SPAIN

The geographical situation of the Iberian Peninsula has made it a natural bridge between the cultures of Europe, Africa and the Mediterranean. In Spain the Celts, the Iberians, the Greeks, the Romans, the Phoenicians, the Carthaginians, the Visigoths, the Muslims … All of them left an enormous amount of archaeological vestiges that endure to this day and that make up the rich heritage historical and cultural of the country. In Spain you can find sites with unique rock art in the world, numerous castles, cathedrals, medieval cities and towns and even modern and avant-garde buildings such as the City of Arts and Sciences of Valencia or the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao. The geographical diversity of the country has led to the emergence of regional cultural events, which are the pride of its inhabitants and are manifested in the artistic representations, festivities, music, language and cuisine of each territory. In fact, in addition to Spanish, in Spain there are several co-official languages, such as Basque, Catalan, Galician and Valencian. Speaking of gastronomy, the variety is also prominent. The Spanish dish par excellence is the potato omelette, so much so that in other European countries it is known as a Spanish omelette. On the other hand, sangria is the most famous drink. At the same time, there are many regional dishes such as paella valencia, cocido madrileño, fabada asturiana, gazpacho andaluz, octopus a la gallega …

SEVILLA

The Guadalquivir river –the ancient Betis– flows between the foothills of the Sierra Morena to the north and the Sierra Sur mountains in the south, irrigating a rich and fertile valley. In its lower course, 70 kilometres from the sea, is the ancient city of Seville, the capital of the Autonomous Region of Andalusia and of the largest and most densely populated province in Andalusia. The towns and cities on the shores of the river are living testimony to its historic and cultural past. Seville, the emblematic city of universal renown, has been Arab, Jewish and Roman, and its river and its river port have served as a privileged destination for trade with the West Indies. Its art and folklore make this an exceptional tourist destination. The origin of the city of Seville dates from around the first millennium BC, coinciding with its settlement by the Phoenicians and the Tartessians. Its location at the confluence of river and land routes favoured the rapid economic growth of the valley and the surrounding lands. The settlement of Julia Romula Hispalis, founded by Julius Caesar, was the hub of spectacular commercial activity. Major settlements were established throughout the territory, whose buildings and monuments can still be seen in the present day. The Arabs left an indelible mark on the culture and monuments of these lands. In the 16th century, Seville experienced its period of maximum splendour. The port of Seville received goods from all over Europe, as well as precious metals from the New World, which contributed to the development of western Europe. The Enlightenment saw a revival of trade, agriculture and industry. The Universal Exhibition of 1992 promoted and enhanced even more the reputation of Seville.

CORDOBA

Córdoba, capital of Muslim Spain, is the main city in a territory located in the centre of Andalusia. The Guadalquivir river, at its wider middle course, crosses this province from east to west and provides irrigation for a wide plain where cereals, grapevines and olive trees grow. Towards the north, the landscape becomes progressively wilder until it reaches the summits of the Sierra Morena, with dense forests and abundant wild game for hunting. In the south, the land rises gradually until it reaches the mountains of the Subbética range. These lands with their limestone soils feature spreading olive groves and white villages and noble towns with well-conserved Baroque architecture. This mountainous landscape is home to a varied fauna. The province of Córdoba, which still bears traces of its Iberian, Roman and Muslim past, is rich in traditions; it has an outstanding architectural heritage, and its gastronomy has undergone a considerable resurgence with the revival of a range of dishes from the traditional cooking of the region. Since Palaeolithic times, the province of Cordoba has been marked by the hand of man. The Tartessians and Oretani people fought over these lands and the exploitation of its iron, lead and copper mines. The Romans conquered it, and were fascinated by its beautiful landscapes and the fertile valley. Numerous constructions throughout the province stand as witness to their presence. After the Muslim expansion across the Iberian peninsula, the territory of the Al-Andalus empire in Cordoba became a major hub for the export of cultural and economic ideas in medieval Europe. With the independent Emirate established by Abderramán I and the Omeya caliphate of Abderramán III, Cordoba reached the pinnacle of its historical prominence. The teachings of great men –Seneca, Maimonides, Averroes…– spread the splendour and influence of Cordoba all over the world. After the Christian conquest, the repopulations of the valley of the Guadalquivir by Charles III of Spain and the social unrest in the 19th century, the province changed course towards a new historical destination. Today this privileged enclave in Andalusia is home to a priceless architectural heritage, which will captivate the most demanding traveller.

GRANADA

Granada is music and poetry, monuments which are pure art, and ancient culture. This province reaches towards the skies from the craggy summits of the Sierra Nevada mountains; cities with breathtaking architecture which reside serenely in the Altiplano region; white villages scattered across hills and valleys which slope down to the cliffs and beaches of the Costa Tropical. The province of Granada, tourist destination par excellence, offers travellers the chance to ski in the Sierra Nevada mountains, discover hidden villages in the Alpujarra region, explore the last frontier of the Al-Andalus empire in eastern Granada or stay in caves and experience a troglodyte’s lifestyle. A land of mild warm summers and winters which are ideal for snow sports. The whole province is full of incentives for those who love architecture and culture. The district of Santa Fe was where the discovery of America was planned by Christopher Columbus, and Fuente Vaqueros is the birthplace of Federico García Lorca, one of the most important poets and playwrights to grace Spanish literature. The remains of a hominid dating between one and two million years old were discovered in the Altiplano region of Granada. The Bastetani, an Iberian people, bequeathed to posterity a relic of great historic and cultural value: the Lady of Baza. Some coins struck by the Turduli people towards the 5th century bear witness to the origin of the capital of this lovely province. In the 8th century, the Berbers conquered these lands which reached their apogee with the Nasrids, who brought an economic, social, artistic and cultural development whose influence can still be seen today.

RONDA

Ancient Ronda is a colourful tapestry woven from a skein of tangled threads which make it one of the most interesting cities in all Andalusia. The landscape, the layout of the town, its history, the romantic legend of its bandits with their evocative names, the cradle of bullfighters and artists whose names have gone down in history: all this makes Ronda a unique city. The list of outstanding men of letters who have fallen captive to the charms of this city can be traced from the earliest texts down to the present day. Pliny, al-Motámid the poet-king of Seville, al-Idrisi, Ibn al-Jatib, Vicente Espinel, Rilke, Juan Ramón Jiménez and Juan Goytisolo are just a few of the long line of authors who have written eloquent pages about Ronda; a place where –if the locals are to believed– it rains upwards, and where birds fly beneath your feet as you lean out over the Tajo gorge. The city inveigles you to take a leisurely stroll through its streets, absorbing every detail of this ancient Arab “medina” on the south bank of the Guadalevín river, whose walls are still partially standing. You can cross the Puente Nuevo (“new bridge”) and wander around the Alameda del Tajo, stopping at every odd corner and historic monument, and then restore your strength in one of the restaurants offering an abundant selection of dishes from the local cuisine. The town itself is divided into three clearly distinct areas: the city, or old Arab Medina, which is the most important from the historical point of view; the neighbourhood of San Francisco, separated by city Walls, and the Mercadillo neighbourhood, which is on the other side of the Guadalevín river.

MALAGA

Ancient and cosmopolitan Malaga in the past still retains its historic roots intact. In long-gone times it bore witness to the origins of man and of the Mediterranean culture, and is today the primary force in the Andalusian tourist industry, keeping alive its tradition of a welcoming and creative land. Maritime Malaga on the coast where winter never comes; and with a mountain vocation inland, where nature is displayed in all its splendour. White villages with their attractive architecture, wrapped in romantic legend, bring points of light into secluded valleys where life goes by peacefully. And from the peaks of the mountains you can watch the horizon until it becomes lost in the immense blue of the sea. The history of this province has taken place between the sea and the mountains. Its capital was a witness to the economic and cultural boom of the western Mediterranean. The town known as Malaka by the Phoenicians was transformed into a prosperous commercial centre. After the Muslim invasion of the 8th century, the territory became Arabised and later became part of the Nasrid kingdom in Granada, when it underwent a new period of commercial and cultural prominence. In the 19th century, the iron and steel industries of los Larios and the commercialisation of its wines provided significant economic development for the province. After decades of economic downturn, Malaga underwent rapid economic growth in the second half of the 20th century, thanks to the tourist industry. Each year millions of citizens from all over the world choose this idyllic land to relax on its sun-drenched beaches, discover its rich architectural heritage or explore the wild beauty of its mountain geography.

TOLEDO

Toledo is one of the Spanish cities with the greatest wealth of monuments. Known as the “city of the three cultures”, because Christians, Arabs and Jews lived together there for centuries, behind its walls Toledo preserves an artistic and cultural legacy in the form of churches, palaces, fortresses, mosques and synagogues. This great diversity of artistic styles makes the old quarter of the capital of Castile – La Mancha a real open-air museum, which has led to it being declared a World Heritage Site.

MADRID

Madrid is the Spanish capital since 1561 and it is home to important institutions of the State as it is the central government’s headquarters. Moreover, it is the official residence of the Spanish monarchs and some national bodies, such as the Spanish Royal Academy, and of international bodies like the World Tourism Organization. The Spanish capital is a cosmopolitan city that combines the most modern infrastructures with its status of economic, financial, administrative and service centre. Madrid has an outstanding transportation network, which makes easier the access by road, airplane, train or metro, and it has one of the best local public transport services in the World. The Adolfo Suárez Madrid-Barajas airport, which it is the main mean of access to Spain and the main departure and arrival airport to South America, is one of the most important airports in the World regarding the number of passengers. With a vast artistic and cultural patrimony, heritage of several centuries of a rich and passionate history, Madrid has been witness to the birth of celebrated and universal figures such as Lope de Vega, Calderón de la Barca, Francisco de Quevedo, Jacinto Benavente, Jardiel Poncela, José Ortega y Gasset, Gregorio Marañón, Juan Gris, Juan de Villanueva, Ruperto Chapí, Federico Chueca and Joaquín Rodrigo, among others, and many other intellectuals, artists and other famous celebrities that lived in the city. Madrid is an open city for who is willing to discover it, where culture, gastronomic, business, leisure and entertainment activities are blended, being one of the most strong and diverse tourist attraction in Europe and in the World.

BARCELONA

The first human settlements in Barcelona date back to Neolithic times. The city itself was founded by the Romans who set up a colony called Barcino at the end of the 1st century BC. The colony had some thousand inhabitants and was bounded by a defensive wall, the remains of which can still be seen in the old town.
For over 200 years, Barcelona was under Muslim rule, and, following the Christian reconquest, it became a county of the Carolingian Empire and one of the main residences of the court of the Crown of Aragon. The fruitful medieval period established Barcelona’s position as the economic and political centre of the Western Mediterranean. The city’s Gothic Quarter bears witness to the splendour enjoyed by the city from the 13th to the 15th centuries. From the 15th to 18th centuries Barcelona entered a period of decline, while it struggled to maintain its economic and political independence. This struggle ended in 1714, when the city fell to the Bourbon troops and Catalonia’s and Catalans’ rights and privileges were suppressed. A period of cultural recovery began in the mid-19th century with the arrival of the development of the textile industry. During this period, which was known as the Renaixença, Catalan regained prominence as a literary language. The 20th century ushered in widespread urban renewal throughout Barcelona city, culminating in its landmark Eixample district, which showcases some of Barcelona’s most distinctive Catalan art-nouveau, or modernista, buildings. The Catalan Antoni Gaudí, one of the most eminent architects, designed buildings such as the Casa Milà (known as La Pedrera, the Catalan for stone quarry), the Casa Batlló and the Sagrada Família church, which have become world-famous landmarks. The freedoms achieved during this period were severely restricted during the Civil War in 1936 and the subsequent dictatorship. With the reinstatement of democracy in 1978, Barcelonasociety regained its economic strength and the Catalan language was restored. The city’s hosting of the 1992 Olympic Games gave fresh impetus to Barcelona’s potential and reaffirmed its status as a major metropolis. In 2004, the Forum of Cultures reclaimed industrial zones to convert them into residential districts. An example of the renewed vigour with which Barcelona is looking towards the 21st century.

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