Featured Spain holidays
There was a time when for many Brits, Spain holidays were all about a week or two in the sun, a sandy beach, a swimming pool and lazy days and nights that merged into one. However, more and more of us are discovering that Spain is about so much more.
Madrid, the imperial capital, is as grand as any in Europe, with highlights including the Prado art gallery and its many works by Dali, Goya and Picasso. On the east coast are Valencia, a small but stylish hotspot, and Barcelona, centre of a region with its own language and its own way of doing things. Go north on holidays in Spain and you’ll find Bilbao, made fashionable by the Guggenheim museum, and, stretching along the coast, a mountainous green landscape and secluded bays.
The Balearic Islands have attracted a generation of partying youngsters to its nightclubs and bars, while the Canary Islands off Africa have long appealed to those for whom Spanish holidays still mean a week or two in the sun, a sandy beach, a swimming pool and long, lazy days.
The deep south of Andalucia has a character all its own and is a must on Spain tours. Whitewashed houses fill the towns and Seville in particular is magnificent. It is famous for its oranges but memorable for its eclectic cathedral, whose belltower - the Gironda – is the minaret of the mosque it replaced. That mosque was built by the Moors, an Islamic people from North Africa, who for almost 800 years ruled large parts of Spain. Based in the south, they at one point pushed their frontline almost to Barcelona. They were expelled in 1492, but left behind a profound legacy in the language, culture and landscape, with the beautiful Alhambra palace near Granada the best-known example.
Once independent, Spanish wealth and power grew quickly, and at one point Spain was the richest country in Europe, thanks to the tons of silver and precious metals generated by its Latin American empire. Remarkably small Spanish armies had conquered the Aztecs and the Incas, among other peoples, who were weakened by infighting and their religious myths. Civil war between republicans and nationalists led by Franco broke out in 1936, attracting volunteers from across the world, including the writers Laurie Lee, George Orwell and Ernest Hemingway.
Spain has emerged from the Franco years to play a key role in the modern world, and the relaxed lifestyle and hot weather have established Spain holidays as a firm favourite with Brits.