Spain typically conjures up images of matadors, sangria, flamenco dancers and paella. While Spain offers all of these traditional cliches in abundance, the country’s real attraction is to be found in its passionate, laid back people and its unbeatable natural beauty. Even along the well beaten tourist tracks, there are authentic Spanish experiences to be had, traditional local dishes to sample and idyllic villages of timeless charm to be explored. Like the country’s famous tapas, Spain itself is a veritable smorgasbord of thriving cities, bizarre festivals, panoramic views and breathtaking beaches rendering it a beautiful and beguiling country unlike any other.
Spend your days exploring the winding alleys of the picturesque Gothic Quarter, the boisterous carnival atmosphere of the world famous, tree-lined La Rambla boulevard or the fortress-topped hill of Montjuïc which plays host to some of the city’s best art museums. If the sun is shining, head to one of the gorgeous white, sandy beaches and when the sun sets, join the eclectic all night party scene. Barcelona has a little bit of everything for everyone and it certainly lives up to its reputation as a world-class tourist destination.
Salamanca was founded by Celtics occupied by the Romans and Arabs and re conquered by the Christians in the 12th century. It is home to a 13th Century University and many call this beautiful and historic city a living museum, transporting one back to the middle ages. Among its impressive monuments are the New Cathedral, the 12th century Romanesque Church of San Martin, the University, the House of Shells and the beautiful Plaza Mayor, a former site of numerous bullfights. A World Heritage site since 1988, Salamanca showcases one of the finest mixtures of Renaissance and Plataresque architecture in Spain.
Perched majestically atop a rocky mountain, overlooking the picturesque Tagus River, this once overlooked Spanish gem, attracts tourist from around the world with its rich heritage of historical monuments. Toledo was dubbed the “city of the three cultures” due to the influence of its successive Islamic, Hebrew and Christian occupants. As a result, the city now boasts an impressive artistic, architectural and cultural legacy in the form of churches, palaces, fortresses, mosques, synagogues and traditional houses all heaped upon one another in a haphazard, cobble-stoned spiral.
The atmosphere of Madrid reflects an intriguing combination of old and new. Historical monuments such as the Royal Palace and the Plaza Mayor stand in stark contrast to state-of-the art skyscrapers. However, Madrid’s real attraction lies in the seductive lifestyle of its hedonistic inhabitants. A day in this city could include sampling tapas in a traditional café, hunting for treasures at the El Rastro flea market or partying the night away in one of the many lively bars or nightclubs.
Idyllically located on the north bank of the Guadalquivir River, Cordoba was once known for the peaceful and prosperous coexistence of its three religious cultures: Islamic, Jewish, and Christian. Today it is smaller and quieter than its more touristy neighbours, Granada and Seville, resulting in a charming destination that remains an extraordinary cultural crossroads offering a rich tapestry of art and history. No tour of this historic medieval city would be complete without a visit to the world-famous multi-arched Mezquita, one of the world’s greatest Islamic buildings.
Seville, is a feast for the senses. White washed houses burst with the brilliant colours of bougainvillea, the air is thick with the smell of orange trees and jacaranda, the rhythms of flamenco echo through the cobbled alleyways and the views of the great Guadalquivir River are a sight to behold. Seville has reputation for gaiety and charisma due to its ridiculously good-looking locals adopting an it’s-wonderful-to-be-alive attitude accompanied by a hint of cool sophistication. At the heart of the old city stand three of the primary attractions: the Giralda tower, the Cathedral and the Alcázar.
Tucked away in a crook of the snow-capped Sierra Nevada on the slopes of three hills with the lovely River Darro flowing through its centre, lies the small historical city of Granada. Presiding over the city from its dominant hilltop setting sits the internationally famous and extraordinarily well preserved Moorish Alhambra with its mysterious, reddish-gold, fortressed palaces and exotic gardens.