DSCN0123This tour is a great way to experience Spain’s diverse culture as you visit three of its most famous destinations- Barcelona, Madrid and Seville. There’s wonderful food and wine, local traditions and incredible sights on this small group tour. You start in Barcelona with its architectural treasures, great nightlife and renowned cuisine. Next is Madrid, a shopping and dining paradise with three of the best art museums in the world and grand plazas. Last is lovely Seville in Andalucía with its Moorish influence and picturesque districts. Enjoy winery tours, cooking classes, great accommodations and more on the Grand Tour.

3 nights Barcelona, 4 nights Madrid, 3 nights Seville

Day 1 Friday Barcelona is a world class destination with spectacular architecture, arts, gastronomy, and nightlife. In the afternoon our local architect and guide will introduce you to the city’s dynamic and colorful districts. You’ll start in Plaza Espana where a bullring was repurposed as a shopping mall and where the Magic Fountain puts on an evening spectacle of light and water. The tour leads up to Montjuic, a popular hilltop recreation area that has commanding views of the city and museums like the Miro Foundation and the National Art Museum of Catalonia. This eclectic area is also the site of Montjuic Castle and spectacular modern works like the Calatrava Tower that was the symbol of the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. Dinner is at a restaurant with great Catalan specialties.  D

Day 2 Saturday After breakfast you’ll take a tour with our architect guide of the Gothic Quarter, the ancient part of Barcelona founded by the Romans in the 1st century B.C. The area has a marvelous character with a warren of narrow streets, quiet plazas, and busy markets spiced with restaurants and shops. The grand monuments of the area include La Seu (the Gothic Cathedral), the Town hall and Government Palaces. The excellent Picasso Museum is here as are the nearby Born Mercat (market) and the Mercat Santa Caterina. Our guide will help you discover this remarkable area and you’ll enjoy shopping at the markets and lunch at a local eatery. Free time in the evening to discover more of this fascinating city. BL

Day 3 Sunday Today you’ll visit some of the incredible works of Antoni Gaudi starting with the magnificent Sagrada Familia cathedral where Gaudi devoted much of his life’s energy and passion. Gaudi’s works express a genius of fantasy and mathematics inspired by nature that have transformed the materials into artwork and are one of Barcelona’s greatest treasures.  Next is Parc Guell, an incredible public space created by Gaudi for a developer attempting to market a new neighborhood. While the urban development failed, Parc Guell has become one of the premier urban parks in the world with its mix of fantasy, organic shapes and spectacular views of the city. Lunch is open and in the evening you’ll join our local guide to explore the Born Quarter at night and hear of its legends and mysteries and enjoy dinner to finish a great day of adventure. BDimg_1409

Day 4 Monday Today you’ll travel by high speed train to Madrid, which Ernest Hemingway called “the most Spanish of cities”, referring to its diverse population from every region of the country, its central role in Spanish history and its embrace of the customs and traditions central in Spanish life. After lunch you’ll see some of the most important sites of Old Madrid like the Plaza Mayor and the Puerta del Sol and share in Spanish customs like the tapeo or tapas walk. Madrid’s night life is one of the most active in the world and we will give you great recommendations to explore. To quote Hemingway again, “Nobody goes to bed in Madrid until they have killed the night. Appointments with a friend are habitually made for after midnight at the cafe.” BD.

Madrid tapas barDay 5 Tuesday After breakfast you’ll take a guided visit to the Prado Museum, one of the greatest art museums in the world which hosts works by Velasquez, Goya, Greco, and many others. You may want to linger longer at the Prado or take a stroll to the nearby Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum of Art which hosts a remarkable collection of impressionist paintings. Lunchtime is free, but eat light, because this evening we are going to have a special cooking class featuring delicious and traditional Spanish dishes with our private chef. The setting for the class is a spectacular terrace with incredible views to the Royal Palace.BD

Day 6 Wednesday Today you’ll take an excursion to explore Toledo which is known as the “City of the Three Cultures” since Jews, Muslims and Christians lived in peace there for many years. Toledo’s artistic and cultural legacy is incredibly well preserved and the setting of the city on a hill above the Tagus River is magnificent. Among the highlights are the beautiful Toledo Cathedral, the spiritual heart of the church in Spain and one of the largest cathedrals in Christendom and the Synagogue of the Transit with its intriguing mixture of Gothic, Muslim and Hebrew design and excellent Museo Sefardi that provides insight into Spain’s Jewish culture. The artist El Greco made his home in Toledo and his works are in various locations around the city. Toledo is also known as the “Imperial City” since it was Spain’s capital before it moved to Madrid. You’ll return to Madrid in the evening to explore on your own.  BL

Day 7 Thursday Today you’ll take a private tour to El Escorial, which when completed in 1584 was the largest building in the world and has served as a royal residence, a mausoleum for Spanish royalty, a library, a monastery, a church and an art museum housing many important works of the Hapsburg dynasty. At El Escorial you’ll feel the power and glory of the time when Spain was the wealthiest European power and the crucial period of Spanish history during the reign of King Phillip II when Spain’s capital was moved from Toledo to Madrid. You’ll take lunch in nearby San Lorenzo in a charming restaurant and have time to explore the town’s streets, squares, and shops. BLLinda Basque Country 2014 394

DSCN0412Day 8 Friday Today you’ll travel to Seville by high speed rail where you’ll be staying at a 15th century palace that has been restored as a 4 star hotel. You’ll begin the evening in Seville with a tour in a horse drawn carriage or “coche de caballos” for a relaxing first contact with the city. The beautiful old neighborhoods in Seville’s center make for great exploration and a pleasant introduction to the Andalusia lifestyle. You’ll explore near the Cathedral of Seville in the Santa Cruz barrio with its great tapas bars, picturesque streetscapes, hidden plazas and flower covered patios. Nearby is the Jewish Quarter with its tight alleyways and whitewashed houses, antique shops and azulejo tiled decorations. After this tour you’ll enjoy a dinner in a restaurant that captures the flavor of Seville with great views of this wonderful city. After dinner you’ll have a special visit to the Cathedral tower, La Giralda, a bell tower that was once a minaret and where the views of the city at night are spectacular.  BLD

DSCN0567Day 9 Saturday Today you’ll visit some of Seville attractions starting with the Real Alcazar, a gem of Mudejar inspired design with ornate patios, halls and gardens set in the heart of Seville. The Real Alcazar has been a home of Spanish royalty since 1364 and is the oldest European royal palace still in use. The palace is a short walk to the Cathedral of Seville, the largest Gothic building in the world and final resting place for Christopher Columbus. Lunch is a tapeo ( tapas walk) in the Santa Cruz neighborhood and includes stops at local institutions like Bodeguita Morales, Casa Ramón, Las Teresas, Las Gitanillas taverns. After lunch you’ll have time to take a siesta or continue exploring the city on your own. In the evening you’ll visit the beautiful Plaza de España and the nearby University of Seville that is partly housed in an incredible cigar factory that once employed 10,000 cigar rollers and was made famous in Bizet’s opera Carmen and. BL

Day 10 Sunday Today you’ll depart to the beautiful Andalusia city of Jerez de la Frontera. Jerez is the center of sherry production which is made possible by the unique white soils of the area called albariza, and by its location in the sunniest climate of Europe. But before visiting a winery you’ll go to the beautiful grounds of the Royal Andalusia School of Equestrian Art for a spectacular horse show. Lunch is at a local restaurant with an afternoon visit to Jerez and a noted sherry winery. Afterwards you’ll head back to Seville for a boat ride on the Guadalquivir River. Along the boat ride is the iconic Torre de Oro, or Tower of Gold, built by the Moors in the 12th century as part of the city’s defenses. After this you’ll enjoy a wonderful private dinner in a mansion of the sixteenth century, in the historic center of Seville, with a private flamenco show. BLD

Day 11 Monday The tour ends in Seville and we will escort you to the airport or assist you as you continue exploring Spain’s incredible culture.


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