Art and Culture in Spain 2022

Status: open

23 Sep – 13 Oct 2022

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  • Barcelona Architecture, Gaudi

Art and Culture in Spain 2022
Tour Highlights

  • Learn about Spain’s distinctive history and culture from author and art curator Anneli Bojstad.
  • Explore the culture of Islamic Spain through its magnificent monuments including Seville’s Alcazar, Córdoba’s Great Mosque and Granada’s Alhambra and Generalife gardens.
  • In Toledo, study fascinating relationships between Christian, Jewish and Islamic visual culture.
  • Explore the famed white town of Ronda, enjoy an exclusive visit to a private palace, and stay in the historic Parador which offers spectacular views of the gorge and the Puente Nuevo.
  • Visit Philip II’s monastery palace, El Escorial, and one of the great castles from which Castile took its name, Segovia’s royal castle.
  • At the Prado, encounter the greatness of 17th-century masters like Velazquez and the genius of Goya, as well as German and Italian masterpieces.
  • Trace the importance of the Iberian peninsula during antiquity at the Roman ruins of Itálica near Seville and at Spain’s National Archaeological Museum in Madrid.
  • Chart Spain’s extraordinary contribution to contemporary art and architecture at Madrid’s avant-garde CaixaForum, Málaga’s recently opened Centre Pompidou, Gaudí’s extraordinary architectural fantasies in Barcelona, and the art of Picasso, Dalí and Miró.
  • Attend a traditional flamenco show in Seville and a performance at Barcelona’s Palau de la Música Catalana (to be confirmed in 2022) – designed in the Catalan modernista style by architect Lluís Domènech i Montanera.
  • Experience Spanish hospitality at grand urban palaces as their owners welcome us into their homes. In Segovia we enjoy an evening reception overlooking the Roman aqueduct, while in Toledo we are served refreshments at a private palace with magnificent views of the Cathedral.
  • Enjoy free time in Seville, Toledo, Madrid and Barcelona to further explore these fascinating cities at your leisure.
  • Muse on Spain’s epic, tragic and romantic history as we dine in a lovely old garden restaurant overlooking the Alhambra at sunset.

Overnight Seville (4 nights) • Ronda (1 night) • Málaga (2 nights) • Granada (2 nights) • Toledo (3 nights) • Segovia (1 night) • Madrid (3 nights) • Barcelona (4 nights)



The detailed itinerary provides an outline of the proposed daily program. The daily activities described in this itinerary may be rotated and/or modified in order to accommodate changes in museum opening hours, confirmation of private visits, flight schedules, etc. The tour includes breakfast daily, lunches and evening meals, indicated in the itinerary where: B=breakfast L=lunch and D=dinner.

Seville - 4 nights

Day 1: Friday 23 September, Arrive Seville
  • Arrival Transfer for participants arriving on the ASA ‘designated’ flight

Our tour commences in Seville. Upon arrival, participants taking ASA’s ‘designated’ flight will transfer by private coach to our hotel. Those taking alternative flights should meet the group at Hotel Inglaterra.

Seville gained great importance and prosperity in the 12th century when the Almohad dynasty of North African Berbers made it the capital of Muslim Spain (al Andalus); and again in the 16th century, when it became the Spanish entrepôt for silver and tobacco from the Americas. Its major monuments and most important works of art date from these periods and from the 13th and 14th centuries, when Ferdinand III of Castile wrested the province from the Muslims in 1248. Seville therefore boasts fine Muslim, Gothic, Mudéjar and Baroque monuments (‘Mudéjar’ is the term which denotes buildings built for Christians by Muslim craftsmen). In the 17th century it vied with Madrid as the centre of Spanish sculpture and painting. Zurbarán, Velázquez and Murillo all worked in Seville and the city produced a fine school of polychrome wood sculpture, examples of which are still used in processions for Holy Week (Semana Santa). In the 19th century, Seville became a picturesque setting for Northern European Romantic novels, artworks and operas, because of the popularity of Murillo’s paintings of street urchins, Seville’s famous bullfights, and the magnificence of its celebrations during Holy Week. (Overnight Seville)

Day 2: Saturday 24 September, Seville
  • Welcome Meeting
  • Santa Cruz Quarter
  • Cathedral and Giralda
  • Alcázar of Seville
  • Welcome Dinner

Following a Welcome Meeting at the hotel, we make our way to the Santa Cruz quarter, Seville’s medieval ghetto. Despite its tiny streets, it grew in popularity in the 16th and 17th centuries. Aristocrats built small palaces here, conserving the original, picturesque street plan. A walk through this quarter will provide us with a unique opportunity to discover the shape of old Seville.

Our walk will take us to Seville’s Cathedral. This huge building, which is the largest Gothic structure of its type in Europe, was built upon the foundations of the Almohad Friday Mosque by the Christian conquerors of the city. It retains the general plan and dimensions of the mosque and its courtyard that was used by the Islamic population for ritual ablutions. The cathedral boasts what is arguably Spain’s greatest retablo mayor, a massive gilt and painted wood retable occupying the whole of the chancel wall. It also contains a number of major Medieval, Renaissance and Baroque artworks and the tomb of Christopher Columbus.

The minaret of the mosque was built by the Almohads and is in the same style as those at Rabat and Marrakesh in Morocco. It is a monumental, square tower which houses seven superimposed rooms. Access is provided by a ramp up which the Imam rode a donkey five times a day to call the faithful to prayer. The exquisite brick patterns on its four façades assured its survival when Seville fell to the Christians. Upon it they placed a belfry (bells are anathema to Islam) and a weather vane, or Giraldillo, thus giving the cathedral tower its modern name, the Giralda.

After lunchtime at leisure, we visit the Alcázar of Seville, located opposite the cathedral. This palatial complex was constructed by Pedro I, ‘the Cruel’, of Castile in the 14th century on the site of the ‘Abbadid and Almohad citadels. Pedro used the Almohad outer walls of the palace precinct and incorporated fragments of Muslim palaces into a new complex with a large Mudéjar palace at its heart. His palace was constructed by craftsmen from Nasrid Granada and, with its multiple courts decorated with faience and stucco, bears a close resemblance to parts of the Alhambra. However, Pedro had the emblems of Castile inserted within the essentially Islamic decorative schema of his palace, thus asserting Christian power over the sophisticated Hispano-Muslim artistic tradition. In subsequent centuries, Spanish rulers added new wings and extensive gardens to the Alcázar which was a favoured royal residence until the early 17th century. Special apartments are still maintained for visits by the Spanish royal family.

Tonight we enjoy a Welcome Dinner at a local restaurant. (Overnight Seville) BD

Day 3: Sunday 25 September, Seville – Santiponce – Seville
  • Archeological Ensemble Itálica, Santiponce
  • Museo de las Bellas Artes
  • Afternoon at leisure

This morning we take a short drive north of Seville to Itálica, birthplace of Roman Emperors Trajan and Hadrian. Founded by General Scipio in 206 BC during the second Punic War, Itálica is home to many Roman remains, including the Colossus of Trajan, ancient cobbled streets, and one of the largest amphitheatres in the Empire.

We then return to Seville to visit the Museo de las Bellas Artes, a large museum of Andalucian art which was refurbished for Expo ’92. The museum is located in the former convent of the Merced Calzada whose architecture exemplifies Andalucian 17th-century mannerism, designed around three patios and a large stairway. It opened its doors to the public in 1841 with the works from closed down convents and monasteries. Today it is one of the best fine arts museums in Spain, whose impressive collection extends from the medieval to the modern, focusing on the work of Seville School artists such as Francisco de Zurbarán, Juan de Valdés Leal and Bartolomé Esteban Murillo. The afternoon will be at leisure. (Overnight Seville) B

Day 4: Monday 26 September, Seville
  • Casa de Pilatos
  • Hospital de la Caridad
  • Torre del Oro (exterior)
  • Afternoon at leisure
  • Flamenco performance

This morning we visit an early 16th-century Sevillan mansion known as the Casa de Pilatos. This mansion was constructed by Fadrique de Ribera and was said to have been inspired by Pilate’s house in Jerusalem. Processions during Holy Week used to leave this building, winding their way out of the city to the Cruz del Campo, the distance believed to be exactly that from Pilate’s Jerusalem Praetorium to Golgotha. The house is organised around a central courtyard and like so many Spanish buildings, is an eclectic mix of Mudéjar and Renaissance elements.

We then walk to the Hospital de la Caridad, a Baroque hospital commissioned by Don Miguel de Mañara (1661-1664) to care for the sick, the poor and the starving. Mañara was a typical CounterReformation Spaniard in that he believed that salvation could be gained by good works. The hospital’s chapel contains Valdés Leal’s two extraordinary images of death, In Ictu Oculi and Finis Gloriae Mundi Art and Culture in Spain 2018 Page 7 March 2017 (1672), which visually explore the themes of death, decay and the transitory nature of life. The great masterpieces of this chapel are, however, Murillo’s beautiful cycle of paintings depicting mercy executed between 1660 and 1674. The Feeding of the 5,000, Moses Striking the Rock, and St Elizabeth Nursing the Lepers, are particularly fine examples of Murillo’s masterful handling of light and shade. The nearby Almohad Torre del Oro (Tower of Gold) is so named for the gilded tiles that once reputedly adorned its sides. The Torre del Oro was part of the Almohad river fortifications guarding the port of Seville. It was originally one of a pair of towers either side of the river which held the great defensive chain stretching across the Guadalquivir River. The afternoon will be at leisure.

This evening we attend a traditional flamenco show at one of Seville’s beautiful venues. (Overnight Seville) B

Ronda - 1 night

Day 5: Tuesday 27 September, Seville – Córdoba – Ronda
  • Guided Walking Tour of Córdoba
  • Mosque, Córdoba
  • Synagogue, Córdoba

We depart early this morning to drive across the broad plains of the Guadalquivir basin to Córdoba, where we spend the day. Córdoba was the capital of the 8th to 11th century Umayyad dynasty, and we will visit its Great Mosque and the Judería (Jewish quarter).

The Great Mosque was dedicated in 786 and expanded in stages over the next two centuries. The world’s third largest mosque, it is the earliest and finest Hispanic mosque still standing. Doorways set within horseshoe arches puncture its fortress-like outer walls. Exquisite geometric and floral patterns decorate the tympana of the arches and the panels above them. Inside, a courtyard leads to the vast prayer hall that contains arcades of columns supporting superimposed tiers of polychrome arches, thought to have been modelled upon the Roman aqueduct at Merida.

The mihrab (prayer niche) is adorned with exquisite abstract designs in mosaic, executed by craftsmen from Constantinople in the late-10th century. When Córdoba fell to the Castilians in 1236, the great mosque was converted into a church. Chapels were gradually inserted around the prayer hall and, in 1523, the cathedral chapter chose to build a cathedral within the mosque, although this decision was opposed by the city council and, later, criticised by Charles V, the Holy Roman Emperor. At around the same time the minaret of the mosque was definitively converted into a bell tower by the construction of a new outer shell and the addition of a belfry.

At about 3:00pm, we will depart Córdoba for the Andalusian ‘white town’ of Ronda, dramatically sited on sheer cliffs above a deep ravine, with grand panoramic views framed by mountains. We spend the night in the Parador de Ronda, housed in a former 18th century town house; it is located in the historical centre alongside the famous Tagus River, next to the Puente Nuevo and the bullring. We also dine together in the Parador’s restaurant, which serves Andalusian specialties and fresh local produce. (Overnight Ronda) BD

Málaga - 2 nights

Day 6: Wednesday 28 September, Ronda – Málaga
  • Private palace garden, Ronda (by special appointment to be confirmed in 2022)
  • Puente Nuevo
  • Bull Ring
  • Colegiata Santa María la Mayor (time permitting)

We start our day with special access to one of Ronda’s finest stately residences. Its impressive Baroque entrance displays sculpted figures believed to represent natives of South America.

The early 19th century artists David Roberts and J.F. Lewis both painted the dramatic view of the Puente Nuevo (new bridge) which spans the deep ravine, “El Tajo”, connecting the two parts of Ronda, the old Muslim town and the Christian district, the Mercadillo. The ravine was cut by the Guadelvin and the high bridge which spans it was built in the late 18th century. Of Roman origin, Ronda became an almost impregnable Muslim fortress city until it was taken by the armies of Ferdinand and Isabella in 1485.

In 1493, eight years after the Christian capture of the city, the Maestranza, or Company of Knights, was formed here for the supervision of bullfighting. Ronda’s bullring, the second oldest in Spain after that of Seville, was built here in 1794. In the 18th century Ronda’s greatest matador was Pedro Romero who is believed to have developed the classical bullfighting style of the School of Ronda. We shall visit the bullring which is in the Mercadillo. The old town preserves its Muslim street plan. Time permitting, we shall visit the Colegiata, built in the 15th and 16th centuries on the site of the mosque. It preserves a 13th century horseshoe arch and a minaret which was converted into a bell tower in the 16th century.

In the afternoon, we drive through the hills above the Mediterranean coast to Málaga. Our hotel is conveniently located opposite the cathedral and a few minutes’ walk from Málaga’s waterfront. (Overnight Málaga) B

Day 7: Thursday 29 September, Málaga
  • Walking tour of Málaga including the Cathedral, fortifications and Roman theatre (exteriors)
  • Museo Picasso
  • Malaga Museum at Palacio Aduana
  • Centre Pompidou Málaga

Málaga, (malaka: fish salting place), was founded by the Phoenicians around 800 BC. The city grew to become a major port in Roman times, exporting olive oil and garum (fish paste), as well as copper, lead and iron from the mines in the mountains around Ronda. Málaga continued to flourish under Moorish rule from the 8th century AD and became a prosperous port of the Nasrid Kingdom of Granada. The city held out against the invading Christian armies until 1487 and displayed equal tenacity against Franco’s fascists during the Spanish Civil War.

We spend the morning visiting key sites in Málaga. Our walking tour will take in the Renaissance Cathedral with its fine Baroque façade, the remains of the Roman theatre and the exterior of Málaga’s Alcázar (citadel).

We then visit the Picasso Museum, housed in a fine 16th-century palace built on 2500-year-old Phoenician remains. Pablo Picasso was born in Málaga in 1881 and in 2003 a Picasso Museum was established here in response to the artist’s desire for his work to be exhibited in his city of birth; it features 233 paintings, sculptures and ceramics created between 1892 to 1972. This rich collection was donated by Christine and Bernard Ruiz-Picasso, the artist’s daughter-in-law and grandson. The opening of the Picasso Museum initiated a revival in the cultural life of the city. Before lunch we also make a short visit to see the archaeological collections at the Malaga Museum at the Palacio Aduana.

In the afternoon we visit a branch of Paris’ famous Pompidou Centre, which opened on Málaga’s waterfront in 2015. Housed in an extraordinary post-modernist coloured glass cube, the Centre, like its Parisian parent, has a collection of 20th century art, including works by Robert Delauney, Vassily Kandinsky, Fernand Léger, René Magritte and Frida Kahlo, and also holds interesting temporary exhibitions.

Granada - 2 nights

Day 8: Friday 30 September, Málaga – Granada
  • La Concepcion Garden, Malaga
  • Albaicín, Granada (including Muslim Baths, Capilla Real & Cathedral)

This morning we first visit Málaga’s La Concepción garden, begun in 1889 by Thomas Livermore, who was the British consul in this city. La Concepción, which at one point commands views down over the city, is an important example of a Mediterranean coastal garden.

We then drive north through the Sierra Nevada, which acted as a barrier protecting Spain’s last Muslim kingdom, Granada, from Christian incursions. We shall gain a deeper understanding about the way the mountains isolated Granada from the grand views we will encounter along this road.

In the afternoon, we shall explore the city of Granada on a walking tour. We begin by visiting the Albaicín quarter which nestles beneath the protective shadow of the Alhambra. The Albaicín was the last refuge of the Muslims of Granada and traces of its Islamic heritage remain to be discovered, including a beautiful and tranquil bathhouse, and fragments of minarets converted into church towers.

We make our way to the Capilla Real (Royal Chapel), built in flamboyant late Gothic style, which houses the magnificent Renaissance tombs of Ferdinand and Isabella, their daughter Joan ‘the Mad’ and her husband Philip ‘the Handsome’. In the adjacent Sacristy is a dazzling collection of royal regalia and Flemish paintings. We also visit the cathedral, one of Spain’s last, which was envisaged by its founder, Charles V, as a model of the heavenly Jerusalem. Nearby is the commercial and religious centre of Granada: the Corral del Carbón, a 14th-century warehouse and inn for merchants, which is the only one of its type to have survived in Spain, and the Alcaiceria, an area of narrow gridded streets which were once part of the covered market (Arabic: al-Qaysariyya) of the Muslim rulers of Granada. (Overnight Granada) B

Day 9: Saturday 1 October, Granada
  • Alhambra & Generalife
  • Palace of Charles V
  • Afternoon at leisure
  • Dinner at the Mirador de Morayma Restaurant, overlooking the Alhambra

Today we visit the Alhambra (1354-1391) and Generalife (summer palace and villa of the Nasrid rulers) to study the architecture and garden design of Nasrid Granada. We visit palaces and villas in the complex that centre upon the Court of the Myrtles, the Court of the Lions, and the Generalife. The first complex – comprising of the Patio de Machuca, the Mexuar, the Patio del Cuarto Dorado, and the Patio de Comares (Court of the Myrtles) – gives a sense of the disposition of an Islamic palace, the discrete, hermetic spaces of which bespeak Islam’s emphasis on privacy. This complex combines areas where the ruler sat in court or received ambassadors with a harem designed to isolate the royal household from the outside world. In essence the palace is introverted, its main façade secreted within the Patio del Cuarto Dorado, rather than turning outwards to announce to the outside world the palaces within, in the way of a Western façade. The Hall of the Ambassadors is an example of the spatial rhetoric of power, while the Patio de Comares used a great pool and trees (later replaced by hedges of myrtle) to create a paradisal, secluded core to the complex. Next to this group is the villa of the Nasrids, built about the Court of the Lions, whose fine stucco arches and slender columns are, some scholars argue, the architectural evocation of an oasis. Here we find rooms decorated with exquisite detailing, such as the Abencerrajes Gallery, the Sala de los Reyes, and the Sala de las Dos Hermanas, two of which have extraordinary stucco domes reproducing star bursts in the desert sky. Beneath this villa there is yet another villa, to which are attached the Royal Baths.

We then walk out across the pine-forested hills of the Alhambra Mountain to the Generalife, an exquisite villa retreat and hunting lodge of the Nasrids. Here we see gardens to rival the Villa d’Este outside Rome, with fine fountains whose sounds were intended to provide a poetic counterpoint to the architectural aesthetics of the Arab palace or villa. Finally, we shall visit the Alcazaba, the fortress of the Alhambra, which has a broad panorama of the Sierra Nevada.

The rest of the afternoon is at leisure so you can enjoy the beautiful environment of the Alhambra Mountain. Tonight we dine together at the restaurant Mirador de Morayma, located in the Albaicín quarter with splendid views of the Alhambra. This elegant restaurant housed in a traditional carmen (urban villa with a garden), features traditional local cuisine and ecological wine produced at the restaurant’s own country estate in the Alpujarra region. (Overnight Granada) BD

Toledo - 3 nights

Day 10: Sunday 2 October, Granada – Almagro – Consuegra – Toledo
  • Almagro
  • Consuegra

Today we travel north from Granada through the mountain passes which before Ferdinand III’s conquest of the Guadalquivir Valley separated the Nasrid kingdom from Christian Spain. We emerge from the Sierra Morena onto the flat expanse of the La Mancha plain where Cervantes set his masterpiece, Don Quixote. This area is given over to olive and vine cultivation and, above all, sheep and goat grazing. Among the products of La Mancha are dry wines and the dry Manchego cheese with which they are drunk.

Passing through the mountains, we shall see several small, fortified towns. On the plain of La Mancha we shall visit Almagro, a town of Roman origin and the headquarters of the Order of Calatrava, the oldest and most important Spanish knightly Order. In the 15th and 16th centuries Almagro served as a centre for foreign wool merchants and financiers who exploited nearby mercury mines. It has a distinctive Plaza Mayor surrounded by houses with green wooden balconies of Flemish inspiration.

We shall have lunchtime at leisure in Almagro. After this, we travel across La Mancha to Toledo, stopping briefly in Consuegra, located at the heart of the Spanish territories of the Knights Hospitaller, to see the windmills and castle associated in the popular imagination with Don Quixote(Overnight Toledo) B

Day 11: Monday 3 October, Toledo
  • Toledo Cathedral
  • Santo Tomé
  • Time at leisure
  • Evening reception at private palace, Toledo

Toledo, located on a high promontory created by a bend in the River Tagus (Spanish: Tajo) is another Spanish city with a multi-layered past. Inhabited since pre-Roman times, Toledo, or Toletum, was a provincial town until the mid-6th century AD when it became the capital of the Visigothic kingdom, and its bishop served as head of the Spanish church. The much-restored Alcázar dominates Toledo’s highest point, an imposing architectural declaration of authority that has persisted here in different forms since Roman antiquity. Toledo was conquered by Muslim armies by 712 and ultimately became part of the Umayyad-ruled al-Andalus, losing its pre-eminence to Cordóba.

During the 8th and 9th centuries the inhabitants (Muslims, recent converts and Christians) of this important frontier city regularly revolted against the central authority. After the collapse of the Cordoban caliphate in the early 11th century, Toledo had a brief existence as an independent Muslim city-state until it fell to Alfonso VI of Castile (1085). Ironically, Christians who had lived under Muslim rule for centuries (now usually called Mozarabs, ‘Arabised’) practising the traditional Visigothic liturgy and speaking Arabic, now found themselves at odds with their new rulers.

Toledo, with its Jewish and Muslim minorities, became the intellectual capital of Christian Spain through the immense work of scholars who translated the books of the Islamic world from Arabic into Latin for the education of Western Europe. Muslim craftsmen created a distinctively Toledan Mudéjar style of architecture, characterised by decorative screenwork realised in brick on the exteriors of churches and bell towers. Toledan Mudéjar can also be found in palaces and churches as well as synagogues (Santa Maria La Blanca and El Tránsito) with stuccowork decoration that mimics, respectively, Almohad and Nasrid styles.

The cathedral, built on the site of the principal mosque, also bears many traces of Toledo’s multi-cultural medieval character, whilst the narrow twisting streets of the old city and its absence of open squares and public spaces perpetuate Muslim and Mudéjar urban-planning. After the expulsion of its minorities (Jews in 1492, Muslim converts to Christianity in 1609) and the loss of political status to Valladolid and Granada and, later, Madrid as capital (from 1561), parochial conservatism replaced Toledo’s cosmopolitan style. In the 16th and 17th centuries a pious aristocracy emerged in the city numbering many mystics in its ranks. Many aristocrats influenced by the Counter-Reformation’s emphasis on good works, spent vast amounts of money adding monastic foundations to the urban fabric, creating an imposing ecclesiastical cordon around the medieval core of Toledo.

This morning, we begin our tour of this splendid city with a visit to Toledo’s Cathedral, visit Toledo Cathedral, a Gothic cathedral modelled upon Bourges Cathedral in France, like Burgos and León, but richer than either of these in its architecture and the works of art. For almost 150 years after Toledo’s conquest in 1085, Christians worshipped in the re-dedicated great mosque. After it was demolished, construction of the cathedral began in 1227. Completed in 1493, the cathedral is overwhelmingly Gothic in style. However, even this self-consciously Gothic Catholic cathedral has distinguishable Mudéjar elements. Since the 16th century it has been one of the few places where the Visigothic liturgy is celebrated. Later monarchs and state dignitaries embellished the cathedral by the addition of a rich choir, decorated with magnificent stall carvings that depict the conquest of Granada, and sumptuous chapels. We shall look at both the exterior and interior of the cathedral, noting in particular the opulent retablo mayor, the choir and the lateral chapels.

We shall also visit the cathedral museum which holds a range of works by El Greco, Titian, Zurbarán, and Ribera, as well as Almohad banners captured at the battle of Las Navas de Tolosa in 1212. In the treasury we shall see an illuminated manuscript given by St Louis of France to Alfonso X and a massive Gothic silver-gilt gold monstrance (180 kilograms in weight; 3 metres in height) in the shape of a cathedral spire.

This evening, we visit a beautiful palace and garden in the heart of Toledo with magnificent views of the Cathedral. The palace itself encapsulates the overlap of cultures, where Muslim elements coexist with the Jewish and the Christian, and holds an exquisite collection of art and antiques; in this magical setting, we shall enjoy an aperitif hosted by the owners. (Overnight Toledo) B

Day 12: Tuesday 4 October, Toledo
  • El Tránsito
  • El Greco Museum
  • San Román
  • Synagogue Santa María la Blanca
  • Afternoon at leisure

This morning we continue our guided tour of Toledo with visits to the two former Mudéjar synagogues of Santa María la Blanca and El Tránsito. Santa María la Blanca is a 13th-century building which bears a strong similarity to contemporary Almohad architecture further south, whilst El Tránsito is a 14th-century structure with stucco panels of a similar style to those in the Alcázar of Seville and the Alhambra. El Tránsito houses a small museum that catalogues the Jewish presence in Spain. We also visit the El Greco Museum, containing several of his portraits of apostles and saints, as well as the View and Plan of Toledo.

Our program will also include visits to San Román (a 13th-century Mudejar church containing wall frescoes with Arabic and Latin inscriptions) and the Church of Santo Tomé, home to El Greco’s famous The Burial of Count Orgaz (c.1586).

This afternoon is at leisure and you may wish to visit the Monastery of San Juan de los Reyes, a fine Isabelline Gothic chapel and cloister originally commissioned by Ferdinand and Isabella to serve as their funeral chapel. (Overnight Toledo) B

Segovia - 1 night

Day 13: Wednesday 5 October, Toledo – Ávila – Segovia
  • Walking tour of Ávila, including San Vicente and Cathedral of the Saviour
  • Private palace, Avila (by special appointment to be confirmed in 2022)

We depart today for Ávila, one of the many Spanish towns which began life as a Christian frontier post located in the medieval marches between al-Andalus and the tiny northern Christian kingdoms.

The architecture of Ávila reflects the martial and entrepreneurial spirit of its early inhabitants (soldiers of fortune, aristocrats of modest means and peasants) who were prepared to risk everything to profit from the freedom and opportunities afforded by life on the frontier. The town is encircled by strikingly complete late-11th century walls, whilst inside, the small fortified palaces of its late medieval inhabitants show the same desire for a good life as the late medieval houses of the Italian urban classes. Declared a National Monument in 1884, the walled enclosure dates back to the Middle Ages. In addition to its obvious defensive function, the wall controlled the entrance of provisions and merchandise, and also isolated the city, guarding it against the potential outbreak of a plague or epidemic.

Whilst in Ávila we visit the Romanesque church of San Vicente and view the Cathedral’s exterior. We also enjoy a special tour of a private palace hosted by its owners (by special appointment to be confirmed in 2021).

In the afternoon we drive to Segovia and check-in to our hotel ideally located in the centre of Segovia. (Overnight Segovia) BD

Madrid - 3 nights

Day 14: Thursday 6 October, Segovia – El Escorial – Madrid
  • Guided tour of Segovia, including the Roman Aqueduct & Alcazar
  • El Escorial

We spend the morning exploring Segovia, a site settled since pre-Roman times. During the early Islamic period, Segovia stood in the marches between the Kingdom of Asturias and Umayyad Córdoba and may have been temporarily deserted. In the 10th century, the Umayyad caliphs constructed a frontier fortress in the town that subsequently became part of the Ta’ifa kingdom of Toledo. Segovia became Castilian after the fall of Toledo. The transfer of the town from Muslim to Christian hands inaugurated a period of extensive construction. In the 12th and 13th centuries several Romanesque churches were added to the urban fabric, along with the Templar church of La Vera Cruz. In the 14th and 15th centuries the Muslim fortress was rebuilt as a Christian castle and, in the 16th century, a Gothic cathedral with unusual Classical domes was constructed.

At the entrance to the town you will see its Roman aqueduct, a remarkable dry-stone structure, partially destroyed in medieval times and rebuilt by Isabella of Castile in the 15th century. Segovia also has tower houses, comparable to the tower houses of San Gimignano in Italy. We will visit the cathedral and Segovia’s magnificent medieval castle, the model for Disneyland, which was extensively damaged by fire in 1862 then restored according to romantic 19th-century perceptions of how medieval castles looked.

In the afternoon we depart for Madrid. En route we visit Philip II’s great palace and monastery, El Escorial, set on the southern slopes of the Sierra de Guaderrama in Spain’s heartlands. Philip II commissioned El Escorial to serve as a monarchical retreat in the vicinity of his new capital, Madrid. The complex was dedicated to St. Laurence on whose feast-day Philip’s army had defeated the French at Saint Quentin. It was designed by the Spanish Renaissance architect, Juan de Herrera, in his characteristic controlled and plain style.

The rectilinear plan and form of El Escorial reflect the influence of earlier fortified monastic architecture, but also echoes the grill upon which St. Laurence was martyred. At the Escorial we will visit the basilical church, the royal apartments and the library, one of the oldest libraries in the world, with an exceptional collection of books, codices and manuscripts in Arabic and Latin. We will also see the tombs of the monarchs of Spain and an art collection including works by Titian, Veronese, El Greco and Velázquez. (Overnight Madrid) B

Day 15: Friday 7 October, Madrid
  • Plaza Mayor and City Centre walking tour
  • Real Jardin Botanico
  • Prado Museum

In 1561 Philip II made Madrid, lying at the strategic centre of Spain, the capital of his empire. Originally a Muslim stronghold protecting the approaches to Toledo, the alcázar was rebuilt by Henry IV as Madrid grew in the mid-15th century. Until the 19th century it remained a small city, flanked by great palaces, the Palacio Real on its western rim, and the Buen Retiro to the east. At its centre was the Plaza Mayor and a number of monastic complexes such as the Descalzas Reales. This morning we will walk to the Plaza Mayor (1617-1619). Like other public squares, this served as the setting for public displays from bullfighting and public executions to royal proclamations. Madrid’s Plaza Mayor is one of Spain’s finest. On one side, its even façades are interrupted by the Casa de la Panaderia, the headquarters of the bakers’ guild, which functioned as a ‘royal box’ from which the monarch and his family watched the events in the square.

We then make our way to Madrid’s Real Jardin Botanico, established by Charles III and designed by Francesco Sabatini and Juan de Villanueva, architect of the Prado. It is understandable that the ruler of a great empire in the Americas should be interested in collecting exotic species. Charles III, in fact, financed plant-collecting expeditions to Mexico, Columbia, Peru and Chile. Despite the fact that the garden lost many valuable trees in a tornado in 1886, most of its important exhibits remain. The garden is shaded by large specimens of tree of heaven (Ailanthus altissima), cork oaks, camphor trees, eucalyptus, olives, European field elms and mulberries, walnuts, nettle trees and crape myrtle, among many others. In 2005 a modern addition designed by well-known Spanish landscape architect Fernando Caruncho, with architect Pablo Carvajal, was commissioned to house the extensive bonsai collection of former Spanish Prime Minister Felipe González. The new garden called the ‘Terraza de los Laureles’ consists of an elevated avenue, a central square with a pond and a small greenhouse, and provides a grand panorama of the historic gardens below.

In the afternoon we visit El Prado Museum, which holds one of the finest collections of paintings in the world. Among European masterpieces collected by the Spanish monarchs we shall study the works of Hieronymus Bosch and Rubens (Flemish school); Albrecht Dürer (German school); Raphael and Titian (Italian school).

The Prado’s greatest treasures, however, are its Spanish paintings from the 17th and 18th centuries. The rooms devoted to Velázquez include such marvels as Las Meninas, the Surrender at Breda, the Habsburg Equestrian Portraits, and the images of court dwarfs. All periods and aspects of Goya’s career are represented here, from the early tapestry cartoons, through his war scenes, royal and aristocratic portraits to the profoundly pessimistic late ‘Black Paintings’. (Overnight Madrid) B

Day 16: Saturday 8 October, Madrid
  • Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, Madrid
  • Afternoon at leisure

This morning we visit the brilliant Thyssen Collection, one of the finest private art collections in Europe, which has found a permanent home in Madrid. This collection includes Italian and Flemish primitive art; Italian Renaissance and Baroque paintings; French and German works from the 18th to 20th centuries. A special feature of the collection is a wonderful group of Flemish and German Renaissance portraits and some masterpieces from the Venetian Renaissance. The afternoon is at leisure. (Overnight Madrid) B

Barcelona - 4 nights

Day 17: Sunday 9 October, Madrid – Barcelona
  • Reina Sofía Museum
  • CaixaForum Madrid
  • High-Speed AVE train from Madrid to Barcelona

This morning we visit to the Reina Sofía Museum, Spain’s national collection of 20th-century art. Here we will see Picasso’s Guernica, which was painted in 1937 after the bombing of the Basque town during the civil war. At the artist’s behest, it was held in New York’s Museum of Modern Art until the end of the Franco regime in Spain. We will explore Picasso’s debt to the Spanish tradition in this work.

We then make a brief visit to Madrid’s CaixaForum to view an example of Patrick Blanc’s vertical gardens. This is not only the first to be installed in Spain but also the largest implemented to date on a façade without gaps, as it has a planted surface area of 460 m2. The vertical garden forms an impressive natural tapestry made up of 15,000 plants of 250 different species that have transformed one of the buildings adjoining the developed area of the CaixaForum Madrid into a surprising garden.

After some time at leisure in the afternoon, we take the High-Speed AVE train to Barcelona, capital of Catalonia. (Overnight Barcelona) B

Day 18: Monday 10 October, Barcelona
  • Park Guëll
  • The Sant Pau Art Nouveau Site
  • La Sagrada Familia
  • Casa Milà

Today we visit a number of buildings designed by Barcelona’s most famous architect, Antoni Gaudí. Gaudí’s work grew out of Barcelona’s strong commercial and bourgeois tradition of civic pride, expressed in the late 19th century in an ambitious project of urban expansion known as the Eixample. Gaudí was also deeply involved in designing buildings for the city centre and for the new outer suburbs of Barcelona.

Gaudí’s buildings re-interpreted traditional Catalan emblems such as St. George, the patron saint of Catalonia, and wove them into his own daring and idiosyncratic version of the Gothic revival style.

First we drive to the Parc Guëll. Sponsored by the Güell family of bankers, the park represents a failed attempt to create an exclusive garden suburb overlooking the city of Barcelona. Within the park stands an eclectic range of buildings, grand terraces, garden sculptures and vaulted halls covered with Gaudí’s extraordinary mosaics, made from discarded shards from a ceramics factory.

The Sant Pau Art Nouveau Site is a masterpiece of early 20th century Spanish architecture and the most important work of Catalan architect Lluís Domènech i Montaner, who also designed the Palau de la Musica concert hall. Built between 1905 and 1930, the site originally housed the Hospital de la Santa Creu i Sant Pau, a revolutionary hospital complex comprised of 27 pavilions surrounded by gardens and interconnected by a system of tunnels that were used to transfer patients from operating rooms to the wards. Architect Lluis Domènech i Montaner believed that trees and flowers and fresh air were likely to help people recover from what ailed them more than anything doctors could do in sterile surroundings. Domènech also believed in the therapeutic properties of form and colour, and decorated the hospital with Pau Gargallo sculptures and colourful mosaics, replete with motifs of hope and healing and healthy growth. Designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997, the Hospital de Sant Pau was a functional hospital until 2003, and recently underwent a major renovation and restoration to transform it into a museum and cultural center.

We shall then visit Gaudí’s unfinished Temple de la Sagrada Familia, a building he considered to be his finest work and which has become an emblem of Barcelona.

Finally, we shall see one of Gaudí residences in the heart of Barcelona – the Casa Milà (also known as ‘la Pedrera’) – with its undulating roof, curious chimneys and important display of the architect’s work. St. George, his spear and the dragon appear in multiple forms in Gaudí’s work, and at the Casa Milà the chimneys are constructed in the form of medieval armoured knights. (Overnight Barcelona) B

Day 19: Tuesday 11 October, Barcelona
  • Mies Van der Rohe Barcelona Pavilion
  • Museo Nacional de Arte de Catalunya
  • Fundació Joan Miró
  • Evening performance at the Palau de la Musica (subject to performance schedule)

Today we begin a tour of Mies van der Rohe’s Barcelona Pavilion, an iconic landmark of the Modern Movement. Originally designed for the 1929 World Fair in Barcelona as the German Pavilion, the structure is built from glass, steel and different types of marble. The building was disassembled following the closure of the exhibition in 1930, but it quickly became an important reference point in both van der Rohe’s career and the modern architecture movement as a whole. In 1980, Barcelona city officials hired architects to research, design, and reconstruct the pavilion using the same materials and precision employed by van der Rohe, and the new building was opened on its original site in 1986.

We then visit the National Museum of Catalan Art whose collections give a breathtaking overview of 1000 years of Catalan art. The highlight is a magnificent assembly of Romanesque wall paintings removed from churches in remote Pyrenean valleys. Besides an impressive Gothic display, the renovated museum houses paintings from the Thyssen-Bornemisza collection as well as Old Masters from the Cambó bequest and Modernist paintings.

Our afternoon program ends with a visit to the Miró Foundation, a museum of modern art which holds major late works by the artist Joan Miró.

This evening we attend a performance at the magnificent Palau de la Musica (subject to performance schedule). (Overnight Barcelona) BD

Day 20: Wednesday 12 October, Barcelona
  • Guided tour of Barri Gòtic
  • Barcelona Cathedral & Cloister
  • Picasso Museum
  • Afternoon at leisure
  • Farewell dinner at Montiel Restaurant

This morning we take a walk through Barcelona’s old ‘Gothic Quarter’, the Barri Gòtic, a medieval quarter of narrow streets and urban palaces. We also visit the old cathedral of Barcelona, a Catalan Gothic building characterised by the delicacy of its slender pillars. The cathedral contains an exquisite High Gothic choir, and several religious paintings, as well as a tranquil cloister lined with small chapels.

We then explore the converted Gothic palaces which house the Picasso Museum. It contains works from many stages of Picasso’s life, from his adolescence to his old age. The range of works on display amply proves the point that, despite French claims that Picasso belonged to the School of Paris, much of his work was inspired by 19th century Spanish art. The museum incorporates adolescent works by the artist that demonstrate his extraordinary precociousness. There are paintings from his early Parisian period, demonstrating an early debt to Toulouse-Lautrec, and a number of masterpieces from the Blue and Rose periods. There is also a group of later works including Picasso’s highly individual studies of Velazquez’s masterpiece Las Meninas.

The afternoon is at leisure. In the evening we will meet for farewell dinner at ‘Montiel Espaigastronòmic’, a small restaurant located near to the Picasso Museum, providing an artistic atmosphere with excellent traditional Spanish cuisine. (Overnight Barcelona) BD

Day 21: Thursday 13 October, Depart Barcelona
  • Airport transfer for those travelling on the ASA ‘designated’ flight

Our tour finishes in Barcelona. Participants departing Barcelona on the ASA ‘designated’ flight will transfer by coach to Barcelona airport. Alternatively, you may wish to extend your stay in Spain. Please contact ASA if you require further assistance. B



ASA has selected 4 and 5-star hotels that are themselves historical buildings and/or are located in historical centres. All hotels provide rooms with en suite bathroom. A hotel list will be given to all participants prior to departure.

  • Seville (4 nights): 4-star Hotel Inglaterra – situated 250 metres from the Cathedral, overlooking the Plaza Nueva. As Seville’s most prestigious establishment in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, it received visits from illustrious people of the time, including King Alfonso XIII, Queen Elizabeth of Belgium and the Prince of Wales. www.hotelinglaterra.es
  • Ronda (1 night): 4-star Parador de Ronda – housed in the former 18th-century city hall, located in the historical centre, alongside the Tagus River, next to the Puente Nuevo and the bullring. Ernest Hemingway lived and wrote here. His famous novel, For Whom the Bell Tolls, tells of the atrocities committed here during the Spanish civil war. www.parador.es
  • Málaga (2 nights): 4-star Hotel Molina Lario – recently renovated hotel housed in two refurbished 19th century buildings and retaining their original façade, located in the centre of Málaga opposite the Cathedral and just a short distance from the port, the Picasso Museum and the city’s pedestrian district. www.hotelmolinalario.com
  • Granada (2 nights): 4-star Hotel NH Collection Granada Victoria – a modern hotel housed in a 20th century building located in the historic centre of Granada, close to the Cathedral and the Royal Chapel. www.nh-hotels.com
  • Toledo (3 nights): 4-star San Juan de los Reyes Hotel – housed in a former flour-mill, with a Neo-Mudejar façade dating from the 19th century, it is located in the historic Jewish quarter. www.hotelsanjuandelosreyes.com
  • Segovia (1 night): 4-star Hotel Real Segovia – newly renovated hotel located on a pedestrian street just a short walk from the Roman aqueduct and Segovia’s Cathedral. www.hotelrealsegovia.com
  • Madrid (3 nights): 5-star Hotel NH Collection Madrid Paseo del Prado – ideally situated just across the street from the Prado, and a short walk from the Reina Sofia and Thyssen museums. www.nh-collection.com
  • Barcelona (4 nights): 4-star Hotel Colon – located in the heart of the Gothic quarter, directly opposite Barcelona’s famous cathedral. www.hotelcolon.es

Note: Hotels are subject to change, in which case a hotel of similar standard will be provided.

Single Supplement

Payment of this supplement will ensure accommodation in a room for single occupancy throughout the tour. This will be a double (or twin) room for single occupancy in some hotels, and a ‘superior’ single room in others. The number of rooms available for single occupancy is extremely limited. People wishing to take this supplement are therefore advised to book well in advance.

How to book

How to Book


Please complete the ASA RESERVATION APPLICATION and send it to Australians Studying Abroad together with your non-refundable deposit of AUD $500.00 per person payable to Australians Studying Abroad.

Covid-19 Vaccination Certificate

Commencing from November 2021 it will be a condition of travel that all group leaders and ASA travellers are fully vaccinated against Covid-19. All participants must send ASA a copy of their vaccination certificate at the time of submitting their Reservation Application Form. For information on how to obtain either a Covid-19 digital certificate or a certificate in PDF format please view the Australian Government Services Australia “What types of proof there are” web page.

Practical Information

Practical Information

The number of flags is a guide to the degree of difficulty of ASA tours relative to each other (not to those of other tour companies). It is neither absolute nor literal. One flag is given to the least taxing tours, seven to the most. Flags are allocated, above all, according to the amount of walking and standing each tour involves. Nevertheless, all ASA tours require that participants have a good degree of fitness enabling 2-3 hours walking or 1-1.5 hours standing still on any given site visit or excursion. Many sites are accessed by climbing slopes or steps and have uneven terrain.

This 21-day Cultural Tour of Spain involves:

  • An extensive amount of walking at sites where you will encounter steps, cobbled streets, slopes and steep paths.
  • Standing during museum and other site visits.
  • The use of audio headsets which amplify the voice of your guide (despite noisy surroundings). This technology also allows you to move freely during site visits without missing any information.
  • 4 and 5-star hotels with seven hotel changes.
  • You must be able to carry your own hand luggage. Hotel porterage includes 1 piece of luggage per person at hotels.
  • This tour involves moderate-distance coach travel, High-Speed AVE train between Madrid and Barcelona.

It is important to remember that ASA programs are group tours, and slow walkers affect everyone in the group. As the group must move at the speed of the slowest member, the amount of time spent at a site may be reduced if group members cannot maintain a moderate walking pace. ASA tours should not present any problem for active people who can manage day-to-day walking and stair-climbing. However, if you have any doubts about your ability to manage on a program, please ask your ASA travel consultant whether this is a suitable tour for you.

Please note: it is a condition of travel that all participants agree to accept ASA’s directions in relation to their suitability to participate in activities undertaken on the tour, and that ASA retains the sole discretion to direct a tour participant to refrain from a particular activity on part of the tour. For further information please refer to the Terms and Conditions section given below.

Prior to departure, tour members will receive practical notes which include information on visa requirements, health, photography, weather, clothing and what to pack, custom regulations, bank hours, currency regulations, electrical appliances and food. The Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade website has advice for travellers: www.smartraveller.gov.au

Tour Price & Inclusions

Tour Price & Inclusions

AUD $11,780.00 Land Content Only – Early-Bird Special: Book before 31 Dec 2021

AUD $11,980.00 Land Content Only

AUD $2680.00 Single Supplement

For competitive Economy, Business or First Class airfares please contact ASA for further information.

Tour Price (Land Content Only) includes:
  • Accommodation in twin-share rooms with private facilities in 4 and 5-star hotels
  • Breakfast daily, lunches and dinners as indicated in the itinerary where B=breakfast, L=lunch and D=dinner
  • Drinks at welcome and farewell meals. Other meals may not have drinks included.
  • Transportation by air-conditioned coach
  • Airport-hotel transfers if travelling on ASA ‘designated’ flights
  • First Class High-Speed AVE train from Madrid to Barcelona
  • Porterage of one piece of luggage per person at hotels (not at airports or railway stations)
  • Evening performance at the Palau de la Música Catalana
  • Lecture and site-visit program
  • Tour handbook
  • Entrance fees
  • Use of audio headsets for site excursions
  • Tips for the coach driver, local guides and restaurants for included meals
Tour Price (Land Content Only) does not include:
  • Airfare: Australia-Seville, Barcelona-Australia
  • Personal spending money
  • Airport-hotel transfers if not travelling on the ASA ‘designated’ flights
  • Luggage in excess of 20kg (44lbs)
  • Travel insurance
Tour Map

Tour Map

Terms & Conditions

A deposit of $500.00 AUD per person is required to reserve a place on an ASA tour.

Cancellation Fees

If you decide to cancel your booking the following charges apply:

  • More than 75 days before departure: $500.00**
  • 75-46 days prior 25% of total amount due
  • 45-31 days prior 50% of total amount due
  • 30-15 days prior 75% of total amount due
  • 14-0 days prior 100% of total amount due

**This amount may be credited to another ASA tour departing within 12 months of the original tour you booked. We regret, in this case early-bird discounts will not apply.

We take the day on which you cancel as being that on which we receive written confirmation of cancellation.

Unused Portions of the Tour

We regret that refunds will not be given for any unused portions of the tour, such as meals, entry fees, accommodation, flights or transfers.

Will the Tour Price or Itinerary Change?

If the number of participants on a tour is significantly less than budgeted, or if there is a significant change in exchange rates ASA reserves the right to amend the advertised price. We shall, however, do all in our power to maintain the published price. If an ASA tour is forced to cancel you will get a full refund of all tour monies paid. Occasionally circumstances beyond the control of ASA make it necessary to change airline, hotel or to make amendments to daily itineraries. We will inform you of any changes in due course.

Travel Insurance

ASA requires all participants to obtain comprehensive travel insurance. A copy of your travel insurance certificate and the reverse charge emergency contact phone number must be received by ASA no later than 75 days prior to the commencement of the tour.

Final Payment

The balance of the tour price will be due 75 days prior to the tour commencement date.

Limitation of Liability

ASA is not a carrier, event or tourist attraction host, accommodation or dining service provider. All bookings made and tickets or coupons issued by ASA for transport, event, accommodation, dining and the like are issued as an agent for various service providers and are subject to the terms and conditions and limitations of liability imposed by each service provider. ASA is not responsible for their products or services. If a service provider does not deliver the product or service for which you have contracted, your remedy lies with the service provider, not ASA.

ASA will not be liable for any claim (eg. sickness, injury, death, damage or loss) arising from any change, delay, detention, breakdown, cancellation, failure, accident, act, omission or negligence of any such service provider however caused (contingencies). You must take out adequate travel insurance against such contingencies.

ASA’s liability in respect of any tour will be limited to the refund of amounts received from you less all non-refundable costs and charges and the costs of any substituted event or alternate services provided. The terms and conditions of the relevant service provider from time to time comprise the sole agreement between you and that service provider.

ASA reserves the sole discretion to cancel any tour or to modify itineraries in any way it considers appropriate. Tour costs may be revised, subject to unexpected price increases or exchange rate fluctuations.

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