One of the largest European countries, Spain covers most of the Iberian Peninsula as well as two archipelagos – the Canary Islands off the African coast and the Balearic Islands in the Mediterranean. Its vast territory offers a remarkable variety of landscapes, climates, historical influences, and regional cultural identities. Renowned for its legendary tapas, but also for the seafood, jamon (cured ham), plentiful and fresh fruit and vegetables, and outstanding wines, dining out or visiting a local market in Spain is a feast for all senses.
Most first-time visitors focus on two of Spain’s most attractive cities – Madrid and Barcelona, each of which deserves at lest two full days to cover their historic, cultural, and architectural highlights. The capital Madrid has an Old Town steeped in history, art galleries displaying works by the likes of Velazquez, Picasso, Dali, and Gaudi, grand public squares, and an impressive royal palace. Barcelona – the capital of Catalonia, is a busy Mediterranean port and a bustling cultural and commercial center. It is probably best known for its unique modernist (Art Nouveau) architecture from the turn of the 20th century, and especially the fairytale masterpieces of Antoni Gaudi.
A week or so to spare? Visit Madrid and Barcelona with a day-trip or two to ancient Segovia and the walled city of Avila (from Madrid) or medieval Girona (from Barcelona). Alternatively, add a couple of days in Seville – the capital of the southern region of Andalucía, to explore its Moorish, Renaissance, and Baroque treasures including the Real Alcazar palace and Barrio Santa Cruz neighborhood with its narrow winding lanes lined with whitewashed houses.
Have more time to explore? You will be hard-pressed to choose an option! From Seville, why not continue east and explore more of Moorish Spain by car? Cordoba has a delightful mixture of Islamic, Jewish, and European architectural monuments and Granada charms with the beautiful Alhambra Palace and the old Moorish neighborhood on the hill opposite. Another option would be to explore the Mediterranean cost south of Barcelona by train. Tarragona was once a major outpost of Ancient Rome and has preserved many remains of its past. Further south, Valencia is Spain’s third-largest city and the place to see Europe’s larges aquarium and sample genuine paella. On to Alicante and Cartagena – one of Spain’s oldest cities, with its remarkable Phoenician, Roman, and Moorish monuments.
Want to tackle Spain’s wild side? Travel north of Madrid to Santander and spend a few days exploring the mountain ranges of the Picos de Europa national park with its rugged peaks, deep gorges, verdant valleys, and cave systems. Get in touch so we can discuss some options with you.