Passionate, sophisticated and devoted to living the good life, Spain is both a stereotype come to life and a country more diverse than you ever imagined.
An Epic Land
Spain’s diverse landscapes stir the soul. The Pyrenees and the Picos de Europa are as beautiful as any mountain range on the continent, while the snowcapped Sierra Nevada rises up improbably from the sun-baked plains of Andalucía; these are hiking destinations of the highest order. The wildly beautiful cliffs of Spain’s Atlantic northwest are offset by the charming coves of the Mediterranean. And everywhere you go, villages of timeless beauty perch on hilltops, huddle in valleys and cling to coastal outcrops as tiny but resilient outposts of Old Spain. That's where the country's charms are most likely to take hold.
A Culinary Feast
Food and wine are national obsessions in Spain, and with good reason. The touchstones of Spanish cooking are deceptively simple: incalculable variety, traditional recipes handed down through the generations, and an innate willingness to experiment and see what comes out of the kitchen laboratory. You may experience the best meal ever via tapas in an earthy bar where everyone's shouting, or via a meal prepared by a celebrity chef in the refined surrounds of a Michelin-starred restaurant. Either way, the breadth of gastronomic experience that awaits you is breathtaking and sure to be a highlight of your trip.
Art Imitates Life
Windswept Roman ruins, cathedrals of rare power and incomparable jewels of Islamic architecture speak of a country where the great civilisations of history have risen, fallen and left behind their indelible mark. More recently, what other country could produce such rebellious and relentlessly creative spirits as Salvador Dalí, Pablo Picasso and Antoni Gaudí and place them front and centre in public life? And here, grand monuments of history coexist alongside architectural creations of such daring that it becomes clear Spain's future will be every bit as original as its past.
Fiestas & Flamenco
For all the talk of Spain's history, this is a country that lives very much in the present and there's a reason 'fiesta' is one of the best-known words in the Spanish language – life itself is a fiesta here and everyone seems to be invited. Perhaps you'll sense it along a crowded, post-midnight street when all the world has come out to play. Or maybe that moment will come when a flamenco performer touches something deep in your soul. Whenever it happens, you'll find yourself nodding in recognition: this is Spain.
These are our favorite local haunts, touristy spots, and hidden gems throughout Spain.
The Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Família (Expiatory Temple of the Holy Family) is considered to be the symbol of Barcelona by many residents, and the one place you shouldn’t miss when you visit the Catalan capital. Initially intended to be a simple Roman Catholic church dedicated to Jesus, Mary and Joseph, the church ultimately became the most prominent example of Catalan Modernism. Pope Benedict XVI declared it a basilica in 2010. Dreamed up by Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí, the basilica exemplifies Gaudí’s philosophy that nature is the work of God. Gaudí sought to combine Christian speech and biblical allegories with complex natural symbols like organic, geometric shapes which are prominent in every column, pinnacle and stained glass window of the basilica. The end result is an astounding architectural masterpiece which, despite being unfinished and under construction for nearly 140 years, has become one of the most visited monuments in Spain, receiving 4.7 million visitors in 2019. History of the Sagrada Familia The creation and construction of the Sagrada Familia is living history. Local bookseller Josep Maria Bocabella wanted to build an expiatory temple consecrated to the Holy Family. Bocabella initially assigned the project to the architect Francisco de Paula del Villar, who designed a neo-Gothic project, and began construction in 1882. However, because of several disagreements with Bocabella, Antoni Gaudí took over the assignment. Gaudí conceived a groundbreaking design that pushed the boundaries of all known architectural styles. Gaudí’s primary goal was to build a church with facades that highlighted the three phases in the life of Jesus: Nativity, Passion and Glory. The architect’s vision was to incorporate organic symbolism in the architecture, stained glass and design elements in order to tell Jesus’s story as well as highlight some key biblical histories. In 1891, when development of the Nativity facade began, Gaudí realized that the construction of the Sagrada Família was such an ambitious project that he certainly would not see its completion in his lifetime. In fear of the project being stopped after his death and once the church acquired its worship function, Gaudí decided that, instead of building the central nave, he would start on the external part of the church. At the time, Gaudí was also working on Casa Milà (La Pedrera) and when that was completed in 1912, he focused exclusively on the construction of the Sagrada Família. He worked on it until he died in 1926 and was buried inside the crypt. After Gaudi’s death, Domènec Sugrañes i Gras assumed the main role of architect. The temple suffered heavy damage during Spain’s Civil War (1936-39), when a group of anarchists set it on fire, burning a significant part of Gaudí’s workshop. Fortunately, part of his material could be restored. Work resumed in 1954 and it’s been under construction ever since. Why is the Sagrada Família not finished and when will be completed? Even with today’s technology, skilled architects and engineers are finding it challenging to decipher and bring to life the complex geometric shapes that compose what is going to be the tallest church in the world (172.5m). In addition, despite its international renown, the Sagrada Família is a project that was promoted by the people for the people, so it has always relied on private donations. There have been times in history when there wasn’t any funding, especially during Spain’s Civil War and the decades that followed. It was only after the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona, when the city started to gain an international reputation and the number of visitors increased, that construction accelerated exponentially. The Sagrada Família was expected to be completed in 2026 - for the centenary of Gaudí’s death – but its completion has been postponed because of COVID-19. Work has resumed already but a new completion date hasn’t been announced. Visiting the Sagrada Família The site of the Sagrada Família has four main sections: the basilica, the school building, museum and towers. In the past, each section required its own ticket to visit. However, due to COVID-19, the only portion available to visitors is the basilica. To visit the basilica, an individual ticket with an audio-guide app - available in 16 languages - costs €26. If you prefer visiting it on a guided tour - available in 6 languages - an individual ticket costs €27, which also allows you to visit the site on your own after the 50-minute tour is finished. The Basilica The Basilica is composed of five naves, built in the shape of a Latin cross, the roof of which is supported by the angled pillars. These angled pillars are a treelike column structure that creates the effect of a living forest with dappled light streaming in. Gaudí Museum The Gaudí Museum has a recreation of the architect’s workshop, as well as a set of his materials and mockups. School Building Gaudí designed and built the school building, which was for the workers’ children, in 1909. Its design is similar to that of the Casa Milà. The Towers Four towers representing the 12 apostles ascend from each of the three exterior facades (Nativity, Passion and Glory). Gaudí built the Nativity Facade, and in 2005 it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site, along with the crypt. On the west side is the controversial Passion Facade, whose architect, Josep Maria Subirachs, has been heavily criticized for being too abstract and not strictly following Gaudí’s model. The unfinished Glory Facade is supposed to be the most gorgeous of the three once it’s complete and crowned with its missing four towers. How to get to the Sagrada Familia The Sagrada Família is in the Eixample district, in Mallorca, 401 street. Metro lines 2 and 5 stop at Sagrada Família station. From Barcelona’s Old City, it’s a 30- to 40-minute walk. When to visit the Sagrada Familia The Basilica is open to visitors every day of the year, subject to change due to special events taking place inside. To avoid the largest crowds, it’s best to visit early weekday mornings. A complete visit takes 2-3 hours. Things to do around the Sagrada Familia The Right Eixample is home to some of Barcelona’s major attractions which can be easily visited after your Sagrada Família tour. An unmissable landmark is Hospital Sant Pau, a building designed by Lluís Domènech i Montaner, one of the most influential architects of Catalan Modernism after Gaudí. Monumental, a former but imposing bullfighting arena, is also worth the detour. Finish your Eixample circuit at Barcelona’s triumphal arch, located at Passeig de Lluís Companys, a palm-lined boulevard that leads to Parc de la Ciutadella, the largest park in town. Where to eat near the Sagrada Família Be aware that all restaurants surrounding the Sagrada Família cater to the tourist crowd. However, by walking just a few blocks, you come to a particularly local area of l’Eixample. For Spanish tapas and wine, we recommend Hasta Los Andares. For authentic Spanish tortillas, look for La Granota and, for traditional Catalan food, grab a bite at Olé Mallorca, which tends to get busy at lunch time (2 to 3pm). In the morning, you must stop at Puiggròs, a one hundred year-old patisserie.
Visitors and locals alike love Park Güell. The waving balcony and the colorful Guard’s House, with the imposing Barcelona skyline and sea in the background, is the city’s favorite postcard. It's also a great summary of what the Catalan capital is like: a creative, cosmopolitan city with a Mediterranean lifestyle. Antoni Gaudí created Park Güell, an architectural masterpiece, with tree-shaped columns and undulating forms that merge in perfect harmony. The colors of the broken tile mosaics that cover the surface of the distinct elements is an unprecedented technique of Gaudí that makes the astonishing shapes come to life. It was also built in the middle of the city atop a hill, hence it is blessed with some of the best views in Barcelona. Park Güell is one of the outstanding examples of Catalan Modernism and an unmissable destination for anyone visiting Barcelona. History of Park Güell The 1888 World Expo showed that Barcelona had become a modern metropolis, at a time when local artists and architects started to seek new forms of art and expression that represented urban elements. That’s how Catalan Modernism began to prosper. It was then that local businessman and count Eusebi Güell ordered Antoni Gaudí to design a residential area for wealthy families. Güell’s idea was to recreate the popular British condominiums, which is why he named it Park Güell, instead of Parc Güell, its Catalan translation. This wasn’t the first time that Gaudí and Güell had worked together – Palau Güell, Celler Güell, Pavellons Güell and Cripta de la Colonia Güell, were all pieces of Modernism built by the architect for the count. Construction began in 1900 but was abandoned in 1914 because they never managed to sell the different plots of land. Park Güell became a big private garden instead and Güell decided to give it up for public functions. Very quickly, the park began to show up in tourist maps and, not many years later, became one of the most visited spots in the city. By that time, only two out of sixty planned houses had been built. Today’s Gaudí House Museum is one of those two houses, which the architect bought in 1906. Eusebi Güell died in 1918 and his heirs sold the park to the Barcelona Council. It became a public park in 1926. In 1984, Park Güell became a UNESCO World Heritage site for its historical, architectural and artistic uniqueness. How to visit Park Güell Park Güell is essentially divided into two parts, the forest and the monument's area, where most of Gaudí’s work is concentrated. The monuments can be accessed from Carrer d'Olot (Olot Street). The majestic entrance to the park is loaded with strong symbolism, with allegories and references to industrial development, the Catalan bourgeoisie and, of course, religion. The entrance represents the access to heaven. Interesting that it was intended to be the access to one of the most exclusive residential areas in Barcelona. Beyond the entrance, the first elements you find are two cute Modernist buildings, Casa del Guarda, where the doormen used to sleep, which is now a museum, and Pabelló de l’Aministració, which houses a souvenir shop. Both buildings demonstrate the purest Gaudí style. Continue walking and you will bump into the magnificent stairway, which features the most famous element in Park Güell, the 2.4-meter-long dragon, or salamander, a fountain covered with Gaudí’s technique of trencadís (broken tiles mosaic). Its real meaning is uncertain but most people believe it represents the natural element of fire, while others claim it refers to the crocodile emblem from Nîmes (France), Güell’s native town. Climb over the stairs and you will find yourself in La Plaça (The Square), which is circled by the colorful, undulating bench, from which you get the imposing city views. La Plaça is supported by the 86 columns that form Sala Hipòstila. The rest of Park Güell is the forest area, a set of trails and pathways which all form a proper city park where the local citizens go for a jog or a stroll. El Calvari is the highest point in the park (182m). Gaudí’s initial idea was to build a chapel there but instead, he built a calvary-shaped monument with three crosses. The views from the top are also stunning. Park Güell tickets In 2013, due to the exponential increase of foreign visitors, the Barcelona Council restricted access to the monuments in order to preserve the work of Gaudí. They limited the entrance by only allowing a certain number of people per hour and imposed a fee. The forest area, however, can be accessed for free. - General admission: 10€ - Guided tour: 22€ - Private tour: 50€ Rates subject to change If you want to avoid unnecessary queues, it is recommended to book Park Güell tickets online through the official website. An entrance ticket allows you to visit the 12 hectares that comprise the park, including the monuments. For the Gaudí House Museum, you have to buy a separate ticket. Once inside the monument area, you can stay as long as you want but must enter no later than 30 minutes after the time specified on your ticket. Best time to visit Park Güell If you want to beat the crowds, the best time to visit Park Güell is on weekdays at 9:30am, when the park opens. How to get to Park Güell From Lesseps metro station (Line 3), it is a 15-minute walk to the monumental area main gate. From Vallcarca metro station (Line 3), it is also a 15-minute walk, but you access the park from the west. For those coming by foot, Park Güell is within a 20-30-minute walk from anywhere in the districts of Gràcia and Sant Gervasi, but the Old City is not within easy walking distance. Where to eat around Park Güell The good news is that Gràcia is filled with inexpensive local eateries and tapa joints that are absolutely delightful. La Pubilla, for example, is considered to be one of the best restaurants in the city for traditional Catalan food. In addition, look for Bar Bodega Quimet for traditional homemade tapas. For slightly more modern and elaborate tapas, we recommend Vermuteria Puigmartí.
The Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum is one of the three points composing Madrid ’s Golden Triangle of Art along the Paseo del Prado (Art Walk), together with the Museo del Prado and the Reina Sofía. Once a privately owned art collection started by the Baron Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza, and later on expanded by his son Baron Hans Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza, the Thyssen is home to a magnificent collection of nearly 1,000 paintings from several of the world’s most celebrated artists, from Dalí to Degas, Rembrandt to Renoir, and van Eyck to Van Gogh among several others. While the Prado and Reina Sofía’s massive size allows you to delve into the life’s work of a particular artist, which could take days to fully explore, the Thyssen’s relatively compact size offers visitors with limited time the memorable experience of immersing in a wide and varied range of artistic styles and periods from the 13th to the 20th century. History of the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum The story of how the Thyssen family’s prized art collection moved from an aristocrat’s private gallery housed in Switzerland to the Spanish capital is a curious one that spans three generations. The Thyssen Museum’s earliest pieces could be traced to the seven sculptural groups of Auguste Rodin, which were commissioned by August Thyssen — the German industrialist and founder of the steel and iron Thyssen empire in the late 19th century. After his death, his third son Heinrich continued the family tradition of collecting art, acquiring major pieces in the 1920s. Heinrich had gained noble status after marrying the daughter of the Hungarian Baron Gabor Bornemisza de Kászon, Margit, and later adopted the surname Thyssen-Bornemisza. Between 1933 and 1935, Heinrich added many pieces to the collection, including Jan van Eyck’s “The Annunciation” and Caravaggio’s “Saint Catherine of Alexandria.” As his collection grew, he bought the palace of Villa Favorita in Lugano, Switzerland, to build an art gallery where he could privately exhibit his collection to guests. Upon Heinrich’s death in 1947, his treasured art collection went to his youngest son, the Baron Hans Heinrich. He further expanded his father’s collection to include avant-garde styles and modern art, and eventually opened the Villa Favorita gallery to the public. Wishing to preserve his collection, the Baron explored the possibility of expanding Villa Favorita in a foreign location. Subsequently, he received multiple offers from several German cities, the Getty Foundation, and the Spanish government. Owing to the influence of his Spanish wife, Carmen Cervera, the Baron eventually took his collection to Spain and loaned 775 works to the Spanish state in 1988. In June 1993, these were sold to the Spanish state for 350 million dollars. Baron Hans Heinrich bequeathed most of his paintings to Carmen Cervera, who continues to lend these paintings to the museum as part of the Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza collection. Museum highlights A good way to explore the Thyssen’s treasures is to do it chronologically, by starting on the top (second) floor and working your way down. The second floor showcases medieval art, including 13th and 14th century Italian, German and Flemish religious paintings and triptychs. Room 11 features masterpieces by El Greco and his Venetian contemporaries Tintoretto and Titian, while Room 14 and 15 display paintings by mid-century Spanish masters Zurbarán and Murillo. Aficionados of Dutch and Flemish art would not want to miss Rooms 19 to 21, which showcase works from Rembrandt, Rubens and van Dyck. The top-floor highlights are Rooms A to H, which showcase the impressive collection of Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza, including masterpieces from Boudin, Canaletto, Courbet, Fragonard, Matisse, Picasso and Renoir, among several others. The museum's first floor is home to an exquisite assembly of 19th-century French Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings by Cézanne, Degas, Gauguin, Pissarro Toulouse-Lautrec and Van Gogh. Finally, the Thyssen’s ground floor is a toast to contemporary 20th-century art, with works from Cubist and Surrealist masters, including Picasso, Braque, Juan Gris, Paul Klee, Max Ernst, Joan Miró, Chagall and Salvador Dalí. Here is also where you can gaze at celebrated pop art and expressionist paintings from Lichtenstein and Jackson Pollock, a highly charged contrast to the medieval religious-inspired art at the start of your tour. Thematic tours and temporary exhibitions One curated way to experience the Thyssen’s collection, especially if you don’t have too much time to explore all its rooms, is taking a thematic tour marked by special routes according to specific themes such as food, wine, fashion or love and sensuality. It’s not hard to understand why the Thyssen has embraced the motto, “Everyone’s Museum” — its layout is quite the opposite of the stuffy museum stereotype. There’s a vibrant, open and friendly atmosphere enlivened by regular open-air concerts, temporary exhibitions, educational programs for the youth, as well as free entry on Monday afternoons. After an enriching day of art appreciation, the Thyssen’s lobby and open-air terraces by the courtyard and garden are a welcoming setting for guests to enjoy cocktails and art-soaked conversations. Tickets and opening hours It is highly recommended that you book tickets in advance, especially during weekends when the museum gets packed. Full access tickets (EUR13) and tickets with an audio guide (EUR18) can be reserved online on the Thyssen website. The museum offers free entry on Mondays all year round from 12:00nn to 4:00pm.
Located along the grand, medieval street of Carrer de Montcada, the Museu Picasso is dedicated to one of the world’s greatest artists, Pablo Picasso. Born in the Andalusian city of Málaga in 1881, Picasso moved to Barcelona at age 14, where he spent his adolescence, youth and formative years with his family. Opened in 1963, the “Picasso Museum” not only showcases some of the painter’s earliest works, but it aims to show the strong, emotional bond Picasso had with the city, which was key in discovering, developing and shaping his artistic skills. The museum occupies five Medieval palaces, providing an immense setting for visitors to take in the 4000 or so original works on display. History of Museu Picasso Jaume Sabartés was a Catalan writer and Picasso’s close friend and personal secretary. He conceived an idea of creating a museum dedicated to Picasso but wanted to put it in Picasso’s birth city of Málaga. Picasso, however, convinced Sabartés to open it in Barcelona. This was, after all, the city where he’d become a recognized artist, spending his days mixing with intellectuals and visionaries in places like Quatre Gats, a bar in the Gothic Quarter that served as a meeting point for artists. Picasso and Sabartés opened their gallery in 1963, mainly with Sabartés’ private collection, and named it Col.lecció Sabartés. Picasso deliberately omitted his name from the museum to avoid censorship, as the artist’s well known political views opposed the Franco regime. At the beginning, the museum only occupied Aguilar Palace, one of the five current mansions that house the gallery, but, after subsequent donations, including 58 paintings of Las Meninas de Velázquez and 921 of his earliest works, the first expansion was carried out in 1970 by annexing Baró del Castellet Palace. Despite Picasso’s death in 1973, the museum kept expanding and growing over the following decades, eventually becoming one of the most appreciated cultural heritage sites in Barcelona. Museu Picasso collection For potential visitors, it’s worth noting that Picasso’s most famous works are spread out across the globe. Paintings like Guernica, Three Musicians or Family of Saltimbanques, for example, are all displayed in Madrid, New York City and Washington DC, respectively. Museu Picasso, however, is unique in a way that it contains the largest collection of works from the artist’s earliest years, crucial to understanding Picasso’s world and the solid connection he had with the city of Barcelona. Though the collection does include some of his trademark Cubist masterpieces too. The permanent collection is displayed in Palau Aguilar, Palau del Baró de Castellet and Palau Meca. The first few rooms are dedicated to his initial paintings, consisting of complex portraits that already showcase Picasso’s great talent. For that, Aunt Pepa Portrait (1896) is a fine example. The museum also displays several paintings from his well-known Blue-period (1901-1904), when Picasso painted monochromatic paintings in shades of blue. The Rooftops of Barcelona (1903) is a well-known piece from this time. Picasso, however, is more internationally known as one of the pioneers of Cubism, an art movement from the beginning of the 20th century that consisted of elements all fragmented, like in a broken puzzle. The last rooms of the permanent collection contain some excellent Cubist examples, the most acclaimed being his series of Meninas de Velázquez. In these paintings, the artist Picasso represents the work of Diego Velázquez in Cubist style. The remaining two palaces focus on temporary exhibitions. Museu Picasso tickets A general admission ticket to the museum costs €12, which includes the permanent collection and temporary exhibitions. You can also buy a separate ticket for the temporary exhibition for €6.50. Tickets can be purchased online from the museum’s official website. How to enter Museu Picasso for free Entry to the museum is free of charge on Thursday afternoons, from 5pm to 8pm, the first Sunday of each month, and on the following days: February 12, May 18 and September 24. It’s worth noting that capacity is reduced on these days, so booking online in advance is recommended. Museu Picasso Opening Hours Museu Picasso opens Tuesday to Sunday, from 10am to 8pm. On Mondays the museum is closed. The museum is also closed on January 1, May 1, June 24 and December 25. The museum also runs reduced hours on certain days, including January 5 (10am to 5pm), and December 24 and 31 (10am to 2pm). How to get to Museu Picasso Museu Picasso is located on Carrer de Montcada, which dates back to the 12th century and was once the city’s most coveted address. It is located in the Old City, in El Born district. Jaume I (Line 4) is the closest metro station. Restaurants around Museu Picasso El Born is the area with the largest culinary range in Barcelona, with fine-dining restaurants, international eateries and informal tapas spots aplenty. Bar Joan is one of the oldest in the area. They offer market cuisine, serving all the classic Spanish tapas, but also traditional Catalan and Spanish dishes. Tiny Tantarantana is another local restaurant serving delicious tapas, with terrace tables and an informal atmosphere. If you are a fan of Asian dishes, Red Ant is a popular place for noodles and craft beer.
Joan Miró was a Catalan painter and sculptor born in Barcelona who combined abstract art with surrealism. He is considered one of the most influential painters in the world from the first half of the 20th century. When you visit the Catalan capital, it’s difficult to miss the legacy that Miró left in the city. In fact, Miró’s work might be the first thing you see upon your arrival in Barcelona, since Airport Terminal 2 features a 50-meter mosaic that he designed. La Rambla includes one of his mosaics as well and the logo of the largest bank in Catalonia, La Caixa, which is visible on every corner, was also created by Miró. Most visitors, however, tend to miss his museum, Fundació Joan Miró, founded in 1975 by the artist himself. Fundació Joan Miró is a cultural institution that contains Miró’s largest collection and, along with Gaudí’s buildings, should be part of any first-timer’s itinerary. History of Fundació Joan Miró Joan Miró dreamt of having a foundation which not only served as a regular museum where artists’ works could be displayed, but he also wanted to create a real art gallery of cutting edge art, where rising talents could be discovered and promoted. For its construction, the Barcelona Council offered Joan Miró the palace in the Old City, where the Picasso Museum is now, but, for such a new concept of a museum, he knew that his foundation had to be built in a brand-new emblematic building with its own personality. For that, he sought the help of the renowned Catalan architect Josep Lluís Sert and, together, they designed an imposing building with Mediterranean features that is integrated perfectly in Montjuïc’s landscape. Today, the building of the Fundació Joan Miró is considered to be one of the finest examples of rationalist architecture in Barcelona. Its opening provoked an unquestionable positive impact on Barcelona society, which perceived the museum as a new way of connecting with art and artists. Fundació Joan Miró quickly became one of the “art galleries” of reference in Spain and such was its growth that an extension had to be built in 1986. Fundació Joan Miró Collection Joan Miró was an extremely valued artist, so visitors should note that the greatest of his works are displayed in other parts of the world. From the Museum of Modern Art in New York City to the National Art Gallery in Washington DC and the Musée d’Art Moderne in Paris, Joan Miró is present in some of the top art galleries worldwide. It is also important to mention that Joan Miró had many debts with Spain’s Treasury Department, debts which were paid off with some of his most valued works. Those works are displayed in the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía in Madrid. However, Fundació Joan Miró houses absolute masterpieces. The collection is composed of more than 200 paintings. Man and woman in front of a pile of excrement (1935), Morning Star (1940) and The gold of the azure (1967) are among his most significant paintings. In addition, there are more than 169 statues that had been unseen before being displayed here and over 8,000 drawings and sketches which are essential to understand Miró’s work. Besides Miró’s works, the collection also includes works from the American artist Alexander Calder, like the Mercury Fountain (1937). Antoni Tàpies, one of the most important Catalan artists from the era, has some of his works displayed at the foundation, as well. Fundació Joan Miró tickets A general admission ticket costs 13€, which includes the permanent collection and access to the temporary exhibition. It is also possible to book a separate ticket for the temporary exhibition only, which costs 7€. Guided tours cost 20€. Tickets for the Fundació Joan Miró can be booked online through the official website. Fundació Joan Miró for kids With his fantasy allegories and colorful shapes and patterns, the work of Joan Miró has always attracted the youngest generation as well, which is why the foundation is known for organizing activities for kids. Most of them are only available in either Catalan or Spanish, but they do organize some in English, like Miró Universe. In this play, the actors represent the landscape of a certain painting with movement, sounds and shadows, while kids also learn about Miró’s world. You can find out the latest activities on their official website as well. How to get to Fundació Joan Miró Fundació Joan Miró is located in Parc de Montjuïc. The easiest way to get there is by taking the metro to Paral.lel (Line 3), from where you can take the funicular to the upper part of the park. For a more epic arrival, you can also take the cable car that departs from La Barceloneta and drops you off right next to the foundation. Restaurants in Fundació Joan Miró Inside the foundation, there is one restaurant-bar with a garden and great city views. They serve traditional Spanish and Catalan dishes with a slight modern touch. It’s actually not bad for a museum, but we also recommend exploring Montjuïc and looking for Terraza Martínez, a restaurant serving one of the best paellas in town. It’s always packed with locals, so do book in advance. If you want to have some drinks in a relaxed atmosphere, go to Caseta del Migdia.
Crowning Madrid ’s oldest neighborhood of La Latina is an architectural and visual masterpiece that is the Basílica de San Francisco el Grande (Basilica of Saint Francis the Great) — as much a place of Catholic worship as it is a temple paying homage to Spanish art. Its several marble and gold inlaid chapels and sacristy are home to an impressive collection of paintings by Spanish masters, the most famous of which is Francisco Goya’s St. Bernardino of Siena preaching to Alfonso V of Aragon. With a diameter of 33 meters and height of 58 meters, the Basilica’s great dome is the largest in Spain and the fourth largest in Europe, after those of Saint Peter’s Basilica and the Pantheon in Rome, and the Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence. History of the Basilica de San Francisco el Grande This treasured Spanish heritage has been through multiple incarnations, the earliest of which goes back to the 13th century. Legend has it that when Saint Francis of Assissi passed by Spain on his pilgrimage to the tomb of the St. James the Apostle in Compostela in 1214, he built a modest home for himself and his companions near a hermitage where the church stands today. From these humble beginnings, the structure was expanded and enriched over the years, and eventually exceeded the splendor of all the churches in Madrid, until it was completely demolished in 1760 in order to build an ever bigger and more beautiful church to replace it. The ambitious work was then assigned to a Franciscan monk, Fray Francisco Cabezas, who had envisioned a dome covering a circular temple housing several chapels. He worked on it for seven years until the project was suspended because of a disagreement over the proposed plan for the dome. Years later, under the rule of King Carlos III, construction recommenced under the guidance of the famed Italian architect Francesco Sabatini (who likewise designed Madrid’s Puerta de Alcalá and oversaw the reconstruction of the Plaza Mayor). The royal church was finally consecrated on 1784, and nearly two centuries later in 1963, was officially conferred the status of Basilica Minor by Pope John XXIII. Museum highlights Once you step through the doors of the Basilica, it is impossible to not be awestruck by its floor-to-ceiling opulence and assembly of art under one dome. Underneath a celestial scene of frescoes and stained glass windows with biblical motifs, guarded by sculptures of the apostles and prophets, trompe-l’œil paintings of saints, and carved cherubim, are six chapels embracing a main altar. Each of these chapels have a different theme and is a mini museum unto itself, featuring altars surrounded by large oil paintings depicting religious scenes, mosaics, and intricately carved moldings. While the Basilica’s predominant architectural style is NeoClassical, these lavishly decorated chapels showcase different distinct periods, from Baroque to Byzantine, Renaissance to Rococo. The Chapel of St. Bernardino of Siena, one of the chapels situated on the left side of the Basilica, features Goya’s famous St. Bernardino of Siena preaching to Alfonso V of Aragon, which was commissioned in 1781. As selfies were non-existent at that time, Goya managed to incorporate the closest thing — his self-portrait on the right-hand side of the painting (he’s the one dressed in yellow). While visiting the main church area is free during morning Mass hours, it is certainly worth paying for a ticket (5 euros, from Tuesday to Friday) to access the museum in the inner sacristy. These hallowed halls exhibit 49 large paintings depicting scenes from the life of Saint Francis of Assisi, by renowned Spanish artists such as Alonso Cano, Francisco Zurbarán, Antonio González Velazquez, José Moreno Carbonero, among others. It is no less opulent inside — the hefty carved seats, mahogany and oakwood floors, gold candelabras and ornate ceilings could make you pause and wonder just how far the church has come from its humble origins. One room of interest is the ante-sacristy, a red-painted sanctum bordered by 17th century walnut-carved benches with Plateresque style backs. Six mirrors framed in gold gilded pinewood actually serve a purpose — when you stand in front of them, they perfectly reflect the central medallion painted on the ceiling, The Triumph of the Church, so you don’t need to strain your neck! A guided tour in Spanish is offered during these times and is included in the ticket price. Nearby attractions The Basílica de San Francisco el Grande is conveniently located in the southwestern corner of the historic La Latina barrio. If you happen to find yourself here on a Sunday, you could also catch the 400-year old flea market, El Rastro, or take part in a favorite local pastime — a Sunday tapas crawl along the cobblestone streets, in particular Cava Baja, long after the sun sets.
One of Spain’s most atmospheric arenas, the Plaza de Toros Las Ventas has hosted everything from Beatles concerts to motocross competitions during its eight-decade history. But it is the controversial sport of bullfighting for which the stadium was built and is best known for, with aficionados of the activity hailing it as Spain’s “Bullfighting Cathedral”. Located east of central Madrid, the Plaza de Toros features a wide public square with a bullfighting ring constructed in the Mudéjar (Moorish) style. Its coliseum-like arena can seat a little over 23,000 people, making it the largest bullring in Spain and one of the largest in the world. Bullfights regularly take place here during the season, which runs from mid-May to September, while daily fights occur during the week-long San Isidro festival, held each May. A visit to the Museo Taurino (Bullfighting Museum) at the back of the bullring offers a comprehensive look at the history and evolution of this divisive Spanish tradition. History of the Plaza de Toros Known officially as the Plaza de Toros de Ventas del Espíritu Santo, the arena is simply referred to as “Las Ventas” because the area upon which it stands used to be an enclave of several wayside taverns, known as “ventas” in Spanish. The stadium was built in 1929 and officially inaugurated in 1931 with a charity bullfight. However, the area surrounding the plaza remained a shanty town. A mass clean up operation, coupled with the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War in 1936, meant that the Plaza de Toros was officially re-inaugurated in 1939, a decade after its initial construction. Apart from the annual roster of bullfights during the season, the Plaza de Toros has also hosted opera performances, weddings, traveling circuses, car shows and rock concerts – this is where the Beatles held their first concert in Spain when they came to Madrid in 1965. Other high-profile artists who have performed here include Prince, Sting and B.B. King. Highlights of the Plaza de Toros Certainly not bereft of hyperbole, the main entrance of the bullring that features a grand Moorish arch is called “The Doorway to Eternal Glory.” To be carried through here, high on the shoulders of aficionados, is the ultimate dream of any young torero (bullfighter). Outside the arena are several statues paying tribute to important figures in the Spanish bullfighting world. Right by the main entrance are the monuments of two bullfighters, Antonio Bienvenida, a celebrated torero during his heyday in the 1970s, and José “El Yiyo” Cubero, a beloved matador who was only 21 when he was gored by a bull through the heart. Curiously, standing alongside these icons of the bullfighting world, is a bronze bust of Scottish doctor Alexander Fleming. Fleming’s discovery of the antibiotic penicillin helped save the lives of many bullfighters who suffered deep wounds after being stabbed by bull horns. Consequently, in 1964, bullfighters collected money to erect a monument in Dr Fleming’s honor. The monument includes a statue depicting Fleming, and a matador tipping his hat to the scientist in appreciation of his work. Inside, the plaza’s bullring is divided into ten tendidos (sections), radiating from the sandy central ring. The rather uncomfortable stone seats are distinguished in price according to the amount of sunlight each gets, with the most expensive seats being in the sombra (shade), the cheapest under the sol (sun) and the midrange ones in the sol y sombra, or partial shade. The most diehard bullfighting aficionados sit in Tendido 7, under the sun. Museo Taurino Situated at the back of the arena in the “Patio de Caballos” is the Bullfighting Museum, which is dedicated to the history and culture of bullfighting. Three large rooms exhibit fancy bullfighting dresses, accessories, busts and portraits of famous bulls and toreros, as well as the original posters advertising historic fights. In the Trajes de Luces (Costumes of Lights) section, you’ll see the walking capes of well-loved bullfighters, such as the pink and gold ensemble worn by Manolete, one of the most famous matadors of all time, who died in the ring in 1947. Some other features to watch out for in the museum include a series of bullfighting-themed etchings (“La Tauromaquia”) by Spanish romantic painter Francisco Goya, as well as a framed copy of a – aptly named – papal bull (public decree) issued by Pope Pius V, in 1567, that forbade Catholics from participating in bullfights on punishment of excommunication, and prohibiting a Christian burial to anyone killed in a bullfight. Guided tours Guided visits (in English and Spanish) will take you out onto the sand and into the royal box. Tours must be booked in advance through Las Ventas Tour. Access to the Museo Taurino is free of charge.
Madrid’s emblematic park, known locally as El Retiro, was the exclusive reserve of Spanish royalty until it was opened to the public in the late 19th century. Now everyone can enjoy the ornate fountains, statues of Spanish writers and heroes, gazebos and stylistic exhibition spaces found in this sprawling, 292-acre (118-hectare) green space. True to its name, which means 'retirement' or 'rest', many Madrileños while away the day here either relaxing on the grass or sitting in one of the many terrazas (open-air cafés), far from the bustle of the city. A walk through the park reveals various landscaping styles, from French-inspired manicured lawns to craggy tree-lined pathways and romantic rose gardens. Among the grounds are several landmarks including Monument to Alfonso XII , a grand colonnade overlooking a central lake, and The Fallen Angel , the world's only publicly commissioned statue of Lucifer. Madrid's oldest tree, planted in 1633, can also be found here. History Created during the reign of Felipe IV in the 17th century, Parque del Buen Retiro was originally situated next to the Jerónimos Monastery. Only the Jerónimos Church still survives. An expansive palace complex, the Palacio del Buen Retiro, once stood to one side of the park before it was destroyed by a fire in the 18th century. In 1868, the garden was opened to the public as a municipal heritage park, which it remains today. During the War of Independence (1808-1814), Parque del Buen Retiro was transformed into a fortress and barracks for Napoleon’s troops, which led to the destruction of large swathes of the park. Until 1972, the park had a zoo on its ground called the Casa de Fieras (House of Wild Animals). It housed animals brought back from Spanish colonies, including leopards, hyenas, polar bears and elephants. Sadly, many of the animals perished when Madrid was bombed during the Spanish Civil War in 1936. Highlights Monument to King Alfonso XII The focal point of El Retiro is the massive monument to King Alfonso XII, which surrounds the estanque (artificial lake) on the east side of the park. King Alfonso XII was a much-loved monarch who ruled from 1875 to 1885 and died young at 28. The equestrian statue honoring him was made by Spanish sculptor Mariano Benlliure. On Sunday afternoons, it’s not uncommon for crowds to gather at the foot of the monument and dance to bongo drums. You can also rent rowboats from the lake’s northern shore. Fuente Egipcia On the southern end of the lake is a curious structure decorated with sphinxes called the Fuente Egipcia. Legend has it that an enormous fortune of Felipe IV was buried here in the mid-18th century. El Angel Caído (The Fallen Angel) Unarguably the park’s most famous statue is the El Angel Caído (The Fallen Angel), believed to be the only artistic statue in the world depicting Lucifer. It dramatically depicts the Morning Star as a winged youth in agony at his fall from grace, entangled by a seven-headed serpent pulling him to hell. It is mounted on a fountain that shoots streams of water from gargoyle heads. To add some fuel to the hellfire — the statue stands at 666 meters above sea level. Ermita de San Pelayo y San Isidro The ruins of the Ermita de San Pelayo y San Isidro, located in the northeastern corner of the park, is a small country chapel. It is noted as one of the few, albeit modest, examples of Romanesque architecture in Madrid. All that remains of the 13th-century structure is part of the wall, a side entrance and some of the apse. They were restored in 1999. Palacio de Cristal (Glass Palace) Hidden among verdant trees is the Palacio de Cristal (Glass Palace), an architectural marvel of iron and glass, reflected magnificently on the waters of a surrounding lake. It was built in 1887 to house flora brought over from the Philippines, then a Spanish colony. Today, it serves as an exhibition space. The oldest tree in Madrid Just within the Puerta de Felipe IV, the monumental gateway into the Parterre formal gardens, is thought to be Madrid's oldest tree. The Mexican conifer was planted in 1633 during the construction of the former Retiro Palace. La Rosaleda Garden Towards the southern end of the park is the La Rosaleda Garden, a romantic little enclave with over 4000 roses. They are in full bloom from May to June. Nearby attractions Parque del Buen Retiro is located near several of Madrid’s major sights including the Puerta de Alcalá, the gate that was once the main entrance to the city, and the iconic Plaza de la Cibeles. Madrid’s "golden triangle" of art museums – Museo del Prado, Reina Sofía and Thyssen-Bornemisza – are also nearby; all three are on Paseo del Prado boulevard.
La Rambla is a tree-lined boulevard featuring a wide array of architectural delights, beautifully decorated flower stalls and particularly talented (and certified) human statues. Foodies will definitely enjoy the tapa joints at Mercat de la Boqueria, considered by many to be the best gourmet food market in Europe. It is infamous for the incredible numbers of both pickpockets and tourist-first restaurants serving mediocre paella, but there is plenty to see and appreicate. Linking Plaça de Catalunya, the central square in Barcelona, with the old harbor, strolling La Rambla, or ramblejar, as the local people say, while admiring the imposing facades and doing some people watching, is something everyone should experience when visiting Barcelona. History of La Rambla Unlike most landmarks in Barcelona, the history of La Rambla is neither epic nor glamorous. Its name comes from the Arabic word ‘’ramla’’, which translates into ‘’sandy or muddy area’’. Today’s La Rambla used to be an open sewer named Riera d’en Malla, which also served as a natural culvert for the water coming from Collserola, the hills that limit Barcelona to the north. In the 15th century, the Barcelona Council wanted to extend its city walls by including El Raval district. For that, they had to divert the stream, so it could flow outside of the walls. The empty area resulting from the stream diversion became the actual street that was later named La Rambla. Over the following decades, several convents and monasteries were built along La Rambla, but most of them were burnt down during the anti-clerical revolution of 1835. It wasn’t until then, that La Rambla started flourishing. The most visited landmarks like Plaça Reial, Mercat de la Boqueria, Teatre Liceu, and Font de Canaletes were all built in the 19th century on the ground where Catholic buildings used to stand. Very quickly, La Rambla became the center of urban, modern city life in Barcelona. With the arrival of mass tourism, however, La Rambla has turned into the busiest tourist hot spot in the city, losing the local essence that once used to prevail there. Barcelonins are a rare thing to see these days, the reason why this was the area most affected by the consequences of COVID-19. The restaurants along the boulevard initiated a campaign to attract local customers by offering big discounts, but it’s been so long since the arrival of mass tourism, that barcelonins are not used to going there anymore. La Rambla or Les Rambles? La Rambla or Les Rambles? During your visit, you will probably realize that some locals call it La Rambla, while others say Les Rambles. This can be confusing for first-time visitors, but both terms are accepted. La Rambla refers to the whole pedestrian boulevard, while the plural form of Les Rambles refers to the five different sections into which it is divided. These distinct sections will help you shape your walking tour. Exploring La Rambla The first stretch of the famed boulevard is La Rambla de Canaletes, home to the Font de Canaletes. It is said that whoever tastes the water flowing from this fountain, will certainly come back to Barcelona one day – a local legend that always encourages happy visitors to drink from it. Canaletes is also the place where FC Barcelona fans gather when the football club wins titles. Meander down the road and you will bump into Església de Betlem, a 17th-century baroque church, and one of the few which wasn’t burned down during the anti-clerical revolution. The boulevard’s second stretch is named La Rambla dels Estudis, named after Estudi General de Barcelona, a 16th-century university and the predecessor of Universitat de Barcelona, one of the top public universities in Spain. Art lovers will enjoy walking through the third stretch called La Rambla de les Flors, which features a big mosaic made by surrealist painter Joan Miró, as well as the neoclassical Virreina Palace. Operating continuously since the 19th century, the flower market can be found in this section too. The newest addition to the sites is a memorial for the victims of the 2017 terrorist attack. Continue rambling down the boulevard until you find La Rambla dels Caputxins, named after a former monastery inhabited by friars from the Capuchin order. This is where you’ll find the acclaimed El Mercat de la Boqueria, a central market offering all the freshest produce in Barcelona. In La Boqueria, look for Pinocho Bar, an award-winning, 75-year-old tapa joint where, despite being consistently packed with visitors, the food quality remains impressive. Don’t miss their calamarcets amb mongetes de Santa Pau (little squid with local white beans). Across the street, pop into the very popular Erotic Museum, thought to be a bit sassy by some, the museum takes you through the fascinating influence of sexuality throughout the history of Barcelona. The last stretch of road belongs to La Rambla de Santa Mònica, also named after one of the monasteries which burned down in 1835. The southern edge of La Rambla leads into the 60m tall Columbus statue, which overlooks the old harbor of Barcelona. How to get to La Rambla Plaça Catalunya metro (Line 1, Line 3 and FGC) is located on the northern edge of La Rambla which is considered the starting point. Liceu and Drassanes metro stations (Line 3), are located in the middle and south end of La Rambla, respectively. Things to do around La Rambla La Rambla is a 1.2km boulevard that goes through the Old City, dividing the Gothic area and El Raval. On El Raval side, the Museum of Contemporary Art is one of the most visited museums in Barcelona. La Rambla del Raval is also gorgeous, much quieter, plus it features a cat statue made by the Colombian artist Botero. The Gothic area doesn’t come up short when it comes to neo-Gothic and Gothic buildings, the Barcelona Cathedral being the most astonishing architectural masterpiece. North of La Rambla and Plaça Catalunya, you have Passeig de Gràcia, a fancy-like street home to the Gaudí-designed buildings of La Pedrera and Casa Batlló. The southern edge of La Rambla links to the wooden dock and promenade, which connects to the beach district of La Barceloneta. Best restaurants near La Rambla Except for some tapa joints in Mercat de la Boqueria, we recommend skipping the restaurants found along La Rambla and instead, exploring the labyrinthine lanes of both El Raval and the Gothic area which are home to several local eateries and restaurants. On the Gothic side, have a meal at Agut, known for its traditional Catalan cuisine. Neri is slightly more expensive, but it’s a good place for getting a taste of what modern Catalan cuisine is like. For classic Spanish tapas, you will never go wrong in Babia. On the Raval side, we recommend Arume for Galician food, a northwestern Spanish region famous for its octopus. For a real Spanish experience, go to Bar Cañete, one of the oldest in the area. Those who need a break from Spanish food can pay a visit to the popular burger joint Buenissimo Burger.
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