Barcelona, Montserrat, Madrid, Seville
Dates are flexible and customizable for private departures.
Spain is not seen but felt. It is felt in the allure of an open doorway to a shaded courtyard on a hot summer day, in the cries of the folk singer who contributes to the captivating tunes of a Flamenco performance, and in the swaggering conclusion of a night traveling from tavern to tavern, sampling tapas. Barcelona, the craggy peaks of Montserrat, Madrid, and Seville each offer unique feelings, and this 9-day tour will furnish countless examples of what is best about each region from the...
Situated at the juncture of ocean, land, mountain, beach, France, and Spain, Catalonia possesses a unique blend of multiple cultures, and there is no better figurehead of this blend than the region’s capital of Barcelona. Arrivals to Barcelona International Airport are greeted by the distinct figure of Montserrat in the distance and a private transfer that will whisk you away to your plush accommodation in the heart of the Gothic district. There is always something to see on the streets of Barcelona, and your debut to this magnificent city gives you the option to immediately answer the call of unexplored alleys and shops or to surrender yourself to the five-star service of your luxurious hotel. After all, the excitement and thrill of this district has not changed since its 1st century, Roman origins and will be ready whenever you are.
Once you are settled, your private guide will help you get your bearings by offering a map and suggestions for navigating the pedestrian-friendly area along with an expert tour of the neighborhood. You will begin with the Picasso Museum, which is only a short stroll away and where the accomplishments of the famous Spanish painter are comprehensively exhibited through over 4,000 works that chronicle his Spanish origins and later French inspiration. Housed in a Gothic palace from the 14th century, the building containing Picasso’s art is just as impressive as the art that it displays. You will be surrounded by creative and colorful works the second your guide leads you into the cobbled-interior courtyard.
With your mind freshly imbued with the artistic life of one man, you will be left to fill the canvas that is your relaxing afternoon in Barcelona’s Gothic District. The entire area is best navigated on foot, giving you the ability to meander into countless cafés and eateries, discover traces of Roman ruins that peak through the well-renovated streets, and marvel at the cathedrals and basilicas that are sprinkled throughout the neighborhood. A stroll down La Rambla or pedestrian boulevard is a must see for those who desire a charming and distinct feature of Spanish city planning. The waterfront area is awash with delicious restaurants, featuring that day’s catch as well as pristine beaches where local and visitor alike are able to soak up some rays. These are just a sample of the highlights that exist within a short walk of your lavish accommodations.
If interior exhibits were the order of the day before, exterior artwork appears in abundance at Park Güell, showcasing how the city’s need for common areas and parks was met by another one of Spain’s most famous artists.
Pulling yourself from the luxurious bed of your hotel will be made easier by the smells of espresso and with the addition of some milk café con leche as it offers a caffeinated start to your day. After your satisfying breakfast, you will continue your exploration of the city’s artistic history by abandoning the imposing, gothic spirit of your surroundings for the playful, open, lightness of Antoni Gaudi’s Park Güell. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is situated on Carmel Hill, which is located inland from the Gothic district where you will arrive by private transfer and be greeted by a guide whose knowledge about the park is surpassed only by his hospitality to visitors.
Offering unique views of this city, Park Güell is one of many examples of the imprint of Modernism on Barcelona’s landscape while also revealing Gaudi’s strong reliance on nature as a source of inspiration. Here, the winding paths will take you on a journey through examples of the natural world that are brought to life either through the plentiful gardens or enshrined in Gaudi’s ceramic architecture. The real and surreal blend together here as you pass lizards that are adorned with multicolored tiles and pillared arcades that rise above you like tree trunks that are supporting a vast canopy above. Your guide to this magical landscape will ensure that each new display is sufficiently explained while including interesting and amusing anecdotes about the prolific life of its creator.
All day, you will have noticed the hill to the East that is crowed with a conspicuous, sky-piercing tower. Your day will conclude with a closer examination of that hill, which is known as Tibidabo. Once here, your private transfer will whisk you to the best view of the city and an unforgettable sunset. Complete with plazas, fine dining, and even an amusement park, Tibidabo offers you the opportunity to pause and take in the city at your feet, the history that you have explored and with any luck, a churro and chocolate from a nearby vendor.
After a satisfying breakfast in the comforts of your hotel haven, a private car will transfer you beyond the city limits and in the direction of the distant mountains that greeted you upon your arrival to the Barcelona airport. Montserrat, which literally translates to ‘serrated mountain’ in Catalan, has been a landmark to pilgrims who have sought its solitude and natural beauty for centuries. Its name is well earned as you will see upon approach with its multiple peaks and spires that punctuate the sky like teeth on a saw.
Your guide will meet you at the base of the funicular, which is where he will accompany you on the breathtaking ride up to the cliff-side monastery. Suspended over the abyss, a wall of sedimentary rock will approach, but soon you will be able to make out your destination as the Benedictine monastery will materialize suddenly out of the wall of the mountain.
Once believed to be the site of the Holy Grail, this mountain and monastery are shrouded in myth and legend. Your tour of the abbey and surrounding grounds will reveal views into the interior of the Basilica of Montserrat, which dates back to the 16th century. You will have the pleasure of witnessing the famous Virgin of Montserrat whose orb is still touched by the pious, and the work of other artists that are located in the museum, featuring artists such as El Greco, Caravaggio, and Salvador Dalí. You can walk in the footsteps of the hermits and monks that once sought solace upon these slopes on the many paths and trails that crisscross Montserrat with excellent views of the surrounding countryside at every turn.
Freshly baked pastries with a splash of coffee will greet you upon your arrival this morning, and your comfortable rest will be put to good use with an introduction to the most emblematic figure of Barcelona’s cityscape. La Sagrada Familia, a tribute to the holy family, towers above the adjacent neighborhoods, and by now, you will recognize the distinct union of nature and architecture as the handiwork of Barcelona’s own Antoni Gaudi. Even those who are accustomed to more traditional examples of European churches and cathedrals will gaze with wonder upon the angles and towers of this unfinished geometrical masterpiece.
Your guide will lead you on a tour of the exterior facades of the building that detail Gaudi’s Biblical inspiration as well as his artistic talent. You will continue your exploration of the interior, where the light from stained glass windows will dance upon the walls and columns, and the sound of footsteps is swallowed up by the immenseness above you. Cool to the touch, the columns that support the ceiling far above will appear in different colors, demonstrating the purposeful use of red porphyry, basalt, grey granite, and sedimentary sandstone in the four types of building materials that were used for the column. When taken together, they give the visitor the impression of standing in an immense forest. Before leaving, your guide will lead you up into one of the towers of the façade, where you will feel like you are part of the artwork with all of the visitors who are outside and looking up at you. A winding staircase will guide you back down to Earth, where the bustle of Barcelona streets welcomes you after your recent trip to Gaudi’s heavenly creation.
The following morning, you will be met by your private driver who will whisk you through the city that you have learned so much about and toward Barcelona Sants train station for your first-class journey to the Spanish capital. The remarkable city of Madrid occupies the seat of contemporary political power and offers all the pomp and circumstance of the many kings and queens who have wielded power throughout the ages.
You will be met at the station by a private car that will take you to your luxurious hotel in the center of the city. From this vantage point, you will make short work of any effort to see the nearby sights that are afforded by this magnificent city. Here the young meets the old, and as you explore your new surroundings, you will hear the banter of the locals as they discuss politics or the price of bread, which are conversations that are as old as the stones you will be walking on. You will stroll past chic restaurants that are nestled into 16th-century buildings and navigate the archipelago of sights and smells that accompany any open-air market.
Most importantly, today, you will participate in that most sacred of Spanish traditions: the tapas or small Spanish dishes. After you have enjoyed time to explore your new surroundings, your guide who will be steeped in local knowledge of what to eat and, more importantly, how to eat it, will lead you on a private tour of the best local eateries that will have you indulging in the many types of tapas. The only thing that surpasses the sight of cuisine as diverse as cured ham, meatballs, and baby squid, is the flavor that they deliver. Spanish favorites include patatas bravas, pimientos de padrón, Spanish tortilla, and croquetas. Your guide will assist you in identifying your favorites.
To wash down the various, mouthwatering tapas, your guide will also introduce you to the many wines and Cava that are distinct to Spain. Cava is best described as Spanish sparkling wine and has a taste and texture that is similar to champagne. It is rare to find a table, especially in the mild Madrid evenings, that lacks a bottle of one or the other, and as you make your way from tavern to tavern, your knowledgeable guide will make sure that you are introduced to both.
Any hint of your previous night’s festivities will be swept away by the lavish breakfast that will be offered by your hotel the following morning. After enjoying a wake up that is fit for royalty, you will follow your guide to where many kings actually awoke during the height of Spanish royal power. The Palacio Real is situated just east of the neighborhood that shares its name and enjoys a stature and presence that symbolizes the power that was once held by the Spanish monarchy.
It was a Bourbon ruler that first commissioned the Palacio Real in the 18th century, and the similarities it shares with the French palace at Versailles is no coincidence. With over 2,800 rooms, the richness of the seat of Spanish power is exhibited in the ornate chandeliers, tapestries, frescos, and columns that adorn the walls. Although it has not housed a royal family since 1931, the Palacio Real decorations have lost none of their luster and continue to remind visitors of the Golden Age of Spain.
A private tour will ensure you that you are not lost in the labyrinthine collection of rooms, halls, and chambers of the well-lit palace. You will consider upgrading your own accommodations when you see the royal apartment of King Carlos III with its textured walls and intricate floor designs. Likewise, you will marvel at the statues and carvings that decorate the elaborate furniture of the Salón de Gasparini and the Salón de Trono, which is where the literal seats of royal power are contained. Your visit to the royal palace will conclude on a more somber note with a visit to the armory where the curious can see medieval suits of armor, weapons, and some of the early torture techniques that were used during the Inquisition.
The next morning, your meditation on Spain’s royal past will be replaced by the undulating landscape of Southern Spain as first-class accommodations on Spain’s reliable train system carry you through rolling hills and windmills that once tempted Don Quixote. Upon your arrival in Seville, you will be greeted by a private car that will escort you from the city’s train station to your hotel in the heart of the city. Seville is situated at the heart of Andalusia along the Guadalquivir river and was the launchpad from which Christopher Columbus embarked on his fated voyage to the Americas. Every day, the product of the fertile countryside that surrounds Seville is served up to locals and tourists alike who are keen on sampling the local sherry, jamón ibérico, and olives that characterize the local gastronomy.
After settling into your customized accommodations, you will be given time to orient yourself in the Centro neighborhood, where a short walk will confirm the charming reputation of this city. There is something entrancing about the quaint plazas that appear just when you need a rest, and the sound of fountains and falling water that bounce off the cobbled streets and narrow alleys of this city will be awe-inspiring. In the spring, the orange trees that line the streets bloom, adding their delightful smells to the mouthwatering scent of trendy restaurants and attentive vendors who are waiting to offer you a sweet treat. You should keep your eyes peeled for the famous tilework that is used to mark house numbers and often exhibits expert artistry and craftsmanship on the doorsteps of even the humblest homes.
After lunch, your private guide will meet you at your hotel for a short stroll to the Alcázar or fortress that was built on the site of an old Moorish castle. It is here that you can observe the major chapter in Spanish history when it was occupied and influenced by Islamic culture between the 8th and 16th centuries. You will wander through courtyards that are adorned with pristine examples of Islamic architecture as seen in the arches and columns that support the seat of Seville’s royal power. Multi-tiered terraces, gardens, and ponds give the Alcázar a refreshing feel and counteract the effects of the summer heat. As you walk under the shade of the many species of trees in the Alcázar gardens, you can find your corner of the palace to rest and reflect on the beauty that surrounds you.
The beginning of your final full day will offer a glimpse into one of the most famous, or infamous, of Spanish traditions: the bullfight. A leisurely walk from your hotel will take you to the bustling banks of the river, where you will meet your guide for an exclusive tour of a still-functioning bull ring. The Royal Maestranza Bull Ring was built in the 18th century, and while you are there, they will make sure no bulls find their way into the arena. Your private tour will take you into the bull free arena, which is a small museum that has been dedicated to this time-tested tradition, and a chapel where the matadors would pray prior to engaging their horned adversaries.
While in the museum, you should look closely at the elaborate uniforms that were worn by the matadors. You will see that no detail was overlooked in the well buttoned and extravagant jackets and pants that were worn by the contestants. You will also see dark stains on some of the outfits, which is evidence of the dangerous and sometimes deadly outcomes of this Spanish pastime. As you walk across the arena, the sand will crackle under your feet just as it does the fighters, and you can run your hands over the wooden walls of the ring that bear the impressive scars of an angry horn or hoof.
With the midday sun bearing down, now will be an excellent time to find a quiet plaza to take in the cool relief of a shaded cafe and a small bear or caña. Your final night will capture the culture of Spain through the Flamenco music that is distinct to this region. The violence of the bull ring will be replaced with the entrancing rhythms and pulse of the guitar, clapping, and footfalls that are more felt than heard. Your guide will meet you back at your hotel and escort you to the Jewish quarter of the city, where a side door will beckon you to an intimate gathering of music lovers and performers.
Like other artifacts of Spanish culture, it is hard to trace the precise origin of Flamenco, but no one doubts its role in shaping modern, Spanish artistic expression. Dancers can be male or female with elaborate outfits that are worn by both, but it is the women whose dresses resemble the feathers of exotic birds and whose quick spins and turns, causing the fabric to flow over the floor like colorful water. Punctuating the singular notes of the guitar are the claps, snaps, and chants of the dancer and her tablao or entourage of singers and dancers. Together they combine for a performance that is part song, part dance, and wholly a product of the centuries of tradition that informs their craft.
A gentle breeze will ruffle the flowers on your windowsill, and later, you will enjoy an espresso on the sun-drenched balcony of your hotel as morning arrives on your final day in Seville. The melodious notes of the night before will continue to fill your mind, and you will savor one more stroll around the neighborhood to capture those last-minute snapshots that will fill your scrapbooks and memories for years to come. After a sumptuous breakfast, a private car will transfer you to the domestic airport of Seville for a short flight to Madrid, which is where you will catch your return flight home.
Spain is an intricate pattern of cultures, languages, history, and landscapes, and this 9-day tour of some of Spain’s most notable cities will provide you with an immersive journey through those highlights that have made Spain a destination for travelers young and old. Whether you are the type of traveler who follows their eyes, mouths, or ears, each city on this journey offers a blend of Spanish tradition that will furnish lasting memories of the thrills and adventures that are waiting around every corner.
Barcelona, Madrid, and Seville occupy an elevated status around already elevated cities that dot the Spanish landscape, each with a distinct story to tell. The best time to visit these destinations is during the Spring and before the crowds of the high season arrive, but after the parks, gardens, and windowsills explode with the colors and smells of blooming flowers and plants. During your stay in Barcelona, a spring arrival will also increase your comfort of a refreshing dip in the Mediterranean that will be followed by a stroll along the miles of boardwalk that separate the city from the beach.
Madrid and Seville lack the presence of beaches but more than make up for it in the bounty of attractions and notable, cultural activities. As the seat of royal power, Madrid boasts an impressive array of palaces and fortresses that will leave even the most history hungry traveler satisfied. Madrid also offers food lovers a unique sample of gastronomy from all corners of Spain, and you will savor olives from the south, Basque seafood, and jamón or cured ham from the high-altitude pastures of the north. Likewise, Seville will afford you an opportunity to witness the role that Islam played in shaping many of the Spanish cities and to listen to the enchanting melodies of Flamenco folk songs while sipping on sherry that has been produced locally in Andalusia.
Complimenting these cultural and culinary highlights is the rich artistic tradition that inspired such masters as El Greco, Salvadore Dalí, Pablo Picasso, and Antoni Gaudi. Each city is filled with examples of their paintings, architecture, and other artistic contributions and offers works that even those lacking art enthusiasm can appreciate. Geometrical designs that you did not think were possible in a building await you in Barcelona, and the regal figure of the Palacio Real or Royal Palace will welcome you to Madrid while also reminding you that Spain was once the most powerful link between the Old and New World. Your final two nights will be spent in the luscious landscape of Seville, where you will indulge a night of classical Flamenco music and wander the winding paths of the Alcázar or fortress. In Spring, orange blossoms along the colorful streets of Seville offer a fragrant sendoff to travelers who are seeking aromatic relief before your return home. We work closely with the best Spain travel agents to ensure that you have a fully personalized trip of a lifetime.
$2,155 per person (excluding international flights)
Your Zicasso trip is fully customizable, and this sample itinerary is a starting place for your travel plans. Actual costs are dynamic, and your selection of accommodations and activities, your season of travel, and other such variables will bring this budget guideline up or down. Throughout your planning experience with your Zicasso specialist, your itinerary is designed around your budget. You can book your trip when you are satisfied with every detail. Planning your trip with a Zicasso travel specialist is a free service.
Your final trip cost will vary based on your selected accommodations, activities, meals, and other trip elements that you opt to include.
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