Spain is one of the most diverse and visually spectacular countries in Europe – overwhelming its visitors with fascinating sights, charming towns and incredible landscapes. Although it is a small country, it is rich in contrasts and widely known for its several customs including flamenco, bullfights, festivals, crowded beaches and emerald green mountains.
With an innate flair for style and design, Spain´s architecture shapes the country with a unique mixture of historical and modern buildings. Whether discovering beautiful avant-garde designs from architects such as Gaudí, Rafael Moneo and Santiago Calatrava or traveling back in time with Velazquez, Goya and Picasso in one of the marvelous museums – there is something for everyone in the form of Spanish art.
Be captured by the Spanish lifestyle including its nightlife and flamenco. You can hear the harsh foot stomping, castanet rattling, hand clapping and passionate guitar sound while walking through small streets. Spaniards believe the best times of all are shared with friends and family over a great bottle of wine or pitcher of sangria and delicious regional food that you can taste in one of the many tapas bars, sidewalk cafés or taverns. The food is one of the highest qualities that can be found in Europe. Spain has become a world leader in gastronomy. And you will experience that!!!
Whether its architecture in Barcelona, music in Andalusia, food in the Basque country or art in Madrid or learning about the life of Jews and Moors, this tour will have it all!
Saturday April 7 – ARRIVAL – MADRID
Four hundred and fifty years ago, King Philip II of Spain converted Madrid, then a very small town, into the capital of his kingdom “where the sun never set”. Today Madrid has become, after Paris and London, the third most populated European city. Its outstanding architecture, fabulous museums and high–end shops and restaurants have made of Madrid one of the world major cultural and commercial centers. The good climate it enjoys and the friendliness of its people attract every year millions of visitors, ready always to enjoy the thrilling nightlife of this unforgettable city. Street life is one of the trademarks of 21st century Madrid; a place where tradition and modernity live harmoniously together in the cobbled streets of the old city as well as in the sleek, new fashionable districts. Madrid is, definitively, the place to visit!
Join your fellow travelers for a special welcome dinner. Overnight in Madrid. (D)
Sunday April 8 – MADRID – TOLEDO
While in Toledo, we will embark on a walking tour with a local expert, who will share with you why Toledo is also known as the “city of the three cultures”, as Christians, Arabs and Jews lived here together for centuries in great harmony. The city preserves two famous Synagogues, a Mosque and a unique Cathedral, ranked among the greatest Gothic buildings in Europe. Some of the many other churches treasure first rate paintings such as “The Burial of the Count of Orgaz”, by el Greco. Visit the Cathedral, the Jewish Quarter, Santa Maria la Blanca Synagogue and Santo Tome Church.
For both lunch and dinner today, there are many options. Your guide will provide suggestions and also give you ample time to have lunch and do some exploring on your own. At 4PM, you rendezvous with your bus and driver for the return trip to Madrid. Overnight in Madrid. (B)
Monday, April 9 – Madrid and Flamenco
This morning, you meet your local expert guide in the hotel’s reception area. Touring today includes a visit to the Prado Museum. This imposing 18th century building, currently occupied by the Museum, was built under instructions of King Carlos III, to embellish the Prado Promenade. The Museum as such opened in 1819 and was intended to provide Madrid with an outstanding painting gallery, large enough to match those opening in Europe at the time. Very recently, the prestigious Spanish architect, Rafael Moneo, has enlarged the old building by adding a new wing with additional rooms and a fantastic gothic cloister not to be missed. The Prado collection, with around 9,000 paintings, is one of the world most important and boasts names such as Bosch, Titian, El Greco, Rubens, Velázquez, Goya and Madrazo.
Around noon, we depart to the Royal Palace, the residence of the Kings of Spain from the 18th century to the early 20th century.
Madrid’s Royal Palace was built in the 18th century, by order of Philip V, on the site of the old Alcázar fortress, a former Moorish castle. Sachetti began the works in 1738, and the building was completed in 1764. Sabatini designed the southeast wing and the great staircase, or staircase of honour. It has a square floor plan with a large central courtyard. The Puerta del Príncipe doorway on the east side gives access to the central courtyard. The Sabatini and Campo del Moro Gardens are among the Palace’s other attractions, as well as its several different façades. Notable among its numerous rooms are the Royal Guards’ Room, the Columns Room, the Hall of Mirrors and King Charles III’s room, amongst others.
Tonight enjoy a Flamenco show. Overnight in Madrid. (B)
Tuesday April 10 – MADRID – SEGOVIA – MADRID
Today’s touring takes you to El Escorial and Segovia. The beautiful, small village of El Escorial is located about 45 minutes north of Madrid. It was built around the El Escorial Monastery that has been declared a World Heritage Site by the UNESCO. This wonderful excursion will take you on a visit to the most magnificent monastery of Spain from were King Philip II ruled the world. El Escorial began as a serving village of the monastery, and has been transformed in the 20th century as a privileged second home residence for the aristocratic Madrileños.
San Lorenzo de El Escorial is more than the mausoleum of the Spanish monarchs; it is a palace and monastery complex. On August 10, 1557, the troops of Felipe II defeated the troops of King Richard II at San Quintin. The king made a promise that if they won the battle, he would build a monastery in honor of the day’s martyr, San Lorenzo. He ordered a commission to look for an adequate site and the search party chose El Escorial, a village of a mere 100 people, because of the goodness of its water, the quality of its climate and its proximity to the quarries. In this way, on 23 April, 1563, the first stone was laid. From there, an entire town was organized around the monastery. It is said that the floor plan of the building has the shape of a grill, in honor of San Lorenzo who was martyred in Rome roasted on a grill.
You depart El Escorial to Segovia, where you will have time to enjoy lunch. Recommendations will be made.
Following your lunch, you will have a walking tour of the streets of Segovia, which will be a treat for those interested in Spain’s history. The old quarter of Segovia and its Roman aqueduct have been declared a World Heritage Site by the UNESCO. The aqueduct was probably built between the late 1st and early 2nd centuries, when Vespasiano and Trajano were emperors. The Gothic cathedral was built in 1525 during the reign of Emperor Carlos V. The Alcazar (fortress) of Segovia dates back to the Roman times, although the first documented record is from the twelfth century.
Late afternoon return to Madrid. Overnight in Madrid. (B)
Wednesday April 11 – MADRID – CORDOBA – SEVILLA
This morning you check out of your hotel and take the high speed in your reserved seat to Cordoba. The train departs Madrid at 9AM, arriving just under two hours later.
Cordoba was founded by the Romans and due to its strategic importance as the highest navigable point of the Guadalquivir River, it became a port city of great importance, used for shipping Spanish olive oil, wine and wheat back to Ancient Rome. The Romans built the mighty bridge crossing the river, now called “El Puente Romano”. But Cordoba’s hour of greatest glory was when it became the capital of the Moorish kingdom of El-Andalus, and this was when work began on the Great Mosque, or “Mezquita”, which – after several centuries of additions and enlargements – became one of the largest in all of Islam.
UNESCO declared the historic quarter of Cordoba a World Heritage Site. In the 10th century, during the rule of Abd-al-Rahman III, the medina of Cordoba had a thousand mosques, eight hundred public baths, and a very advanced system of street lighting. Its urban layout competed with the monuments of Constantinople, Damascus and Baghdad. Cordoba’s medieval quarter, once the home of the Jewish community, is called “La Judería” (The Jewry), a labyrinth of winding, narrow streets, shady flower-filled courtyards and picturesque squares such as La Plaza del Potro. In early May, homeowners proudly festoon their patios with flowers to compete for the city’s “most beautiful courtyard” contest.
The historic quarter of Cordoba still preserves traces of the ancient splendor of the Caliphate of Cordoba during the 10th century, which made this city one of the most cultured and refined of medieval Europe. The Synagogue is located in the old Jewish quarter that is now a complex network of little streets with Andalucían flavor. The cathedral-mosque is one of the most beautiful examples of Muslim art in Europe and the Reales Alcazares of the Christian Kings were the home of the Catholic Kings while in Cordoba.
The Cathedral-Mosque of Cordoba is the universal symbol of Moorish heritage in Spain, and one of history’s most extraordinary works of art. Inside the building more than five hundred columns can be seen. Their supporting rows of arches make up a forest of strange red and black perspectives, light and form – an unprecedented, fascinating labyrinth. Inside, at the center of its forest of columns, a great Christian cathedral suddenly rises up. Its construction began in the 16th century within the Great Mosque, and it is an architectural wonder in its own right, with a range of different styles that go from the Gothic to the Baroque.
Just outside the Great Mosque itself you will find the peace and tranquility of the Patio de los Naranjos (Orange Tree Courtyard), a bright, stunning garden, perfect to rest and to take a stroll in the shady cool of its fountains and trees, surrounded by the scent of orange blossom.
Cordoba is also home to a splendid synagogue carved with Andalusian-style decoration and Hebrew texts. Cordoba was also a major seat of Jewish learning in the middle Ages, and although few Jews have returned to the city since their forced exile from Spain in 1492, the historic Jewish Quarter of Cordoba remains well preserved. Cordoba’s synagogue was built in 1350. It is the only synagogue in Andalusia to survive the expulsion and inquisition of the Jews in 1492 and one of only three ancient synagogues left in all of Spain (the other two are in Toledo). After the Jews were expelled from Spain in 1492, the synagogue of Cordoba was turned into a hospital. It became a Catholic chapel in 1588. Today it is a museum.
Visit also the Alcazar. With its thick defensive walls, it served both as a fortress and a palace, and is a perfect illustration of the development of Cordoban architecture through the ages. Roman and Visigoth ruins lie side by side with Arabic remains in this magnificent building, which was once the favorite residence of the different rulers of the city. However, when Cordoba was taken by Fernando III «the Saint» in 1236, the former Caliphal Palace was in a pitiful, ruinous state. Alfonso X «the Wise» began the restoration work, which was finished off during the reign of Alfonso XI. It has fulfilled many different functions over the years, such as Headquarters of the Inquisition, or a prison (first half of the 20th century).
Your touring will also take you to the Casa de Sefarad. Opened in 2008, Casa de Sefarad is a small museum devoted to Sephardic-Judaic-Spanish tradition and a house where Jews once lived. It is now a private, self-supported cultural center. Located in the old Jewish Quarter of Cordoba, the beautiful 14th century house has five exhibition rooms that showcase “Memories of Sefarad.” The Domestic Life Room showcases objects and embroidered textiles used by the Sephardim.
The Women from Al-Andalus Room spotlights how Jewish, Christian and Muslim women were exceptionally prominent during the Jewish time in Cordoba. Women poets, singers, philosophers, librarians and many more enriched the community’s cultural life.
Following your independent lunch, you depart for Seville, arriving some 90 minutes later. Situated on the banks of the Guadalquivir River, Sevilla has a rich Moorish heritage, and used to be a prosperous port that carried out trade with the Americas. The streets and squares in the historic quarter of the capital of Andalusia are lively and busy. They treasure many constructions that have the World Heritage designation, and many districts are full of traditional culture, like Triana and La Macarena.
Sevilla is an extremely beautiful city with a very old history. Its streets, buildings, monuments and parks bring to the mind the different cultures and civilizations that left their mark on it. It is also a city with an intense nightlife that is best enjoyed outdoors due to the mildness of its climate.
Sevilla was founded by the Romans and later ruled by the Muslims since 711 until 1248. With the passing of time, Muslim culture left indelible traces on it. The top of Seville’s splendor was reached after the discovery of America, due to the fact that throughout the 16th and 17th centuries, its port had the monopoly of trade between the peninsula and the overseas colonies. Such an intense trading activity gave rise to an urban layout filled with small palaces, noble houses, churches and convents.
Your Sevilla hotel keeps the traditional architecture of the area, while adapting its inside to the highest quality standards. Its corridors and courtyards are inspired in the “Corral del Conde”, a main reference in popular architecture in Seville Its traditional architecture, the exquisite furniture and all the details that ornament its rooms make it one of the most prestigious Hotels in Seville. Overnight in Seville. (B
Thursday April 12 – SEVILLA
Following breakfast, you will meet your guide the lobby and enjoy a guided walking tour through the Barrio de Santa Cruz, the oldest and most beautiful quarter of Sevilla and learn about its history since its Roman foundation up to the present. The Santa Cruz quarter is the most colorful and attractive part of the old Jewish city. Your tour will include a visit to the Cathedral, the Giralda Tower and the Alcazar or royal fortress, a complex that has been declared World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
The Cathedral stands on the site of the Great Mosque of the 12th century. Today, the only part which remains of this structure is the minaret, also known as the Giralda due to the weather vane added to the top in the 16th century. It was converted into a Christian church when the city was conquered by Ferdinand III of Castile in 1248. Several stages of building can be seen, with examples of the Mudéjar, Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque and Neo-classical styles. The remains of Christopher Columbus lie in the cathedral.
The Giralda is the old minaret of the Arab mosque though the bell tower, the diminishing niches and the El Giraldillo weather vane were added in the 16th century. A series of ramps takes visitors up to the bell tower, which offers outstanding views over the city. The Orange Tree Courtyard, in the Almohad style with a Visigoth pool, is to one side.
The Royal Alcazar of Sevilla is the site of the marriage of Carlos V and Isabel of Portugal. Peter I, the Cruel, rebuilt the old Almohad fortress and made it into his royal residence. It suffered serious deterioration with time and had to be refurbished during the reign of Isabel II. The interior of the building is arranged around two courtyards: the courtyard of Las Doncellas, where official life took place, or the Las Muñecas courtyard, for private life. The Ambassadors’
Hall is beautifully decorated with plasterwork and tiles. The top floor is accessed by a 16th- century coffered staircase decorated with paintings by Roelas and Madrazo. Highlights include the furniture and the tapestries that decorate the different rooms.
Make sure you visit the gardens. They are unique, and reflect the passing of various historical periods. Which will be your favorite? The Cross Garden, the 12th-century Garden or the Moorish Garden? Perhaps those considered being more modern, such as the English Garden, the Poets’ garden or the Marquis of Vega-Inclán Garden? In all of them you will be free to feel, to take photos, to imagine… Leave your hurries behind and contemplate palm trees, cypresses, pomegranate trees, orange trees, oaks.
Overnight in Sevilla. (B
Friday April 13 – SEVILLA – UBEDA – BAEZA – GRANADA
Following breakfast, you check out of the hotel and depart for the three hour drive to Baeza.
Ubeda and Baeza stand each one on a small promontory, dominating a landscape of olive trees, in the center of the county of La Loma. Both towns have been declared Historic and Artistic Site by the UNESCO, and have an incredible legacy from the Renaissance epoch, creating surprising contrasts between the proud carved stone buildings and the humble whitewashed houses. Ubeda and Baeza are wonderful also for the opportunity they offer to tasting its extraordinary olive oil, as well as its gastronomy centered on olive oil and the Mediterranean diet. Upon arrival to Ubeda meet your local guide and enjoy a full day guided walking tour to Ubeda and Baeza
The beauty of Ubeda’s landscape will, no doubt, impress you. Green olive groves mark the edge of this historic town, giving way to façades of carved stones next to whitewashed houses. The Plaza de Vázquez de Molina is home to Ubeda’s most representative example of Renaissance architecture, which will take you back to the times of the most grandiose days of Ubeda’s history.
In Ubeda you will also see the marvelous El Agua Synagogue recently discovered. The medieval Synagogue of the Water was discovered by the businessman Mr. Fernando Crespo during a real estate intervention carried out in five buildings that made up this space and which are located in the historic heart of Úbeda. The original idea of the building project was to transform the old houses into apartments and shops. There are several rooms: the Hall of Witnesses, the Hall of Three Cultures, a bodega or cantina, a kitchen, the Gallery of Women and below the space lies the ritual bath or mikve. The building was reformed in 1876, and plans from the time period confirm a structure with two floors and one floor below street level. Most notable to these eyes is the Puerta de Alma or the Door of the Soul, where a rabbi would enter into the synagogue (others entering through a side door from the street level). The doorway was restored by a local stonemason and student of the time period. The result is a wonder of heavy stone and wood with intricate designs signifying a place of transit from the material world to the spiritual one.
At approximately 5:30, we rendezvous with our bus and driver for the drive to Granada.
Granada was first settled by native tribes in the prehistoric period, and was known as Ilbyr. When the Romans colonized southern Spain, they built their own city here and called it Illibris. The Arabs, invading the peninsula in the 8th century, gave it its current name of Granada. It was the last Muslim city to fall to the Christians in 1492, at the hands of Queen Isabel of Castile and her husband Ferdinand of Aragon.
Granada has an incredible artistic and historic heritage as well as a truly Moorish flavor. Moorish and Christian elements are both apparent in the streets of Granada. Its cuisine, crafts and urban layout are a consequence of the city’s glorious history. Fountains and Cármenes, and other villas surrounded by gardens typical of the city add much to Granada’s unforgettable charm. One of the oldest districts, the Albaicín, has been declared a World Heritage Site along with the Alhambra and the Generalife Gardens.
One of the most brilliant jewels of universal architecture is the Alhambra, a series of palaces and gardens built under the Nazari Dynasty in the 14th C. This mighty compound of buildings, including the summer palace called Generalife, with its fountains and gardens – stands at the foot of Spain’s highest mountain range, the Sierra Nevada, and overlooks the city below and the fertile plain of Granada.
Arrive to Granada in the evening and check into your hotel, the beautiful AC Collection Palacio de Santa Paula. Overnight in Grenada. (B)
Saturday, April 14 – GRANADA
Following breakfast, enjoy your morning by taking a long, walking tour thru the Alhambra and Generalife Gardens
Meet your guide at the Hotel lobby and “climb” to the Alhambra. La Alhambra is the most important existing building of Muslim civil architecture. All the refinement, wealth and delicacy of Islamic art and architecture reached its climax in the South of Spain, in this unique building which is a fortress, a residence and a royal city all in one and extends itself in the gardens of El Generalife. The UNESCO in the World Heritage List included la Alhambra and the gardens of El Generalife in 1984. They embody the strength of rich and sumptuous Muslim tradition based on lavish decoration, which is one of the most outstanding elements of these unique buildings.
The Generalife was the country residence of the Nasrid king and its orchard provided the palaces with food supplies and a recreational area for the nobility. Such vast fertile terrain was created by diverting the course of the river Darro with huge canals that reached up to the Generalife. The recreational courtyard of the Generalife, built between the 13th and 14th centuries, lies on the slopes of the Cerro del Sol, and offers breathtaking views. Overnight in Grenada. (B)
Sunday April 15 - Barcelona
Following breakfast, we check out of the hotel and head to the airport for your morning flight to Barcelona.
Founded by the Romans, Barcelona is a beautiful Mediterranean city that offers an impressive number of Gothic, Romanesque, Modernist and contemporary monuments. It is a major economic center and one of Europe’s largest Mediterranean ports. Particularly renowned are some architectural works by Antoni Gaudí and Lluís Domènech that have been designated by UNESCO “World Heritage Sites”. On the other hand, it is delightful to walk through the beautiful and vibrant Barcelona streets enjoying their friendly atmosphere and the excellent Mediterranean weather.
Barcelona’s long-standing mercantile and entrepreneurial tradition continues today, as a center of finance, commerce, media, entertainment, and international trade. With a long tradition in creative arts and craftsmanship, Barcelona is also known for its award-winning design and architecture. A cosmopolitan city with a manageable size of approximately 1.7 million inhabitants, it is easy to walk, ride a bike, and use public transport to move around the city. Several decades after the conflict, the city still remember and pay tribute to the heroes of the war in some public places. Learn about this decisive historical period in Spain and visit the most iconic and representative points that tell the story of the Civil War in Cataluña. We will have an afternoon walking tour that will include much recounting of the Spanish civil war.
Tonight you have a very special dinner experience. Overnight in Barcelona. (B, D)
Monday April 16 – BARCELONA
Breakfast at the hotel, followed by a full morning of doing a walking tour through the historical portions of central Barcelona. Barcelona’s ancient city centre, which during the Roman Empire was surrounded by walls, makes up what today is known as the Gothic quarter. In its narrow streets, quiet squares and attractive corners a great number of Gothic buildings, both civil and religious, is to be found. Santa Maria del Mar is one of the best examples of 14th century Catalonian Gothic architecture. It is the work of the architect Berenguer de Montagut and was the temple of the ship
Visit the most important sites remining from the Spanish Civil War in the city of Barcelona with an historical perspective of the conflict. Your guide will show you the effects of this period in the architecture and public spaces. The region of Cataluña, and specially the city of Barcelona, was one of the main focuses of the Spanish Civil War. Both during the conflict and the following dictatorship, many places became a strategic focal point of the Resistance.
Several decades after the conflict, the city still remember and pay tribute to the heroes of the war in some public places. Learn about this decisive historical period in Spain and visit the most iconic and representative points that tell the story of the Civil War in Cataluña. We have an afternoon walking tour that will include much recounting of the Spanish civil war.
This evening a special “Farewell Dinner” awaits you! Overnight in Barcelona. (B, D)
Tuesday April 17 – BARCELONA DEPARTURE
Breakfast at the hotel followed by transfer to the airport for your departure flights. (B)
Madrid: Hotel de Las Letrra ★★★★★
The Hotel Iberostar Las Letras is decorated with motifs related to the world of art and literature. The hotel features an exquisite combination of the building’s original glazed tiles, canopies, and stone carvings coupled with the latest in interior design. https://www.reservations.com/hotel/hotel-de-las-letras?rmcid=rcc4
Sevilla: Hotel Hospes Casas del Rey de Baeza ★★★★★
Your Sevilla hotel keeps the traditional architecture of the area, while adapting its inside to the highest quality standards. Its corridors and courtyards are inspired in the “Corral del Conde”, a main reference in popular architecture in Seville Its traditional architecture, the exquisite furniture and all the details that ornament its rooms make it one of the most prestigious Hotels in Seville. http://www.hospes.com/en/sevilla-casas_rey_baeza/
Granada: Hotel AC Collection Palacio de Santa Paula ★★★★★
Autograph Collection is located in the historic center of Granada near the Albaicín and Sacro Monte areas, the Cathedral and the Royal Chapel, the historical Gardens of the Triumph, the Archeological museum, and, of course, the Alhambra.
Barcelona: Hotel H10 Metropolitan ★★★★
Opened in 2014 after extensive renovation within one of Barcelona’s historical properties, the hotel provides easy access to many of Barcelona’s attractions. https://www.h10hotels.com/en/barcelona-hotels/h10-metropolitan?&utm_source=Tripadvisor&utm_medium=BusinessList&utm_campaign=HME&tc_alt=32594
Cost per person: $5,875., based on double occupancy.
Single supplement of $1,700.
What is included:
• All hotels with breakfast and meals included, as indicated by B, L, D, entrance fees at sites noted on itinerary, water with group sit-down lunches and breakfasts, English speaking guide and private vehicle and driver.
* Domestic air and train travel
What is NOT included:
* International airfare to Spain
* Gratuities to guide and driver
* Alcohol, additional beverages and any items of a personal nature.
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