Ten Spanish cultural gems
Spain is a country of great culture. If you are thinking of visiting the country, it can be overwhelming when deciding what to visit on a limited timescale. So here are ten of the best Spanish cultural gems.
1) Tomatina, Valencia
The Tomatina – or Tomato Festival – is one of the world’s most unusual festivals. It is effectively a mass food fight, held in the town of Bunol near Valencia. The festival involves up to 40,000 people throwing tomatoes at each other in the streets for an hour, and is as fascinating as it is messy. It’s been around since 1945, but no-one knows quite why it started.
2) Casa Museu Gaudi, Barcelona
This museum in modernist architect Gaudi’s former home is homage to the great man. It is surrounded by the fantastical Park Guell, which was also designed by him.
3) Montserrat, Catalonia
Close to Barcelona, this fascinating cliff-top monastery is incredibly beautiful, and looks almost unreal, perched as it is on an isolated rocky outcrop. As well as wandering around the monastery buildings themselves, take a hike on one of the trails around it.
4) The Alcazar, Seville
The Alcazar is a Moorish fort turned royal palace, and is Europe’s oldest royal palace. It is incredibly ornate, with mosaics and inscriptions decorating its walls. It is surrounded by beautiful gardens.
5) The Alhambra, Granada
This is the most famous Spanish Moorish palace of them all. The Alhambra is a real fairytale palace which takes your breath away at every turn with its maze of courtyards and intricate designs.
6) Torre Tavira, Cadiz
An unusual attraction in the lively city of Cadiz: the Torre Tavira is a watchtower, once one of 160 built for locals to look out over the city from. The views are fantastic.
7) Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao
This unique contemporary art museum was built by architect Frank Gehry, and has become the symbol of Bilbao. Its gleaming silver walls are sculpted to look like a ship.
8) Running of the Bulls, Pamplona
Controversial, but fascinating: running of the bulls festivals are held across Spain, but Pamplona’s is the most famous. Bulls run through the streets of the city to its bullring, and hundreds of people run with them in a hectic display of bravery.
9) Plaza Mayor, Madrid
This is the capital’s highlight. Built in 1619, its grand buildings are difficult to take your eyes off. If you do, you’ll be well-rewarded: it is packed with cafes, stalls and people out enjoying the city buzz.
10) Mezquita, Cordoba
The Mezquita dates from 795, when it was built as a mosque, complete with beautiful courtyards and minaret. Then, in the 16th century the mosque’s centre was torn out and replaced with an equally beautiful cathedral. A hybrid religious building that is one-of-a-kind.
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