medal in the 2006 Basketball World Cup and a silver medal in the London Olympics in 2012.

Knowing about famous people from Spanish-speaking countries can help you develop a deep knowledge of the Spanish language and culture. In fact, watching sports can help you understand basic Spanish conversations, resulting in vocabulary improvement to an exceptional level.

2.    Penélope Cruz

Penelope Cruz is undoubtedly the most well-known Spaniard in Hollywood right now. The Spanish actress has appeared in a number of Spanish and Hollywood films, frequently choosing difficult roles with complex characters.

Penélope Cruz’s first feature film, “Jamon, Jamon,” was released in 1992 and starred her now-husband, Javier Bardem. Cruz has received Golden Globe nominations for her roles in “Nine” and “Volver,” and an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress for her work in Vicky Cristina Barcelona.

Penelope Cruz

3.    Salvador Dalí

Salvador Dali is one of the most well-known painters and all-around characters of the modern era. Dali was born in the picturesque village of Cadaques on the Catalan coast. He is well-known for his aesthetic and bizarre imagery. Dali studied at Madrid’s Real Academia de Bellas Artes, where he became a skilled technical painter.

He first became interested in surrealism after being introduced to the works of Joan Miro. This clash defined his style, in which Dali would distort traditional painting styles and archetypes to create his own avant-garde style.  Dali also worked as a sculptor, filmmaker, and photographer. Some of his most important works can be found at Madrid’s Reina Sofia Museum.

Salvador Dali

4.    Pablo Picasso

Picasso was born in the Spanish city of Málaga. Picasso began as a highly technical artist. He became one of the most influential artists of the twentieth century after establishing his own style.

Cubism, three-dimensional constructed sculpture, and collage are all works by him. Picasso’s inquisitive nature led him to experiment with various art movements and techniques throughout his long career.

Pablo Picasso

The Blue Period, Rose Period, African-influenced Period, and Cubism were all influenced by these various movements, resulting in distinct phases in Picasso’s career. El Guernica, his most famous painting, is displayed at Madrid’s Reina Sofia Museum.

5.    Juan Mari Arzak

Juan Mara Arzak Arratibel is a legendary chef in Spain. He is one of the world’s most famous and successful chefs. In 1942, he was born in San Sebastián. He learned to love cooking from his mother, who strongly discouraged her son from becoming a chef.  He was sent to study mechanics at the Alfonso XII School in San Lorenzo de El Escorial.

He soon changed his mind and went to study at Madrid’s top culinary school, the “Escuela Superior de Gastronoma de Madrid.” His grandfather had opened a restaurant in 1897, and he wanted to carry on his family’s gastronomic traditions.

Before taking over the kitchens at Arzak, the young Basque chef traveled the world and studied various cuisines worldwide. He soon changed his mind and went to study at Madrid’s top culinary school, the “Escuela Superior de Gastronoma de Madrid.”

He worked at Sandersens in Paris and Girarder in Switzerland and was mentored by Paul Bocuse, from whom he learned how to navigate the restaurant business. Arzak, on the other hand, took that knowledge and created his own concept: cooking as an art form.

When he returned to San Sebastián, he had a clear vision for the restaurant: re-imagining Basque cuisine while remaining true to its roots. The restaurant progressively increased to prominence by serving avant-garde yet approachable cuisine. Arzak eventually earned three Michelin stars and is considered Spain’s best restaurant.

Arzak, now 78, has handed over the reins to his equally talented daughter, Elena, who now runs the restaurant.

Juan Mari Arzak

6.    Hernán Cortés

Hernán Cortes was the military leader of the Americas’ colonization and was responsible for the Aztec Empire’s demise. Cortes was born in Spain but moved to Cuba to seek his fortune and eventually came to serve as governor.

He was commissioned to lead an expedition into Mexico after establishing a name for himself. The mission was canceled at the last minute, but Cortes rallied his armies and set out to conquer the Yucatan peninsula and the Aztec city of Tenochtitlan.

These were some of the most famous Spanish-speaking people from different categories. Learning about them can also help you boost your language knowledge. In fact, it is a fun way to boost vocabulary, Spanish accent, and fluency as a whole. You can also explore Spanish learning telenovelas to develop fluency like native Spanish speakers.

Hernan Cortes

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Frequently Asked Questions

Who is the most famous Spanish artist?

Pablo Picasso is widely regarded as one of the most influential and celebrated Spanish artists. His groundbreaking contributions to modern art have left an enduring impact.

Who is the greatest Spanish writer in history?

Miguel de Cervantes is often hailed as the greatest Spanish writer. His masterpiece, “Don Quixote,” is considered one of the greatest works of fiction ever written.

Who are some famous Spanish explorers?

Fernando Magellan, known for leading the first expedition to circumnavigate the globe, and Christopher Columbus, credited with discovering the Americas, are two of the most famous Spanish explorers.

Who is a notable Spanish politician and former Prime Minister?

Felipe González served as the Prime Minister of Spain for over 13 years, making him one of the longest-serving leaders in Spanish history.


Searching for famous Spanish people can not only elevate your interest in the language but can also help you improve your Spanish cultural knowledge to a great extent. Look for the ways that help you move forward in your learning journey. Seek help from Spanish translator apps to understand the meanings whenever you feel stuck.

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