Spain’s two largest cities are as diverse as they are rich in culture and history. In Barcelona we find a city that looks to the North of Europe for its cultural influences. Here Spain’s own version of Art Nouveau, Modernism, took root and innovative artists like Picasso and Miró flourished. A short train ride away Imperial Madrid offers austere royal residences and some of the finest traditional art collections in Europe. Neighbouring Toledo and Segovia showcase Roman remains, a fairytale Alcázar palace and a superb Gothic cathedral.
The winding streets of Barcelona’s Gothic Quarter (Barri Gòtic)
The distinctive modernista architecture of the Catalonian capital, from cathedrals and palaces to parks and hospitals
The art of Romanesque, Renaissance and Baroque Spain, including Velásquez, El Greco and Goya
Imperial Spain and its legacy in the architecture and wealth of its two major cities
Cities of three religions: a historical co-existence of Christian, Muslim and Jewish cultures
The Romanesque frescoes at the National Museum of Catalunyan Art in Barcelona (MNAC)
The modernist architecture of Gaudí’s Sagrada Família and Domenèch i Montaner’s Hospital de San Pau and the Palau de la Música
Montserrat monastery towering above Barcelona and a sparkling wine cava tasting and degustation lunch
The art collections of the Prado, the Thyssen- Bornemisza and the Reina Sofia museums
Philip II’s monastery-palace of El Escorial, the epitome of Spanish imperial power
A day trip to cliff-top Toledo and an insight into its Visigothic, Arabic and Jewish roots
Days 1–5: Barcelona – city tour, MNAC museum (National Museum of Catalunyan Art) and the Miró Foundation. Modernist sites of Sagrada Família, the Hospital de San Pau and the Palau de la Música. Day trip to the monastery of Montserrat with sparkling wine cava tasting and farewell lunch.
Days 5–9: Madrid – guided tours of the Prado and Reina Sofia galleries and an extended visit to the Thyssen-Bornemisza, a day trip to the El Escorial monastery with a traditional suckling pig lunch in Segovia and a full day in Toledo.
A detailed itinerary for this tour is available. Click on the link above to view or download.
Emirates have flights into Barcelona and out of Madrid. Please contact us for competitive quotes. Contact us for competitive quotes and bookings.
Included meals are shown with the symbols B, L and D.
Wednesday October 25: Arrive and Orientation
In the late afternoon, we undertake a walking tour of the centre of Barcelona from our hotel on the edge of the Barri Gotic, or Medieval Quarter. We see the ancient Roman walls, explore the labyrinth of streets behind the cathedral, walk down the Rambla, past the colourful Boquería market with exquisite local hams and cheeses and walk across the beautiful Plaça Reial. In the evening, we dine at Set de Gotic, a well-known restaurant in a historic Modernist building. Overnight Barcelona (D).
Thursday October 26: Montjuic Hill
After a talk in our hotel, we transfer to the hill of Montjuïc where the MNAC museum (National Art Museum of Catalonia) is situated. The highlights here are the Romanesque paintings carefully removed from churches in the Pyranees in the 1920’s to save them from American collectors. The colours and detail are astonishing. After a coffee break on the steps of the museum overlooking the city, we walk to the Mirό Foundation for an exploration of the bizarre world of Joan Mirό, one of Catalonia’s famous sons, commonly referred to as a surrealist. Overnight Barcelona (B).
Friday October 27: Modernism
An introductory talk this morning prepares us for two contrasting works by two of Catalonia’s most famous Modernist architects, Antoni Gaudí and Lluís Domènech i Montaner. We commence with Gaudí’s emblematic Sagrada Família church with its fabulous façades and vast forest-like interior, now nearing completion after 130 years. In the afternoon, we take a guided tour of the Hospital de San Pau which was built between 1901-1930 and was a fully functioning hospital until 2009. The design was supposed to be beneficial to healing for the inhabitants. Overnight Barcelona (B).
Saturday October 28: Montserrat
An excursion high into the mountains behind Barcelona takes us to the dramatic monastery of Montserrat. The monastery was started by the Benedictine monks in the 9th century and has been expanded frequently since. The rocky crenulations surrounding the site inspired Wagner to use this as the backdrop to his opera, Parsifal. We continue to the sparkling wine (cava) region of Sant Sadurní d’Anoia for lunch and a tasting. In the evening, a talk in the hotel prepares us for the art of Madrid tomorrow. Overnight Barcelona (B, L).
Sunday October 29: Madrid and the Prado
A high-speed train transports us to Madrid in less than 3 hours. After a light lunch in our hotel, we walk the short distance to the celebrated Prado museum for a guided tour of the principal works. First opened to the public in 1819, its extensive collection includes masterpieces by artists such as Velázquez, Goya, El Greco and Caravaggio. Dinner tonight is in our hotel. Overnight Madrid (B, L, D)
Monday October 30: Art in Madrid
Our focus today is on two more of Madrid’s great art galleries. The Reina Sofia is an outstanding museum of contemporary art whose permanent collection includes works by Juan Gris, Joan Mirό, Salvador Dalí and Pablo Picasso, including his powerful mural, Guernica, painted in response to atrocities committed during the Spanish Civil War. The Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza is an exceptional private collection with over 800 works dating from the 13th century to the present day. Highlights are works by Raphael, Titian and the Impressionists. Overnight Madrid (B)
Tuesday October 31: Toledo
The former capital of the Visigoths is set in a superb position above a bend in the river Tagus. The views from the edge of the city are spectacular. We undertake a walking tour of the historic centre, admiring the 13th century High Gothic cathedral, the Church of Santo Tomé, with its superb painting by El Greco, and the Synagogue of El Transito, the most important example of Spanish-Jewish art in existence. It was built in the 14th century, and is decorated with Mudéjar elements, beautiful geometric and floral motifs, and inscriptions in Arabic and Hebrew. Overnight Madrid (B)
Wednesday November 1: Royal Power
Our full day excursion takes us out of Madrid to the Royal Monastery of San Lorenzo del Escorial. Commissioned by Phillip II in the 16th century, this vast structure of over 4,000 rooms was both monastery and austere royal residence. We have lunch at a historic restaurant in Segovia, sampling the local delicacy, suckling pig, with views of the huge Roman aqueduct which dominates the town. After lunch we take a walk through the cobbled streets of the town and admire the cathedral and the extraordinary Alcázar palace, a beautiful turreted fantasy which reputedly inspired Walt Disney. Overnight Madrid (B, L)
Thursday November 2: Departure
Our tour concludes today. Keep in mind that airport transfers are included for all passengers booking their international flights through Academy Travel. (B)
Dr Jeni Ryde
Has a wide-ranging knowledge of Italian history and cultural traditions. Jeni has a PhD focusing on Tourism, Heritage and Renaissance Studies.
A former Senior Lecturer in Italian at the University of Western Sydney, she is a fluent Italian speaker with a wide ranging knowledge of European history, art and architecture. Her interests include Spanish studies, Renaissance art history and Italian cinema. Jeni has lead many special focus tours to Italy and has recently added Spain to her Academy repertoire.
What is included in the tour price? Unless otherwise stated in the itinerary, our tours include the following:
Any flights mentioned in the itinerary that take place during a tour
Land travel by private air-conditioned coach. Where appropriate public transport is also used for short distance travel on some tours
All accommodation in hotels or apartments as stated in the itinerary
Breakfasts, lunches and dinners specifically stated as included in the itinerary
Drinks at welcome and farewell meals. Other meals may not have drinks included
Background talks on tour, site notes and online resources
Services of tour leader throughout tour
All entrance fees to sites mentioned in the itinerary
Local guides at some sites
Tips for drivers, local guides and restaurants for included meals
Tours begin either at the arrival airport or the first hotel, depending on the itinerary. If you have booked your international flights with Academy Travel and arrive before the tour commences, we will provide airport to hotel transfers to the closest main city on your arrival, and to the closest airport at the end of the tour. These may be either individual or group transfers.
What is not included in the tour price? Open-age tours do not include the following:
Return international/domestic air travel unless those flights take place during the tour
Special taxes and airport levies that can only be paid in cash at the destination. We will advise you of these charges (if any) before you depart
Costs involved in obtaining visas for countries visited, where required
Travel insurance. We require all participants to have comprehensive travel insurance. A typical policy for one of our tours will cost from $160 upwards, depending on your age, pre-existing medical conditions, the countries you are visiting and the overall length of your trip
Lunches and dinners not specifically mentioned as included in the itinerary
Personal expenses such as laundry and phone calls
Costs associated with any activity mentioned as “optional” in the itinerary, or any suggested free time activity
You will be asked to sign an acknowledgement of these conditions when you book a place on a tour.
A deposit of $500 per person is required to confirm your booking on a tour. Final payment of the tour fee, insurance and any additional travel will be due 60 days before departure.
If you decide to cancel your booking the following charges apply:
More than 60 days before departure: $500*
60-45 days before tour start: 25% of total amount due
44-15 days before tour start: 75% of total amount due
14 days or less before departure: 100% of total amount due
*This amount may be credited to another Academy Travel tour within 12 months of the original tour you booked.
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.
Academy Travel requires all participants to obtain comprehensive travel insurance. We offer a comprehensive policy with a reputable insurer if required.
Passport and Visa
A valid passport is required for all international travel. If you do not hold an Australian passport you may require a re-entry permit. Some countries require a visa to be issued before you depart Australia. We will advise you of all passport and visa requirements, but it is your responsibility to ensure that you meet passport and visa requirements before you depart.
Will the tour price change?
If the number of participants in a tour is significantly less than budgeted, or if there is a significant change in exchange rates Academy Travel reserves the right to amend the advertised price. If this occurs you will be given the option of cancelling your booking and obtaining a full refund. If an Academy Travel tour is forced to cancel you will get a full refund of all monies paid.
Will the itinerary change?
Occasionally circumstances beyond the control of Academy Travel make it necessary to change airline, hotel or to make slight amendments to daily itineraries. We will inform you of any changes as soon as they occur.
Full and final payment for the tour, airfare travel, insurance and any additional travel you book is due 60 days before departure. Payment may be made by bank deposit, cheque, cash or credit card. Please note there is a surcharge for payments made by credit card.
Academy Travel reserves the right to decline the booking or terminate the holiday of any traveller.