6 Reasons To Explore the Ancient Roman City of Mérida, Spain

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Spain’s Extremadura region is a hidden gem, relatively unknown to tourists. Often overlooked in favor of charming Andalusia or cosmopolitan Catalonia, Extremadura is the perfect place to have a real retreat, soaking in all the most wonderful parts of the Spanish (and ancient Roman) culture like traditional foods, unpretentious wines and immeasurable amount of history.
Aqueducto Los Milagros in Mérida. ©Esteban Viso via Flickr

It’s the Capital

All of Spain’s regions have a capital, and Mérida is the capital city of the region Extremadura. The city was founded as Augustus Emerita in 25 BC to resettle veteran emeriti soldiers from two and was named capital of the Iberian Roman province of Lusitania.

It’s Full of Roman Ruins

The city of Mérida has more Roman ruins than any other city in Spain, including the world’s longest surviving bridge, aptly named the Roman Bridge. At 790 meters long, it’s also the longest bridge ever built in Spain by the Romans. Besides this, you can check out the Roman theatre and amphitheater, the acclaimed National Museum of Roman Art, the Roman circus and more. There’s even a towering Roman aqueduct, the acueducto de los milagros, that dates back to the 1st century A.D.

The Roman Bridge in Mérida. © A stray sheep via Wikipedia.

And Moorish Ruins Too

The Romans weren’t the only ones to inhabit Mérida. Plan to visit the site of the Alcazaba, a Muslim fortress that dates back to the 9th century, later inhabited by the Christians when they took over the city. Make sure to take in the views from the walls, admiring the river Guadiana, the Roman Bridge and beyond.

It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site

We think Mérida is pretty epic, and UNESCO seems to agree. Mérida’s historic center has been deemed UNESCO World Heritage site since 1993, thanks to its eclectic collection of Roman, Spanish and Muslim sights.

You Can Still Enjoy Events at the Roman Theater

The Roman theater is still in use, meaning visitors can enjoy theater and concert events inside. While it’s often used for opera or classical concerts, some big-name acts have played there in the past. We’re pretty certain the acoustics are on point.

The Roman theater. © Tomás Fano via Flickr.

All. The. Delicious. Ham.

Mérida (in fact, all of Extremadura) is known for their delicious Iberian meats. A region where ham curation is practically an art form, Extremadura’s climate is especially ideal for growing acorns and oaks, which are what many of the prized pigs are fed. Two main categories of ham come from the Mérida area: Cebo de Campo ham, where pigs are fed with both acorn and grain, and the Ibérico de Bellota ham, where pigs are fed with acorns during their final period. This ham also has a longer curation period (typically about 36 months). Three areas around Mérida are famous for their ham: Serena, Montanchez and Llanos de Olivenza, meaning that if you love high-quality pork, you’ll be spoiled when visiting this region.

Interested in spending a day in Mérida?

Corazon Travel offers a trip here as part of their Insider’s Gourmet Tour. You’ll have the opportunity to sample “Gladiator” wine at the Viña Santa Marina and explore the ancient Roman ruins of Mérida. After visiting the Roman bridge and touring the Roman theater and the amphitheater, you can enjoy a relaxing cup of coffee followed by a guided tour through the National Museum of Roman Art developed by architect Rafael Moneo.

7 Spots For A Romantic Honeymoon In Spain

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Spain is one of the most romantic countries in the world for a honeymoon. Imagine intimate dinners by candlelight, passionate flamenco dancing and long riverside strolls at dusk with your one and only. But with so many magical cities to visit, where do you even start? Read on to discover to some of the most idyllic spots to celebrate your post-nuptials.

Seville

With a thriving tapas culture and the blissful gardens of the Alcazar palace, Seville is definitely one of the sexiest cities in Spain. In fact, the whole southern region of Andalusia is sultry and inviting, and you can’t go wrong with an intimate evening ride in a horse-drawn carriage or a walk through the magnificent Plaza de España at sunset. Exploring a nearby white village such as Arcos de la Frontera is a perfectly picturesque day trip.

Plaza España in Seville. © Lori Zaino.

Menorca

Once of Spain’s hidden gems, the tranquil island of Menorca is a serene beach getaway perfect for couples wanting to get away from it all. Rent a car and explore the island, discovering rocky coves and beautiful sandy spots — you may just find yourselves completely alone to relax in the sunshine. Evening walks through the port and past the old British houses of Máhon are a peaceful way to unwind, and this island is truly a place for you to bond with your new love.

Cala Galdana in Menora. © Ben Salter / Wikipedia.

Madrid

Such a large city may seem imposing for a honeymoon, but with a growing number of boutique hotels as well as 5-star luxury properties, you can bask in the very best in Spain’s capital when it comes to accommodation. With day trips to nearby charming villages like Segovia and Toledo, getting out of the city is just a hop, skip and jump away. Madrid has endless cultural adventures, and the city is full of eclectic art, live music and dance, gourmet restaurants, cozy bars and boutique shopping.Remember, Insider’s Madrid can always help you to book tours — we’ll curate the perfect food, shopping, art or fashion tour with newlyweds in mind!

Plaza de la Villa in Madrid. © Madrid Destino Cultura Turismo y Negocio.

Granada

The Arabic influence on this southern Spanish city creates a special ambiance perfect for couples. Enjoy panoramic views of Granada, the Alhambra Palace and beyond as you and your honey take in a sunset at the Mirador San Nicolás, the city’s most coveted viewpoint. Once the sun sets, there’s nothing more romantic than soaking in that post-wedding bliss by admiring gypsy flamenco deep in a mountainside cave while sipping on sangria.

Granada and beyond. © Lori Zaino.

La Rioja

Close your eyes and picture you and your partner sipping red wine paired with savory Iberian ham and exquisite cheese, all to the backdrop of medieval villages and rolling vineyards. If this sounds like a dream, head to the Rioja region of Spain, one of the most popular areas in Spain for wine tasting. The charming towns of Logroño and Haro can be explored by two on foot after a delightful day of tasting and touring the nearby vineyards and villages.

A small town in the Rioja region of Spain. © cenobio / Wikipedia.

Marbella

Beach-loving couples looking for a sophisticated, glamorous honeymoon should head to Marbella. Spend your days frolicking with your plus one on long streches of sandy beaches lined with palm trees or unwinding at one of the many spas. Once the sun sets, treat yourselves to elegant dinners and cocktails at fashionable beach bars.

Port Banús in Marbella. © Tomas Faro / Wikipedia.

San Sebastián

Foodie couples should immediately head to San Sebastián, famous for its incredible eats, including a number of Michelin-star restaurants. But going beyond the fancier food scene, you’ll discover a whole other layer of dining — pinchos — which is really a way of life. These small tapas, often ‘pinched’ with a stick, can be found at most bars and restaurants, so grab your partner and start sampling. If you’re too full to do anything else, walk hand-in-hand along the city’s most famous beach, La Concha.

La Concha beach in San Sebastián. © Keta / Wikipedia.

6 Plans Perfect For Your Bachelorette Party in Madrid

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Wedding season has officially arrived! Before you and your partner tie the knot, you should plan to have a bit of fun first. With so many other wedding decisions on your plate, don’t overcomplicate things and instead choose a destination you and your entire gal group will love for the ultimate bachelorette party send-off into married life. Regardless of what you may have imagined for this quintessential ladies getaway, Madrid has it all. Whether it be high-end fashion and shopping, craft cocktails, gourmet cuisine or a nightlife scene that rivals Las Vegas or Ibiza, Madrid is a dream spot for your hen party.

Design by Isabel Zapardiéz

 

Soak in the sun

Nothing ruins a girl’s getaway like rain. But Madrid’s 300 days of sunshine per year will ensure you’ll not only have clear skies, but you may even bronze those shoulders as you stroll the streets of the Spanish capital city beneath the rays. Spending time outside sets the scene for serious bonding with the girls, so consider hosting a picnic or doing a relaxing yoga class in the park. After all, not every bachelorette party activity needs to be wild — simply enjoying time outdoors with friends is the best.

 

Hit the shops

Shopping with the girls is the perfect way to prepare for your upcoming nuptials and there’s plenty of boutiques in Madrid where you can discover one-of-a-kind items. Whether it’s leather shoes, vintage shops, wedding lingerie or bridesmaids dresses, you’ll be sure to find the ideal garment(s) here. If you aren’t quite sure where to go, Insider’s Madrid (authors of the style section for the Louis Vuitton Madrid guide!) curates customized fashion and shopping tours — meaning we’ll plan you a flawless shopping day, from stopping into the boutiques of Chueca, Alonso Martínez, and Serrano to visiting the workshops and the independent stores of Spain’s designers and curators, all based on the bride’s preferences. If you’d prefer to include wedding dress shopping into your itinerary, we can arrange that too.

¡Ole! Time to Dance

If you imagined attending a flamenco show surrounded by your closest friends or even taking a dance class itself, Insider’s Madrid can make it happen. Flamenco Uncovered is a unique tour where you’ll get to actually get to spend the evening with a flamenco dancer and learn a full flamenco choreography during a personalized dance class. We even offer discounts for groups over two people! Whether you see the art, learn about it or even begin to dance it yourself, flamenco will make your bachelorette celebration a special one.

Drinks High Above

Madrid is budding with rooftop bars where you can enjoy cocktail after cocktail with the ladies. The views of Madrid, speckled with red-tiled rooftops sitting beneath the blue sky, will seem even more impressive as you sip a crisp glass of cava or a refreshing mojito. Make sure to reserve ahead of time for your group to ensure you get the best spot in the house.

Photo by Lori Zaino

Night Out on The Town

If you want to swing traditional for your bachelorette party with a (wild) night out on the town, Insider’s Madrid will curate every detail for you — we can plan cocktail workshops where you meet Madrid’s most fashionable mixologists, an upmarket tapas tour or whatever style of evening you desire. You can’t go wrong with one of Insider’s Madrid’s food tours — the Spanish wine tasting is a wonderful way for you and your girls to chat over Riojas and Riberas.

See Spain Beyond Madrid

For an extra exclusive fashionista hen party, why not get out of Madrid and see all of Spain, eating, drinking and exploring the history of fashion along the way. The fall edition of the Fashion, Food and Textiles Tour hosted by Corazón Travel will be an unforgettable experience — one that includes an insider visit to meet Nacho Aguayo, creative director of Spanish fashion house Pedro del Hierro in Madrid, a almazuelas patchwork workshop with former Givenchy model Lola Barasoian at her converted water mill and meeting couture designer Isabel Zapardiéz in her San Sebastian atelier for your own personal design !

Design by Isabel Zapardiéz

If you’d rather focus on dining and drinking instead, Corazón Travel’s Insider Gourmet Tour offers your group the chance to indulge in some of the best tapas, wine, sherry and more throughout central and southern Spain. The fall event includes meeting winemakers, dining at Michelin-star restaurants, Iberian ham tastings and so much more.

San Sebastián under sunny skies

Your Guide To Spain’s Fashion, Shopping and Designer’s Scene

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When you think of fashion capitals around the world, New York, Milan, Paris, London and Tokyo may first come to mind. But don’t discount Madrid, a European capital with some seriously chic style,  talented designers and fashionable brands, or even Spain in general. After all, Barcelona, Valencia and Seville are all spots budding with fashionistas too! Here are just some of the designers and shops to know and check out during your next visit to Spain.

Bimba y Lola

This brand has colorful and versatile garments for everyday wear — think stylish separates and soft leather handbags and wallets. The spring campaign, #ThisisSUMMEROFLOVE, with its bold and vibrant florals and details like feathers, stripes and dots has us believing that this summer will indeed, be filled with love.

Photo by Bimba y Lola

Roberto Verino

Whether it’s preppy menswear suits or an elegant, glittering gown, Roberto Verino has been trending on the Madrid fashion scene since 1984. With his designs in over 46 stores and 76 Corte Inglés locations, the designer is a staple on the Spanish fashion front. His SS18 collection, Dream Island, makes us want to hop on a yacht and take a spin around the Mediterranean: think nautical stripes, crisp white linens and soft cotton. The leather bomber jackets and cigarette pants rewind us back for vintage-inspired spring.

Photo by Roberto Verino

Sita Murt

Sita Murt grew up designing her own knitwear and named her brand after herself in the 1990s. With light, flowing fabrics and simple, modern designs, Sita Murt has made a name for herself in spots like Madrid, Valencia and Barcelona. Check out one of her shops to purchase a red, wide-leg jumpsuit or voluminous, earthly green and beige separates this season.

Adolfo Dominguez

Another designer who’s been hot on the Spanish fashion scene since the 1980s, Dominguez has created a brand aesthetic and always sticks to it: using loose and natural fabrics. Although his designs move with the current trends, he always seems to stay true to his original aesthetic while creating stylish and wearable clothing. This spring, it’s all about color, with vivacious pinks, bright golds and rich royal blues.

Photo by Adolfo Dominguez.

Teresa Helbig

Known for her dresses, Teresa Helbig creates garments that are both romantic and bohemian, but modern enough for a 21st century, all-encompassing female. Impeccably designed and sewn, you’ll turn heads in a Teresa Helbig dress, that’s for sure. She’s also known for her made-to-measure bridal wear. For SS18, get ready for bold and gold from her collection, Rien ne va plus.

Photo from the Teresa Helbig Facebook page.

Juana Martin

Coming straight from Córdoba, Spain, you can feel the Andalusian flavor this designer’s garments emit immediately. However, her talent lies in making ruffles and flamenco-inspired pieces relevant to city living. So don’t be surprised if you end up taking back a little bit of Andalusia to New York, London or Singapore with you. Pickup a flowy, white sundress or an layered orange tea-length number for this summer.

Photo by Juana Martin.

Uterqüe

Although this company is owned by Spanish group Intidex, the fashions found at this shop seem original, despite the fact the brand boasts 82 stores around the globe. Uterqüe still hasn’t made a debut in the UK, Australia or the United States, so it’s best to visit Spain to shop, where you’ll find 34 of the stores. The store feels like an upmarket Zara, with snazzy fashions appropriate for pretty much any occasion. The spring collection is full of exciting colors and silky fabrics, so stop in to check it out.

Photo by Uterqüe.

If you want to shop these brands and more, Insider’s Madrid will create a personalized shopping or fashion tour for you around Madrid, ensuring you discover all the coolest Spanish brands that perfectly cater to your individual style and budget.

If you want to dig even dipper into Spain’s fashion roots, a textile, food and fashion tour from Corazón will take you to different cities in Spain, giving you exclusive opportunities like meeting cape-makers and silk painters in Madrid, taking a patchwork class from former Givenchy model Lola Barasoain in La Rioja and touring the Valgañon family factory (which has been said to  manufacture for the likes of Hermés, Givenchy and others) in the country town of Ezgaray and  is known for its mohair and cashmere scarves.

Your Guide To Exploring Madrid’s Expansive Art Scene

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It’s no secret that Madrid is famous for having some of the most impressive art in the world. Besides the acclaimed museums the city is known for, there’s also an abundance of lesser-known spots to see some truly inspirational paintings, drawings, prints, architecture, photography, sculptures, street art and more. Here’s your go-to guide to exploring Madrid’s multifaceted art scene.

Photo of La Guernica painting from Wikipedia.

The art triangle: a Madrid must-see

No visit to Madrid is complete without wandering through its three most famous museums, conveniently located in a triangle in the heart of the city center: the Museo del Prado, where you’ll spot famous works by Diego Velázquez and Francisco Goya, the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, home of Picasso’s masterpiece Guernica, and the Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza, which houses a comprehensive collection featuring the likes of Claude Monet, Jackson Pollock and more.

Hoping to see it all? Sign up for a curated Fine Arts Tour from Insider’s Madrid, guiding you through your choice of museums (and/or galleries) in Madrid.

Photo by Museo del Prado.

Go to ARCOmadrid at IFEMA

You’ll be impressed with how many well-known modern artists select this festival to unveil their work. ARCOmadrid, the city’s largest COntemporary ARt festival takes place annually at IFEMA, the city’s trade fair venue. ARCO this year is February 21st – 25th. See ‘historical avant-garde, the contemporary classics, and modern art. The galleries display painting, sculpture, installations, photography, video, new media, drawing, and etching.’ IFEMA also hosts other various art events throughout the year, like FERIARTE, the art and antique festival. This year, IFEMA will also be hosting ARCOLisboa and Estampa, another contemporary art fair. Stay tuned.

Museums with a more personal touch

Tucked away in local neighborhoods of Madrid, more personal museums abound. Start by exploring work by the great luminist, Joaquín Sorolla. The Museo Sorolla is set in the artist’s private home and  showcases work throughout his career, all while keeping in the style of his home when he and his family once lived there. The gardens are modeled on the Alhambra Palace’s ornate Generalife gardens. Set in the Tribunal area of Madrid near Malasaña and Alonso Martínez, the Museo de Romanticismo goes beyond just paintings with furniture, stamps, drawings, clothing garments and more from Spain’s Romanticism period. Set in the former residence and magnificent mansion house, the Museo Cerralbo houses the collection art, furniture and objects belonging to the house’s former owner, the 17th Marquis of Cerralbo.

Photo by Museo de Romanticismo.

From meat to art

The Matadero is one of the most eclectic spots in Madrid to experience art and culture. A former slaughterhouse dating back to 1911, the space is now dedicated to different art forms like cinema, theater, music, books, contemporary design and more. You could spend a couple hours here — or an entire vacation soaking up all the cultural activities and events offered.

Hit the streets 

Madrid’s boulevards and streets feature nonstop architectural wonders, but there’s also literal art too. Street art is most prevalent in the bohemian, hip neighborhoods of Lavapiés and Malasaña. You can spot some special graffiti simply walking around, or for several murals in one spot, stroll past the Tabacalera in Lavapiés.

Colombian artist Fernando Botero also has a few of his oversized masterpieces scattered around the city and the Parque de Juan Carlos I offers a day filled with blooming trees and flowers, plus some unique abstract sculptures.

Photo of the walls of the Tabacalera by Guillermo de la Madrid and Madrid Street Art Project.

Galleries galore

Museums aren’t the only way to experience art in Madrid. In fact, the city is full of galleries, some of the most interesting located near the Reina Sofía on the street Doctor Forquet. Slowly but surely this street is becoming a mecca for art aficionados and the gallery count is 15 and growing. If this seems overwhelming, don’t worry — Insider’s Madrid can create a special gallery tour just for you, guiding you alongside curator, art appraiser and writer Cristina Anglada.

Check out the calendar

Many exhibition spaces in Madrid are dedicated to showcasing temporary art, such as the Fundación Mapfre, Fundación Canal or the Espacio Fundación Telefónica. Each of these halls changes exhibits frequently, showcasing photography, fashion, paintings, drawings, sculptures and more from new and emerging artists to famous, well-known big timers. Make sure to see what’s on during your visit to Madrid.

Photo of the previous Houdini exhibit by the Fundación Telefónica.

Remember, Insider’s Madrid would be happy to curate any specific art tour you’d like, guiding you through your desired combination of museums, galleries, art fairs, exhibitions and more. For more information or to personalize a tour, contact us at info@insidersmadrid.com.

7 Beautiful Cities in Spain You Have To Visit

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Picturesque beaches, towering mountains, rolling vineyards and some of the most elaborate architecture in the world. All of these wonders and more can be found in the country of Spain. Here’s a list seven beautiful Spanish destinations you absolutely have to visit at least once in your lifetime.

Madrid

Perhaps we’re biased, but Madrid, often ignored in lieu of cosmopolitan Barcelona, has something for any style of traveler, whether it be tapas, flamenco, nightlife, wine, architecture, history, fashion or major sporting events. With its quaint, cobblestone streets leading to grandiose squares like the Plaza Mayor or the Plaza Cibeles, you’ll be in awe just roaming around. Plus, Madrileños are passionate about all things edible, so foodies can bask in numerous options for international and Spanish cuisine, food markets and food tours. Of course, we recommend doing one (or more) of the many different food experiences and tailored tours by Insider’s Madrid, like the gourmet tapas tour or a paella and sangria class.

Plaza de la Villa in Madrid. © Madrid Destino Cultura Turismo y Negocio

San Sebastián

San Sebastián, located in the Basque country is known for its famous seashell-shaped beach, La Concha. Beloved for its fancy pinxtos (these are similar to tapas and can sometimes be found “pinched” with a stick and placed on a baguette slice) dining scene and large number of Michelin-star restaurants, it’s also the last stop on the specialized Textile, Food and Fashion Tour led by Corazón. The city is surrounded by rolling green hills and wild beaches, and the Sagrado Corazon de Jesus statue on top of Monte Urgull keeps watch day and night over the city.

An aerial view of San Sebastian. © Keta / Wikipedia

Bilbao

Also a stop on the  Textile, Food and Fashion Tour tour, the Guggenheim Bilbao is one of the most intriguing art museums in the world. Designed by Frank Gehry, visitors come from around the world to see both the curved stone, glass and titanium exterior overlooking the Nervión River as well as inside of the museum, which features masterpieces by artists such as Willem Kooning, Yves Klein, Andy Warhol and Antoni Tàpies.

The Guggenheim exterior in Bilbao. © VA / Wikipedia

Santiago de Compostela

The final stop on the famous pilgrimage Camino de Santiago, known as the Way of St. James in English, Santiago de Compostela is a welcome site for weary travelers — ones who’ve been trekking for days or even those just getting off a Ryanair flight. The city’s magnificent Romanesque cathedral (which later added on Gothic and Baroque touches), towers above the rest of the city and is said to be the burial place of St. James the Great. The entire historic city center is designated as an UNESCO World Heritage site, so grab your camera and spend the day wandering around.

The cathedral in Santiago de Compostela. © Luis Miguel Bugallo Sánchez / Wikipedia.

Ibiza

This island, part of the Balearic archipelago, is best known for its party scene, but what many don’t know is that the island’s many hidden coves known as calas and secret beaches are some of the most stunning in the world. This is an island made for exploring — so rent a car and start your adventure. We recommend Cala Lentrisca, which you’ll have to walk through a small pine forest when the road ends in Urbanizació Es Cubells.

A cala in Ibiza. © juantiagues / Flickr

Logroño

The gateway city to Spain’s famous Rioja wine region, this city was made for food and wine aficionados, just a short drive way from hundreds of vineyardsThe city is beautiful in a different way, which stems from its very special manner in which both visitors and locals alike can dine: specialty tapas along the famous Calle Laurel. The long, winding street is lined with tapas bars — small bar-style ‘restaurants’ where you’ll often spot more people standing at the bar or around wooden wine barrels that sitting, chattering over one another while sipping a local Rioja variety or beer and their favorite tapa.

Tapas (or pinxtos) along Calle Laurel. © jynus / Wikipedia

Cádiz

This Andalusian gem is one of Spain’s oldest continually inhabited cities, and its historic architecture mixed with its long stretches of sandy beaches that sparkle beneath the sunshine will ensure you never want to leave. The city boasts a few different cathedrals, an ancient Roman theater and an 18th-century watchtower. You’ll be able to see all these delights and more if you sign up for Corazon’s specialized New Year’s Eve Cádiz Tour.

Cádiz. © Anna & Michal / Flickr