A region of intoxicating cuisine, lavish architecture, and charming villages, Northern Spain is the quintessential image many think of when they imagine the heart of Spain. Insight Vacations is your guide to this fantastic region full of history, art, and Spanish culture!
One of the iconic metropolises of Northern Spain, Barcelona is a stunning seaside city filled with sparkling culture, delicious cuisine, and a world-renowned bar scene. This city has influences from Roman times and nearby France, seen in both local culture and the architectural style of the buildings around the city. One of the most scenic areas to walk around the city is Las Ramblas, a beautiful tree-lined walkway that leads to fantastic authentic areas off the side streets for visitors to indulge in. If you’re looking for a life-changing performance, look no further than one of the shows at the Gran Teatre del Liceu, Barcelona’s greatest opera house with the capacity to house up to 2,300 people in its horseshoe-shaped auditorium. In the center of the Old City of Barcelona is the Gothic Quarter, a gorgeous area of the city with buildings dating back as far as the Roman settlement of the city.
Often relegated to the back-burner while its more popular siblings Barcelona and Madrid luxuriate in the limelight, Valencia is content to hide its true charms from the unobservant. One of Valencias shining innovations is the Jardines del Turia, a 9 kilometer long park that was once the site of the Río Turia. The river was rerouted to make way for this fantastic green space, complete with bicycle paths, playgrounds, and walking paths. Another significant area of Valencia is La Lonja, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the center of Medieval Valencia’s silk and commodity exchange. This stunning 15-century building highlight amazing Gothic pillars and coffered ceilings, well worth pulling out your camera to capture these beautiful architectural features. If you’re looking to do some serious shopping, then you’ll want to take some time to visit the Mercado Central, Valencia’s main bazaar built in 1928. This market sells local seafood, produce, and other native ingredients, and the tapas bar in the center cannot be missed, especially when paired with a glass of Spanish wine.
Made famous by the work Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes, La Mancha is an alluringly simple landscape dotted with iconic windmills and small Spanish towns, a welcome respite from the larger cities of Barcelona and Madrid. The biggest city in this region is Toledo, once the cultural and religious center of all of Spain filled with churches, mosques, and synagogues. One of the oldest monasteries in the city is the Monasterio San Juan de los Reyes, founded by the Catholic rulers Fernando and Isabella in the heart of the Jewish quarter as a defiant act of their faith and is made of two different architectural styles on each level. One of the most elaborate and ornate cathedrals in the country is the Catedral, constructed of five naves and multiple side chapels, each housing their own treasures. This cathedral is still a significant center of worship, and is the site of many royal tombs.
The heart of Moorish history, Granada is home to some of the most magnificent and breathtaking monuments in all of Spain. Many visitors seek Granada’s milder climate as a respite from the rest of Spain’s stifling heat. One of Granada’s most popular sights has to be the Alhambra, an ancient Moorish palace filled with fountains, gardens, and marble. This part palace, part fort is usually crowded at the height of tourist season, so take care to visit during the off-season so you have more time to take in the exquisite 14th century details. This palace underwent multiple attacks and renovations over the centuries, until its final incarnation that we see today. Spain’s most famous royal couple, Isabella and Fernando, are entombed in Granada’s Capilla Real, the chapel connected to Granada’s cathedral. This mausoleum was commissioned by the couple before their deaths, but wasn’t completed until after they passed, necessitating the need for the monarchs to be interred in the Alhambra palace convent.
Standing in the citrus-scented squares, it’s easy to be seduced by the splendours of Seville. There are few forms of expression as entrancing as Flamenco. The varied yet unmistakable flavours of the Iberian Peninsula provide an allure all their own. It’s undeniable, Spain and Portugal offer countless ways to draw you in, and you can experience them all with Insight.
Andalucía embodies all the popular images of Spain, from fiery flamenco to white-washed villages and is the perfect curtain-raiser to mysterious Morocco, an exotic land awash with vivid colour and stunning architecture.
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