The Fallas – Festival of Fire
The Fallas is the most traditional celebration in Valencia. The festival takes place in March, culminating the 19th St Joseph's Day.
This construction is known as a “falla”, they are spread all over the city, and eventually burnt. Huge sculptures of wood and cardboard, as cartoons making fun of the Spanish current affairs. Each sculpture is called “ninot” (“puppet” or “doll”). A great opportunity to see the best fireworks and if you don’t have sensitive hearing, the "mascletà” is very exciting!
Albufera Natural Park
This is the largest lake in Spain, and a place of great ecological interest with a rich variety of wildlife. On your way to the lake, you may encounter people selling tomatoes on the road. Buy some tomatoes from the “Perelló”! They taste like real tomatoes! you won’t regret it!
Don't miss the opportunity to try the local gastronomy, classic dishes such as Paella, Arroz a Banda, or All i Pebre made with eels freshly caught from the lake.
After lunch, you can take a boat trip, excellent for bird watching. It is very relaxing and even more beautiful as the sun sets. In the area you will be able to see the typical “Barracas”; traditional high-peaked thatched cottages. These houses are protected by the community, because of its value to the cultural heritage.
“Horchata” is a traditional drink made from chufa nuts (tigernuts). You won’t find tastier versions than the ones in “Alboraya”, small village located 5 Km north of the city of Valencia. It is a very refreshing drink, ideal to drink very cold in summer. But the experience is not complete if you don’t accompany your drink with “Fartons”, delicious glazed bread buns designed to dip in your horchata.
City of Arts and Science - Museum
If you visit Valencia, the city of Arts and Science is a must-see. This cultural and architectural complex designed by the architect Santiago Calatrava, will leave you speechless. Its Modernist style buildings will make you feel like in a science fiction movie, in fact, the movie “Tomorrowland” was filmed here in 2014. My favorite one is “L'Oceanogràfic”, It is the largest oceanographic aquarium in Europe, and I have the chance to see a beluga for the first time!
If you just have a weekend in the Madrid - how can you make the most of the city
Let’s start the challenge…
Parque del Buen Retiro - the lungs of the city - close to the main train station “Atocha” where you can rent a little boat on the lake, enjoy a leisurely stroll or even be portrayed by one of the painters!
Plaza Mayor - order a few squid sandwiches & tapas under the sunshine (it can reach 40 degrees in summer) so plan your trip to suit your skin type.
Palacio Real - great location for selfies!
Plaza de España - nice place to relax
Sol - exactly the centre of Spain, everyone meets up here to go wherever else
Museums - “Golden Triangle of Art”
Museo del Prado - interesting one if you like classical art
Reina Sofía - home of Picasso’s Guernica
If you only visit one try the Thyssen - it’s smaller, less intimidating and easy to manage
5J: the best Iberian ham ever - expensive but worth having a try
Museo del Jamón: pork legs hanging from the ceiling (that's why it is called “museum”) where you can have cheap tapas & beer
Some Cool areas to explore:
La Latina - where you will find the best tapas (omelette, olives, paella and good seafood) in the bars and small pubs. Style: hipster
Chueca - stylish gay district, nice to walk around – good atmosphere
Barrio de Salamanca - (main street, “Serrano”) - upmarket area where you will find the main designers brands and the ladies who lunch!
La Castellana - A bus tour around this street will show you the big buildings.
Gran Via - nice buildings and shops at night!
I would recommend you having dinner at a nice restaurant on the top to see all the city, like the following picture:
Lunch: 2pm - 4pm (It is typical to order a glass of vermouth (wine) as an appetizer, before lunch, they will provide you a tapa.
Dinner: 9pm - 11pm, in summer even later! The weather is so nice…
New Garamond – commercial music, well dressed crowd and typically Spanish.
Kapital (close to Atocha station and Retiro park) 7 floors with different kinds of music.
Every Sunday morning “El Rastrillo” is an eclectic outdoor market that’s worth a visit.
The Underground is huge and easy to use - if you want to get around quickly. I would however recommend that you walk sometimes as you’ll get to see the beautiful streets and impressive architecture!
I hope you enjoy your short break in Madrid!
Most likely you were looking for nice weather hours of sunshine when you decided to visit Malaga, but I must tell you that Malaga has much more to offer than that. Don’t worry! I have created a fantastic list for you.
1. ”El Pimpi” The most famous winery in the old town. You must taste our traditional sweet wine, “Malaga Virgen” in this charming Bodega-Bar, with typical Andalusian interior patios and terraces. They have very nice tapas as well; don’t leave without trying the delicious “Pork Loin in Red butter”. El Pimpi is beside the Cathedral in Malaga Old Town. If the place is crowded, you should go to “Quitapenas”!
2. "Hammam Arabic Baths". Have a relaxing time in the most “Al Andalus” atmosphere. If you are not on a budget I recommend getting a purifying massage. The overall experience and the place itself are very special.
3. “El Caminito del Rey”. (King's pathway) For the adventurous ones here’s another great suggestion! This place had been closed for many years, as it is an extremely dangerous gorge walkway. After extensive repairs and renovations, the walkway has re-opened to the public. Book in advance to avoid disappointment as it is becoming very popular!
4. “Finca de la Concepción”. Not many people know this magnificent botanical garden and it’s an incredible historical place with a vast variety of flora. Perfect for a stroll around exotic trees and plants, Roman sculptures, fountains, and waterfalls.
5. “El Torcal, Antequera”. Only 30 km of Malaga. This is a UNESCO World heritage site and one of the most impressive landscapes in Europe. Perfect for hiking surrounded by interesting rock formations - you’ll almost believe you’re one of the mountain goats who live here. Bring proper trekking shoes and enjoy the scenery!
6. “The cave of Ardales”. Pristine cave with drawings and paintings from 20,000 years BC. This site has been very well preserved, treasuring its natural beauty. Lights are kept to a minimum in case you are afraid of the dark! Mind your step and contemplate the tunnels, lakes and massive stalactites and stalagmites around.
Seville, the 4th largest city in Spain, is the capital of Andalusia and lies on the banks of the Guadalquivir river. It is Europe’s hottest metropolitan city are with average summer temperatures of over 35c, meaning that for pale Irish skin Spring and Autumn make it the best time to visit. If planning on a springtime trip, try to coincide with Santa Semana – the week leading up to Easter to really get to feel how this stunning city revels in its local neighbourhoods.
With a history dating back to the Phoenicians and the Romans, who called Seville Hispalis, the city’s story meanders to include a long Moorish history before becoming part of Castille in the 13th century. But Seville’s Golden Age began after the discovery of the Americas – even though it is a river port 80km from the sea – as it became the most important trading port of the Spanish Empire. The 4km square old town is a pop up history book of every architectural style and contains 3 Unesco World Heritage sites – the staggering Alcazar, the Archivo da Indias and The Cathedral with its minaret now church tower The Giralda.
As the city developed grew popped up on every corner and around each church a local guild evolved. As the gold flooded in from the New World more and more ornate altars were created. Each parishioner was tithed to support their church and over the week before Easter these treasures are paraded through the streets of the city. These Pasos are spectacular and surprisingly moving. Align yourself to one neighbourhood, dress to impress and even the agnostic in you will revel in the marvels of the human spirit.
Stay in the old town – try The Sacristia De Santa Ana on Hercules Square (the mythic founder of Sevile) and take in a show at the Museo de Baile Flamenco (as Seville is the home of the art form).