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Spain's Top 10

Simple...a series of lists rating Spain's top 10 in anything and everything...they may be lists compiled by independent reviewers or by myself....whichever, I hope you find them useful :-)

10 'must-see' destinations in Andalucia
22 May 2019

More than 1100 kilometres of coastline, two National Parks and cities such as Seville, Córdoba and Granada are the epitome of Andalusia, but there is so much more to this region. Roman ruins, villages that defy gravity, dizzying trails and rivers that appear to be from another planet. This too is Andalusia. Come discover these other destinations, those that aren't on the first page of the travel guides. They will make your jaw drop all the same. This is the ideal place for your next getaway. (In no particular order)

 

1. Archaeological Site of Baelo Claudia. Roman Andalusia

If you like archaeology, here are two places that cannot be missed. The first is in Santiponce (a mere 15 km from Seville), where the remains of the ancient Roman city of Italica (206 BCE.) are found. From here you can see its Roman amphitheatre and part of the outline of its streets. In Cádiz, only two and a half hours by car from here, you'll find the Archaeological Site of Baelo Claudia, one of the best known examples of Roman urban planning.

 

 

2. Caminito del Rey, Malaga

Leave your dizziness behind to enjoy the Gaitanes Gorge on this unique trail. It has a bridge hanging from the mountain's wall that in some stretches is barely a metre wide, and 100 meters tall. Although it has been closed to the public due to poor maintenance, after a long restoration process, it was reopened at Easter.

 

3. Río Tinto, Huelva.

It's as if you were on Mars; the landscape seems dyed red along the Río Tinto, a river running through the province of Huelva. The peculiar colour of this river is due to the high concentration of heavy metals in underground aquifers.  In addition to gazing at the river's extraordinary beauty, you can get closer to the Río Tinto with a visit to its Mining Park, where you will learn how the region was transformed thanks to mining.

 

4. Vejer de la Frontera, Cádiz.

This is one of the white Andalusian towns where you'll run the risk of running out of memory on your camera, especially at its walled fortress which is perfectly preserved. Situated on a hill, Vejer shines almost to the point of making you squint. Nevertheless it is necessary to keep your eyes open to appreciate its incredible views that allow us to see the African coast

 

5. Casacada de la Cimbarra, Jaén

An impressive waterfall nearly 40 metres high is one of the best kept secrets in the province of Jaén. The town council of Aldeaquemada, the nearest village, recommends leaving your car at the foot of La Cimbarra and taking the path to the right in order to see the waterfall from its base, or taking the path on the left to see the waterfall head on.

 

6. Sierra de Grazalema. Grazalema, Cadiz

It's April year round in the Grazalema mountains. According to records it rains here more than anywhere else on the Iberian peninsula, something that makes this area one of the most ecologically valuable in Andalusia. The intense rainfall and the limestone terrain make this area a paradise for fans of rock climbing and caving as the landscapes are steep and there are many caves and grottos.

 

7. Cortegana, Huelva

At only 60 kilometres from the Portuguese border you'll encounter a small medieval village with a gem to be discovered, the Sanchocuanto castle, where every August the most important Medieval fair in Andalusia takes place. In addition to the village's historic and architectural value, Cortegana is worth a visit for its natural beauty. The town is located in the middle of the Aracena mountain range, surrounded by valleys full of cork oak and chestnut trees.

 

8. Pasarela sobre el río Castril, Castril, Granada

While the capital and the Sierra Nevada are the main tourist points in the province of Granada, there are other charming places in this area such as the Granada high plateau, a land of contrasts with nearly desert like terrain as well as high mountains. Here you'll find treasures such as the hanging footbridge over the Castril river, a spectacular 20 minute walk on the wooden footbridge through the river gorge. In addition to the village of Castril, it's also worth visiting Huéscar, the county's capital.

 

9. Vélez-Blanco. Castillo de Vélez-Blanco

This Renaissance fortress, one of Andalusia's best, impresses from afar with a perfectly maintained silhouette on a hillside. It is nearly 2500 square metres and has two main buildings joined by a drawbridge. The fortress's "Patio de Honor" [Courtyard of Honor] cannot be missed. Made of white marble, it is considered a gem of the Renaissance.

 

10. Setenil de las bodegas, Cádiz

One of the most spectacular destinations in Andalusia is this village set in stone. Adapting perfectly to the topography of the area, part of the old town has been built around rocks, with some buildings above them and some inside them. Wandering the narrow streets you may suddenly find yourself in the heart of a rock.



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SPAIN's Top 10 Museums
08 May 2019

You don't have to travel to Florence to suffer from Stendhal syndrome. Spain also boasts an extensive art collection, envied the world over. Just visiting one of the ten art centres in this top ten would be enough. You might not experience dizziness, palpitations and trembling, as French writer Stendhal did on his visit to the Italian city, but you will without a doubt leave with another perspective on art. Here are Spain's ten best museums. Not in any particular order.....


CaixaForum, Barcelona


It represents a trend in museums that has spread throughout Spain in recent years, where art galleries combine exhibitions with all kinds of activities, such as workshops, conferences, projections, etc. The space is managed by La Caixa through the bank's Obra Social foundation, but the programming isn't its only appeal. It's located in a very remarkable Modernista building, the old Casaramona factory designed by famous Catalan architect Josep Puig i Cadafalch.

 

Reina Sofia Art Centre, Madrid


It's one of Madrid's large museums and full of art both inside and out. It's dedicated exclusively to modern and contemporary art and walking through its rooms you can see one of the key works of Spanish art: Guernica, by Pablo Picasso. Before contemplating this marvellous piece, you should take a moment to enjoy the surroundings. The museum is comprised of two buildings: the first dates from the 16th century and used to be the old San Carlos hospital; the second was built in 2001 and is the work of prestigious architect Jean Nouvel.

 

The Guggenheim, Bilbao


Few museums can claim to have triggered a city's transformation, but that's exactly what the Guggenheim did. In fact, Bilbao is now one of Spain's most popular tourist destinations. Its avant garde architecture, the work of Frank O. Gehry, will undoubtedly impress you with its curvilinear forms and extraordinary play of titanium volumes, now a symbol of Bilbao. You mustn't miss the work 'The Matter of Time' by Richard Serra which is part of the permanent exhibition, where you will find yourself immersed in seven impressive sculptures.

 

Valencia Modern Art Institute - IVAM, Valencia


If you're an art lover and you're going to Valencia, as well as visiting the City of Arts and Sciences, another must-see is IVAM. This gallery is dedicated to modern and contemporary art. It has two different spaces: the Julio González Centre, dedicated to the museum collection and temporary exhibitions; and the Sala de la Muralla, located in the building's basement, with the preserved remains of the city's mediaeval fortifications. The activity programme includes courses, workshops and even concerts.

 

La Casa Encendida, Madrid


This is a social and cultural centre with some of Madrid's most experimental artistic expressions and an outstanding programme of educational activities, conferences and debates. The gallery is managed by the Obra Social Caja Madrid foundation and pursues four lines of action: Solidarity, Environment, Culture and Education. After participating in one of the activities on offer, there's nothing better than taking a walk around the rooftop garden and enjoying the great views.

 

Museu d'Art Contemporani de Barcelona - MACBA, Barcelona


While it didn't transform the city like the Guggenheim in Bilbao, it did become one of the motors of change in the renovation of the neighbourhood of El Raval, which went from being a run-down area to one of Barcelona's most modern. The building by Richar Meier is noteworthy for its combination of straight lines and curves, the large interior spaces and the harnessing of natural light. The exhibition and event spaces include the Capella MACBA annex, formerly the Los Angeles convent church. The museum focuses on art from the second half of the 20th century.

 

Dalí Theatre-Museum, Figueres, Girona


The museum took over the former Figueras municipal theatre (19th century) and clearly reflects the artist's personality and work. Dalí himself supervised the renovation works on the building, which is recognisable for its red and gold paint job and the large white eggs that crown it.  Although you can visit throughout the year, it's worth going in August when they open at night. From 10 until 1 in the morning you can contemplate the artist's work while having a glass of the Spanish sparkling wine cava.


Picasso Museum, Malaga


The fascinating work of the artist from Malaga and the beauty of the Buenavista Palace make this museum a unique place to enjoy art and culture. The gallery's 155 works range from his first academic studies to his personal vision of classicism; from the superimposed planes of cubism to his incursion into ceramics; from his interpretation of the great masters to his last paintings in the seventies. Temporary exhibitions, educational and cultural activities, the library and a specialised bookshop complete a suggestive proposal.


Thyssen – Bornemisza Museum, Madrid


Located on the famous Paseo del Prado and forming part of what is known as Madrid's Art Triangle, the museum is in the beautiful Duque de Villahermoso Palace, remodelled by the prestigious architect Rafael Moneo. It houses what is without a doubt one of the most important private art collections in the world, with works from the 13th to 20th centuries. The museum proves particularly didactic due to its size and the way the works are displayed according to chronological, thematic and stylistic criteria. 

 

The Prado Museum


This is the king of Spanish museums, an international authority due to the fact it possesses the most complete collection of 11th to 18th-century Spanish painting. You will need several hours to go through the rooms displaying the works of the great masters such as El Greco, Goya, Rubens and Rembrandt.  Here you can see one of the most famous Spanish paintings of all time: Las Meninas, by Velázquez. Architecture lovers will also enjoy visiting the museum's new wing, an extension designed by the architect Rafael Moneo. 



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