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Why Madrid Is A Great Place To Be After Dark

Madrid is known for its rich culture and delicious savoury fare. While there are a number of museums and breathtaking architecture, the city is also a great place to enjoy nightlife during your vacation. Here are some descriptions of attractive locations in Madrid that are ideal if you want a night or two on the town.

Main shopping street in Madrid at night.

Main shopping street in Madrid at night.

Puerto del Sol

Puerto del Sol is the central square in Madrid and is a short walking distance from Plaza Mayor, where there are a number of quality hotels and tapas bars where you can enjoy exquisite wine and appetizers. It’s common to start a tasca crawl in Puerto del Sol, which is the Spanish equivalent to bar-hopping. If you’re visiting the area with a Spanish native, you’ll learn all about the greatest bars in area so you can sample the best cocktails and take in the scene before moving to another bar.

Statue Of Charles III In The Puerta Del Sol, Madrid.

Statue Of Charles III In The Puerta Del Sol, Madrid.

The Real Casa de Correos is another popular feature of Puerto del Sol. The building was originally constructed during the 18th century as part of the city’s post office, but is now the headquarters for the Autonomous Community for the president of Madrid.

If you’re visiting Madrid during the New Year season, you’ll want to be near the clock in Puerto del Sol before it strikes midnight. And have some grapes handy because it’s customary for Spaniards to eat a grape for each of the twelve chimes at midnight.

There are a number of breathtaking statues in the city square as well. Perhaps the most well-known is the Oso & Madroño, which is the official symbol of Madrid and was created by Antonio Navarro Sante Fe. A reproduction of the Mirablanca statue is also featured in Puerto del Sol, which is believed to be Diana the Hunter of the goddess Venus.

Argüelles/ Moncloa

This area of Madrid is where a number of college students live and socialize, making it an affordable nightlife attraction for many young adults who are travelling abroad. There are several fast-food restaurants and ale houses within walking distance in Moncloa and Argüelles, along with several dance clubs to choose from. Paseo del Pintor Rosales is one of the premier locations in this part of town, and is an elegant collection of restaurants and shops that run parallel to Calle Princesa. In the spring and summer months, the outdoor terraces of bars are adorned to attract young patrons who want to enjoy the beautiful scenery while indulging in gourmet dishes and cocktails.

 

Going to a dance club in Madrid is an experience you won't want to pass up.

Going to a dance club in Madrid is an experience you won’t want to pass up.

 

Casa Patas

Casa Patas is a flamenco club in Madrid, and is located in the Lavapies quarter of the city. There’s a bar and dining area where you can enjoy traditional Spanish fare like oxtail stew (rabo de toro) as well as cured ham from free-range Iberian pigs. In addition, the restaurant and club has an ample stage for Flamenco dancers to perform. The Café Cantante is part of Casa Patas; private events can be held in this area. The owners of the establishment invite some of Spain’s dancers to perform there, and there is a new lineup every two weeks.

The walls of Casa Patas are adorned with the photos of dancers who have performed at the venue, including Estrella Morente, Antonio Canales and Remedios Amaya. Casa Patas has worked with the flamenco community to organize the Fundacion Conservatorio Flamenco Casa Platas in 2000. The foundation is dedicated to educating the public about the history of Flamenco and to provide more information on the music and the dance that embodies Flamenco culture.

These are just some of the attractive features that make Madrid a wonderful place to vacation. You’ll likely create memories that will last a lifetime and learn more about Spanish culture in a fun and engaging way.

A Unique Way To Experience Spain: Study Abroad, Live, Learn, And Enjoy!

From magnificent Moorish castles to delectable regional cuisine and stunning Mediterranean beaches, Spain is an unforgettable destination for more than 57 million people every year. For students studying abroad, this vibrant country offers an exceptional environment in which to soak up sun, culture and infinite educational opportunities.

Exceptional Academic Standards
Because of its multicultural student population, Spain is an extremely popular destination for international students from throughout Europe and the United States. The country is extremely welcoming to foreign students, with a focus on providing a positive environment, in addition to numerous accommodation options. Most academic host universities offer helpful administrative support with everything from obtaining visas to providing supplementary activities to smooth the integration process.

Of the many options for international study, Spain tops the list for thousands of students every year.

Of the many options for international study, Spain tops the list for thousands of students every year.

Spain’s internationally renowned educational system offers students of all academic levels the rare chance to participate in a near-infinite variety of coursework all while taking advantage of unparalleled opportunities to study Spanish as a foreign language. A total of 18 Spanish universities were included in the 2012/2013 “QS World University Rankings,” including 14 in the top 500. The bulk of these are located in Spain’s capital city of Madrid, as well as Barcelona–which contains Spain’s two top ranked higher ed institutions, Universitat Autónoma de Barcelona and Universitat de Barcelona.

Culture Abounds
Because of its prime southern European location, Spain has typically served as a connector between many cultures–ranging from Europe to Africa to the East. The result is a dynamic setting comprising people from across the globe who have co-mingled to create Spain’s unique cultural legacy.

The official language of 21 countries, Spanish is spoken by approximately 495 million people across the globe, and is the world’s second most popular spoken language. There is no more phenomenal place to learn this valuable language than in Spain itself, at one of the country’s high quality educational institutions. Students of Spanish can participate in a number of different course options, from summer intensives to business courses.

Spain holds a prominent position in history, from its prehistoric sites to bustling modern cities. Whether you’re interested in history and architecture or the breathtaking natural landscape, Spain offers something for everyone. Students of fine arts, in particular, can revel in Spain’s rich and unparalleled tradition of innovation and advancement. Many of the great masters–from Goya and Picasso to Cervantes and Almodóvar–share Spain’s bold culture and rich heritage. Throw in fabled monuments and grand museums, and Spain offers endless cultural exposure at every turn.

Foodies will also delight in Spain’s amazing offerings. Not only is the country a hub of European gastronomy, but it is also famous for its healthy offerings, thanks to its focus on the beneficial Mediterranean diet. From the world’s best olive oil to delectable paella, international students will enjoy eating their way through Spanish culture.

Spain's many culinary delights include olives.

Spain’s many culinary delights include olives.

Four Seasons of Paradise Within Your Reach
Located in the southern region of Europe, Spain experiences all four seasons, but typically exhibits a pleasant, temperate climate. One of Europe’s warmest countries, Spain’s winter weather is typically mild with even the coldest days known for their magnificent sunshine. Spain’s glorious weather is set against a rich backdrop of scenery, including everything from amazing mountain vistas to serene natural beaches.

Spain is a great starting point for travelers, who can easily visit countless destinations, such as major cities like Madrid, the seat of Spain’s government, as well as historic sites like the medina bazaar of Tetuan. Many locations are just an easy day trip via bus. International students can also benefit from Spain’s terrific public transportation system–generally regarded as safe, convenient and affordable. This is a particularly inexpensive option for scholars, who can take advantage of a student discount.

But At What Cost?
Perhaps the most remarkable thing about studying in Spain is that–despite the country’s many extraordinary offerings–it remains one of Europe’s cheapest places to live and study, significantly less than tuition fees and the cost of living in countries like France, the U.K. and the United States.

All in all, there’s no better way to learn about the geography, culture, art, history, and literature of a country than to immerse yourself in it. For many delighted students, Spain continues to provide a life changing opportunity to do exactly that.

 

Barcelona For Honeymooners

You and your future spouse are planning your honeymoon and have always wanted to visit Spain. Now is the perfect time to vacation in Barcelona, as there are plenty of romantic attractions and quality hotels that will make your stay unforgettable. Here are some of the sites you definitely won’t want to pass up during your stay in Barcelona. You and your spouse may decide to make a trip to Spain your standing vacation to keep the romance alive.

Barcelona is the ideal location for you and your spouse to enjoy your first vacation as a married couple.

Barcelona is the ideal location for you and your spouse to enjoy your first vacation as a married couple.

 

Hotels

There are a number of hotels that cater to honeymooning couples in Barcelona. The beautiful architecture and ideal location of these lodging locations make it easy to get to restaurants and attractions while you and your sweetheart take in the breathtaking design of the hotel.

Majestic Hotel and Spa

This hotel is in central Barcelona, and very close to Gothic Quarter, so you and your spouse can enjoy a day of shopping and fine dining. According to a USA Today article, the Dalai Lama has even lodged there!

If you’re visiting the Majestic Hotel and Spa for your honeymoon, there are several suites for you to choose from, including the Sagrada Familia and the Penthouse Passeo de Gracia. The suites include flat-screen TVs and a bathroom with marble accents and a hydromassage bathtub. When you purchase the honeymoon package, you’ll receive a couple’s massage, along with a romantic dinner, complimentary open bar, and a delicious breakfast served in your suite. The honeymoon package even includes two tickets for you and your spouse to visit one of Barcelona’s beautiful, history-rich museums.

Hotel Murmuri

This hotel is on Barcelonia’s most opulent promenades, Rambia de Catalunya. All of the rooms have soundproof windows and room service. There’s an additional fee if you and your new bride or groom want to enjoy drinks from the mini bar, watch cable TV or access a Wi-Fi connection.

The honeymoon package includes a romantic dinner with drinks, breakfast for two in the hotel room, and a romantic bath complete with candles, fragrant bath oils, incense and rose petals. Couples can also take advantage of a late 3pm checkout, and the hotel provides a special gift for honeymooning couples as well.

Restaurants

While there are several hotels in Barcelona that offer gourmet dinners and breakfasts for couples, there are a number of fine eateries in the city that prepare delicious meals to make your stay in Barcelona even more pleasant.

La Cúpula

This fancy restaurant is near Sagrada Familia and impeccable Mediterranean fare. The restaurant is the perfect place for a romantic date, as there is live piano music every night. You can choose from succulent meals like grilled turbot with vegetables and fried garlic and chocolate coulant for dessert. The dim lighting and round tables make this restaurant especially quaint and delightful.

Asador Donosti

Asador Donosti is moderately priced and has a warm and cozy feel. The restaurant is a genuine Basque rotisserie, so if you’re looking for hearty Spanish fare in a relaxed environment, this is definitely the place. The menu includes meals like oxtail stew, T-bone steak and sauteed mushrooms with garlic and asparagus.

Attractions

Spending the day lounging in your comfortable hotel room and enjoying some of the tastiest meals in Barcelona will indeed make your honeymoon enjoyable. However, there are also a number of activities and attractions that you won’t want to pass up. Here are a few suggestions.

Hot Air Balloon Ride

You and your sweetheart can see the entire city of Barcelona from the sky. Many of the packages include a picnic in the hot air balloon as well, which makes the experience even more romantic. If you’ve booked a hotel in the center of Barcelona, you can be picked up from there to enjoy your hot air balloon excursion.

Magic Fountains of Montjüic

If you enjoy being outdoors, you’ll love these light and water shows in front of Barcelona Palace. The shows are free on the weekends and in the evenings. The shows are also presented with music, and the colourful water acrobatics you’ll see are truly picturesque and worth the evening stroll to Barcelona Palace from your hotel.

Montjüic's lighted fountains are truly a breathtaking sight.

Montjüic’s lighted fountains are truly a breathtaking sight.

 

Aqueduct of Segovia: A Roman Monument In Spain

Since Roman times, Segovia has been a city of commerce and one monument from that historic era is the Aqueduct, a Roman construction designed and built to supply the city with fresh water from the mountains.

The Romans left behind many examples of engineering and architecture across Europe, but the Aqueduct of Segovia holds a special place in the heart of Spain for its beauty and usefulness – the structure was maintained and operational until the mid-19th century. Today, this structure and the rest of the historic town is a top tourist destination, especially since all its wonders are a short, hour-long drive from Madrid.

One man's utility is another man's art.

One man’s utility is another man’s art.

 

A place in history
At first glance, the Aqueduct looks like a bridge, but it’s much more than that. The Romans had a complex system of engineering, and this structure was used to bring water from the Frio River in the mountains to Segovia during the Roman occupation in the 1st century A.D.

Even the caches where figures of Hercules were once rumoured to sit as they protected the waterway still exist, although now those spaces are occupied by Saint Stephen and the Patroness of Segovia.

Overall, it’s one of the very few Roman projects still relatively intact, and it holds a place of honour as a UNESCO World Heritage Site as well as many world historical site lists. The two-level structure is now a beloved icon of the city, and is even depicted on the city’s official coat of arms.

A history of conservation has kept the Aqueduct standing.

A history of conservation has kept the Aqueduct standing.

 

How it survived
Aside from bringing an essential service to the old city, the Aqueduct is a feat of superior planning and construction. Built from native granite, the structure spans approximately 18 kilometres and is approximately 29 meters high. No mortar joins the massive stones; it was all constructed with amazing precision by stonecutters, including the numerous arches on each level which assist in supporting the structure.

Even in ancient times, the city leaders knew its value and pursued a course of careful conservation through the centuries. The Aqueduct has undergone occasional restoration projects, most notably in the 15th century and the 20th century. Interestingly, it has been most threatened by the elements in our modern times, as the air and sound pollution from cars, trucks and parking lots abound. Out of seven aqueducts built by the Romans in Spain, only three survive and the one in Segovia is the best preserved.

Beyond the Aqueduct
The Aqueduct of Segovia leads directly into the historical district of the city. While the Aqueduct may be the oldest point of interest in this section, there are still many breathtaking historical sites, including the Alcazar, also known as the Castle, built in the 12th century, and the 16th century cathedral, a building contrary to the Gothic style and filled with light from massive windows.It was the last Gothic church built in the country.

Inside, the cathedral also has areas constructed in the Medieval and Renaissance styles, along with artworks by such noted artists as Van Eyck and Morales. In the historic district are several more must-see churches, including Iglasia de la Vera Cruz, a church founded in 1208 by the Knights Templar, and the Church of St. Millan, a Spanish Romanesque structure built in the 12th century and housing many items and artworks.

Lodging options near historic Segovia include the Parador Hotel, which offers some of the best views of the town, including the castle and the Aqueduct; the Hotel Condes de Castilla, a historic hotel conveniently in the middle of the district; and the Acueducto Hotel, which is located within a couple of minutes walk to the Aqueduct itself.

Running Of The Bulls: Are You In?

Pamplona startEvery year in July, tens of thousands of runners gather in Pamplona from all over the world to participate in a death-defying adventure: the Encierro, also known as the Running of the Bulls.

While most people have a general idea of what the event is all about, few are fully aware of its vibrant history.

Here’s a quick look at the past and present of the annual Running of the Bulls in Pamplona.

 

 

Dusting Off the History Books
The origins of Pamplona’s Encierro dates back to the 11th century when bullfighting first became a pastime in Spain. Cattle transporters were responsible for delivering the bulls from their countryside corrals into city rings for the evening’s entertainment. This activity gradually evolved from a necessity into a tradition, expanding outward into other cities and gaining popularity along the way. Pamplona’s Encierro is Spain’s most celebrated bull running event, and has been broadcast on Spanish public television for over 30 years.

Honoring a Patron Saint
The Encierro takes place every year in Spain’s scenic northern Navarra region during the Sanfermines, or fiesta of San Fermin, which honors Navarra’s patron saint, San Fermin. While the religious celebration dates back centuries, it has become best known today for one of its traditions, the Running of the Bulls.

While many people think of the Running of the Bulls as an occasion to gather and party, remnants remain of its rich religious tradition. Every year runners gather in advance of the run at a statue of of San Fermin to chant together a benediction requesting the patron saint’s guidance, blessing and protection. They conclude with the heartfelt exclamation, “Viva San Fermin!, Gora San Fermin!” (“Long live Saint Fermin!”)

This chant is repeated in the exciting minutes leading up to the opening of the bulls’ corral and the start of the race. Additionally, runners typically don traditional clothing, including a white shirt, and white trousers with red accents at the waist and neck.

The Encierro’s Evolution
Pamplona’s Running of the Bulls–which occurs every year during the week-long Sanfermines (July 7-July 14)–now sees more than 20,000 runners make the dash every year, followed by 12 or so bulls. This 825-meter dash through the streets of old town Pamplona starts at the strike of the San Cernin clock, followed by a series of rocket launches which inform runners of critical information, such as when the run has started and ended. Typically, the Encierro lasts no more than four minutes, although it has taken up to 10, depending on the path of the bulls.

Safety in Numbers?
While it can be easy to get carried away by the thrill of this ages old event, it is a dangerous pursuit, and one best left to the fit and the fierce. Security measures are enforced to safeguard participants: entrants are required to be least 18 and must run in the same direction as the bulls, while refraining from inciting them; additionally, alcohol is forbidden.

The running route is blocked off by a double fence to keep runners and bulls in and spectators out. Pastores, or “shepherds,” offer another safety measure, remaining behind the bulls and using long sticks to keep both bulls and people on course.

Despite these precautions, hundreds of injuries occur every year–primarily due to falls. While goring is less common, it does happen, and severe injuries can result. Since record-keeping began in Pamplona in 1910, 15 deaths have occurred during the Running of the Bulls, mostly due to goring.

While bull runs and fights have become increasingly controversial topics in recent years, because of questions regarding animal rights, these events live on as a reminder of Spain’s rich history. The continued popularity of Pamplona’s Running of the Bulls suggests that as long as there are bull runs, there will be people lining up to accept the challenge.

Photo Credits: MadMack66, Oddsock

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