Although planning a trip to Spain may conjure up imagines of cobblestone streets, flamboyant flamenco dancers, beautiful tapas food, picturesque beaches, or the thrill of running with the bulls – travel to Spain is even more amazing than one can imagine. Spain is a European powerhouse of culture – between bustling cosmopolitan cities and tiny undiscovered towns, there is a multitude of cultures to explore within Spain and its autonomous regions. I recently traveled to Spain and spent two full weeks trying to soak in as much as the Country has to offer.
Prior to my trip, I had read about how Spain boasts some of the world’s best art collections and museums. But I was amazed at how I could just walk the streets in places like Barcelona and marvel at the grandeur of Gaudi’s architecture, or duck into one of Spain’s many museums to soak in a famous Picasso or Dali. There are just as many unknowns to discover – Spain is a host to a plethora of beautiful cultural and natural resources, a wealth of world heritage UNESCO sites, breathtaking architecture and beautiful music.
Barcelona, the capital of Catalonia, has its own Catalonian culture world separate from anything traditionally Spanish and is a must-see. The Museu Nacional d’art de Catalunya houses a large collection of Catalunyan art as well as modern, Renaissance and Baroque period artwork. The building itself is incredible and the artwork inside is not to be missed. Another fabulous museum in Barcelona is the Museu d’Historia de Barcelona. The City History Museum offers an array of information on Barcelona’s history and works to preserves Catalunyan heritage as well. Of course a trip to Barcelona would not be complete without mention of the Picasso museum. The Museu Picasso hosts over 4,000 pieces of Picasso’s artwork, many donated by the artist himself. The Picasso museum also works to educate visitors on the painter’s storied life.
After Barcelona, I traveled by train to the traditionally Spanish city of Madrid. Spain’s capital is cosmopolitan and beautiful in its own right. Madrid has two of the best museums in all of Spain – the Museo Nacional Centro de arte Reina Sofia and the Museo Nacional del Prado museum. El Prado, as it is commonly called – is Spain’s largest art museum and holds a large collection of European art that rivals many of the museums that one may see across other parts of Europe. The Reina de Sofia houses a large collection of 20th century contemporary pieces, including Picasso’s famous artwork, “Guernica”. The Reina Sofia houses mostly Spanish artists and the main part of the museum was once an 18th century hospital. Another mentionable museum in Madrid is the Thyssen-Bornemiscza museum. The architecture is molded after the Villahermosa palace and inside the museum contains the works of Gauguin, as well as the world’s largest collection of German expressionist artwork.
The Country Surrounding Madrid
One of the best parts about Madrid is the beautiful areas surrounding it that make for great day trips. Salamanca – a very interesting old college city, was declared a world heritage UNESCO site in 1992. Also within day-trip distance is Toledo, one of the most interesting looking cities in the world. Toledo is also a world heritage UNESCO site, and is located on a mountaintop that offers gorgeous views and has many architectural wonders to discover.
If you still have time to explore – Southern Spain is home to loads of Moorish architecture and artifacts. Many tourists flock to the city of Seville. Seville is home to the Museum of Fine Arts and has many beautiful parks and gardens to visit. But, in this region it is also worth traveling to the lesser known city of Granada. I didn’t have time left to visit both so I stopped in Granada because I had read that it is not frequented by as many tourists as Seville and is a piece of historical beauty. Granada also features the Alhambra, a stunning piece of Moorish architecture, only surpassed in beauty by the view from the castle.
Spain is a place of both grandeur and humbleness. Take in the famous architecture and art work in the bustling cities, travel to the small towns, learn about Spain’s cultural history, dance to Flamenco and sip Spanish wines. But most of all make time to soak in all that Spain has to offer, and enjoy yourself. Because that’s what life in Spain seems to be all about.
About the Author
Robert Measer is a real estate agent in Amherst, NY and takes time each year for a European trip. This past year he visited Spain and has plans to go back and visit Portugal in 2013.