Countries Spain Madrid Cultural Tours

Madrid: The Art & Architecture of the Spanish Capital

with
Thomas Abbott
Thomas Abbott is an independent art and architectural historian. He graduated in Psychology and Art History at Carleton College, Minnesota, and studied his Masters at the Louvre School of Art History in Paris. He is a specialist in architectural history from the Baroque to the 20th century. He has a been a resident of Berlin since 1987 and has successfully led cultural tours for many years across Europe.
What's included...
  • Return flights on British Airways (economy) to Madrid
  • 5 nights in the 4* Hotel Catalonia Cortes
  • 5 brekfasts, 2 lunches and 2 dinners (lunch and dinner with wine, water and coffee)
  • A full day in Toledo, the former Spanish capital
  • All church, museum & gallery entry tickets
  • The services of your lecturer and tour manager
  • A tour-guide headset system to make hearing the lecturer easier
  • Transport by luxury coach, as the itinerary requires
  • All tips and taxes
Hotel
The Catalonia Las Cortes Hotel
Getting about
Participants should be reasonably fit. There is a significant amount of
walking, standing and use of stairs.
Highlights
This austere location, hardly an obvious choice for the site of a royal palace, was chosen by King Philip II of Spain, and it was he who ordained the building of a grand edifice here to commemorate the 1557 Spanish victory at the Battle of St. Quentin in Picardy against Henry II, king of France. He also intended the complex to serve as a necropolis for the interment of the remains of his parents, Charles I and Isabella of Portugal, himself, and his descendants. In addition, Philip envisioned El Escorial as a centre for studies in aid of the Counter-Reformation cause.

The building's cornerstone was laid on 23 April 1563. The design and construction were overseen by Juan Bautista de Toledo, who did not live to see the completion of the project. With Toledo's death in 1567, direction passed to his apprentice, Juan de Herrera, under whom the building was completed in 1584, in less than 21 years. 

Since then, El Escorial has been the burial site for most of the Spanish kings of the last five centuries, Bourbons as well as Habsburgs. The Royal Pantheon contains the tombs of the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V (who ruled Spain as King Charles I), Philip II, Philip III, Philip IV, Charles II, Louis I, Charles III, Charles IV, Ferdinand VII, Isabella II, Alfonso XII, and Alfonso XIII. Two Bourbon kings, Philip V (who reigned from 1700 to 1746) and Ferdinand VI (1746–1759), as well as King Amadeus (1870–1873), are not buried in the monastery.
Toledo is known as the "Imperial City" for having been the main venue of the court of Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, and as the "City of the Three Cultures" for the cultural influences of Christians, Muslims and Jews reflected in its history. It was also the capital of the ancient Visigothic kingdom of Hispania, which followed the fall of the Roman Empire, and the location of historic events such as the Visigothic Councils of Toledo. 
The Prado Museum  is the main Spanish national art museum, located in central Madrid. It is widely considered to have one of the world's finest collections of European art, dating from the 12th century to the early 20th century, based on the former Spanish Royal Collection, and the single best collection of Spanish art.
The frescoes in this church are by Goya. They were completed over a six-month period in 1798. The frescoes portray miracles by Saint Anthony of Padua. On the main cupola of the chapel, Goya depicted Saint Anthony raising a man from the dead and exculpating his father, who had been falsely accused of his murder. Instead of portraying the scene as occurring in thirteenth-century Lisbon, Goya relocated the miracle to contemporary Madrid.
The museum consists of two buildings, a 16th-century house with a courtyard and an early 20th-century building forming the museum, together with a garden. The house recreates the home of El Greco, which no longer exists. The museum houses many artworks by El Greco, especially from his late period. here are also paintings by other 17th-century Spanish artists, as well as furniture from the period and pottery from Talavera de la Reina.
Madrid, Spain's central capital, is a city of elegant boulevards and expansive, manicured parks such as the Buen Retiro. It’s renowned for its rich repositories of European art, including the Prado Museum’s works by Goya, Velázquez and other Spanish masters. The heart of old Hapsburg Madrid is the portico-lined Plaza Mayor, and nearby is the baroque Royal Palace and Armoury displaying historic weaponry, including that of Charles V.  

Madrid is considered one of the top European destinations concerning art museums. Best known is the Golden Triangle of Art, located along the Paseo del Prado and comprising three museums. The most famous one is the Prado Museum, known for such highlights as Diego Velázquez's Las Meninas and Francisco de Goya's La maja vestida and La maja desnuda. The other two museums are the Thyssen Bornemisza Museum, established from a mixed private collection, and the Reina Sofía Museum, where Pablo Picasso's Guernica is exhibited, returned to Spain from New York after more than two decades.

El Escorial royal palace, was chosen by King Philip II of Spain, and it was he who ordained the building of a grand edifice here to commemorate the 1557 Spanish victory at the Battle of St. Quentin in Picardy against Henry II, king of France. He also intended the complex to serve as a necropolis for the interment of the remains of his parents, Charles I and Isabella of Portugal, himself, and his descendants. In addition, Philip envisioned El Escorial as a centre for studies in aid of the Counter-Reformation cause.

Toledo is known as the "Imperial City" for having been the main venue of the court of Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, and as the "City of the Three Cultures" for the cultural influences of Christians, Muslims and Jews reflected in its history. It was also the capital of the ancient Visigothic kingdom of Hispania, which followed the fall of the Roman Empire, and the location of historic events such as the Visigothic Councils of Toledo. 
 
Arriving in Madrid on a morning flight from London, the first stop is at El Escorial for lunch. Then a tour of this enormous palace built at the request of Philip II of Spain. Inside, a glorious collection of famous artworks await. After arriving at Hotel Catalonia Las Cortes for check-in, dinner together at a local restaurant.
 
The Santoña Palace or Palace of the Dukes of Santoña (formerly Goyeneche Palace ) is a Spanish urban palace located at the corner of Calle Huertas and Príncipe, in the city of Madrid. It is a construction of the sixteenth century, later reformed in the eighteenth century by the architect Pedro de Ribera, and in the nineteenth century by Antonio Ruiz de Salces.

Next, the Royal Palace. Habsburg Emperor Charles V extended and renovated the castle in 1537, using the architects Alonso de Covarrubias and Luis de Vega. Philip II made Madrid his capital in 1561 and added a continued the renovations. Philip III added a long southern facade between 1610 and 1636. Philip V of Bourbon renovated the royal apartments in 1700.

The Royal Library was moved to the lower floor during the regency of Maria Christina. The bookshelves date from the period of Charles III, Isabel II and Alfonso XII. Highlights of the collection include the Book of hours of Isabella I of Castile, a codex of the time of Alfonso XI of Castile, a Bible of Doña María de Molina and the Fiestas reales, dedicated to Ferdinand VI by Farinelli. Also important are the maps kept in the library, which analyze the extent of the kingdoms under the Spanish Empire. Also on display a selection of the best medals from the Royal Collection.

The first-floor apartments are a treasure of artworks. The Halberdier's Room, or Guard Room, was designed by Sabatini, and includes the fresco by Tiepolo, Venus and Vulcan. Two paintings by Luca Giordano depict scenes from the life of Solomon. The Hall of Columns has a ceiling fresco by Giaquinto, representing The Sun before Which All the Forces of Nature Awaken and Rejoice, an allegory of the king as Apollo. A 1878 bronze statue of Charles V Vanquishing Fury is by Ferdinand Barbedienne. The bronze chandeliers were made in Paris in 1846, and installed by Isbella II for her balls.

The Throne Room dates from Charles III in 1772, and features Tiepolo's ceiling fresco, The Apotheosis of the Spanish Monarchy. Bronze sculptures include the Four Cardinal Virtues, four of the Seven Planets, Satyr, Germanicus, and four Medici lions flanking the dual throne.

Charles III's Anteroom (Saleta) contains a 1774 ceiling fresco Apotheosis of Trajan by A.R. Mengs. The Antechamber of Charles III (The Conversation Room) also contains a ceiling fresco by Mengs, The Apotheosis of Hercules. This room has four royal family portraits by Goya. The Queen's apartments and banqueting hall, formerly the queen's apartments under Charles III. These three rooms were converted into a banquet hall by Alfonso XII in 1879, and completed in 1885. The three ceiling frescoes remained though, Dawn in Her Chariot by Raphael Mengs, Christopher Columbus Offering the New World to the Catholic Monarchs by Alejandro González Velázquez, and Boabdil Giving the Keys to Granada to the Catholic Monarchs by Francisco Bayeu y Subías.[1]:56–59[2]:44–45

Descalzas Reales Monastery awaits. The Monasterio de las Descalzas Reales, literally the "Monastery of the Royal Barefooted", resides in the former palace of Emperor Charles V and Empress Isabel of Portugal. Their daughter, Joanna of Austria, founded this convent of nuns of the Poor Clare order in 1559.  Among the many relics on display are putatively pieces from Christ's cross and the bones of Saint Sebastian. Among the priceless art masterpieces are Titian's Caesar's Money, tapestries woven to designs by Rubens, and works by Hans de Beken and Brueghel the Elder.

The museum collection also includes such rarities as portraits of royal children of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth from the late 16th century, referring to Polish–Spanish relations that inspired Calderón's La vida es sueño. Portraits of the son and daughter of King Sigismund of Poland were painted by Martin Kober in 1596 and were sent as a gift to King Philip III of Spain.
Toledo is our destination for the day. Toledo is known as the "Imperial City" for having been the main venue of the court of Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, and as the "City of the Three Cultures" for the cultural influences of Christians, Muslims and Jews reflected in its history. It was also the capital of the ancient Visigothic kingdom of Hispania, which followed the fall of the Roman Empire, and the location of historic events such as the Visigothic Councils of Toledo. Toledo has a long history in the production of bladed weapons, which are now popular souvenirs of the city. People who were born or have lived in Toledo include Brunhilda of Austrasia, Al-Zarqali, Garcilaso de la Vega, Eleanor of Toledo, Alfonso X and El Greco.
 
The Sorolla Museum features work by the artist Joaquín Sorolla. The building was originally the artist's house and was converted into a museum after the death of his widow. Designed by Enrique María Repullés. The principal rooms continue to be furnished as they were during the artist's life, including Sorolla's large, well-lit studio, where the walls are filled with his canvasses. 

Reina Sofia Museum is mainly dedicated to Spanish art. Highlights of the museum include excellent collections of Spain's two greatest 20th-century masters, Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dalí. Certainly, the most famous masterpiece in the museum is Picasso's painting Guernica. The Reina Sofía collection has works by artists such as Joan Miró, Eduardo Chillida, Pablo Gargallo, Julio González, Luis Gordillo, Juan Gris, José Gutiérrez Solana, Lucio Muñoz, Jorge Oteiza, Julio Romero de Torres, Pablo Serrano, and Antoni Tàpies. International artists are represented by Francis Bacon, Joseph Beuys, Pierre Bonnard, Georges Braque, Alexander Calder, Robert Delaunay, Max Ernst, Lucio Fontana, Damien Hirst, Donald Judd, Vasily Kandinsky, Paul Klee, Yves Klein, Fernand Léger, Jacques Lipchitz, René Magritte, Henry Moore, Bruce Nauman, Gabriel Orozco, Nam June Paik, Man Ray, Diego Rivera, Mark Rothko, Julian Schnabel, Richard Serra, Cindy Sherman, Clyfford Still, Yves Tanguy, and Wolf Vostell.

The afternoon is spent in the Prado. The collection currently comprises around 8,200 drawings, 7,600 paintings, 4,800 prints, and 1,000 sculptures, in addition to a large number of other works of art and historic documents. There are numerous works by Francisco Goya, the single most extensively represented artist, as well as by Hieronymus Bosch, El Greco, Peter Paul Rubens, Titian, and Diego Velázquez, are some of the highlights of the collection. 
The Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, with over 1,600 paintings, was once the second largest private collection in the world after the British Royal Collection. One of the focal points is the early European painting, with a major collection of trecento and quattrocento (i.e. 14th and 15th century) Italian paintings by Duccio, Luca di Tommè, Bernardo Daddi, Paolo Uccello, and his contemporaries, and works of the early Flemish and Dutch painters like Jan van Eyck (Diptich of the Annunciation), Petrus Christus, Rogier van der Weyden, Gerard David and Hans Memling. Other highlights include works by leading Renaissance, Baroque and Rococo painters, including Antonello da Messina  Fra Bartolomeo, Giulio Romano, Giovanni Bellini, Titian, Tintoretto, Veronese, Jacopo Bassano, Sebastiano del Piombo and more!

For the rest of the day, we return to the Prado. We dine together on our last evening.
This morning is spent in the The Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando which was established by royal decree in 1744. Today it houses a fine art collection of paintings from the 15th to 20th centuries: Arcimboldo, Giovanni Bellini, Correggio, Guido Reni, Rubens, Zurbarán, Murillo, Fragonard, Goya, Juan Gris, Pablo Serrano, Lorenzo Quiros, among others.  Francisco Goya was once one of the academy's directors, and its alumni include Felip Pedrell, Pablo Picasso, Kiko Argüello, Salvador Dalí, Antonio López García, Juan Luna, Oscar de la Renta, and Fernando Botero.

In the afternoon, the BA flights returns to London early evening.
Prices:
£2,195pp for two sharing. £1,995pp without flights included
£2,495 for a double for sole occupancy. £2,195 without flights included.

Flights - The departing flight leaves London Heathrow at 9.15 am. The return flight leaves Madrid at 6.10pm, arriving in London Heathrow at 7.30pm. If you would like to upgrade to business class, please contact us.P{r

Hotel accommodation can be arranged at Heathrow airport on request. Please, contact us.

Travel advice - Please refer the Foreign Office's website to make sure you are comfortable with the travel advice they provide for the destination(s) you are visiting. www.fco.gov.uk 

Activity level - Our tours involve a lot of walking, climbing stairs and standing still for periods of time. The historic centres of cities are often uneven and cobbled requiring everyone to be confident walking across them.
with
Thomas Abbott
Thomas Abbott is an independent art and architectural historian. He graduated in Psychology and Art History at Carleton College, Minnesota, and studied his Masters at the Louvre School of Art History in Paris. He is a specialist in architectural history from the Baroque to the 20th century. He has a been a resident of Berlin since 1987 and has successfully led cultural tours for many years across Europe.
The Catalonia Las Cortes Hotel
The Catalonia Las Cortes Hotel is a 4-star hotel close to Santa Ana square in Madrid. It is a complete refurbished accommodation with the unique charm of a XVIIIth century palace located at the heart of the neighbouring of Letters and equipped with complete services: restaurant, free wifi, snacks corner, meeting rooms for events and pets admission on request. The Catalonia Las Cortes Hotel is an ideal hotel for trips and stays in the historic centre of Madrid. 
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