10-Day Culture & History Highlights of Spain Tour

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Baths of Maria De Padilla in the Alcazar of Seville, Spain
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Total Trip:

10 Days
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Countries Visited:

Spain
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Places Visited:

Barcelona, Madrid, Toledo, Seville, Arcos de la Frontera
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Departure Dates:

Dates are flexible and customizable for private departures.
Spain is a country of contrasts. Catalonian style infused with Modernista thinking, white villages on dramatic cliff tops, fiery Andalusian culture epitomized by the flamenco, and Golden Age cities untouched by time. This 10-day tour of highlights will immerse you in a handcrafted collection of the distinctive paradigms, maximizing the diversity of experience and destination. From Barcelona to Seville by high-speed train and private tours, you will embrace the sensual excesses of this colorful

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Day 1

Barcelona – Gaudi Welcomes You to Catalonia

Barcelona has two sides. There are the flamboyant attractions, iconic showpieces that are unmissable but potentially crowded with tourists. Then there are the local Catalonian flavors, easy to miss yet so atmospheric and authentic. Gaudi provides a means of stitching these two sides together. You are greeted at the airport and transferred to a five-star hotel in the oldest part of the city, a pedestrianized area that is perfect for relaxed evenings. During the day, you hop between the architectural extravagance of Gaudi and the Modernist movement. Each destination is one side of the city, and each journey between them is another.

First, you will discover the early pieces, wandering the old lanes of the aristocrats who commissioned Gaudi to build their houses. Casa Mila and Casa Batllo provide an insightful introduction to the architect’s formative style: shocks of color, strange and elaborate shapes, interior minimalism fused with exterior ostentation. Move on to La Sagrada Familia, the ultimate masterpiece that has been under construction for over 130 years. Complete the discovery in Park Guell, the thinned late-afternoon crowd ideal for absorbing the tranquility of the park. Along the way, you will stop at local plazas and small terraces, and wander along narrow lanes unseen by tourism. The evening is free at your hotel in Barri Gotic, with many highly recommended restaurants within walking distance.

What's Included:

included

Transfer

included

Accommodation

included

Tour

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Day 2

Barcelona – Culture, Cuisine, Style: The Best of Barcelona

A day in Barcelona, so much to uncover from the Catalonian capital. Start at the Museu d'Historia de Catalunya, a great overarching insight into the region and its proud autonomy. Refuel with coffee on an al fresco terrace surrounded by the colored townhouses of the city. Wander the famous Rambla, then veer off into the alleyways where the atmosphere remains more traditional. You will enjoy lunch at a Michelin-starred restaurant run by Catalonia’s most celebrated modern chef. It is a typically local affair, starting at 1:30 pm and continuing until 4 pm. The evening is at your leisure and Barri Gotic is a great place to be, where decadent wine bars are found in reconverted Roman buildings and every building is photo worthy.

What's Included:

included

Accommodation

included

Tour

included

Breakfast

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Day 3

Barcelona to Montserrat to Madrid – An 11th-Century Mountain Monastery and an Evening in Madrid

Montserrat mountain greets you from afar, a dramatic backdrop to Catalonia and the city of Barcelona. Hidden beneath its bulk lies the 11th-century monastery of Santa Maria de Montserrat, where the statue of the Black Madonna peers out mysteriously amongst an excess of carved cherubs. It is less than an hour by private car to the mountain, and the morning hours are best for ascending to the rugged peak and taking in dreamy vistas of the city. Come down to the monastery for the midday Gregorian chants, an ode to Catalonia’s patron saint, the Black Madonna, and an ambient emblem of Spain’s early religious history. Get lost in the monastery’s museum, laden with astonishing pieces from Dali, El Greco, Monet, and Giordano.

There is a lovely little restaurant nearby for lunch, which is another relaxed affair, ideal after a morning of so many sights. You will then be transferred back to Barcelona for the two and a half hour high-speed Ave train to Madrid. The same journey by road takes more than six hours. You will be greeted at the station and transferred to a hotel in the center of the old city. Traveling by train is very efficient in Spain, the centrally located stations minimize transfer time, and the first-class carriages offer an effortless insight onto vast rural landscapes. The evening in Madrid is at your leisure, and there is a lot to explore within a mazy, pedestrianized center. Two iconic stops are an early-evening beer on a Plaza Mayor terrace and a nightcap of hot chocolate and churros at a famous, fragrant chocolatier. Your local guide will provide the insider’s details over a welcome drink at the hotel.

What's Included:

included

Accommodation

included

Transfer

included

Tour

included

Breakfast

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Day 4

Madrid – Spain’s Serene and Sublime Capital

In most European capital cities, there is an expectation of colorful chaos, so much to see and so many people crowding the streets. Madrid is different. There are a fabulous wealth of attractions, yet the atmosphere is as serene as any major city on the continent. It is also very compact, and there is a real enchantment to walking through the tightly-packed and distinctive neighborhoods. Today’s private tour presents many options, and you will meet with your guide over a morning coffee on a central city plaza. Enjoy an introduction to the city and its history, then plan out a day depending on your interests and preferences. Palaces, niche art museums, legacies left by legendary authors, changing architecture through the centuries; Madrid has serious style, and a customized tour is the best way to feel an immersion in its ways. Lunch will be included, and like the rest of the day, the guide can present various idiosyncratic options.

What's Included:

included

Accommodation

included

Tour

included

Breakfast

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Day 5

Madrid – Day-Trip to El Escorial and an Evening of Tapas

El Escorial is a purveyor of regal excess and a symbol of religion and royalty merging during Golden Age Spain. This is the ultimate memoir from the time when Spain ruled the world, a flamboyant palace-cum-basilica and monastic retreat, complete with a library and university. It is completely adorned in gold stolen from the New World by Spanish explorers, constructed as a Catholic centerpiece to stem the rise of Protestantism. Dramatic murals cover lengthy corridors, kings are buried beneath a pantheon of gold, ceiling frescos seem to reflect back off the marble floors. This is a site with far too much to take in, which is why it is essential to go with a guide. You will leave relatively early, missing the midday crowds, so you are mostly alone in this place of opulence.

Return to Madrid and the afternoon is at your leisure, a chance to relax on the terraces or perhaps visit one of the art galleries like the Renia Sofia. The evening is guided, an enthusiastic guide taking you through local streets of tapas bars. Madrid’s cuisine is not particularly distinctive; instead, the capital provides a space for country-wide gastronomy to be presented. A tapas crawl provides a broad tasting journey as each bar is particular to the region of the owner: octopus from Galicia, pintxos (small bites) from Basque, samples of paella from Valencia, olives and plates of Manchego cheese from Murcia. With every drink comes a dish as the guided tapas crawl also journeys through regional wines, comparing how Tempranillo differs between La Rioja and Ribera del Duero.

What's Included:

included

Accommodation

included

Tour

included

Breakfast, Dinner

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Day 6

Madrid to Toledo – Brilliance of the Prado then Exploring the Imperial City

The old Spanish masters hang in the Prado, a fierce rival to Paris’s Louvre as Europe’s most unmissable gallery. Goya, Rubens, Titian, hallways of vast works from the 18th century, altarpieces taken from Golden Age churches. This national museum takes up the morning before the 30-minute train journey to Toledo, the old Imperial City that is seemingly frozen in time. A tasting menu lunch at a local restaurant is an inspiring introduction, housed in a 12th-century townhouse with a painted ceiling. The menu showcases regional cuisine from the centuries, featuring lots of wine and game meat. In the afternoon, a relaxed city tour follows the trail of El Greco, a local as legendary to Toledo as Gaudi is to Barcelona.

What's Included:

included

Accommodation

included

Transfer

included

Tour

included

Breakfast

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Day 7

Toledo to Seville – Relaxed Morning before an Evening of Andalusian Flamenco

Wake up late and indulge. Lounge on the Toledo terraces beneath the city wall turrets and Arab ruins. Explore without a map, gothic cathedral spires acting as compass points through cobbled lanes of antique stores and five-century-old cafes. Around midday, you embark on the longest journey on this tour, a three-and-a-half-hour train trip to Seville, with lunch served on board the first-class carriage. Arrive in Seville and relax, before a colorful introduction to Andalusian culture: an evening at a flamenco bar. A guitar plucks longingly, sporadic yet harmonic in setting the scene. An elegiac voice reverberates, floating off the walls of the intimate venue, intonation, and surprise as the cantaor (the singer) improvises a song. The dancer twirls, her dress moving in rhythm to a song that will only ever be heard here, at this very moment. Flamenco is uniquely Andalusian, and a night in a flamenco bar reveals the fire behind the regional culture. Dinner is included, and the whole show takes three to four hours.

What's Included:

included

Accommodation

included

Transfer

included

Tour

included

Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

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Day 8

Seville – The Legends of the City Founded by Hercules

Seville is a city of color, where red townhouses juxtapose with huge cathedrals, and the atmosphere is always festive. Explore the Alcazar Palace, where records of the early explorers are housed. Find vibrant squares backdropped by both church spires and minarets, see Columbus’s burial place in the cathedral, and wonder aloud at how the rhythm of flamenco is a reflection of the city’s inimitable style. You go on a privately-guided morning tour, culminating with a platter of dishes at a typical local restaurant. You will indulge in air-cured hams, tortillas de camarones (shrimp fritters), deftly fried fish, and perhaps a sampling of salmorejo (a cold tomato and olive oil soup garnished with ham and chopped hard-boiled eggs). You will notice how the cuisine is as extravagant as the flamenco and the architecture. The afternoon is at your leisure, and your hotel is well located in the heart of the historical center.

What's Included:

included

Accommodation

included

Tour

included

Breakfast, Lunch

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Day 9

Arcos de la Frontera – A White Village Rising above the Cliffs

There is always somewhere new to explore in Spain and always another angle to find. After eight days of piecing together the attractions and destinations, Arcos de la Frontera provides the dramatic final stop, a medieval village of whitewashed houses clinging to jagged mountain cliffs. It is small and sublime, easy to wander around in just an hour. Many come for the day but miss the charm. You will be driven here in the morning for a full day at leisure in the most photogenic of destinations. As the hours roll onwards, you become fully immersed in the serene rhythm, hearing the soft sound of footsteps on cobblestone as old-world grandeur envelops you at every turn.

What's Included:

included

Accommodation

included

Transfer

included

Breakfast

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Day 10

Arcos de la Frontera to Seville – Departure

After breakfast, it is a short transfer back to Seville for your international departure. The morning in Arcos de la Frontera is as gentle as they come, languid hours to enjoy coffee and Iberico ham-filled croissants before you depart.

What's Included:

included

Transfer

included

Breakfast

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Trip Highlights

  • Explore the legacy of the Modernista movement in Barcelona, and see how its distinctive style permeates through the culture of the Catalonian capital
  • Uncover the spirituality of old-world Spain in the mountains of Montserrat, a keen insight into the country’s formative years
  • Embrace the laid-back ambience of capital city Madrid, where languid hours of tapas and terraces are as iconic as the famous art and architecture
  • Delight in the regal authenticity of El Escorial, one of Europe’s most opulent palaces
  • Discover the charm of Spain’s Golden Age with a day in Toledo, the ancient Imperial City that feels unchanged from the time of the conquistadores
  • Immerse yourself in Seville’s vibrant and fiery atmosphere, the Andalusian capital a feast for all the senses, culminating in a night of local flamenco
  • Complete the trip in the white village of Arcos de la Frontera, a surreal destination perched on dramatic cliffs, where the local style could not be more old-world
  • Taste your way through regional specialties, from Andalusian gazpacho to tapas hopping in Madrid and Catalonian Michelin dining
  • Spain’s superb high-speed rail system makes it easy to hop between destinations, with most journeys less than two and a half hours from hotel to hotel
  • Private tours help you delve beneath the iconic sights and uncover the true range of contrasts in Spain
Are you planning your once-in-a-lifetime dream vacation to Spain? Consider browsing our Spain vacations page to add essential Spain experiences and activities.
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Detailed Description

Spain should be seen more as a collection of autonomous regions than a single country. Diversity and contrast are everywhere, made more definitive by the pride of the people. Of course, there are constants. Everywhere you go, you will find languidly long lunches, outdoor terrace culture, and a laid-back approach to the day. However, Andalusia is very different than Catalonia. The white village of Arcos de la Frontera and the Imperial City of Toledo come from the same period in history, yet the ambience and architecture could not be further apart. And as for the cuisine, Spanish gastronomy cannot be defined in a single dish, however easy it is to proclaim tapas. Much like the local culture, it is a real delight to uncover the local culinary treats, whether in fine dining restaurants or streets made for hopping between bars and dishes.

This 10-day tour of Spain’s highlights is centered on this diversity of destination and experience. However, one important constant on this tour is the quality and ease of Spain’s high-speed rail network. Journeys between cities are short, never more than three hours from hotel to hotel. A first-class train carriage provides a window onto rural Spain before dropping you in the heart of a destination, within very quick reach of your luxury hotel. Dotted throughout the 10 days, you will also enjoy a series of private tours, each providing an insider’s perspective of the style and sights found at a destination. These private tours seek to uncover localized aspects of art, music, culture, cuisine and history.

Start in Barcelona, where the Modernista architecture is a symbol of how idiosyncratic style echoes through wider culture. Spend the day uncovering a lesser celebrated side of the city before visiting the 11th-century mountaintop monastery at Montserrat. A late-afternoon train gets you into Madrid for early evening, where there is much to discover in the winding old quarter. You will have a full day dedicated to Madrid before the following day mixes the fabulous El Escorial palace complex with the vibrancy of the capital city’s tapas bars. Complete the Madrid experience at the Prado before a quick train journey to Toledo.

This ancient Imperial City vastly contrasts Seville, the energetic Andalusian capital that welcomes you with an evening of flamenco. Spend the following day amidst this city founded by Hercules, before your final night in Arcos de la Frontera, a wonderfully relaxed white village perched high on the cliff tops. Along the way, you will find museums and plazas, street food and Michelin dining, and the wonderfully lazy hours spent on al fresco terraces, watching the country roll past. 

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Starting Price

$2395 per person (excluding international flights)

This trip is customizable for your private travel.
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What's Included

  • Accommodations
  • In-country transportation
  • Some or all guided tours and activities (dependent on season)
  • Expert trip planning
  • 24x7 support during your trip
The starting price is based on travel during the low season for a minimum of two travelers staying in shared 3-star accommodations. Please inquire for a custom trip quote based on your travel preferences and travel dates.

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