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Information Spain
The Magical Major Cities

As can be seen from the information Spain below, the country s major cities are jam-packed full of history and an art-lovers dream. Yet, with their abundance of parks and wide, open spaces, plus good shops, they are a joy for everyone - children included.

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Capital of Spain, Madrid is a charming city, rich in history and culture, full of open spaces, with good public transport and a large choice of accommodation.

For shopoholics, its bustling Gran Via offers some of the finest stores in Europe.

For the children, there is plenty to keep them amused ... the Zoo-Aquarium ... the Faunia Theme Park ... the Wax Museum ... the Amusement Park ... Warner Bros-Madrid Theme Park ...

And the city comes alive at night for everyone: cinemas, theaters, nightclubs, restaurants, floorshows, ballet, opera ... the choice is yours!

During the day, there are all those marvellous sites to see, rich in historical information Spain - many of which can be viewed from an open-top tour bus if you re feeling a little lazy!

The Palacio Real or Royal Palace has been the residence of the Spanish Royal Monarchy in Madrid since 1764. Across its courtyard is the Royal Armoury and, close by, are the beautiful Sabatini Gardens and Cathedral of the Almudena - where Prince Felipe recently married Do a (now Princesa) Letizia.

The Plaza Mayor is a huge square of 3-storey buildings constructed in 1617 with a statue of Felipe III on horeseback in its center.

The Puerta de Alcal , located in the center of the Plaza de la Independencia, is on the calle de Alcal , where you will also find the Fine Arts Museum and the Casino.

At the other end of the street is the Puerta del Sol.

Moving along to the Plaza Col n, you will find monuments dedicated to Colombus and his travels. In the center of this square are the Gardens of Discovery, towered over by huge blocks of stone, inscribed with details of Colombus travels.

Madrid is famous for its museums and a major attraction is the Prado Museum, housing the world s greatest collection of Spanish paintings and a tremendous source of artistic information Spain.

Two other museums well worth a visit are the Museo Thyseen-Bornemisza in the Palacio de Villahermosa, and the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sof a.

Madrid also has many parks and gardens, the main one being the huge, 12-hectare Parque del Buen Retiro with its two palaces and central lake.

Along with the parks are beautiful fountains - la Cibeles in the central Plaza de la Cibeles, and the Fountain of Neptune, close to the Prado Museum.

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Second city of Spain and major Mediterranean port, Barcelona incorporates a delightful historic mixture of Roman remains, medieval quarters, 20th century avant-garde art, and also has marvellous beaches.

Nature lovers need not travel far to be able to hike through hills that are part of the Coastal Mountain Range and the Catalonian Pyrenees.

Not only is Barcelona a tremendous source of artistic information Spain, there is also penty for the children to do: they will love the beaches that surround the city; and there is also an Aquarium, a Zoo, a Maritime Museum, the Museum of Barcelona Football Club, the Olympic Stadium, and a nearby theme park.

For shopoholics, the Barcelona Shopping Line will greatly appeal.

Its night-life vibrates with night clubs, discos, shows, restaurants, bars, caf s ... and, you will also find several theaters, cinemas, opera and classical music concerts.

Needless to say, Barcelona offers a wealth of historical information Spain and is a culture-vulture s dream come true. Most places of historic interest are situated in the Old Town.

The Old Town spreads north-west from the harbor and, at its heart, is the Gothic Quarter or Barrio G tico. El Arco de Triunfo can be found here, plus the impressive Cathedral of Ciudad Condal.

Adjacent to the Gothic Quarter is the Barrio de la Ribera, also of medieval origin, where several historic buildings have been turned into museums, such as the Palau Aguilar - nowadays the Picasso Museum.

The renowned Las Ramblas of Barcelona is a series of lively streets that combine to make a broad avenue which leads to the harbor and Mediterranean Sea. What a superb atmosphere they possess!

To the south-west lies the fortress-topped hill of Montjuic, where the Barcelona Olympic Stadium and some fine museums are located.

At the southern end of the Ramblas lies Barcelona Harbor and Port Vell. This area now combines high-class restaurants with trendy clubs and bars, and encompasses many different art styles.

To be found in the central area of Barcelona - the Eixample - are the fantasy works of Gaud - Park G ell, Palau G ell and Casa Mil La Pedrera. However, Gaud is best remembered for the part he played in the construction of the Cathedral of Barcelona - La Sagrada Familia.

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Known as the "City of the Three Cultures" because Christians, Arabs and Jews managed to live together in harmony there, Toledo preserves this legacy in the form of churches, palaces, fortresses, mosques and synagogues.

Toledo has its origins in Toletum - the name the Romans gave it in 190 BC.

In the Visigothic era, it became the capital of Hispania (6th century). Later, when Carlos V came to the throne in 1519, Toledo became an Imperial capital.

One of the most outstanding buildings of Toledo is its Cathedral.

Construction began in 1226 but took 300 years to complete and is mainly in Gothic Style. The Cathedral Museum houses a rich collection of works by painters such as Goya, El Greco, Lucas Jord n and Van Dyck.

Opposite the Cathedral is the Town Hall - a Renaissance-style building with Baroque towers.

The Renaissance mark on Toledo can also be appreciated in the Hospital de Tavera, now a museum, housing paintings by El Greco, Ribera and Titian.

Perched on the highest point of Toledo and with wonderful views, is the Alcazare, a fortress of medieval origin. Once an Imperial residence, it is now a military museum and one of the largest public libraries in Spain.

A fine example of the Arab culture is found in the Mosque de Cristo de la Luz, built in 999 as a copy of the Mosque of C rdoba. To this, a Romanesque-Mudejar sanctuary was added in the 12th century.

Good examples of Mozarab (Christians who lived under Moslem rule) buildings are the churches of San Sebasti n and Santa Eulalia, while the Mudejas left a fine example of their style in the Church Santiago del Arrabal.

The same Mudejar Style can be seen in the Church of Santo Tom , famous for housing El Greco s painting "The Burial of Count Orgaz".

If there is one person s name that defines Toledo, it is that of El Greco - the El Greco House Museum exhibits some of his best works and is a fine source of artistic information Spain.

Remains of the Jewish community can be found in the Synagogues of Santa Mar a la Blanca and El Tr nsito, the latter now housing the Sephardic Museum.

In Toledo s cobbled streets, you will also find a multitude of small shops selling a variety of craftwork: marzipan moulded into fancy shapes; lace; and, most famous of all, the beautiful Toledo jewellery and swords.

Toledo really is a gem of a city with heaps of cultural information Spain and, what s more, it is within easy reach of Madrid.

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Situated deep in the heart of Andalucia, this joyful city is packed with plazas, shady parks, flourishing flower patios, whitewashed courtyards and historical information Spain.

C rdoba was founded by the Romans in 152 BC, but the city s greatest hour of glory was when it became the capital of the Moorish kingdom of El Andal s, and it was not reconquered by the Christians until 1236.

The medieval quarter, once home to its Jewish community, is a labyrinth of winding, narrow streets and picturesque squares. Known as La Juder a, it is a World Heritage Site and many beautiful, historic buildings are to be found there.

Perhaps C rdoba s most famous building is the Great Mosque or La Mezquita - the most important Islamic monument in the Western world.

Not far away is the Puerta del Puente, the San Rafael Monument and the Alcanzar de los Reyes Cristianos, the latter being a fortress built in 1327 under Alfonso XI.

Crossing the River by means of the El Puente Romano, you arrive at the Torre de la Clahorra, dated 1369. Originally built by the Arabs, today, it houses a museum.

Other treasures of the city include the Palacio de Viaria, dating from the 14th century and known as the Museum of Cordovan Patios because of its 12 inner courtyards; the Episcopal Palace, which is now a museum of religious art; the Molino de la Albolaf a, a reconstructed watermill; and the ancient Jewish Synagogue, now also a museum.

Aside from all its cultural information Spain, C rdoba also has plenty to interest nature lovers: not too far away are the Parks of Sierra de Carde a in Los Pedroches, and Montoro; also, the Hornachuelos Sierra and the Subbetic Mountains offer a variety of open-air sports.

Children will be kept well-amused at the Botanical Garden, the Zoo, the nearby Fuente Redonda Educational Farm and, during the summer, the Aquasierra Waterpark is not too far away.

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Another lively Andalucian city and capital of the popular Costa del Sol it has, in its time, been inhabited by Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans and Moors.

The Citadel or La Alcazaba (8th-11th centuries), as well as being the symbol of M laga, is one of the largest fortresses in Andalucia - an Archaelogoical Museum now being located there.

Close by, is The Castle of Gibralfaro (14th century), joined to the Citadel by a stretch of wall that gives superb views of M laga and its port.

At the foot of Gibralfaro can be found the Roman Theater, La Malagueta - the bullring - and the old quarter of the city.

In the center of the historic district stands the Cathedral of M laga (16th-18th centuries), also known as La Manquita because of its unfinished tower.

Other prominent churches in the old town of M laga include Santiago (15th-18th centuries), los M rtires, Sagroado Coraz n, and Santo Cristo de la Salud.

As well as being a great source of artistic information Spain, M laga is also the birthplace of the celebrated Spanish painter - Pablo Picasso - and there are several galleries showing his wonderful work. In 1983, his birthplace was declared an historic-artistic monument and, in 1991, it became the headquarters of the Picasso Foundation.

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Situated at the foot of the southerly Sierra Nevada ski resort, Granada is one of the most splendid cities of eastern Andalucia and a tremendous source of historical information Spain.

On its southern side is 103 kms of fabulous Mediterranean coastline, with the Costa del Sol and Costa Tropical in close proximity whilst, in between, lies a fertile plain producing exotic fruits.

Granada dates back to prehistoric times and was known as Ilbyr. When the Romans colonized the southern part of Iberia, they built their own city there, calling it Illibris. The Arabs, invading the Peninsula in the eighth century, gave the city its current name of Granada.

Being the last Muslim city of Spain to be reconquered by the Christians, Granada has an unmistakable Arab flavor, and Moorish and Christian elements go hand-in-hand.

One of the most brilliant jewels of Granada is the Alhambra - a series of palaces and gardens built under the Nazari Dynasty in the fourteenth century. This mighty compound of buildings - including the summer palace called Generalife, with its beautiful fountains and gardens - stands at the foot of the Sierra Nevada.

The hill facing the Alhambra is the old Moorish casbah or medina called the Albaic n. One of the oldest districts, it has been declared a World Heritage Site, along with the Alhambra and Generalife.

The Plaza de San Nicolas, at the highest point of the Albaic n, is famous for its magnificent view of the Moorish Palace.

Sacromonte Hill, which overlooks the city from the north, is famous for its cave dwellings - once home to a large gypsy community. Here, you can find some of the best flamenco shows and cultural information Spain in Andalucia.

Perhaps the most important Christian monument of Granada Spain is the Cathedral. It was built in 1523 and Queen Isabel and King Ferdinand are buried here, in its Royal Chapel.

Among museums well-worth visiting for information Spain are the Art Museum in the Palacio de Carlos V at the Alhambra, theAlhambra Museum, the Cathedral Museum, the Archaeological Museum and the Science Museum.

If the children become a little bored with touring Granada s cultural information Spain, they will enjoy the activities available in the nearby Sierra Nevada ski resort; also, the water sports at the beaches.

Then, there is the Sierra Nevada National Park, the Sierra de Hu tor National Park, and the Parque de las Ciencias.

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Capital of Andalucia and the largest southern city of Spain, this dashing and romantic place is packed full of life, history and culture.

Nature lovers will also find plenty on offer at the Do ana Nature Reserve and the Sierra Norte Nature Reserve; whilst children will be well-occupied at the Isla M gica Theme Park, the Aqu polis Seville Guadalpark Water Park, and the nearby Mundo Park.

Seville is, of course, steeped in historical information Spain, with colorful districts such as Triana and La Macarena, plus magical monuments and buildings dating from the Moorish Conquest - many of these are to be found in the Old Quarter.

At the heart of the Old Quarter is the Cathedral of Seville. Originally built as a mosque by the Almohads in the late 12th century, it later became the largest Gothic cathedral in the world.

Attached to the Cathedral is La Giralda - the tallest tower in Spain. An ancient minaret of the Islamic Mosque and erected in 1184, its foundations use stones from Roman monuments.

Alongside the River and close to the bullring, is the Torre del Oro or Golden Tower. Built between 1221 and 1222, it formed part of the last wall of defence from the Alcazar to the River, and today houses the Naval Museum.

The Alcazar - the Royal Mud jar Palace which was begun in 931 - has some marvellous gardens to enjoy; and the Casa de Pilatos or House of Pilate, is a 16th century mansion and a blend of Mud jar, Gothic and Renaissance styles.

Near the Barrio Santa Cruz is the magnificent Plaza de Espa a which is a "must" for all visitors.

Seville is also renowned for its two major fiestas which take place in Spring: first, is the Feria de Abril (April Fair); then, during Semana Santa or Easter Week, is a religious festival.

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Capital of the Comunidad Valenciana this vibrant city is famous for being the place where El Cid (Spain s national hero) fought against the Moors, and is synonymous with cultural and musical information Spain.

Situated close to the Mediterranean Sea, it possesses two urban beaches still within the township - Levante and Malvarrosa - plus several beaches just a bus ride away - Cullera, Gand a and Oliva.

As well as an important source of historical information Spain, Valencia also has a good, modern shopping center, a pulsating nightlife and plenty to interest the children ... the Gulliver Park Playground, the Botanical Gardens, the Zoo and l Oceanogr fic - a wonderful aquarium and the biggest in Europe.

The most important fiesta of this city is that of the Fallas, which lasts from 15th-19th March. Easter Week is also very much celebrated, with some marvellous processions.

And, of course, Valencia offers plenty of culture and information Spain ...

The Old Town.

At the heart of old Valencia is the Plaza de la Virgen, once the location of the Roman Forum. Around this beautiful square is the Cathedral dating from 1262, and its octagonal bell tower - Micalet or Miguelete - which is the landmark of Valencia.

In the Cathedral s Museum are works by several wonderful artists such as Goya, Jacomart, Cellini and Paggibonsi.

Next to the Cathedral is the Basilica de la Virgen de los Desamparados, a temple dedicated to the patroness of Valencia, built between 1652 and 1667.

Close by are such buildings as the Almud n, the Iglesia de San Esteban, the Palacio de Almirantes de Arag n, the Church San Juan del Hospital and the Convento de Santo Domingo.

The River Turia was actually diverted around the city after a catastrophical flood in 1957 and the Instituto Valenciano de Arte Moderno is to-day located in the old river bed.

Well worth seeing also are its three old bridges: the Puente del Real, the Puente de la Trinidad, and the Puente de Serranos, the latter possessing 15th century towers - the Torres de Serranos.

La Lonja and Surroundings.

At the Plaza del Mercado you will find La Lonja - one of the best civil Gothic buildings in Europe.

At its side is the Baroque church Iglesia de los Santos Juanes and the bell tower Campanil de la Iglesia de Santa Catalina.

Other buildings seeped in historical information Spain include the Palacio de la Generalidad, the Town Gate or Torres de Quart, and the Rococo-style Palacio del Marquis de Dos Aguas.

The Barrio del Carmen is an area representative of traditional Valencian life, while El Ensanche is more representative of to-day s Valencia.

Valencia is also known as the land of flowers, and its parks and gardens reflect this: the Jardines de la Alameda, the Jardines de Montforte, the "Real" Gardens, the Zoological Garden and the Botanical Gardens.

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Well, the above information Spain is just a small taste of what the country s main cities have to offer. Much more lies in store when you actually arrive ...

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