Extensive Tour of Spain: Madrid, Andalusia, Barcelona

A 14 day trip to Spain 
5
5 out of 5 stars
20 reviews

Sandstone sculpture, Moorish symmetry, and Modernista swirls contrast with Dali, El Greco, Picasso, Gaudi and Goya as Spain’s artisanal styles cover thousands of years and thousands of influences. From Madrid’s fine art scene to Andalusian white villages and a Roman aqueduct, such unique art and architecture is a lens for exploring local culture, as celebrated on this intimate two-week tour of Spanish highlights. Uncover the art, discover the atmosphere, and surround yourself with beauty.

Customize This Trip For Me
Most tours are customized for private travel.

General Information

Photos
Detailed Itinerary

Places Visited 

Madrid, Toledo, Avila, Segovia, Salamanca, Cordoba, Seville, Ronda, Barcelona

Departure Dates 

Dates are flexible and customizable for private departures.

Detailed Itinerary 

Day 1: Madrid – A Glamorous Palace Introduction

Silence stretches across El Escorial, and there is a simplicity to what you see with thick stone encasing a sanctified space. It feels like a monastery and it is a monastery, but then you take a few more steps, and El Escorial shows its other face. Chandeliers hang down, twinkling sharply. Frescoes stretch around domed ceilings, each divided by golden borders. This is a palace, glamorous in its depiction of the Spanish Golden Age, glorious with its show of wealth and power. Religion and royalty blur together and the more you explore, the more opulence you find. What an introduction to Spanish style! Earlier today you will have landed in Madrid and transferred to your centrally located five-star hotel. The trip to El Escorial fills your afternoon, and there are plenty of al fresco terraces for a first Spanish dinner as you settle in.

What’s Included: airport transfer, accommodation, tour

Day 2: Madrid – The Fine Spanish and Flemish Art of the Prado; Reina Sofia

Goya’s evocative ladies are painted in thick, shimmering oil while Velazquez’s courtly scenes stretch across an entire wall. Raphael and Tintoretto are found in the next gallery, Titian in another, and there is also El Greco, de Ribera, Zurbaran and Caravaggio. And then next in the Prado, you will find the Flemish art with the Rubens, Rembrandt, van Dyck, Van der Weyden and Bosch. You are in Spain’s national art gallery, and the collection provides a superb historical context taking you through 900 years of the finest Spanish, Flemish and Italian art. That could be enough for one day, but you may want to take your guide’s invitation and continue the journey. Renia Sofia is Spain’s pre-eminent modern art museum and connects the old Prado art to Dali and his contemporaries.

What’s Included: accommodation, tour, breakfast

Day 3: Madrid – Best of the Thyssen-Bornemisza; Goya, Galdiano, Velazquez and an Interactive Art Class

Enjoy the third in Madrid’s famous trio of galleries this morning with Thyssen-Bornemisza, a private collection that has been made accessible to the public. Its breadth is superb: Rubens’ Venus and Cupid holding a mirror, Van Gogh, Monet, Renoir and Cezanne, and cubist work from Picasso plus contemporary classics by Kandinsky, Pollock, Dali and De Kooning. Wander your way through the best of the collection before an afternoon in Lazaro Galdiano Museum for an intimate look at an understated, yet essential, figure in Spain’s art history. There is also an interactive art class today, taking the Velazquez style and turning it into your own work of art, with plenty of experimentation along the way. It will be another full day, which you will have come to expect from Madrid by now, though nothing needs to be rushed.

What’s Included: accommodation, tour, breakfast

Day 4: Toledo – Discovering El Greco and Experiencing His Greatest Works

It’s Toledo’s architecture that impresses first with rough-hewed castle turrets guarding the entrance. Bridges lope across the river while church spires rise high, sending shadows across a myriad of colorful facades. Inside the cathedral, there is a great wealth of gold, the altar almost blinding in its excess. Then, after lunch, it will be the art that impresses. This was El Greco’s adopted home and resting place, and his finest works are hidden inside Toledo’s churches, stretched above altars, illuminated by soft shards of incoming light. Witnessing such feats is not just about the art itself as it is about the location, a quiet church in his hometown where glorious art abounds above the locals who come to pray. You will be spending the night in Toledo, and the city provides a beautiful setting at dusk.

What’s Included: accommodation, tour, breakfast

Day 5: Toledo – Private Workshop on the Damascene Style Passed Down By the Moors

Wake up late and go exploring without your guide, perhaps stopping in the various boutiques you did not have time for yesterday. Throughout the city, you will see evidence of religious harmony from a mosque and a church next to a synagogue. The Moors found some protection here, and they brought with them Damascene, the art of intricately inlaying different metals within each other. Local artisans keep this ancient practice alive, and you can join a crafter for a three-hour workshop that will culminate in your own Damascene moment. Toledo is too enchanting a place for only one night, which is why you will have two, with the rest of today providing space and free time for enjoying the city’s atmosphere.

What’s Included: accommodation, tour, breakfast

Day 6: Avila to Segovia to Salamanca – Architectural Journey Through the Eras

Improbable walls greet you in Avila, one millennium old and still yet to be breached. Eighty-eight circular towers dominate, topped with castle turrets as they stand on Castile’s arid plains. Step behind the walls, and you will find a preserved 11th-century city where churches and convents continue to display old-world Spain. Next up on the train it will be Segovia with a dramatic Roman aqueduct running straight through the old town with the two tiers of arches so straight and true. Once again, you can take a walking tour with your local guide before getting back on the fast train, as both Avila and Segovia are small and rarely need more than two hours. Your destination is Salamanca, a city of sandstone that glows golden in the fading afternoon light. Just walk to the Plaza Mayor, and you will likely shake your head in disbelief at the scene.

What’s Included: accommodation, tour, breakfast

Day 7: Salamanca – Contrasting Golden Sandstone in Central Salamanca

Salamanca is too big to feel like a fairytale as the old city is enormous, but there is not any traffic, just the cobbled streets and the harmony of sandstone blocks. At first glance, all of the architecture appears similar, thanks to the ubiquitous sandstone. Look closer, and Salamanca provides a chronological journey through Europe’s architectural styles. Romanesque leftovers lead to a Plateresque Dominican monastery, and then a Gothic palace is seen covered in shells and now various Baroque interpretations, especially the Plaza Mayor. Sculpted figures enhance almost all of the buildings, and if you look very closely, there is a monkey eating ice cream and an astronaut, which was recently added to a Gothic doorway. Spend the day exploring this fine medieval city, and then spend the evening on an al fresco terrace watching the sandstone change color.

What’s Included: accommodation, tour, breakfast

Day 8: Madrid to Cordoba – The Meeting Place of Roman and Arab Art

South to Andalusia you will go to Cordoba, a melting pot of ages and styles. Of course, it is the Mezquita that dominates here as the grandest Islamic building in the West. However, as you tour the Medina, there are many more odes to the East to discover. Calligraphic messages roam around archways, juxtaposed with vibrant, modern graffiti. Symmetrical patterns create life from primary colors, enlivening almost every building you enter. You can witness how the Moor’s Arab art style combined with Roman and Catholic design, creating something that is unique to Andalusia. After half a day traveling, you will begin exploring Cordoba around late afternoon, just as the city is getting lively with locals. And as you explore, you will find that sumptuous old architecture has turned to traditional tapas bars.

What’s Included: accommodation, tour, breakfast

Day 9: Cordoba – The Lavish Mezquita and Moorish Architecture

Red and white columns stretch through the prayer hall as golden calligraphy rolls around the walls. The detail is exquisite with such intricacy in the messaging and beautiful Eastern flair to the style. The scale is breathtaking in that the Moors could bring such artisanal beauty to such an enormous building. The Mezquita became a cathedral and is now a celebration of art and architecture that is so lavish in parts, yet so serene in others. Elsewhere in Cordoba, you will find a gritty modern-day allure. While Granada is the fairytale destination, Cordoba has a lively edge, and your guide will show you local neighborhoods away from the Mezquita. As with yesterday evening, the tapas tonight will be sublime.

What’s Included: accommodation, tour, breakfast

Day 10: Seville – Art and Architecture of Europe’s Largest Medieval City

You will travel onwards by train to Seville, where the Cathedral bells chime high above your hotel. This vast Cathedral is a Gothic structure and rivaled only by The Vatican’s St Peter’s Basilica in size, emanating from a time of conquistador riches. The gold is blinding and flows up the walls and twists around the altar. You will move next to the Giralda, which is rugged and spiritual, a mosque’s minaret that is now a tower with the best view over Seville. Continue on to the Alcazar, another royal palace that blurs artistic definitions as it is Moorish at first glance, yet Gothic and Romanesque when your guide helps you to look. Elsewhere in Seville, you can wander Europe’s largest old quarter and stop at cafes, pause on the terraces, and soak up the fiery vibe this city provides.

What’s Included: accommodation, tour, breakfast

Day 11: Seville – Day Trip to the Pueblos Blancos

Tucked into the mountaintops, you will find the Pueblos Blancos, the whitewashed villages, hidden from pirates and marauders and places of tranquility above the open plains. Each has a church and is connected by haphazard narrow streets. Each also has a view, some of them perched on cliffs, others surrounded by fortress-style walls. And by visiting three, you can connect the harmony of their styles, appreciating the beauty of Moorish vernacular as you go. After the bustle of Seville, today is quiet time spent in villages where you can hear your own footsteps and never hear a vehicle. While these villages do not have the architectural or artistic opulence of elsewhere, they are an integral piece of Spain’s historical jigsaw, expertly preserving an era from 500 years ago.

What’s Included: accommodation, tour, breakfast

Day 12: Barcelona – Gaudi and the Modernistas

Think Barcelona, and you think of Gaudi, so where else is there to begin when you land in Catalonia? Drop your bags at your hotel and freshen up before hitting La Sagrada Familia, a cathedral that seems to be fictional with such elegance to its strangeness, such beauty to the flourishes. Before this unfinished Cathedral, there were residential townhouses including Casa Batllo and Casa Mila where Gaudi honed his craft. And before it all, there was Montaner, the early pioneer of Catalonia’s Modernist style. His Palau de la Musica Catalana is a building to rival any in Spain as it is dramatic at first glance, and then adorable as you explore the details. Spend your evening around your hotel in Barri Gotic to piece together much older eras that go all the way back to the Romans.

What’s Included: accommodation, tour, breakfast

Day 13: Barcelona – Picasso and Dali

Two legendary artists will complete your two-week best-of Spain tour. Picasso’s early cubist paintings are among the highlights in Museo Picasso, part of a series that helps you follow the artist through his evolving style, blue to rose to African to Cubism. Outside of the city in the cute town of Figueres, and there you will find a museum dedicated to Salvador Dali, relatively unique in that the artist was so heavily involved in its creation. Follow the flamboyant style of this Catalan hero and take some time to see more of Figueres, even if it is just a coffee on the main square. Then zoom back to Barcelona by train and end your time with the most iconic of sunsets, Barcelona changing color as you look down from Gaudi’s Park Guell.

What’s Included: accommodation, tour, breakfast

Day 14: Barcelona – Departure

Today is left free and you will have time to go exploring central Barcelona, or even take a walk on the beach. You will be transferred to the airport privately with plenty of time before your outbound flight.

What’s Included: airport transfer, breakfast

Price

Starting Price 

$3,355
This trip is customizable for your private travel.

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.