Car Rental in Spain

Car Rental in Spain is certainly not difficult and is much the same as hiring a car anywhere else. However if you think you will need a car to get around in a big Spanish city do be aware that the metro and bus system are better options, as you will have to contend not only with Spain’s rules and regulations but also very busy roads, traffic jams and the problems of finding parking. Also, if you have to watch your budget remember that car hire in Spain is not the cheapest option. Just basic car hire in Spain is going to cost more than a train or bus ticket and on top of the hire cost there is the cost of fuel which is high in Spain.

Should I rent a car in Spain?

hiring a car is great if you want to get to little out-of-the-way villages, the mountains, vineyards or perhaps more secluded beaches. For this sort of touring a hire-car is ideal.

It is just as well to read through a few tips before you go ahead and book a car.

Requirements for Driving in Spain

  • You must be over 21 and have held a valid driver’s licence for 1 to 3 years (this varies depending on the Car Rental company you choose).
  • Seat-belts are mandatory
  • Child seats are mandatory for children up to 3 years of age.
  • Children below 12 may not sit in the front seats and also if their height is less than 135cm.

Your driving licence

If you are an EU-citizen then you can drive in Spain using your present valid licence.

However, when you actually collect your car no matter, where you have arrived from you will have to show a valid ID and it is more than likely that you will have to present your passport.

The easiest way of avoiding any possible frustrations with a car hire agency is best to get an International Driving Permit before you leave for Spain no matter where you reside, whether within the EU or outside the EU. This is not a substitute for your licence so you will still need to have your valid licence with you. The IDP is valid for 12 months only.

UK- Citizens/Residents – you can choose to purchase from the Automobile Association, the RAC or your local Post Office. The cost at present is £5.50.

The USA and Canada – those with a valid American driving licence can apply to the American Automobile Association (AAA) or the National Automobile Club (NAC) – cost US$20.00. Similarly, if you hold a valid Canadian driving licence you can apply to the Canadian Automobile Association – cost $25.00

To purchase your International Driving Permit you must be a resident of your home country and be over 18, and you must have:

  • A valid driving licence.
  • 2 recent passport size photos
  • Completed application form
  • Payment for the application fee

Rental Cars in Spain

Car Rental in Spain

The majority of cars for hire in Spain have a manual transmission, although you can rent an automatic car in Spain, cars with automatic transmission are available from some car hire agencies, they will cost 100s of Euros more than a manual Cars. If you add the cost of your insurance, petrol and tolls to the cost an automatic drive it is quite formidable. It is more cost effective to hire a manual drive. So if you have only ever driven a car with automatic transmission, it is a good idea to get used to gear stick driving before you hire a car in Spain.

Period of Hire

Time limit: Most Car Rental in Spain Companies allow for a maximum period of hire of 28 days. There may also be a limit on the period of hire if you insure through your credit card or have an add-on insurance through your travel insurance company.

If you hire for longer than 28 days the cost will go up quite significantly so if you do need the car for longer than 28 days, it is a good idea to return the first hire-car and hire again.

Not time but mileage limit: Be very careful and read your agreement carefully as some Car Rental companies have a limit on the amount of mileage either within a certain time period or no time period but a mileage limit.

What to look out when choosing a Car rental company in Spain

 

Car size: Whilst you have to consider the number of passengers who will be travelling with you, it really is a good idea to go with the smallest car in which you and your passengers will be comfortable, particularly if you plan on visiting out-of-the-way villages or really go exploring as provincial roads in and around small villages are very narrow which means you will have trouble with traffic coming the other way. Although the roads are meant to be two-way roads, they very often only accommodate one car width. If you will be driving only on the main highways and main artery roads then clearly the size of the car you hire will not matter.

  1. Beware of car-hire companies that offer really cheap deals as they may have a number of expensive hidden costs on fuel, mileage, insurance and additional drivers. Check your agreement carefully.
  2. Check your agreement before you sign and check for the following:
    1. Additional driver
    2. Surcharge on a driver under 25
  • Insurance
  1. Road-side assistance or European breakdown cover
  2. Fuel
  3. Theft protection
  • Charges for changes to a reservation
  • Free cancellation
  1. The small print is extremely important so read it carefully before you book your car.
  2. Car-Hire Fuel Policy – It is worth your while to check this carefully when you are choosing a car-hire company in Spain. As the fuel policy can vary according to which car-hire company you choose, or they may have a choice. Some hire cars come with full tank and require you to return it with a full tank, while some might come with a full tank and do not require a full tank on return.
    1. Pay for the fuel you use: This is usually when a car comes with a full tank but does not require a full tank on return. At check-out, you will be charged for the full tank and the cost will be slightly higher than the going rate for fuel. This is usually done through a ‘refueling fee/service. If you return the car with a full tank it is usual to receive a refund up to about an eighth of a tank but there will be no refund on the refueling fee/service. The refund, however, will be based on the going rate.
    2. Full to Full: You check-out with a full tank and you must ensure that the tank is full in return. This option usually costs a bit more, plus a refuelling fee/service will be charged if the tank is not full in return. So a good idea is to top up the tank at a nearby petrol station just before you return the car.
  3. Be assertive when dealing with the front desk and make sure you are not fobbed off with something you are not really happy with.
  4. When you have signed and are collecting your car from the car-hire, carpool, make sure you have one of the staff with you to check the condition of the car both the outside and the interior before you agree to take it. Also, check if the spare wheel is in place and in good condition. If there are any existing dents or scratches photograph them and go back to the counter and on their diagram of the car, mark the existing damage and ensure that the existing flaws are signed off by the car-hire representative.
  5. Check the fuel and also make a note of the mileage if you have a restricted mileage agreement.

Car Hire and Insurance

Understanding the terms

Excess: This is the maximum amount that you will be expected to pay to cover any potential damage to the hire-car. It is usually quite a lot of money but is a pending charge. If you pay with a credit card the amount will show on your credit card but be removed once you return the car in good condition. If there is damage to the car, the car-hire company will charge you for the amount of the repair only but if the damage is severe the repair cost may be as high as the excess reserved amount, on your credit card

CDW (Collision Damage Waiver): This generally costs around 30% more on your daily hire cost but can be a little less if it combined with theft/loss insurance. CDW waives the car-hire company’s right to collect a high deductible (see excess) if you return a damaged vehicle. It does not eliminate the deductible but reduces it because CDW usually does not cover the undercarriage, roof, tyres and windshield or windows and side mirrors. What it does cover are the inevitable dings and scratches.

  1. The Full Coverage option often pushed by the car-hire companies is extremely expensive and can cost as much as the car hire itself, but it is a worry-free option. If you decide to go this route check if there is an ‘Excess’ clause and if so, what options there are.
  2. Included cover – many car-hire companies include Spain’s compulsory car insurance in the hire cost. This cover complies with current legislation and covers vehicle occupant insurance and 3rd There are also some car-hire companies who include collision damage waiver (CDW) and theft with the excess fee but don’t expect it to be included. It is wise to check thoroughly before you sign.

Insurance options: Given that the cost of insurance through a car-hire company is high it is worth checking insurance offered by your credit card company or your travel insurance company.

If you decide to take the option offered either by your credit card company or travel insurance company be sure to check that your contract with the Car hire company has not included CDW before you sign. If you accidentally accept the cover of the car-hire company you will not be covered by either your credit card company or travel insurance company.

Travel Insurance cover: If you are purchasing travel insurance it is worth looking into their collision cover as many offer this as an add-on to your travel insurance policy, and most offer collision cover in Spain. If this an option and you have the add-on, be sure to provide your insurer’s name and the number of the policy when you hire your car.

Before you drive off

Check that your car has all the accessories required by law:

  • Vehicles must carry 2 warning triangles in the event of a breakdown one to be placed at the front of the car and one behind.
  • A fluorescent jacket to wear in the event of night time breakdown.
  • A first-aid kit
  • A spare wheel/ jack and spanner
  • Spare bulbs
  • A spare fan belt

Return a rental Car

When you return your hire car you will still have to be vigilant, this is the case the world over and is not particular to Spain. You will need to safeguard yourself from any unwarranted claims so, although it may seem like a lot of trouble it is worth it.

  1. If there has been no damage during the time you have had the car and the fuel in the tank is according to your agreement (full to full, or full to empty), when you have parked the car back in the car pool, you should walk around the car and photograph all the panels of the car, the wheels and the milometer. It’s a good idea to also take a few shots of the interior.
  2. Do not hand your keys to someone in the car-park. They may be opportunist car thieves. Make sure you hand your keys back at the desk, or if it is late, post them into the box provided.
  3. Keep all the paperwork at this stage.
  4. Credit card. A few days after you have handed back the car it is a good idea to check your credit card to ensure that all applicable refunds and excess charges have been carried out and that no mysterious charges have materialized.
  5. If repairs had to be carried out for damage that occurred during your time with the car, you should request evidence of such repairs to check if what you have been charged for was in actual fact, carried out.

Finding for best rental deals in Spain

  1. Using the internet: some good terms to type into your search engine:

Hire cars best deals Spain,

Lowest price car hires Spain,

Best car hires Spain,

Car hire Spain.

  1. Price comparison: There are sites on the internet that give you a chart showing the price range and the car-hire company applicable to each price allowing you a one stop site to find the best deals. You can then go straight to the site of the car-hire company that appeals to you.

Suggested sites: Goldcar, Avis, CentauroEnterprise and Hertz 

NOTE: You should check your options carefully and be particularly careful to read all the details. A car-hire may seem expensive but when you add up all the inclusions it may work out to be cheaper than one that seemed to be a cheaper option at first glance.

 

Driving in Spain

Spain’s road network covers over 16000 km of top-class highways in Spain. Major roads, in particular, are of international standard, sometimes even better, which altogether make driving in Spain a pleasure. It is possible to avoid toll roads altogether as many of the new dual-carriageways are toll-free and are excellent.

However, that said you do have to be wary of local drivers especially away from the main cities as driving is not going to be what you are used to. Discipline on the roads seems to be rather flexible. The use of indicator lights is pretty erratic and sometimes no signal at all is given, so be careful of driving too close behind other cars. Remember to always slow down or come to a complete stop at the pedestrian crossing if necessary.  Many pedestrians would just cross the street without looking for incoming traffic as by law they always have the right of way.

In rural areas, watch out for cows on the road particularly in Asturias.

Parking in Spain

City Parking: Ticket machines control parking in city centres and are in Blue Zones (blue ticket machines and blue street markings). The ticket must be displayed on the dashboard of the car.

Siesta time usually means free parking: between 14:00 and 16:00 Monday to Friday; after 14:00 on Saturday and Sundays usually all day.

Private Parking facilities: off-road car parks are to be found in most of Spain’s cities and towns. As in most other countries, you receive a ticket as you enter and pay with the ticket on exit.

No Parking: If you park in a ‘No Parking’ Zone be prepared for a hefty fine or worse, your car is likely to be towed away.

Fuel grading in Spain:

Spain’s petrol stations dispense:

  1. Unleaded 95
  2. Unleaded 98
  • Diesel A (Gasoleo A in Spanish.  Be careful at the petrol station when filling up, because Gasoleo sounds like Gasoline but actually its Diesel)
  1. Biodiesel

Website with all petrol stations and the price of the fuel available: geoportalgasolineras.es

 

Rules of the Road

  • Drive on the right-hand side. Pass on the left.
  • Wear your seat-belt at all times
  • Have your driver’s licence, International Driving Permit and proof of insurance with you at all times.
  • Children up to 3 years old must be in a child seat in the back of the car
  • No children in the front

Speed limits:

  • Highways 120km/h
  • Dual carriageways 100km/h
  • Single carriageways 90km/h
  • Residential and built-up areas 50km/h

HIGHWAYS

Speed Limits: 120km/h on major highways. There are speed traps and speed cameras. If you are caught speeding, as a foreigner you will be fined on the spot. Failure to pay the on-the-spot fine will mean that your car is immediately immobilised. Oh and leave that radar detection device at home they are illegal in Spain and a very nasty fine will be the result if you are caught with one.

The Outside Lane: Don’t sit in the fast lane use it only if you have to and only when passing – return immediately to a slower lane.

Drink and Drive: Don’t do it! The authorities have clamped down and taken this offence very seriously. Spain has the most stringent blood alcohol limit in Europe. The blood alcohol limit is 0.05% (50mg alcohol to 100ml blood) and for those who have only had a driver’s licence for 2 years or less the limit is even stricter at 0.03% (30mg alcohol to 100ml blood). Be careful of driving ‘the morning after the night before’ as your blood alcohol could still be high even though you feel perfectly sober.

Toll Roads marked ‘Péage’: Intercity these are great but the cost of the tolls is going to add a substantial amount to your budget. Free roads are better if you are just touring without a rushed schedule.

AA toll routes and prices: theaa.com

Your belongings: Never leave anything on view when you leave your car unattended. Breaking into cars is a popular pass-time, and particularly if your car is spotted as a hire-car.

Mobile devices while driving: It is illegal to use a mobile device while driving. The hands-free option on the device is not permitted nor earpieces. Only total hands-free devices are permitted. You may not message or check messages while driving.

Manipulating the GPS while driving is illegal, you must pull over and be completely stationery to set/change your GPS settings.

Use of the Hooter: You are not permitted to casually sound the car’s hooter. Using the hooter is only legal.

  • In emergencies
  • To avoid an accident
  • To get people’s attention only if it is a serious matter such as theft, crash or hit-and-run)

Paying a fine: Most fines on foreigners must be paid on-the-spot, however if you have been fined and have to make payment later you can make payment by credit card online through the Department of Transport’s website or you can pay in any Banco Santander branch or any Post Office in Spain. If your fine is paid within 20 days of the date of the fine there is a 50% reduction in the initial amount.

If your fine was incurred on an urban road it is wise to go directly to the traffic department of the City Council of that town/city.

When you pay your fine you will need the case file number

Finding out about road conditions before you drive: Real-time road conditions are available through the Department of Transport’s website

General Information

Recently Spain has invested a lot of helpful road signs across much of their main road network in an attempt to make the roads safer.

Triangular signs flashing orange to warn of approaching hazards, there are illuminated signs at some of the roundabouts. Flashing arrows in the direction of movement.

Intelligent signage to assist in terms of congestion – i.e. warns of queues of traffic ahead.


Read more: ‘Driving in Spain : All you need to know’ »

Read more: ‘How to move to Spain from UK’ »

Read more: ‘How to buy property in Spain »

Read more: ‘Opening a Bank Account in Spain’ »

Read more: ‘Renting a property in Spain’ »

Read more: ‘Spain’s NIE number : All you need to know’ »

Read more: ‘How to find a job in Spain’ »

Read more: ‘How to start a business in Spain »

How to Travel by Train in Spain

Whether you are travelling to Spain or within Spain train travel is both comfortable and not overly expensive.  Spain’s rail network covers most of Spain and there are both high-speed express trains and the more frequent stopping trains.  Also it is as well to note that most trains arrive and depart from stations close to city centres.

If you are planning on travelling around in Spain by train it is a good idea to invest in a Rail Spain Pass, either Eurail, Interrail or Renfe passes will make your travelling that much easier by allowing you a certain number of journeys without constantly having to purchase tickets.  These passes allows non-residents of Spain to travel either long-distance or mid distance as well as utilise suburban train connections.  The passes are valid for one month and you have a choice of 1st or 2nd class.

Spanish Train Classes

Turista

2nd class – Comfortable.  Most people travel Turista.  Seats are arranged 2 + 2 across the carriage width, with tables for 4.

Turista Plus

AVE Trains only – Business Class – the same seating as Preferente, but a meal with wine is NOT included in the fare.

Preferente

1st Class – affords you more space and leg room.  The seating is usually 2 + 1 across the carriage width, with tables for 2 and tables for 4 and includes a table for 2 and a meal with wine is included in the fare.

Spain’s Train Passes

If you want to be really organised before you travel to Spain you may want to purchase all your travel requirements within Spain ahead of time.  A Train Pass is an excellent solution as it saves time and frustration once you are in Spain.

There are three main types of Train Pass available:  The Eurail Pass, the Interrail pass and the Renfe Train Pass.

For Non-EU Citizens/Residents

The Eurail Train Pass 

This rail pass is only open to use by non-EU citizens or residents.  Eurail offers a ticketing service across a variety of train services across Europe and for Spain destinations such as Barcelona, Madrid, Seville and Granada.  They also offer a free delivery service both in Europe and the USA

There are options depending on your destination such as: The Eurail Global Pass and the Eurail Select Pass.

On the Eurail website you can choose which of the two passes is best suited to you travel needs whether you are travelling from one European country to another or if you wish to book a service within your destination country.

You can pick a single destination card for Spain, thereafter there is a booking service for National train services within Spain.

High-Speed train services will still require you to make reservations using your Eurail pass as directed on the website.

Eurail passes will be delivered to your door anywhere within the EU and the USA but not to UK addresses as this Eurail excludes UK citizens/residents.

For UK Citizens/Residents

The Interrail One Country Pass for Spain

Interrail offers two types of passes:

  1. The Interrail Spain Pass
  2. The Interrail Spain Premium Pass.

The Premium Pass has some added benefits as well as offering free Train reservation services.

Prices are graded between 1st and 2nd class seats with a further range for Youth (25 and under), adults (26 and over), seniors (60+) or family (Adults with children) tickets.  Children up to the age of 11 travel free of charge.

You can purchase your pass to cover 2, 4, 6 or 8 travel days within a period of one month.  Travel Days are the days in which you will be using the trains.  On any one travel day you are able to take as many trains as you wish using your pass.

Your travel pass is delivered to you at home in the UK and there is a calculator on the website so that you can see when to expect delivery of your travel pass.

 

For Citizens/ Residents around the globe:

The RENFE Spain Pass

You can purchase your ticket online up to 6 months in advance

You can purchase a pass for 4, 6, 8, 10 or 12 journeys

Your Pass entitles you to free use Cercanías (Suburban) trains to reach city centres and airports in Madrid, Barcelona and Málaga

The Renfe website:

  • The website is in Spanish with English translations which are not very clear. It sells only in Euros. Good for those who have Euro currency bank accounts.
  • This site allows you to select your seat from a graphic plan with numbered seats, but not if you are buying a cheap Promo fare.
  • If your journey entails connecting to another train i.e. Bilbao to Seville, you change trains in Madrid so you need to book 2 journeys: Bilbao – Madrid and Madrid – Seville.  Other websites such as loco2 allow you to book this as one journey, so only one booking even though there is a connection along your route.
  • Once you have booked and paid, you can download your ticket to print at home.

Websites for Purchasing Train tickets

For bookings either before you leave for Spain or once you have arrived.

If you wish to pay in British pounds (£), a good site to use is Loco2 .  This site is in English and is not as confusing as the RENFE site – the site accepts all international credit cards.  This site is also linked to German and British ticketing systems.

If you wish to pay in US$ an excellent site is Petrabax.  This US agency links directly with Renfe and offers the same trains. You can use this website from any country including the United States, Canada Australia, India and Singapore.  After you have booked and paid you can download your ticket to print at home.

If you wish to pay in Euros you can purchase direct from the Spanish railways which also allows for payment through PayPal, but be warned sometimes this site rejects overseas credit cards.  Renfe.com

Types of Trains in Spain

Cercanías TrainsSuburban train

If you need to get from a main city centre to the outskirts then you will take a Cercanías train.  They depart frequently and are free if you have a Renfe Spain Pass.

Avant

high-speed train for short distance routes.

AVE (Alta Velocidad Española)

These front rank high-speed train service requires forward booking and all trains offer a bar.

Types of AVE trains:

S100 – used between Madrid and Seville of French design

S102 – used between Madrid and Málaga, Barcelona and Seville of Spanish Talgo design

S103 – used between Barcelona and Madrid and a few in use between Madrid and Málaga.

ALTARIA – High speed trains linking Madrid with cities in the South of Spain

ALVIA – High speed trains operating between cities in Northern Spain

S102 ling Barcelona and Bilbao, Pamplona and San Sebastian

S103 from Madrid to Cadiz and Huelva

All Alvia trains have the facility of a café – bar.

EUROMED – S103 high-speed trains linking Barcelona, Valencia and Alicante

 

MAP OF MAIN CONNECTIONS IN SPAIN

spain's Rail Map
Spain’s Rail Map

 

Touring Spain by Train

There are a number of touring trains in Spain, which affords the tourist an alternative way to see Spain and some are offer real luxury.

The Basque Country

Transcantábrico: (train cruise) – Northern Spain

This journey begins in Santiago de Compostela (Galicia) to León ( Castilla y León) or San Sebastian.

La Robla Express – vintage train – Northern Spain

A delightful journey with much that reflects original rail travel for the elite of Spain.

Andalusia

Al-Ádalus:  A luxury tour through Andalusia.  This train offers top-end luxury so don’t expect cheap fares.

One Days excursions by train

La Fresa Train – offers an historic train outing from Madrid to Aranjuez

Sóller Train – Inland Mallorca (Islas Baleares) – a site seeing excursion along an early twentieth century railway.

Cervantes Train – a literary excursion through Alcalá de Henares the home of Cervantes and so the birth place of his famous literary character El Quijote (Don Quixote).

Entering Spain by Train

Renfe-SNCF en Cooperación – high speed trains connect Paris with Madrid and Barcelona.

 

Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum in Madrid

The Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum
The Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum

Collections at the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum

The Museum showcases art from the 13th century to the 20th century.  Renaissance, Mannerism, the Baroque, Rococo and Romanticism are all available to view.  You will find the pieces mesmerizing and some of them are so deeply moving you wonder what the artist was thinking and feeling at the time of producing the painting.  Also you will find the 19th century American painting on display.

The most interesting of all and for which the Museum would not be a Museum is the magnificent collection of Baron Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza (1875-1947) and Baron Hans Heinrich-Thyssen-Bornemisza (1921-2002).  These two people are obviously initially responsible for the Museum and this magnificent collection of Spanish art.

The History of the Museum

In 1992 the museum opened and on Ist June 1993 the Spanish State purchased the Thysson-Bornemisza collection.  In 1996 the collection was shown in Madrid for the first time.  Subsequently, the stunning collection has been shown in numerous countries throughout the world.

Baroness Carmen Cervera, the philanthropist made the collection accessible to the public, by receiving a loan agreement in 1999, from Museo Thyssen, in return for loaning 665 Spanish and International pieces of art, for a period of 11 years.  Since 2004 the new Museum has housed these International and Spanish collections.

Directions to the Museum

From the underground Line 2 Bance De Espana Station will take you to the museum.  If you are nearer to the RENFE train then exit at Atocha or Recoletos Stations, you will have less than a 10 minute walk to the Museum from either of these stations.  There are numerous buses to the museum the 1, 2, 5, 9, 10 and 15 go to this location, however please note that this list is not exhaustive, you can catch plenty of other buses too.  If you are travelling by car there is public parking at Plaza de las Cortes

Further details on travel around Madrid are available from the local Tourist Information Office, at Punto de Información Turística de la Plaza de Cibeles (Madrid VCB).  This office is open until 2030 hours. 

Purchasing your Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum Tickets

The Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum tickets can be purchased on line for €12.00 for a full adult priced ticket.  Special rates are €8.00 for Pensioner’s, Students, Youth Card Holders, Disabled and Faculty of Fine Art Teachers.

The price of the ticket gives you access to the Permanent Collection and also temporary exhibitions.  You can enter the exhibitions any time during opening hours however, if you wish to see the Madrid Realists Exhibition, you do have to book your time slot in advance, to be able to see this Exhibition.  You can do this at the time of booking your ticket.

Museum Opening Hours and Facilities

The Opening Hours of the Museum are primarily 1000-1900 Tuesday to Sunday inclusive.  On a Monday afternoon the Museum is open from 1200 to 1630 hours.  On a Saturday you can gain entrance to the Museum up to 2100 in the evening.  Please note that this does exclude the Permanent Collection and The Secret Sits (Wyeth Wonderland).

There are a great deal of facilities at the Museum: Free WIFI, cloakroom, café, restaurant, a shop that opens from 1000-1900 Tuesday to Sunday and 1200 to 1630 on a Monday afternoon.  You don’t have to purchase a Museum ticket to enter the shop.  Audio guides are also available in Spanish, English, German, French and Italian.  For €7.00 you can use the guides in the Permanent Collection Exhibitions too.  This Museum is a must when you are in Madrid, the collection is fascinating, and the food in the restaurant and café is superb.

Aqueduct of Segovia : Roman Aqueducts

The Segovia Aqueduct in Spain

The Aqueduct of Segovia is a Roman construction.  The actual date of the building was not certain, until recently.   At the end of the 20th century, Géza Alföldy discovered that the Emperor Domitian (AD81-96) ordered the construction of the aqueduct.  Alfoldy studied the detail on the dedication plaque, by examining the anchors that had held the missing letters in place, and deciphered the missing details of when the Aqueduct was constructed.  This was during the second half of the 1st century AD.

The Aqueduct stands 28 metres high and is 813 metres in length.  It has 2 tiers and 118 arches.  The purpose of the building was to provide water to Segovia until the mid 19th century.

Aqueduct of Segovia : Roman Aqueducts
Aqueduct of Segovia : Roman Aqueducts

Getting there

The Aqueduct is 703 kilometres from Barcelona and lies south west of the city.  The journey by car would take just under 7 hours.  It you were to visit this amazing piece of architecture it would be worth travelling to Bajas airport in Madrid. The tourist attraction lies northwest from the airport and is only a 1 hour drive or 105 kilometers, along the A-6, the AP-6 and the AP-61.  Segovia is served by Bajas airport. Ryanair, EastJet and Flybe.com all travel into this airport.

Prior to the Romans discovering the Aqueduct and surrounding areas the Vaccaei people are thought to have originally made the area their home.

The first section of the building has 36 semi-circular arches.  These had to be re-built in the 15th century, as The Moors had destroyed this particular section in 1072.

The Moors

The Moors had been a famous historic battle between Sancho the Strong, the King of Castile and his brothers Alfonso the Brave and Garcia.  Their father, King Ferdinand had left both the two older brothers Sancho and Alfonso, the Kingdom of Leon.

However, Sancho was furious and refused to share his kingdom with his brothers and war broke out.  It was during this time that part of the Aqueduct was severely damaged.  Garcia fled to the Moorish King of Seville and Alfonso was drove into exile with the Moorish King of Toledo.

Urraca the sister supported Alfonso the Brave and as a result Sancho was killed in battle and Alfonso became the King of Leon and Castile.

The Aqueduct Construction

The building is made of un-mortared brick granite blocks.  When each of the largest three arches where built, a sign in flamboyant bronze letters, was displayed that had the name of the builder and the date that that particular arch was completed. 

The Founder of Aqueduct of Segovia

According to legend Hercules was the founder of the city and it is his name that is displayed over one of the arches.  The second arch has the image of The Patroness of Segovia, or Virgen de la Fuencisia and the third arch has the name of Saint Stephen displayed.  Therefore, as a result, this will explain why the Aqueduct is such a historic and very famous Spanish building that is visited by many tourists each year.

UNESCO

In 1985 the construction was given World Heritage Site inscription by United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO).

Alcazar of Cordoba

The Alcazar of Cordoba Region

Alcázar de los Reyes Cristianos also known as  The Alcazar of Cordoba  that lies north east of Seville and north of Malaga is a picturesque, surreal location.  It is an area of outstanding beauty.  Less than 2 hours by car, and approximately 158km from Malaga, it is a tourist attraction.  If you want a day away from sunning yourself on the sun kissed Costa del Sol you will not be disappointed when you visit this region.

Overview of the Cities Historic Attractions

The historic city of Córdoba has so many beautiful attractions to offer you.  The Mosque-Cathedral and the Palace of the Christian Kings originally date back to the 8th century.  The latter is referred to as the Alcázar de los Reyes Cristianos.  It means Castle of the Christian Monarchs.

Why not stroll round the Guadalquivir River, and or the winding streets of the ancient old town centre.  The Roman, Arabic and Christian buildings of Cordoba are amazing.  You will find the gardens are beautiful, with fountains, ponds, aromatic plants, conifers and palm trees, where you can rest and have a picnic, or simply just sit and relax.

History of the Palace

The remains of the Palace date back to the 8th century.  In 1328 Alfonso XI, had the Islamic Palace buildings erected, on the remains of the old site.  Monarchs held court in this building for 160 years.  During the Spanish inquisition from 1542 to 1834 the Fortress was used as a civil and military jail.

The Cathedral Mosque

The Mezquite Mosque and Cathedral is the largest mosque and temple in the world.  It has approximately 1.5 million visitors per year and is one of Spain’s most famous buildings.  The building that now stands was built in 1786.  Over the years various extensions took place and in 1238 it became a Catholic Cathedral.  You will notice its stunning Moorish architecture.

In 1931 it was declared a historical monument, and in 1984 the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization registered it as a world cultural heritage site, along with most of the old town of Cordoba.

Sightseeing Tours Available

Alcazar of Cordoba is so popular that there are numerous sightseeing tours.  You can travel on foot, horse drawn carriage, electric e-bike rentals, open top buses and even mini-buses.  They will take you into the city to see the pretty and picturesque narrow streets.

Bus trips offer a hop on, hop off service with many sightseeing languages available, giving you the full history of this amazing city.  You will feel yourself walking far further than you anticipated, as one street with its white washed quaint cottages and colorful flowers will entice you on to the next corner, and the next.

Optional Extras Wine and Olive Oil Tastings

If you are interested in wine the Montilla-Moriles winery holds tours to enable you to learn about the ancient process of wine making.  If you wish, you may indulge in a little wine tasting too.  Near to the Cathedral Mosque they hold olive oil classes enabling you to sample and learn about the processes and the health benefits.

If you do decide to leave your lovely sun lounger on the coast of the Costa del Sol, and participate in some cultural activities, you will be delighted that you visited the beautiful, historical city of Alcazar of Cordoba.  You will have some brilliant photographs, have learnt about this Spanish city and will have fond memories.

The Sagrada Familia – Barcelona

La Sagrada Familia Basilica By Antonio Gaudí
La Sagrada Familia Basilica By Antonio Gaudí / Migel / Shutterstock.com

History of the Sagrada Familia

The Sagrada Família, meaning the “Holy Family” is Barcelona’s famous Catholic Church.  It is the most visited tourist attraction, with over 3 million visitors a year.

This famous building commenced construction in 1882 and will be completed in 2028.  It combines Gothic and curvilinear Art Nouveau forms.

By 1930 three additional towers had been added to the building.  This completed the northeast façade.  However, controversy erupted, and in 1936 anarchists unfortunately smashed up and burned the interior of the building, including all of the workshops, and more importantly the plans and models for the final construction.  This activity has caused many Catalonians to condemn the completion of the Catholic Basilica. The reason is they believe that the final building is very far removed from Gaudi’s actual plans.

Currently work is being undertaken on the main Glory Facade. Therefore the southeast end on Carrer de Mallorca is currently closed off.

In 1954 the building of the Passion façade started.  In 1987 the Jesus Christ sculptures depicting the crucifixion were added.  Josep Maria Subirachs i Sitjar, the Catalan sculptor, designed and made them.  The sculptors are very linear and quite distinctly different from what Gaudi would have probably designed.  His designs included a lot of very curvaceous lines.  This has caused a great deal of debate.  However, this façade and its sculptors are very distinct and quite moving to look at.

When the Basilica is completed the Glory Façade will be the main entrance.  The Basilica will have 18 towers.  Twelve of the towers will be on 3 facades: the Nativity, the Passion and the Glory façade.

Each of the facades will have 4 towers.  An additional four towers will represent the 4 evangelists.  These towers will be located around the central and largest middle tower.  The central and middle tower will be dedicated to Jesus Christ and will be 170 meters in height.  A final tower over the apse will be dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

La Sagrada Familia being build since 19 March 1882 and is not finished yet
La Sagrada Familia being build since 19 March 1882 and is not finished yet

World Heritage Site by UNESCO

The Cathedral has been validated as a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage Site, albeit that the building is not yet completed.

Consecrated and minor Basilica

On 7th November 2010 Pope Benedict XVI consecrated and proclaimed the building as a minor Basilica.  This means that the building has been dedicated purely for the purpose of dedication to religion.  Now a minor Basilica this means that it is a permanent and the highest designation a church building can have.

Antoni Gaudi

 Sagrada Familia Barcelona -Antoni Gaudí

Born in 1852, in Catalonia, Spain Antoni Gaudí, an architect designed this fabulous building. He studied architecture at the Escola Tècnica Superior d’Arquitectura in Barcelona from 1873 to 1877.  In 1878 after 5 years of hard work Gaudi was awarded the title of architect.

Elies Rogent, an architect himself who graduated in 1858 in Madrid said when he signed off Gaudi’s architect title, “Who knows if we have given this diploma to a nut or a genius.  Time will tell.”  This is quite an ironic statement, when we look back now, at how famous his work has become.

Gaudi died tragically, aged 73. Unfortunately a tram tragically hit him, on his way to the Sagrada Familia.  At this time the only parts of the Catholic Basilica completed were the crypt, the apse walls, one portal and one tower on the Nativity, Holy Family themed facade.  This was less than a quarter of the project yet to be completed.

He was a deeply religious man and is renowned for famously saying, “My boss is not in a hurry’.  Indeed it will be at least 146 years from start to finish of this magnificent building.

Gaudi Buildings

Roof of Casa Mila (La Pedrera) built in 1905-1910
Roof of Casa Mila (La Pedrera) built in 1905-1910 by Antoni Gaudi. / Filimonov / Shutterstock.com

The Sagrada Família is one of 12 Gaudi buildings in Barcelona and one of his 17 buildings that was constructed during his lifetime.  Two further buildings designed by Gaudi one, a Hotel Attraction for New York, and a further building in Tangier named the Franciscan Missions unfortunately never got to the construction stage.

Touring the Sagrada Familia

Down on ground level you can wander around the completed sections that have a fascinating museum.  In the museum there is plenty of information available about the history of Gaudi and his famous building.

Tickets Price :

If you want to make the most of your visit to the Sagrade Familia than just the entry ticket, for a modest fee you can pay an additional €9 for a 50 minute guided tour.  If you prefer to walk around and be guided more leisurely you can pick up an audio tour which costs €7.  To hire the audio tour you will need to provide formal identification such as a passport.

The lifts that go up inside the Nativity and Passion facades each have four sky-scraping towers.  These towers are the sides of the Cathedral.  The view from the top of the towers give the most breathtaking and stunning views over the whole of Barcelona and the beautiful blue crystal waters of the Mediterranean.

Entry tickets are from €15 per person and during the hot summer months large queues always gather around this famous, sacred building.  The last entry is approximately 2000 hours.  The views at this time on a summer’s evening are amazing.  On a clear day you can see for miles around this stunning city.

However, for those who either love or hate the building it is undeniably a huge fascination.  It is surrounded by lots of café’s and restaurants.  Once you have visited inside, one of the best ways to admire the building is to take a seat at one of these nearby cafes and view it from a distance.  If you look at it from the outside it really is a magnificent building.

 Organ pipes and ceiling, Sagrada Familia, Barcelona
Organ pipes and ceiling, Sagrada Familia, Barcelona / PlusONE / Shutterstock.com

You can never see enough of this fabulous Basilica.  Upon completion in 2028 the tourist numbers are bound to increase, make sure you see this building in it’s work of art stage, very soon.

Castillo Monumento Colomares de Benalmádena

El Castillo de Colomares de Benalmadena, or simply Castillo de Colomares.  Built in 1987 by Dr. Esteban Martin, the castle was completed in 1994, and is meant as a monument to the great explorer, Christopher Columbus, and his discovery of America.  The castle overlooks the Alboran Sea, and while it was never a residence, its magnificent views offer a beautifully picturesque background for this interesting monument to the world’s most famous early explorer.

Colomares Castle
Castillo de Colomares

 

Dr. Esteban Martin had spent time working in the United States as a surgeon and grew increasingly frustrated with the international depiction of Columbus as a Genovese Italian who is heralded more for being an Italian, rather than for the support he received from Spain, which immortalized his memory to begin with.  The last straw came during a Columbus Day celebration, when Dr. Martin decided he could no longer stomach how Columbus was idolized and remembered.  Dr. Martin decided to leave his job in the United States, and with the help of two bricklayers, put together a structural representation of the accounts of Columbus’ travels that had previously only been put down in books, intended to be a book carved in stone.  While Dr. Martin had no architectural knowledge or training himself, he started looking into the plans for building the Castillo in the early 80s until he was able to start construction in 1987.  Construction occurred on the castle until Dr. Martin ran out of funding, but what he and his masons had accomplished was nothing short of remarkable.  Even when he had run out of money to continue construction, Dr. Martin took to old books to try and find Castilian phrases and references that might someday still be incorporated into his living monument to the great explorer.  He had a great passion for Spanish history, and wanted to preserve it, in a version that he believed was most correct, as much as possible.

Colomares Castle

In years past, the castle has been used as a reptile center, and falconry, but today serves only as a monument to Christopher Columbus.  The entire castle itself looking like something out of a fairy tale with its ornate decoration and varying architectural styles, it acts like a storybook brought to life in a tangible structure.

The Castillo de Colomares covers nearly 5000 square feet or 1500 square meters, and has become known as the largest monument in the world that is dedicated to Christopher Columbus, and it is a major tourist attraction for visitors to the Malaga region.  All around the exterior of the Castillo are carvings that pay homage to the Catholic monarchs who accompanied Columbus on his journey, as well as various depictions of sea life and representations of the ships that comprised Columbus’ fleet.  For example, after searching for a financial backer to fund his desire to search for a passage to the East Indies via the West, the Italian Columbus sought support from Spain.  The Catholic Monarchs there, as well as Queen Isabel, supplied Columbus with the support he needed, in exchange for the ability to use Columbus’ route and future fleet in order to enter into the booming spice trade with Asia.  To pay homage to that commitment and that support, the designer of Castillo de Colomares placed bronze shields on the exterior as a perpetual sign of gratitude and recognition, carved with the names of the Catholic Monarchs, Hispanic and Andalusia, who supported Columbus’ expeditions – both the first, and the following four journeys he set out on, continually looking for a shorter way to get to the East Indies, by sailing west instead..  The bow of a ship, an homage to the Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria, is carved into one of the turrets of the castle.

Castillo Monumento Colomares

Initially, Columbus was intending to land in Japan, but as he had sailed west from Spain, he first ended in what he termed, San Salvador, or Our Savior (Jesus Christ).  The natural wildlife of the island included an abundance of iguanas, so San Salvador was referred to by the natives as the “Island of the Iguanas.”  Around the castle are carvings of iguanas, but also the small chapel constructed in the castle was built as an homage to that first “rest stop” for Columbus’ fleet.  In fact, that chapel, which measures just under 2 square meters, was labeled by the Guinness Book of World Records as the world’s smallest church!

While Columbus’ remains have been moved several times over the last five centuries, and they currently remain where they have been for over 100 years – the Cathedral of Seville in Seville, Spain, the Castillo de Colomares contains a small mausoleum that was constructed in the hopes that someday Columbus’ remains might be moved to reside within.

Within the castle are ornate stained-glass windows and more carvings adorning the walls which represent the three most prevalent religious cultures during the 15th century – Christianity, Judaism, and Islam.  The castle’s architectural styles also reflect those that were popular throughout Spain during the time of Columbus, namely Bizantine, Romanesque, Arabic and Gothic, which contributes to the ornate lattice work, detailed spires, and pointed arches that can be found throughout.

How to get To Colomares Castle.

Getting to the Castillo is easy.  From Benalmadena, it is just a quick trip south to Carretera Costa del Sol, followed by a 10 minute walk or short bus ride to the front of the castle.  Unfortunately, there isn’t any other close parking, but the walk is easy and the bus is inexpensive.  Taxis are also available.  Admission prices are under 3 Euros per person, and student and senior rates are available.  Group rates are also available, and professional tour guides are always on hand to explain the architecture of the castle.  The Castillo’s open hours vary slightly depending on the season, but it is typically open 10am-2pm, and also 4-6pm in Winter months, 4-7pm in Autumn months, and 5-9pm in Summer months.

Caminito del Rey (The King’s Little Path)

El Caminito del Rey – once known as the most dangerous walking path in the world or even at one time ‘the path of death’, is now a safe, secure and adventurous way to see the Desfiladero de los Gaitanes [Gorge of the Gaitanes]

caminito del rey malaga el chorro

If you are keen on hiking, rock climbing, or are just keen to see the amazing views from a pathway built onto the rock face of the gorge, then it is time to plan your holiday to Spain, first stop, Malaga.

The Caminito del Rey (The King’s Little Path) named after King Alfonso XIII’s first walk on the original path at the time of the inauguration of the dam in 1912.  The path was built not as a tourist attraction but to provide access to the Conde de Guadalhorce dam for the workers, and also provide access for supplies.  Building commenced in 1902.  After construction was completed, the pathway was no longer a priority and over the years it slowly decayed, the hand rails fell away and the floor of the path, suspended above the 100m gorge, became treacherous with many portions missing.

Alfonso XIII caminito del rey el chorro malaga

 

Tempted by the danger and the challenge, many climbers attempted the gorge and sadly a number lost their lives.  After the deaths of two climbers in 1999 and 2000 the local authorities closed off the path, but because of tourist demand eventually a reconstruction plan was instituted and the pathway was totally re-built. 

the king's little pathway. camino del rey, malaga, spainadvisor

 

The new pathway, which still offers the more adventurous a heart-stopping walk of 2.9 km along the side of the gorge.  There are strict rules for those taking the walk, and so together with the safety features of the new structure you no longer take your life in your hands.  In fact today, it is an exciting venue for the whole family, that is, if children are able to walk the distance.

 

Ardales, Spain El Caminito del Rey (The King's Little Pathway)

The old path has been retained and is just below the new path, adding interest to your walk.  The other high point is walking over the steel suspension bridge across the gorge, and because of its metal mesh floor you can look down and see the river below your feet.

 

Ardales, malaga, spain, caminito del rey hikinng death , spainadvisor

How to get to El Caminito del Rey

To reach El Caminito del Rey you need to head for Malaga.  Once in Malaga you can reach El Chorro (the throat of Chorro) area and you need to head for either Ardales or Alhora.  You can reach these villages either by train, bus or hire car.  If you want to go by train you would have to board the train at the Maria Zambrano station which is the main station in Malaga that connects to other major Spanish cities including the AVE trains.  There is only 5 stops from Maria Zambrano station to El Chorro and will take you under and hour to get there.  The train leaves at 10 am in the morning to El Chorro.  Just keep in mind that the last train leaving El Chorro back to Malaga station leaves at 6 pm, so be sure to give yourself enough time to get back from the Caminito del Rey to the train station.  You can also take the train directly from Sevilla to El Chorro at 7:40 am.  It’s a hours 2 ride, with the last train leaving back to Sevilla at 5:30 pm.  

To reach El Caminito you have a couple of kilometers to hike along the access paths before you get to the official entry point to El Caminito del Rey.  So if your children are not old enough to manage this amount of walking, then they are not old enough to accompany you on the path.  Bear in mind that after your walk you will have to retrace your steps which means that you will undertake a good 10kms altogether and depending on the speed you walk and how many photo stops you make, you can count on anything from 3 to 5 hours in total.

El Caminito del Rey is open to the public all year but from November to March the pathway is closed at 14:00 so you need to make sure that you are there in plenty of time to complete the walk.

Caminito del ray, camino del ray malaga spainadvisor

Full information on the two official access routes and much about the path itself can be found on the official El Caminito del Rey website. http://www.caminitodelrey.info