The Prado is essential viewing—but not just any viewing will do. We propose a very special visit, savoring the museum’s best and most fascinating works. Rather than rushed, our visit will be relaxed but thorough, and so enriching that you never forget that you saw that painting at the Prado. Accompanied by guides with a unique and thoughtful understanding of the museum, we will enjoy the artwork and everything else that a visit to a place of such history and beauty entails.
This museum is as important as the Prado in terms of sculpture, and houses among its coffered-ceiling rooms one of the greatest treasures in the history of universal art. Unlike in the rest of Europe, most Spanish Baroque sculpture combined woodcarvings and paint, a technique with which artists created works of extreme naturalism and overwhelming beauty.
The extraordinary collection at the National Sculpture Museum is one-of-a-kind, and the masterpieces by Juan de Juni, Gregorio Fernández, Alonso Cano, Francisco Salzillo and Pedro de Mena convey a spirituality that as sensual as it is raw, characteristic of Spain’s Golden Age.
The landscape on this “internal journey” also changes along the way: Santiago can only be reached by crossing the forests of Navarra, the rivers of Rioja, the barren plains of Castile-Leon and, finally, the mountains of Leon and Galicia.
St. James Way is a truly unique experience for everyone who dares to lace up their boots and start walking.
From East to West Many roads lead to Santiago, the most popular of which is the Camino francés, the French Way, which crosses the Pyrenees Mountains at two different places: Roncesvalles (Navarra) and Somport (Huesca).
These two routes come together in Puente la Reina (Navarra) to become a single “Way” that traverses northern Spain from east to west. Centuries of continuous travel by pilgrims have made this camino one of Western Christianity’s primary economic and cultural routes.
Over time, cities were built, trade developed and, in particular, an incredibly intense cultural and artistic exchange extended among pilgrims, who brought skills and news from very different places and backgrounds. In view of this, the Route of Santiago de Compostela was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1993.Christian Art Following identification of the apostle’s relics, Charlemagne and the Christian kingdom of northern Spain supported the development of the Camino. This led to the extraordinarily rapid development of cities and villages along the way. The Camino also offers an overview of medieval Christian art, as some of the most fascinating creations from that period can be found along the routes.
The Cathedral of St. Peter the Apostle, in Jaca, is a modest example, but it is the first major construction on the Spanish side of the Pyrenees and foreshadows the magnitude of the buildings that appear later along the route. Churches such as Santo Sepulcro in Torres del Río, San Martín de Tours in Frómista, and the San Nicolás in Portomarin; monasteries including Santa María la Real in Nájera, San Juan de Ortega in Burgos, and San Julián de Samos in Galicia; and cathedrals, like those in Burgos, Leon and Astorga, all reflect the artistic splendor that is a hallmark of the Camino which leads to the Cathedral of Santiago, indubitably one of the most magnificent buildings in the history of European architecture.
Compared with sober Castilian devotion and silent processions, the people of Seville surprise visitors—as they surprised the poet—with their sacred songs and overwhelming fervor, completely taking over the city during Holy Week.
The floats of the processions, authentic sculptural and artisan gems, are worth visiting all year round, as are the city and its churches: every neighborhood has a cofradía (brotherhood), and each cofradía has a devotion whose traditions and secrets are passed down from parents to children, who will eventually act as penitents in the religious brotherhoods.
Indubitably, the city shines brightest during the religious celebrations and, in particular, during the processions, when rows of hooded people who accompany the images, carried by costelaros (men who carry the floats), proceed through the streets filled with decorated balconies, from which people sing sacred songs, an oration which, in Andalusia, has the flavor of flamenco.
The construction of buildings began—inspired by shapes from nature—appealing to an unusual sensuality and offering new ways of living. Gaudí, a leading artist of his time, shaped Modernism by devising a way to charm the city’s wealthy bourgeoisie families, creating fantastic places for them, such as La Pedrera and the magical Güell Park. However, his magnum opus is indisputably the Sagrada Familia church. Though he died before it was completed, he left behind instructions for everything from the tips of the towers to the candelabras on the altar. Incredible Gaudí. A truly special way to get to know Barcelona.
The dazzling artistry of the castillian images, together with intense mass participation, makes this nationwide celebration an extremely important cultural event.
Architecturally inspired by the mythical Solomon’s Temple, in Jerusalem, this impressive building functioned as a palace to serve the court, and included a basilica worthy of a Catholic monarch; a royal pantheon, where all the Spanish kings and queens are buried; and one of the most interesting and beautiful libraries in all of the European Renaissance. It is one of Spain’s most fascinating buildings and reveals the Spanish monarchs’ immense power during the modern period.
The Alhambra, declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984, is a truly singular place in Spain, representing more than 400 years of Islamic heritage, which affords it historical originality with respect to the rest of Europe. There’s no other crossroads in the world as important as this Nasrid palace, no place as spellbindingly beautiful, where a sunset over its battlements alone makes the journey worthwhile.
A visit to the Theater-Museum, where many of Dalí’s most emblematic works are on display, provides the full experience of what his work meant to him. If we are to follow his journey throughout the Mediterranean, essential viewing includes Portlligat, where famous artist guests included Picasso, Duchamp and Lorca, and the medieval Púbol Castel, an homage in every way to his wife, Gala Dalí.
It was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984 and is the best-preserved building from its period. It increased in both size and beauty as the city gained more political and social importance, and was even spared during the Christian Reconquest. It was converted into a Christian cathedral in 1238, and its Byzantine mosaics and the extraordinary system of two-tone horseshoe-shaped arches underwent several expansions, emulating both Renaissance and Baroque styles.
Queen Isabella I of Castile was profoundly devoted to the Virgin of Guadalupe and she visited on several occasions during her reign. The monastery houses many valuable works, such as paintings by El Greco and Luca Giordano as well as beautiful manuscripts produced in the monastery’s own scriptorium; however, its most spectacular attraction is the Sacristy, adorned with paintings by Francisco Zurburán, who was commissioned by the monks. The painting of Saint Jerome preserved there is considered to be one the most outstanding works of his career.