Spain is an intoxicating land of sunshine and sangria, nestled on the Iberian peninsula in south western Europe. Our journey continues as we discovered how this country brims with historically and culturally significant sites, over 40 of which have been recognized as World Heritage material by UNESCO. The following itinerary takes in the highlights of these sites such as the Sagrada Familia, the Prado Museum, the Alhambra, the Mezquita and the “City of Three Cultures,” Toledo. You can tour around Spain independently, or make your way with the help of the Centro de Turismo in Madrid, who can help you arrange everything required, including recommend reliable tour guides.
Land in Madrid, Spain’s vibrant, cosmopolitan capital city. On your first day, acclimatize to the time difference and weather by taking a walk around your hotel or hostel. You can also immerse yourself in the grand art contained within the four walls of the El Prado, Madrid’s crown jewel of museums. El Prado is Madrid’s top cultural site and houses a dazzling display of European painters from Velazquez, Goya, Raphael, and Rubens, among other greats. Later, take a stroll along the Gran Via to soak in the glorious architecture, and end your day at the Plaza del Mayor, Madrid’s historical heart.
The Castile region is more than just Madrid, fascinating as it may be, so it’s time to take the train out to Toledo for a daytrip. You can either organize a daytrip yourself or go with a recommended tour agent; it’s an easy journey by train from Madrid’s main station. Toledo is a melting pot of Christian, Jewish and Muslim influences and this is apparent in the city’s art, architecture and culture. The Alcazar, which overlooks the entire city, is a must-see, as is the Cathedral and the monastery of San Juan.
Another day, another train trip, this time to the north, to medieval Segovia, a UNESCO World Heritage listed city. The main attraction here is the Roman built aqueduct which was raised in the 1st century without the use of mortar and still stands, a graceful reminder of the might of Rome. Nearby is the fairy tale-like Alcazar, with its steel grey turrets piercing the Castillan sky. Rumour has it that Walt Disney copied Sleeping Beauty’s castle from the Sevillan example.
Board yet another train from Atocha, Madrid’s main station – this time all the way south to Granada, where the main attraction is the graceful, air-filled Alhambra, a Moorish palace rising from the hills like a ship anchored to the land. Inside, the Nazaries Palace houses lavish rooms which look out onto gardens filled with dancing fountains and perfectly landscaped hedges, but the most famous sight within the Alhambra is the Palacio de Leons – the Palace of the Lions, with its intricate carvings.
From Granada, a short bus ride takes you to Cordoba, another Spanish city with Moorish influences. Your first stop here should be the Mezquita, originally a mosque, then turned into a cathedral during the Reconquista of Cordoba in the 13th century. The red and white forest of pillars are an icon of the city and the highlight of many photographs here. From here, board an overnight sleeper train to Barcelona.
Here in the city that Gaudi sculpted, the towers of the Sagrada Familia continue to rise above the skyline. Work on this monumental cathedral is due to be completed in 2026, more than 140 years since it began. The Sagrada Familia a symbol of Barcelona – some would even say, of Spain. Gaudi’s genius is evident in every detail from the entry motifs to the soaring pillars supporting a flower encrusted ceiling.
On your last day in Barcelona, visit the Picasso Museum, which holds the largest collection of works by the artist outside of Paris. The well known painter was also an accomplished graphic designer, sculptor and engraver. Many of the works displayed in the Picasso Museum have never been shown anywhere else, and represent Picasso’s earlier days as a fledging artist. From here, hop on a short flight to Madrid, homeward bound.