Travel

6 Days of City-Hopping Through Spain

5 NIGHTS/6 DAYS

Spain is made up of ancient cities filled with artistic masterpieces, historical landmarks, and a cultural landscape shaped by hundreds of years of conquests and conquerors—it’s a country that’s not shy about celebrating its heritage. Castile and Andalusia are the regions where the North African influence is most profound, in turn, making Seville and Toledo particularly fascinating to visit. However, what makes these ancient buildings, tree-lined streets, and centuries-old restaurants, with their distinctive regional flavors come alive, are the people: the locals here are famous the world over for a love of revelry, hospitality, and staunch traditionalism (try visiting over Easter or during Feria for pageantry and processions unlike anything you’ve ever seen). Here, we teamed up with Black Tomato—one of our go-to travel companies for one-of-a-kind vacation experiences—to reimagine the trip to Spain covered in the second issue of goop Magazine into a six-day itinerary taking you through classic Madrid (see the full goop guide, here), regal Toledo, Seville (aka the home of Flamenco), and Jerez, the city named after its most honored export: sherry.

P.S. We also teamed up on itineraries for Scandinavia, Northern India, Marrakech, Iceland, Tokyo, and Kyoto—should you feel extra wanderlusty.

MADRID

  •  Six Days of City-Hopping Through Spa
  • Check In:
    A 19th-century palacio (and former paper factory), Hotel Urso is not only bursting with personality, it occupies a particularly perfect slice of Salesas neighborhood real estate, which is in shouting distance of most major stopping points (The Prado, Retiro Park). In step with its surroundings, the exterior is all neoclassical grandeur, while inside and it’s a study in quiet modernism.

  • Rooms are spacious, warm, and neutral in palette, finished with floor-to-ceiling windows to make the most of the city views. The Japanese-inspired spa (stocked with Natura Bissé and Sisley products) and greenhouse-style restaurant set Urso apart from most of its old-school, over-the-top-ritzy counterparts.

  • Eat:
    Walking through the tavern-style entryway is akin to stepping into the Madrid of yesteryear: the plates are monogrammed, the waiters are suited-up, and the clientele spans politicians, local eccentrics, and the occasional royal. Casa Lucio is an olive-oil soaked slice of the old-world, traditional yet refined, with a classic menu of comfort food to match. Try the huevos estrellados—crispy, salty fried potatoes topped with runny eggs—and be sure to linger over dessert for the all-important sobremesa (loosely translates to post-dinner debate and conversation) that keeps Madrileños firmly planted at their tables until the early hours.

  • Do:
    Madrid is renowned for museums, and despite its classical overtones, street art is kept alive by Boa Mistura, a multidisciplinary collective made up of five local creatives. Friends since their teen years of graffitiing the neighborhood, BM is fueled by their mission to build up the community and disrupt the notion that graffiti is vandalism. During a walking tour, your guide will point you toward many large-scale murals dotting the city.

  • Drink:
    Bar Cock—in the same vein as Casa Lucio—is a Madrid institution. Slinging drinks since 1921, it has managed to stay not just relevant but packed with loyal patrons night after night. The cocktail-bar-meets-gastro-pub interior, with its roaring fireplace, cozy leather sofas, and soft candlelight, screams nightcap. And with an encyclopedic selection of whiskey, sherry, and other hard liquor behind the bar, staying for more than one is almost too easy.

  •  Six Days of City-Hopping Through Spa
  • Do:
    Madrid’s art museums are some of the best in the world, packed to the rafters with artworks produced mainly in the Spanish Golden Age of the 16th and 17th centuries.

  • The Prado’s inventory is a reflection of the head-spinning breadth of Spanish royal and clerical patronage—and of the religious zeal that dominated the period. In contrast, the nearby Reina Sofia museum (named after Queen Sofia) is dedicated to modern art by Dalí, Miró, Bacon, Rothko, and Serra, to name a few, though the true showstopper here is Picasso’s “Guernica”.

  • This massive cubist masterpiece acutely captures the agony of the townspeople under bombardment during the Civil War, a slice of Spain’s more brutal history that still makes for a powerful anti-war statement.

  • Shop:
    Aside from expertly tailored clothing (predominantly for guys), Le Marché Aux Puces is in the business of beautiful coffee table books and accessories, all housed in a stately former bookstore.

  • Meanwhile, Delitto e Castigo is considered one of the more superior shopping experiences in the world—housing racks brimming with everything from Alexander McQueen to Givenchy, in a dramatically lit architectural space—this accolade is well deserved. Our favorite, however, has to be Pez. Set up inside an abandoned military pharmacy, the store acts as an extension of the owners’ own closets and relaxed lifestyle. The resulting showroom is filled with silk Equipment shirts and floaty Nili Lotan separates alongside a beautiful edit of homewares like polished-wood serving bowls, dinner sets, ceramics, and bright textiles.

  • Eat:
    The La Latina neighborhood is where you want to start the obligatory tapas crawl. Juana La Loca is a good initiation point: order a few cañas (miniature beers) and light tapas (a plate of Jamón, maybe a few shrimp toasts) to get the appetite going. Then, move on to La Musa for more small bites and to soak up the pre-dinner atmosphere as thousands of Madrileños do the same. Whatever route you take, make sure to end up at Ten Con Ten, a sit-down spot that serves classic tapas with a side of pasta (unexpected, but it works). No need to make reservations, plenty of tables are kept open for walk-ins.

TOLEDO

  •  Six Days of City-Hopping Through Spa
  • Do:
    Toledo—the former capital of Castile, the Spanish seat of the Catholic Church, and a quick day-trip from Madrid—is worth a visit if you want a jolt of cultural contrast. (Master painter El Greco lived and worked here, which explains why his paintings so emotively capture a society saturated in Catholicism with all its accompanying mysticism.) The Cathedral, built on the site of a former mosque, is flush with artworks from Spanish masters like Zurbarán, Goya, and Velazquez, alongside a whopping 18 El Grecos. Paintings aside, note the ornate woodcarving, wrought iron, and stained glass that fill the space; much of it is over 500-years-old.

  • Nearby Santa Maria La Blanca is a storied structure many times over: It served as a synagogue in the twelfth century, then became a church, and at one point was even used by Napoleon as a stable. The Church of Santo Tomé houses what is arguably El Greco’s most famous work “The Burial of the Count of Orgaz”. The Count was a man so revered, it was said that saints intervened at his burial.

  • Shop:
    Much like his father and grandfather before him, Mariano Zamorano spends his days in the family workshop, handcrafting the swords and knives Toledo is so famous for. The painstakingly manual process—essentially unchanged for centuries—is fascinating to watch: cut the steel, heat it in a forge, run over the polishing wheel, back into the forge, cool, dip in oil, and repeat before shaping into a blade. The resulting steak and chef’s knives are world-class, making them an incredible memento to bring home.

  • Eat:
    Built into the home of a 15th-century merchant and reborn as a restaurant serving North African-inflected food, the physical setting of Adolfo does a great job of retelling the illustrious history of Toledo itself. The space is done up with coffered ceilings, frescoes, and original wooden beams—a fittingly eclectic spot to try the local specialties, which center around a heavy use of saffron. Don’t miss the perdiz estofada (a dish of partridge cooked in white wine, onions, thyme, and garlic) or the saffron pound cake with dark-chocolate ice-cream to finish.

SEVILLE

  •  Six Days of City-Hopping Through Spa
  • Check In:
    The Alfonso XIII, built by King Alfonso himself in 1929, is the next best thing to staying in a palace, tiled frescoes, coffered ceilings, endless marble, and all. Each room, whether you book a single or a suite, is downright sprawling (by European standards anyway) with ornately carved headboards, chevron marble floors, local textiles, the finest bedding, and Byredo bath products (not exactly clean beauty, but when in Spain…). The aforementioned suites come with private terraces that look out over the courtyard below and the ancient cityscape beyond. Another reason to never leave: The dress-up-for-dinner San Fernando restaurant marries traditional regional flavors with a separate menu dedicated entirely to paella.

  • Do:
    Seville is synonymous with Flamenco dancing, a physical expression of the multitude of cultures that have passed through Andalusia over the centuries. Visit the escuela and take a masterclass with Christina Hoyos herself, a world-renown performer and founder of the Museo de Flamenco. Christina is a pro at teaching the moves and more importantly, the full spectrum of human emotion—rage, passion, joy—that is the lifeblood of the dance.

  • Eat:
    Good tapas aren’t too difficult to find in Seville, though El Rinconcillo is next level. In operation since 1670, and run by the same family for over a century, it’s debatable whether the interior has changed at all since—the chandeliers look medieval, the walls are covered in tile murals, and big hunks of aging Jamón hang from the rafters. El Rinconcillo’s barrels-turned-tables are perennially packed with locals who stop in for a few glasses of sherry. Bring cash, and don’t be surprised when your tab is calculated in chalk on the old wooden bar.

  •  Six Days of City-Hopping Through Spa
  • Do:
    Seville Cathedral is the world’s largest Gothic cathedral, and like many religious sites in this part of the world, it’s built over a historic site with many of the original features surviving through the ages. Inside, the altar bears 45 scenes from the life of Jesus Christ, all hand carved into wood and covered in gold leaf. (Also worth mentioning, the Cathedral is the burial spot of conquistador Christopher Columbus.) Across an orange-tree-dotted square is the Alcazar, a fortress dating back to

  • the 8th century and then revamped in the 17th. Wandering the landscaped gardens and crumbling tiled rooms is a lot like taking a trip back in time.

  • Eat:
    In true Andalusian spirit, seafood restaurants are a big deal here, and La Moneda—despite its casual checkerboard floors, rustic bar, and simple table settings—is one of the best. Go with a friend and order the salt-baked bream, crispy fried boquerones (marinated white anchovies), and saffron-infused fish stew to share. The only thing that rivals the food is the wine list…and the people watching.

  • Drink:
    In contrast to the over-the-top extravagance of the rest of the Hotel Alfonso XIII, Bar Americano—though unquestionably lavish—is more Art Deco jewelry box than Arabian nights. A palette of royal blue, twinkling vintage chandeliers, and sleek leather banquettes are punctuated by the mirrored walls, creating a celebratory, Gatsby-esque atmosphere. You won’t find a more chic spot for a nightcap, and conveniently, given that it’s the hotel bar, you can slide straight from your barstool into bed.

JEREZ

  •  Six Days of City-Hopping Through Spa
  • Check In:
    After a few late-nights and one too many plates of salty Jamón in the city, retreating to a countryside hacienda, conveniently located between Sevilla and Jerez, is a welcome breath of fresh air. San Rafael is made up of eleven guestrooms and three casitas, so it feels intimate and romantic rather than hotel-like.

  • Each one of the rooms, with their brightly colored textiles, smooth terracotta floors, local pottery, and stacks of books, feels like home from the moment you step inside. The outdoor pool is nestled into lush greenery and bougainvillea, making it a particularly soothing siesta spot. Best of all, the sherry-soaked city of Jerez is just a quick car-ride away.

  • Do:
    Jerez Cathedral is an architectural melting pot of Baroque, Gothic, and Neoclassical styles; the interior is particularly over-the-top with heavily sculpted entryways, flying buttresses, and vaulted ceilings. Don’t leave without clocking the Zurbarán painting of the Virgin Mary—after all, the beauty of visiting churches in Spain is seeing masterpieces normally relegated to museums in real life, just as they were intended. The Museos de la Atalaya is home to more than 300 antique clocks, so walking through the dimly lit galleries is a soothing, and very literal, journey through time.

  • Eat:
    Jerez is actually the Spanish word for sherry, and the strong, complex fortified wine is the order of the day at this family-run restaurant. Thanks to the terracotta tiles, white-washed walls, open firepit, and many sloping arches, the interior of La Carboná is quintessentially Andalusian. Similarly, the menu of salty Jamón Iberico, fiery gambas, and an especially tasty mushroom and squid risotto spiked with the all-important sherry and finished with Parmesan, is as traditional as it gets. A few after-dinner cortados will see you out the door, if you can bring yourself to leave.

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