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One of Europe’s most visually stunning cities, Barcelona balances the medieval intimacy of its Gothic Quarter with the grace and distinction of the wide boulevards in the Moderniste Eixample. It was the home of architect Antoni Gaudí, whose Sagrada Familia Cathedral, Park Güell and Casa Milà are the most profound statements of Modernisme. View the splendid works at the Picasso Museum and the Miro Foundation, or discover Barcelona’s passionate ambiance at a flamenco show.
Mallorca, also known as Majorca, is a wind-swept island with steep jagged cliffs and olive groves more than a thousand years old. Mallorca is an island of contrasts. To the south is a busy tourist area with hotels, bars, restaurants, shopping and dazzling night life. To the north are rocky valleys, sleepy villages shrouded in bougainvillea, and breathtaking views. Palma is dominated by the breathtaking Gothic Cathedral, located high above the waterfront on the site of a former mosque.
Take a scenic drive through the residential area of Manga, and admire the beautiful mansions built in Republican-style architecture at the end of the 19th century. Explore the Castillo San Felipe de Barajas, a fort that was once the most important military structure built in Latin America. Enjoy a boat ride to the Islas del Rosario, 26 coral islands located off the coast of Isla Barú, and continue to the island of San Martín de Pajarales to visit the aquarium. Enjoy a spectacular dolphin and shark show and other marine attractions there. Board the beautiful Spanish Galleon, a replica of a 17th-century sailing ship, for a cruise of the inner bay of Cartagena.
Situated on Spain’s Costa del Sol, Malaga is the region’s capital and a popular holiday destination. The city is also renowned as the birthplace of Pablo Picasso, whose works can be seen in the fairly new Museo Picasso housed in the Palacio de Buenavista. And connoisseurs can imbibe in the sweet Malaga dessert wines that come from the hilly vineyards just outside of town. This is a pleasant town to explore and also serves as a popular starting point for excursions to splendid Granada and the famed Alhambra, located inland at the foothills of the Sierra Nevada.
Casablanca is Morocco’s largest city and industrial center. Its renaissance came with the French protectorate under its first resident general, Lyautey. It was largely his ideas on public works and the layout of the new city which gave Casablanca its wide boulevards, public parks and fountains, and imposing Mauresque civic buildings. ToView the Hassan II Mosque, among the largest and most beautiful mosques in the world.
Cádiz, Andalusia’s world-renowned capital, has undergone major restoration in recent years. Palm trees, gracious squares, flower-filled parks, ubiquitous red-tile roofed buildings, and bustling street markets make this a most delightful port. The old town, on the tip of the peninsula, is buzzing with beautiful, lively plazas. To get there, you pass through the new town, an elegant metropolis with excellent beaches. Cádiz is also a good starting point for a day trip to nearby Seville, where you can visit the Alcazar, a beautiful medieval Islamic palace showcasing a unique fusion of Christian and Moorish architecture surrounded by lovely gardens; majestic Seville Cathedral (Catedral de Sevilla); and Giralda Tower, offering excellent photo opportunities.
Framed by golden sands and impressive cliffs, Portimão offers a relaxing beach getaway for sun-seekers. For lovers of history and architecture, take a stroll through the medieval Castle of Alvor, and for those that enjoy the beauty of nature delight in the cultivated fields and slopes covered with pine trees and wildflowers. Visit the Igreja da Nossa Senhora da Conceição that dates back to the 14th century. After a devastating earthquake it was restored with an altar made from walnut wood and the interior walls that feature religious depictions in azulejos tiles. Bring home traditional lace, ceramics, leather goods and baskets.
Legend states that Ulysses founded Lisbon, calling it Olisipo. Others claim that the name is Phoenician, but all agree it’s one of Europe’s most fascinating destinations. On All Saints’ Day in 1755 a devastating earthquake destroyed much of the city. The Baixa (Lower City) was rebuilt on neo-classical lines that still form the heart of the city. The elegant ‘City of Explorers’overlooks the River Tagus, and offers a number of distinctive neighborhoods to discover. Tour the Alfama, where the winding streets still retain much of their Moorish atmosphere. Stroll to Bairro Alto and hear the melodious sounds of Portugal’s Fado music. Nearby excursions transport you to the lavish 18th-century palace of Queluz and Sintra’s Royal Palace.
The beautiful beaches of Gijon are singular in their own right. Yet, for art lovers and historians, there is plenty to do in and around the city as well. Namely, there are several uniquely themed museums, including the Campo Valdés Roman Baths, considered one of the most important Roman remains in northern Spain. Visit the aquarium, the botanical gardens or simply stroll through the streets of Cimavilla, the oldest part of Gijon. Gijon offers several shopping districts with ample opportunities to experience the culture of the city as you explore the shops, including the local Ecological and Crafts Market with environmentally friendly products.
Bilbao straddles the Bilbao or Nervión River some 15 miles from the Cantabrian Seacoast. An industrial city, the metropolitan area ranks among Spain’s most important commercial and financial centers. Proximity to the sea and early discovery of vast mineral deposits led to the development of the port. The modern city center is El Ensanche (literally “the expansion”). Possibly the newest source of great local pride is the remarkable Guggenheim Museum-Bilbao.