It may be tough to single out which Spanish metropolis to go to, particularly for a Fomo-prone, decision-anxious traveller like me. The answer, nevertheless, is train-shaped; in spite of everything, why go to only one metropolis when the slick, civilised long-distance railway community makes it straightforward to tick off a south-western trifecta?
A Brit overseas can solely marvel at Spanish stations’ orderly boarding course of, full with airport-style safety, reserved seating in spacious carriages (hurrah for tray tables that comfortably accommodate a laptop computer, for as soon as) and reasonably priced pricing (an advance ticket for the three.5hr Madrid-Granada service can price as little as £15).
Not solely is that this an eco-friendlier choice than street tripping, it’s additionally much less demanding for anybody who finds overseas rent automotive encounters have a tendency to finish in both near-death experiences or near-divorce (or each). So, all aboard for a culture-packed Spanish sojourn…
Peacocks strut between the fountains and palm bushes in Actual Alcázar, the 800-year-old royal residence the place ornately carved Islamic courtyards (these doubled as Dorne in Sport of Thrones) meet frescoed Baroque halls. Seville’s chapters below Muslim and Catholic rule can be glimpsed on the close by Cathedral, the minaret of Almohad mosque nonetheless towering beside the monumental Gothic basilica.
However not all Seville’s sights date again centuries; Las Setas (that means mushrooms) is the world’s largest timber construction and affords hovering alfresco walkways from which to survey the cityscape. Crossing the river to the down-to-earth barrio of Triana, in the meantime, monumental squares give option to winding lanes lined with ceramic workshops and flamenco bars, plus the Mercado de Abastos meals market.
A number of anchovies and sherries right here, some snails and Iberico ham there – bar hopping is the proper option to spend these balmy Andalusian evenings and pattern Sevillian tapas tradition. Our favorite old-school spots embrace Bar Alfafa, Abacería Los Carros (Pl. Monte Sión) and La Fresquita (C. Mateos Gago 29), a bolthole filled with non secular icons and wafting incense, solely steps from the Cathedral.
If you’re maxed out on tapas, Nobu Sevilla on scenic Plaza San Francisco supplies one thing utterly completely different: Japanese-Peruvian fine-dining with a subtly Spanish slant. Alongside Chef Nobu’s signature dishes like miso black cod, there are tacos with tuna tomato salsa and miso Padrón peppers, all paired with top-shelf sakes. To your morning caffeine repair, make a beeline to Borbotea Espresso Lab, then cool off within the afternoon with a mouth-watering ice-cream from Giolatto.
Historic mansions reworked into boutique inns – if that’s your kind of keep, Seville spoils for selection. Corral del Rey unfurls throughout a few storied, buildings, the stone partitions and wood-beamed ceilings oozing ambiance, whereas a plunge pool with panoramic views awaits upstairs.
Splash out on a Deluxe Pool Terrace Suite to your personal rooftop idyll and freestanding tub. One other casa palacio given a contemporary lease of life is Gravina 51. Elegant rooms stocked with L’Occitane facilities and Nespresso machines are organized round a peaceable courtyard – all jungly vegetation and water options – topped off with one of many metropolis’s swishest rooftop bars. Belying the quiet side-street location, Seville’s regal websites are just a few minutes’ stroll away.
For a free-of-charge nightly flamenco present, squeeze onto a bench at La Carboneria, order una caña and watch the performers stamp and twirl beneath the colored lights.
There’s no lacking the Alhambra – crowning Granada’s highest hill, the Unesco-listed ‘purple fortress’ deserves a full day’s exploration, from marble palace to fortress to jasmine-scented grounds. Reserving upfront is crucial, and it’s value downloading the in-app audio information so you possibly can take up the citadel’s epic historical past as you wander round.
The Arabian Nights ambiance continues within the labyrinthine lanes of Albaicín, a neighbourhood dotted with mosques, hammams and tea outlets. At day’s finish, head to one of many metropolis’s many miradoros (viewpoints), corresponding to Mirador de la Lola and San Miguel Alto, to admire the Alhambra’s sandstone partitions at golden hour and bathed in moonlight.
Rise and shine with a slab of tostada con tomate and freshly squeezed orange juice at Café 4 Gatos, a pint-sized, backstreet café with heat service and pocket-friendly costs. In the meantime, specialty espresso outlets Bonnevie and La Finca are good pitstops for a restorative cortado between sightseeing visits.
As with Granada’s structure and crafts, a Moorish flavour ripples by means of native delicacies. Among the tastiest Med-meets-Moroccan fusion fare might be discovered at Restaurante Ruta del Azafrán or Om Kalsum (C. Jardines 17).
Hospes Palacio de los Patos is keep worthy of a sultan. Near the cathedral, this design-forward property artfully merges the unique Unesco-protected Nineteenth-century palace with a stark, glass-clad up to date annexe. It’s Granada’s most luxurious deal with by an extended shot (seeing as no one can in a single day on the Alhambra lately).
Investing in a Granada Card (from €40) will cowl entrance to the Alhambra and numerous different monuments, plus 9 city bus journeys to hop between the websites.
Absolutely one in every of Europe’s most underrated capitals, Madrid’s masterpiece-crammed museums, completely manicured parks and boutique-lined boulevards are on par with Paris. Its must-see ‘Golden Triangle of Artwork’ includes the Prado Museum (specializing in Spanish works, Goya, El Greco and Velasquez high the invoice right here); Thyssen-Bornemisza (a 1000-strong assortment of European artwork) and Reina Sofia (residence to Picasso’s Guernica and different modernist mavericks).
Then take in some edgier road artwork and thrift store cool in Malasaña, the barrio the place post-Franco countercultural motion La Movida Madrileña was born. A shout-out additionally goes to Caixaforum for its quirky short-term exhibitions; the constructing itself is value a go to, transformed by Swiss starchitects Herzog & de Meuron from an influence station to dwelling wall-clad cultural centre.
Manero en Madrid is a gilded jewel-box of a bar serving connoisseur tapas and seafood beside El Retiro park, or observe in Hemingway’s footsteps at Nineteen Twenties sherry tavern La Venencia (Calle de Echegaray 7). Greater than a mere meals market, Mercado de San Miguel is a century-old establishment and atmospheric backdrop during which to pattern Spanish produce.
Rosewood Villa Magna will edify artwork lovers as a lot as town’s museums; look out for the Balenciaga-inspired tapestry behind the entrance desk and Fares Micue’s surreal self-portrait images.
The monochrome suites present elegant pieds-à-terre on the grand, tree-shaded thoroughfare of Paseo de Recoletos. Downstairs, the foyer lounge and courtyard bar throng with well-at-heel locals tucking into coffees and pastries by day, or impressed home twists on negronis, G&Ts and martinis after darkish. Don’t neglect to e-book into the huge subterranean spa for a spot of steaming, soaking and pampering.
Bought a style for the tracks? Take a day journey to Toledo, hilltop stomping floor of Mannerist painter El Greco (he of the trippily elongated saints), or Segovia, with its monumental Roman aqueduct and Disney-esque fortress. Each cities are solely a 30-minute prepare journey from Madrid.
The road doesn’t cease right here: browse our full assortment of Spanish inns
Estella Shardlow is a contract journey author and editor whose work has appeared in The Instances, Suitcase, The Telegraph, Meals & Journey and extra.