A Royal Tour through the Golden Age of Spain

A 12 day trip to Spain 
4.53 out of 5 stars
38 reviews

Spain's golden age imbues aromas of enchantment and artistic pleasure. Historic towns offer iconic medieval reverie, the paintings of old masters hang in royal palaces, and the atmosphere of yesteryear lives on in all its pomp. Luxurious and indulgent, this royal tour relives the golden age, taking you into the perfectly preserved wealth of the 15th to 17th centuries. From castles to cathedrals and opera to literature, you experience some of the finest odes to Western civilization. 

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General Information

Detailed Itinerary

Places Visited 

Madrid, Alcara de Herares, Segovia, Avila, Salamanca, Toledo

Departure Dates 

Dates are flexible and customizable for private departures.

Detailed Itinerary 

Day 1: Madrid – Royal Welcomes in Magnificent Madrid

Madrid's scents are of elegant grandeur and laughter. The historic districts imbue impressions of grace and regal history, every street transposed from an era of impossible wealth. Walk down Paseo de la Castellana to the Gran Via and even the roofs scream of splendor, sculpted busts and gods basking beneath the Mediterranean sunshine. You'll be met at the airport and transferred directly to your five-star boutique hotel in the regal district of Salamanca (remember this name for later in the trip). As you're guided around the city, first impressions are of Madrid's sublime heritage. But gradually another side shines through.

Madrilenos live their life outdoors, their chatter consuming the Plaza Mayor and the Madrid of the Hapsburg era. The sociability runs through the Madrid of the Bourbons, finding its way into classical alleyways and grand palaces. Every suburb has its own character, its own display of socialites mixed with heritage. Your afternoon tour explores both the Hapsburg and Bourbon routes, taking you through winding streets to a fine-dining restaurant opposite Madrid's Teatro Real. After dinner you have prime seats at the opera. The theater's interior screams of opulence, all velvety and ornate as the tenor's voice reverberates off the dome ceiling. As dancers jump and a melancholy tale radiates beauty, this night at the opera is the start of your journey into Spain's golden age of art.

What's Included: transfers, guided Madrid walking tour, opera at Teatro Real, dinner

Day 2: Madrid – Discovering the Old Masters on a Day of Fabulous Art

In some countries they say that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. In parts of Spain, breakfast is the most important time of the day. The streets are quiet and welcoming, nobody rushing as the smells of coffee and jamon cascade from the cafes. People are relaxed, lingering over their meal as the day starts as it should go on: slowly and serenely. So don't rush. Take your time, feel the rhythm slow you down; today's tour will start whenever you're ready.

Few cities rival Madrid's classical art scene. Three exceptional galleries span the work of Europe's great masters and Spain's golden age is your starting point. Morales, Nurillo, Zurbano; the El Prado Museum is Spain's Louvre, a vast gallery of masterpieces that take you through the centuries. Canvases fill entire walls, full of oily twirls and intricate detail. Slowly you move forward, heading through Valazquez and Goya as the art of old Europe evolves. Just across the street, the Reina Sophia is home to Spain's greatest collection of contemporary art. Fabulous collections of Picasso and Dali are the undisputed highlight. Next comes the Thyssen-Bornemisza, an ode to the international artwork snapped up by Spain's wealthy emperors. An expert guide accompanies you throughout, providing a story that adds further life into the paint. The afternoon is at your leisure and your guide can recommend a number of places to explore without a map. Central Madrid is full of fascination and every street has something to discover.

What's Included: transfers, guided Madrid art tour including El Prado, Reina Sophia and Thyssen-Bornemisza, breakfast

Day 3: Madrid – Fabulous Palaces and Sumptuous Tapas

Chocolate and churros are a sweet start to a day of royal discovery. Dip the swirls of pastry into the bubbling pot of chocolate, the tongue absorbing the sugar as you enjoy Madrid's famous breakfast treat. Start today's guided tour in the Royal Palace; the occasional residence of His Majesty offers sublime views onto Madrid's suburbs. Explore the royal pharmacy and its collection of strange potions. Sweep your hands around the Romanesque pillars and savor the grandeur. Hear the tales of Bourbon dynasties as the sun bounces off the marble. Barely 30 minutes away, the World Heritage Palace of Aranjeuz is a second exemplar of wealth and power. Enjoy a picnic of local jamon and cheese in its vast cultivated gardens, the facade of the palace glistening in the foreground.

You return to Madrid around mid-afternoon for some more free time soaking up the city. After the royal day comes a local evening. Wind down Cava Baja Street on a unique tapas tour, your food loving guide picking out the most exquisite tapas bars. Sit down and enjoy one or two tapas at each, then move on to another specialty and atmospheric haven. Wine is included as you sample your way from the whites of Txacoli to the reds of Rioja. This is a great chance to see the local side of Madrid and get to know the cuisine that Spain is so famous for.

What's Included: transfers, guided Madrid palace tour, breakfast, guided evening tapas hop

Day 4: Alcala de Henares – Golden Age Immersion in the World's First Planned University Town

Alcala de Henares sometimes looks strikingly familiar, especially if you've visited famous colleges in the USA or UK. Grand libraries look down on square lawns of excited chatter. Terraced rows reveal a 15th century history, each consistent in style yet unique in appearance. Bell towers dominate the skyline, gazing down on the statues of literary masters. Alcale de Henares was the world's first planned university town in recognition of Spain's pioneering roll in higher education. It's a tranquil yet ambient place to spend a day. Upon arrival you'll spend the morning with a university guide, someone who opens the doors to oak framed libraries and hidden history. The afternoon is free to relax in the town, with your boutique hotel located in a 16th century building.

What's Included: transfers, guided Alcara de Henares tour, breakfast

Day 5: San Lorenzo de el Escorial – Regal Treatment at Another World Heritage Site

Vivid frescos shine in el Escorial monastery, biblical scenes filling whole domes and trumpet blowing cherubs hanging to pillars. Artistic tales are illuminated in red and green as light seeps through the stained glass. 16Th century King Philip II fought a religious war, investing his riches in Catholic odes as he battled French Protestant Reformation. This monastery palace is what remains, a spectacular expanse of art and architecture many see as second only to the Vatican. Your guide picks up on Philip's story as you tour the palace, museum, royal court, and monastery. Another of Spain's World Heritage Sites, San Lorenzo de el Escorial offers a poignant look at the early days of the golden age, both in the architectural style and the obsession with artistic opulence. Your tour culminates with lunch on a fine dining terrace with views onto el Escorial. A paired wine and tasting menu takes you well into the afternoon and probably a siesta at your parador, a luxury hotel in an old converted monastery.

What's Included: transfers, guided San Lorenzo de el Escorial tour, breakfast, lunch

Day 6: Segovia – Exploring a Fairytale Medieval City

Segovia spreads its aesthetic pleasures far and wide. Resting high above rugged cliffs, gazing down on the curves of two great rivers, the town is an image from a fairytale. Its stone bridges curve with cobbles and the alleyways ascend through a maze of Baroque and Gothic architecture.  It might look familiar: it was the Alcazar's towers that inspired Disney's Snow White castle, There's nothing modern. Follow the double tiered aqueduct to a square of fluttering bird song and gourmet scents. Rock your head back at the Cathedral of Segovia, its majestic Gothic style as resplendent on the inside as the outside. Pillars tower high as immense glass windows leave utopian hazes of red and yellow. Spend the morning being guided around Segovia, reliving a medieval dream as almost every building comes from the golden age.

The tour culminates at the Plaza Azoguejo, a central point from which the alluring gabled roofs extend. Spilling out of the historic facades are some of Spain's finest gastronomic haunts, each sticking to the recipes of centuries past. Sit down to the lunch menu at Villena, the town's Michelin-starred restaurant, savoring the region's ultimate specialty: roasted suckling pig. The afternoon is at your leisure and your parador hotel has timeless views of the iconic skyline.

What's Included: transfers, guided Segovia tour, breakfast, lunch

Day 7: Segovia – The Lavish Pleasure Palace of Kings

Despite the artistry of the architecture, Segovia has a certain humbleness. It's not flashy or ostentatious; the splendor emanates from classical shapes and design. The same can't be said about La Granja de San Ildefonso. Developed by numerous kings, this lavish palace is a haven of indulgence, built with unlimited funds and filled with excessive pleasures. The extravagance is almost blinding, the cloistered halls and gardens impossibly rich. Today's tour continues in Pedraza, a tiny medieval town once home to Spanish royalty. While it's nowhere near the size of Segovia, the maze of streets feel almost abandoned since the 13th century. Have lunch here, down a street of stone that verges on becoming a medieval ghost town. You'll return to Segovia around mid-afternoon and the rest of the day is free.

What's Included: transfers, guided La Granja de San Ildefonso and Pedraza tour, breakfast, lunch

Day 8: Avila – Stepping Back in Time in Unspoiled Avila

Along the road to Avila your driver stops. Admire the scene. Semi-arid valleys leave tones of yellow and red. Olive groves and wine farms bring shocks of green beside the river. And the focal point is unmistakable. The walls and turrets of Avila dominate the landscape for many a mile, looking as imposing as they did when invading armies once marched on this land. Avila's walls are perhaps the best preserved in Europe and your tour starts upon them. Continue to Catedral de Avila, trying to make sense of its scenes of heaven and hell, and then climb to a Roman church with a mysterious history.

Sainta Teresa of Jesus was born in Avila and you'll find churches and monasteries occupying almost every corner of the town; each is a mix of asceticism with Gothic and Renaissance styles. Avila is another walled town that's small enough to easily explore yet large enough to continually deliver surprise. After a tour of the major sights, the afternoon and evening are free to take in what hides inside the fortress walls.

What's Included: transfers, guided Avila tour, breakfast

Days 9 – 10: Salamanca – Renaissance and Plateresque Brilliance in Historic Salamanca

Oxford? Cambridge? No, the world's first university hails from Salamanca almost 800 years ago. Keep rewinding the clock and the city has a history incorporating Hannibal, Romans, and the Moors. Your local guide is providing the history lesson, over the 1st century Puento Romano bridge and towards the university, where facades of plateresque brilliance leave tones of extravagance. This remains one of the world's finest universities, a glorious ode to the foresight of Leon's former king Alonso IX. Head into La Casa de la Concha and hundreds of shells line the walls, brought from the coast at a time when they were valued more highly than gold.

Salamanca moved with the times, following the architectural styles until the golden age culminated in the 17th century. Since then its old town has stood still, preserving its chic buildings and keeping its feet in medieval musing. The guided tour finishes with a lavish lunch at the Playa Mayor de Salamanca, one of Spain's largest squares. Arcaded buildings cascade out from the Baroque Town Hall, your eyes following their cafes to turreted towers and then to the Irish Palace, an elegant forefather of Renaissance styles. With a hotel in the heart of the old town, the rest of your time is a leisurely and languid submersion in the city's architectural masterpieces.

What's Included: transfers, guided Salamanca tour, breakfast, lunch on day nine

Day 11: Toledo – A Medieval Castle and Timepiece to Complete the Golden Age

Perched above a mystical hilltop, Toledo offers a timeless final memory for this vacation. It's all here: the exquisite castle turrets, a Roman gateway into a walled town, cathedral spires sending flumes of beauty towards the azure sky, and a maze of streets that keep you firmly rooted in a historic time. There is no guided tour in Toledo. Ascend through the cobbled streets to the castle, checking in to your parador castle room that affords views towards nearby Madrid. Spend the day getting lost. Every street and every corner maintains the spell, a whole cauldron of architectural styles representing every century but the last three. Completing the itinerary, enjoy a gala dinner in the castle's immense dining hall. A regal banquet is served; roasted pig surrounded by colorful fruits, soups paired with fine wine, and delicate little dishes to accompany the entertainment. If you didn't know it already, you're in the 16th century, basking in the final memories of Spain's reign as the world's economic and artistic ruler.

What's Included: transfers, breakfast, gala dinner

Day 12: Toledo – Farewell to the Golden Age of Spain

The Castle of Oropesa blurs into the distance as you leave Toledo, its hilltop beauty fading away as this tour of Spain's golden age comes to an end. It's around a 90 minute transfer to Madrid Airport and your departure flight.

What's Included: transfer, breakfast


Starting Price 

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.