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Feel the pulse of spirited Spain on this tour from the country's capital to the bustling coastal city of Barcelona. Enjoy all things arty - from Madrid's inspiring Art Walk to Barcelona's internationally renowned galleries and museums. Be captivated by Cuenca's Old City, mosey round the markets of Valencia and get lost in the convoluted streets of Barcelona's gothic quarter. This is a journey of old and new: history, tradition and architecture fused with Spain's best shopping, restaurants and nightlife.
Day 1: Madrid
Welcome to Madrid, the sassy central capital of Spain known for its elegant boulevards and expansive, manicured parks. Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6 or 7 pm, depending on common area availability. Please double check with reception to confirm the time and place. If you're going to be late, please inform the hotel reception. We'll be collecting your insurance, passport details and next of kin information at this meeting, so please have these on hand. If you can't arrange a flight that will have you arrive on time, you may wish to arrive a day or two early. We'll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability). As there's limited time for sightseeing in Madrid, arriving a little early will also give you a chance to explore more extensively. After the welcome meeting, perhaps get into the mind of a Madrileno with some tapas and Rioja.
Day 2: Madrid
Today is free to discover Madrid. The city is renowned for its rich repositories of European art, and the heart of Old Madrid – Hapsburg – is the portico-lined Plaza Mayor, and nearby is the baroque Royal Palace and Armoury. This stylish, cosmopolitan city is also well known for world-class restaurants, shopping and nightlife, so take some time to uncover these wonders. Take a break in the Real Jardin Botanico, a garden wonderland dating from the 18th century. Maybe simply people watch while you enjoy a coffee in one of the atmospheric streets and squares around the famous Plaza Mayor. You could also join an Urban Adventure to get a deeper insight into the city through its food and its markets. Sports fans, if you're lucky enough for your trip to fall on match day, you can don a white t-shirt and head to the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium to watch the mighty Real Madrid. At night, maybe follow the crowds to Chueca, Plaza Dos de Mayo or Plaza Santa Ana, where the pulse of the city will lead you from bar to bar on a night out you are sure to remember.
Day 3: Cuenca
Today travel by train to charming Cuenca (approximately 3 hours). The town is located literary on the edge of deep gorges created by two rivers: Jucar and Huecar. On arrival, venture out on an orientation walk around this historic World Heritage-listed fortress city. The old part of this city is an outstanding medieval development built on steep mountainsides, with many casa colgadas (hanging houses) that are literally on the cliff edge. Like many towns in Spain, it was occupied for a period of time by the Muslim Moors who built the original fortress. Afterwards, use your free time getting to know the city. Perhaps visit the impressive 12th-century gothic Cathedral. There is also wonderful art all over the town, with a number of abstract artists making Cuenca their home in the 1960s. Evening is a great opportunity to gather together with the group and enjoy a dinner in this picturesque town, with the old city beautifully brushed with light from a series of high-powered lamps suspended half-way up the rock.
Day 4: Valencia
Take a train and head east to the coastal town of Valencia (approximately 4 hours). It's known for being the Spanish gateway to the Mediterranean, with a big port, beautiful beaches, restaurants and a beach promenade along the waterfront. The old town is set back from the seafront through, and in the centre you will find the beautiful monuments and historical buildings. Busy markets, clean beaches, spectacular mountains and a fascinating mix of old town and new town makes up the best of Valencia. Over the next couple of days, you have a lot of free time to wander around the city and see the sights. Explore the colourful stalls of the Mercado Central, and this evening perhaps head out to bar-hop and eat tapas in the Ciutat Vella (old town).
Day 5: Valencia
Take today to explore. Possibly visit the 13th-century cathedral, which houses what's claimed to be the Holy Grail, and climb the 207 steps of the Miguelete tower for the best views of the city. The Museum of the Fallas is another unique option, which contains a history of the Valencia Fire Festival in the form of giant papier mache figures. There are also many fine parks and gardens, or you may want to head to the beach of Playa de la Malvarrosa to soak up some sun. To try the paella that Valencia is famous for (rabbit and chicken), do as the locals do and head to the restaurant area of Las Arenas for a hearty and reasonably priced lunch. Valencia is also built with separate cycle paths, so it's really easy to get around. Perhaps rent a bike from one of the many bike stations dotted around the city. Cycle through the park that runs through the centre of the city to the impressively designed Museu de les Ciencies Príncipe Felipe (Arts and Science Museum). Tonight, maybe head south to Ruzafa, one of the city’s coolest areas.
Day 6: Barcelona
Today take the train up the coast to Barcelona (approximately 4 hours). Barcelona's quirky character and fabulous Catalan cuisine mixes seamlessly with a groundbreaking art scene, Gothic architecture, superb dining and a non-stop nightlife. In the afternoon, there are plenty of options to keep you busy. Wander the labyrinthine streets of the old Gothic Quarter and navigate your way through the throngs of tourists along La Rambla, Barcelona's famous tree-lined boulevard. Perhaps pay a visit to the Picasso Museum, the National Art Museum of Catalonia or the Museum of City History to brush up on your local knowledge. Take the funicular to the top of Montjuic or Tibidabo for panoramic views of Barcelona and the harbour. The heart of Catalonia prides itself as a gastronomic centre and so this evening perhaps head out to taste the reputation for yourself. Take a tapas crawl through rustic Catalan dishes in the funky neighbourhood of El Born.
Day 7: Barcelona
Your second day in Barcelona you are free to partake in some of the optional activities on offer or relax. In the morning perhaps head to the stalls of Santa Catarina Market, a huge trove of local produce beneath a colourful, undulating roof, and hang out with the locals. The city is famous for its architecture, from its impressive gothic main cathedral to the houses, concert halls, palaces and basilicas designed in the unique Catalan Modernista style. The master of this movement was Antonio Gaudi, who's eccentric creations are dotted all over the city. A visit to Gaudi's masterpiece, the modern basilica of La Sagrada Familia, is a must, even if it's just to see the outside. Gaudi worked on this hugely ambitious project for decades until his death, and it remains in constant construction. Perhaps check out the Neo-Gothic mansion of Guell Palace, or the wave-inspired structure of Casa Battlo. For more insight into the artist himself, head to the Gaudi House Museum inside Parc Guell. For something a little different, perhaps have a poke around the Old Santa Creu Hospital. For your final night, perhaps finish the day with a sip of red wine from a porro – a traditional glass pitcher.
Day 8: Barcelona
Your journey through the Highlights of Spain ends this morning. There are no more activities planned and you're free to leave the accommodation at any time, those please note you must comply with the hotel's internal check-out rules. If you'd like to spend a few more days in Barcelona, then our reservations team can help book accommodation (subject to availability).
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