Pizzazz, style and unrestrained brio: that’s Barcelona. The Catalan capital is full of glamorous beaches, chic restaurants and elegant boulevards, united by innovative architecture and a zest for life. On arrival, we’ll whisk you off to the Hotel El Palace, your home for the next three nights. This glorious grand dame in the heart of the action is close to all of the city’s best attractions.
Get to grips with the old city. Our guide will lead you down the bustling thoroughfare of La Rambla into the labyrinthine Gothic Quarter. Home to the 13th-century cathedral, it’s one of the town’s most atmospheric districts. Later, wander into hip La Ribera and visit the Picasso Museum which houses works from his early years. Then stop for a drink at one of the many pavement cafes in leafy Eixample.
No individual has influenced Barcelona more than the architect Antoni Gaudi. His quirky designs define the originality of the city. An expert guide will help you explore his masterpieces, from the sinuous Art Nouveau marvel of Casa Mil to the still-unfinished towers of Sagrada Familia. Finish at Parc Guell, a hilltop park where Gaudi’s imagination ran wild. Expect mosaic-covered benches, sculpted lizards and sweeping views over the city.
Today you’ll zip across the Spanish countryside via high-speed first-class train to reach the Spanish capital, Madrid. Your home for the next three nights is the sumptuous Hotel Orfila, a 14th-century former palace now under the auspices of Relais & Chateaux.
The seat of government since 1561, Madrid has evolved into a vibrant capital city. Meet your guide for this morning’s tour. You’ll start with a wander through the historic core and the arcaded 17th-century Plaza Mayor and Puerta del Sol. Then you’ll visit the Palacio Real, whose rooms are filled with artistic treasures. Stroll back to the hotel with your guide and have the afternoon free to explore further.
Madrid is also home to some of the country’s greatest cultural treasures. Visit the Prado Museum with your expert guide to view works by Spain’s three great masters: Goya, Velazquez and El Greco. Afterwards, head to the magnificent Thyssen-Bornemisza, a repository of 800 paintings. You may wish to substitute this for the Reina Sofia, which concentrates on 20th-century art, including Picasso’s Guernica.
Cordoba, a quick train-hop from Madrid, is one of the oldest cities in Spain. Here, our local guide will walk you through the flower-filled streets of the Jewish Quarter. You’ll see the Islamic courtyards and graceful arches of the Mezquita, one of Europe’s most striking mosques. After lunch, we’ll take you to Seville in a private vehicle. Located near to the river, the Gran Melia Colon is your opulent base.
A marvellous meshing of cultures and influences, Seville is theatrical, joyful and delicious. Begin your explorations of the Andalusian capital with a guide. You’ll visit the 15th-century Seville Cathedral and its eye-catching Moorish bell tower, La Giralda. You’ll also explore the Alcazar, one of the oldest still-in-use royal residences in Europe. Filled with ornate courtyards and marble rooms, it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987.
Embrace the Seville spirit and get lost in the alleyways of the medieval Jewish Quarter today. The streets around the Plaza Nueva are great for shopping, and the Guadalquivir riverside is ideal for a stroll. Be sure to set aside plenty of time for eating: Seville is renowned for tapas. An evening spent grazing in its lively bars is the surest way to get a real flavour of the city.
It’s time to bid farewell to the great cities of Spain. After breakfast we’ll take you to Seville airport for your flight home.