As far as cities go, Barcelona is a favorite of mine, among countless other world travelers. Many will say it’s the night life, the architecture, or the culture, but for me, it was the energy of the people. Nights in Barcelona offer nearly anything you can imagine, but what I found most interesting was the traditional Flamenco shows. Sure, there are clubs, absinthe bars, and more obscure experiences to be had, which can take you a myriad of directions, but I find a particular interest in the way of life and the culture of the places I visit prior to modern life and globalization.
Quick hits in Barcelona: Stroll along La Rambla, discover great views and history at the Montjuïc Castle, see the imposing Sagrada Família church, and tour the beautiful and unique works of architect Antoni Gaudí. Or another idea is if you would like to follow the coast down toward Costa del Sol, then you will see a wide range of Spain’s culture, history, beauty and vacation life.
Madrid is a large, compact modern city, but it still has areas rich with history as well as endless options of modern attractions. The night life is particularly alight here in Madrid, and with that comes the possibilities of clashing with the underworld. Beware of the scammers and hijackers if partying late. Locals can tell a tourist a mile away. I say this as a helpful warning only, not to deter, but to enrich your experience there. Wandering the streets of Madrid by day was a favorite experience of mine while I was there. Additionally, a short trip by train will arrive you in Toledo, a walled castle town with beautiful views, photo ops, shops, and pre-modern history. You will have to visit Toledo to understand why I love it so.
Quick hits in Madrid: Eat well at the Mercado San Miguel market or picnic in the Buen Retiro Park, then you can tour the Royal Palace or see one of Madrid’s famous art museums, before venturing through the famous Puerta del Sol square.
I found Granada to be a magical and fascinating place. The amazing Alhambra sits atop a mountain, which is visible in nearly all parts of the town. It casts a heavy and time-honored shadow over the old stone streets of Albaicin Neighborhood. I’ve always had a passion for photography, for capturing a mood, a feeling or a story that few others might have seen, and as a photographer, Granada at twilight with a full moon was one of the most captivating sights. If you’re heading from Madrid, you will undoubtedly head through the mountains to Granada, which provides for more astounding photo opportunities. I wandered the streets everyday for a week, and I learned more about people and the modern culture there than almost anywhere else – it’s amazing how modern life flourishes against such historic backdrops.
Quick hits in and around Granada: Do not miss the Alhambra, have a drink and tapas in the oldest part of the town: the Albaicin, then see the Sierra Nevadas.
There is so much more to Spain… I saw more than what I’ve talked about above, however, there are also regions that I regrettably missed. If you have the chance to truly see Spain for an extended period of time, take a trip down the eastern coast, then loop back up to see Ronda, Sevilla, and definitely do not miss (as I have) the Pyrenees. Better yet, explore freely! Rent a car, and move from place to place, at will, guided by the spirit of the country and its people. The best experiences I had were when I couchsurfed from place to place – there’s something so wonderful about spending time with locals. There’s no better way to learn and to truly experience a foreign destination.
(Photo #1 by lagrimon, #2 by arrano via Flickr)
Written by Brandon Scott