The Iberian Peninsula has been divided for centuries. On this tour not only the differences between an Atlantic Portugal and a Mediterranean Spain become apparent, but also their similarities.
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The capital of Spain emerged from the Moorish city of Madschrit in the 10th century AD. With three million inhabitants, it is now the third largest city in the EU after Paris and London.
The relatively unimportant city was chosen as the capital by the Spanish kings because of its central location on the Iberian Peninsula. Madrid did not actually become an economic and cultural center of Spain until the 19th and 20th centuries. Consequently, the city's medieval architectural landscape is far outdone by such ancient cities as Toledo, Seville and Granada. No city can compete with Madrid, however, when it comes to nightlife: the multitude of bars, bodegas and restaurants are impossible to overlook.
The hotel is located within a historic 19th century building in the centre of Madrid, opposite the Teatro Real de La Ópera and close to the Palacio Real and Plaza Mayor.
During its restoration, care was taken to preserve the original structure and decorative elements of the house. The rooms of the different categories are stylishly furnished in harmonizing colors. In the morning, a rich Breakfast buffet is served in the vaulted cellar. The central location is ideal for exploring the many historical and cultural sights of the old quarter “Villa y Corte”. The nearest metro station is a five-minute walk away.
Broker: Sunny Cars GmbH
Company: Record Go
Vehicle: Nissan Pulsar or similar (CDMR)
Location: Madrid Airport (Shuttle Service)
Around 950 AD, Cordoba was the most important city of the Christian Occident and can only be compared with Byzantium and Baghdad.
Its meteoric rise from a Vandal settlement began in 756, when the first Emir ascended the throne and made Córdoba the capital of the Caliphate. He introduced new irrigation methods and previously unknown crops. Science and architecture experienced a climax. At the turn of the first millennium there was street lighting for an estimated 300,000 inhabitants. The Jewish community was a stronghold for Christian-Muslim dialogue. After the conquest and recatholization in 1236, Cordoba fell into oblivion – a stroke of luck to which the preservation of the Moorish building fabric is owed. With Granada and Sevilla, Cordoba belongs to the three big cities of Andalusia, but it is somewhat quieter than its sisters. Major attractions include the Juderia, the Jewish-Moorish district and the Mesquita, once one of the largest and most beautiful mosques in the world and now a Roman Catholic cathedral. Those wishing to escape the throngs of tourists should go just a few streets further into areas frequented by locals.
The 18th century palacio sits on Roman foundations in the Cordoba old town. The listed heritage building is now a 5-star hotel with 53 extravagant rooms in which historical and modern elements harmonize.
A small pool surrounded by plants in the courtyard and a wellness area in the vaulted cellar make the stay complete. The restaurant with a glass floor over Roman ruins is one of the hotel's most impressive features. Those who prefer to dine elsewhere due to the high prices or occasionally long wait will find a large selection of restaurants and tapas bars in the immediate vicinity.
The capital of Andalusia is one of the hottest cities in Europe. It is therefore not surprising that much of the city life takes place at night.
Don Juan's hometown is an especially exciting place during the Semana Santa (Easter Holy Week) and Seville Fair festivals, which involve week-long, lively celebrations. Although Seville has less Moorish architecture than either Cordoba or Granada, the townscape is considered particularly “Andalusian.” Many major and minor sights can be seen along the route from the Real Alcázar, the Royal Palace, to the Barrio de Santa Cruz, a picturesque district with an abundance of small squares and courtyards decorated with flowers. Outside its historical center Seville has many modern suburbs created by the recent economic boom: new neighborhoods have sprung up practically overnight, resulting in a traffic gridlock that is not limited to the rush hours.
The hotel is located in a small residence next to the Basilica. The simple but elegant facade contrasts with the Moorish interior with its bright colours, bubbling fountains and compelling scents.
The building was constructed of the same materials used in Seville 800 years ago. At the centre of the building is the courtyard, around which the 15 guest rooms are grouped. Incidentally, all furnishings in the hotel are available for purchase.
Landscapes dotted with cork, fig and almond trees interspersed with blossoming orange and peach orchards: Many cold-stricken central Europeans dream of the Algarve, which enjoys over 3,000 hours of sunshine a year and boasts beaches that are among the finest in the world.
Two mountain ranges cover the sparsely inhabited northern regions of Portugal's southernmost province. Between these mountains and the sea lie rolling hills of fertile land that produces up to four harvests a year. This area is hemmed in by a narrow coastal strip in the far south. While the mountainous West Algarve is incredibly scenic, most beaches and resorts are found in the east. The temperature rarely falls below 10° C in the winter, and the summer heat is tempered by a fresh breeze from the Atlantic Ocean.
The hotel sits in the back country away from the hordes of tourist on the Algrave coast. From its elevated position on a hill, the property offers stunning views of the ocean and the Serra de Monchique.
Dispite the tranquil location, several beaches are just a few minutesdrive away. The 12 suites, the outdoor area with two swimming pools, the patio and the restaurant with an open fireplace were designed in the rustic country style. The entire facility was created with one thing in mind: rest and relaxation.
The route north is best taken by motorway. Along the way you will pass the farm labourer town of Grandola, which became famous in the 1974 Carnation Revolution.
A Catholic radio station played the banned song “Grandola, vila morena” (Grandola, You Brown City), which was the secret starting signal for the revolution against the military dictatorship.
The city at the mouth of the Tejo was already a Phoenician port when the Romans conquered it. After the turmoil of mass migration and more than one hundred years of Visigoth rule, “Lischbuna” experienced a cultural heyday among the Moors and became the Portuguese royal residence under King Alfonso in 1260.
With the great discoveries of the 15th century, Lisbon became one of the richest cities in Europe. The heyday of the city was abruptly ended by a terrible earthquake in 1755, which killed over 90,000 people. Although it was generously rebuilt, Portugal's capital never regained its former importance and did not become a modern metropolis until the late 20th century.
The cityscape is characterised by great differences in altitude with magnificent vantage points, often with terraces. Oldest district is the picturesque Alfama east of the cathedral with narrow stairways, hidden backyards and idyllic squares.
This small quaint 18th century palace hosts one of the most charming and stylish boutique hotels in the capital. From its central location next to the National Art Museum, it provides stunning views of the ocean.
Guests can enjoy the private garden with the natural scent of flowers and the sea or relax in the top-floor library. The rooms are sunny and cheerful. This is a gentle and romantic inn that is favoured by artists and writers.
The picturesque town 25 km west of Lisbon is perched on a cliff between two canyons. The 10 km of lush highlands between the town and the coast are protected by the Sintra-Cascais Natural Park.
Sintra served as the summer residence of Portugese kings for 800 years. The National Palace now contains a museum that is open to the public (closed on Wednesday). The mild climate and scenic landscapes attracted wealthy residents from other parts of Europe who tried to outdo each other in the construction of lavish villas. The result was a curious ensemble of castles and mansions that is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The architectural attractions of Sintra are enhanced by the natural beauty of the surrounding countryside as it slopes down to the sandy beaches and coves along the coast. The beaches can be crowded on weekends.
Originally built for an officer's family in 1890, today's guest house opened its doors again in 1994 after six years of vacancy and an elaborate renovation.
The name translates to viewpoint house, which is owed to the wonderful views towards the Atlantic Ocean and across Sintra. The eight spacious rooms are all individually decorated and named after one of the magnificent palaces in the area. Some have beautiful stucco ceilings. Breakfast is served in the dining room, with direct access to the garden. Hostess Charlotte continually cares for the welfare of her guests.
The university town of Coimbra has influenced the intellectual life of Portugal for centuries and is seeped in tradition.
College students still make up one-fifth of the population. The scenic old town features a wealth of historic buildings. The old university library has the most beautiful Baroque hall in the country and houses over 30,000 volumes, including 2,000 priceless manuscripts. The Kathedrale Sé Velha resembles a fortress, and the Augustinian Monastery of Santa Cruz houses the final resting place of the Portuguese king Afonso Henriques. Here, you can examine the the Manueline architecture, which was an ornate style introduced during the reign of King Manuel (1495 to 1521) and which represents a curious mixture of Gothic ornament and nautical motifs from the early Colonial Period.
The summer palace of King Carlos was built above the spa town of Luso according to the plans of an Italian architect in 1887 and converted into a luxury hotel in 1909.
Walking paths lead through a large park with old trees and hiking routes into the Serra do Buçaco start right at the doorstep. However 5-star service or a swimming pool with spa area can not be expected and the rooms are starting to look tired. Those willing to look past these signs of mild decay, with an eye for the authentic charm of the ensemble, are rewarded with a trip back in time into aristocratic 19th century.
The city 200 km north-west of Madrid is situated in a desolate region plagued by flight to the cities, an area where the winters are as unmercifully cold as the summers are hot.
Nevertheless, the 2,000-year-old city on the Rio Tormes remains one of the most popular tourist destinations in Spain, due in no small part to the historical university which has shaped the local history and produced a large number of renowned scholars. It was thus here that Columbus presented his ambitious plan to reach the West via India to a group of skeptical professors. Today Salamanca is home to over 40,000 students, which explains the city's cosmopolitan flair and vibrant night life. The entire Old Town with its numerous registered landmarks from the 16th century is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The small boutique hotel on the edge of the Old Town is one of the most attractive accommodations of its type in western Spain, thanks in no small part to the owner's meticulous attention to detail.
Wood, in particular, was used in a surprising variety of ways, from the gleaming parquet floor to the inlaid tables to the hand-carved beds. The bathrooms furnishings were made of white marble. While not every guest will need the telephone, fax connection or minibar, they will certainly appreciate the air-conditioning and the noise reduction provided by the double glazed windows. The hotel also features a good a bar and a parking garage.
Location: Madrid Airport (Shuttle Service)