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Our picks in Spain - Our picks in Spain
Spain: Where Tradition Meets Cosmopolitan Energy

The traditional romance that Hemingway illustrated so well still permeates Spain, but it also bursts with a chic urban vibe in modern cities like Madrid and Barcelona. From bullfights to art galleries and tapas to fresh seafood, Spain is a delight for all of your senses.

Where to Stay
The height of luxury in the capital city can be found at the Ritz Hotel Madrid, where every need has been considered. This palace hotel provides indulgences including the refined English tradition of afternoon tea; the Bodyna Wellness Centre, an oasis of health and relaxation; and Goya Restaurant, one of the finest dining establishments in the country.

During an escape to the island of Mallorca, there’s no better way to pamper yourself than a stay at La Residencia. Voted the #1 Leisure Hotel by Conde Nast readers, guests are spoiled with haute cuisine, an elite spa, remarkable tennis facilities, luxurious suites, and an exclusive villa.

When traveling in Andalucia, golf lovers simply must stay at the Finca Cortesin Hotel in Malaga. The sumptuous suites and villas are divine, the restaurants and spa top-notch, and the three swimming pools refreshing. But what sets this luxury resort apart is its golfing, complete with a beautiful 18-hole course (which has been the site of professional tournaments) and a Jack Nicklaus Academy.

For more hotels, visit our Madrid Hotels page »

Where to Eat
El Bulli is officially the best restaurant in the world—at least according to Restaurant magazine. Located in the Catalonian town of Roses, this three-Michelin-starred restaurant run by Chef Ferran Adrià is everything you could want and more: a gorgeous setting overlooking a bay, breathtaking bites of exquisite cuisine, and a superior wine list. It’s not open year-round, so book well in advance for this gourmet treat.

Highly acclaimed Basque restaurant Mugaritz lives up to its reputation as one of the top establishments in Europe. Located in a renovated farmhouse, the creative cuisine includes liberal use of the herbs and vegetables grown onsite. The wine list, grouped according to characteristic rather than region of origin, is so interesting that you can purchase it as a souvenir.

Madrid’s Zalacain is arguably the city’s most exclusive restaurant, serving outstanding Basque and French dishes that make even well-traveled diners swoon with pleasure. This upscale, intimate eatery is elegantly designed and features worth-the-price dishes such as oysters with caviar and sherry jelly, veal escalopes in orange sauce, and decadent custards.

Visit the Dining page for more ideas and advice on the best restaurants in Madrid »

Where to Go
A visit to Toledo feels like a journey to another age. A sort of time capsule for European medieval history, you’ll walk down streets that have changed very little since the Middle Ages (and give the sensation of stepping into an El Greco painting), taking in the  fascinating Roman, Gothic, and medieval architecture. Known throughout the centuries for its skilled artisans and steel-makers, it’s still an ideal place to shop for a unique hand-made treasure.

Barcelona, the capital of Catalonia and the second most populous city in Spain, is a bustling metropolis with a wealth of both historical sites and modern activities. First up is the most famous cathedral in the country, La Sagrada Familia, the massive unfinished structure begun by Gaudí and marked by dozens of soaring towers. Other pursuits include museums dedicated to Gaudí, Miro, and Picasso; vibrant nightlife; the largest aquarium in Europe; and gourmet cuisine that celebrates the geographically diverse landscape.

Flamenco was born in Spain—southern Spain to be precise—and continues to be a national art form, so taking in a flamenco show is practically mandatory. Today, Seville is known as the flamenco hot spot, so check out the combination of song, dance, and guitar at places like El Tablao Flamenco Los Gallos (popular with tourists), Casa de la Memoria (not so touristy), and El Tamboril (where flamenco is performed by locals).

For a comprehensive guide to 'must-see' places in Madrid, visit our Explore page »

Where to Shop
The stylish city of Barcelona is home to a huge selection of designer clothing, jewelry, antiques, and more. Plaça Catalunya is the destination for international luxury stores such as Chanel, Armani, and Cartier. For something a bit different, the Barrí Gotic includes independent antique shops, bookstores, and lines from hot young clothing designers.

The historic region of Galicia in northwest Spain is famed for its exceptional meats and cheeses, and there’s no better way to sample these treats than a trip to the Mercado de Abastos in Santiago de Compostela. The relatively upscale market offers fresh items divided into easy-to-find groupings of produce, dairy, meats, etc.

In Madrid, stock up on one-of-a kind designer finds in Salamanca (nicknamed the “golden mile”). The Chueca area is upscale yet slightly Bohemian—perfect for those who don’t want the same Dior suit everyone else is wearing. For stores and brands that you’re familiar with, check out areas in the centre of Madrid, including Plaza Mayor and Gran Via.

Our Shopping page has lots more advice on the best places to shop in Madrid »

What to Do
A visit to Madrid absolutely must include the trio of famous museums that include the Prado, Reina Sofia, and Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza. Museo del Prado is the grand dame, of course, featuring a world-class collection of European art from the 12th through the 19th centuries—including paintings by Goya, Velázquez, and da Ribera. The Reina Sofia covers the works of modern artists like Picasso and Dali, as well as other famous and not-so-famous art from the last century. The Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza runs the gamut from medieval to modern art and is a good starting point if you want a quick trip through the different periods.

Eating tapas is one of the quintessentially Spanish traditions in which tourists should partake. Most Spaniards eat their largest meal in the middle of the day and indulge in tapas—bite-size portions of food—as an evening appetizer (usually in a bar setting). There’s an endless variety of tapas, from pickles on a stick to elegant bites to casseroles, so make sure to hit up multiple tapas bars.

Golfing is the most popular sport for tourists in Spain—and what prompts many to relocate to the country permanently. For gorgeous weather and dazzling courses, hit up the Costa del Sol in the south, which boasts a majority of Spain’s golf courses. Marbella, located in the Costa del Sol, is also the place to find elite yacht clubs.

Make a trip into downtown Bilbao to gaze upon the fascinating sight of the Guggenheim Museum, which hosts exhibits featuring Spanish and international artists. But the building itself, designed by celebrated American architect Frank Gehry, is worth the trip in itself. The monstrous, space-age construction rises from the banks of the Nervión River and stops visitors in their tracks.

Check out the Events page for what's coming up over the next couple of months »


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