Spain has a unique place on the tourist map. It has a beautiful mixture of the different cultures making it one of the most interesting places to visit in Europe. The cultural past of the country is reflected best in its architectural remains. You will have the Moorish, the Roman, the Gothic and the Renaissance architectural styles rubbing shoulders with the latest in architectural trends.
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Art and cuisine too are not free from these influences. Like its diverse culture, the country is also diverse in its scenery. While the north with its rolling green hills resembles the Irish landscape, the south reminds one of the Moroccan topography. The main circuits that one visit in Spain are Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia and Ibiza.
Madrid is the capital city of Spain. It is also the largest city of the country and one of the gateways to the country. It is centrally located in the country and the climate is generally warm in summer and cool in winter. The city boasts of the finest modern amenities for the tourists while preserving the rich history. Madrid is easily accessible not only by plane but also by train and international bus services from various parts of Europe.
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When in Madrid one should savor the richness of the cultural heritage and there is no better place than to visit the various museums. Visit the National Archeology Museum, the Naval Museum, the Museo de America, Museo de la Ciudad, etc. For a glimpse of masterpieces by great masters visit the Golden Triangle of Art Museums consisting of the Museo del Prado, the Reina Sofia Museum and Art Center and the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum of Art. Other attractions in Madrid are the Palacio Real, Plaza Mayor, Puerta del Sol, Plaza Castillo, the various parks, the Royal Theater, etc. One can also visit the Royal Palace of El Pardo just outside Madrid. The must see places outside Madrid also include Alcala de Henares, the first planned city in the world; Aranjuez, the seat of the Bourbons; Chinchon, a Spanish town that retains the charm of the 1700s; the Royal Monastery at El Escorial; Segovia, home to a Roman aqueduct and Spanish Mint and Toledo, the medieval walled city.
There is plenty to do in Madrid. One can be sporty and have an experience of Spanish bullfight or cheer the players of Real Madrid, one of the most famous soccer clubs in the world. Have a night out at the opera or concerts or simply taste the vivacity of flamenco.
Barcelona is the second largest city in Spain and home to almost 2 million people. Though Barcelona is an important city from very long time, it gained real popularity after hosting the 1992 Olympic Games and from then onwards it has been drawing tourists from all over the world. The best thing that has happened to the city is that it has become one of the most modern cities in terms of amenities for the tourists but it still preserves the rich heritage that Spain is famous for.
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Barcelona is a perfect city to walk around. So you can walk around Barceloneta, Barri Gotic, La Ribera or Raval regions of the Old City or Ciutat Vella. These parts have much to offer. The Basilica of Santa Maria del Mar, Palau de la Musica Catalana and the Picasso Museum in La Ribera; the beautiful squares, the Museum of the City of Barcelona and the Guell Palace of Barri Gotic; La Rambla, the famous and iconic boulevard of Barcelona, Drassanes, Saint Paul of Fields and Saint Paul del Camp in the Raval region and finally the Aquarium, Olympic Port and the Catalonia’s Museum of History and the Museum of Natural history of Barceloneta.
On day trips from Barcelona one can visit Figueres, the Salvador Dali Museum; Montserrat, the seat of Black Madonna; the beach at Sitges or have a tour of the Pyrenees Mountains which lies only 150 km from the city.
Valencia is the third largest city in Spain after Madrid and Barcelona and it is also the region of origin of the most famous culinary contribution to the world, the Paella. Though the city lies on the Mediterranean its people do not live around the sea. Instead most of the important places are situated away from the beach. Though Valencia was a city established by the Romans, it has transformed into a great modern city in the last decade. The central attraction of the city is the City of Arts and Science. It is a complex which houses a Science Museum, an Aquarium, a Planetarium while a proposed arts museum is to open its door soon.
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The Seu is a cathedral that has doors from three distinct architectural periods and the Micalet tower which gives a great view of the city from its top. The Lladro Porcelain Museum and Factory is a great place for watching the masters working on various porcelain gems.
Valencia has quite a few beaches within the city limits while there are three beaches outside the city of which the El Saler is the best developed. Just about 90km north of Valencia is a picturesque region that is known for its mountains, gorges and beautiful nature. A hot spring is the main attraction of this region. It has crystalline waters where bubbles rise from the deep. It is a less traveled place but a great experience for the tourists. Albufera is a fresh water lake and the nearby village is a great place to taste some authentic Paella.
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Ibiza is the famous center for the fun-loving tourists. It gained popularity from the 1960s and now it hosts millions of tourists every year. There are coves, cliffs, sandy beaches and the predominantly white houses that add up to the pure Mediterranean vacation. Though people come here mostly to revel in fun, frolic and wild nightlife, one can also get a taste of pure Mediterranean culture if one takes time out from the fun and visit the interiors of the island.
These four locations are the top attractions of Spain. But that does not mean that one should miss the great destinations like Granada, Cordoba, Guadalajara, Palma or Sevilla.