Day One - Arrival in Madrid
We fly to Madrid and transfer to our hotel in the city where we stay for the next two nights on a half-board basis.
Day Two - Madrid & Prado Museum
We start the day with a guided city tour of Madrid. The Spanish capital is a wonderful mix of modernity and tradition and is home to world-class museums, palaces and glorious gardens. The historic centre and the spectacular cobbled Plaza Mayor square are a living example of the splendour of the city in the 16th and 17th centuries, while the modern Almudena cathedral was consecrated in 1993 by Pope John Paul II.
Later, we visit the Prado Museum which possesses one of the world’s finest collections of European art from the Middle Ages through to the 19th century. Housed in an 18th-century Neo-Classical building and opened as a museum in 1819, the Prado’s extensive collections include works by the great European masters such as Velázquez, Goya, Raphael, Rubens and Bosch (among other major Italian and Flemish artists).
Day Three - El Escorial & Ávila
We leave Madrid and head towards Salamanca, stopping en-route at El Escorial. Conceived by King Felipe II in the 16th century, this magnificent Royal complex and World Heritage Site is the most important architectural monument of the Spanish Renaissance and includes a church, monastery, royal palace, college and library. The interiors were decorated by many notable Spanish and Italian artists of the 16th and 17th centuries including Titian and El Greco. We enjoy a guided tour of the monastery and royal palace.
We continue on to the old town of Ávila, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The imposing medieval town walls are one of the best preserved walled sites in Europe and a valuable set of churches and Renaissance palaces bear witness to the past wealth of the town as a textile centre.
Later, we check in to our Salamanca parador, our base for the next two nights.
Day Four - Salamanca
Our guided walking tour of Salamanca helps us get our bearings in this World Heritage City. Home to Spain’s oldest university, founded in 1218, this vibrant and lively city is full of historic buildings of golden sandstone and the beautiful, Baroque style Plaza Mayor square. Just some of the city’s treasures include the 15th-century Casa de las Conchas, famous for its façade decorated with hundreds of carved shells, the Huerto de Calixto y Melibea gardens and Casa Lis, a modernist mansion with stained glass windows. We also visit Salamanca’s ‘new’ Gothic cathedral, dating back to the 16th century, with its unusual carvings including an astronaut!
Day Five - Toledo
Leaving Salamanca, we journey to Toledo, another UNESCO World Heritage Site thanks to its extensive cultural and monumental heritage. The city sits majestically above the Tagus River and is known as the ‘City of the Three Cultures’, having been influenced by a historical co-existence of Christians, Muslims and Jews. We see some of the city’s highlights on our guided tour including the winding, cobbled streets, the Gothic Cathedral and Alcázar fortress which dominates the skyline.
We then check in to our Toledo hotel where we spend the next two nights.
Day Six - Don Quixote Route
Today’s excursion takes us on a wonderful discovery tour of one of the most famous areas in Spain thanks to literature; La Mancha - an area of wide open plains and small mountain ranges, also well known for its wines. The route is the setting for the adventures of Don Quixote, the character brought to life by Miguel de Cervantes. Along the way, we view the famous windmills featured in Cervantes’ novel as well as enjoy a wine tasting in a local wine cellar.
Day Seven - Royal Palace of Madrid
Today, we return to Madrid where we visit the Royal Palace, built in the 18th century and featuring a mixture of Baroque and classicist styles. Although the official residence of the Spanish Royal family, it is only used for state ceremonies. The palace is notable for its rich interior decoration and wealth of art, with paintings by the likes of Caravaggio, Velázquez and Goya.
This evening, we check back in to our Madrid hotel and enjoy a farewell dinner together.
Please note: The Royal Palace may close at short notice, in which case an alternative excursion will be offered.
Day Eight - Departure
We check out of our hotel and transfer to Madrid airport for our return flight home.