A great start in Barcelona: Art, food & beaches!
For your first vacation in Spain, a country that quickly grows on you and becomes an obsession, you surely must visit lively Barcelona and classical Madrid. Between the two you will discover just how much Spain is a mix of tradition and innovation.
The capital of Catalonia is a cosmopolitan city that constantly changes. Barcelona contains an impressive artistic scene within its urban layout. You can start your tour of the city by strolling down the Ramblas and then diving straight into the medieval Barrì Gotic and the rebel El Born quarters. From there make your way to the Gracia Quarter to admire the world-renowned Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí’s masterpiece Casa Battlò and other curious and futuristic gems designed by the Catalan master and his contemporary rival Lluís Doménech i Montaner. Go further into Gaudi’s Modernism by visiting the Sagrada Familia, the breathtaking unfinished church that stands tall gracing the city. A visit to the enclosed Market of La Boqueria is advisable to enjoy its colors and it is an ideal place to also discover the unique Mediterranean cuisine of the region. Travel about an hour west to the inland mountains to find the Abbey of Montserrat where you can experience a grand view deep into the landscape of Catalonia. Finally relax on one of Barcelona’s many beaches and let yourself be captivated by the exuberance of the Catalan people.
Madrid, the quintessential spot of Spain
Ordered as the capital of Spain by Philip II during the 16th century, the Spanish Golden Century, Madrid remains one of the most important historical centers among all major European capitals. The Plaza Mayor is considered one of the most popular and quintessential spot of Spain. The Royal Palace, a monumental building which combines Baroque and Classicism, is not to be missed while taking in the most traditional attractions of Madrid, such as the Opera Theater, the Cybele Fountain and the famous “Paseo del Arte” (Art Walk) that encompasses the Prado Museum, the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum and the Centro de Arte Reina Sofía Museum, each offering up three distinct world-class art collections. Here you will find masterpieces such as Picasso’s “El Guernica”, Goya’s “Majas” and Velázquez’s “Las Meninas” that show the historical evolution of the country as well as that of painting itself. What really characterizes Madrid is a deep and contagious passion for life, which is reflected in the friendly character of its people. You will experience it while shopping at the most popular open-air flea market, el Rastro, or in the smart Chueca District, but perhaps especially during the night when you could find yourself entirely captivated by its famous Movida.
Around Madrid discovering historic sites
Madrid is surrounded by some important UNESCO World Heritage sites. We can easily organize short day trips to Segovia to visit its famous Roman aqueduct, or to Toledo, also known as the “City of the Three Cultures”. El Escorial, functioning equally as a monastery and royal palace, and Ávila’s imposing 12th century city walls are other remarkable historic sites nearby.
Finally, do not forget the rich Spanish gastronomy and enjoy an authentic tapas tour. Tapas are not a particular type of food. Rather anything can be considered a tapa and indeed these bite size morsels of deliciousness vary greatly throughout the country and are surely one of the best ways to take in the culture and lifestyle of Spain.