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The foundations of what we now consider modern Spain were laid the Old Kingdom of Castile. Stretching to the north from Madrid, and including the current state of Castilla y Leon, the story of Castile is associated to Don Quijote and El Cid, with fairy tale castles surrounded by windmills, maidens in distress, crusaders and duals at dawn. It was Castile, under the rule of the Catholic Kings (Isabel & Fernando) that became the most powerful force of the Muslim Reconquest, extending its total domination through military conquests and orchestrated marriage alliances.
The unrivalled art collection of Prado Museum and Thyssen-Bornemisza collection.
The architectural magnificence throughout the whole region, including the cathedrals of Burgos and León. Much fine sculpture as well.
Walled villages, grand monasteries, windmills, hilltop castles and a backdrop of vast, undulating landscape.
The vast and magnificent 16th-century Palace of El Escorial.
Madrid’s three world-class art museums and two royal palaces alone would set the pulses racing, but there is more to this exciting and diverse capital than its tourist sights. The fashion boutiques of the Salamanca district showcase Europe’s top designers and are just the tip of a shopping iceberg, perfectly complementing the informality of the fascinating El Rastro market, while Madrid’s world-famous tapas bars vie for attention with gourmet restaurants and humble tabernas in a city which never sleeps. To simply watch the world go by, head for the supremely elegant Plaza Mayor.
Probably the most important main square in Spain: Plaza Mayor, the City Hall, the House of Shells, the famous University and the new and old cathedrals and Renaissance palaces, such as the 16th-century palaces of Salina, Orellana and Anaya.
The city of Segovia is universally famous for the Aqueduct, an imposing engineering marvel dating from Roman times. Here there is also a visit to the Alcazar, an enchanting fairytale fortress castle, the cathedral and the Jewish quarter.
One of the oldest and most interesting historical cities of Europe, reflects the many cultures that have formed it, and perhaps better than any other city reflects the many moods of Spain’s art and history. Some of Toledo’s top attractions are the magnificent Gothic Cathedral, the ancient Jewish Synagogue and the jewish quarter.
Have a look at any of our luxury tours in spain that feature those destinations, Northern Spain, The Light of Sefarad and Iberian Wine Country.
Barcelona is the capital of Catalonia, a region with its own language, character and history. The city itself could keep you occupied for weeks as it as an energetic work of art in progress, much the same as Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia, but just outside it are amazing sandy beaches, groovy and trendy Sitges or the relaxed scenery of the Montserrat mountain range.
Costa Brava rugged coast is without a doubt one of the less known treasures of Spain, and is considered by beach lovers as Spain’s prettiest coast. A scene which surpasses all expectations: here you find everything from green mountains, wide sandy beaches, unspoiled coves, charming sea-side villages and designer shops, to Greek and Roman ruins, excellent vineyards and wineries, and both Michelin starred restaurants and traditional local delights.
Barcelona has much to offer those who enjoy art and architecture. The city is inextricably linked with the works of Gaudi, especially the huge unfinished church of Sagrada Familia, with its Sequoia shaped columns and singular Neo Gothic decoration, which creates an atmosphere both futuristic and medieval. The colourful mosaics of Parc Güell with its wavy forms. The tangled lanes of the Gothic Quarter with the splendid 700 year old Cathedral ruling the maze of narrow streets opening in the vibrant Boqueria Market, a gastronomical must-see which evokes deep passion among all foodies. These are just a few of Barcelona’s attractions which add up to make quite an invigorating cultural experience.
Girona, a labyrinthine city with a long 2000 years history, believed to be founded around 76 bc. The city provides a refreshing medieval scenery to the more hedonist nearby Costa Brava. Girona features an outstanding walled medieval quarter, the Barri Vell, which spreads along a hill above the city centre. Its narrow cobbled alleyways, shady squares and colorful balconied houses are a delight to explore. Clinging to the banks of the Ríu Onyar, which divides the city in two as it meanders through the centre of town, you will find a long row of picturesque colorful houses known as the Cases de l’Onyar. We personally love to wander the narrow streets of the old town, considered the best preserved medieval Jewish quarter in Spain, to soak up the historical atmosphere.
The light and vivid colours of Cadaqués also attracted Picasso and Miró but the town was the bedrock of Dalí’s Catalan soul. It was in almost all his pictures. Only here he dared remove his trademark clown’s mask. He was born in Figueres but his father owned a Cadaqués villa. The infant surrealist said he knew every rock on Cadaqués beach. This is the archetypal landscape of Dalí’s surreal world.
Portugal is a country that effortlessly combines culture, heritage and liberal attitudes to create one of Europe’s finest holiday destinations. Once a powerful navigating kingdom that dominated the merchant routes to Africa, South America and the Orient, Portugal today is a friendly, low-key place with a laidback vibe and a fantastic coastline, much of it fringed by golden sands and endless dunes.
Set across a series of hills overlooking the broad estuary of the Rio Tejo (River Tagus), Lisbon’s stunning location and effortless beauty immediately strike most first-time visitors. It’s an instantly likeable place, a big city, with a population of around two million, but one that remains human enough in pace and scale to be easily taken in over a long weekend.
Wander through the vibrant mosaics of Rossio Square where art nouveau shops and street cafés face the Baroque fountains , or the whitewahed streets of the Alfama district where medieval alleyways invite you to get lost. Explore the UNESCO World Heritage site of the Hieronymite Monastery or watch an amazing sunset next to the Belém Tower.
The Algarve region is Portugal’s sunny southern coast, which has become the natural emblem of the country because of its alluring beaches. Lagos, in the western Algarve, one of the region’s main towns, founded on centuries of seafaring and as popular as central Albufeira, a lively port town with family-friendly beaches east and west. Faro, the area’s lovely capital.
Sagres is quite less developed as it has many nearby protected natural parks, providing a rather traditional slice of Portugal on the westernmost tip of the Algarve. The west coast of Sagres faces the powerful Atlantic Ocean, making many of the surrounding beaches great for surfers and water-sports enthusiasts. But inland the Algarve looks green. It is the home of cork forests, nature reserves and pretty hilltop authentic villages such as Alte, Monchique and medieval Silves.
Worldwide famous for the quality of its vineyards, wine is truly at the heart of La Rioja´s identity. But this his region has many more charms than the varied wine cellars that bear its international PDO. La Rioja showcases more than 500 wineries nestled in vast vineyards. While you’re here, you can discover tiny family owned and operated bodegas alongside massive industrial producers.
The Basque Country is a territory that will satisfy those who wish to feed the spirit as well as the body, with the revamped Bilbao, or San Sebastian, an elegant seaside resort near the border of France that is the gastronomic capital of the region.
The city is most famous for the spectacular Guggenheim Museum, and the cultural and architectual renaissance the city is experiencing.
However, there is much more to see and learn about the city. Settled along the Nervion River in the early 14th century, this city has some serious history! The famous 7 Calles or 7 Streets of the old quarter of Bilbao contain some of the oldest architecture found in the city. Many of the structures that make up the old quarter date back to the 1300s.
Specifically, the Church of San Anton along the Nervion is one of the oldest religious building in Bilbao. Construction began on the church in the late 15th century and was finished in 1510.
San Sebastian is one of Spain’s loveliest cities and also quite the Gourmet Mecca, with its numerous Michelin starred restaurants and groundbreaking chefs. It’s also in easy distance to the wine country, with the vineyards of Txakoli less than half an hour away and the mythical wine region of Rioja less than a two hour drive. San Sebastian has one of the most glorious settings you could imagine- a small, pretty Belle Époque city nestled between the Bay of Biscay and the lush green hills of the Basque Country. The half moon bay of La Concha (meaning the shell, as this beach looks like a scallop shell) is one of Spain’s nicest urban beaches and leads into the Casco Viejo (Old Town). The old quarter is jammed pack with quaint tapas and pintxos bars, Basque cider houses and traditional restaurants.
La Rioja is without a doubt Spanish wine’s heartland, an absolute treat for the foodie, but specially for the wine lover! It is the sort of place where you could spend weeks wandering along quiet roads in search of hidden villages that shelter amazing wine museums. The region is world known for its red wines, which are matured with a vanilla mellowness. Aside from the wine attraction, among its many interesting historical spots are the Cathedral of Santo Domingo de
la Calzada, or the san Millan monastery. While heading to the south, you can cross endless vineyards and cross medieval villages and and little towns placed around venerable romanic churches and benedictine monasteries.
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