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Lonely Planet\'s top experiences in Spain
 

 

 

 

 

 

Lonely Planet's top experiences in Spain

FROM stunning architecture to scintillating nightlife, this fascinating country has it all.

 

The-central-Puerta-del-Sol-in-Madrid-is-always-thronging-with-peopleThe central Puerta del Sol in Madrid is always thronging with people

ALHAMBRA: 

The palace complex of Granada's Alhambra is close to architectural perfection. 

It is perhaps the most refined example of Islamic art anywhere in the world and the most enduring symbol of 800 years of Moorish rule in what was known as Al-Andalus.

From afar, the Alhambra's red fortress towers dominate the Granada skyline against a backdrop of the Sierra Nevada's snowcapped peaks. 

Up close, the Alhambra's perfectly proportioned Generalife gardens complement the exquisite carved stone of the Palacios Nazaries. This is Spain's most beautiful monument.

LA SAGRADA FAMILIA: 

One of Spain's top sights, the basilica of Antoni Gaud­ remains a work in progress more than 80 years after its creator's death.

Fanciful and profound, inspired by nature and barely restrained by a Gothic style, Barcelona's quirky temple soars skyward with an almost playful majesty.

The improbable angles and departures from architectural convention will have you shaking your head in disbelief but flourishes on the Passion Fa§ade, Nativity Fa§ade and elsewhere are worth studying for hours.

C'RDOBA'S MEZQUITA: 

This church became a mosque before reverting to being a church and as such C³rdoba's Mezquita charts the evolution of Christian and Islamic architecture over 1,000 years.

Innovative features include horseshoe arches, an intricate mihrab or semicircular niche and a forest of 856 columns, many recycled from Roman ruins.

The scale of the cathedral reflects C³rdoba's erstwhile power as the most cultured city of 10th-century Europe. It was also inspiration for greater buildings to come, most notably in Seville and Granada.

EASTER IN SEVILLE: 

Return to Spain's medieval Christian roots in Seville for the Easter celebration of Semana Santa. Religious fraternities parade elaborate pasos (figures) of Christ and the Virgin Mary around the city to the acclaim of the populace. 

The most prestigious procession is La Madrug¡ (early hours) of Good Friday. It's unforgettable when seen for the first time, an exotic compelling fusion of pageantry, solemnity and faith.

There are processions in towns across Spain but none on the scale of Seville's.

MADRID NIGHTLIFE:

Madrid is not the only European city with nightlife but few others can match its intensity and street clamour.

It's unforgettable when seen for the first time, an exotic compelling fusion of pageantry, solemnity and faith.

As early as 1932 American author Ernest Hemingway wrote "Nobody goes to bed in Madrid until they have killed the night" and now the modern city boasts an unimaginable variety of wall-to-wall bars, small clubs, live venues, cocktail bars and mega-clubs beloved by A-list celebrities.

It's in the Huertas, Malasa±a, Chueca and La Latina districts that you'll really understand what we're talking about.

CIUDAD DE LAS ARTES Y LAS CIENCIAS: 

Valencia's City of Arts and Sciences, created by renowned architect Santiago Calatrava, has helped transform Spain's third-largest city into one of its most vibrant.

A daring and visually-stunning piece of contemporary architecture, the complex includes a state of the art theatre (Palau de les Arts Reina Sof­a), grand aquarium (L'Oceanogr fic), planetarium (Hemisf¨ric) and science museum (Museo de las Ciencias Pr­ncipe Felipe)

LA RIOJA WINE COUNTRY: 

La Rioja is the sort of place where you could spend weeks meandering along quiet roads in search of the finest drop. Bodegas offering wine tastings and picturesque villages that shelter excellent wine museums are the mainstay of this region.

Close to Elciego, the Hotel Marques de Riscal, designed by Los Angeles-based award-winning architect Frank Gehry, has become the elite centre for wine tourism in the region.

PINTXOS IN SAN SEBASTIAN: 

Chefs here have turned bar snacks into an art form. Sometimes called "high cuisine in miniature", pintxos (Basque tapas) are piles of flavour often on slices of baguette.

On stepping into any bar in central San Sebasti¡n, the choice on the counter will leave first-time visitors gasping. This is Spain's most memorable eating experience.

Although the atmosphere is always casual, the serious business of experimenting with taste combinations (a Basque trademark) ensures it just keeps getting better.

BEACHES OF MENORCA:

At a time when the Spanish Mediterranean has become a byword for mass tourism, Menorca is just a little bit different.

Saved from the worst effects of over-development, most of the island is a Unesco Biosphere Reserve with 216km of coastline and beaches.

Some visitors assert that reaching the beaches by sea is the height of pleasure but happening upon them from inland brings almost equal joy. Among the best are Cala Macarelleta and Cala en Turqueta.

Extract taken from Lonely Planet's guide to Spain, £17.99 (Lonely Planet Publications Ltd)

 

 

 

 

 

 
 







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