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Must see locations, events and places to travel and enjoy in Spain
Must see locations, events and places to travel and enjoy in Spain
Barcelona is one of Europe’s architectural treasuries. As a cradle of modernism, it’s up there with Paris and London, celebrated for structures that manage to convey Catalan’s mythic past while paradoxically trumpeting progress. Yet, as a city, for all its formal innovation it has developed a (very first-world) shortcoming. For years, the “It hotel” in Barcelona wasn’t really in Barcelona. The Gran Hotel La Florida was out of town, and above it, too, being situated high on the Tibidabo mountain. The opening of Soho House’s new property on the edge of the up-and-coming Gothic Quarter, then, represents a social rewiring.
The eighteenth House in the group’s rapidly expanding empire, which now stretches to Chicago and Istanbul, is a £45 million refurbishment of a former 19th-century apartment block overlooking the Port Veil marina. It’s winning over Spaniards and travelling foreigners – mostly Brits, on our visit – thanks to the same formula that has made a success of previous outings: tried-and-tested Soho House features mixed with local flourishes.
Anyone who has spent time in its other operations will, for instance, be familiar with the earthy colour palette, the industrial fittings, the Cowshed spa, the Cecconi’s restaurant, the no-photos policy and the rooftop pool that’s too intimidating to swum. in. Throughout, however, there are grace notes that conjure up the locale, whether it’s the traditional red-brick vaulting in the ceiling of the upstairs restaurant or the Catalan fabrics in the 57 bedrooms.
The dinner menu captures the strategy in miniature, listing “House Regulars” alongside an array of site-specific tapas, salads and soups. Highlights include the tuna tartare (£22) and the oxtail risotto (£23). Like Chicago and Istanbul, Soho House Barcelona is big – 80,000 sq ft over six floors – which is necessary because it has to cater for two business models: a hotel with benefits (nonmembers can book a room, which includes full club access for the duration of their stay) as well as a home-from-home for Soho Housers proper. Innocents abroad can easily use it as a launch pad for enjoying the Barca beyond, as the staff are briefed with helpful recommendations for things to do in the city. See right for five not to miss…
A magical use of space, light, water, and decoration characterizes this most sensual piece of Moorish architecture. The Islamic Moors first arrived in Spain in 710. By the late 13th century, only the Nasrid kingdom of Granada remained under their control, and the Alhambra is the most remarkable structure to have survived from this period. Seeking to belie an image of waning power, the Moors created their idea of paradise on Earth in this palace-fortress. Modest materials were used, but they were superbly worked. Restored in the late 1800s after centuries of neglect and pillage, the Alhambra’s delicate craftsmanship dazzles the eye.
The Reconquista — a series of campaigns by Christian kingdoms to recapture territory lost to the Moors since 711 — started in northern Spain, arriving in Andalusia with a Christian victory in 1212. As the Christians infiltrated the Moorish empire, Granada became the principal Muslim stronghold in Spain. The Nasrids came to power in the kingdom of Granada in 1236, ushering in a prolonged period of peace and prosperity. Muhammad I, founder of the Nasrid dynasty, undertook the construction of the Alhambra and the Generate in 1238, building a fortified complex of singular beauty that became the official residence of the Nasrid sultans. Granada finally fell in 1492 to Ferdinand and Isabella, the Catholic Monarchs.
Located west of the Alhambra, the Generalife was the country estate of the Nasrid kings.
Here, they could escape the intrigues of the palace and enjoy the tranquillity high above the city. The name Generalife, or Yannat al Arif, has various interpretations, perhaps the most pleasing being “the garden of lofty paradise.” The gardens, begun in the 13th century, have been modified over the years. They originally contained orchards and pastures for animals.
The palaces of the Moors were designed with gracious living, culture, and learning in mind. Space, light, water, and ornamentation were combined to harmonious effect. The Alhambra has all the key features of Moorish architecture: arches, stuccowork, and ornamental use of calligraphy. The elaborate stuccowork (Sala de los Abencerrajes) typifies the Nasrid style. Reflections in water, combined with an overall play of light, are another central feature. Water often had to be pumped from a source far beneath the palaces (Patio de los Leones).
The Moors introduced techniques for making fantastic mosaics of tiles in sophisticated geometric patterns to decorate their palace walls. The word azufejo derives from the Arabic for “little stone.” Exquisite azulejos, made of unicolored stones, can be seen throughout the Alhambra complex.
Salon de Embajadores
The ceiling of this sumptuous throne room, built from 1334-54, represents the seven heavens of the Muslim cosmos.
Palacio del Partal
A pavilion with an arched portico and a tower is all that remains of this palace, the oldest building in the Alhambra.
Patio de los Leones
Built by Muhammad V (1354-91), this patio is lined with arcades supported by 124 slender marble columns. At its center, a fountain rests on 12 marble lions.
Patio de Arrayanes
This pool, set amid myrtle hedges and graceful arcades, reflects light into the surrounding halls.
Washington Irving’s Apartments
The celebrated American author wrote his Tales of the Alhambra (1832) here.
Sala de los Abencerrajes
This hall takes its name from a noble family that was the rival of the Nasrid sultan Boabdil. According to legend, he had them massacred while they attended a banquet here. The geometrical ceiling pattern was inspired by Pythagoras’ theorem.
This great banqueting hall was used to hold extravagant parties and feasts. Beautiful ceiling paintings on leather, from the 14th century, depict tales of hunting and chivalry.
Sala de las Dos Hermanas
With its honeycomb dome, the Hall of the Two Sisters is regarded as the ultimate example of Spanish-Islamic architecture.
Patio del Mexuar
This council chamber, completed in 1365, was where there reigning Nasrid sultan heard the petitions of his subjects and held meetings with his ministers.
Palace of Charles V
Built in 1526, this houses a collection of Spanish-Islamic art, the highlight of which is the Alhambra vase.
Night visits provide a magical view of the Alhambra complex, when subtle, indirect lighting contrasts with the bright city lights. Nocturnal visits only give access to the outdoor areas of the Nasrid palaces.
1236: The Nasrid dynasty comes to power in the sole remaining Islamic state in Spain, the Kingdom of Granada.
1238: Construction of the Alhambra palace complex begins under the first Nasrid ruler.
1492: The Nasrid dynasty surrenders to the Catholic Monarchs during the Reconquista.
1984: The Alhambra and the Gen era life are added to UNESCO’s Vvbrld Heritage list.
Felipe II’s imposing gray palace of San Lorenzo de El Escorial stands out against the foothills of the Sierra de Guadarrama to the northwest of Madrid. It was built between 1563 and 1584 in honor of St. Lawrence, and its unornamented severity set a new architectural style that became one of the most influential in Spain. The interior was conceived as a mausoleum and contemplative retreat rather than a splendid residence. The palace’s artistic wealth, which includes some of the most important works of art in the royal Habsburg collections, is concentrated in the museums, chapter houses, church, royal pantheon, and library. In contrast, the royal apartments are remarkably modest.
Established by Felipe II (r. 1556-98), this was Spain’s first public library. In 1619, a decree was issued demanding that a copy of each new publication in the empire be sent here. At its zenith, it contained some 40,000 books and manuscripts. The long Print Room has a marble floor and a glorious vaulted ceiling. The ceiling frescoes depict Philosophy, Grammar, Rhetoric, Dialectics, Music, Geometry, Astrology, and Theology. The wooden shelving was designed by Juan de Herrera (1530-97). On the four main pillars are portraits of the royal house of Habsburg—Carlos I (Emperor Charles V), Felipe II, Felipe III, and Carlos II.
Directly beneath the high altar of the basilica is the Royal Pantheon, where almost all Spanish monarchs since Carlos I have been laid to rest. Adorned with black marble, red jasper, and Italian gilt bronze decorations, it was finished in 1654. Kings lie on the left of the altar and queens on the right. The most recent addition to the pantheon was the mother of Juan Carlos I in 2000. Of the eight other pantheons, one of the most notable is that of Juan de Austria, Felipe II’s half-brother, who became a hero after defeating the Turks at the Battle of Lepanto in 1571. Also worth seeing is La Tarta, a white marble polygonal tomb resembling a cake, where royal children are buried.
Historically, only the aristocracy were permitted to enter the basilica, and the townspeople were confined to the vestibule at the entrance. The basilica contains 45 altars. Among its highlights is the exquisite statue of Christ Crucified (1562) in Carrara marble by the Italian sculptor Benvenuto Cellini. It is found in the chapel to the left of the entrance, with steps leading up to it. On either side of the high altar, above the doors leading to the Royal Apartments, are fine gilded bronze cenotaphs of Charles V and Felipe II worshiping with their families. The enormous altarpiece was designed by Juan de Herrera with colored marble, jasper, gilt-bronze sculptures, and paintings. The central tabernacle took seven years to craft.
The library’s impressive array of 40,000 books incorporates King Felipe II’ s personal collection. On display are precious manuscripts, including a poem by Alfonso X the Learned. The 16th-century ceiling frescoes are by Pellegrino Tibaldi (1527-96).
The funerary urns of Spanish monarchs line this octagonal marble mausoleum.
Alfonso XII College
This was founded by monks in 1875 as a boarding school.
The high light of this huge decorated church is the lavish altarpiece. The chapel houses a superb marble sculpture of the Crucifixion by Cellini.
The building of El Escorial
When chief architect Juan Bautista de Toledo died in 1567 he was replaced by Juan de Herrera, royal inspector of monuments. The plain architectural style of El Escorial is called desornamentado, which literally means “unadorned.”
Built on the second floor of the palace, these consist of Felipe II’s modestly decorated living quarters. His bedroom opens directly onto the high altar of the basilica.
Patio de los Evangelistas
This has a magnificent pavilion by Juan de Herrera at its center.
On display here is Charles V’s portable altar. Magnificent ceiling frescoes portray monarchs and angels.
Founded in 1567, this has been run by Augustinian monks since 1885.
The Glory of the Spanish Monarchy, by Luca Giordano
This beautiful fresco, above the main staircase, depicts Charles V and Felipe II, and scenes of the building of the monastery.
On August 10, 1557-St Lawrence’s Day – King Felipe II defeated the French in battle and immediately vowed to build a monastery in the saint’s honor. El Escorial’s shape, based on that of a gridiron, is said to recall the instrument of St. Lawrence’s martyrdom .
Europe’s most unconventional church, the Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Familia is an emblem of a city that likes to think of itself as individualistic. Crammed with symbolism inspired by nature, and striving for originality, it is Antoni Gaudi’s greatest work. In 1883, a year after building had begun on a Neo-Gothic church on the site, the task of completing it was given to Gaudi, who changed everything, extemporizing as he went along. It became his life’s work; he lived like a recluse on the site for 16 years and was buried in the crypt. On his death, only one tower on the Nativity Facade had been completed, but work continued after the Spanish Civil War and several more have since been finished to his plans. Work continues today, financed by public subscription.
Toward the end of the 19th century, a new style of art and architecture, a variant of Art Nouveau, was born in Barcelona. Modernisme became a means of expression for Catalan nationalism and attempted to reestablish a local identity that had waned under the rule of Castilian Madrid. The style is characterized by curved lines and a profusive use of colored tiles and tiled mosaics. It counted Josep Puig i Cadafalch, Lluis Domenech i Montaner and, above all, Antoni Gaudi among its major exponents, the style’s radical appearance is one of the principal attractions of Barcelona today.
Born into a family of artisans, Antoni Gaudi (1852-1926) studied at Barcelona’s School of Architecture. Inspired by a nationalistic search for a romantic medieval past, his work was supremely original. His most celebrated building is the Sagrada Familia, to which he devoted his life from 1883. He gave all his money to the project and often went from house to house begging for more, until his death a few days after being run over by a tram. Gaudi designed, or collaborated on designs, for almost every known medium. He combined bare, undecorated materials — wood, rough-hewn stone, rubble, and brickwork— with meticulous craftwork in wrought iron and stained glass.
Gaudi united nature and religion in his symbolic vision of the Sagrada Familia. The church has three monumental facades. The east front (Nativity Facade) is directed toward the rising Sun and dedicated to the birth of Christ. Flora and fauna, spring and summer symbols, fruits, birds, and flowers adorn this facade. The west front (Passion Facade) represents Christ’s Passion and death, with columns eerily reminiscent of bones combined with a lack of decoration to reflect the loss that death brings. The Glory Facade to the south has not yet been constructed, but is projected to be the largest of all. Gaudi intended the interior of the church to evoke the idea of a forest (nave). Columns are “planted” symbolically like tree trunks, and dappled light filters in through skylights.
This bleak facade was completed in the late 1980s by artist Josep Maria Subirachs. A controversial work, its sculpted figures, which represent Jesus’ pain and sacrifice, are often angular and sinister.
Designed by Gaudi, this is still waiting for the altar.
This was the first part of the church to be completed. Stairs lead down from here to the crypt below.
The most complete part of Gaudi’s church, finished in 1904, this facade has doorways representing Faith, Hope, and Charity. Scenes of the Nativity and Christ’s childhood are embellished with symbolism, such as doves representing the congregation.
Viewed from the top, these spiral stone stairways resemble snail shells. The steps allow access to the bell towers and upper galleries.
The crypt, where Gaudi is buried, was built by the original architect, Francese de Paula Villar i Lozano, in 1882. On the lower floor, a museum traces the careers of both architects and the church’s history.
In the nave, which is still under construction, fluted pillars will support four galleries above the aisles, while skylights let in natural light.
Eight of the 12 spires, one for each Apostle, have been built. They are topped by Venetian mosaics.
The church was attacked in 1936, during the Spanish Civil War (1936-39 ). The crypt and Gaudi’s workshop were damaged by fire. The charred remains of site models and drawings are on display in the Crypt Museum.
Gaudi’s initial ambitions have been scaled down over the years, but the design tor the completion of the building remains impressive.
Still to come is the central tower, which will be encircled by four large towers representing the Evangelists. Four towers on the Glory (south) Facade will match the existing four on the Passion (west) and Nativity (east) facdes. An ambulatory – like an inside-out cloister – will run around the outside of the building.
1882: Work begins on a church in a traditional Neo-Gothic style.
1884: Gaudi takes over as the lead architect and immediately changes the project.
1893: Gaudi begins the Nativity Facade, which reflects his love of nature.
1954: Work resumes following the Civil War and continues to this day.
The jewel in Bilbao’s revitalization program, the Museo Guggenheim unites art and architecture. The building itself is a star attraction: a mind-boggling array of silvery curves by the architect Frank O. Gehry, which are alleged to resemble a ship or flower. The Guggenheim’s collection represents an intriguingly broad spectrum of modern and contemporary art, and includes works by Abstract Impressionists such as Willem de Kooning and Mark Rothko. Most of the art shown here is displayed as part of an ongoing series of temporary exhibitions and major retrospectives. Some of these are also staged at the Guggenheim museums in New York, Venice, and Berlin.
Canadian-born architect Frank O. Gehry studied architecture at the University of Southern California and then urban planning at Harvard before setting up his own firm in 1962. His early work is notable for its use of unusual materials, including chain-link and corrugated metal. Later works have possessed an almost sculptural quality, made possible by computer design, creating distinctive, unique modern landmarks. During his career, Gehry has been awarded large-scale public and private commissions in the US, Japan, and Europe.
The Guggenheim is a breathtaking combination of curling fragmented shapes, limestone blocks, and glass walls and panels that beam light into the building. The central space (Atrium), one of the pioneering design features, is crowned by a metal dome and skylight. Framing this vast area is a futuristic vision of suspended curved walkways, glass lifts, and soaring staircases that lead to the 19 galleries. Ten of the galleries have a conventional rectangular form, and can be recognized from the outside by their stone finish. The other rooms are erratically shaped, and identified by their exterior titanium paneling (titanium facade). Volumes and perspectives have been manipulated throughout to blend the overall sculpted design with the surrounding landscape, referencing Bilbao’s industrial past.
The collection is arranged over three levels around the Atrium, with Mark Rothko’s Untitled (1952) marking the chronological start. It comprises works by significant artists of the late 20th century, ranging from the earliest avant-garde movements to present-day genres. The artists include Eduardo Chillida, Yves Klein, Willem de Kooning, Robert Motherwell, Clyfford Still, Antoni Tapies, and Andy Warhol. There are also artworks by emerging Basque and Spanish artists. The museum’s own permanent collection is supplemented by important pieces from the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York and the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice.
This mammoth sculpture by Richard Serra was created from hot-rolled steel. It is more than 100ft (30 m) long.
Puente de la Salve
This bridge was incorporated into the design of the building, which extends underneath it
Positioned on the far side of the bridge, this was designed to resemble a sail. It is not an exhibition space.
The Guggenheim’s prowlike points and metallic material make it comparable to a ship.
Arcelor Mittal Gallery
Formerly known as the Fish Gallery because of its flowing, fishlike shape, this is the largest gallery in the museum. It is dominated by a series of steel sculptures by Richard Serra called Snake and The Matter of Time.
The space in which visitor s to the museum first find themselves is the extraordinary 200-ft (60-m) high Atrium. It serves as an orientation point and its height makes it a dramatic setting for exhibiting large pieces.
View from the City
Approaching from the Calle de Iparraguirre, the museum stands out amid more traditional buildings.
American artist Jeff Koons created this sculpture of a dog with a coat of flower s irrigated by an internal system. Originally a temporary feature, its popularity earned it a permanent spot.
Designed and owned by star chef Martin Berasategui, this serves local specialties.
Rarely seen in buildings, titanium is more commonly used for aircraft parts . In total, 60 tons were used, but the layer is only 0.1 inch (3 mm) thick.
On the west side of the museum. a sweeping concrete promenade connects the Nervion River with a water garden.
Built to rescue the city from economic decline, the museum uses materials and shapes to convey Bilbao’s industrial past of steel and shipbuilding while simultaneously symbolizing its commitment to its future.
1991: Plans to build the museum are approved.
1993: Frank O. Gehry presents he museum design model.
1994: Work begins on the museum building.
1997: The Guggenheim Museum is opened to the public.
As befits one of the great shrines of Christendom, this monument to St. James is a majestic sight, dominated by its soaring twin Baroque towers. The rest of the cathedral dates from the 11th—13th centuries, although it stands on the site of Alfonso II’s 9th-century basilica. Through the famous Portico da Gloria is the same interior that greeted pilgrims in medieval times. The choir, designed by Maestro Mateo, has been completely restored.
According to tradition, James returned to Jerusalem after preaching in Spain and was the first Apostle to be martyred. His body is thought to have been translated, some claim miraculously, to a burial site in Galicia. A bishop is said to have discovered the relics some 750 years later in 819, guided by a divine vision. A church was erected in St. James’ honor on the sacred spot. The Moors destroyed Santiago in 997, yet the saint’s tomb was spared (crypt). This, and subsequent Christian victories, led to St. James becoming Spain’s patron saint, and forged the cathedral’s reputation as one of Christendom’s major pilgrimage sites.
In the Middle Ages, 500,000 pilgrims a year flocked to the cathedral from all over Europe Several pilgrimage roads converge on Santiago de Compostela. The various routes, marked by the cathedrals, churches, and inns built along them, are still used by travelers today; the main road from the Pyrenees is known as the French Route. To qualify for a certificate, pilgrims must produce a stamped and dated pilgrim passport and have covered the final 62 miles (100 km) on foot or horseback, or have cycled the last 125 miles (200 km).
The Romanesque pillars, pointed arches, and ribbed vaulting of this doorway were carved in part by Maestro Mateo (the lintel of the central arch bears his signature and the date 1188). Its three arches are carved with almost 200 expressive biblical figures. Christ sits at the center, baring his wounds, flanked by his Apostles and the 24 Elders of the Apocalypse, who are carrying musical instruments. St. James is seated below Christ, perched before the richly sculpted central column. Several indentations are visible on this column, which also depicts the Tree of Jesse. These have been created by the millions of pilgrims who have touched this spot with their hands as a gesture of thanks for their safe journey. On the other side, pilgrims bend to rest their heads on the statue of the Santos dos Croques hoping to gain wisdom.
These are the cathedral’s highest structures soaring to 243 ft (74m)
The richly sculpted Baroque Obradiro facade was added in the 18th century.
Portico da Gloria
Statues of the Apostoles and prophets decorate the 12th century Doorway of Glory, the original entrance to the cathedral.
Santos dos Corques
The Saint of Bumps has greeted pilgrims since the 12th century. Touching this statue with the forehead is said to impart luck and wisdom.
Tapestries dating from the early 16th century are displayed in the museum above the chapter house and library. Some of the later tapestries are based on work by Goya.
This giant censer is swung high above the altar by eight men during important services.
Fine wrought-iron grills and vaulting can be seen in this chapel of 1521.
Visitors can pass behind the ornate high altar to embrace the silver mantle of the 13th century statue of St. James.
Porta des Praterias
The 12th century Goldsmiths’ Doorway is rich in bas-relief sculptures of biblical scenes.
The relics of St. James and two disciples are said to life in a tomb in the crypt, under the altar, in the original 9th century foundations.
This provides proof of a pilgrim’s journey.
As the symbol of St James, scallop shells were worn by pilgrims in the Middle Ages to show that they had journeyed to his shrine. Houses willing to accept passing pilgrims en route hung shells over their doors.
1075: Work on the cathedral begins on the site of the church destroyed by the Moors.
1750: The Baroque west facade of the building is completed.
1879: St. James’ remains, hidden in 1700, are re discovered during building work.
1985: The Old Town of Santiago is added to UNESCO’s World Heritage Site list.
Tenerife is the largest of the seven Canary Islands, and is the ideal luxury holiday destination to take a break and unwind. As the most popular Spanish island, and with a land area of more than 780 square miles, Tenerife makes up 43% of the total population of the Canary Islands. More than five million tourists visit Tenerife every year – the most of any of the Canary Islands – proving that it is a much-desired location for holidaymakers from all across the globe, and it’s clear to see why.
Its diversity of landscapes, all-year-round spring-like weather and proximity to Europe make Tenerife the perfect getaway for an unforgettable and frankly, flawless holiday experience. The weather in Tenerife is a safe bet, and with an average annual temperature of 22 degrees centigrade and a stream of breathtaking sights to see, it is the ideal location for any holidaymaker wanting a break from the – usually – dismal British weather. Many people assume that, to find the most exotic, volcanic destination with sizzling heat, you need to take long and tiresome journeys or leave Europe, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. Tenerife is a three to four hour flight from most European cities, and with two serving airports – Tenerife North Airport and Tenerife South Airport – visitors can expect nothing less than a stress-free journey to this lavish location.
No other destination in Europe hosts a fuller or better quality infrastructure than Tenerife. Of course, there are the magnificent four and five star luxury resorts that make Tenerife the dreamed- of location that it is, but there is also so much more. The island boasts a generally modern and fully-equipped hotel industry alongside a wide range of first- class entertainment and leisure options; exceptional hotels with attention to detail, restaurants with extraordinary cuisine and atmosphere, a wide array of golf courses, spa centres and much more, making it the perfect destination for couples, lone travellers and families alike. Alongside huge, exotic resorts, you will see that there are charming little boutique hotels, some in lovely historical villages, and country houses surrounded by spectacular scenery. For those holidaymakers who are looking for more privacy, there are fabulous villas scattered around the island, offering up the chance to live the lavish lifestyle of a true royal. They are all very exclusive; with everything down to the smallest detail, and a large amount have a la carte services that might even include your very own butler, cook, massages at home and more!
Does it really get much better than that? Yes it does… You can order a bath to your liking with the scent you prefer, and afterwards have a relaxing massage on the terrace while you gaze at the sea next to your private pool. The villas are always in places of privilege – most of them on the coast – in quiet settings surrounded by gardens, allowing you to feel like you’re in your own personal paradise and we can bet your bottom dollar that you’ll find it very difficult to leave!
A trip to Tenerife will provide you with a thousand unique experiences. Alongside the expected beautiful beaches that boast fine volcanic sand and clear blue waters, water parks and animal conservation centres, as well as water sports such as jet skiing and parasailing, the island is the host of a spectrum of interesting and fun landscapes to witness and activities to immerse yourself in. In Teide National Park, you’ll feel like you’re on another planet with monstrous volcanoes and exceptional views. Why not travel around it in a rented four-wheel drive or a convertible sports car? As the highest peak in Spain, Mount Teide reaches a height of 3,718 metres and has an impressive crater – a sight definitely worth seeing. If being at sea is more your thing, then you can sail the Atlantic in an elegant yacht. You could be watching whales and dolphins while sipping cocktails and enjoying some sun on deck, or walking historic trails to get to know the island’s volcanoes. The possibilities the beautiful Canary Island of Tenerife presents are endless.
The Germans’ favourite island doesn’t just offer countless beaches and bays, it is also a true hiking paradise. You can discover the Tramuntana mountain range in the west of Majorca on the roughly 140km long dry stone route. The wonderful, Mediterranean landscape with ancient olive trees and lovely smelling orange groves, spectacular rocky sceneries with holm oak forests, old country estates and deep ravines make the tours a real delight. Even more so with the tips from Majorca-insider Stefan Loiperdinger. In the new edition of his magazine “Majorca’s Secrets,” he presents a selection of special hikes: hikes for connoisseurs. Easy to walk tours that include a place to stop for some hearty refreshments as well as bathing spots to cool off. Just the right thing for the pre-season with pleasant temperatures around 25 degrees.
Convent de la Missio Palma – In the old town of Palma, surrounded by narrow alleyways and prosperous courtyards, stands the Convent de la Missio, built in the 17th century for the training of missionaries. After elaborate and extensive reconstructions, it is now an exclusive hotel with extraordinary facilities which enchant through harmony and tranquillity. Each of the fourteen rooms is individually decorated, each with its own special touch. The monastery’s former dining hall has been converted into an “art bar”. A room in which to discover art and enjoy exquisite wines or delicious cocktails in good company. Head chef Marc Fosh pampers his guests with original, creative menus.
Hostal Cuba Palma, Santa Catalina – A true rarity! This colonial-style hotel in Santa Catalina’s trendy quarter is the perfect location if you like to be right in the middle of things and enjoy the authentic flare first-hand. Santa Catalina’s shops and restaurants are right on your doorstep. The Mercat Santa Catalina is an absolute must! Although it is not actually that easy to leave the hotel; a restaurant, a nightclub and two bars or lounges, as well as a rooftop terrace, with a view of the moon, and the cathedral all have seductive powers. The rooms are tastefully decorated. Each one more surprising than the one before.
Sant Francesc Hotel Palma – An oasis of tranquillity in the heart of Palma manages to perfectly combine the vitality of the dynamic capitol with the island’s relaxed lifestyle. As such, during the renovation of the old neoclassical-style town house, the traces of the past such as wooden beams in the ceiling, the curbed roofs, frescoes and mouldings were preserved and incorporated into a modern, elegant design. Individually furnished rooms and suits, a Majorcan patio, a rooftop terrace with bar and pool, and a restaurant with Mediterranean cuisine make your stay here a lasting experience.
Bellver Castle and Santueri Castle – The 700-year-old Bellver Castle dominates the city of Palma and its circular ground plan is a unique example of Gothic military architecture. Bellver is the best-conserved mountain castle in Majorca and has played a prominent part in the island’s history since the 14th century. It sits on a peak, 475 metres high, and commands panoramic views over the country and the coastal stretch of the Migjorn – the south of Mallorca.
Ensaimada – Yummy! No other product is more typical or famous than the Ensaimada. This sweet, spiral-shaped bun has become the breakfast not only of Majorcans and visitors; its consumption has spread to bars and bakeries overseas. Since its main ingredient is sugar, it’s obviously popular with the British.
National Parks – Forty percent of the land area of Majorca is protected as national parkland, and almost all of it is in the interior. Visits are generally free to the nine locations and show a different aspect to the “sun sea and sand” stereotypical view of the island. “Wildlife, wonder and, phew, it’s hot”.
There are nearly 300000 beds on Majorca, not including the “sun” ones.
Park your yacht, Nelson. There are over 50 moorings around Majorca.
Majorca Mi Amigo – So, we may have discovered a little late that there is more than one island to the Balearic chain, but that hasn’t changed the way that pale-skinned Brits head for the golden sands of this Mediterranean Mecca. Mallorca to the Spanish, and to the Catalans for that matter, the biggest part of the Balearic chain will always, to us, be Majorca, no matter how much we try to master the understated, subtle and laid-back Spanish “May – hor – kaah”. It’s more of a languid breath of warm air, than a proper, stiff upper lip pronunciation. Then again, you can leave your stiff upper lip at home, along with your bowler hat and umbrella.
Of the millions of British visitors to the islands in the round, the vast majority with a hard “jay” made for Majorca, with a much softer one. One in four visitors to the island is British and, if we all went at once, we’d outnumber the native population by about three to one. Only our great travelling companions the Germans can match those figures. Where we stand out is in the number of group visitors. Better than four in every five British visitors to the island, and the Balearics in general, arrives as part of a group, which means that there is an almost endless variety of offers from British agents, keen to capture business from Blighty to the Mediterranean destination.
Sunset and Vine – It’s probably got a lot to do with the sunsets. The West Coast, in general, is the favourite destination for British tourist to Majorca. More than one in three of us find the irresistible combination of golden sands and golden evening lights the combination that unlocks the secret of the island. However, in a close second place, the gentle attractions of the north coast Bay of Alcudia prove especially popular with family and mixed age groups. Although being 62km north of Son Sant Joan International airport and the capital Palma, the journey into the Bay of Alcudia is a well travelled and easy route. Coach transfer is the easiest, if not the fastest way to make the journey. Taxis are always available, at a premium price, be sure to fix a price before departing, or even make sure a pre-booked taxi is waiting for you. Hire car is the most flexible way to make the journey.
Allow at least an hour for the journey by car or taxi, add at least a further thirty minutes for a coach journey and, if your operator insists on a detour to the nearby resort of Puerto Pollensa, add another 45 minutes. The original medieval old town of Alcudia is two miles inland from the modern coastal development. A visit takes you in the footsteps of the Phoenicians and Greeks -who first settled here -followed in the 2nd century BC by the Romans, who made Alcudia the capital of the island. Note that the hotels of Playa de Muro, about 8km from the town, are often inaccurately referred to as Alcudia. Playa de Muro is a little more upmarket, typically charging around £250 per person per week more for its modern 4 and 5-star hotels and apart hotels. The more modern amenities are an offset against the rather less historic setting.
Coastal Favourites – The warm shallow waters of Alcudia Bay make this resort very popular with families with young children, and the beach is, without doubt, a major attraction with fine, clean sand with a wide variety of water sports, and plenty of refreshments nearby. Be prepared to walk about a bit. Buses are often full, especially so on market days, and taxis are reportedly hard to come by. However, avoid the busy times and local operator Autocares runs frequently through the town to as far as Palma. Inland Adventures Undoubtedly Majorca is known as a beach destination, but visit only the fringe of the island and miss out on the inland delights and the majority of Majorca.
There are more landlocked provinces on the island than there are coastal regions, and the island government, Govern de les Illes Balears, in concert with the Conselleria de Torisme, is working hard at promoting the interior as, initially, a place to visit, and in due course a destination in its own right. However, as far as convincing the Britons goes, the “Govern” has a long way to go. “The British do not stand out for their interest in sporting activities,” says the report on the British market to the Balearics!
Maybe that’s not all down to us sunburnt British seals, lugubriously lying on the beach. Getting about can be an issue. On the West Coast, the resorts tend to be spread either side of the busy Ma-1 2 northern coast road. When booking here it may be worth checking on which side of this road your accommodation is situated, as such demarcations as the dedicated cycle lane are as rarely observed as they are back home. This one, although reserved for cyclists, is often used as a short cut by local motor traffic. That though should be an encouragement to explore the interior, where the weather is just as fine, and the sights even more delightful. Bicycle hire is plentiful and relatively cheap throughout the island.