A trip to Spain on the Iberian Peninsula should include a dose of Spanish art and culture, a chance to partake in shopping, and some healthy exposure to that terrific Mediterranean sunshine. Take your preconceived notions of the Spanish lifestyle and enrich them with a trip that shows you how it’s really done! First of all, your itinerary will have to include The Prado Museum, a national art museum that features the largest collection of Francisco de Goya’s work. Then you’ll want to expand your route to hit various cities that have specialty shopping. Finally, head for the coast to check out the port towns’ wonderful beach scenes.
Museo Nacional del Prado (The Prado Museum) is in the Spanish capital city Madrid, and it is the main site of Spain’s extensive art collection. Expect to see pieces from the 12th to 19th Centuries; mostly you will see paintings and drawings, but there are sculptures too. The museum has masterpieces from artists such as El Greco, Velazquez, Raphael, Fra Angelico, Titian, Bosch, Rubens, and Durer.
The Prado is notable to Spanish art enthusiasts because of the number of Goya pieces in house. Goya (b.1746-d.1828) is considered the bridge between the classic “old masters” and the subsequent wave of “the moderns.” When you visit the museum, be sure to look for his famous (and quite controversial!) paintings: Charles IV of Spain and His Family, The Nude Maja, The Clothed Maja, and Saturn Devouring His Son. After you see them you’ll agree that Goya was clearly willing to challenge the way people saw art and history.
Spain has some fantastic shopping as well, and not the typical tourist trap junk you may be accustomed to. There are a handful of locations that you should peruse, if only to “window shop.” While in Madrid, make a point of going to El Rastro, Europe’s largest flea market. Trinkets and treasures galore. When in Barcelona, you must see the vast produce selection at Mercat de la Boqueria. And if you get to Grenada, treat yourself to the Middle Eastern eye candy of Calle Caldereria Nueva.
Spain is a Mediterranean country whose Balearic Islands and mainland Costa del Sol provide visitors with great beaches, warm sun, and a relaxed atmosphere. It is not unusual for one to charter a yacht from Barcelona, sail along the coast, and dock for ferries travleing to the Balearic Islands. Many port towns have a fishing village vibe but also see their share of wealthy vacationers looking for a good time. There are some coastal areas that have contributed to Spain’s national image in other ways. For example, your trip would be incomplete without seeing Gaudi’s architecture in Barcelona or hearing the beautiful sounds of the Spanish guitar, which originated in Andalusia.
Don’t be afraid to tackle a trip to Spain even if you don’t know the language. The Spanish are friendly and have much to offer to travelers. Whether you are drawn to the bizarre universe of Salvador Dali or the wonderful work of Pablo Picasso, Spain will pull you in right away. After all, who wouldn’t be lured by a plate of tapas! Now get ready to Flamenco your way into the heart of Spain.
Museum Hours at The Prado:
Monday to Saturday 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Sunday 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Closed early or completely on some holidays.
[Katie Harper is a guest blogger and art enthusiast who cherishes every moment she can spend in Madrid, the most magnificent place on earth.]