A Week In... Spain
Passionate, picturesque, complex Spain defies description in its wealth of diverse landscapes, cityscapes, cuisines and cultures, ancient and modern... and in just one week... From the startling, whimsical architecture of Gaudí in Barcelona to the Baroque, operatic settings of Seville... the colorful history and seaside beauty of Málaga, Picasso's hometown... medieval Córdoba, rich in stunning architecture and history, once the greatest center of learning in Europe... modern Madrid and the masterpieces of The Prado. Barrios, cathedrals, ornate palaces, vibrant metropolises and sun-kissed, whitewashed villages all wait to share their visual splendors, stories and unexpected treasures.
The capital of Spain since 1562, Madrid is located on the geographic center of the Iberian Peninsula. Because of its central location and high altitude, the climate of Madrid is characterized by warm dry summers and cool winters. Madrid is a city of great monuments. Among its highlights are the medieval center dating back to the Habsburg Empire and the Prado Museum. Madrid is not just a cultural destination. It is also a lively metropolis with many pubs, cafes, discotheques and nightclubs open late into the night.
Barcelona, the self-confident and progressive capital of Spain, is a tremendous place to be. Though it boasts outstanding Gothic and Art Nouveau buildings, and some great museums – most notably those dedicated to Picasso and Catalan art – it is above all a place where there's enjoyment simply in walking the streets, stopping in at bars and cafés, drinking in the atmosphere. A thriving port and the most prosperous commercial centre in Spain, it has a sophistication and cultural dynamism way ahead of the rest of the country. In part this reflects the city's proximity to France, whose influence is apparent in the elegant boulevards and imaginative cooking. But Barcelona has also evolved an individual and eclectic cultural identity, most perfectly and eccentrically expressed in the architecture of Antoni Gaudí. Scattered as Barcelona's main sights may be, the greatest concentration of interest is around the old town (La Ciutat Vella). These cramped streets above the harbor are easily manageable, and far more enjoyable, on foot. Start, as everyone else does, with the Ramblas.
Seville is one place most beloved by visitors to Spain. Although today Moorish influence is architectonically most evident - Andalusia was occupied by Moors for about 800 years - it has been a cultural center long before. Seville was home of famous and infamous figures of history, the legendary "Don Juan" started from here to conquer the hearts of women across all Europe, while Columbus started from a port close to Seville to discover a new world. Prosper Merimée's "Carmen", who couldn't make her decision between the officer Don José and the bullfighter Escamillo, can still be watched today in opera houses. Seville is the very heart of Andalusian culture and the center of bullfighting and Flamenco music. Take it easy and interrupt sightseeing from time to time to have a few "tapas", those typical "small spanish dishes", and a glass of Sherry wine in one of the many bars in this city.
Today's Cordoba is as impressive and surprising as its past. In the 11th century it was one of the most important capitals in Europe. People of the most different cultures and religions - Jews, Muslims and Christians - have lived peacefully together, and important philosophers, scientists and artists emerged from here. Cordoba has interesting aspects, including its great monuments - the world-famous Mezquita, the Moorish mosque - and museums. Cordoba is as a lively town in the best Andalusian tradition, a town of Flamenco and bullfighting, and one of the most attractive destinations in southern Spain. The Great Mosque, which took up Roman architectural traditions, made use of columns from older buildings around, and added the Muslim sentiment of the abstract and the limitless room. The double arches are representative for the architecture dominating North Africa. Another splendid example of Muslim inheritance in Spain is the old Ummawiyy castle, Alcázar. The main attraction here are the gardens, lavish, extensive, and with water in a central role.
Granada is located at the foot of the Sierra Nevada Mountains of Andalusia, Spain. Granada has been inhabited by many empires for 2,500 years from the Greeks, Romans, Visigoths and the Moors. Remainder of each reigning era is prominent in Granada’s cultural and architectural influences. Imprints of the past can be found in Albaicin, an old Arabic quarter paved with cobble stoned streets, ogee arches, voussoirs, and decorative tile work. When the sun sets, Alhambra is at its most beautiful and radiant complimenting Byzantine courtyards and muqarna details. Homes also reflect the Mediterranean and Renaissance elegance long past. Present-day Granada attracts visitors by recapturing the past and evoking the co-existence of different cultures.
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