Madrid is a modern city with a vibrant history. The streets are endlessly filled with effervescent life, from overflowing cafes to luxury stores. The flavors and aromas of the San Miguel Market offer the traditional tastes of Spanish cuisine with a modern, elegant twist. Your private transfer is waiting for you at the airport. They escort you to your luxurious accommodation in the historic center of Spain’s capital city. Plaza Mayor was the centerpiece of Madrid for hundreds of years. The square is surrounded by regal architecture that dates back to the 17th century.
The colonnade surrounds the plaza on three sides. In the archways you find cafes overflowing with people enjoying a glass of wine, sangria, or a cup of coffee in the afternoon warmth. The ochre colors of the buildings create an inviting atmosphere behind the wrought-iron balconies. The history of the square isn’t just in the beauty of the buildings but is also told in pictures through the carvings you can find on the circular seats beneath the lampposts. Spain’s river of history runs deep and you have just begun to dip your toes in the water.
The city is peaceful in the early morning hours. The streets seem empty and the energy is reserved for the moment. The sun continues to rise and life begins to percolate, scented with fresh, strong coffee and sweet pastries. Your private guide meets you at your hotel and you are ready to venture out into the city. Puerto del Sol is the “heart of Madrid,” and is also one of its most bustling areas. The square is known as one of the original 15th century gates to the city. A street sign made from tile and painted with a charming depiction of the square connotes the importance and beauty of the area’s history.
The old Post Office is now home to the current regional government offices. The opulent gothic façade resembles a majestic castle more than a modern presidential office. The Casa and Torre de los Lujanes are located in the Plaza de la Villa. They are among the oldest buildings in the city and were constructed at different times in the 15th century. The tower was once the tallest building in Madrid, and the plaza was home to the city’s Arab marketplace. The plaza is filled with charm in its tranquil surroundings and subtle décor. You feel a connection to the city and the culture which begins to burn brightly.
Toledo is a city rich with imagery, from its collection of past medieval cultures to its stunning panorama made famous by El Greco’s painting, View of Toledo. The old mosques and synagogues are now filled with the embellishments of the church. The winding, narrow streets create a stunning historic labyrinth that opens up to hidden plazas. Mudejar architects constructed the Synagogue of Santa Maria la Blanca in the 11th century. The complex is mesmerizing in its splendor, complete with elegant horseshoe arches. The synagogue maintained its original majesty throughout the turbulent times in Toledo and the whole of Spain.
The interior divides into five aisles. Each arch is embellished with intricate Moorish décor shaped into the plaster. The floor is decorated with dark red tiles. The plain exterior and rounded windows create a view of European décor, but the interior’s décor creates an entirely unique atmosphere that allows you to step into a historical monument. The Sinagoga del Transito contains the Sephardic Museum that opened in the 1970s. It maintains a fabulous collection of Jewish art and ritual objects spanning the centuries. Toledo is rich in natural charm and depths of history ready to be uncovered.
Today you will make the train ride to Cordoba, located in the wondrous countryside of Andalusia. The hills are brushed with gold and the mountain ranges roll against the backdrop of vast blue sky. Cordoba sits on the banks of Rio Guadalquivir. Narrow cobblestone streets meander around the Mosque-Cathedral known as the Mezquita. Plaza de las Tendillas is surrounded by neo-classical buildings and filled with a cool mist from the springing fountains. The town center is always bustling with life. The bars are intimate with crowds of jovial locals. The restaurants emanate the aroma of traditional cuisine, such as salmorejo cordobés, cold tomato-cream pasta.
The old Jewish quarter is known as Juderia and contains the illustrious 14th century Synagogue. Mudejar style and décor spreads throughout the temple, from the ogival arch of the walls to the specific geometric shapes that run along the divisions. The Casa de Sefarad was once connected to the synagogue by a series of underground tunnels. The home is now a small museum with an exhibit dedicated to the local Jewish poetesses of Al-Andalus. In the courtyard a large mosaic of a Star of David fills the open space and is surrounded by a colonnade of arches.
The energy of Seville is unique to Spain and distinctive to the city. Soulful guitars and vocals emanate from restaurants. Flamenco dancers tap their heals to the rhythm and express an eclectic mixture of longing. The Moorish Palace, known as the Alcázar, watches over the entire city, a collection of gardens, courtyards, and lavish halls. Charming duck ponds and quiet pathways wind around Maria Luisa Park. Barrio de Santa Cruz is the most fashionable neighborhood in the city; however, it once stood as the Jewish Quarter.
The Cathedral of Saint Mary and of the See, or just Seville Cathedral, is situated next to the old quarter. The church is magnificent and gigantic, known as the world’s largest church by sheer volume. It was built over the 12th century mosque and is 413 feet long and 272 feet wide. The exterior looks almost like a fortress, made of strong brick and imposing material, the walls are more powerful than graceful with dashes of intricate decoration on the various doors.
Once you enter the building you find a world of opulence. The Tomb of Christopher Columbus is found inside the Door of the Princes. The tomb is large and regal. Four knights of the church stand holding a treasure trove. Their gilded cloths capture the light. The tile that lines the room is polished. It feels like a room fit and decorated for royalty. The vaulted ceilings of the cathedral are inspiring and the overall majesty of the basilica can leave you wanting to stay a while longer.
The day is yours to experience Seville as you wish. The Calle de las Sierpes is a road that winds through the spirited crowds of the shopping district. The buildings’ facades are colorful and inviting. The Museo Arqueologico is considered one of the best archeological museums in the country and houses the treasure of Carambolo, believed to be a vast collection of gold of Tartessus. You could also choose to indulge in a private cooking lesson that will show the delectable secrets of Spanish and Sevillian cuisine. Join a celebrated top chef to explore the intricate simplicity of ingredients.
The traditional flavors of the region are spiced with Moorish influence. Spend time in the kitchen of the chef’s restaurant with the aromas of the particular dishes meant to provide you the best examples of regional cuisine. The Rabo de Toro is a rich ragout made of bull’s tail and filled with tremendous depths of flavor. Sherry wine offers a bit of sweetness to the dish and flame to the experience. A variety of cheeses add decadent richness to your palette as you prepare the food.
After breakfast you will arrive in Granada and check into your hotel. Your expert guide will meet you and escort you to the incredible complex of the Alhambra. The collection of palaces shines red in the late-morning light. The structure rises out of spruce and pine trees and looks almost like a peak of an imposing mountain. The 11th century was the basis for the 14th century additions, which turned the original fortress and palace into a citadel of both strength and opulence.
The complex is spread over three tiers that rise up the mountainside and is a collection of courtyards, gardens, and residences. The Hall of the Ambassadors is the largest room in the complex reaching 37 feet in length. The central dome reaches a height of 75 feet. The grand hall encompasses the grandeur of the entire citadel and provides views of the entire palace in three separate directions to see the landscape below. This room is where Isabel and Ferdinand received Christopher Columbus.
The wealth of history is as enticing as the decor. It seems like the exuberant artistry never ends, taking you from one hall to another. The Hall of the Abencerrages contains vaulted ceilings are honeycombed and resemble stalactites. A cool breeze blows through the open portals. The water in the pool at the Partal ripples and the calligraphy on the walls of the Nazaries Palace is delicately engraved. The intricate history of the complex and the city is intertwined with the diverse faiths that once filled the neighborhoods and called Granada home.
The city is a maze of winding narrow streets filled with historic buildings and a wealth of culture. Each shop you pass and each restaurant you look into is like a quiet nook, hidden from the rest of the world and known only to those living in Granada. After breakfast your private transfer will escort you to the airport where you will board your flight home. However, you can always stay a while longer and discover more of the ancient Jewish heritage of Spain, which would take you to the world-famous Catalonian city of Barcelona.
Arrive in Barcelona to experience the renaissance of Jewish culture in the city that sits on the Mediterranean. An ancient synagogue was discovered in the city in 2001 dating back to the 3rd or 4th century and was expanded in the 13th century. The simple architecture is moving and informative. The unassuming building is made of stone and the door is a tiny portal you have to duck under to enter. The interior is subtle in design and décor and allows you to experience the historical importance without pomp.
Optional Add on: The Spirit of Barcelona
Enjoy a full day in Barcelona at your leisure. The city is filled with a spirit unlike any other city in Spain. Each street is unique, from the architecture of Gaudi to the golden beaches on the Mediterranean Sea. The city is proud of its heritage as the capital of Catalonia and the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya offers insight into the artistic eyes of the state, displaying over a millennium’s worth of artwork. The museum is housed in an Italian style building that was built in the 1920s and is known as the National Palace.
You can understand the pride and culture of Catalonia in the collection of work, the images, styles, and focus of life and religion, including numerous works of el Greco and Alexandre de Riquer. In the grace of the artwork and the vibrancy of the city you can find an endless amount of beauty in its history, architecture, and natural spirit. The following morning you will have a private transfer to the airport where you will make your flight home.
The history of Spain is entwined in the treasures of Jewish culture. This tour will take you through the wealth of ancient and medieval Jewish quarters and repurposed synagogues. You will discover charming plazas hidden to the world. Explore the exceptional connection between modern culture and historic traditions. From the cathedral in Toledo to the staggering palaces of the Alhambra in Granada, regional cuisines to archeological museums, you will experience the history of Spain’s Jewish heritage through the indelible persistence of the past.
Your discovery of Jewish heritage in Spain begins in Madrid. Modern and historic grandeur fill the city’s divided neighborhoods, torn between the new and the old. Exuberant décor sweeps through the Royal Palace and artistic integrity drapes the walls of the Prado Museum. A full-day tour in Toledo offers you the chance to visit the Spanish synagogues and the Sephardic museum. Journey to Cordoba and take a private tour of the old Jewish quarter, including a visit to the Maimonides’ synagogue.
Once in Seville you will have two days to meander through the Jewish Quarter of Barrio de Santa Cruz. The city’s architecture is charming and a leisurely day in the city will eventually lead you to the celebrated chocolaterias. Transfer to Granada, home to the stunning Alhambra palace-fortress. The city is a historic maze that blends the North African influence of its past with the Arabic traditions of its present. You have the option of adding on two enlightening days in Barcelona.
A new congregation was established in the late 1990s and an ancient synagogue was discovered in 2001. The gothic architecture presses against modernist buildings and the entire city overflows with a unique spirit. Your private transfer will meet you at your hotel on your final day in Barcelona and escort you to the airport. You may be leaving Spain but you are taking the enriching history and vibrant heritage home with you.
$1915 per person (excluding international flights)
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