As the summer season kicks into life, the beaches of Spain are sure to fill to bursting point. Yet for those looking to get something more out of their holidays than merely bronzing themselves on the beach, then the cities of Spain have plenty to offer.
Madrid, the capital, is certainly one of Europe’s finest cities. It possesses a wonderful combination of fascinating museums, impressive architecture and lively nightlife, to ensure that all tastes are catered for.
The three finest art galleries are the Museo del Prado, the Thyssen museum and the Reina Sofia. All three boast an incredible array of artefacts, ranging from Goya and El Greco, to Rembrandt and Botticelli. For a more historical look at the city, then visit the Museo Municipal and the Palacio Real, the latter also doubling up as a spectacular venue for open air theatre and music performances during the summer months.
Walking around the town, you will be able to take in such sights as the Puerta del Sol, the centre point of the city, the large number of cafes that surround the Plaza Mayor, and the 17th century town hall. You can also browse through the Rastro market, one of Europe’s largest flea markets, and soak up some true Spanish tradition at a flamenco show at Casa Patas.
The public gardens of the Parque del Buen Retiro are a pleasant retreat to relax and unwind, and it is possible to hire a boat to float out onto the lake. You will find there the Egyptian Fountain and Alfonso XII’s mausoleum. You will also be kept entertained by the variety of entertainers and buskers vying for your attention.
Other activities to enjoy in Madrid, providing the season is right, include a trip to the Santiago Bernabeu stadium, the famous home of the Real Madrid football team where David Beckham and Michael Owen now ply their trade, bullfighting, a hot air balloon ride over the city, or enjoy tapas in the numerous bars of the Chueca district.
Barcelona is another fabulous city to explore. La Rambla is a good place to start from, a collection of streets that stretch from the Placa de Catalunya to the waterfront. Along the way, make sure you stop off at La Boqueria, a great food market, and soak up the atmosphere of street entertainers. The fascinating architecture of Gaudi means that walking through the city is quite an experience.
You can check out Gaudi’s unfinished masterpiece La Sagrada Familia. The Picasso Museum near the Parc de la Ciutadella is worth a visit, and for more culture, the Musuem of Modern Art in the Parc de la Ciutadella and the Museum of Contemporary Art are both excellent.
You can even visit the home of Spain’s other top football side at the Nou Camp, with the chance of stadium tours and a look at the club museum. Further afield, Montserrat is proving an increasingly popular destination, and you can visit the Benedictine Monastery, a place steeped in Catalan history.
Valencia is the third largest city in Spain, and boasts delightful beaches on the Mediterranean. The old town houses the striking cathedral, while the river is traversed by three proud bridges, the Puente del Real, the Puente de la Trinidad and the Puente de Serranos.
One of the best attraction is the baroque Palacio del Marqués de Dos Aguas, as well as the Museo de Bellas Artes. Whilst in Valencia, you must take the opportunity to sample a local delicacy too, the paella Valenciana, a variation on the traditional Spanish dish, which includes chicken and snails
Granada, on the south coast, is a city with a large student presence, due to its popular university. The capital of Moorish Andalucia, the 11th century Alhambra is the jewel in the city’s crown. It is set against the picturequse Sierra Nevada, which in wintertime offers superb skiing. This incredible palace is breathtaking, with the Alcazaba, the Palacio Nazaries and beautiful gardens, and provides wonderful views across the city.
In contrast, Seville is a city that moves at a slower pace, which brings with it an individual charm. It is at the heart of Andalusian culture, the centre of bullfighting and Flamenco music. The city was the home of EXPO ’92, and as a result combines a mixture of new and old, the latter perhaps most emphatically demonstrated by the Muslim Alcázar and the Christian cathedral.
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