Experience the passion and sophistication of Spanish culture as we get familiar with the exciting cities of Barcelona, Madrid and Seville. See the brilliant pocket-patios of Cordoba in the city’s spring festival and make a garden-lover’s pilgrimage to the grand courtyards of the Alhambra in Granada.
Sandra Ross, your Ross Garden Tours leader, will meet you at Sydney Airport for the flight to Barcelona.
We’ll check in for our three-night stay at Hotel Catalonia Ramblas. The hotel is in the lively Las Ramblas area of Barcelona’s old Gothic Quarter. We’ll enjoy a welcome dinner in one of Barcelona’s most famous restaurants, Els 4 Gats. The restaurant opened in 1897 in a building designed by the great modernist architect Puig i Cadalfach. Picasso was an early visitor, and he held his first solo exhibition here, at the age of 17.
Antoni Gaudi’s great, and still unfinished, cathedral, the Sagrada Familia, has become a symbol of Barcelona. The basilica is Gaudi’s extraordinary interpretation of Gothic architecture and you’ll love the way the internal columns seem so light and airy, yet support that incredible roof. We’ll take a good look inside and out to appreciate this masterpiece.
The afternoon is free to relax, shop or explore a bit more of Barcelona. Just up the road from the Sagrada Familia is Lluis Domenich I Montaner’s very moving Hospital de Sant Pau. A garden lover, Montaner believed that hospitals could help promote healing by allowing patients plenty of opportunity to view, or sit, in a lovely garden. Hear, hear!
There’s an option this evening to attend a performance at Montaner’s other masterpiece of modernism, the richly decorative Palau de la Música Catalana.
A day to discover the genius of Antoni Gaudi, Catalonia’s great master of Modernism. We’ll visit three of his best-loved sites today, starting with Casa Batllo, an apartment building whose its façade is decorated with coloured glass fragments, ceramic circles and iron balcony railings shaped like masks. A roof in the style of a dragon’s back tops the building. Inside everything is hand-made – from the walls to the door handles. Casa Mila La Pedrera, a few blocks away is a very different building, though still unmistakably Gaudi. The facade is built of limestone, and the upper level is covered in white tiles, so that it resembles a snowy mountain. The roof features chimney pots shaped as heads, their helmeted-figures the inspiration for Star Wars’ storm troopers. There’s also a Gaudi museum here, and a wonderful gift shop.
We’ll also wander through the eccentric and charming Parque Guell with its vaulted mosaic-covered halls and grand terraces. You’ll never think about parks in the same way again.
Our afternoon is free.
The AVE fast train will speed us from Barcelona to Madrid, where our base for the next three nights is the Tryp Ambassador. The hotel has been built within the 19th century palace of the Dukes of Granada, in the centre of Madrid. Our tour of Madrid today will include the Sabatini Gardens next to the Royal Palace.
The Prado is one of Europe’s finest museums and houses works from the Gothic, the Baroque and the Renaissance. A few highlights include rooms of works by Goya and Velasquez, as well as the amazing triptych that is the Garden of Earthly Delights by Hieronymous Bosch. After our visit we’ll walk next door to the Madrid Botanic Gardens.
The rest of the day is free for you to explore this energetic city.
You might enjoy an optional performance tonight at the Madrid Opera, next door to our hotel. Last time we visited we watched a performance of classic flamenco in the Opera Hall!.
We’ll travel out of Madrid today, to Aranjuez, a retreat for the Spanish royal family. We’ll tour the Royal Palace and gardens on the River Tagus, and then because Aranjuez is famous for its fruit and vegetables, we’ll sample the local produce at our lunch in one of the town’s best restaurants.
We’re off to Andalucía today, and to Cordoba, via fast train. Under the Islamic caliphate of the 10th and 11th centuries this city was the most civilised, and populous, in the western world. It was an economic and cultural centre and home to the world’s largest library. When the Islamic rulers fell to the Spanish reconquista it became the Andalucian capital of the Spanish rulers. We’ll discover the city with a walking tour, which includes the Alcazar Gardens where loquats, citrus and myrtle fill the formal parterres. These scented gardens are among the most beautiful in Andalucia, and have been rebuilt in the style of their 15th century Moorish origins. You’ll love the statues of Ferdinand and Isabel farewelling Christopher Columbus on his historic mission.
We’ll have time to relax this afternoon before we walk across the Roman Bridge and through the old city walls for dinner at the Almudaina Restaurant for a taste of Andalucía.
Cordoba’s famous Patio Contest started back in 1918. Once a year the doors of the whitewashed houses are thrown open and visitors are welcomed into the courtyards to see the creativity and ingenuity of the city’s gardeners. Competition for awards is fierce, and you’ll come away with some great ideas for pots and a new love of geraniums!
One of the wonders of the world awaits this afternoon: the Great Mosque of Cordoba. Its forest of horse-shoe arched columns is mesmerising. In the centre is a cathedral built after the Catholic kings reconquered southern Spain.
We’ll take a trip out of town this morning to the beautiful city of Ecija with its heritage-listed streetscapes. Our highlight is to watch a session at the Stud Farm Cardenas where pure-bred Andalucian horses are trained to ‘dance’. Then we’ll dine on Andalucian delicacies at the 18th century Palacio de Santaella.
Granada is our destination today with a lunch stop in Priego de Cordoba. The town, on the southern edge of Andalucia, is known for its great examples of Spanish baroque architecture. It’s a maze of narrow streets and squares festooned with spring flowers.
Hotel Melia in Granada is home for the next three nights. The hotel is in the city centre almost next door to the Cathedral.
There’s an option this evening to join Sandra at dinner in the Albayzin, the old residential Islamic ‘barrio’ (quarter) which is World Heritage listed by UNESCO.
The Alhambra Palace, one of the greatest examples of Islamic art and architecture, is our highlight today.
The Nasrid palaces, villas and garden courtyards feature exquisite patterned facades, discrete spaces, and ‘paradise garden’ courtyards that have influenced generations of garden designers. The Court of the Lions, with its slender marble columns and stucco, is particularly renowned.
Also in the Alhambra is the Generalife, which was the summer retreat of the Nasrids. The paradise gardens feature intersecting water channels and fountains that you will have seen copied in many other gardens.
Behind the Alhambra tower the snow-capped mountains of the Sierra Nevada, and we’ll lunch today with a view of this majestic range.
The afternoon is free for you to enjoy Granada.
Tonight there’s an option to watch a Gypsy Flamenco Show, which includes a tour of the Jewish quarter and views of the illuminated Alhambra.
You’ll see just how inspirational the gardens of the Alhambra and Generalife are this morning in a lovely garden at the Fundacion Rodriguez-Acosta in the Albayzin quarter. The modernist house and terraces and the interplay of light, shadow and colours of this typical Spanish garden will inspire you. Restaurant del Huerto de Juan Ranas, overlooking the Alhambra, is our lunch spot today.
Discover some exciting towns of Andalusia today as we travel from Granada to Seville. First stop is the pretty whitewashed town of Antequera. You may disagree with bullfighting, but won’t be able to deny the beauty of the bullring here, which is one of the finest in Spain.
Next stop is Osuna, a town whose grand mansions date to the 16th century. We will stroll along Calle San Pedro, which as been described as one of the most beautiful streets in Europe and is UNESCO World Heritage listed.
Late in the afternoon we’ll arrive in Seville, the capital of Andalusia where we’ll stay in the city centre, at Hotel Inglaterra, for the next three nights.
We are set to discover the excitement of Seville today. First stop is the Alcazar, a fine Muslim palace with echoes of the Alhambra, and gardens to match. Pavilions remain from the original Islamic paradise garden and the lovely walled gardens, pools and fountains all reflect Spain’s Muslim heritage. Next we’ll take a walk through Santa Cruz quarter, Seville’s picturesque medieval heart, and visit the Hospital de los Venerables Sacerdotes, with its sunken courtyard that is both cloister and patio.
Our afternoon is free to explore the fascinating collection of pavilions and gardens at Maria Luisa Park, which was designed for the Ibero-American Expo of 1929.
Another exceptional garden this morning at Casa de Pilatos, a Sevillan mansion of the late 15th century. It’s a blend of Muslim, Gothic and Renaissance styles, built around a great patio with walls and logia smothered in bougainvillea.
The afternoon is free for you to visit Seville’s famous Cathedral and adjacent Giralda. Another option is the Museum of Fine Arts, with its impressive collection of Spanish art.
We’ll speed back to Madrid this morning by fast train. Settle back into the Tryp Ambassador and enjoy a free afternoon doing the last of your sightseeing or shopping. Our farewell dinner will be exciting tonight, in one of Madrid’s great restaurants with a glass, or two, of sangria!
You will be transferred to the airport in time for your homeward flight.
You will be contacted by a Ross Tours Travel Manager to confirm your details and preferred method of payment.
Please refer to the Ross Garden Tours standard terms and conditions