Museo del Prado, Madrid
Widely regarded as the world’s biggest art gallery, the Museo del Prado houses over two and a half thousand works of art dating from the 1400’s right up to the 1800’s. While a lot of the emphasis does lie with the great Spanish artists, El Greco, Goya and Velazques, you will also have the opportunity to see hundreds of works by Flemish and Italian artists including Botticelli, Mantegna, Rafaello, Bosch, Rembrandt and Ruebens. If you do visit, you really should take the whole day as it is impossible to see everything if you don’t. Attracting thousands of visitors each year since it opened as an art gallery in 1819, if you are in Madrid, this is one attraction you certainly don’t want to miss.
Catedral de Toledo
The Cathedral in the Spanish town of Toledo is one of the largest in the Christian world and as far as Gothic structures go, it is surpassed only by those in Seville and Milan. One hundred and twenty metres long and fifty nine metres wide with a central nave which reaches a height of forty four and a half metres and is held up by eighty eight columns, its true size and splendor cannot really be appreciated from outside as the narrow streets of Toledo do not give you a proper view. It also has seven hundred and fifty stained glass windows which date from the fourteenth, fifteenth and sixteenth centuries and light up the inside of the Cathedral in a most impressive fashion. And, because you are in such a predominantly Roman Catholic country, it would be a shame not to visit at least one of their magnificent churches while you are there.
The Alhambra, Granada
The city itself is famous for being the ancient Moorish capital and is set against the spectacular backdrop of the Sierra Nevada. It is also home to one of the country’s most impressive sights, the Alhambra. Originally built by the Muslims as a pleasure pavilion it is one of the best displays of Islamic art and architecture that you are ever likely to see. The magnificent palace and gardens as well as the views which you see from the fortress are something that you should certainly consider including in your trip to Spain. Also in Granada you can visit the Casa del Castril and the Arab Baths as well as the graves of Fernando III and Isabel and the Gypsy caves of Sacromonte.
The Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao
This is definitely one for the art and architecture buffs among you. The new Guggenheim was one of the most talked about new buildings of 1998 and 1999, particularly in architecture circles and once you get there you’ll see why. A collection of interconnected blocks which house galleries, an auditorium, a restaurant and administrative offices, these buildings are centred around a single composition which largely resembles a huge metallic flower. But as well as the originality of the structure itself, the museum is one of the most important centres of modern and contemporary art in the world. Housing numerous permanent and temporary exhibitions of twentieth century US and European art, it has recently being voted European museum of the year.
Palacio Real, Madrid
With 2,000 rooms, 870 windows, 110 doors, 240 balconies and 44 sets of stairs, you just know before you go that the Royal Palace of Madrid is destined to impress. No one has actually lived here since 1931 but everything that was in the house when the king fled has been excellently preserved. You can see the paintings, chandeliers, tapestries and frescoes that occupied the house when royalty did reside there. The empty thrones of King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia are among the most popular artifacts in the palace. Outside, the gardens are as impressive as the interior, particularly when everything is in full bloom. In order to see everything in the Palace, it is recommended that you take a couple of days but if you don’t have that long, even a few hours is more than enough to appreciate how impressive the building is.